Lee Dickson

I am a trained artist by profession. In the late 70’s I commenced freelancing as a visual researcher in conjunction with my art practice. Over the years I researched for numerous design studios, most notably: Burns, Cooper, Hines, Donahue and Fleming. An early photographic series I produced, Photo Research (1985) reflects how strongly my research skills influenced my art practice.

In 1989 I searched for and found my birth family. This led to creation of The Cabinet (1994), an interactive installation which documents this search. Latterly, my family history became a consuming passion and my long hours spent at the Archives of Ontario and other repositories provided me with all the tools to become a professional genealogist.

This experience instilled an interest and respect for Ontario’s heritage, so available and waiting to be discovered. So it was with considerable confidence that in 1995 I added “Genealogical Researcher” to my list of freelance skills. I enjoy assisting clients whether they be searching for a single document or researching large family history projects.

Over the five years that it took me to create my next installation, Hannah (2000), based on the life of my great-great grandmother Hannah Burns (1835-1915) born in Bytown (present day Ottawa) my experience in genealogical research expanded beyond my immediate family and gave me a comfortable familiarity with Ontario records particularly the Loyalists and land records. The inevitable need to link these with American, Irish, Scottish and English on-line records and in local repositories such as the Toronto Reference Library became the next step.

My research has not been limited to early history: I have also worked extensively on Heir searching for the Public Trustees in Ontario, British Columbia and Southern Australia.

Simultaneously I have been working on a personal project as both artist and researcher. This work, about Toronto’s Old Chinatown, was inspired by a birds-eye view from my apartment window of what was once the epicenter of Toronto’s vital Chinatown. This is a work-in-progress. See "The Story of a Building in Old Chinatown." Lola [Toronto] No. 5, Winter 1999-2000: 14-17.

I assisted with the on-line data-bases of two visual and historical research projects. The first, The Royal Alexandra Theatre: A celebration of 100 years produced by Mirvish Productions and written by Robert Brockhouse. The second is a history of The Morris Gallery in Yorkville which operated in the 70’s and 80’s.

Launched in 2012, TXTilecity – an interactive project that brings the city to life in stories and memories that show the significant role textiles have played in shaping Toronto’s urban landscape. Produced by the Textile Museum of Canada in collaboration with Year Zero One, [murmur] and the Toronto District School Board; I assisted with historical and picture research.

I am presently writing a monthly genealogy column for the newly launched site The Toronto Time Capsule, at

As a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists, I endeavor to uphold its high standards of conduct.