Ontario Online Historical Photos Research

An old proverb states that “the eyes are the windows into the soul.” A genealogy corollary is that “a photo is a window into the lives of your ancestors.”

I love old photos, whether they are portraits of my ancestors or historical photos of the period when they lived. And it is important to a complete research that one attempts to understand the environment that surrounds our ancestors’ lives if one wants to truly appreciate what they went through. 

So where can they be found?  Obviously, the best resource is our own photo albums and those that our relatives possess. But what about other resources? Many archives, historical societies, libraries, and genealogical societies have collections of old photos. And in the past few years, there has been a massive movement towards making these historical photo collections available online. Some have search capabilities where you can actually put in a surname or a location, the name of a building, or a historical event and find what is available.

For the province of Ontario, what collections are available for you to browse and/or search online?  Here is a list of sites to start with. Please feel free to add in the comments other online resources that you might be aware of in the province.

Please be aware that there may be very strict rules regarding downloading or other use of the images that you may find. Copyright and other legal protections may be in force. Make sure that you read the limitations of use for any image that you find in these collections and wish to download and/or copy. It is your responsibility to adhere to the rules for all of these collections.

Please note that links to these sites may change in the future. The author (me) will not be constantly checking and updating these links, so if you find a broken link, please use your favorite search engine to locate the new link.

This is just a sampling of some of the larger collections. By no means is this an exhaustive list. Almost every city and county library in the province, college, and university library, as well as a historical society, has a photo collection. Many are not available online, yet many do have online access.

(Updated May 2022)



For historic photos from other provinces as well as articles about photo research, please visit the Photos page.

Good Luck and Happy Hunting!

For all Free Ontario Links, click on the category of interest:

BMD Records

8 replies on “Ontario Online Historical Photos Research”

I suspect that your list was meant to include Wilfrid Laurier University Library rather than Wilfrid University.

Thank you for this resource.
The links to the Kitchener Public Library and the South Grey Museum both come up with “This collection is no longer available.”

Catharines Public Library Photos should be have St. in front of it.

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