Thursday, 24 December 2009


The pudding is made, the stuffing is ready to put in the turkey, the presents are all wrapped, and I haven't done any census transcription since Monday. It's time to say

to everyone and a


Sunday, 13 December 2009

I can't read that



As transcription goes on I have decided that the word "illegible" can often cover too wide a variety of problems. For this reason I find myself using one of four different words, each of which will describe the specific situation more distinctly.

Unreadable. This usually relates to the quality of the writing or the writing instrument or the paper which has made it impossible for the microfilming camera to pick up a smooth image. A copperplate nib might be responsible, so might ink thickened through lack of use, or paper exposed to damp before or after it has been written on.

Invisible. This infers that the writing is so pale that it is impossible to see anything at all. Occasionally one can pick up a given name or initial. This most often occurs in the Names and Occupation columns. Often the ages and sexes are visible, so that the transcriber can tell how many people will be missed and whether it was a straightforward family or a boarding house. These entries were probably made in pencil, although some are so bad that I wonder if a dirty nail was used instead. Did the enumerators of St John's and St Patrick's have an arrangement that they would rub out families' names if they were slipped 50 cents or a dollar? Many other families have had their entries crossed out and rewritten when there appears to be nothing wrong with the original.

Unrecognizable. This usually refers to birthplaces, particularly where the householder has written a specific place in Ireland, England or Scotland which I just can't make out. If he has messed up the initial letter there is no point in staring at a gazetteer to solve the problem.

Queried. I use this when I have made an attempt at reading a name but am not sure I am right. The word is scattered liberally over my transcription. Anyone is welcome to have another go.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Planning Ahead

This afternoon, after raising my count of households photographed in St Patrick's to 130, I decided to inspect the two films borrowed from the LDS to see just what was covered by both of them.

The first film continues through St Patrick's for 979 folios or households. The last district is number four which has barely started at the end of the first film and continues on into the second film for a total of 164 folios. The whole ward comprises 1101 households.

The rest of the relatively small second film contains the various institutions in and around Toronto which had their own populations. These are not listed in households but on pages of 50 inhabitants, rather like the rural township census forms.

I have always been curious as to the actual institutions which formed this group. Here they are, together with the number of pages it took to list their "inmates". The inmates included everyone on the premises, even those in charge of the institution.

Trinity College, Queen Street West, St Patrick's Ward
Toronto University buildings, Queen's Park, St Patrick's Ward
Knox College, Grosvenor Street, St John's Ward
St Michael's College, St Joseph's Street, St John's Ward
House of Providence, Power Street, St David's Ward
House of Industry, Edward Street, St John's Ward
Orphan's Home, St Patrick's Ward
Boys' Home, King Street East, St James's Ward (The Girls' Home was listed in with St James's Ward itself.)
St Mary's Convent, St Joseph's Street, St John's Ward
The Peninsula or The Island, St George's Ward
Provincial Lunatic Asylum, part one, St Andrew's Ward
Provincial Lunatic Asylum, part two, St Andrew's Ward
Toronto General Hospital, St David's Ward
Toronto Jail
Toronto Garrison, St George's Ward
Old Fort York, St George's Ward

So, "The Pensinsula" was an "institution". Who would have thought it? It is a part of Toronto rather dear to my heart as I would have been included on its 1941 census, had that census happened. In 1861 the inhabitants included David Ward and his large family, members of the Hanlan family, and a few others.

A learning institution I was expecting to find but didn't was Upper Canada College. Some pupils were boarding with masters on the grounds in St George's Ward proper, but there were no dormitories such as those ususally described in 19th century private schools. I can only presume that the term had not started on January 14th and most pupils were still at home.

I was surprised that it took 10 pages to cover the Toronto Garrison. Admittedly this included all the families in married quarters, but that was still a lot of British soldiers stationed 3000 miles from home in what was to all extents peacetime (save for internal problems across the American border, of course).

I should finish St Patrick's District One next week, and there is still one more session available in the library before Christmas. I think I will work on some of the institutions that day rather than leave them all to the end.

St Patrick's Ward gets started

St Patrick's Ward started out just where I expected--at the northwest corner of Queen Street West and University with an enumeration district of 261 houses. The enumerator made his way along the north side of Queen for about three blocks and then proceeded to work on the side streets. At least, this is what appeared from what I saw on Tuesday and checked later with the streets directory section of Mitchell's City Directory of 1864.

I usually try to photograph 75 folios or households a day, but on Tuesday I had forgotten one of my preparational steps. Thus, my camera told me its memory card was full as I reached house 57. Today I have made sure my camera is empty to start with, but I must look out my second 2GB memory card.

The families were quite a mixture, with occupations stretching from labourer up to "gentlemen" and merchants, with a fair sprinkling of men and widowed women who did not see fit to tell the census authorities what, if anything, they did to keep the wolf from the door. There were at least two people who lived alone, and some very large families (one of seventeen members including a few servants). Three households were impossible to read--a high score for one day's work. The unusual thing was the number of deaths in 1860 recorded. The enumerator must have been especially vigilant on this score. I have found census districts which did not include any at all and I am sure Toronto was not that healthy at the time.

The proofreading of St John's District 3 was completed before starting on St Patrick's and with luck I can finish the small District 6 north of College over the weekend. District 6 was so different from the rest of the ward. Suburbia I guess you would call it. Yonge Street was commercial and included Thomas Christie's first biscuit factory and a large builder's with a lot of men recorded there. The surnames in the builder's yard were familiar. The employer may simply have listed all his workmen or the employees may have stayed there over a Sunday night prior to going to a nearby job on the Monday morning. University College was completing construction at the time and there were at least four painters in that list. Back of Yonge Street were clerks, bookkeepers, merchants and barristers and the one titled person I have found in the whole of Toronto: Lady Macauley. Her late husband had been a judge and had died in 1859. Knox College was in the middle of this ward and St Michael's on the edge of it. Most of their "inmates" will probably be found in the Institutions file I have yet to get to on the second film of St Patrick's Ward.

Friday, 4 December 2009

St Patrick's Ward Transcription starts Tuesday

The other day I received word that our local Family History Centre is back open for business following a three-month break while the Latter Day Saints chapel had a renovation. Come Tuesday I can go back to the process of adding new people to the 1861 census database.

St Patrick's is the last ward to do. I know it includes the area north of Queen Street West and west of what is now University Avenue. The northern boundary is present-day Bloor Street West and it will stretch west to . . . . well, that is something I shall have to find out. From the looks of the map of the ward in 1861, there was a sizeable population in the rectangle bounded by Queen, College, University and Bathurst. There were also people living west of that along the Queen Street corridor, but not that many further north.

Population density in St Patrick's is going to be governed by the availability of transporation. People would either have to work close to home, perhaps running their own businesses, or be able to travel daily into the more built-up parts of the city. In 1861 in Toronto public transportation was just beginning to come into existence. Travelling to the centre by carriage was for the much better off, travelling in on horseback would involve more problems than just those we have today parking a car.

I look forward to charging up my camera on Monday night ready for my first three-hour stint on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, I have been proofreading St John's Ward. Districts One and Two are complete and back into the big database. Now I am tackling District Three--308 households containing 1500 people--in the area from Queen north to Agnes Street (now Dundas) and from Yonge over to Terauley (now Bay Street). More than half of this is now covered by the Eaton Centre. The enumerator started with Agnes, then did the north and south streets and finally tackled the east-west ones starting at Queen and progressing northward. I just finished Albert Street. Now there is Trinity Square, Louisa and Alice--92 houses. With a bit of luck I shall get that done and, perhaps, District 6 north of College before I start on St Patrick's.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Population--Variations in Density

This morning I decided I had looked at clumps of trees for just too long. It was time to back off and view the whole wood.

When you transcribe a census of a town or city ward by ward it is hard to know just how many people you’ve included. There may be households that get copied twice accidentally, there may be houses omitted. There may be people who write their name over two lines in barely readable handwriting. It takes a proofread to realize there is only one person there. Equivalently it is possible to leave out one child in a large family or miss a boarder in a rooming house. Now, with a great deal of tidying up done, I have discovered that there were 37,586 people in Toronto (excluding St Patrick’s Ward), and they were organized into 6,718 households. A further 125 buildings contributed census forms but were vacant on census night. The average number of people per inhabited household was 5.59.

