Categories

Want to know when I write?

Upcoming Talks

Oct
3
Tue
8:15 pm Basic Genealogy and Family History
Basic Genealogy and Family History
Oct 3 @ 8:15 pm – 10:15 pm
This 8-week evening course is on Tuesdays from October 3 to November 21. The course is designed for those just beginning to research or looking to upgrade basic research skills. The course will cover terminology,[...]
Oct
28
Sat
10:00 am Oakville Family History Fair
Oakville Family History Fair
Oct 28 @ 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
OAKVILLE’S FIRST ANNUAL FAMILY HISTORY FAIR 10:00am to 4:00pm At 2:30pm, I will speak on: City and Rural Directories for Family History Research. Directories are a major source for family historians, particularly in North America.[...]
website security

A picture of Ontario farming in 1881

As part of the preparation for my presentation “Agriculture: Was Your Ancestor on the Cutting Edge?” at the Ontario Genealogical Society’s Conference 2016, I spent days reading a government report—five lengthy volumes. Sounds like fun, eh? Actually, I was riveted. Just ask the friends and relatives who happened to talk to me during those days—and were regaled with arcane facts about the benefits of salt as fertilizer, or the ravages of robins in cherry orchards, Holstein hesitation, or the turnip revolution.

We often think of farming as a traditional occupation—something that hasn’t really changed much. But that is not and was never the case. Farmers had to react and adapt to changing conditions like climate, technology, economics, new markets and new competitors. Some farmers did more than adapt. They set out to be the most productive by innovating with new techniques and processes, products, and marketing.open book

The Department of Agriculture and its various predecessor and successor agencies published some wonderfully rich reports on many subjects—evaluations of agriculture in a particular region or a specialized branch of agriculture like fruit growing or dairying.

One of the most important is the 1881 report of the Ontario Agricultural Commission. This is a very detailed account of agriculture across the province. The Commissioners held information-gathering interviews with farmers and other agricultural experts. The sessions were transcribed and show the knowledge and sometimes strong opinions held by the interview subjects. Published as appendices of “evidence”, they are often extensive, including information about immigration and family.

All five volumes of the 1881 report have been digitized and are available free at the addresses listed. I have indexed the names of the interview subjects and other major players. Even if the index doesn’t include your ancestor, I encourage you to look at farmers in the same geographic area or the same industry to understand the challenges they faced. Neighbours and colleagues are frequently mentioned in the interviews.

Ontario Agricultural Commission, Report of the Commissioners, 3rd edition. Toronto: C. Blackett Robinson, 1881. [Volume I]
https://archive.org/details/cihm_61891

Volume II
https://archive.org/details/cihm_61892
Appendix B: Containing returns relating to the soil, climate, topographical features, cultivatable area and products of, and the process and condition of husbandry*

Volume III
https://archive.org/details/cihm_61893
Appendix C: Evidence relating to fruit growing and forestry
Appendix D: Evidence relating to grape culture and wine making
Appendix E: Evidence relating to insects and insectivorous birds
Appendix F: Evidence relating to bee farming

Volume IV
https://archive.org/details/cihm_61894
Appendix G: Evidence related to general farming and management of crops and stock
Appendix H: Evidence related to the various breeds of cattle and sheep and to wool, pigs and pork packing
Appendix I: Evidence relating to grazing, feeding, and shipping cattle and sheep
Appendix J: Evidence relating to dairy farming, cheese factories, creameries, and the butter trade

Volume V
https://archive.org/details/reportofcommissi05onta
Appendix K: Evidence relating to horse breeding
Appendix L: Evidence relating to breeds of poultry and egg production
Appendix M: Evidence relating to salt in connection with agriculture and cognate industries
Appendix N: Evidence relating to the use of gypsum, phosphates, bone dust, and other fertilizers
Appendix O: Evidence relating to special crops, flax, tobacco and beans
Appendix P: Evidence relating to agricultural education*
Appendix Q: Evidence relating to meteorology in connection with agriculture*
Appendix R1: Report of Messrs Wm. Brown, Edward Stock, and A.H. Dymond, on their visit…to the electoral district of Muskoka and Parry Sound
Appendix R2: Evidence taken in the electoral district of Muskoka and Parry Sound
Appendix S1: Report on Manitoulin Island, and the Sault Ste. Marie District
Appendix S2: Report upon observations made during a visit to Great Britain…*
Appendix S3: Report…on agricultural education in Tennessee*
Appendix S4: Report on the productions of the County of Essex*

NOTE: Appendices marked with an asterisk* did not contain enough personal information to be included in the index.

