Ontario Wanderings: The Archives of Ontario

On Monday, September 15th my task was to visit the Archives of Ontario.  This is the main Ontario archive for the whole province.  http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/en/index.aspx

It was located on the campus of York University so this is why I choose to stay at the Super 8 on Steeles. If you analyze the locations of the hotels in the area they are either near Hwy 400 or on Steeles or above 407. In any case, you still have to drive at least two miles or more to York University to visit the Archives of Ontario.  Steeles is a very very very busy road.

Now I am not a resident of Toronto.  I don’t know how to use the buses or the Metro. I am told they are very good. I saw evidence that they were building a new metro station out on Steeles but was told it was supposed to be built years ago.  I think I will stay out of Canadian politics…

In any event getting to York University was not that hard and then turning down Keele was easy.  After this is gets tricky. There was so much construction on the York University campus that getting around was difficult.  Ian Macdonald Blvd was closed off and I didn’t know how to get to the Archives or even see the big green building.  So I wandered around the campus till I found the Information Kiosk.  I believe it was on Pond Avenue probably south of the Student Services building where I pulled in.  It is not a building this Information center it a  small mobile home like structure and there is a drive up window.  It has only a one lane road that curves around. I followed the signs and was very surprised that it was this drive through type set up. The nice lady made a map for me and explained how get around the construction.

At last I was able to find parking and it was right across from the Archives of Ontario the big green building. The parking was on Vanier Lane.  The area to the left is where the construction barricade is.

Archives of Ontario on York Campus in Toronto

Archives of Ontario on York Campus in Toronto

There is a series of doors and I entered over to the left into that door and it opened into the reception area. and the reading room for the archives was to my right through large heavy glass doors.  I told the receptionist that I had pre-registered (online) and she gave me a researcher card and had me fill out a form. She then explained where the bathrooms where, the lunch room and the lockers.  They are to your left as you face the receptionist desk.  She went over the rules with me.  I had read them online at their website.

The lobby area

The lobby area

The receptionist then give me a key on a ribbon for the locker which is a good thing.  I could put it over my neck. I have lost locker keys and it is not fun trying to get one open. I was surprised to find descent sized lockers for storage most are not.  I didn’t have much to put into the locker put I collected what I would need and piled it on.  They let me wear my velour jacket into the room and it has deep pockets with zippers so I was a bit surprised.

You enter the reading room through the big glass doors which is to the right of the doors as you enter and the receptionist area.  There is a front desk and the young man helped me to get oriented, get WiFi and gave me a little overview.   There is another desk in the back area of the room with another librarian.  They change throughout the day.

Media Room

Media Room

The desk areas

The desk areas looking to the front area where you enter

I decided to set up at one of the tables in the main area so I could get a good view of the room.  It was lovely and well laid out with large tables with electrical plugs, a metal trough for putting the boxes in something I have not seen before.  It is when you are looking at original records usually in boxes.  The microfilm is over to the right with many drawers filled with records.  The microfilm reading room is to the front of the room behind a big round wall with a lot of pictures on it and it is dark which is great for viewing the microfilm. They had the new microfilm readers that are connected to monitors and it even gives you instructions on how to thread the reel, I asked for help being my first time using one of them.

The website for the Archives of Ontario has a ton of information on it and can be a little daunting.  You just have to keep at it till you learn how to get around. I would start here:


Once I had been shown how to use the new microfilm readers I was on my way. The only thing about them I don’t like is that when you hand roll a reel you can control it better.  As I used this new reader set up I got used to it.

The room is beautiful, new, modern, clean, airy, lots of light and on the first floor which was amazing.  I was impressed.

I started with looking for Levi Goss’s tavern license in the township papers for the Western District which is what it was called at the time, followed that with the Heir and Devisee case that was under Phillip Brown’s name that I had found in the index on the Archive’s website.  I will share my findings in future posts after my return home.  Let’s say that I did good.

I had to retrieve my sandwich from the car so I headed out to the parking lot which was just across from the Archives and discovered a ticket on my dash. Sigh!

When I pulled in to park I did not see a ticket dispenser.  So I stopped and really looked this time.  It was there in the corner not to far from me but very badly marked in a blah gray color.  I missed it earlier.  So I went over to buy some more time and when I put in the amount I wanted it doubled it and then it would not cancel.  Grrrr…So now I had too much meter time and a ticket…AUGH!  Fortunately, I was able to pay this ticket online but they do not have a place for comments.  The information printed on the ticket is only the company that provides the paper for the ticket.  It is not who you pay.  If you do not pay the ticket within 10 days you have to pay the higher fine.  So I was very glad they allowed payment online for I did not have an envelope or didn’t know what to do about a return address and it just was getting too complicated to mail in a check.

Tim Horton’s does sandwiches so I retired to the lunch room and ate a portion of the club sandwich I had bought that morning and took a break to get my head back to what I was doing.  The sandwich was good.

I returned to my research trying to find estates for Edmund Boardman, Benjamin Ward, William and Thomas Brown with no luck.  I was not surprised they were probably poor. In the US if you have less than $300 they usually don’t probate a case, of course each state is different and I suspect that Canada is the similar. I tried for newspapers but they were not early enough for William or Thomas Brown.  I did not have a date for Edmund Boardman my 2nd great grandfather so that made it tough.  I also tried to look up some cemeteries which were on microfilm and it was not well laid out so I gave up.  I really like the books better.

My cousin was suppose to come but it was getting to be late in the day and I decided at about 2:30 pm that I had done as much as I could so I packed up and left.  I used my researcher card to check out.

It took me a good 20 minutes to get back to the Super 8 Motel because of the traffic.  Angelo’s restaurant was open so I headed over there and had some Haddock.  It was just a little walk to the next corner.  While I sat there eating it started to rain but not too badly and I was able to get back to the hotel without getting too wet.  Just like Seattle, HA!

My cousin called me later that evening and thought I had not gone to the Archives and I said I left about 2:30 pm and she was just getting there so we missed each other again. AUGH!  I guess it was not meant to be.  I told her I would call her when I got home and we could chat for I had set up long distance on my phone for Canada and I might as well use it besides I wanted to ask her many questions about the McMurrays and email doesn’t always to it.

Today definitely had some bumps….Sigh!

NOTE:  When I return from this trip I will be off to Salt Lake City and will be visiting the Family History Library.  They have a lot of the Canadian information like land and more on microfilm so I can follow up if I want.  Archives of Ontario also has an interlibrary loan program. I could take advantage of that but it means  a trip down to the main Seattle Public Library in downtown Seattle where they have the microfilm readers.  So I knew I had options.


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