The various wards varied in population from largest to smallest as follows:
St James’s (Yonge east to Jarvis, King Street north to Bloor)

8,466 people; 1403 households; household density 6.03.
St John’s (Yonge west to University Ave, Queen north to Bloor)

8,101 people; 1599 households; household density 5.07.
St David’s (Jarvis Street east to the Don River, King Street north to Bloor)

8,019 people; 1452 households; household density 5.52.
St Andrew’s (Yonge Street west to Garrison Creek, King Street north to Queen)

6,281 people; 1144 households; household density 5.49.
St Lawrence’s (Yonge Street east to the Don River, the bay front north to King Street, with a few families out on the Kingston Road)

3,839 people; 698 households; household density 5.50.
St George’s (Yonge west to Garrison Creek, the bay front north to King Street)

2,880 people; 422 households; household density 6.82.

The ward with the highest household density was St George’s and the lowest was St John’s. This was surprising. I haven't done a careful survey on this point, but would assume there were more people classified as servants in St George's. Certainly there were a lot of families comfortably enough off to afford them. St George's also included three or four large hotels. On the other hand, St John's was populated by families of craftsmen in a variety of trades from stonecutter to shoemaker. There were servants--quite often girls of 14 or 15--but they were more likely to be found in smaller families. Larger families must have depended upon their offspring to get tasks done that would otherwise by carried out by hired help.

The housecleaning and renovation of the database as a whole is now complete. I can now start looking at individual houses and improve the presentation of the data to be found in each. St John's is getting a proofread, two districts done and now into the third of the seven.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Renovating the Census and What it Can Lead To

I have been expanding my housecleaning work to other wards. So far St Andrew's and St John's are being inspected and given the equivalent of a good lick of paint. Like any renovation process, you suddenly see something that needs doing in one room and then the action has to be repeated everywhere else as well. It's a long careful process to get a better and more uniform database up and running.

The last stage in making any renovation is to see if it works. This led me, this afternoon, to the census entry for Jas B AIKENHEAD, clerk, aged 44, in St David's Ward. A long time ago I matched him with an entry in Mitchell's Directory of 1863: Aikenhead, James, salesman, 2 King Street East, h 157 Jarvis. His employment address of 2 King Street East tied with that of W Hewitt, 111 Yonge Street, general hardware merchant. Mr Hewitt was one of the principal advertisers in Mitchell's Directory. At the bottom of every right-hand page in the Directory he listed one of the products he sold. It is great fun to go through the directory just reading the great variety of hardware items available to the people of Toronto and the rural areas round about that could be obtained at W Hewitt's at the corner of Yonge and King.

The name AIKENHEAD allied itself to hardware in my head, just as it probably does to anyone else who grew up in Toronto during the 20th century. The occupations of clerk and salesman were very lowly. Was he the one who started up the ladder on the way to commercial success in the hardware business?

Time to put the query "Aikenhead hardware" to Google. The best answer on the first page was a book in titled I know that name!: the people behind Canada's best-known brand names by Mark Kearney and Randy Ray. It confirmed my guess. Jas B Aikenhead was the founder of Aikenhead's Hardware, and his son Thomas (age 2 in 1861) followed in his father's footsteps and became managing director of the firm in 1902, just before his father's death.

These are "notes" that I can now put with the census. Notes that are just as worthwhile as the actual transcription, even if you aren't related to the Aikenhead family in any way. Discoveries like this is what really makes transcribing and inspecting the census FUN.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Housecleaning the database and other things

It's November. Sometime this month our local Family History Centre ought to open up again after the down-time caused by renovations in the LDS chapel building. I have just been on the phone to a chapel member and she says there is a fair amount of work to do yet. It may be a while before I can get down to transcribing St Patrick's Ward.

I have given my database of St David's Ward a housecleaning. Now, for the first time, I can produce a form giving all the data I have for a household--not just the original census schedule, but links to city directory entries, and all my miscellaneous notes that go with the people and the household or building in which they lived. I can indicate that a particular census page was extremely difficult to read, or that the details on the form may be incorrect thanks to an error on the part of the person who originally filled it in (for instance, getting the sexes of two children the wrong way round). Better still, I can add facts about the individuals, such as if they found their way into the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, even though they were just children in 1861. Eventually I can add many marriage dates and future spouses. A census is a snapshot in a life, why not expand it into a photograph album if the evidence can be found?

The next task is to repeat what I've done for St David's to the other five completed wards. I hope I can remember all of the steps.

Ancestry have just delivered their acknowledgement-and-thank-you emails for my corrections made during October. There were more than 1600 messages in a mailbox that usually gets about ten in every delivery. Can one find a census entry using a corrected entry? The answer is yes, but the individual will always be filed under the spelling that their original transcriber used.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Proofreading Comes to an Unexpected Halt

I am rather pleased to see that it is less than a month since I last wrote to this blog. Proofreading the census entries has proved to be more immediately challenging than writing about them. Since the end of September I completed checking St Lawrence's Ward and went on to St James's, the last of the three wards situated east of Yonge Street.

Yesterday I started work on District 4 and less than forty houses in I had to stop. Ancestry had come to the end of its provision. There are 1413 folios or households in St James’s Ward, but there are only 828 folios in Ancestry’s website. If you are looking for one of the 600 familes that lived north of Gerrard Street East between Yonge and Jarvis, Ancestry doesn’t have them.

It would appear that they are not on FamilySearchIndexing either. I just did a search of a few heads of households on the index there to find "no matches". I am beginning to wonder if one microfilm missed the FSI volunteer indexing program which happened back at the beginning of the year. If so, it is Family History Library Film US/CAN Census Area 390245—the description in the LDS Library Catalogue exactly fits the point where the index ceases to exist.

Oh well. I guess I had better start on the database revision operation for the three complete districts of St James's. But it is a pity that the whole of Toronto east of Yonge can’t be proofread.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Ancestry Difficulties

In yesterday’s blog I was discussing census images for which FamilySearch Indexing did not provide a transcription and which, therefore, are omitted from Ancestry’s database.

Along with the image of each folio on the 1861 census, Ancestry provides a "Report Problem" option. Opening it leads to three choices: "Missing Image", “Wrong Image” or "Unreadable Image". It does not include anything like "Image not Transcribed". If I tick "Missing Image" or "Unreadable Image" I immediately receive an automated e-mail thanking me and advising that if I wish to take the matter further I should telephone or write snail-mail.

Ancestry provides its services to us through the internet. Surely they ought to assume that their customers would want to use the same means to contact them. Phoning or writing costs money, particularly for those of us outside North America. As far as phoning is concerned, there is also the matter of time zones. The “matching working hours” window between Utah and the UK is very small.

Contacting "Contact Us" results in an e-mail saying they have put the question raised on their file of problems to check. Admittedly they get around to these problems eventually, but answers tend to be phrased as if every correspondent is looking for his/her own family and correcting a small mistake in one record. They do not seem to identify the general researcher looking at a community and who may be trying to point out to them something they may not have considered before.

One afternoon, a couple of weeks after I finished proofreading St David's, I received a collection of more than 500 e-mails from Ancestry thanking me for individual corrections and comments I had made. I didn't read too many, particularly after I found several suggesting I should take out a subscription. Can one read their Canadian census results without a subscription?

Excuse the rant. These molehills in Ancestry's provision can easily grow into mountains.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

St Lawrence's--Proofreading Stage

No, it wasn't a two-week break. I got down to work proofreading St Lawrence's Ward on the Monday and am now part way through the last of the four districts.

I think I have said before that I did the original transcription of "Larry" in a hurry prior to a trip to Canada. Does it show! The full correction is going to take quite a few days. Yesterday I discovered an error in reading the folio numbers that followed on for more than 100 households. Folio numbers are the vital reference to original sources and I use them as identification codes in my database. All these people will have to have their codes altered to link them to the city directories correctly.

