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.