Thoughts: city directories are a mine of information

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Jennifer georgiou

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Stratford-Perth Archives

In 1924, John Richea was living at 242 Huron St. in Stratford and working at the Stratford Beacon Herald as a linotype operator. Her neighbor two doors down, at 323 Huron Street, was Mrs. Mary Kinsman, widow of William J. Kinsman. Down the street at 286 Huron St., corner of Huron and Avondale, their neighbor was Herber JL Eedy, the owner of Eedy’s Bakery at 27 Market Place, where he sold bread, cakes and other baked goods. .

How can you discover so much information, especially when 1924 was not a census year? Directories of the city of Vernon of course! Directories can help fill in the gaps between censuses and track family members or local businesses on an annual basis.

City directories were a popular form of publication from the mid-1870s until the mid-2010s. Each directory generally contained both an alphabetical listing of all residents by last name and a listing of residents by street. It also included a business index, as well as various advertisements for local businesses on each page.

The first two directories of the city of Stratford – 1876 and 1880-1881 – were compiled and published by William W. Evans. The third was published in 1896 by Union Publishing Company. Beginning in 1898, the directories were published by Vernon City Directories.

A page from a City of Stratford edition of the Vernon Directories. Stratford-Perth Archives
A page from a City of Stratford edition of the Vernon Directories. Stratford-Perth Archives jpg, SF

The Vernon repertoires were started by Henry Vernon (1850-1919) who was born in Kent, England. Around 1874 he immigrated to Hamilton, Ontario, and began working for William Henry Irwin. William Irwin (1832-1900), originally from Ireland, had published yearbooks for the past 30 years in many cities, including Toronto, Hamilton and Montreal. Vernon began to take over the business around 1897 and created the Henry Vernon & Son editions.

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Vernon ran the business until his death in 1919. His son, Alfred Vernon (1882-1941), took over as heir to the business. Alfred eventually became president of the Canadian division of the Association of North American Directory Publishers for a period while maintaining the Vernon directories. In 1933 Vernon moved the Hamilton office from Lister Block to 29-31 Rebecca St. The directory printer also moved from Hamilton Typesetting Company to Griffin & Richmond Company Limited.

Over the following decades, Vernon’s Directories became a subsidiary of many other companies while retaining its brand name Vernon. Some of the owners include: the Richmond brothers (Bert and Ken), owners of ca. 1941 to 1955; the Seldon family, including Don Seldon, David Seldon and Stuart Seldon from 1955 to 2009; and finally, the last owners from 2009 to 2016, Wally and Beth Cooper.

The Stratford-Perth Archives are proud to announce that its Historical City of Stratford Directories are now also available to all researchers through its website. To access it, you can navigate to the Archives home page at www.stratfordpertharchives.on.ca, then click on the “Finding Aids and Digital Collections” tab or the “Stratford Digital Directories” tab. “. Once the page has loaded, please scroll down and open the first tab under the digital collections section titled Town of Stratford Directories. You can find all the directories listed by year. Some directories can be searched by keyword, please click Ctrl + F on your keyboard to display the search bar in the document once it opens in a new browser window. Please note that this is not a complete collection of Vernon Directories for the City of Stratford, as the Archives only digitized and downloaded all issues previously available on microfiche until 1997.

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Another important addition is “coming soon” in the digital collections section of the Stratford-Perth Archives website. Families of Perth County is a project that aims to locate, preserve and share photographs and associated documents related to the lives of several families in Perth County. This project is the work of Robert McEwan, who is a descendant of these families. Robert has spent countless hours scanning and identifying photographs and researching family ties. This collection includes 20 families: Ballantyne, Barton, Blacklock, Fulcher, Hearn, Hemsley, Holmes, Irvine, Johnston, McEwan, Moses, Moore, Murphy, Pearn, Rolston, Schwindt, Smart, Stewart, Struthers and White.

The collection consists of approximately 4,000 photographs, many of which were taken in Perth County at places such as Listowel, Mitchell, Milverton, Monkton, Stratford and St. Marys by professional and amateur photographers. In addition to photographs, several families also preserved important documents, including wills, notes, funeral cards, postcards, newspaper clippings and letters, which are also included in this collection. In some cases, copies of birth, death and marriage records, as well as various census pages have been added for context. Each family is organized in a folder with two sections – the first is a family tree and the second section contains a table that lists family photographs and archival documents that are also included in the collection. Please note that this project is a work in progress and as such only six out of 20 families are ready to be published online. New families will be added as they are completed.

The Stratford-Perth Archives are open for in-person research by appointment. Phone and email service is also an option. Please contact us to make an appointment to use the collections or to meet with the archivist to discuss possible donations of archival material. We can be reached at 519-271-0531 ext. 259 or archives@perthcounty.ca.

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