The quality of some of the folios are so bad that FamilySearchIndexing didn't even attempt to transcibe them. This makes it difficult because in these cases there is no facility in Ancestry to "fill in the blanks". On most folios it is possible to read the ages and determine the number of people in the household. Had the indexer entered the ages it would have allowed others to have a go at the names.

Just for fun I decided to see if I could find one of these omitted households in the 1871 census. In Ancestry the left hand side of Folio 649 was no more that a smear, but there were ages given for ten people. It looked like the first nine were a family and the tenth a servant. On the reverse the signature was definitely that of David Gorman. This must have been one of those folios that should not have been bleached when the census films were renovated in the past year, because I had made some guesses as to names in my database. I couldn't have done so working with what Ancestry provides now.

David Gorman was aged 60 in 1861 so looking him up in the 1871 census was a bit of a long shot, but one might as well try. There he was aged 72 and still in St Lawrence with his wife, Margaret, and five of his children--the ones whose names were pretty well illegible.

I tried a couple of other folios of the same quality. One was successful, but the other must have belonged to a family who decided Toronto was not the place to seek their fortune after all.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

How to "take a break" in style

Last night I was checking people with 'C' surnames against Caverhill while listening to The Last Night of the Proms on radio. Once the program reached the intermission I felt eyes needed to experience this as well as the ears. It was time to leave the computer screen for the television one.

I was first introduced to the Last Night of the Proms 44 years ago when I had only been in the UK for a couple of weeks. Two of us were driving from Glasgow to London by way of the slow scenic route. Saturday night still found us on the Scottish side of the border staying with some people introduced to us by Canadian friends. As dinner ended our hosts recalled that it was the Last Night of the Proms, something that appeared to be a "must watch" to them, but meant nothing much to a couple of girls in their mid-twenties visiting from a foreign land. So the black-and-white television was switched on and we settled down to an evening in which conversation was not going to be the vital part.

As all of us who can remember back that far can recall that, as the 1950s moved into the 1960s, popular music changed. I was not a fan of rock'n'roll. In fact, to replace that empty space that had been filled by romantic ballads and easy jazz, I was discovering classical music of the era from Bach to Mozart. But concerts have never been my style. I can't keep my hands still in my lap. However, that evening I was doing my best to be a proper guest and not fidget excessively.

My yawn factor was suddenly reduced as the quieter parts of Sea Shanties moved into The Hornpipe and the camera moved to the standing audience doing their best to clap in time as the music got faster and faster. Then there was Jerusalem, which I had learned at school, sung with warmth and respect by singers on both sides of the podium. I was beginning to realize why my hosts had looked forward to this evening in front of the television.

"It will be Britannia next." And it was. I forget who the soloist was that year. I don't even know if it was a man or a woman. All I can remember was the audience participation--people of my own age waving flags and swaying from side to side in unison. Really letting their hair down and having fun. It was something I had never known at a symphony concert.

Then Sir Malcolm Sargent made his traditional Last Night speech, thanking all and sundry from Sir Henry Wood (the founder of the Proms whose bust sits on a plinth at the back of the platform) to the hoi polloi like us. On completion he turned to the orchestra, raised his baton, and the familiar tune of Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March Number 1 came forth. The orchestra played the melody once through, and then, together, the whole audience began to sing "Land of Hope and Glory". Again the streamers and the flags came out. At that moment I decided this was where I wanted to be. These people were the kind of people I wanted to be part of.

The Last Night of the Proms has changed a bit over time, but it keeps many of the traditional features and people love it for doing so. The soloist for Britiannia sometimes comes on in costume. I recall a well-built soprano who came on in an all-covering cape which turned out to have a Union Jack lining. But last night Sarah Connolly, who had sung her earlier solo in a trouser suit, came on dressed as Horatio Nelson, and with a flourish presented her tricorn to the conductor who then proceeded to lead the orchestra with one hand while keeping the hat under his other arm.

A few years ago someone got the brilliant idea of producing matching "proms in the parks" in different parts of the country so that the live audience was not limited to those who can get to the Royal Albert Hall in London. Giant television screens allow the various concerts to be swapped around from venue to venue and fireworks displays add to the excitement. This year Handel's Fireworks Music took the place of the Sea Shanties. It was just as fitting. The weather was dry and warm enough for the park audiences to enjoy their night out.

The program from inside the Albert Hall has also changed. Thirty or more years of colour television has seen to that. I am sure there are more streamers and the flags are much larger. There are now a number of colour spotlights moving their beams around the hall. In fact, we did not see as much of the promenaders last night, and--shock, horror--many of them appeared to be in evening dress instead of the usual t-shirt, jeans and silly hat.

It was a wonderful way to take a break from Toronto 1861. If you want to see what this year's Last Night was about, follow The podcast will only be available for the next week (until September 19 2009). Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Keeping Busy in an Interim Period

When I completed St Andrew's Ward at the beginning of August, I thought I would be taking a three to four week transcription break before continuing on with St Patrick's, the final area to be done.

However, our Family History Centre and local LDS church unexpectedly decided to have the builders in and the centre is now closed for ten weeks or so. With no transcription to do I am keeping myself busy with other tasks in connection with the project: proofreading, comparing census data with city directories, reading histories of the period, and drawing maps.

Proofreading is being done with the assistance of Ancestry's provision of the original microfilms online. They now also bring up the transcription provided to them by the LDS FamilySearch Indexing project and allow any viewer to suggest alterations. As a result I am proofreading my transcription and theirs at the same time. They both contain errors. Hopefully, at the end of the day, the names in both will be the same.

Proofreading is a fairly slow activity and has a fairly early "yawn" threshold. However, I have almost completed St David's Ward which I transcribed four years ago. It is a lot easier to read a computer monitor than it was to figure out the same information on a microfilm screen. There is more magnification available and computer monitors tend to be cleaner.

Comparing the data from the census with city directories is something I have done quite a bit of ever since I started transcribing. It's nice to know exactly where a family lived and every once in a while the directory's entry sorts out legibility difficulties provided by the census. Of course, sometimes the directory gets something wrong, too. Let's face it, on cloudy days they would have been proofread by gaslight. And all the indexing was done by hand and eye and brain while we present a great list to our computer's software and, presto, it's done.

Last week I discovered that Amazon UK carries some books on Toronto history. As a result I now have copies of Eric Arthur's Toronto, No Mean City and two of Mike Filey's Sketches of the Way We Were. It's amazing how much I have learned about 19th century Toronto since I opened these books on Saturday.

Drawing maps is strictly a computer activity. I am no artist, but with a mouse I can draw a straight line. A drawing program called lets me trace from a map found online or scanned from a book. The original is the background layer. Then I add a pale solid colour as a translucent layer, then another layer on which I outline the streets and a third where I write the street names. When I'm finished I hide the original and I have a fairly easy-to-read street map. The streets on my map follow an even stricter grid pattern that Toronto planners provided us with in the first place. My father was a draughtsman who retired at about the same time as computers came on the scene. He would have been green with envy.

There's plenty to do, even without actually transcribing.

Monday, 24 August 2009

You Have to Start Somewhere

An entry from Elm Street East (now Gerrard Street), in St David's Ward (folio 1426)

Henry Pellatt, bank clerk, born Glascow, age 31, married, 3 children born in Kingston, 2 servants, house made of rough cast, two storeys high.

Not exactly a castle.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Response to Comments (cont'd)

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Meanwhile, all you eagle-eyed blog readers can try your hand at Mr Beatty's occupation which absolutely flummoxes me.

Response to Comments

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There have been two responses to yesterday's post, both of which said the same thing, so I thought I had better share the original with everyone.
This is to let you know that I thought I had become used to the curly topped "d" at the end of a word, but another can always come along to fool me. I shall change my transcription to the less interesting possibility.
Stand by for another blog. I haven't figured out how to place pictures where I want them yet. And this is centred because Google seems to want it this way.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Naming Difficulties

Anyone who has ever looked through a census will know that it is not always a boring list of people written in amazingly difficult to read handwriting. Every once in a while, particularly where people are filling in their own census schedules, you find a family that shows its personality.

