Follow Friday - Doors are Open in Ontario | The Armchair Genealogist
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Follow Friday - Doors are Open in Ontario

If you are tracing your ancestor’s migration to North America and your relatives settled in Canada then at some point you may have to look to Ontario to discover the pioneers of your family.

There are plenty of websites offering information for genealogists researching in Ontario. However, if you wish to experience first-hand the communities your ancestors help build, I would like to bring your attention to a project called Doors Open Ontario.

Every summer the Ontario Heritage Trust launches Doors Open Ontario. This project in it 11th season encourages Canadians and Non-Canadians alike to explore Ontario’s rich heritage. Various towns throughout Ontario open their doors to visitors who wish to tour important historical and cultural communities, buildings and trails across this beautiful province. If your early ancestors arrived in Ontario this is an opportunity to explore the community that they once lived. Learn about your ancestor’s community, heritage and culture through an up close and personal experience.

Each year, hundreds of historic buildings, places of worship, museums and heritage gardens – some of which are rarely accessible to the public – open free of charge as part of Doors Open Ontario. Many of the participating sites offer special activities, such as tours, exhibitions and demonstrations.

Seven of the events in 2010 are new. Ajax, Burlington, Clarington, Georgina, Haliburton, Pembroke and South Bruce Peninsula have all joined the program. Another highlight to watch for again this season is the bi-national event in Niagara, featuring sites in both Ontario and Western New York.

Whether you are looking for a day trip this summer or a long summer weekend, you can visit  and plan your trip based on your specific genealogical needs. Check out Doors Open Ontario to discover what is available in your ancestor’s community to explore. Many of these communities also offer summer and fall festivals so perhaps you may wish to line up your trip with one of Ontario’s many popular festivals. You can check out festival events at

Add a local library, historical societies and cemeteries and maybe the Ontario or National Archives and you will have created a very well rounded genealogy vacation in Ontario.

You can call 1-800-ONTARIO for your free copy of the Ontario Official Road Map and additional copies of the Doors Open Ontario 2010 Guide. Word of warning not all sites and events are listed in the guide, but the website offers a far more extensive listing.

Here is a very small sample of some important historical sites available for touring in The Doors Open Ontario 2010 project.

In Toronto, Ontario – Fort York National Historic Site- houses Canada’s largest collection of original War-of-1812 buildings.

In Dresden, Ontario - Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site-

Uncle Tom's Cabin Historic Site commemorates the life of Reverend Josiah Henson. Recognized for his contributions to the abolition movement and for his work in the Underground Railroad, he rose to international fame after Harriet Beecher Stowe acknowledged his memoirs as a source for her 1852 anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It was Henson's life experiences that inspired Ms. Stowe's creation of the character Uncle Tom in her 1852 outcry against slavery
In Huron County, Ontario – Van Egmond House -built in 1846, by Constant Louis Van Egmond. Van Egmond played a key role in opening the Huron Tract from Guelph to Goderich for the Canada Company.

In Kitchener, Ontario - Woodside National Historic Site of Canada- the boyhood home of William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canada’s 10th Prime Minister. Costumed guides take you through the furnished Victorian home and beautiful gardens.

In Niagara-on-the-Lake – Niagara Historical Society Museum – Ontario’s oldest museum, houses one of Ontario’s most important local history collections.

In Walkerton, Ontario – Viewfield Inn/Shaw House – Built in 1880 by Alexander Shaw, this Victorian mansion features its original doorbell and two ornate fireplaces saved from an estate in England, one dates back to 1601.

In Milton, Ontario – Downtown Historic Walk – Explore downtown Milton’s charm by taking a self-guided tour covering more than 50 of Milton’s older homes and heritage sites.

The list goes on and on, so I encourage to visit, Doors Open Ontario,  and search for the town of your relatives. Then begin planning your summer outing, exploring the Ontario town of your ancestors.