Initiative Begins to Digitally Preserve Ontario’s Historical Vernon Directories

The Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS) and Library and Archives Canada (LAC) are working with FamilySearch International to digitize the historical Vernon directories for the province of Ontario. The initiative will begin immediately to preserve and make the directories freely searchable online for family historians, researchers, and Canadians.

Vernon directories were published yearly, by city, from the 1890s to 2014, except for 2010, when the company’s ownership changed. They cover most of Ontario, including the province’s capital city of Toronto. The term “Vernon directories” is derived from the name of the publisher. The initiative will encompass an estimated 1,875 directories.

OGS approached Vernon Publishers to request rights to digitize the historical publications. The publisher granted a non-commercial permission to digitize the directories. The nonprofit organization FamilySearch quickly emerged as a logical partner, namely due to its optical character recognition scanning technology that will make every word searchable. As well, OGS approached LAC for the project, as LAC holds one of the biggest collections of Vernon directories in Ontario. In addition to providing access to its collection, LAC will be hosting the digitization project.

According to Steve Fulton, UE, president of the Ontario Genealogical Society, the directories are a rich resource for researchers because “they list the names of local residents, their spouses, addresses, and sometimes even an individual’s title or position held at work.” Fulton explained that the directories were personally helpful to him in trying to determine when his grandfather passed away. “Through the directories, I determined he died between 1956 and 1957. I was then able to turn to newspaper obituaries for the area at that time to find him.”

This project will allow OGS and LAC to offer a very complete collection of directories for Ontario. The intent is also to reach out to local libraries for any missing directories that might be found in their collections.

Stay tuned for more information on the Vernon directory project. In the meantime, visit LAC’s Canadian Directories Collection, a database of scanned, microfiche versions of pre-1901 Canadian directories.

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