Such was the case with the Grants in St Andrew’s District Four. It was one of those frustrating families where the parent given the responsibility for filling in the details saw fit to provide posterity with only the initials of his or her brood of four children, except for the last little girl, aged 3 weeks on 14 January 1862. No initials for her, just the comment “Not Christmas!”.

I sensed a family feud. I guess the Grants had used up all the names in the standard Scottish family naming pattern and it was time to look beyond monickers carried by grandparents and parents. One parent, doubtless backed up by the more romantic of the other children, was going for a really interesting name for the new arrival. The other, more staid and more aware of the difficulty of bearing an unusual name, was electing for something more down to earth.

I wonder what “Not Christmas!” ended up as. I hope she lived to enjoy it.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

St Andrew’s Ward—An Overview

Now that St Andrew’s Ward is completely transcribed, it is time for some statistics. The whole ward comprised 6,268 people and there were 1160 schedules filled in. On average, then, each household contained 5 or 6 people.

The ward covered all the area between King and Queen Streets, starting at Yonge Street and moving out as far to Strachan Avenue which was the western edge of the city. It is a very long narrow rectangle and very hard to put on one map without losing focus on the streets in the centre. For the census it was divided into five districts:
District One included 1393 people on 250 schedules and covered the area south from Queen West to Adelaide and from Yonge west to the east side of York Street. It was very much a commercial district with people living over shops as well as in hotels and boarding houses.
District Two had a population of 1493 in 253 households and comprised the area between the south side of Adelaide and the north side of King, starting at Yonge and going west to John Street. It included Upper Canada College and the houses of masters who lived in the grounds. Only a few pupils living with the masters are included. Either the rest are covered in the film titled "Institutions" or they had not returned from their Christmas holiday by census night.
District Three had 1113 people in 224 households. It was a westward extension of District One starting on the west side of York Street and ending on the east side of Peter. There were some big houses in this district, including that of Chief Justice John Beverly Robinson.
District Four continued west again, this time covering the area from the west side of Peter Street to the west side of Portland Street. It included St Andrew’s Market. There were 1119 people and 206 households.
District Five was the largest district geographically. It continued west from District Two and John Street to Portland Street, once again only the block between Adelaide and King. West of Portland it expanded to the complete width of the ward from King Street up to Queen, stretching beyond Garrison Creek to Strachan Avenue. Its population was 1150 in 227 households.

I have now finished adding all the relational fields—spouses, children, parents and “living with”. Tomorrow I will make the spreadsheet into a database where I can better compare it with other material, particularly the city directories.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Mrs Green, who are you?

I have been proofreading St David’s Ward, using the originals provided by Ancestry. District 3, with its 458 schedules, must be one of the longest of the lot. This morning I called for the next Ancestry image only to find that it came complete with their own transcription and the facility to advise alterations. As a result I have been checking two transcriptions at once—mine and theirs--and finding all types of errors in both of them!

One type of error is worth mentioning. Because the census was being filled in by the householders, the members of the family are described much more in the manner of the era than they would be if the information was being copied down by an enumerator constrained by rules from above. In the 1860s this meant that wives were very often referred to as Mrs J Smith or Mrs R Brown. To admit that your wife was Mary Smith or Ann Brown was just not done. This seems to be more true of couples in their twenties than in older families

The LDS FamilySearch Indexing project (who prepared the transcription for Ancestry) was not prepared for this habit. Their rules instructed indexers to leave a blank in the given name field instead of writing “Mrs”. This made sense when I did a bit of transcribing for them, but now that I see the results in Ancestry, I am less happy. I expect a blank given name field to infer something unreadable or omitted. Instead, it turns out to be a schedule on which the lady of the house was referred to as “Mrs”. The atmosphere of the era would be far more evident if “Mrs” were present when it was used, just as it would be if they had chosen to include occupations.

The situation also gives rise to another mistake. Take a family headed by William Black followed by Mrs W Black. Nickels to doughnuts her name was not Winnifred or Wilhelmina, but some transcribers have removed the “Mrs” and made the assumption that her name began with W. Given the sparseness of other records of the time, this type of error will find its way into many a family tree.

It just proves that even English-speaking transcribers can’t get it right 100% of the time.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

August Actions--Tidying Up

With the transcription of St Andrew's complete, I am adding its frills and furbellows: additional fields naming spouses, children, parents and the one for which I can't think of a better title than "Living With". This field lists the head of the household for all servants, boarders, relatives with a different surname, and all the older children who might leave the nest come another year or decade.

Putting in these extras can be very boring and I keep trying to think up some semi-automated way to fill in the columns in my spreadsheet. With between 200 and 250 households in each of the five districts completing will take a while. This morning I hit upon a two-stage way of filling in the Living With column which is fairly successful. District One is now finished.

I have also started to proofread St David's Ward, the first one I attacked. I was surprised to find my files were dated 2005. Was it really four years ago? From the looks of my corrections I was pretty green then. In 2005 I was doing the whole transcription at the Family History Centre and, if I was to make any progress at all, I had to limit my time on each schedule. I did well if I could cover 20 schedules in a session. The proofreading is being done against Ancestry's originals (not their index) and I can manage 50 households a session and, perhaps, two sessions a day.

There is plenty of other work to do with the census. Finding 19th-century Torontonians in the Dictionary of Candian Biography is one of them. Hiding in the census, there must be other young men who went on to success besides John Ross Robertson, and the DCB could guide me to them if it had a Toronto index. I wonder if anyone has ever made one, of if I shall have to do it myself?

Thursday, 6 August 2009

St Andrew's Complete--with a Surprise

As forecast, I did complete the last session of picture taking of St Andrew's Ward schedules on Tuesday, but I only finished transcribing from the photographs ten minutes ago. Yippee! Only one more ward to go and the collection will be complete.

This last lot of schedules was pretty messy--there were 3 houses where all we will ever know about the inhabitants were the size of the family and their sexes. However, the third last schedule was that of a merchant, John Robertson. His eldest son was a student, aged 20, named John R.

Bells rang in my head. John R Robertson, like in John Ross Robertson, a 19th century newspaper journalist who wrote like a 20th century one, and the original publisher of Toronto's Evening Telegram? I went over to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography to check. Yes!

As I've mentioned before, one of the things that has kept me going on this transcription is the discovery of people who reach the history books. Usually they are people well known by the time of the census, like Bishop John Strachan and Rev Egerton Ryerson, William Lyon MacKenzie and George Brown, Theodore Heintzmann and James Christie, Sandford Fleming and William Gooderham, but here was someone yet to make his mark, a student son of a dry goods merchant living on John Street.

It's made my day. Even more than finishing St Andrew's as the last worthwhile accomplishment of my seventh decade (which ends before midnight).

Sunday, 2 August 2009

St Andrew’s Ward: The Finishing Post in Sight

It looks like I shall finish St Andrew's Ward on Tuesday--one session ahead of schedule. I am being extra careful with these last 120 folios or so, because they are not in Ancestry. Why? There was a break between one film and another around the 1100 folios mark and someone decided that was where to stop.

This last bit is, admittedly, not very interesting. As in all the other wards, there is an urban section and a rural section. When you get out to Garrison Street and find a widow whose occupation is "cows", you know you are in the country. Just in case you are interested, the value of a cow was $12. Horses were worth $20 and pigs $2.

After the transcription, the analysis. It takes time and cramped fingers to list spouses, children and who boarders live with. Nevertheless, it's a worthwhile exercise.

St Patrick's--the last ward to do--is on order. Transcription of it will start sometime in September.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Worthwhile Suggestions

Surround and conquer.
Go backward to come forward.
The timeline is your best friend.
In searching, don't filter too quickly,

If you can't find the truth in the story,
check out the storyteller.

The above suggestions to genealogists come from John Reid's blog of today (or was it yesterday). John lives in Eastern Daylight time, I live in British Summer Time. No matter.

But they don't half fit the last ten households I have just transcribed. One with initials for given names who said the family consisted of 4 females and 3 males but admitted 2 boys went to school; two with lists of very legible given names where the sexes didn't fit; one where the head of the household wrote his entire schedule in invisible ink but signed his name on the back; and, lastly, the young couple of 23 and 22 where he listed his wife as exactly that--"wife".

