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Taking care of their own: Ethnic benevolent societies in Ontario

Established in the 1830s and before, societies like St. Andrew’s, St. George’s, St. Patrick’s and many other ethnic-based benevolent organizations provided guidance, financial and social support for their countrymen and women arriving in Canada. The list below was compiled as I was researching a presentation for the Ontario Genealogical Society’s Conference 2017, “Welcoming Newcomers: Canada’s

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The Other Directories: Society Blue Books

My ancestors were not listed in anybody’s “blue book.” Nevertheless, blue books or society registers provide a fascinating glimpse into the way the other half lived, and to which my relatives may have aspired.

Selected blue books in the Marilyn & Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre at Toronto Reference Library

Why blue? Blue seems

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Genealogy “Summer Camp” 2015

I’m pleased to announce that after a one-year hiatus, “Summer Camp” will return this year, starting with a get-together on Sunday evening, June 7, and running until Friday, June 12.

Genealogy Summer Campers are on the move every day of this innovative week long program. Each day, participants will travel as a group on public

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Dear Diddles: Eliza Mathews writes to her friend Ann Smith

This is my third post about the David William Smith papers at the Toronto Reference Library. The first two posts, A Toronto farm, 1799–1800 and A tale of two Isaac Gilberts, drew from Smith’s service as Upper Canada’s first Surveyor General and his personal land ownership.

First page of a three-page letter from Eliza

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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

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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

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Toronto ancestors? Check the city directories.

Whenever you’re doing urban research, particularly in North America, city directories should be a first stop.

For Toronto, the first directory was published in 1833—a year before the Town of York even became the City of Toronto. Over the next 25 years, five more directories were issued by various publishers. Directories were commercial ventures and

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Genealogy Summer Camp 2012 rides into the sunset

The invasion is over! Well, it was a small invasion—ten Genealogy Summer Campers and their camp leaders visited archives and libraries all across Toronto last week.

Genealogy Summer Camp started on Sunday, August 12, with a picnic supper in the peaceful quad of the University of Toronto’s Massey College. We met the campers, who came

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