Katharine Ball holding a print copy of the city directoryLeddy librarian Katharine Ball consults an online archive making accessible more than 100 years of the Windsor City Directory.

Over a century of Windsor City Directories now available online

Researchers can now access more than 100 years of the Windsor City Directory online. The 1888-1988 volumes are available at the Internet Archive and on the Southwestern Ontario Digital Archive at SWODA Publications.

“The original purpose of the directories was to serve as an advertising and marketing tool. They also promoted the community,” explained Leddy librarian Katharine Ball, who launched the Southwestern Ontario Digital Archive over a decade ago to assist faculty, students, and other researchers in their exploration of southwestern Ontario history and culture. “Over the course of the past century, these directories document the long-term development and growth of the city in quite consistent and unique ways.”

The main alphabetical listing of persons and companies provides information such as the place of work and occupation of individuals, and the proprietors and executives of companies.

“The changing focus and clustering of Windsor’s businesses and industries is reflected in the classified business directory” Ball said. “Political and community institutions, such as municipal government, courts, police, schools, churches, and societies, are also described in depth in some of the other sections.”

The directories include a detailed street index, which began in 1904, and functions almost like an online “instant street view,” but in print format. It allows readers to trace the physical layout of the city, and the evolving urban landscape in terms of residential, commercial, and industrial neighbourhoods.

The City of Windsor directory was published from 1888 to 2013. The volumes published from 1972 onward are still within copyright and have been put online with the consent of Ontario Ancestors, and Wallace and Elizabeth Cooper, the final Vernon Publishing copyright holders.

These volumes are available for personal study and research purposes only. The library hopes to make the entire run of Windsor City Directories accessible online in the future.

Explore the directories online or contact the Leddy Library for further information.

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