Name Indentifier Town/township County/District Appendix Page
Allan, A. McD. Goderich D 25
Allan, Alexander McD. Goderich Huron C 74
Allan, John Gypsum manufacturer Paris Brant N 27
Allan, McD. Goderich Huron E 103
Allan, Sen. George W. Moss Park Toronto York C 181
Anderson, James Puslinch Wellington H 33
Anderson, James [Guelph] Wellington L 7
Armstrong, John McKellar Parry Sound R2 40
Armstrong, John S. Eramosa Wellington H 28
Arnold, C. Paris Brant D 23
Arnold, Charles Paris Brant C 55
Arnold, Charles Paris Brant E 102
Ashdown, James Humphrey Parry Sound R2 31
Badger, James McDougall Parry Sound R2 45
Ballantyne, Thomas Cheese exporter Stratford Perth J 27
Ballantyne, Thomas Cheese maker Stratford Perth M 20
Barrie, Alexander North Dumfries Waterloo N 12
Beadle, D.W. Fruit Growers Association [St. Catharines] Niagara C 1
Beadle, D.W. St. Catharines D 19
Beadle, W.D. St. Catharines Lincoln E 101
Beall Lindsay D 23
Beall, Thomas Fruit Growers Association Lindsay Victoria C 48
Beall, Thomas Lindsay Victoria F 10
Beattie, John Pork packer Seaforth Huron H 94
Beattie, John Seaforth Huron O 6
Beith, Robert Darlington Durham K 97
Beley, B.S. Humphrey Parry Sound R2 24
Bell, James T. Prof at Albert College Belleville Hastings G 128
Bennet, Mr. Ste Marie Algoma S1 12
Benson, W.T. Cardinal Edwardsburg Grenville G 43
Bethune, Rev Charles J.S. Insect expert Port Hope Northumberland E 22
Bird, Henry J. Woolen manufacturer Bracebridge Muskoka R2 7
Black, James Ramsay Lanark G 110
Black, John Stock buyer Fergus Wellington I 48
Black, Robert Stock buyer Fergus Wellington I 50
Britton, James Cattle buyer Toronto York I 7
Broder, Andrew Butter exporter West Winchester Dundas J 21
Brodie, William Bird expert E 15
Brown Prof at Ontario Agricultural College Guelph Wellington G 166
Brown, James Port Elgin Bruce C 164
Brown, W.H. Saw miller Baysville Muskoka R2 13
Bucke, P.E. Ottawa Carleton C 67
Bucke, P.E. Ottawa Carleton D 24
Bucke, P.E. Ottawa Carleton E 103
Buckland, George Prof at Kings College Toronto York G 155
Cady, Edwin Kingsville Essex C 99
Caldwell, David Nurseryman Elora Wellington G 194
Caldwell, David Waterloo C 136
Caldwell, William C. Lanark village Lanark C 141
Campbell, Neil J. Nelson Halton N 22
Cann, William Huntsville Muskoka R2 19
Cash, Edward Butter buyer Seaforth Huron J 35
Chaplin, W.H. Newcastle village Durham C 147
Chaplin, W.S. Newcastle Durham E 104
Chapman, Richard Korah Algoma S1 12
Clark, Peter Montague Leeds G 108
Clarke, Hugh Brampton Peel H 52
Clay, John Jr Bow Park Farm Brantford Brant G 1
Clements, Rev Vincent Bird expert Peterborough Peterborough E 97
Cochran, Andrew Ramsay Lanark G 112
Cochrane, James Kilsyth Derby Grey G 150
Cockburn, George Baltimore Hamilton Northumberland K 95
Cole, Zachariah Ridout Muskoka R2 12
Coleman, Dr. T.T. Salt manufacturer Seaforth Huron M 5
Courtice, William Darlington Durham H 69
Cowan, James Waterloo Waterloo N 3
Cresswell, G. Edwin Tuckersmith Huron M 22
