St. Thomas Public Library has an extensive historical collection, with access to extensive online records. Whether you are researching the history of a place, business, or family, the George Thorman Room is an excellent place to start.

When you’re ready to build your family tree, check out our list of online genealogy tools for researching, storing, sharing or collaborating on your work online.

If you have any questions, please ask at the Information Desk in the Adult Department and a staff member will be pleased to assist you. You can also call us at 519-631-6050 or email us.

The George Thorman Room

Located on the second floor and accessible by stairs or elevator, the George Thorman Room, named for one of our greatest local historians, houses a varied collection of materials pertaining to the history of St. Thomas and Elgin County. The collection includes the library holdings of the Elgin County Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society (Elgin OGS), as well as the holdings of the St. Thomas Public Library. Items in the collection include:

  • Newspapers
  • City Directories
  • Census reels
  • Family histories
  • Cemetery indexes
  • Many other materials

An Internet workstation is available on the desk in the George Thorman Room. Several genealogical sites have been bookmarked and can be quickly accessed by clicking “Favorites” on the top of the screen. AncestryLibrary is a subscription database. It is available on this computer and on the Internet workstations on the main floor.

Some of the publications housed in The George Thorman Room are also available in the circulating stacks on the main floor. If you are a first-time researcher, you may wish to locate a book on genealogical techniques and procedures that can be helpful when conducting genealogical research.

The room is open during regular library hours, Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. An Information staff member will be pleased to assist you if you have any questions.

Local history materials are not allowed to circulate, but photocopying is permitted.

You can find more information about George Thorman here!

Using the indexes

Several surname card indexes are located in the centre of the George Thorman Room and are a good place to begin a search for an individual or family. References to such crucial information as births, marriages, and deaths can be found here. These references will direct you to the book shelves (pink shelves), the filing cabinet (Local History Clipping File; blue shelves), or the microfilm collection.

A subject file is also available and includes such headings as “Accidents,” “Businesses,” and “Churches.”

Several online indexes are available on the Elgin County Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society website.

Microfilm Collections
The microfilm collection includes St. Thomas newspapers (ranging in date) from 1832 to the present. Also available are vital statistic indexes and registrations, city directories, census reels, and a variety of other items. Indexing of the St. Thomas newspaper in the surname card index is incomplete after 1919. Elgin OGS has partial indexing of this newspaper from 1901 to 1950.

Patrons are encouraged to reserve a microfilm reader/printer in advance as demand for the use of the machines can be high.

Books, Scrapbooks, & Envelopes

The book collection is comprised of two parts. The first part of the collection, grouped by subject or region, consists of the holdings of the Elgin OGS. A finding aid is available to help locate materials. The second part consists of the holdings of the St. Thomas Public Library and is organized by Dewey decimal number.
Items found on the black stand-alone shelf:

  • Birth records
  • Death records
  • Marriage records
  • Information on Jumbo
  • These items are found in a secure cupboard. Please see the Information Desk staff for access:
  • Pictorial history of St. Thomas
  • Scrapbooks
  • Materials on Alma College
  • Large, oversized items, such as historical atlases and the Book of Remembrance, are available in a lower cupboard.

The metal filing cabinets are also compiled of two parts. The upper right-hand drawer contains envelopes organized by a Dewey decimal number that hold pamphlets and photocopies. The remainder of the cabinet houses the Local History Clipping File, a collection of scrapbooks containing newspaper clippings organized alphabetically by subject.

Railroad Collection

St. Thomas Public Library has a unique collection of railroad history books. The selection is global in scope and includes the histories of individual rail lines, local railways, engineering and mechanical specifications, and original railroad manuals and handbooks. All railroad enthusiasts will find this collection interesting.

Click here to see all the items in this unique collection!

Looking for more information about the railroad? Check out the Elgin County Railway Museum!

Other Resources

The web makes it easier than ever to connect to family and information.

These sites are free – or have free trials – so don’t be afraid to experiment to find one that works for you.

Family Tree Builders

  • Geni; Couldn’t be easier to use
  • MyFamily; Less than $10 for the first year with unlimited users and all kinds of ways to share and connect
  • FamilyLink; Free for the basic tools and integates with Facebook for easy sharing
  • MyHeritage; Another free, easy-to-use site
  • Famiva; More than just a family tree builder, really focused on keeping everyone connected once the connections have been made