Reference services

Accessing the Collection

The City of Ottawa Archives welcomes all researchers: students, genealogists, City employees or anyone with a keen interest in history. Archival research is fun, but it can be time consuming. As there is no single subject index for the entire collection, you should allocate plenty of time to search, order and read the records when you visit us. Sometimes it may take a few business days to deliver records that are located off-site to the reading room.

If you have specific historical questions about Ottawa, reference staff can provide assistance by phone, e-mail or fax. For more complex questions or topics, you will need to visit the Archives. Contact us for further information.

Please note that access to certain civic and private sector records shall be restricted if they are exempt from access under various federal and provincial statutes and regulations, including the Municipal Freedom of Information and Privacy Act (MFIPPA), Personal Health Information Privacy Act (PHIPA), Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), and the Vital Statistics Act. Access to some private sector records may also be restricted for specified periods of time due to an agreement between the Archives and the donor. 

Reference Library

The Central Archives is home to the partner libraries of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO), the Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society, the Sir Guy Carleton Branch of the United Empire Loyalists, the C. Robert Craig Memorial Library, and the United Church Archives (Ottawa and the Seaway Valley Presbyteries).

Our extensive non-circulating Reference Library is also available. This collection includes:

  • a variety of published and unpublished items relating to the history and residents of Ottawa
  • books, reports, maps, publications and newsletters of projects and programs of the City of Ottawa and its former municipalities

Corporate Reports Library

A limited number of our reference library holdings are described online.

To retrieve these resources, please e-mail or call 613-580-2857. Quote the box number, classification (where available), and title.

Materials will be available in the Archives Reference Room at the Central Archives. Additional lead-time will be required if you wish to review them at the Rideau Branch of the Archives.

Access procedures

  1. Some of our holdings are stored off-site and retrieved as requested. A lead-time of two working days should be given for requests to ensure that items are on location at the Central Archives. To view items at the Rideau Branch in North Gower, additional lead-time will be required.
  2. If you are planning to visit the Archives on a Saturday, please let us know by Thursday so that any materials kept in the vault can be retrieved before your visit. We cannot do any vault retrievals on Saturdays.
  3. Materials brought in from off-site or the vaults will only remain in the reference room for a maximum of one week. Please speak to reference staff if a longer retention period is required.
  4. As staffing resources permit, the Archives may occasionally provide photocopying services for smaller requests and for documents that need to be certified by the City Clerk.
  5. Only Archives staff are authorized to photocopy fragile documents.
  6. City employees must provide a cost centre prior to any photocopying. The standard corporate rate will be charged for photocopies whether the copying is done by the requestor or by archives staff.

Please note retrieval services will not be available on Mondays throughout the year.

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