Daly, Peter R. Thurlow Hastings J 40
Davidson, William Watt Muskoka R2 19
Davies, William Pork packer Toronto York H 88
Davies, William Pork packer Toronto York M 28
Dawson, John Sault Ste Marie Algoma S1 12
Dempsey, M.P.C. Albany [Albury] Prince Edward E 102
Dempsey, P.C. Albury Prince Edward D 22
Dempsey, P.C. Prince Edward F 6
Demsey, P.C. Fruit Growers Association Albury Prince Edward C 35
Dickson, James Tuckersmith Huron G 38
Diermann, Rev. H. Missionary R2 36
Doel, William H. Doncaster Toronto York L 3
Donald, James Sheep buyer Dalhousie Lanark I 59
Donald, James Dalhousie Lanark E 97
Donaldson, John A. Flax expert Toronto York O 8
Dougall, James Windsor Essex C 106
Dougall, James Windsor Essex E 103
Douglas, John Blantyre St. Vincent Grey G 146
Douglass, Donald Percy Northumberland H 68
Dovey, Isaac Medora Muskoka R2 22
Drury, Charles Crown Hill Barrie Simcoe G 24
Edwards, Mr. Tarantorus Algoma S1 12
Elliot, R.W. Wholesale druggist Toronto York I 41
Elliott, Alanson Colchester Essex G 68
Elliott, Andrew North Dumfries Waterloo G 100
Elliott, Andrew Woolen manufacturer Almonte Lanark H 86
Elliott, Andrew North Dumfries Waterloo N 15
Fisher, John McKellar Parry Sound R2 40
Foreman, William Port Carling Muskoka R2 24
Fowke, Thomas Lount Parry Sound R2 36
Fraser, James M. Gordon and Gore Bay Manitoulin S1 7
Garnier, Dr. John H. Bird expert Lucknow Bruce E 99
Geary, John London? Middlesex I 28
Gibson, David North Dumfries Waterloo N 16
Gibson, John Millikens Markham York G 91
Gile, John Bastard Leeds J 44
Gilmour, Joseph Ridout Muskoka R2 7
Girardot, Theodore Sandwich Essex D 12
Govenlock, Thomas Seaforth? Huron I 44
Govenlock, Thomas Salt manufacturer Seaforth Huron M 25
Graham, John Wallbridge Sidney Hastings C 187
Graham, Ketcham Sidney Hastings G 124
Gray, William M. Salt manufacturer Seaforth and Blyth Huron M 16
Gregory, William Medora Muskoka R2 21
Hagaman, J. Oakville Halton E 104
Hagaman, Jeremiah Oakville Halton C 119
Hailstone, Matthew Ferguson Parry Sound R2 45
Hall, Richard Cattle salesman Liverpool, England I 50
Hallam, John Wool buyer Toronto York H 82
Harstone, C. Greville Ilfracombe Muskoka R2 46
Haskins, William Hamilton Wentworth D 3
Hay, Robert Furniture maker Toronto York C 160
Hayes, Martin P. Salt expert Seaforth Huron M 13
Hays, Thomas E. Seaforth Huron M 27
Hettle, John Creamery Teeswater Bruce J 36
Higgins, William McLean Muskoka R2 8
Hill, R.N. Franklin Muskoka R2 16
Hinman, Platt Haldimand or Grafton Northumberland C 144
Hobson, John I. Mosborough Wellington G 11
Holditch, William Croft Parry Sound R2 32
Hood, George Guelph Wellington H 17
Hoskin, John The Dale Toronto York D 16
Houghton, George A. Horse dealer Seaforth Huron K 64
Hunter, James Alma Wellington H 24
Hunter, Joseph E. Croft Parry Sound R2 33
Hurd, William A. McKellar Parry Sound R2 38
Iler, J.C. Colchester Essex G 75
Inglis, John Creamery Teeswater Bruce J 3
Ingram, John [Manitowaning] Manitoulin S1 10
