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Many Stories of Toronto: Online
Apr 21 @ 7:00 pm – Apr 29 @ 8:30 pm


The journeys, experiences and history of Torontonians and our Toronto ancestors are immensely varied. This April, we invite you to join us for a special four-part series of lectures titled The Many Stories of Toronto, as we bring you tales of the struggles and victories of people from all over the world who came to call this city home. Four expert speakers will each tell you about their research.

The lectures are free and anyone may register. Attend the whole series or pick the sessions that suit you.

Each session will begin at 7:00 p.m and will consist of an hour-long presentation and opportunity to ask questions. We’ll be recording the sessions so you can time-shift and watch whenever it is convenient—or watch a second time.

Click here for the recordings page.

Includes access to all four lectures:

April 21: Proudly Indo-Caribbean: A Transnational Journey Through Indentured Servitude
April 22: Bonded for Life: Tracing the Genealogies of the Enslaved families in Early Ontario
April 28: Discovering My Roots: A Chinese Canadian Perspective
April 29: Reconstructing a Homeland: Armenian Immigration and Settlement in Toronto


April 21: Proudly Indo-Caribbean: A Transnational Journey Through Indentured Servitude—Bhonita Singh

Mother and three children in garden

Bhonita Singh family photo

Caribbean identity is complex. The different ways people arrived there (transatlantic slave trade, indentureship, refuge, etc.) have significantly influenced the way we define what it means to be Caribbean. Between 1838 and 1917, western European governments allowed their planters in the Caribbean to import indentured servants from India to work on their plantations. Their arrival was in direct response to a so-called labour shortage emanating from slave emancipation.

This lecture aims to explore these histories as we unpack Caribbean identity in relation to race and culture through examining the speaker’s own genealogical journey.

Speaker: Bhonita Singh is a proud first-generation Indo-Caribbean-Canadian woman in her final year of undergraduate studies at Brock University. Bhonita sits on both the Provincial and local-level board of directors for the Ontario Public Interest Research Group. She has been involved with Scouts Canada for a decade and is currently a leader with the 1st St. Catharines. She also facilitates Anti-Oppression workshops through the Student Justice Centre at Brock University, sits on the BUSU Gender and Sexual Violence Committee, and the 2SLGBTQ+ section for The President’s Advisory Committee on Human Rights, Equity and Decolonization at Brock University.


April 22: Bonded for Life: Tracing the Genealogies of the Enslaved Families in Early Ontario—Natasha Henry

Ad for Peggy, Upper Canada Gazette

In her presentation, Natasha Henry will discuss how enslavement affected the notion of family in tracing the experiences of two Black families held in bondage in Ontario during the 18th and 19th centuries. She will also offer her insights on how enslaved families maintained relationships despite their forced conditions.

Speaker: Natasha Henry is an educator, historian, and curriculum consultant. She is the president of the Ontario Black History Society. Natasha Henry is currently completing a PhD in History at York University, researching the enslavement of African people in early Ontario. Through her various professional, academic, and community roles, Natasha’s work is grounded in her commitment to research, collect, preserve, and disseminate the histories of Black Canadians.


April 28: Discovering My Roots: A Chinese Canadian Perspective—Arlene Chan

Dominion of Canada Head Tax Certificate

Arlene Chan has researched and written extensively about the Chinese in Canada. However, the journey to search her family history turned out to be a true labour of love. She encountered challenges along the way, many unique to the Chinese diaspora who are tracing their family roots.

Speaker: Arlene Chan is an author and award-winning Chinatown historian who has written seven books about the history, culture, and traditions of the Chinese in Canada. She devotes her time to researching, writing, and relating her experiences and family stories as a lecturer and Chinatown tour guide. She serves as the president of the Jean Lumb Foundation, and as an advisor for Myseum of Toronto, Ontario Infrastructure’s Heritage Interpretation Working Group, and Toronto Public Library’s Chinese Canadian Archive.


