Saturday, 28 January 2012

We all make mistakes

Some days I work on the census and its associated databases for far too long. Last evening proved to be one of those times.

I have been collecting portions of articles from the Dictionary of Canadian Biography to match against Toronto 1861 census entries. A few days of experimentation had led to a routine and I was just starting on the matches for the third of the seven wards.

It is quite easy to copy and paste portions of the DCB articles into a memo field in my own database--I doubt if my DCB table (or at least this field in the table) will ever see the light of day so I am not really worried about plagiarizing. But I did want to remove the asterisks that followed many names. The DCB uses these asterisks as hyperlinks to other articles. The hyperlinks themselves do not automatically copy into my database, so there is no point in keeping the asterisks that accompanied them. I decided to remove all of them in one "find and replace" operation--temporarily forgetting that an asterisk is a WILD CARD! I was left with 569 entries with blank memo fields--details that had taken two days to accumulate. Aaaarrghhhh!

Fortunately the 56 articles that had already been matched to people in the census had other fields filled in and were therefore identifiable. I am now proceeding to collect the data for these entries from the DCB again.

Why bother with the Dictionary of Canadian Biography? Each biographical article starts with a short paragraph giving the individual's dates and places of birth and death, the names of their parents, and, quite often, marital data as well. If the marital data is not in the opening paragraph, it is quite often found somewhere else in the article. Migration details (something I consider important facts in a person's life) are also there. Other significant relationships where business and family mix are also mentioned. The articles can sometimes hide extensive family trees--sufficient to convey how the Family Compact got its name.

Another tome, available on the web, which also yields the same kind of information is Biographical Sketches of the People of the County of York and the City of Toronto. This book came out circa 1895 and facts were obtained by circulating questionnaires to families in the community. It has its disadvantages: vital dates get omitted; people often go on at length about a single adventure and omit other details which might interest the 21st century genealogist; sometimes it is difficult to know whether the writer is describing his own life or that of his father. All the same Sketches can be useful for people who did not merit inclusion in the DCB.

1 comment:

  1. You provide a wealth of information, especially to a person like myself, who has not gotten beond the early stages of data collection such as available through Stats Can, Ancestry, and the Toronto Directories at the Toronto Reference Library. My paternal family arrived in Toronto in the 1840s and 50s, so I am fascinated with your work. Thanks Susan Inwood