Research guide: city directories

City directories are a valuable source of information for genealogists. They list a city’s businesses and residents, providing addresses, occupations, and place of employment for individuals. Ottawa’s city directories date from the 1860s.  They can be particularly helpful for the 1920s onward, as privacy laws limit genealogy sources for this period.

The two main sections of each directory are the alphabetical section and the address section.  The alphabetical section lists residents by surname, giving their address, occupation and place of employment.  The address section lists each street alphabetically and shows the individual or business at each address.

Where to find City Directories

Library Resources

Print

Greater Ottawa City Directory:

  • 1940 – 1994 Main Library
  • 1961 – 1994 Nepean Centrepointe

Ottawa – Nepean Directory:

  • 1996-2000 Main Library, Nepean Centrepointe

Gloucester-Kanata Directory:

  • 1996 – 2000 Main Library, Nepean Centrepointe

Microfilm

Greater Ottawa City Directory:

  • 1861 – 1982 Main Library

Online Resource

Ancestry Library  (In-Library use only) 

Canada, City and Area Directories, 1819-1906

Selection of digitized directories from across Canada

Websites

Library and Archives Canada: Canadian Directories Collection

  • A collection of digitized pre-1901 Canadian directories, including a comprehensive collection of Ottawa directories, 1861 – 1901

Internet Archive

  • Over 1500 digitized directories, mostly North American.  Includes about 15 Ottawa directories from the 1890s and early 1900s. To find directories, enter the keyword directories plus a geographic name in the main search bar, e.g. directories Ottawa

University of Leicester: Historical Directories of England and Wales

  • Covers England and Wales, 1760s to 1910s

Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec : Annuaires Lovell de Montréal

  • Montreal City directories, 1842-2010

Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec :  Annuaires Marcotte de Québec

  • Quebec City directories, 1822-1976

Digital Kingston

  • Kingston, Ontario directories, 1855-1923

Peel’s Prairie Provinces: Henderson’s Directories

  • Over 100 directories from Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, 1905 -

Vancouver Public Library: British Columbia City Directories

  • Digitized British Columbia city directories, 1860-1955

Tips for Using City Directories

  • Married women are not usually listed in the alphabetical section.  Widows and single women are listed.  Cross-check with the address section; a wife’s name may appear here.
  • Looking at city directories over a period of years gives clues to when deaths, marriages, etc. occurred.
  • Abbreviations used for occupations, residency status, etc., can be puzzling!  Look for the abbreviation guide near the front of each directory.
  • Some years of Ottawa City Directories include Hull and suburban areas of Ottawa, but this is not consistent.  Check each directory individually for coverage.