Henderson's Directories: historical city directories in Canada
Henderson's Directories are city directories that contained addresses of residents and businesses, dating as far back as the late-1800s. Information was collected by expert staff who would make in-person visits to homes and businesses in a particular Canadian city or region. These agents would collect the names of many "ordinary" people who made the city their home, gathering information pertaining to their occupation, business address, and residential address.
Most of Henderson’s titles begin with advertisements, followed by city information (such as demographics, landmarks, city governance, etc.). The majority of pages consist of the directory listing, which allows readers to search for an individual by name or by address. Typical volumes have an alphabetical listing of businesses & residents by surname, followed by a list of street addresses.
Some Uses for Henderson’s Directories
Henderson's Directories can be used for many different types of research. Historians, genealogists, geographers, teachers, and others continue to find new ways to make the most of these digitized directories. Uses include:
- Tracing an individual’s life in history, especially important when researching the life of an “ordinary” person
- Looking into the history of a building, including individual houses or apartments
- Tracing the rapid and substantial development of cities across the prairies
- Detailing the geographical location of businesses over their lifespan
- Studying the ebbs and tides of the development of residential and commercial spaces
- Discovering population and settlement patterns
- Observing the use of advertising within the directory, and seeing the changing services and products of a developing region
The Henderson's Directories developed as a business tool for rapidly growing towns and cities. It was a means of providing information to potential business users both locally and nationally (and even internationally, if one includes American business interests). The directories provide information on places like banks, public buildings, clubs and many more.
Chamber of Commerce information was also typically included in each publication. This would include information such as the location of the city, history, and cultural background.
Henderson's Directories can also be used to trace the infrastructure development of the city, including the development of streets and sidewalks, the value of the buildings erected in the past year of the directory (including schools and other educational facilities, churches, and parks), information on the money appropriated to build public buildings, and the potential population growth over the coming year.
We have digitized a large cross-section of Henderson's Directories from prairie cities across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. All are full-text searchable and available to you to view for free.
Notes for Researchers
Accuracy: While Henderson’s Directories operated in many urban centres in Canada for most of the twentieth century, their exact titles and availability varied by location & year. Similar to modern phone books, printing errors, informational mistakes, and misrepresentations did occur.
Coverage: The Henderson’s Directories were digitized several years ago, with generous support and loans from various partner institutions from across the Canadian Prairies. Due to limited availability and copyright concerns, we were not able to digitize all volumes published. Some volumes – especially those in the latter half of the 20th-century – are in print only.
Abbreviations: Henderson’s Directories relied heavily on abbreviations to save room, such as in the titles of occupations. Most volumes include a list of abbreviations, specific to that volume, which you can find in the Table of Contents. It was also very common to abbreviate popular given names, sometimes without explanation; in that case, you may want to consult an external guide.
Full-Text Searching: We used an automated Optical Character Recognition (OCR) system to transform the scanned pages into text. OCR is rarely 100% accurate with historical materials. Due to this technical limitation, please be aware that searching for street addresses and names will sometimes retrieve incomplete or inaccurate results. You may wish to browse the directory to verify your results. Special fonts – such as those used in advertisements – are often rendered inaccurately.