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 Google.docs 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.