About indexing place names

As volunteers on the Toronto Trust Cemeteries project, we’re creating an index to some wonderful records. Generally, we transcribe words exactly as we see them, including abbreviations—so Wm or Eliz don’t become William and Elizabeth.

But in indexing the places of birth, death, and addresses of the nearest relative, we have the opportunity to use our local knowledge to expand and correct the place names. This can be really helpful to a researcher who isn’t familiar with Toronto and Ontario. However, we never add a place designation that is not in the original record.

Here are some examples:

  • Port Hope Ont should be expanded to Port Hope Ontario
  • Tor Gen Hosp should be expanded to Toronto General Hospital
  • Gen Hosp should be expanded to General Hospital (don’t add Toronto)
  • Eglington should be changed to Eglinton
  • York Tp or Twp should be expanded to York Township
  • London should never have either Ontario or England added unless in the original record

If we’re not absolutely sure that there is an error or the meaning of an abbreviation, we’ll always transcribe the record exactly as it appears. With luck, the researcher who finds the entry in our index will recognize the place—and we won’t have led them astray by guessing.

We’ve also collected a list of many of the places we’ve found in the records as a reference for indexing volunteers to refer to for puzzling entries.

The FSI program has some wonderful tools to aid in reading the handwritten registers by enlarging the image, adjusting the contrast, etc. I’ve written more about that here. But sometimes the best thing is another set of eyes, and we can let another indexer have a look. More about “sharing a batch” here.

One more thing. We’ve discovered that many of these dearly departed were moved one or more times. For example, in a page of 46 burials in Mount Pleasant Cemetery from January 4 to 27, 1887, folks were moved to Lakefield, Ontario and Trois Rivières, Quebec, as well as to Prospect Cemetery and St. James Cemetery in Toronto.

If a person was moved within the same cemetery, it is likely they were reunited with other family members, so we record only the more recent burial location but the original burial date. If the person was moved to another cemetery, we don’t include that new location, but rather retain only the burial location in the Toronto Trust cemetery and the original burial date.

The details of any reburials will be available to researchers when they look at the digitized image of the register page, as well as officiating minister, undertaker, cause of death, etc.

Some family historians will be amazed at how mobile their ancestors were—even after death!

2 Responses to “About indexing place names”

  1. Liz says:

    Another tactic I’ve found to be useful in some instances, is to consult the death registration images available to me via my ancestry.ca subscription. Seeing much of the same information in another hand can be helpful in deciphering a name or location.

    Of course I am careful to ensure it *is* the same person! and only to transcribe the actual details given in the cemetery record.

  2. Barry Taylor says:

    Our experienced team indexers no doubt already know about these, but I thought mention of them might be valuable for new and prospective team members. (I was one of those not so very long ago!)

    For verifying Ontario place names:

    http://www.ogs.on.ca/branches/ontariolocator.php

    http://www.geneofun.on.ca/ontariolocator/

    For verifying Toronto street names:

    http://map.toronto.ca/imapit/iMapIt.jsp?app=TOMaps

    The latter is especially useful as it allows the use of wild cards. This gives indexers a means of resolving illegible letters in a street name.

    For data input up to 1922 the old Toronto Might Directories are helpful for solving street and person name riddles.

    http://sites.google.com/site/onlinedirectorysite/Home/can/on/toronto

    The only downside to use of these directories is that they involve big images or data files, so unless one has a fast computer and considerable Internet speed it’s a bit of a slow process to use them.

    Do you have other favourite assisting tools?

    Barry Taylor
    Sooke, British Columbia

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