Tuesday, 23 February 2010

It's Done!

The complete census for Toronto in 1861 has now been transcribed. Work started in late 2005, so it's been a long slog to complete the records for 45,357 people. It hasn't been dull though. Some pages were written in the worst penmanship imaginable, others were absolutely clear. Some pages were sparse with information--not even the householder's occupation; others were filled with detail. I never knew what was going to be on the next page.

The institutions proved to be difficult, not only because it was hard to follow information on such large pages, but because the camera used for microfilming needed repair. Two out of every half dozen pages were seriously out of focus. These would be followed by four normal ones, then the images would go wonky again. It was a very short film and the last for Toronto, so I guess the decision was to get the city out of the way and then get the camera fixed. I wonder what part of Ontario they tackled next?

I am sorry to disappoint the extra curious by telling you that entries for the inmates of the jail did not include the reason why they were there. However, occupations were included and most of the women (who outnumbered the men) had the same occupation. The mayor must have started the year with a real morality campaign.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

St Patrick's complete, but there's more

The transcription of St Patrick's Ward was finished last week. In the seven wards there were 43,357 people living in 7,936 households. Women outnumbered men by 22099 to 20944, with 314 people whose sex could not be distinguished. Children made up a total of 37.3% of the population. Those with unknown sex were usually those with a name like J Smith in a household where all we were told was that it included 5 males and 3 females.

Now I am working on the institutions: residential colleges, orphans' homes, hospitals, the garrison (married quarters make it quite large), and the jail. The photography should be completed tomorrow. Each page has to be photographed in about 15 sections, insuring that all the sections overlap suffieciently so as not to miss anyone or their details. The position of the age, gender and marital status columns is too distant from the names to combine the two together in one picture. Transcribing is like solving a jigsaw puzzle.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Canada West--ever heard of it?

Looking at the Ontario Genealogical Society website last night I was reminded of an item of history that I probably learned in Grade 10, many moons ago.

Upper Canada became Canada West on 13 February 1841.

Canada West became the province of Ontario on 1 July 1867.

But transcribing the 1861 census has shown me that even in its time, Canada West was not well recognized even by its inhabitants. Officially, everyone born locally and under 20 should have been born in Canada West, but in many districts, on census form after census form, Canada West was given as Upper Canada.

Many inhabitants who filled in the form for themselves give the birthplace as just Canada. More than one enumerator has methodically gone through a pile and corrected them. Some have put an obvious sharp-pointed "W" after Canada. No problem there. But others have prefaced "Canada" with a round-based wiggle. This wiggle can easily be read either as "U" or "N" or "W", depending on the whim or knowledge of the transcriber.

The transcription available on Ancestry was prepared by volunteers recruited through FamilySearch Indexing, an LDS project. It includes many entries giving birthplaces of children as "U C", "Upper Canada", "W C", "W Canada", "N Canada", or even "Western Canada" or "North Canada"! North Canada and Western Canada have never existed as a political entities--they are only geographical descriptions.

It is a pity that "copy what you see" is so stressed in instructions to transcribers. When it comes to birthplaces we should be giving as exact information as can be inferred from the details in front of us. Birthplaces are vital clues for following up the previous generation. Why should we send newbie family historians off to search the vital statistics of a place that never existed?

Some towns and cities, such as Halifax and London, exist in more than one country. If the country is obvious, why not add it to the entry?

Some places lend themselves to mis-spelling: it is Glasgow, not Glascow. And Glasgow is in Lanarkshire in Scotland. That's where you will find the parish registers.

Excuse the rant. I hope the people at Ancestry understand why I have made so many corrections to birthplaces.

Discoveries in St Patrick's

St Patrick's District 3 had some interesting little morsels in it, as well as too many people (see previous blog).

First, there was John Leballeter, a 37-year old painter from Jersey in the Channel Islands, his wife and five children who were living on Lippincott Street. Well, they were until Sunday 13 January 1861, the day of census night. There was a note on the form that their house burnt down that day. There was nothing to say that they were in temporary accommodation elsewhere. I hope they got out safely.

Then, I met Thomas Carfrae--again. I have occasionally been doing a spot of transcripion on the Toronto Trust Burials Project which is digitizing the records of a number of Toronto cemeteries including Potter's Field and The Necropolis. When Potter's Field opened in 1829 or 1830 the first person to bury a relative was Thomas Carfrae. Between then and 1834 he buried several more, possibly two wives, several children and his mother. I began to wish he had spent more on food and less on burials. Recently I found myself looking at the early days of the Necropolis in 1854. Mrs Carfrae was arranging for the family to be moved from the Potter's Field to the new cemetery! My census find was a boilermaker in his early 40s, born in Scotland, with a wife and three children aged between 14 and 9, living on Spadina. Was he a son of the original Thomas Carfrae, I wonder.

Then there was the household of Patrick Cummins, "sergeant-major of police" living in the police house on Queen Street West. The position of each member of the family was listed in the Occupations column. There was a wife, two little daughters, another woman of 52 whose position I couldn't quite read, and his police sergeant, David Smith. On the right-hand page was a note to say that Patrick Cummins and David Smith were actually absent and on duty the night of the census, and Annastasia Summers wasn't in the house either. She was a prisoner in custody at the police station. Has anyone been looking for Annastasia Summers?

Monday, 1 February 2010

Counting St Patrick's People

The first three districts of St Patrick’s Ward have now been transcribed and I’ve spent the day verifying my counts of both people and households and sorting out errors, not all of which have been mine I am glad to say.

The enumeration districts within the ward are strips which stretch all the way from Queen Street West to Bloor Street. District 1 (University Ave to Beverley Street) contained 1450 people in 261 households. District 2 (Beverley Street to Spadina Avenue) was much smaller—only 605 people in 111 households. District 3 (Spadina Avenue to Bathurst Street) appeared to contain 2118 people in 414 households, but that is the count according to the unsuspicious.

As I transcribed District 3 I noticed families that I thought I had seen before and when I finished I decided to check just how many duplications there were. By sorting the families alphabetically I was able to spot 19 families totalling 95 people who had been enumerated twice. The households were not absolutely identical. There were variations in spelling and in age, but Mr McDole and Mr McFowl had wives and children with identical names and ages, and what district is going to hold two 40-year-old Caleb Butts, each with six children.

How could these people have been transcribed twice? Obviously the enumerator was not being careful. For the most part the streets were named on the forms, but all the houses on one street did not appear one after the other. It was a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and back again. Also, the enumerator had re-written a great many forms—the writing was consistent from one form to the next for about the last hundred or so households. Either the enumerator was being paid by the head and intentionally expanded the population in order to gain more for his work, or he forgot to throw away the originals when he decided a number of census forms needed rewriting.

All of the duplications have been noted as part of my transcription. But I would have preferred District 3 with only 395 houses containing 2023 people in the first place.