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Post Offices and Postmasters

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The Records

The Records of the Post Office (RG 3)

The Post Office was created as a federal department in 1867. Although postal operations in Canada date from 1755, postal services were under the control of British authorities until 1851. In 1981, the Post Office ceased to be a government department and became a Crown corporation. The mandate of the Post Office is to establish, operate and maintain a full range of postal services in Canada. To achieve this objective, the corporation's functional activities are divided into corporate affairs, operational services, marketing, finance, personnel and administration, as well as systems and engineering.

The records of the Post Office are divided into several series consisting of administrative and operational files covering all aspects of the activities of the Post Office such as the establishment and closing of offices, air mail, censorship, rural mail delivery, Eastern Arctic patrol, equipment, international communications, contracts, railway mail, ocean mail, personnel and various enquiries.

The data used to create the Post Office Index database originated from the series entitled Divisional Inspectors Reports (RG 3, Series D-3). The Divisional Inspector was responsible for the observance of postal laws and regulations, the establishment of new offices and routes, the regulation of existing routes, the investigation of robberies and abstractions, enquiries into complaints and misconduct, making regular personal visits to each post office and generally overseeing the performance of mail service. By 1861, each Divisional Inspector was responsible for between 200 and 400 post offices within his district. Initially, there were only two divisions, Canada East and Canada West, but by 1870 that number had grown to seven: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Montreal, Kingston, Toronto and London. As postal service expanded, additional Postal Divisions and Inspectorships were created.

The Database

The database has been created from a series of postal history record cards (RG 3, vols. 3484-3536) documenting changes of postmasters at individual post offices located across Canada. Beginning in the early 1950s, the preparation of the cards was undertaken by the Public Affairs Unit using the files and letterbooks that were eventually turned over to the National Archives of Canada (RG 3, series B-2 and D-3). Postal history cards for all provinces have been entered into the database and originals have been withdrawn from consultation for preservation purposes. The original register to the reports for the years 1875-1902 has not survived.

The Post Offices database relates to open and closed post offices located in the ten provinces and territories.

The Search Screens

The database contains only one search screen. This search screen offers specific field search capability. A check box and a multiple choice list allow you to refine your search.

The search screen contains the following search fields:

Key Words
Post Office
Electoral District
Postmaster Name

A search by Key Words allows you to find any term. This is an integrated text search system. When the search is initiated, all fields within the database are searched.

For example:
Type King to get hits for this name, whether it is a postmaster's name, a place name, etc.

You can use the other search fields to get more precise results.

For example:
For the name Peter Mitchell Simpson
enter SIMPSON in the Postmaster name field and to narrow your search, enter Ontario in the Province field.

The Number of references by page option allows you to change the number of references appearing on the results page for the duration of the search in progress. By default, the number is set to twenty.

Search Tips

Enter in the appropriate field whatever terms you feel best describe the post office or the postmaster. It can be the name of a post office or a postmaster, a place name, an electoral district, or a province.

As the database contains descriptions of old documents, do not use only modern or current words and terms when entering your search.

Be aware that Quebec place names could be anglicized:

Île-aux-Grues becomes Crane Island.
Pointe-Lévis becomes Point Levi.
St-Jean-sur-Richelieu becomes St. John's.

How to Interpret the Results

Your search results will be posted as a summary list from which you will be able to obtain more detailed descriptions.

Results Summary List

The results summary list, sorted by column, contains information that will allow you to rapidly assess how relevant the documents are that you found. Each page of the list describes 20 references, which is a default value that you can change. You can export the results to a diskette or to your own computer.

The description includes all or some of the sections described below.

The first column is linked to the detailed description (see below). Clicking on the icon will bring you to the detailed description.

The Province column provides the province name for the post office.

The Post Office name column provides the post office's name, as stated in the register.

The Electoral District column provides the post office's district name.

Detailed Description

From the summary list, you can consult one detailed description at a time.

The detailed description includes all or some of the sections described below.

  • the place name where the post office was located
  • the date of establishment and date of closing of the post office
  • any name or location changes of the post office
  • the name of all the postmasters, including their military status, date of birth, date of appointment, date of vacancy and cause of vacancy

Please note that the information in this database was transcribed from postal history record cards and appears exactly as it did in the original records. Despite errors the cards may contain, these transcriptions cannot be altered in order to preserve the integrity of the primary-source documents. The content of this archival database cannot be changed because it replaces records that have been withdrawn from consultation. However, transcription errors may have occurred when the record cards were being copied into the database. A correction can be made should this type of error be found.

How to Consult a Record or Order a Copy

The information you have obtained can be used to do further research in the records of the Post Office or elsewhere. For instance, you can follow the Inventory of Government Record Groups link to consult the inventory of the Post Office Records (RG 3). You can also consult the ARCHIVED - Records created by departments and agencies of the Federal Government database to find other files related to a post office or a postmaster. To limit your search, you can select the Post Office Records (RG 3) in the Record Group field of the general search screen.

Please note that many of the historical records of the Government of Canada in the custody of the National Archives are subject to the provisions of the Access to Information Act ( and the Privacy Act ( While the Acts provide a right of access to these federal records, they also contain provisions that restrict certain kinds of information. See: Conditions for Access to and Use of Documents. Consequently, before the records can be copied, they must be reviewed to ensure that no information in the records is subject to the aforementioned provisions of the Acts. See: Terms Governing the Reproduction and Use of Material from the Collection of Library and Archives Canada.