North York has a long history as first an agricultural region dotted with crossroads villages, then a growing suburban community, and finally a modern city. The City of Toronto Archives has many records, created by the government as well as private groups and individuals, about North York.
These records include municipal government information such as Council minutes and departmental files; personal papers; published books and reports; and visual material, including maps and photographs.
Jolly Miller Hotel (left) and York Mills Skating Rink, Yonge Street
- Pre 1922: North York area is part of York Township within York County
- July 18, 1922: The Township of North York is created
- April 15, 1953: North York becomes one of 13 municipalities in the new Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto
- January 1, 1967: North York is renamed a borough
- February 14, 1979: North York is incorporated as a city
- January 1, 1998: North York ceases to be an individual municipality and becomes part of the amalgamated City of Toronto
Types of records
The Archives has the North York Council minutes and by-laws from 1923 to 1994, and Committee reports for various years. For a detailed list of committees and their reports, please ask at the Reference Desk. These minutes and reports are stored in the Records Centre. Please ask the Reference Desk staff to order the volumes you wish to see from the Records Centre. North York by-laws are computerized and can be searched by keyword. Please see the Reference Desk staff if you wish to have a search performed.
For information about the area before the formation of North York, see Council proceedings for the Township of York starting in 1860. To find them, search the Gencat database.
The archives has North York assessment rolls from 1922 to 1992. For assessment information before the formation of North York, see the assessment rolls for the Township of York from 1882 to 1992. To find assessment rolls, ask Reference Desk staff for the guide to North York assessment rolls.
The records of the former Metro (regional) government and its agencies, boards, and commissions also include information about matters relevant to North York, including public works, such as water mains; transportation, such as roads and the TTC; planning; parks; and social services. To find these records, search on your research topic in the Gencat database, or speak to Reference Desk staff.
The Toronto City Directory 1926
North York is listed in the Toronto city directories in a separate suburban section (see each year's table of contents for page numbers) from 1924 to 1929. Starting in 1930, North York listings are part of the main directory. After 1983, the directories are published in separate "central," "east," and "west" volumes, though not every volume is published in every year. North York listings appear in all three of these volumes, depending on location.
Directories before 1960 are available on microfilm, found in the self-serve cabinets in the Microfilm Room.
The Archives also has a copy of a Directory and Map of the Township of York (917.13540025 ON8 1909) for 1909, which includes listings for North York villages. Ask Reference Desk staff to retrieve this directory for you from closed reference.
The Archives has fire insurance plans on microfilm for parts of North York for 1952, 1959, 1961, and 1964. They are found in the microfilm (boxes are titled "Goad's" or "Underwriters'") in the metal cabinets in the Microfilm Room at the back of the Research Hall.
Each set of maps begins with a key map and an index of street names. You can use either to find your area. A key to the symbols used in the maps is found on the bulletin board in the Microfilm Room at the back of the Research Hall.
To find maps showing North York, use the Gencat database. Reference Desk staff can show you how to use the database. The Archives also has several atlases that may be useful. They are found on shelves at the back of the Research Hall.
The aerial photographs cover the North York area from 1947 to 1992. A selection of years is online. A smaller group of valley lands from 1937 to 1942 is also online. A more complete run of years is available on computers in the Research Hall.
The Archives holds published reports regarding North York, including those on topics such as public transit, roads, and construction of the North York Civic Centre. Search the Gencat database for your topic.
Morgan and Piper families
June 16, 1897
Series 8, File 31
These general reference books on the history of North York are available in the Archives Research Hall Library and are a good place to start your research:
Patricia W. Hart, Pioneering in North York
Toronto: General Publishing 1968
971.3541 H25 1968
Borough of North York: Historical Outline of the Administration of the Borough of North York Including Historic Sites
North York: Public Information Office of the Borough of North York
1978 or 1983 971.3541 H62 1978 or 1983
Ron Brown, Toronto's Lost Villages
Toronto: Polar Bear Press 1997
971.3541 B81 1997
Books on more specific North York topics may be found by searching in the Gencat database. These topics might include smaller communities within North York (such as Downsview or Oriole), church histories (such as St. John's at York Mills), and organizations (such as North York Hydro).
To find photographs of North York places and events, search on your research topic in the Gencat database, or browse the Gencat listing for Series 249.
For general information, see the information file titled "North York." You may also find other information files about more specific topics, such as smaller communities within North York (such as York Mills or Don Mills), specific buildings (such as Dempsey Store or Gibson House), parks (such as Edwards Gardens), and other landmarks or events.
Another useful source for North York history is the Canadiana Department at the North York Central Library, 6th floor, 5120 Yonge Street, 416-395-5535.
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