City Directories are useful way to find out:

  • where someone lived
  • who or what was at an address
  • when a building was probably built
  • names of businesses and organizations

City directories were published yearly. The Archives has them from 1834 to 2001 (except for a few years in the 1830s, 1840s, and 1850s, and in 1987, when they were not published).

City directories are available on microfilm at the Archives.

Scanned city directories from 1833 to 1926 are also available at the Toronto Public Library.

Tips on Using the Directories:

  • Information in a directory was gathered the year before the publication date (i.e., the 1910 directory shows information gathered in 1909).
  • Street names and family surnames are listed in separate sections of each directory, in alphabetical order. Some early directories have either street names or family surnames, but not both.
  • Many directories include a list of businesses by type.
  • Abbreviations used in the directories are explained in an index near the front.
  • The earliest directories contain information on only the original City of Toronto. Starting in 1873, outlying “suburban” (now urban) areas, such as Parkdale, are listed in appendices. Beginning in 1930, suburban areas are part of the main listings.

After 1983, the directories were published in separate “central,” “east,” and “west” volumes, though not every volume was published in every year.

City directory 1884 names
This directory entry reveals details about Toronto citizens’ lives. For example, Lotty Brown, a paper maker, was a boarder at 131 Jarvis Street. Mary Brown, widow of Thomas, owned a house (“h”) on St. Charles Street. This entry illustrates the complications that arise with common names, as well as an intriguing number of occupations held by women. The Toronto City Directory 1884.
City Directory 1884 streets
This directory entry shows only the “head of household” (usually male) at an address, rather than all members of a family. Later directories list the head of household’s occupation as well. You can use the intersecting streets (here in italics) to find your property, even if the street numbers have changed since the year the directory was published. The Toronto City Directory 1884.