I hope we shall be able to find the "storytellers" in other documents to discover the rest of their stories.

Transcription of St Andrew's has now reached Division 4 of 5. Provided swine flu doesn't catch up with me I will make my deadline.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

A good day

I passed Folio 400 in St Andrew's yesterday. That makes the ward one-third done. Completion should be in early August. After that, only one ward to go! St Patrick's and St Andrew's each contained between 1100 and 1200 houses.

Yesterday's section was a breeze. Not one "invisible" schedule and just the odd word or age which proved to be unreadable. Tomorrow's session should be very interesting. It includes Upper Canada College in its original home on the south side of Queen Street. Glancing forward yesterday, I noticed the homes of various masters and teachers. I await to see if the pupils are listed--the school itself may not be in its proper place geographically, but stored in the file titled “Institutions and Goals” (not my spelling mistake, by the way) on the St Patrick's film.

Happy Canada Day, by the way!

I hear you haven’t had the best weather for it, not like here. We are into the second week of the Wimbledon tennis and there has only been one 20-minute session of rain. With our longer days it is very hot.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

St Andrew’s Ward: It's All There

Division One of St Andrew's is now complete (all 250 households with 1400 inhabitants) and I am working on Division Two. Division One’s enumerator did not note the streets and sides, so I wasn’t completely sure where I was although it was pretty clear that Yonge Street and Queen West were involved. I think at one point a resident gave his address as on Temperance Street, and another on Bay. Division Two has addresses. Again, it started on Yonge, but before the 50th household the addresses were on King Street West. I will probably find that the dividing line between the two was between Adelaide and Richmond, and the westernmost limit for both was York Street.

The census allows for remarks on the reverse of the form. These are not often filled in, but are always worth a read—if they are legible. The first one I found in St Andrew’s was made by Robert C Todd who described himself as an artist. I quote his comment as found: Toronto is to New and two Poor te suport an Ornamental artist. The “annual product of business or manufacture” was $300.00 to $400.00. Raw material used (paints oils & brushes) cost about $100.00.
Artists do complain, don’t they?

The second remark worth mentioning was made by J W Smith, a dry goods merchant: Since the completion of the Railways, the business of the City has fallen off and is now done in the Country villages. Unless the Government encourages to the fullest extent, Manufacturers of various kinds, there is but little hope that Toronto will ever regain its former prosperity.
Mr Smith’s business capital was $7600, he employed 5 clerks to whom he paid a total of $120 per month, and he had reached the grand old age of 24!

Had I read something about a recession in Canada in 1860? Perhaps I had.

The third comment was not made by a householder but by the enumerator on a particularly messy census form that I wasn’t making much sense of. Names did not attach to ages or any other details. When I read the remarks I burst out laughing: A notorious whore house keeper that owns the property she lives in. Destroying the people all round both morally and phisically, a curse to the neighbourhood and wich no law, as yet, has been able to reach!!!
signed Wm Hopkins, enumerator.

There had to be one somewhere. And there it was in the division in which the enumerator had taken a form to list the all the churches and the Temperance Hall.

Good Old Toronto. It was ever thus.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Fire and Flood

What caused the water damage to the census forms? Flood? Or fire? Were they stored in the old Parliamentary Library in Ottawa before the advent of Canada’s National Archives which eventually became Library and Archives Canada (LAC)? I recalled from school history classes and from visits to Ottawa that the Library was saved when the Central Block of the Parliament Buildings burnt down in ---- . Suddenly I knew it was time to consult Wikipedia.

Okay, the fire took place in 1916 and at that time the library, completed in 1876, was saved because it was only accessible by a single corridor from the main building and that was blocked off by an iron door bolted in time by the chief librarian himself. Wikipedia doesn’t say whether firemen’s hoses might have done any damage to the roof.

Before the fire, however, was the flood. In 1888 a tornado removed the original slated roof, hence the building has had a copper roof ever since. There certainly could have been water damage at that time.

There was a fire in the Parliamentary Library in 1952, but I should think by that time that archives like past censuses would have been removed to the building on Wellington Street or wherever its predecessors were. It would not surprise me though if the 1952 fire set minds thinking as to how to preserve large amounts data on paper in some other way. The timeframe between then and the 1955 filming is not that great.

Protective wrapping such as we know it just wasn't available. The invention of plastic sheeting did not take place before World War 2. Tarpaulin wrapping would have been very costly. Were the censuses in cabinets? Who knows.

I also thought about the large part of the 1851 census (including all of Toronto) which is “lost”. What happened to it? Did it ever get to Ottawa? How was it transported to Ottawa? By cart or carriage, or by boat down Lake Ontario and up the Trent Canal? Did it get blown away in the tornado of 1888? Or lost track of in a move from one archive warehouse to another? The brain is wandering around. Must get back to sorting out where these people lived in 1861.

Out of the Chaos

The census form which suffered the greatest damage that I told you about in my last post turned out to hold the records for three very interesting people. The head of the household was John Cameron, who called himself a banker. Directories of the time called him a banking agent. He was probably a brother of Angus Cameron, president of the Bank of Toronto.

Below his family was Rev John Barclay, D.D., pastor of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, then located at the corner of Church and Adelaide East. Dr Barclay was 48 and a bachelor.

The third was probably someone who was in Toronto for only a short time. He was described on the census form as A G Davis, electrician—an American of 27 with his main residence in Montreal. An electrician in 1861? Edison was yet to discover the light bulb. The answer was in Column 47, a column usually left blank, but in this case it expanded on the occupation to “sup’t, Grand Trunk Telegraph Lines”.

Telegraph as a means of communication was probably younger in 1861 than the internet is today. Mr Davis was in charge of stringing the wire on all those poles that accompany North American railway lines, the equivalent of our high speed carbon-fibre cables which bring you this message.

Suddenly, Chaos!

On Tuesday down at the FHC I was happily snapping away at my second session on St Andrew’s Ward when I came upon a census form that was filled with absolutely unreadable black blobs. The form filler was one of those who answered every question for everyone in the house, putting a broad dash when the question was not applicable. He had 15 people to deal with, making for an awful lot of black marks. All very well, but the form had then been subjected to water damage. The ink from all those dashes had bled. The print from the instructions on the back of the form had come through as well. Into the bargain the ink had seaped through to the sheets below. Evidence of the accident was still showing 40 forms later.

What was I going to do? I hated the thought of being unable to give any details at all about the people on the form with the most damage and the following two which weren't much better. That was 31 people I was going to leave off the transcription.

My curiosity led me to see what Ancestry had provided for this house in its originals. Much to my surprise I found a readable schedule. Most of the writing was quite clear with a bit of haze around the lettering. Unfortunately, the ages were for the most part still unreadable. This is where the most of the puddle must have accumulated.

Ancestry and/or the LDS must have some fantastic film-cleaning software at their disposal. Their images are based on the same 1955 filming of the census that I am using on microfilm. I don’t want to use the Ancestry images as a crutch, but there are times—and this was one of them—where the temptation was just too great.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Just an Update

You will be interested to know that another researcher has found the missing parts of St Andrew’s, St John’s and St Lawrence's on Ancestry’s York County file. St Patrick’s is yet to be found. LDS FamilySearch Indexing mentions it in sources, so it has been transcribed.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

St Lawrence’s Ward—Chapter Two

The population of St Lawrence’s Ward was officially 3780, but this may have been made assuming every property had at least one inhabitant. Reducing this number by census forms which just gave company names, by people who admitted they had filled in a census form elsewhere, or who neglected to give their age or their marital status or their sex or all three, brought the analysable population down to 3447. This was the lowest proportion in any of the five wards I have looked at to date.

There were 1845 males and 1602 females. The number of males in the ward outnumbered the females by 15 percent, an indication of the very commercial nature of the ward. When age is taken into the equation, the distribution of the sexes differs even more. Until age 20, there are approximately the same number of males and females, but between the ages of 20 and 40, there are 3 men for every 2 women. The population was much less made up of families than it was elsewhere.

