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.