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Skip Navigation LinksSimcoe County > Archives > Researching Ghosts and Hauntings with Archival Records

Researching Ghosts and Hauntings with Archival Records

​​​​​​​​Posted: October 20, 2021​​
Updated: October 25, 2021 (House incorrectly identified as the Beck House is in fact the ​Copeland House, Penetanguishene).

October is here which me​ans that spooky season is upon us! For fun this year, the staff at the Simcoe County Archives have put together a resource for researching “ghosts and hauntings” using archival records. 

Unidentified woman with flowers, around 1900
​​​972-48     Unidentified woman with flowers, ca. 1900.

Decay to the glass negative gives her a ghostly appearance. 

While we cannot say for certain that ghosts are real, at the Archives we can safety say that people who believe in ghosts are. It may surprise some to learn that a percentage of the researchers who make use of the archives are “ghost hunters” – and that “ghost hunting” looks a lot like basic property or family history research.  

To that end, this guide will serve as an introduction to how some spookier questions can be answered through archival research.  

Property Research 

​Often people interested in ghosts and hauntings are looking for information about their home and/ or property. Common questions include: 
  1. How old is the property and when was it developed? 
  2. Who has owned the property? 
  3. Have there been any spooky or mysterious events here? 
​The first two questions can usually be answered through archival property records.  The Simcoe County Archives have put together a guide for heritage property research available here: Guide to Heritage Property Research.  

The Beck House located in Penetanguishene around 1890

974-78    The Copeland House located in Penetanguishene ca. 1896. 


Other resources 

​Once you know the development and ownership history of a property, it becomes easier to research other aspects of its history.  

Answering the question “Have there been any spooky or mysterious events​ here?” can be complicated, but there are several archival resources available that can help. Some of these are listed below.

Family history records 

Genealogical resources such and census records, vital statistics, and compiled family histories can be useful when researching a specific person or family. The Simcoe County Archives Guide to Family History Research provides a useful overview of the records available for this type of research. 

Remembrance​ Certificate, 1889-1902
2012-35     Remembrance Certificate, 1889-1902.

The Simcoe County Archives Newspaper collection 

The Simcoe County Archives hold over 50 newspaper titles dating back to the 19th century. These publications captured the daily activities of the towns and settlements in the county, and often focus on local events. They are available either in hardcopy form or on microfilm at the Simcoe County Archives.  

Some historic newspapers for Barrie and Orillia have been digitized, and are available for review through Our Ontario.  

Cemetery records 

The Simcoe County Archives hold copies of cemetery transcription for many historic and active cemeteries in the county. These lists were largely compiled by the Simcoe County Branch Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS). The OGS has also put together a database for cemetery transcriptions: The Ontario Cemetery Finding Aid 

Headstones in the churchyard at the First Anglican Church in Barrie, around 1876

968-40  Headstones in the churchyard at the First Anglican Church in Barrie, ca. 1876. ​
From the Livingstone collection

Another valuable online resource is Find A Grave​, an online database that includes Simcoe County cemeteries.  

Women’s Institute records 

​Simcoe County Archives hold over 200 Tweedsmuir Histories and scrapbooks put together by local branches of the Women’s Institute. These records contain a wealth of information about local buildings, family histories, and local events. These resources are available on site at the Simcoe County Archives. 

Two memorial wreaths

​​972-48     Two floral wreaths, likely a funeral memorial, ca. 1890. ​

These are just a few resources available to get you started on your ghost hunt. Happy searching and Happy Hallowe’en! ​​​