When I wasn’t looking, the Vancouver Public Library (VPL) added 15 years of city directories to its online database. We can now search 95 years of directories, from 1860 to 1955. This is an incredible resource for genealogists whose ancestors lived in British Columbia.
I last used this database in 2012 when the directories stopped at 1940. Within a year, VPL added another 12 years. By May 2013, the library had uploaded directories up to and including 1955.
VPL does not plan to digitize beyond 1955, mainly for copyright reasons. Unlike the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec that worked with Lovell to digitize the Montreal and Quebec City directories, VPL has been unable to determine who owns the copyright of the more recent BC directories.
VPL assistant manager Kate Russell said, “The years 1956-1996 for Vancouver and 1956-2000/1 for the smaller communities are available on microfilm in Special Collections at VPL. Staff in Special Collections will search the directories for names/addresses and can be reached via email (email@example.com). We do, however, have a limit as to how many we will search for any one request at one time — usually three names/addresses in three different years of the directories.”
The online directories available for 1860 are for Victoria and San Francisco. By 1863, the British Columbia Guide and Directory provides listings for Victoria, New Westminister, Douglas, Lillooet, Yale, Forst at Quesnelle and Antler, Richfield, Cariboo, Peace River Mines, and the Territory of Sticken. In later years, I found Nanaimo.
These directories contain historical information about British Columbian communities, including street and name lists of individuals and business in Vancouver and Victoria, population figures, schools, and industries, such as mining and forestry.
You can start your search in the BC Directories collection here.