History of the Ontario Genealogical Society

The Ontario Genealogical Society was founded in 1961 by a meeting at the University of Waterloo, under the sponsorship of the Pennsylvania German Folklore Society of Ontario, with Dr. G.E. Reaman as first President. In August of the following year, the first Bulletin was published, and continued three times yearly until it became a quarterly in 1968. Annual meetings of the fledgling society were held in October 1962 and 1963, and on April 18, 1964, the Society’s first Seminar was held at St. Paul ‘s College, University of Waterloo, with 125 in attendance.

At the 1966 Seminar and Annual Meeting, the Society’s first constitution was adopted. On February 28th of the following year, when membership had reached the figure of 250, the Society’s first Branch was formed in Toronto. Within three months the Society received its Letters Patent from the Provincial Secretary and the Minister of Citizenship of the Province of Ontario.

In 1968, the position of Research Counsellor was created, the Bulletin was increased to four issues per year, and a set of working bylaws was added to the constitution.

By 1971 the Society had five Branches, Toronto, London, Hamilton, Ottawa and Bruce & Grey. The Society’s Bulletin was transformed into the journal Families, and a quarterly newsletter named Newsleaf was initiated to complement the journal as a separate mailing.

The next ten years fifteen new Branches spread into all corners of the province. A permanent Head Office was established in Toronto, and an Administrator was hired. The governing body consisted of the officers who formed the Executive, and the Council comprised of six councillors and one representative from each of the Branches.

The Society’s Library, first collected in 1967 in boxes at Waterloo Public Library, was moved to Toronto when the office opened there. In the mid-1980s, an agreement was negotiated with the North York Public Library, and the OGS Library has been happily ensconced there since that time.

In 1985, anticipating the approach of the Society’s 25th anniversary year, a petition for a Grant of Arms was lodged at the Court of Lord Lyon in Edinburgh. In due course Letters Patent granted Ensigns Armorial to the Ontario Genealogical Society and created it “an Incorporation Noble to the Noblesse of Scotland”. In the presence of His Honour the Honourable Lincoln Alexander, Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, the Society’s Letters Patent and new Coat of Arms were presented to Mr. Bryan Sparrow, British Consul General in Toronto, before a gathering of representatives of the Society, its branches and other heritage organizations.

By its 25th Anniversary in 1986, the Society’s membership had risen to 5,000 and it had 25 Branches. Annual Seminars had brought distinguished speakers from the Canadian provinces, the British Isles and the United States. Families and Newsleaf had covered all phases of genealogical research and kept the members informed of activities of the Society and its branches, and matters of genealogical interest elsewhere. Several publications had been produced and two major province-wide projects were well advanced, one to record and publish transcriptions of all cemeteries, and the other to transcribe and publish an index to the 1871 census of Ontario.

In 1986 OGS divided the province into regions to improve working procedures and services to members. The Society enjoys a good relationship with the Ministry of Culture and has participated in several government studies and projects for the improvement of heritage conservation.

The Ontario Genealogical Society is a proud organization with a fine record of service and achievement in the past, and credible hopes and aspiration for a bright future, dedicated to its members’ needs and wants.

The Ontario Genealogical Society Past Presidents’ Honour Roll

  • A. Phillips Silcox 1967-1971
  • Dr. W. Harold Minshall 1971-1973
  • John R. Rutledge 1973-1975
  • Eldon D. Weber 1975-1977
  • Lt. Col. Kenneth F. Collins 1977-1979
  • Alan E. Hayne 1979-1981
  • John Burtniak 1981-1983
  • Marjorie Jean Simmons 1983-1985
  • L. Marie Charbonneau 1985-1987
  • William R. Reynolds 1987-1988
  • Judith A. Mitton 1988-1990
  • Louise I. Hope 1992-1994
  • Dr. Roderick W. McLeod 1994-1996
  • G. Ann Ward 1996-1998
  • Marjorea K. Roblin 1998-2000
  • Kenneth Bird 2000-2002
  • David A. Mackenzie 2002-2004
  • Ron Walsh 2004-2006
  • Robert Crawford 2006-2008
  • Donald Hinchley 2008-2010
  • Nancy Trimble 2010-2012
  • Shirley Sturdevant 2012-2014
  • Alan Campbell 2014-2016

Past Patrons

  • Dr. Winfield Fretz (Honorary President) 1965-1966
  • Dr. G. Elmore Reaman (Honorary President) 1967-1969
  • Milton Rubincam (Honorary Vice President) 1970-1997
  • Lincoln Alexander 1986-1992
  • Honorable Henry Jackman 1992-2002
  • Honorable Lorna Milne 2002-2009
  • Honourable Vivienne Poy 2009-2012