Sunday, 24 October 2010

Tollgate Keeper, a Stationary Occupation?

Tollgate keepers were a necessary breed around 19th century York Township. Tollgates were not erected to prevent people travelling over private land or to improve the roads in general, but as a means of collecting money for the upkeep of difficult roads like steep hills and fords. Considering all the ravines within today's GTA, there were plenty of places where a toll was established.

I picture a tollkeeper to be a man in his fifties no longer capable of all-day outdoor work, but who could get about enough to get up from his comfortable chair by the fire, go outside, and demand the charge from the teamsters and drovers who moved goods passed his door. I shouldn't generalize on this point--I found one of my great grandfather's sisters working as a tollgate keeper somewhere between Aurora and Bradford in the 1881 census.

But I did expect that tollgate keepers to work in the same place. Even this is now disproved.
From the 1861 census of Yorkville:

William Hughton, tollkeeper, age 61, married, 2 children in household (probably grandchildren);

and from Mitchell's Directory compiled in 1863:

William Heighton, tollgate keeper, Kingston Road, Toronto Liberties

Did old Will find a better paying job or did the occupation run in the family? One thing is for certain: I have just found another surname to recheck!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

York Township gets Sorted

I've now finished inspecting York Township and arranging the entries into households.This was a far more difficult than in Toronto where one page equalled one house.

Problems were compounded in four out of the seven divisions because the origunal census pages were not arranged in the correct order before being microfilmed. What made me suspicious was finding so many groups of children at the top of a page who were not part of the family at the bottom of the preceding page. Eventually I spotted that the elder members of these families were to be found at the bottom of another page.

In Divisions One and Four the parents and older siblings were always located at the bottom of the page following the one that started with the children at the top. It was a while before I realized that, in these divisions, the pile of pages had been placed in reverse order to what they should have been prior to the rubber-stamped number being put on each page.

In Divisions Six and Seven the pages are in a more random order. The families follow one after the next for several pages and then, suddenly, up comes another group of youngsters with their parents not immediately accounted for. The mind boggles over what happened to those bundles of papers.

All families have now been given a Household Number in addition to the Census Reference Number given to each individual. The Census Reference locates a person on the microfilm, but their Household Number places them with their family.

The order of the pages wouldn’t matter two hoots to a statistician in Library and Archives Canada or in its predecessors. But we genealogists are interested in families, not just people. It is a help when families stick together.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Autumn Revival

Like me, when you see a blog that hasn’t had any work done on it since February, you think that the author has grown tired of his or her topic and gone on to other things. Such is not the case with Toronto 1861.

When I shut down in February it was so I could put all my attention to the talk I was making at the Ontario Genealogical Society’s conference which was held in May in Toronto. And once that was over I came back full of desire to complete Phase Two of the project—to link as many inhabitants of 1861 Toronto as I could to the City Directories published by Caverhill in 1860 and by Mitchell in 1864.

Despite computer problems that have plagued me throughout the summer and are still not resolved, Phase Two is pretty much complete. The two city directories have now been compared with the census once. In fact, the whole of St Lawrence’s Ward and a part of St David’s have been subjected to a second check against Mitchell. I work through each directory, one letter of the alphabet at a time. Both the directories and the census are indexed using Soundex Code as well as surname and given name. The second check has yielded enough new matches to make me feel that repeating the operation is worthwhile.

Unfortunately, the images from the second microfilm of St James’s Ward which I copied while in Toronto disappeared without trace when I attempted to move them from a memory stick on to my main machine. Since that particular microfilm was not transcribed by Family Search, it is not a part of the 1861 census on the Ancestry website and I cannot compare my work with that very useful outside source. As a result my transcription of St James’s north of Gerrard East contains more omissions and is less accurate than it might be.

But, once this far through a phase, the temptation to look at other possible sub-projects becomes more and more irresistible. As a result I have got out my old York Township transcription and have re-jigged it into the style I used for Toronto.

Working with the first “ward” of York Township I found a whole lot of people whose names are in Mitchell’s Directory and some whose names are in Caverhill, so I am not finished linking the directories yet. In the past week I have been working with the agricultural census, trying to establish some formula to express “addresses” for the township or country inhabitants. After a lot of fiddling about I think I have established fairly specific addresses for the farming community, but it will be harder to be specific about those who made their living running a hotel or a blacksmith’s shop, or those commuting into town from their place in the country (and there were more or those than you might imagine!).

I wonder if it snowed on Sunday, January 13, 1861, and people were waiting till Monday before trying to get down to the city? Maybe going to the cottage for the weekend started earlier then we thought!

Watch this space. There will be more blogs to come.