Irwin, Hugh Chapman Parry Sound R2 34
Jardine, J.W. Hamilton/Saltfleet Wentworth H 55
Jones, D.A. Beeton Simcoe F 1
Kelcey, George Hagerman Parry Sound R2 37
Kenney, William McLean Muskoka R2 9
Lamb, Daniel Fertilizer manufacturer Toronto York N 17
Langford, Thomas McLean Muskoka R2 11
Laurens, Father Priest Sault Ste Marie Algoma S1 14
Lawrie, James Malvern Scarborough York H 62
Leslie, George Jr. Leslieville York C 166
Macfarlane, James Dover Kent G 88
Macfarlane, Robert L. Ramsay Lanark G 113
Maitland, James Montague Lanark F 11
Malcolm, Francis Member of the Commission Innerkip Oxford G 191
Matheson, C.A. Perth Lanark G 51
Matthews, Matthew McLean Muskoka R2 9
McArthur, James Ailsa Craig Middlesex I 25
McCain, William Gosfield Essex G 84
McCallum, Archibald Medora Muskoka R2 23
McCrae, Thomas Guelph Wellington H 8
McCulloch, Thomas Korah Algoma S1 14
McDougall, A.J. Butter and cheese dealer Seaforth Huron M 28
McFarland, David Carling Parry Sound R2 42
McKerven, S.R. [Manitowaning] Manitoulin S1 11
McKinlay, J.P. Howard Kent O 3
McMonagle, Dr. P.R. Horse expert [Prescott] Grenville K 3
McPherson, D.M. Cheese maker Lancaster Glengarry J 12
Meighan, Robert Butter exporter Perth Lanark J 37
Merritt, W. Hamilton Manager of Grand River Gypsum Co. Cayuga Haldimand N 9
Middleton, Henry Clark Durham G 137
Miller, John Brougham Ontario G 18
Monaghan, E. Chaffey Muskoka R2 14
Moore, John D. North Dumfries M 29
Morgan, E.B. Cattle shipper Oshawa Ontario I 3
Morris, Edward Fonthill Welland C 130
Motherwell, John Bathurst Lanark G 106
Mowat, J. Gordon Galt Waterloo C 140
Muntz, E.G. Muskoka R2 1
Murray, John R. Cheese maker Kinburn Huron M 19
Myers, Thomas Bastard Leeds J 42
Nelson, David Sr. Spence Parry Sound R2 35
Noble, William Haldimand and Hamilton Twps Northumberland G 136
O’Beirne, P.H. Port Carling Muskoka R2 23
Pardo, T.L. Not given Kent G 89
Parker, William Stephenson Muskoka R2 5
Parkinson, Lazarus Eramosa Wellington H 39
Patteson, Thomas C. Toronto York K 65
Peake, Tmomas Foley Parry Sound R2 43
Pearce. Thomas G. Chapman Parry Sound R2 35
Penns, Henry Korah Algoma S1 12
Perley, Daniel Paris and Ancaster Brant N 7
Peters, Major John London? Middlesex I 33
Peters. Major John London Middlesex K 59
Pettit, A.H. Grimsby Lincoln C 115
Pettit, S.T. Belmont South Dorchester Elgin F 13
Phipps, J.C. Indian Agent Manitowaning Manitoulin S1 10
Platt, Samuel Salt manufacturer Goderich Huron M 9
Plummer, John [London] Middlesex L 8
Pollock, Smith Perry Parry Sound R2 16
Ransford, Richard Salt manufacturer Clinton Huron M 23
Rawlings, Albin Forest Lambton I 60
Rennelson, Richard North Dumfries Waterloo G 96
Rennie, Peter Fergus Wellington I 45
Reynolds, John Manitowaning Manitoulin S1 10
Riddell, Walter Cobourg Northumberland G 130
Rightmyer, Levi Salt manufacturer Kincardine Bruce M 3
Robb, Hugh Pork packer Seaforth Huron M 26
Robertson, Charles Cardwell Muskoka R2 28
Robertson, W. Scott Pork packer

