450 Sunset Drive
St. Thomas, Ontario
CA N5R 5V1
Elgin County Archives
The Elgin County Archives is firmly committed to preserving and making available Elgin's total archival heritage, and we are always interested in receiving new acquisitions, provided that the records meet the terms of our Acquisition Policy.
Donations become the property of the Archives upon completion of a Deed of Gift. Ensuring that records received will form a permanent part of the Archives collection is the best way to guarantee their long-term preservation and availability to all researchers.
Elgin County Archives - Acquisition Policy
The mandate and activities of the Elgin County Archives is governed by By-Law No. 01-21. The primary function of the Archives is to assist the Corporation of the County of Elgin and its constituent municipalities in fulfilling public obligations for the preservation and access to records that must be retained according to provincial legislation or because of their enduring cultural value. Therefore, adequate space and resources must be devoted in the Archives at all times to meeting these obligations on behalf of the County and its local governments.
Nevertheless, County Council has made a strong commitment to acquiring records from private sources that, according to the aforementioned By-law, “have bearing upon the history of the County of Elgin as appraised by the archivist. …” However, the volume of potential private acquisitions dictates that firm criteria be put in place in order to strike a balance between the aforementioned public obligations and remaining space and resources in the Archives.
In accordance with By-Law No. 01-21, County Council establishes the following criteria to govern private (i.e. non-municipal) acquisitions to the Elgin County Archives. The Archivist will assess the records according to these criteria prior to acceptance. Donors are urged to read these criteria and understand that the inability of the Archives to make an acquisition is not a statement of the records’ inherent value.
Essential Criteria – All of the following criteria must be met for the Archives to accept a private acquisition:
Are the records largely primary or unique in nature? Emphasis is on original, recorded source material. Secondary source materials are generally collected by a library. Artifacts are generally collected by a museum. Copies of records will generally not be accepted.
Do the records pertain directly to the County of Elgin or its citizens? There must be a direct local connection for the records to be sought.
Is title to the records clear and is the rightful owner willing to enter into a donation agreement with the Archives? The Archives cannot accept records if title is not clear. The Archives strives for permanent ownership and custody of acquired material and discourages deposits or loans from private sources.
Are the records likely to be used by the general public? Acquisitions must have research value that extends beyond personal value to the donor.
Is evidence in the records already documented in the Archives or in another repository? If records essentially duplicate evidence already in the collection or elsewhere, they will not be sought.
Are the records identified? Lack of information about the provenance or context of records may prevent their acquisition. For example, photographs may not be acquired if the likelihood of their identification is remote.
Additional Considerations These considerations may also affect a decision to acquire private records:
What is the size of the collection? The Archives may not be able to accommodate large collections without compromising other objectives.
Will access to the records be restricted? The Archives seeks to provide public access to the records it acquires. Lengthy access restrictions imposed by donors detract from this goal and may influence the decision to make an acquisition.
Are the records in good physical condition? Records in poor shape may be rejected due to the time and expense involved in their restoration compared to the value of the evidence they contain, or because their presence in the Archives may jeopardize other records already in the collection by promoting contaminants such as mould.
Elgin County Municipal Records
Acquiring, preserving and providing access to Elgin County Municipal Records is the Archives’ principal responsibility.
These include council minutes, by-laws, tax assessment rolls, maps, voters lists and other records of the county government and its sixteen former and current local governments dating back to 1852 (or earlier in some cases).
The Archives is fortunate to have a complete set of records from the Elgin County Clerk's Office since its inception, documenting many aspects of the area's social and economic development, including petitions on matters such as temperance, social welfare, justice and the need for infrastructure.
The publication Documenting Our Roots: A Sesquicentennial History of the County of Elgin, 1852-2002 is available to purchase.
An image gallery documenting the history of Elgin County Council is also available.
The County of Elgin provides an online document search, allowing the public to view all Elgin County Council minutes and by-laws from 1852 to the present as well as agenda packages from 1998 to the present.
The Scott Studio
The Scott Studio fonds is a collection of national significance, comprising approximately 100,000 negatives created by three generations of photographers, documenting all aspects of life in Elgin-St. Thomas from the 1870s to the 1980s.
For more information, search our online database.
The Scott-Sefton Collection: Elgin’s History Through a Photographer’s Lens, Volume I and Harvest of Memories: Elgin's History Through a Photographer's Lens, Volume II are available to purchase.
The Archives maintains the records of Alma College, the internationally-renowned educational institution for girls that operated in St. Thomas from 1877 to 1994. For more information, search the Alma College fonds in our online database and read a brief history of the college. Explore our digitization project Toujours en Avant: A Pictorial History which provides access to over 4200 photographs from the Alma College photograph series or view thematic galleries presenting images documenting the history of the college. Listen to an interview conducted in 2003 with class of 1938 Alma graduate Elizabeth “Betty” McPetrie Matheson:
Women's Institute Records
The Archives possesses records of several Elgin County Women’s Institutes, including “Tweedsmuir Histories” for communities throughout the County, providing a female perspective of life in rural Ontario throughout the twentieth century. Explore our County of Elgin Women’s Institutes Tweedsmuir Histories digitization project, which provides online access to a wealth of unique documents, photographs and memorabilia found in the more than eighty volumes of Tweedsmuir Histories contained in the Archives’ collections.
Anderson Department Store/ Anderson Family Records
The Archives maintains a large volume of records documenting the history of the Anderson Department Store in St. Thomas, 1896-1988, and the Anderson family’s extensive and enduring contributions to the community of St. Thomas and Elgin County. Learn more by searching the Anderson Department Store fonds, Anderson family fonds and Donald Hume Anderson fonds in our online database, or by touring this virtual exhibit. Listen to a 1986 Andersons store radio advertisement.
Elgin County Library Microform Collection
The Archives is the repository for this collection of over 1500 microforms formerly housed at the St. Thomas Public Library. This material includes province-wide census returns, Upper Canada Land Petitions, probate/surrogate court records, directories and local newspapers (including the Rodney Mercury, West Lorne Sun, Dutton Advance and Aylmer Express).
Surrogate Court Records
Volunteers at the Elgin County Library have indexed the Surrogate Court Records for the London District and Elgin County from 1800 to 1900. For the London District, all the available records were indexed. Elgin County was formed in 1853; thereafter only Elgin County residents appear in the index. The index is available online in two parts at Estates and Estates2 and can be searched using the Find function in your web browser’s Edit menu.
Elgin County Road Reports and Petitions
An index of petitions to the District of London circa 1821-1841, many of which exist as part of the Elgin County Clerk fonds. The Elgin County Archives acknowledges the efforts of Frank Clarke in the gathering of this information. The index can be searched using the Find function in the Edit menu.
Maps and Plans
This collection includes Tremaine's Map of the County of Elgin, 1864, a valuable resource measuring approximately six feet by three feet and documenting property owners throughout the County at that time. The map is available to purchase in atlas form. The Archives also has a number of fire insurance plans documenting the built heritage of communities throughout the county during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such as Goad's Fire Insurance Plan of Belmont, 1894.
Hours and Location
From Highway 401 at London: a 20 minute drive south on Colonel Talbot Road (County Road 4) or Wellington Road (County Road 25) towards Port Stanley. Located in the Elgin County Administration Building, 450 Sunset Drive, across from Regional Mental Health Care, St. Thomas.
Hours of Operation
Regular hours: Monday - Friday: 10am - 4pm.