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Beginning your Research

Research your Family History
Starting your Research

First, determine the location in which to search (local? other county? outside of Ontario?) and approximately the time period. Based on this, we can help you decide what kind of records are available and which might be most useful for you to begin with.

If unsure, start with the known, eg. grandfather’s name and approximate birth or death date and where he lived, then search a record that would take you one generation further back. For example, his birth registration or baptismal record would tell the names of both his parents.

Resources at the Library
  • Ancestry Library: A very useful database covers the United States and the United Kingdom, including census, vital, church, court, and immigration records, as well as record collections from Canada and other areas. It is an excellent tool to use to find names and dates and locations to get the search started. Tip: click on Search and choose the geographic area, eg. Ontario, so there is a manageable number of databases. 
  • Books on researching Family History
Where to Look for Local Information
  • census indexes, cemetery transcriptions, marriages records (late 1700s to 1869 in book form)
  • church records – for some London and Middlesex County churches; also a few from other counties in Ontario. May include births, marriages, deaths, baptisms…
  • local indexes: for quite prominent people - analytics to books, genealogy index to periodical sources; for anyone local – scrapbook indexes
  • early settlers project
  • newspapers – obituaries, marriages, death notices, births. The London Free Press Indexes 1849-1880 (obituaries, births, marriages), 1977-1995 (obituaries, births): London Advertiser 1864-1936 – some births/marriages/deaths have been extracted and indexed.
  • selected church histories and school histories
  • township histories, eg. Delaware/Westminster Townships, London Township, North Dorchester Township and West Nissouri Township have published histories with an incredible amount of information on families
  • historical atlases – 1870’s for most Ontario counties; show names of landowners of individual lots (available online). We also have earlier atlases for Middlesex (1862) and Elgin (1864)
  • wills of Middlesex County – we have the index for 1846 to 1980 (wills are at Ontario Archives) and have the actual wills on microfilm for some of the early 1800’s
  • Archives index (card file in Closed Stacks in the London Room) – for more information on local people and families
Where to Look for Ontario-wide Information
  • Census for all of Ontario – on microfilm; some have name indexes. First try Ancestry for online versions of Ontario census from 1851 to 1921
  • Upper Canada Land Index – for early people, i.e. crown lands
  • Vital Statistics Index on microfilm: 1869 – 1917 (births)1869-1935 (marriages)1869-1945 (deaths). Subsequent years of indexes on microfilm are available through our interlibrary loan system. The complete records, not just the index, are available on Ancestry Library*; but there is a delay in posting these records.  
  • Ancestry includes Wesleyan Methodist Baptisms: for most counties in Ontario. Especially useful in the absence of birth registrations, since the information given is similar.
  • Catholic Record – 1878-1948
  • Browse the shelves in the London Room for the county you need; may find: birth/marriage/death extracts from local newspapers, county histories, church histories, gazetteers, various local indexes…
Where to Look for Canada-wide Information
  • online versions for census online at Ancestry for all of Canada: 1851 to 1921
  • native records - Records of the Department of Indian and Northen Affairs at Library and Archives Canada: a source for Genealogical Research (r929.108997 Rus). Also, try links for native genealogy on Archives Canada website.
  • passenger lists – see our passenger lists page. We have lists for the ports of Quebec and Halifax for some dates.
Where to Look for Worldwide Information
  • Ancestry Library database (see description above under At the Library)
  • See our "How To" books on many countries of the world, which describe records and how they can be accessed.
Ancestry Database

Ancestry® Library Edition

Ancestry Library Edition is one of the most important genealogical collections available today. It has unparalleled coverage of the United States and the United Kingdom, including census, vital, church, court, and immigration records, as well as record collections from Canada and other areas.

London Room photo
London Room

The Ivey Family London Room is a research facility for genealogy and local history located at the Central Library. It contains a wealth of original and secondary source materials on the city of London and the county of Middlesex such as:

  • books
  • diaries & manuscripts
  • minutes
  • maps
  • photographs and other memorabilia
  • selected municipal documents

The London Room collection does not circulate. Take a look at recommended local resources.

The London Room is open when the Central Library is open. Central Library Hours & Location Information


Archives of Ontario
This Genealogical Research section includes Family History Centers in Ontario, Getting Started in Genealogical Research, Major Genealogical Holdings at the Archives, Microfilm Loan Service, Preparing for Your Visit to the Archives, Reference List of Researchers, and more.

Canadian County Atlas Digital Project
This resource allows you to view historical atlases of various counties in Ontario. Searchable by name, county, township, town, birthplace or occupation.

Genealogy and Family History (Library and Archives Canada)
Genealogy and Family History is an Internet resource that provides access to numerous genealogical websites across Canada. It acts as both directory and database in order to help you search for the genealogical information you need, be it cemetery records, parish records, historical newspapers or archival fonds. Under What You Can Do - Consult Databases, are listed those databases related to births, marriages and deaths; census and enumerations; immigration and citizenship; land; military; and people.

Cyndi's List
One of the largest collections of genealogy links anywhere on the Web, Cyndi's List is a searchable, cross-referenced index of more than 200 categories. It provides an easy-to-access reference guide to the most useful genealogy websites

FamilySearch.Org (Church of the Latter Day Saints - Mormons)
The largest collection of free family history, family tree and genealogy records in the world; includes a list of the Family History Centers.

Genealogy Register
Get started with the surname finder or read messages posted on their message board

Ontario Genealogical Society
Contains information about OGS-sponsored events and publications, contact information for useful research aids, links to other genealogical sites, list of its 27 branches and a "How to Start Your Family History" section.

Our Roots/Nos Racines
Our Roots is a library, archive, museum and school all in one. Check the collection to find Canadian local histories in French and English. Check Educational Resources for learning packages for students and teachers.

Bills itself as the Internet's oldest and largest genealogy site, offering a variety of services to the genealogical community. The searchable Rootsweb Surname List has surnames, dates and locations with contact e-mail addresses for contributors. Also includes Canada Genweb, designed to assist researchers in locating Canadian genealogical information on the Internet

Western University - London Free Press Negative Collection
The Archives Research Collections Centre within the Western University Archives houses over 1.6 million negatives of photographs taken by London Free Press photographers during the period from September 1, 1938 to December 31, 1992. Negatives of individuals or portraits are available for the period December 1949 to 1989. there is an online listing of photos from 1956 to 1979. If you are looking for a photo from a news story or a special event, it may be possible to order a reproduction. Contact the Archives at 519- 661-4046.