Cheese maker

Seaforth Huron M 22
Robinson, Walter Scott Butter exporter [Seaforth] Huron J 33
Rosamond, Bennett Woolen manufacturer Almonte Lanark H 87
Ross, W. Mackenzie Harwich Kent C 112
Ross, W. Mackenzie Chatham Kent E 103
Roy, William Sarawak/ Owen Sound Grey C 149
Rudd, George Eramosa and Puslinch Wellington H 13
Russell, James Richmond Hill York H 59
Saunders, Wiliam Insect expert E 61
Saunders, William E. Bird expert E 3
Scott, Isaac Ste Marie Algoma S1 12
Shaw, William Ferguson Parry Sound R2 39
Shuttleworth, E.B. Manufacturing chemist Toronto York N 23
Simmons, C.S. Lobo and Delaware Middlesex I 16
Sirett, Ebenezer Humphrey Parry Sound R2 30
Sirett, William F. Humphrey Parry Sound R2 28
Smellie, David Concord Vaughan York G 141
Smith, A.M. St. Catharines and

Drummondville

Lincoln and Stamford C 125
Smith, Dr. Andrew Veterinarian Toronto York K 79
Smith, John Harwich Kent I 34
Smith, W.R. [Manitowaning] Manitoulin S1 11
Snell, John C. Edmonton (now Snelgrove) Peel H 47
Spencer, William H. Monck Muskoka R2 3
Spring, Albert Draper Muskoka R2 2
Sproat, George Tuckersmith Huron M 12
Stedman, Reuban Drummond Lanark G 103
Stone, Frederick W. Guelph Wellington H 1
Strain, Francis Foley Parry Sound R2 46
Telfer, Andrew South Dumfries Brant N 6
Thompson, A.J. Cattle buyer Toronto York I 11
Thomson, James Brooklin Ontario G 139
Toll, James C. Raleigh Kent C 134
Toll, James C. Raleigh Kent D 11
Tookey, James Macaulay Muskoka R2 6
Trouten, William Watt Muskoka R2 20
Tumlin, George C. Horse dealer Toronto York K 40
Usborne, John Arnprior Renfrew C 142
Walker, Hiram Walkerville Essex I 39
Walker, Hiram Walkerville Essex K 62
Wallbridge, Louis Belleville Hastings F 15
Watt, John Salem Wellington H 36
Wattie, John Brunel Muskoka R2 10
Westland, H.W. Ridgetown Kent C 93
Westland, W.M. Ridgetown Kent E 103
White. Stephen Charing Cross Raleigh Kent G 57
Wilcox, William Foley Parry Sound R2 44
Willet, Andrew Gore Bay Manitoulin S1 5
Williams, W.H. Sports writer Toronto York K 87
Wilson, David D. Egg merchant Seaforth Huron L 10
Wilson, James Cardwell Muskoka R2 25
Winter, John Sinclair Muskoka R2 15
Wiser, J.P. Rysdyk Stock Farm Prescott Leeds G 116
Wiser, J.P. Distiller

Rysdyk Stock Farm

Prescott Leeds I 65
Wiser, J.P. Rysdyk Stock Farm Prescott Grenville K 42
Yuill, Joseph Creamery [Almonte] Lanark J 39
Yuille, Joseph Ramsay Lanark H 66

 

Big indexes to consider for every Ontario ancestor

Tried and true genealogy research techniques tell us to start with what we know—and to make previously done research and indexed records a priority. But more records are being indexed almost daily, and it is hard to keep track of what’s out there. This list was compiled for a session at the Ontario Genealogical Society’s Conference 2015. The indexes all cover a wide swath of Ontario, if not the whole province.

There are other indexes! If I’ve missed one you think should be included, please add a comment at the end of the post.

Most of the indexes are online, some are databases, others are digitized images organized alphabetically. All the websites mentioned are free except for Ancestry.com and ProQuest, which you may be able to access through your local public or university library or Family History Centre. I’ve also included some resources that you’ll have to find in a library or purchase.

In all cases, be sure to check variant spellings of the names. Many of these indexes were created from handwritten records, so be open to creative interpretation of handwriting. Sometimes it is a matter of “teasing” the information from the index.

ONTARIO GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY RESOURCES
These indexes were created by genealogists—for genealogists. They are growing and getting better all the time.

TONI: The Ontario Name Index (more than 3 million names linked to published or pay-per-view sources)

OGS Library catalogue (superb cataloging of names)

Family Charts Collection (not presently online, available only at North York Central Library)

MANUSCRIPTS
Whether or not you ancestor left personal or business papers, he or she may be mentioned in a manuscript collection from their community or circle of acquaintances. These resources help you search many collections at once.

Archeion.ca (includes holdings of 170 archives in Ontario)

Archives Descriptive Database (Archives of Ontario)

ArchivesCanada.ca (holdings of 800 archives across Canada. Some links may not function, but it should be easy to find a current link to the repository.)

Guide to the Manuscript Collection in the Toronto Public Library (a guide published in the 1950s. The collection has greatly expanded since then, but this is the only online listing.)

Union List of Manuscripts in Canadian Repositories (printed volumes available in major libraries)

LAND
No one comprehensive index to Ontario land records exists, but these indexes to late 18th and 19th century land records come close when used together.