The population breakdown between the divisions was as follows:

Division One
Yonge Street to Church Street, east on Colborne Street, north on Market Square, Bay Front to King Street East 767

Division Two
Church Street, east on Colborne Street, north on Market Square, to Caroline Street; Bay Front to King Street East 748

Division Three
Caroline Street to Cherry & Pine Streets; Bay Front to King Street East 1032

Division Four
Cherry & Pine Streets to the Don River; Don River to King Street East, with continuation along south side of Kingston Road in the Liberties 900

The involved boundary between Divisions One and Two must have been made to give a fair division of a fairly dense population between two enumerators. This was industrial dockland. There were even people living on the wharves--which must have been very unpleasant. The census date was 13th January.

St Lawrence is one of the wards that Ancestry hasn’t published yet. This may be due to the transcribing difficulty I mentioned in my earlier chapter on the ward. One of the enumerators wrote over the pencilled offerings of the householders with a very broad pen nib, editing bits he thought unnecessary as he went. This may have caused extra difficulties in cleaning the film and in reading the data.

Progress and Competition

Once again I have been caught by the temptation of making progress with working on the data, rather than talking about it to the readers of this blog. But when Ancestry’s index and film images came online on Tuesday night, I was curious to have a look. I was surprised to find that I could browse the census pages at will.

The first thing I noticed was that Ancestry had 8390 images of census returns to offer for Toronto in 1861. They had filmed both sides of each folio or household census returns and called each one an image. This meant there were, at the most, only 4195 households in Toronto covered by the census. With two wards still to be done I was sure I had covered more households than that.

Yesterday morning I checked through Ancestry’s images, noting the ward, division and folio number for every 500th image. They started with St Andrew’s—which I haven’t seen yet—and went through the other wards in alphabetical order until they reached St John’s. St Lawrence’s and St Patrick’s should have followed on, but they didn’t.

The ward divisions in St Andrew’s jumped from One to Five very quickly, so I did a more inclusive check. Only a few pages of the divisions in between are available. I am curious to know what I shall find on the film on order through LDS.

The images that Ancestry have provided are much cleaner that those I have been looking at. They are using the same 1955 National Archives filming that is available through Ontario Archives, various libraries in Canada, and the LDS, but someone has waved the magic wand of technology over them, vacuuming away the pock marks and, therefore, clarifying the writing. I am dying to know what Ancestry’s transcribers managed to find on the pages I simply could not read.

It has to be admitted that it is much easier reading an old census off a still computer screen than off the screen of a microfilm reader which seems to be equipped with an over-sensitive handle anxious to move you on to the next image before you have even focussed on the one you want to see. This is one reason why I started taking my camera to the library.

Is my transcription still going to be useful? Maybe not so much as it would have been without Ancestry’s provision. However, one of my aims has been to build links to other data covering the same people in the same timeframe. Another is to analyse the population statistically, something that will satisfy my own curiosity if not anyone else’s. Yes, I’m going on.

Monday, 25 May 2009

St Johns—Chapter Three

I thought the history of some of the streets in St John's as outlined in Chapter Two needed a bit more expansion, so here goes.

Elizabeth Street is the only long north-south street within St John’s Ward which has retained its original name and length.

Terauley Street, between Yonge and Elizabeth, is now part of Bay Street. Bay Street originally ended at Queen.

Sayer Street, which in 1861 ran from Osgoode Street (north of Osgoode Hall Law School) up to College Street, is now a shorter Chestnut Street. The southern part was lost when the new City Hall was built in the 1960s.

Centre Street, west of Sayer Street, is now only two blocks long. Its remaining sections have long been covered by office buildings and hospitals.

St Vincent Street, which runs up the middle of Division Six, was also joined to Bay Street in the early 20th century.

Most of the east-west streets have retained their 1860 names with just a couple of exceptions.

Agnes Street became Dundas when the decision was made to link all the short streets named Dundas into one long one.

Wellesley Street must have come into existence about 1860. I have two maps which appear to be of the same series, one with Wellesley on it and one without.

The building of the hospitals on the east side of University Avenue in the early part of the 20th century meant the demise of a number of streets in St John’s. The construction of the Eaton Centre 70 or 80 years later led to the same fate for most of Albert, Louisa, James and Alice and for the residential part of Trinity Square.

St John’s Ward—Chapter Two

St John’s extended from Yonge Street west to what is now called University Avenue (then Park Lane), and from Queen St West north to Bloor Street West. The population in total was 8102 and covered 1604 schedules or census entry forms. It was divided into seven divisions, each of which had an enumerator, if not a team of enumerators.

Only one enumerator’s name is retained on the microfilm for each division and there are no descriptions outlining the division borders. Did he work alone or as the head of a team? There is no evidence on the film one way or the other.

The “doorstep” part of his job might have been outlined as dropping off the census schedules and collecting them again a few days later, but the enumerator would also have had to come to the aid of those who could not write, and to the assistance of the government in persuading everyone to fill in the form, including those who did not understand why a census should impinge on their privacy.

Once the schedules were collected they had to be numbered and each one had to have the division and ward written along the top and the street written along the side. That must have been boring. Enumerators sometimes lost track in numbering and two of the divisions lacked their street descriptions. It took careful comparison of a list of the streets gleaned from all the schedules with a map of the time to work out just where those two divisions were.

Division One started in the southwest corner. The first street was Park Lane. Before Mitchell’s Directory of 1864 was compiled it had been renamed University Street, the eastern side of today’s University Avenue. There were no private addresses on Queen Street West, so the division must have been the two-block wide area that extends north from Osgoode Hall. The most northern street mentioned on the schedules was Edward Street.

Division Two lacked street descriptions, except for one or two places where an inhabitant had actually written down his address. From these and since there was no reference to Elizabeth Street in Division One, I came to the conclusion that this area must have had Elizabeth Street as its backbone.

Division Three continued from Terauley (present-day Bay Street) to Yonge, starting at Queen and going north to Agnes (Dundas)—the area covered by the Eaton Centre today.

I thought I was halfway through as I reached the end of Division Three, but it wasn’t followed by Four, but by Division 3-1/2 with about 200 schedules in it! It turned out to go straight across the ward from Yonge to Park Lane covering the area north of Agnes up to Elm Street. It must have been set up at the last minute, perhaps because the enumerators rebelled at the size of their territory. Perhaps the original plan was for the first three divisons to have their northern boundaries at Elm Street.

Division Four was the second unnamed section which had to be identified by a process of elimination.

Division Five was located north of Gerrard and south of College and included Yonge and Terauley addresses, but nothing further west. After identifying this area it was quite easy to establish that Division Four was west of it, streching from Terauley to Park Lane and Elm to College.

Division Six was the area north of College Street (then known as College Avenue) containing only 85 houses. I found a map with the western boundary north of College denoted as Surrey Place, a street stretching from College to Bloor. I don’t think this street was ever laid out to its full length. Today it is two blocks long and is just west of Women’s College Hospital. Wellesley Street west of Yonge was only a lane. North of Wellesley, St Michael’s College was still a seminary with no entries in the Ward enumeration. It will probably be found within the file “institutions”. Victoria College had not yet arrived in Toronto from "the old Ontario Strand".

Sunday, 24 May 2009

St John’s Ward--Chapter One

The first ward I tackled west of Yonge Street was St John’s Ward. St John’s was a large ward of working people, many of whom were either self-employed or worked on short-time contracts. There were workshops rather than large factories, and grocery and provision stores rather than wholesale grocers and provision merchants. Although the commonest occupation was still “labourer”, these were almost outnumbered by carpenters and cabinetmakers. Somewhere north of Osgoode Hall on the west of the ward was at least one stone and marble cutting yard. Hotels and taverns were very few, even on Yonge Street. There was no identifiable market.

The ward was quite densely populated as far north as College Street. From there to Bloor there were only 85 houses with schedules in the census. Yonge Street was well built up, but population was more sparse to the west. St Michael’s seminary covered a substantial area in what was then Clover Hill, and is now north of Wellesley and west of Bay.

There were less Irish people in St John’s compared to the numbers I found east of Yonge. What it did have was a large new immigrant community. Quite a number of families had answered the question of ethnicity with a “C” for coloured. International events had made their way into Toronto. The Civil War had begun in the United States, and a goodly number of slaves who escaped through the underground railway during the 1850s established themselves in St John’s Ward. Virginia and Maryland were very common birthplaces. There were at least two churches that catered to the black community.

