Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Another Directory Comes to Light

Sometime in the autumn, Ancestry put a number of city directories for Canadian towns and cities online. Included amongst these is Brown's Toronto Directory for 1861-2. It proves to be a very worthwhile addition to the collection of listings of people in the Toronto area in the early 1860s period, and the closest one in time to the census.

The directories I have seen before were published by men who were not permanent Toronto residents, and they may have employed agents to do the job. (Mitchell's compiler got his own name in the directory.) It was a temptation to cut corners, or perhaps I should say numbers of pages, to reduce the cost of publication for one of a series of books covering different cities across the provinces. But George Brown was producing a directory for the city he lived in--he knew its component parts and they included suburbia. His street directory includes the streets of Yorkville and the area east of the Don River between the Lakefront and Todmorden.

We know of George Brown of The Globe, but The Globe was very much a family firm. In 1861, although over 40, George Brown was still living with his parents. His father, Peter, who had started the Toronto newspaper business with his son, was still working in the office. George's brother, Gordon, was actually editor of The Globe. W R Brown was the publisher of the Toronto Directory. Perhaps because he lived at Idlewold, a house on the Yorkville-Rosedale border, he thought it worthwhile to include the areas outside the formal city limits in his publication.

Because of its place in the alphabet, Bloor Street was the first of the Yorkville streets I have found. The south side of Bloor Street was in Toronto, the north side between the top of the Don River ravine and what we now call Avenue Road was in Yorkville. Further west, Bloor Street West continued into York Township Electoral District 3. Mitchell omitted the north side of Bloor Street from his street directory of 1864, but Brown includes it in 1862. Many of the people in the Yorkville section are well-known; those further west, lesser so. But, at least, they are there.

I am looking forward to discovering more gems from Brown's Toronto Directory. Already it has told me more than I knew before.