Index to Upper Canada Land Books (OGS publication by Susan Smart)

The Canadian County Atlas Digital Project (McGill University)

Ontario Land Records Index ( a fiche index at the Archives of Ontario and other libraries)

Upper Canada Land Petitions (Library and Archives Canada)

Second Heir and Devisee Commission case files (Archives of Ontario)

NEWSPAPERS
Newspaper research is a time-consuming, fascinating task. These tools use optical character recognition to—with a little luck—jumpstart your search.

Globe and Mail – ProQuest Historical Newspapers (available through many libraries)

Google News (very few of the Ontario papers are every-word searchable, but the images are good)

Ontario Community Newspapers (ourontario.ca)

Toronto Star – ProQuest Historical Newspapers (available through many libraries)

VITAL STATS
Be sure to check these big indexes to births, marriages and deaths.

District Marriage Registers & District Vital Records, 1786-1870 (published resource, pdfs of the indexes to each volume are available online at this site)

Ontario Vital Statistics: Registers of Births, Marriages & Deaths (FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.ca)

Wesleyan Methodist Baptismal Register master index (OGS publication)

Toronto Trust Cemeteries (FamilySearch)

OTHER LISTS
An assortment of big indexes and smaller, but easy to miss, indexes.

Census (FamilySearch, Ancestry, Library and Archives Canada)

City directories (Toronto Public Library, Archive.org, Library and Archives Canada)

Dictionary of Canadian Biography

Index to pre-1858 Estate Files (Archives of Ontario)

The Héritage Project

Toronto Emigrant Office Assisted Immigration Registers database (Archives of Ontario)

Salt Lake City in February: Join us!

This beautiful city—and the amazing Family History Library—has me hooked. I’ve been to Salt Lake City many times. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to do some of my own family research—with the odd diversion to some of the rogues and rebels I’ve found in other people’s families. (My ancestors were all very well behaved.)

I’m also looking forward to sharing the experience with friends who have travelled with the group before and introducing new group members to the Library and the intriguing city. Maybe you’d like to join us? We will arrive in Salt Lake on February 10, 2015, for one or two weeks. Most of the group will depart from Toronto, but we can accommodate other starting points.

The Salt Lake Temple, focal point of Salt Lake City's Temple Square (photo: Jane E. MacNamara)

The Salt Lake Temple, focal point of Salt Lake City’s Temple Square (photo: Jane E. MacNamara)

The first few days of the trip, February 11 to 14, will be buzzing with two big family history conferences—FGS 2015 and Rootstech 2015—that have combined forces for a one-time special genealogical event. But if you’re anxious to hunker down and get your nose into those old records right away, that’s OK. The Family History Library will be fully staffed and open extra long hours.

You’ll find prices and more details about the trip here. Our blocks of airline seats and hotel rooms are limited, so I’d advise booking soon. There are a handful of “repeat” travellers already on the list.

A tale of two Isaac Gilberts

In my last post, I showed you a sample of the fascinating papers of the Honourable David William Smith[1], Upper Canada’s first Surveyor General, in anticipation of a lecture at the Ontario Genealogical Society Conference 2014. The conference and the talk are now history themselves.

Letter to Surveyor General D.W. Smith from Secretary to the Executive Council John Small, 23 Feb. 1802, explaining the two Isaac Gilberts.

Letter to Surveyor General D.W. Smith from Secretary to the Executive Council John Small, 23 Feb. 1802, explaining the two Isaac Gilberts. (David William Smith Papers, S128 A7-4, p 373, Marilyn and Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre, Toronto Reference Library)

As part of the presentation, I showed sample images from Smith’s various official roles as well as some personal documents. His service as a military officer/administrator for the 5th Regiment of Foot at Detroit and Fort Niagara, and his work as Surveyor General and member of the District Land Boards generated records of the widest interest—because they contain the most names. But beyond names, these documents let us see the process, the problems encountered in settling Upper Canada, and how the various players reacted and interacted. Smith’s land documents are an important complement to the Crown Lands record group at the Archives of Ontario.

I was very pleased to hear from audience member Nancy Cutway after my lecture, that I’d selected a sample document that shed some light on her family. (See the image at right. Click on it to zoom in.)

It is one of a number of reports written to David William Smith or commissioned by him, in his capacity as Surveyor General, that attempted to differentiate between grantees with the same or similar names.[2]

Here’s what Nancy wrote. (It appears with her permission.)

MY Isaac Gilbert is the second one, Sgt from the Queen’s Rangers, who settled in Norfolk Co. But that confusion explains the erroneous information about him in E.A. Owen’s book Pioneer Sketches of Long Point Settlement (1898).