April 29: Reconstructing a Homeland: Armenian Immigration and Settlement in Toronto—Cassandra Tavukciyan

Armenian Boys’ Farm in Georgetown, Ontario: group of seven young boys, 1925. Credit: Canada. Immigration Branch / Library and Archives Canada / PA-147570)

Between 1923 & 1927, a group of over 100 Armenian children from the Ottoman Empire were resettled in rural Georgetown, Ontario. Composed of children who became refugees in the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide (1915-1923), this resettlement of non-Commonwealth and non-European subjects is often considered the first example of large-scale international refugee resettlement in Canada’s history. Relying on oral history accounts held at the Multicultural History Society of Ontario, in addition to photographs held in the Archives of the United Church of Canada, this talk will explore the socio-cultural and economic challenges faced by the Armenian refugees in adapting to their new surroundings, in the context of a broader Canadian society adjusting to its changing position in an evolving post-war British Empire

Speaker: Cassandra Tavukciyan is an archivist and researcher. She holds a Master of Arts in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections Management from Ryerson University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Emily Carr University of Art and Design. She has held positions at the Multicultural History Society of Ontario, the New York Public Library, the Ryerson Image Centre and the Sara Corning Centre for Genocide Studies and is currently serving as Specialist, Digital Collections Management at the Canadian Museum of History.


Stories of Plymouth Plantation
Apr 26 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Stories of Plymouth Plantation @ WEBINAR | Toronto | Ontario | Canada

The surviving information about Plymouth Plantation was not produced to help us understand family life: those records (whether publications describing early Plymouth like Good Newes from New England or court records or letters that are peppered through Bradford’s “Of Plimoth Plantation”) do not attend to the details of family life. But they can reveal some of those details inadvertently, and this talk will explore a few aspects of life in Plymouth that can be seen from the archive. Based on research for the recent book, The World of Plymouth Plantation, this talk will discuss family life in Plymouth as filtered through the archives.

Speaker: Dr. Carla Pestana is a distinguished professor of American history at UCLA. Her specialties include the 17th and 18th century Atlantic worlds, especially the English Atlantic; the Caribbean; and U.S. religious history. Her publications include Quakers and Baptists in Colonial Massachusetts, which considered illegal religious communities in New England’s less tolerant colony, The English Atlantic in an Age of Revolution, 1640-1661 (2004), a study of the effects of revolutionary upheaval in England, Ireland, and Scotland on England’s nascent empire, and The English Conquest of Jamaica: Oliver Cromwell’s Bid for Empire (2017). Her latest book is The World of Plymouth Plantation (2020).

Click here to register for the meeting and get your unique Zoom link.

Legacy Family Tree Software
May 13 @ 2:00 pm

Legacy Family Tree is a full featured genealogy software program. Geoff Rasmussen will present an overview of the software, highlighting the many rich features it offers, including charts and reports.

Speaker: Geoffrey D. Rasmussen is the father of four budding genealogists. He graduated with a degree in Genealogy and Family History from Brigham Young University and has served as director and vice-president of the Utah Genealogical Association. He is the founder and host of the Legacy Family Tree webinar series and develops the Legacy Family Tree genealogy software. Geoff enjoys playing the piano, organ, cello, basketball and bowling. His favorite places are cemeteries, the ocean, and hanging out with other genealogists. He is the author of Kindred Voices: Listening for Our Ancestors, Legacy Family Tree Unlocked, and Digital Imaging Essentials.

Click here to register.
Free for Toronto Branch members. Use access code from the March Update email.

Uncovering Unusual Lives
Jun 16 @ 7:00 pm – Jun 24 @ 3:30 pm


This June, we invite you to join us for a special four-session lecture series. In Uncovering Unusual Lives, four seasoned researchers explore the stories of intriguing and uncooperative subjects. They’ll tell you about the sources they used and how they found their way around twists and turns and roadblocks (sometimes deliberately set). Four good stories, well told.

Three sessions will begin at 7:30 pm EDT and on June 24, Eamonn O’Keeffe will speak to us from England at 2:00 pm EDT. Each session will consist of an hour-long presentation and an opportunity to ask questions.

We’ll be recording the sessions so paid registrants can time-shift and watch whenever it is convenient—or watch a second time.

June 16, 17 and 23 at 7:30 pm, and June 24 at 2:00 pm EDT
$20 OGS members / $25 non-members


June 16, 7:30 pm EDT: Misbegotten, Misled, Mistaken—Paul Jones

The presenter’s grandfather, C.W. (Charlie) Jones, was born out of wedlock in Dorset in 1891. The mystery father was not identified in records, and family lore focused on face-saving, not facts. After 30 years of breakthroughs and missteps, Y-DNA finally clinched the identity of the father—who had in turn been born out of wedlock in 1870. For this new man, there aren’t even misleading family tales to get us started. Is all lost? No way!

