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.

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