Posted by Paul Rawlins on June 25, 2010 in Collections

I have a number for you: 780%. That’s the increase in data available with the latest update to the Canadian City and Area Directories, 1819–1906, database that went live this week.

My own Canadian ancestry was rather short-lived. My Stoddard line passed through Bastard Township in Ontario in the early 1800s, but the township hasn’t made the directories database yet (unless the name’s being blocked by filters). So I emailed Ron, a Canadian friend who had told me once about the old family homestead in Newfoundland, and asked for a bit of his family history so I could give the updated Canadian directories a trial run.

And after an hour or two of poking around 19th-century Newfoundland, I have to confess, these records can be fun.

Ron traces his roots through a Henry Jewer Sr., born in Spaniard’s Bay in 1840 to a Thomas and Elizabeth. No siblings were mentioned in the sources I looked at.

The first Henry shows up in the Directory for the Towns of St. John’s, Harbor Grace, and Carbonear, Newfoundland, for 1885–86, compiled and arranged by John Sharpe. This Henry is one of three Jewers listed:

I don’t know if this is Ron’s Henry. But he is a Henry. I can’t find “South side, east,” Henry’s address, on the street guide, but both “South West street”

and “Lazybank road,” where James lives,

are linked to Gower street, where William lives (New Gower, the directory says, is a continuation of Gower Street to the west).

Another interesting, non-Henry side note (these records practically require detours): James Jewer, master mariner, was apparently skipper of the Ranger. The directory includes a list of vessels and their masters:

But back to Henry. A Henry appears again in McAlpine’s Newfoundland Directory, 1898.

This entry gets a bit more intriguing. This Henry lives in Spaniard’s Bay, where Ron’s Henry was born, and this directory includes Spaniard’s Bay in its section for Harbor Grace, one of the areas included in the 1885 directory. Unfortunately, this section has no street addresses. However, it does provide a little more circumstantial evidence. We have a Wm Henry. Could this be Henry’s son, Henry William, born in 1870?

If we turn the page, we find a Josiah and a John Jewer, both fishermen, living in an area called Tilton.

Could this be Henry’s son John, born in 1863?

James, the master mariner, appears in 1998 as well and has a Thomas boarding with him:

In fact, both James and a William Jewer have appeared in Newfoundland directories since 1864:

So is the 1885 Henry Ron’s Henry? And could James the mariner and William the shipwright or clerk be brothers to Henry and fathers to some of the other James and Williamses and Thomases?

And while we’re asking questions, did they buy their clothes

or get haircuts

on Water Street? Or do business with JOB BROTHERS & CO, a name that appears with Jewer in the directories for 30 years?

It’s all just speculation right now. I’ll pass all these loose ends on to Ron for the real work of seeing if any tie back to his family. What I do know for sure is that if you have Canadian roots, it can be well worth taking a walk down the old streets in the new Canadian City and Area Directories, 1819–1906.


  1. BEE

    Any possibility the “Commenting is open until…..” could appear next to the name of the person writing the article, along with the number of new comments added each day?
    Although I guess it does keep my “senior” brain working as I scroll down to the bottom of each blog trying to remember how many posts there were previously, if something new has been added, or if that particular one is now closed?
    Don’t plan to get into “tweeting”, so I don’t know what those comments are all about…..

  2. These records are really interesting. I believe if these records are correct then their would be a lot of people who would be associated to these records in Canada. They might be unaware of their association with these records.

  3. BEE

    Is it just me? When I search these and other records, a page comes up with the first name high-lighted throughout the page, along with the surname, but not necessarily together. In other words, what looks like a record for someone I’m researching, really isn’t!
    Also, what’s become of “Recent Genealogy Database” – not a single entry since 6/23.

  4. Pat Secord

    #4 Bee – No, it’s not just you. I guess the system doesn’t realize that the two names should go together and picks up anything that matches. Very frustrating!

  5. Alex

    Good stuff! I greatly prefer it when you focus on acquiring more of the records researchers want, rather than fiddling with the mechanics of the site. It’s true that the search on this database isn’t very effective, but, what the heck, I can still find what I want.

  6. Paul Rawlins

    #4 & 5 BEE and Pat,

    I’m not a search fundi, so I don’t know all the ins and outs of it, but on databases like this that are based on OCR (optical character recognition), the searches won’t be as exact. So no, it’s not just you. It’s a bit of a tradeoff—the OCR opens access to lots of information (it’s used sometimes for books and newspapers, for example), but the records can take a little more work to sort through.

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