I will be jumping around the wards in these descriptive posts. The wards have all been analysed, comparing the ages, birthplaces and religious persuasions of the inhabitants. I am working on an occupations comparison, but coding it is slow. The transcription of St George's Ward is complete and I am waiting for the St Andrew's films to arrive.

Monday, 20 April 2009

St Lawrence’s Ward—Chapter One

St Lawrence’s was one of the wards I transcribed before I got the idea of photographing the schedules. It is the ward where I would most like to go back, film the returns and re-assess many of them. Although short, it was not an easy ward to tackle, and an upcoming trip to Toronto meant I was in a hurry and probably did not give the transciption the time it deserved.

The ward included the eastern waterfront and stretched from Yonge Street to the Don River, going north as far as King Street. It contained St Lawrence Market and many businesses catering for market activity: hotels, restaurants, stables, etc. The courthouse and the Corporation of Toronto offices were also here. It was the location of many lawyers’ chambers. King Street was also the commercial hub of the city and contained many dry goods stores and boot and shoemakers. Surprisingly, there were also a number of photographers’ studios.

To the east of the market Palace Street was a mixture of small shops and dwellings with a cluster of hotels and boarding houses. East again and we find Gooderham’s Distillery, a railway area centering around Don Station, and the Toronto Rolling Mills where steel plate was made. Along the shore of the Bay were a number of commercial wharves. Although the census was taken in January, some people were living right on the wharves. It must have been very cold, uncomfortable and unhealthy.

Because of the nature of the ward, the census included numerous schedules giving the title of the business or the owner’s name, very few personal details, and the words “Personal Census Taken at Residence”. Some of these would, in addition, list young men living at their employer’s place of business. I wasn’t prepared for this presentation and taking notes around it took more time than I would have expected. Recently, in doing St George’s, a ward with many similarities to St Lawrence’s, I have adopted the initials PCAR into my initial transcription of the business owner’s line.

One of the enumerators must have suggested that everyone fill in their forms in pencil. He then wrote over the pencil with a very broad penknib, editing bits he though unnecessary as he went. So much for householders’ individual responses in that area!

Street names were seldom omitted in St Lawrence’s Ward. With the great variety of types of premises, it was just as well.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

A Momento of St George's Ward

Last week I was able to take this photograph during my progress along Front St West.

We know John Toronto better by the name Bishop Strachan. At the time of the census he was 83. He had been a bulwark of religious and political life in Toronto since his arrival there in 1812. Many of his contemporaries respected him, many disliked him, but he was one of the most prominent men of his time in Toronto.

For an online biography, see The Dictionary of Canadian Biography (

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

St David’s Ward—Chapter Three

Having strayed more into the realms of geography for the past two blogs, I am now going to try and get back to a topic more closely related to genealogy. Where did the people of St David’s Ward come from?

When transcribing, most of the birthplaces were entered as found, though I tended to use a uniform abbreviation for Upper Canada or Canada West. If someone was specific down to the town or county of Ireland or England, I put it in—so long as I could read it. For the purposes of this analysis, however, I separated the birthplaces into 23 categories spreading out from Toronto, first to the rest of the North American continent, then to the British Isles, and then to the remainder of the world.

Within the province of Canada West there were four categories: Toronto, elsewhere in York County, Canada West outside York County, and simply, Canada West. The volume of “Canada West” and “Upper Canada” responses lead me to assume that this category was the one that enumerators were expected to advise to householders, and the one they would use if they had to fill in the forms themselves.

The birthplace claimed by the greatest number of people was Ireland with 31.9 percent of the total. The next place was Canada West with 26.9 percent. When Toronto and the two intervening categories were added to it, the proportion bumped up to 35 percent, quite a bit more than Ireland. Needless to say, the locally born were the younger section of the population and St David’s had 40 percent under age 16. When the ages of the population are presented against their birthplaces, the Irish markedly outweigh the locally born from age 16 upward. The census took place less than 15 years after the potato famine. It shows.

There is no distinction made between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic either in the census or in my analysis. The border that exists today was not put in place until the 1920s.

The third most commonly given birthplace was England with 13.6 percent of the total. “Canada” came in next at 6.8 percent. In fourth position was Scotland with 5 percent and the United States was fifth with 2.3 percent.

We must remember that at the time Canada only comprised what we know as Ontario and Quebec. The maritime provinces were still separate entities. It is possible that some enumerators suggested Canada instead of Canada West. In Divisions 5 and 6 there were many more people born in “Canada” than in “Canada West”, although the number born in Canada East (or Lower Canada) did not drop significantly in those two divisions.

Although the first Toronto General Hospital was built on Gerrard St East between Sackville and Sumach and opened in 1856, there is nothing to indicate its presence in the census. The staff and patients are probably to be found in a separate section titled “Institutions” which I have yet to see. The inmates of the Don Jail are probably there as well.

If you want to see what St David’s Ward looked like, I suggest you spend a while browsing through the old photographs in the Toronto Public Libraries collection online. The link is where it is best to put “Cabbagetown, pictures” or “Regent Park, pictures” into the keywords box. If you live in Toronto there is another collection, analysed street by street, at City of Toronto Archives just north of the Dupont subway station at 255 Spadina Road.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Off Topic

Today is April 6th and it would be appropriate for me to celebrate the birthday of my great-grandfather's eldest brother, Newyear.

Newyear? Yes, Newyear. I didn't know anything about him until I had been investigating my family history for ten years or so. He was born somewhere in the United States in 1832. By 1839 the family was living in Kingston, Ontario, and a year or two later moved to a farm in what is now Scugog Township, Durham Region. He married in the 1850s and established his own farm in Bruce County. He had several daughters and one son.

Why Newyear? Well, April 6th is the first day of the year in the old Julian calendar that was used until the 1750s in England. It is still the first day of the financial year in England. Newyear's parents were both English, one or both of them must have recognized the significance of the day. I would like to think that the historian was my ggg grandmother, Martha.

Martha is a mystery to me. She and her husband George both gave England as their birthplace on Canadian censuses. Like her husband she must have emigrated to the States. Somewhere they met and started their family. But that's all I know. Even her maiden name is a mystery. She died as "relict of George". Frustrating.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

St David’s Ward—Chapter Two

My last blog was a brief description of the ward from a geographical point of view. In this one I want to tell you some things about the people who lived there.
The total population, according to the census, was 7846—of which 3804 were male and 4042 were female. Both sexes were pretty evenly matched in numbers throughout the age range but, between the ages of 16 and 35 there were definitely more females. In the days before many girls had an occupation, they stayed home, while their brothers were in a better position to wander and establish themselves elsewhere. Children under 15 accounted for just over 40 percent of the population. Only 250 people (3 percent of the total) were over 60 and another 5.3 percent were in their 50s. Those who did not give their age or whose ages, for some reason or other, were unreadable amounted to 122 or 1.6 percent. That left 1816 males and 2142 females between the ages of 16 and 50 (47.7 and 53.0 percent respectively).
The population breakdown between the divisions was as follows:
Division One (King St East to Duchess Street, Nelson Street to Caroline Street) 953 people
Division Two (King St East to Queen, Caroline Street to Parliament Street) 1434
Division Three (Duchess & Queen St East to Caroline St, Jarvis St to Parliament St) 2423
Division Four (King St East to Beech St , Parliament St to the Don River) 1881
Division Five (Carlton St to Bloor St East, Jarvis St to Parliament St) 413
Division Six (Beech St north to Bloor St, Parliament St to the Don River) 778
Three of the four streets bounding Division One have had their names changed since the 1860s. Duchess Street is now the eastern part of Richmond St East, Nelson Street is Jarvis Street below Queen, and Caroline Street is now the southern part of Sherbourne Street. In terms of physical area, it was the smallest of the divisions, but probably the most densely populated. On King Street there were many families living “over the shop”.
Division Two extended east from Division One and also added another block north so that it reached Queen. It was still quite densely populated and contained many small shops.
Division Three was much larger in area than Divisions One and Two. Jarvis Street was the home of many merchants and barristers. George Street, which parallels Jarvis, was more likely to contain the homes of workers.
Division Four extended east from Division Two and the two divisions were quite similar, although the density of population continued to ease the more one moved from the centre of the city. On the streets adjacent to the Don River were a number of butchers. This was probably an area where cattle could be kept for a short time immediately before being herded down to St Lawrence Market.
Divisions Five and Six could be considered the “suburbia” of the time. Only a few years before the area was called “The Liberties” and was not exactly part of the city. People were just moving into this area. Division Five was a continuation of Division Three with many merchants, bankers, and a small academic community stretching out from the Normal School and the Medical College situated east of Jarvis. Division Six included not only St James’s Cemetery, but Lamb’s Blacking Factory—the glueworks which formed the location of one of the episodes of Murdoch’s Mysteries.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

St David’s Ward—Chapter One

St David’s was the first city ward I attempted to transcribe. Although I had done a lot of transcribing before, including both the 1851 and 1861 censuses for York Township, tackling a census form which individual families had filled in was definitely a new process. Reading writing styles which changed from page to page was one challenge, understanding how different people interpreted the instructions was another.

