Local History

Our Local History Team at the library does some amazing work and we’d like to share it with you!

Timeline of St. Thomas, Ontario

– A history of St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada beginning from 1500. Thank you to Donna from the Local History and Adult Departments for putting this gem together! (Uses PowerPoint. It may take a few minutes to download this file. 10mB)

Meet Our Irish Ancestor: Colonel Thomas Talbot

Colonel Thomas Talbot was born on July 19, 1771 at Malahide Castle north of Dublin. His family was Irish aristocracy who had allied with the English during the conquest of Ireland. Talbot joined the English army at the age of twelve and followed his regiment to Canada in 1790. In 1800, he sold his commission in the army and settled in Upper Canada.Colonel Thomas Talbot

In May 1803, Talbot was granted 5000 acres along the Lake Erie shoreline. This was provisional on settling the area as the English needed a strong presence to thwart the ambitions of their American and French rivals. Talbot established his homestead at Port Talbot and began his distribution of land. Qualified settlers received 50 acres of land. For every allotment he granted Talbot himself received 200 acres of land.

By 1807, Talbot was ignoring the government regulations for land settlement. He engaged in disagreements with many of the settlers. With an eraser, he would remove his opponent’s name from his settlement map. He would often designate the land to another settler. Due to the imperative to settle the area the government ignored his actions and also allowed him to build the Talbot Road through the settlement area. Mahon Burwell was the surveyor for this project. The Talbot road facilitated the immigration and development of this area. By 1829, the settlement ranged over 130 miles and had 50,000 inhabitants.

Along the way, Talbot had made many enemies due to his disagreements with settlers and politicians. He had alienated the provincial government who believed that his unorthodox actions were depriving the province of much needed revenues. In 1838, Talbot was forced to relinquish his settlement. He died a recluse in London, Upper Canada in 1853.

Despite his contentious procedures, Colonel Thomas Talbot had successfully settled this area and his name is remembered in the name of our city. Whether he was a Saint is as controversial as the man was himself.

A Guide to Tracing the History of Your Home

Local History and Genealogy at St. Thomas Public Library

George Thorman Room, second level


When one purchases an older home there is curiosity about its history. When was it built? Who has lived here and what were their lives like?  What is the architectural style?  The following guide will help you to research some of these aspects.


The George Thorman Room will not have a history of your home but it has many resources to help you discover its legacy.


Possible Sources of Information:

  1. Examine the style of your home. Books on architecture available at the library will describe the styles and illustrate the details of certain periods. These will enable you to determine the approximate age of your home.
  2. Talk to the previous owners and / or long term neighbours.
  3. Check the library for miscellaneous articles and photographs.  Photographs of individual buildings or streetscapes record changes over time. The library has “St. Thomas and its Men of Affairs” (1914); a book which includes photos of homes in the old core (west-end) of the city.
  4. Visit the Land Registry Office (Land Registry Office, 1010 Talbot St., St. Thomas and Unit 36, 519-631-3015. Fee required).  This is your best site for “one-stop” research.  Documents concerning the ownership of land such as deeds and mortgages can be found here and are filed under the property address.
  5. Check Assessment Rolls.  These were used for tax purposes and contain descriptions of the structure and the date of construction.  Since they are filed  chronologically, a yearly search is required.  Some Assessment Rolls (in microfilm form) can be found in the George Thorman Room, the Local History and Genealogy section on the second floor of the library.
  6. View Building Permits.  These records are held by each township or municipality and contain information about permits granted for the construction of a building or additions and alterations.  Building permits for the City of St. Thomas can be found at City Hall (City Hall, Environmental Services, 545 Talbot St., St. Thomas, N5P 2T4, 519-631-1680. Requests may be left with the staff).
  7. Consult the City Directories.  City Directories are published annually or bi-annually and provide listings of streets and their corresponding residents.  The St. Thomas City Directories are available on microfilm and in book format in the George Thorman Room at the St. Thomas Public Library.
  8. Check Maps and Atlases.  Early Tremaine maps and historical atlases often indicate lot or farm holders.  These can be found in the general collection and in the  George Thorman Room at the St. Thomas Public Library.
  9. Fire Insurance Maps were used by the insurance companies to determine rates.  They provide detailed information about every building within the surveyed areas and are used to discern changes and additions to structures.  Environmentalists use them to determine the previous usage of a site.  Fire Insurance Maps were not issued regularly.  The St. Thomas Fire Insurance Maps for 1882-1889, 1890-1903, 1906-1913, 1922-1929 and 1943 can be viewed on microfilm at the Elgin Archives (Elgin Archives, 450 Sunset Drive, 450 Sunset Drive, St. Thomas, N5R 5V1.)
  10. Census Records are available on microfilm in the George Thorman Room. The earliest census taken in this area was in 1842.  The next enumeration was in 1851 and was conducted every ten years after.
  11. Church Records include births, marriages, and death records.  A limited selection is housed in the George Thorman Room.
  12. The St. Thomas Municipal Heritage Committee (City Hall, 545 Talbot St., St. Thomas, N5P 3V7, 519-631-1680) may have done research on your home if it qualifies for heritage designation.  They have appraised many homes in the Courthouse and Old English Church area of the city.



/* Style Definitions */
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s