Owen’s chapter on Isaac says (p. 261): “Isaac Gilbert was the son of an English emigrant who settled in the colony of New Jersey somewhere about the middle of last century. He was born in 1743, presumably in England. There are no records in the Gilbert family that throw any light on the history of the family previous to the settlement in Woodhouse; but, according to a family tradition, Isaac enlisted in the British navy during the War of the Revolution, and was promoted to some minor official position.”

… all of which is wrong. And I could never figure out why! From there forward it is more correct: Owens knew that MY Isaac—a native of Connecticut, great-grandson of Matthew Gilbert who was one of the “seven pillars” who established New Haven Colony in about 1630, and I have church records proving that descent—settled after the Revolution first in St. John NB (along with the rest of the Queen’s Rangers) and then came to Upper Canada. (Since these men had served under John Graves Simcoe, they moved almost en masse from St. John to Upper Canada when they learned of his appointment as Governor. Land records from New Brunswick and UE claims from Upper Canada bear this out. Despite Owens saying that Isaac did not receive a loyalist grant in Upper Canada, I have a copy of several documents, since he received that 400 acres referred to in your document, plus later wrote about another 300 acres, and could he swap some to make the properties contiguous.)

And Owens did have the family descendancy info more or less correct, as compared with documentation from other Gilbert researchers, including one who provided a copy of Isaac and Mary Gilbert’s family bible entries.

Your [D.W. Smith] document has now illuminated E.A. Owen’s confusion, and eased mine. Now I wonder how many other errors exist in Owen’s book which could be explained by some of those documents you mentioned which clarify individuals with similar names.

It is great to know that even in 1803, civil servants got confused.

My choice of that particular document was accidental, but I’m glad I could bring Nancy Cutway and her Isaac together! If you’d like to connect with Nancy about her Isaac Gilbert—or the other one, please comment below.


Notes

[1] The David William Smith papers are designated S126, in the Marilyn and Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre at the Toronto Reference Library.

[2] A few other reports I noted are: B6-1 page 59–60 A letter about two Mary Links and two Elizabeth Empeys, B6-1 pages 63–77 Twenty-five pages each with two or three cases of duplicate names, and A7-3 pages 209-210 Forename confusion about Willet or William Carey.

A Toronto farm, 1799-1800

Over the last six months or so, I’ve been digging into the papers of the Honourable David William Smith, Upper Canada’s first Surveyor General, part of the amazing manuscript holdings of the Toronto Reference Library.[1] I’ve dipped into this intriguing collection several times before, but this time I’ve systematically opened every Hollinger box and file folder to discover the treasures they hold. I’ll be speaking about it at the Ontario Genealogical Society Conference on Sunday, May 4.

I confess that I love looking at manuscripts. David William Smith was an interesting (and blessedly organized) fellow, but the value of his collection of papers goes way beyond what he was all about. As with most manuscript collections, we learn just as much about the people and society around the central figure—the “little” people and the mundane events that don’t make the pages of history books.

Marilyn and Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre at the Toronto Reference Library

Marilyn and Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre at the Toronto Reference Library (photo by Jane E. MacNamara)

The document[2] below (front and back) is an account of expenditures made by neighbour and friend John McGill to maintain Smith’s home and farm in the Town of York. Smith’s home, Maryville, was located at the corner of today’s King Street and Ontario Street, and the farm was Park Lot 5—a narrow 100-acre lot from Sherbourne Street to George Street between Queen Street and Bloor Street. (Smith, at the time held many other parcels of land, but it makes sense to me that at this time agriculture would be focused on these two.)

McGill was paying the bills because Smith was on leave in England. He departed in late July 1799—after leaving precise instructions for his assistants in the Surveyor General’s Office, instructions which are also preserved in his papers.[3]

We can see from the document, that Smith had sheep to be shorn, and hogs and poultry to be fed. He grew potatoes and turnips (the latter likely as livestock feed), and a portion of the hay required to feed his animals over the winter.

DW Smith farm account

DW Smith farm account, S126, box 3, folder B4, pages 59 and 60, Toronto Reference Library

Smith had help. I don’t think he was ever the actual “man behind the plough”. He seems to have maintained a Richard Hide as manager, supplying him with barrels of flour and salt pork. The account notes that Hide was sick in August 1799 and John Connelly stepped in to assist.

