Tangible results from our Toronto Trust Project

by Jane E. MacNamara

It is a little over a year, now, since our FamilySearch indexing team completed the Toronto Trust Cemeteries project, making some 368,000 names from the burial registers of four major cemeteries available for free to researchers around the world. As we quickly realized it would, it has become an important early step in researching Toronto ancestors who died prior to 1936.

I know that I use it and recommend it almost weekly. You can find the database here.

While we really don’t know how many people are finding their ancestors in the database, there have been some very gratifying responses to the blog posts we wrote as the project progressed.

Janet Langdon, historian and walking tour leader for Heritage Toronto, supplied more details about the tragic fire that killed members of the Brooks family that I wrote about in January 2013.

The Enniskerry (Ireland) Local History group tried to help decipher the mysterious place of birth for James Crawford in this post.

In June 2011, indexer Tricia Clark wrote “Killed by Falling Wall” about five young firefighters who died in 1902. In August of this year, a relative of one of the young men (buried in Mt. Pleasant) found Tricia’s article and was able to add to the family history.

Several people have responded to my 2011 post on the Duchess Street Burial Ground. But I was particularly pleased to receive this comment from Wendy Kennedy Davison: “Thank you for your exhaustive work! Duncan Kennedy was my 4th great grandfather and his daughter my 3rd great grand aunt; we have been unable to locate their burial location for years. It’s wonderful the work you are doing to connect families together!”

And “The Curious Case of Dr. Henry Head Gray”. The responses to that post about a young Toronto doctor who died in Montana, have revealed an intriguing story that has led me to archives and libraries around Ontario and in several US states.

If you have had success using the Toronto Trust Cemetery database, we’d love to hear about it. If you have a story to tell about one of those ancestors—that might inspire others to try it, consider submitting it for the blog. Use the reply button below this post to get in touch.

A Single Page from the Registers of Toronto’s Prospect Cemetery

Fifty-two people are listed on page 183 of the register of Prospect Cemetery in Toronto. Fifty-one of them were buried in Prospect from May 2 to 11, 1935. Their ages ranged from 1-month-old Margaret Mech to 91-year-old Frances Hubble. There were four stillborn babies, but very few infants and children—perhaps an indication of improvements in medical care.

The remaining entry on page 183 was for the lower limbs of Alfred Holmes—“amputation by train” listed as the cause.

The 51 all died in Toronto, but only 12 were born in Toronto. They came from other parts of Ontario, England, Ireland and Scotland (of course), but also Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, the British West Indies, and Finland.

Almost all the burial records include a “nearest relative” with their street address. Most also list the name of the plot owner—often a different person. On page 183, plot owners include the Oddfellows and the Last Post Fund.

In all, the deceased people, plot owners, and relatives, add up to 149 names on page 183. That’s 149 names now indexed as part of the Toronto Trust Cemeteries project—the very last names to be indexed—on the very last page of the project!

Volunteers continue to arbitrate the recently completed pages, but the finish line is getting very close!

At this milestone, let’s look at a few approximate numbers for the whole project:

Burial records indexed (names of the deceased) 148,000
Plot owner names (usually a relative, often more than one, good source of married names of daughters) 120,000
Relatives (could be a parent, spouse, sibling or offspring. Later records give addresses.) 100,000
TOTAL NAMES INDEXED 368,000

Congratulations to all the volunteers who have participated in the Toronto Trust Cemeteries project since its launch in September 2009—mostly from the GTA, but also from across Canada, the USA, Australia, and the UK.

Thanks also to the folks at FamilySearch Indexing who have helped us along the way—Rose Pierson, Stephen Young, and Rex Peterson.

We’re almost there!

You can see page 183 here.

Congratulations 2011 project volunteers!

I thought you’d like to hear that we managed to index 81,624 names in 2011. That’s an amazing 75 percent more than 2010! Thank you all for your contributions to this total.

Forty-three volunteers participated in the Toronto Trust project in 2011. As I’ve said before, there’s no quota and every page you index is valuable, but I think you agree that these eight volunteers—Verna, William, Marg H., Heather, Marg K., Joyce, Vera, and Barry—who each indexed (and in some cases arbitrated) more than 5,000 names deserve some special kudos!

Our 2011 total is added to the 2010 figure of 46,658 names and 2009’s 32,000 names. (Isn’t it great to see the numbers increasing each year?)

We’ve finished indexing the York General Burying Ground and the Toronto Necropolis records, and are well into Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Arbitrators are completing the Necropolis, and there’s still lots of both indexing and arbitration to do on Mount Pleasant Cemetery and Prospect Cemetery.

It was very exciting to see the first fruits of our labours available on FamilySearch.org in June. It is just a fraction of what we have done, and what is waiting for us.

Please consider working some indexing into your daily schedule in 2011. The system lets you set targets for yourself, but even without a target, there’s something very satisfying about watching that little total mount up as you complete a page!

Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need help with passwords or other instructions—or a second opinion on that careless clerk’s handwriting!

Happy New Year to all.

Jane MacNamara

I think Thomas Carfrae, one of the founders in 1825 of what became the Toronto Trust Cemeteries, would be pleased to see his family members recalled on FamilySearch.org.

Transcribing in full swing at St. James Cemetery

Now that summer is officially here, the Ontario Genealogical Society Toronto Branch volunteer crew will be out transcribing gravestone inscriptions on Wednesday evenings from 5:30 to 8:00 pm and Saturday mornings from 9:00 am to noon.

It is a huge job to preserve the information and make it available for researchers everywhere. We could really use your help.

As you can see from the photo, it is a collaborative process. We work in groups—to locate the plots according to the map and the notes we’ve made from plot records, to find and uncover any markers that have been overgrown with sod, and to read and write down the inscription. We frequently muster the full crew to decipher a particularly puzzling phrase or verse.

What do you need to bring? A pair of gardening gloves would be handy, but we’ll supply everything else. Come dressed for the weather, with sunscreen, hat, drinking water, and perhaps insect repellent. Sensible shoes for uneven ground are in order.

St. James, on the edge of the Don River valley is a haven for birds so you might want your camera, too.

The crew will be out just about every Saturday and Wednesday from now until the fall, weather permitting. Please contact us at info@torontofamilyhistory.org to confirm. At this point we are working in Section A p.s. (along Parliament Street), but we’ll also confirm that location when you get in touch.

St. James Cemetery is on Parliament Street just south of Bloor, and easily reached on the #65 bus which runs between Castle Frank subway station and Front Street. The #94 Wellesley bus which runs between Wellesley subway station and Castle Frank station will also work. (Either route, get off at the Wellesley and Parliament stop.) Drivers can park on cemetery roadways. There’s a map of the sections just inside the gate.

Please join us. It is a very enjoyable way to spend a few hours!

The Ontario Genealogical Society Toronto Branch crew transcribing gravestone inscriptions at St. James Cemetery in Toronto on June 18, 2011.

Making Toronto historical records available

We are the Toronto Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society, located in Toronto, Ontario Canada. We have more than 800 members in the Greater Toronto Area and around the world. Family historians are intent on researching their own families or the ancestry of their clients, but we also realize the importance of making records available for other researchers. We transcribe, index, and explain the records that are in our home areas—even if our own ancestry is elsewhere. We know that other volunteers are doing likewise all over the world.

This blog will provide information to our volunteers and others about projects in progress.

And if it inspires you to help with our projects, or one closer to your home, we’d be very pleased.