Speaker: Paul Jones, Toronto, is a regular speaker at Toronto Branch events and has been the “Roots” columnist for Canada’s History magazine for the past decade. He is a graduate of the National Institute for Genealogical Studies, a former chair of the Branch and a co-founder of the Toronto History Lecture. He also chaired the 2016 OGS Conference and served two terms as a director of Canada’s History Society.

June 17, 7:30 pm EDT: The Curious Case of Dr. Henry Head Gray—Jane MacNamara

The year is 1891. An adventurous young doctor from Toronto heads west to Montana, meets an untimely demise and is returned to Toronto for burial. Or did he die? Who was the Oklahoma doctor of the same name to die under mysterious circumstances in Kansas City in 1914? Who is buried with Dr. Gray’s family in Toronto? Revel in the intrigue as the story is revealed through census, directories, newspapers, military and college records, and finally, long lost relatives.

Speaker: Jane E. MacNamara, Toronto, is the author of Inheritance in Ontario: Wills and other Records for Family Historians (OGS/Dundurn) and writes about genealogy at A long time member of OGS, Jane lectures about research methodology, Ontario, and English family history to genealogical and historical groups throughout southern Ontario. She teaches courses for the OGS Toronto Branch, most notably hands-on courses about Ontario records.

June 23, 7:30 pm EDT: FAKE News! Read all about it!—Guylaine Pétrin

In 1880, newspapers all over North America carried the story of how Mary Mink of Toronto had been sold into slavery by her dastardly husband, and how many years later she died a pauper in Chicago. The story included many details about the life of her father in Toronto. The only problem was the story was completely fabricated. Newspapers would not carry fake news, would they? This case study will discuss the many steps needed to verify or in this case disprove a newspaper story. While proving a story can be easier, disproving can be very difficult and it requires a lot more work.

Speaker: Guylaine Pétrin, Toronto, is a Toronto librarian, genealogist and historical researcher who has numerous publications to her credit including, “The Myth of Mary Mink: Representation of Black Women in Toronto in Nineteenth Century” in Ontario History. Guylaine is a long-time member of Toronto Branch who specializes in Upper Canada history and York County.

June 24, 2:00 pm EDT: The 1815 Murder behind Toronto’s Oldest Ghost Story—Eamonn O’Keeffe

The 1815 murder of J.P. Radelmüller, keeper of the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse, forms the basis of Toronto’s most enduring ghost story. In this webinar, historian Eamonn O’Keeffe will share his research into the case, separating fact from fable. He will explore Radelmüller’s early life as a servant of royalty, consider the circumstances of his untimely death, and identify the soldiers charged with his murder. The webinar will devote extensive attention to the sources used to discern the truth behind one of Toronto’s oldest mysteries, ranging from court records and newspapers to British military muster rolls. By sharing his research methods, Eamonn will provide insight for genealogists and historians interested in researching the inhabitants of colonial York and life in early-19th-century Upper Canada more generally.

Speaker: Eamonn O’Keeffe, a Toronto native, is undertaking a PhD at the University of Oxford on military musicians during the Napoleonic Wars. He has published several academic articles and appeared as an expert on the BBC’s hit family history show “Who Do You Think You Are?” Eamonn has served as a trustee of the Society for Army Historical Research since 2016 and previously spent eleven years volunteering and working at Fort York in Toronto.

Note: All lectures will be recorded, so that registrants who can’t attend all the live presentations may watch at a more convenient time.


Hiding Out in the Open
Jun 28 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Hiding Out in the Open @ WEBINAR | Toronto | Ontario | Canada

You may have heard family stories about an relative who was “different” or perhaps you’ve discovered someone who simply “disappeared.” Have you considered the possibility that you could have a gay or lesbian relative in your family tree? LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered) people can be found when researching genealogy, but the search syntax, keywords and strategies are very different. By understanding the basics of “gay history” as well as how LGBT folk lived, worked and socialized, you’ll not only locate these relatives, but realize the importance of preserving their stories.

Speaker: Thomas MacEntee is a professional genealogist specializing in the use of technology and social media to improve genealogical research and as a means of interacting with others in the family history community.

Mini presentation: Extra! Extra! Read All About It! Cousin Lyman and the Power of the Press by Glenn Wright

Click here to register for the meeting and get your unique Zoom link.