The other expenditures are for casual and skilled labour, cartage and for materials—like stone needed for a new well. They tell us about Smith’s home and farm, but they also give us solid if brief information about the workers and suppliers—specifics for an era when York was a scant six years old, and information is very scarce.

Names listed in account for David William Smith’s farm, 1799–1800
Tivy, Thomas labour 1799 July
Connelly, John labour 1799 July, August
Darby, William digging well 1799 August
Bell, Alexander carpentry 1799 July, August, September
Young, Robert stone 1799 August
Lamb, Henry cartage of stone 1799 August
Turner labour 1799 August
_____, Dick clear turnip ground 1799 August
Badger, Gideon cartage of stone for well 1799 September
Phelps, Joseph cartage of hay 1799 September
Gilbert, W. Pitt stone 1799 September
Thomas, James hay 1799 September
Jackson, Henry hay 1799 September
Hamilton, Robert 55 barrels of lime 1799 September
Hunter, William blacksmith’s work 1799 October
Hide, Richard pork and flour for his use 1799 October, 1800 May
McBride, John Indian corn for hogs and poultry 1799 December
Buman, E barrel of flour 1800 May
Heron, Samuel seed potatoes 1800 June
Willies, William shearing sheep 1800 June
Parker mowing 1800 July
Edgell, John hauling and stacking hay 1800 August

[1] The manuscript collections can be viewed in the new Marilyn and Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre, on the Toronto Reference Library’s fifth floor.

[2] From the David William Smith papers S126, box 3, folder B4, pages 59–60, Toronto Reference Library

[3] David William Smith papers S126, box 4, folder B7-1, pages 1–28, Toronto Reference Library

Reflections on Rootstech

I’m just back from the big Rootstech conference and two weeks of research at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Others have tweeted and blogged about Rootstech announcements and news, so I’ll not try to one-up them. You may even have watched some of the sessions live online. But I will attempt to draw together some of my overall impressions—and what they seem to say about the state of genealogy.

Rootstech was big. More than four times the size of any genealogical conference I’ve attended. The male/female balance was closer than any family history event I’d been to, and the age range much wider. (There were also more cowboy hats—but mostly on the heads of brightsolid staff, Scottish brogues and all.)

The concurrent sessions—13 in each time slot—were about evenly split between “user” and “developer” target audiences, and designated as beginner, intermediate, or advanced level for each target group. It wouldn’t be fair to say the audience was split along similar lines, because there was so much overlap in interests, skill levels and emphasis.

Many of the “user” sessions were fairly basic and a bit disappointing to experienced researchers, however very appropriate as an introduction to family history techniques for the “techie” half of the audience. I enjoyed myself more when I figured out that I could understand and benefit from the beginner and intermediate “developer” sessions. (And my knowledge of html is strictly cut and paste and cross my fingers.)

Maybe Rootstech organizers could more actively encourage participants to wade into the other stream at next year’s conference.

But back to overall impressions…

Supplying genealogical data is now big business. No doubt about it. But there seems to be a realization that data doesn’t stay exclusive for long, and the better business model is to provide the customer with easier, more accurate, focused, and documented searching. Transcriptions and indexes need to improve, and customers expect value for money. Brightsolid’s first American project—offering US census records only, purchased with credits rather than a timed subscription—will be an interesting experiment to follow.

We were shown intriguing collaborative projects—from a new and better GEDCOM, to a microdata schema that can be added to archive, library and genealogical websites to help Google find historical information, to perhaps the most visible, the 1940 US Census Community Project.

There were many new software products to organize and share the data collected—some of them valiant efforts that, I’m afraid, will soon be left in the dust. Notable were QR code medallions designed to be embedded in gravestones.

I would liked to have seen more emphasis on thorough research, thoughtful conclusions, and documentation, which tend to get lost with the avalanche of data sliding in our direction.

A bright spot on this front was FamilySearch. Representative Ron Tanner shared their plans for merging the LDS-only New Family Search with the public site and allowing merging of records and correcting of data submitted by anyone. A brave and huge step towards accuracy, submitters will be able to attach digital images of records directly from the Family Search site and other sources, and if you change someone’s data, you’ll be prompted to explain why. (And they’ll be able to change it back.)

While sometimes it seemed that I was the only person not glued to a smart phone or tablet or laptop (or all three) during the multimedia presentations—I learned a lot and was reassured that the spirit of collaboration and openness will boost the quality of our research and conclusions.