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Britain Street Mystery

Readers of the Toronto Star newspaper may have spotted an unusual notice in the front section on April 5 from the Ontario Registrar of Burial Sites advising of the discovery of a burial site in the heart of the city’s downtown. It turns out that a plumbing crew working on renovations in the basement of a property on the south side of Britain Street, near Richmond Street East, recently stumbled upon human remains that could be more than two centuries old. According to the notice:

The archaeological investigation revealed remains from three individuals, and a potential fourth, all of Euro-Canadian origin. Two disturbed coffins are present, each containing partial human remains, and the partial remains of a third individual, assessed as a juvenile, have also been recovered. The investigation has also uncovered one intact coffin, which may also contain human remains.

The notice drew media attention, and CityNews aired a full television report on the “burial mystery”, featuring an interview with Toronto Branch member Diane Clendenan.

The site of the discovery is near the edge of the Duchess Street Burial Ground, an early  cemetery that was closed to burials by 1850 following the establishment of the Toronto Necropolis. In the 1830s, the burial ground was affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, but it was not always Presbyterian and it appears to date back to before the start of the 19th century. While we don’t yet know whether the coffins just found were originally from the Duchess Street Burial Ground, this is not the first time that human remains have turned up during excavations near the historic site. You can find out more about this small but intriguing pioneer burial ground on our Project blog.

Sketch of burial ground location

Sketch of lots 5 and 4 on the north side of Duchess Street (now Richmond Street East) and the gore between the lots that was the burial ground. The encroachment by the cemetery on Lot 5 is shown with a dotted line. (Congregational minutes of Knox Church, page 105, March 3, 1849, Archives of Ontario, microfilm GS 6334)

The Registrar has given notice of the intention to declare the site a “burial ground” and has invited “representatives” of the persons whose remains are interred to contact her by April 26 at:

Nancy Watkins, Registrar of Burial Sites
Ministry of Government and Consumer Services
777 Bay St., 2nd floor
Toronto M5G 2C8
Telephone: 416-212-7499
FAX: 416-327-8406

If you have any information that may relate to the Britain Street discovery, please also consider sharing it with the Ontario Genealogical Society’s Cemeteries Committee, which monitors news about unregistered burial grounds.

Archives “Out of the Box”!

The first full week of April is Archives Awareness Week, and one of the highlights of this year’s celebrations will be a cluster of special activities at the Archives of Ontario.

The theme of the 2016 AO celebrations is “Out of the Box!” and, from April 4 to 9, the focus will be on AO customers and how they have used various collections in creative and innovative ways.

Archives of Ontario poster for Archives Awareness Week 2016There will be free giveaways all week long, but the festivities will really be in high gear on Wednesday April 6, with a behind-the-scenes tour of the AO’s state-of-the-art preservation and storage areas, and an afternoon speaker series. Outreach Officer Dr. Jay Young will offer a sneak peek at the AO’s upcoming  exhibit marking Canada’s 150th anniversary; Curator Jennifer Harrington and Assistant General Manager Wendy Rowney will demonstrate how Black Creek Pioneer Village is using archival materials to get visitors excited about history; and Steve Paikin, host of TV Ontario’s popular show “The Agenda”, will explain how he used AO records to write about the life of former Premier Bill Davis.

All the AO activities are free but advance registration is requested. Find out more on the AO website. And for information on other Archives Awareness Week events across the province, check out the Archives Association of Ontario calendar.

Toronto Branch Meetings

7:30 pm Research techniques for the fami...
Research techniques for the fami...
May 30 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Research techniques for the family historian @ Eglinton St George's United Church | Toronto | Ontario | Canada
Speaker: Jennifer Robson: Research techniques for the family historian International bestselling author Jennifer Robson is a former Commonwealth Scholar and SSHRC Doctoral Fellow and holds a D Phil in Modern History from the University of Oxford. At this[...]
7:30 pm The Search for Alban Leaf
The Search for Alban Leaf
Jun 27 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
The Search for Alban Leaf @ Eglinton St George's United Church | Toronto | Ontario | Canada
Speaker: Jane MacNamara: The Search for Alban Leaf This presentation demonstrates the use of many English record types—in a period well before census and civil registration. The search for the subject of this case history, Londoner Alban Leaf (1681-1756),[...]
7:30 pm I’m not a Jones, but what am I?
I’m not a Jones, but what am I?
Sep 26 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Speaker: Paul Jones I‘m not a Jones, but what am I? The story of researching two successive generations of patrilineal illegitimacy to identify the hitherto unknown fathers and my “true” surname. This account involves a 25-year[...]

Courses starting & Workshops

7:00 pm Genealogy Discussion Group
Genealogy Discussion Group
May 4 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Genealogy Discussion Group @ Eglinton St. George's United Church | Toronto | Ontario | Canada
This course has been CANCELLED.  This course is on Wednesdays, May 4, 11, 18, and 25, 2016. Description:  Have you ever tried doing family research in a cemetery? Do you want to ensure that all[...]
6:30 pm Designing Genealogy Posters
Designing Genealogy Posters
May 9 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Designing Genealogy Posters @ Toronto Reference Library, Learning Centre 1 | Toronto | Ontario | Canada
This evening course is jointly sponsored by the Humanities and Social Science Department at the Toronto Reference Library and Ontario Genealogical Society’s Toronto Branch Members Network Description: In this hands-on workshop, participants will learn how[...]
all-day Spadina’s Austin Family and the ...
Spadina’s Austin Family and the ...
Jun 3 all-day
Spadina's Austin Family and the Great War @ Spadina Museum | Toronto | Ontario | Canada
A FULL-DAY PROGRAM OFFERED IN CONJUNCTION WITH OGS CONFERENCE 2016. Bus leaves the International Plaza Hotel, 655 Dixon Road at 8:45 am. If it is more convenient for you to join the group at Spadina[...]

Other Events

all-day OGS Conference 2016: Genealogy o...
OGS Conference 2016: Genealogy o...
Jun 3 – Jun 5 all-day
OGS Conference 2016: Genealogy on the Cutting Edge @ International Plaza Hotel | Toronto | Ontario | Canada
Toronto Branch will welcome hundreds of family historians to the largest genealogical conference in Canada. The event will be based at the International Plaza Hotel, close to Pearson International Airport, Highway 401, and with good[...]

Did you know?

That Toronto Branch OGS has more than 600 members? That members get a discount on publications, and course and workshop registration fees? And that Toronto Branch belongs to the Federation of Genealogical Societies, which means our members can also subscribe to and purchase Dell computer products at special rates?