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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.

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Toronto Branch Meetings

7:30 pm We all have a story to tell!
We all have a story to tell!
Jan 27 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Speakers: Marian Press, Sheelagh Hysenaj, Carol Nichols and Diana Varma We all have a story to tell! This meeting will give you insight on how best to tell yours. Our presentation will take on a[...]
7:30 pm York’s Underground Railroad
York’s Underground Railroad
Feb 24 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
York's Underground Railroad @ Lansing United Church | Toronto | Ontario | Canada
YORK COUNTY AND THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD  Speaker: Guylaine Petrin  In honour of Black History Month, Guylaine Petrin will give a special presentation on York County and the Underground Railroad.  During the last 30 years, York[...]
7:30 pm Records of Migration at the AO
Records of Migration at the AO
Mar 23 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Records of Migration at the AO @ Lansing United Church | Toronto | Ontario | Canada
RECORDS OF MIGRATION AND SETTLEMENT AT THE ARCHIVES OF ONTARIO: Speaker: Jane E. MacNamara Since its founding, Ontario has been involved in supporting and promoting settlement. This lecture will look at the major groups of[...]
7:30 pm Closing the Loop
Closing the Loop
Apr 27 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
CLOSING THE LOOP: THE LONG JOURNEY TO RECONNECT WITH A UKRAINIAN FAMILY Speaker: Terry Maurice Researching Eastern European genealogy presents many daunting challenges to the family historian. Unfamiliarity with the languages, history and geography of[...]

Courses starting & Workshops

4:00 pm Hands-On Early Ontario Land Records
Hands-On Early Ontario Land Records
Jan 23 @ 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Hands-On Early Ontario Land Records @ Archives of Ontario | Toronto | Ontario | Canada
Course runs on three Thursdays: January 23, 30 and February 6, 2020. Registration is now open. Land records are a rich source of information about settlers in Ontario. This course deals with the earliest period,[...]
4:00 pm Hands-On Land Registry Records
Hands-On Land Registry Records
Feb 13 @ 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Hands-On Land Registry Records @ Archives of Ontario | Toronto | Ontario | Canada
Course runs on two Thursdays: February 13 and 20, 2020. Registration is now open. Once land was granted by the Crown and a patent issued, an owner could register land transfers and other transactions like[...]
6:30 pm Genealogy Resources in TPL’s Cat...
Genealogy Resources in TPL’s Cat...
Mar 25 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Genealogy Resources in TPL's Catalogue @ Toronto Reference Library, Learning Centre 1 | Toronto | Ontario | Canada
WEDNESDAY, March 25, 2020 Co-sponsored by Toronto Public Library. The Toronto Reference Library contains many excellent genealogy resources. This hands-on class will demonstrate how to use the Toronto Public Library’s online catalog to find items[...]

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?