St David’s stretched from Jarvis Street east to the River Don and from King Street East to Bloor, or “the Second Concession”. The southern part of the ward was densely populated but the number of houses in the quarter east of Ontario Street and north of Queen was definitely less. North of Gerrard Street there were even less people. It is hard to imagine this area as thinly populated as it was in the early 1860s. Today we know much of it as Regents Park, where two or three large schemes of urban renewal have taken place during the 20th century to improve the quality of residential accommodation left from earlier times.

The street names were not methodically added to the forms by the enumerators, and this has made it difficult to establish the boundaries of the six divisions into which the ward had been divided. It has also been very difficult to identify families in the Caverhill (1859) and Mitchell (1863) Directories because so many people moved so much during those 4 or 5 years.

Most people had many fewer possessions than we do. It was simpler to rent a house than buy one; leases may have been unknown and a mortgage was probably out of the question for most families. Moving house was probably a much simpler proposition for them than it is for us.

Recently I decided for the nth time to see if I could figure out where all the streets were where the enumerator had not put them on the individual schedules. I had tried to do this before, but usually hit upon an operation that took so long that I never found the answer. This time I took my Access database and made a query asking for a list of the number of households on each street within each Division. I transferred the list to a spreadsheet and sorted the list by division and then by street. What do you know--most of the households without an address were in Division 3, something I hadn’t realized before.

I made a copy of a map that I had scanned from Toronto in the 1850s and, using a free image-enhancing software package called, I outlined the five divisions for which I had streets. Presto! Division 3 was the empty space. And what an important one. The western boundary was Jarvis Street, the eastern one Parliament, the south Queen East and the north, Gerrard—the territory many families were moving into as they found their circumstances becoming more comfortable.

This is only the beginning of the story of St David's Ward. Chapters Two and Three are on their way.

Friday, 27 March 2009

A Walk along King Street

I now have two days' worth of St George's Ward under my belt. I was expecting dullness but, as ever, it isn't. With 100 of 489 schedules complete, this is what I have discovered.

The first three schedules were for Rossin House, a very large hotel for the time--five stories high, located on the southeast corner of King St West and York Streets. It burned down two or three years later. At the time of the census, there were just about exactly 100 residents including the Rossin family (two German brothers with wives and children), people newly arrived in Toronto including a university professor, salesmen and commercial travellers from elsewhere, and a big staff whose families were probably located elsewhere in the city.
The enumerator progressed from Rossin House eastward along King Street and then down to Melinda and Wellington West.

Many buildings were businesses with no one on the premises overnight. Some are listed as "vacant", others give the name of the proprietor and the phrase "Personal Census at Residence" which I have shortened to PCAR. I wish I had used the same term when doing St Lawrence's Ward. Amongst the PCARs was The Globe printing works with the schedule signed by George Brown himself. Capital invested in the business was $250,000--more than the $200,000 claimed by the furniture makers Jacques and Hay.

The largest family was that of Charles Rogers, a carver from Glasgow, Scotland. There were 11 children ranging in age from 24 to 2. He and his wife were in their 40s. In fact, his wife's age was written as a very small "40". That would have made her 16 when the first one was born--was she being truthful? The children were evenly spread every two to three years, so they were probably all of the same union. I couldn't help but compare the family with that of my Scottish great-great grandparents who were less than a decade older, and had a total of 13 children. They had already lost four by 1861 and were to lose another 3 in the next twelve years. I hope all the Rogers children made it to adulthood; their descendants could have splendid family reunions.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

St George's--Here I Come

I thought a blog was going to be in order when I finished transcribing St John's two weeks ago, but I wanted to get on with the finishing touches, so I put off the "literary" exercise. This morning I completed comparing the three eastern wards with the contents of two city directories of the same time period, and again thought it was time I wrote a blog.

Then, half an hour ago, while I was taking a break and doing the ironing, the organizer of our local FHC phoned to say that the film of St George's Ward is in, so it's back to work again as soon as my camera battery charges up.

St John's Ward had a population of over 8000. I thought it would be more, but that was the number at the bottom of the spreadsheet. It covers 3 microfilms and by some error I managed to transcribe the first and the last, and then had to order the second separately. So, originally I assumed there were 6 divisions, but it has turned out to have 7. There must have been an error in estimating the size of the first four because Division 3-1/2 has been invented. Now why could the census organizers not have called it 7? Because it is not north of Division 6? But it is not really adjacent to Division 3 either. Go figure.

St George's is the ward along the Bay and north to King Street, west of Yonge Street. It is the smallest of the wards in terms of population. There will probably be a lot of businesses with and without people staying in them over a Sunday night. Ooh, wouldn't we have hated to do that in January in 1861! Not like staying in The Harbourfront Condo!

Thursday, 12 March 2009

The unknown ones

Unfortunately not everyone recorded in Toronto’s census of 1861 will be present in my transcription. I have named them my Invisible People.

Every once in a while I come across a census form which might as well be a blank. Usually this is because of the technology of camera and film in the 1950s when the microfilms were prepared.

We have become very used to the principles of digital cameras. We can point and shoot and then immediately inspect the photograph. We have forgotten the routine of only 10 or 15 years ago when we snapped 12, 24 or 36 pictures and then took the reel to the drugstore and waited an hour or a day or a week for film to be transformed into photographs. We collected them and immediately began to wish we hadn’t taken some of them. We hadn’t noticed the movement or the potential over- or under-exposure.

The same thing happened at Library and Archives Canada when they decided to condense an archive by putting the 19th century censuses on microfilm. The old census pages were clamped on a flat surface and the pictures taken from a camera perched overhead, probably fixed in a small gantry. In each of Toronto’s wards over 2000 photographs (two for each form) were required. Some people wrote in pencil, some wrote with thick pen nibs, some changed their minds and scratched out their original answers, some had their answers changed for them by enumerators. If a householder decided to give their family’s names as surname and initial, the enumerator went back and asked for clarification. The given names ended up in the margin where they often ended up under the clamp holding the fraying paper edges in place.

A basic exposure setting was needed. It could not be easily altered to cope with the differences in the individual pages. The film crew could only foresee a few of these problems as they took the pictures. And, after the images making up the film were processed, it really wasn’t worth going back for an extra shot here and an extra shot there. It would have taken the patience of Job to match up the poor quality images with the originals and retake them and then interleave them into the right places. Ever wondered why it costs Hollywood more than a million dollars to make a movie? Careful editing was definitely not a job to consider doing in a minor government department!

Hence the quality of the images on the microfilm I have looked at. The choice of focus must have leaned toward darker images. Did they have an exposure meter? Would it have worked given with so few shades of grey? I am not a professional photographer and I don’t know the answer to these questions. All I know is that when a census schedule written in pencil was overwritten in places by an enumerator, the corrections appear on the film but the original names do not. And the names, over to the left hand side of the form, are less likely to show up than the ages and genders closer to the centre.

If anyone reading this participated in the census microfilming way back in the 1950s I would love to know how close my theorizing comes to the actual process.