First phase of transcription approaches finish line

by Michael Nettleton, House of Industry Project Coordinator

Toronto Branch volunteers will soon complete the first phase of transcribing the manuscript records of Toronto’s House of Industry.

In the first phase, Branch volunteers have been transcribing six volumes of minute books and case recommendations of the House.

Transcriptions from five of the volumes of minute books and case recommendations are now available online through the Internet Archive web library. The final remaining transcriptions from the sixth volume (1879–1882) are close to completion.

Follow the links below to access the completed volumes—for each one, you’ll find high-resolution digital images, a searchable PDF of the transcriptions and supporting notes, and a plain text file of the transcribed content:

The House of Industry Project volunteers are also compiling an enhanced name index to the case recommendations.

Screen shot from

Click on a Minute Book link in the article above to find a page that looks a bit like this. Then scroll down to find the searchable transcriptions (in two file formats) listed under the digitized image. Each page of the transcription links back to the manuscript page image, so you can confirm the information from the original handwriting.

Five Weeks Out of Slavery

by Irena Lewycka

Irena Lewycka joined the House of Industry project as a volunteer transcriber in 2018, and recently switched to the role of proof reader. While reviewing the pages of Volume 1, 1855-1859, one entry in January of 1859 caught her attention.

1859 page 249 Case 65 (January 7, 1859)
Ann Jackson. 8 Terauly [Bay] St. Widow. colored. 40 years of age, about five Weeks out of Slavery. M. [Methodist] Ch. 6 children. girl 17. Boy 15. boy 13. girl 11. Boy 5 & Boy 2 years of age, expects to get the elder children into Service. Mr. Hobson recomd. 8 [pounds] Bread Wood & Soup.

As I read this entry, I came to the words “about five weeks out of Slavery” and they stopped me in my tracks. That phrase seemed to encapsulate an entire family saga and I was eager to investigate further. I searched available records in FamilySearch and Ancestry for the name ‘Ann Jackson’ with her calculated birth date, 1819, and was able to identify the aid recipient as Ann Maria Jackson (1820-1880).

Illustration of Ann Maria Jackson and her seven children from William Still’s The Underground Rail Road, page 512

The Harriet Tubman Institute at York University has recorded her story on a section of their website titled Breaking the Chains (see links below), which documents how Ann Maria Jackson and her children escaped from slavery via the Underground Railroad, and how her youngest child Albert Jackson eventually became the first Black letter carrier in Canada.

The family crossed into Canada, briefly stopping in St. Catharines, and a letter was sent, dated November 30, 1858, from Hiram Wilson to William Still in Philadelphia, informing him that the family had arrived safely.

Finding an entry for the Jackson family in the House of Industry minute book mere weeks later seems altogether extraordinary!

William Still wrote an account of his involvement with Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad in 1872, which has been digitized by The Internet Archive.

The underground rail road : a record of facts, authentic narratives, letters, &c., narrating the hardships, hair-breadth escapes, and death struggles of the slaves in their efforts for freedom, as related by themselves and others or witnessed by the author : together with sketches of some of the largest stockholders and most liberal aiders and advisers of the road

Still’s book was re-published in 2019, with an introduction by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Copies are available to borrow from Toronto Public Library.

In the final pages of the 1859 minute book, I discovered another entry for the Jackson family. Ann Maria and her children were settling in to their new life in Toronto, but would require some additional assistance from the House of Industry as they prepared for their second winter in Canada.

1859 page 334 Case 952 (December 20, 1859)
Ann Maria Jackson, No. 88 Edward St. colered. Methodist. 10 Children. 8 in Toronto and two in Toronto Slavery. She has 4 at home, 2 boys 3 and 5. and two girls 9 and 11 years of age, four in Service 2 girls 13 and 18. and 2 boys 14 and 16 years of age. the Visitor thinks her very industrious but she will require some relief.

Ann Maria Jackson’s story also appears in the 2007 award-winning book by Karolyn Smardz Frost, I’ve got a home in Glory Land which relates the story of Thornton and Lucie Blackburn, and Ann is interred in the Blackburn family plot in the Toronto Necropolis.

The City of Toronto named a lane in memory of Albert Jackson in April 2013.

In 2017, an historical plaque was erected about Albert Jackson on Lombard Street (the site of the Toronto General Post Office.)

And in 2019, an Albert Jackson stamp was released by Canada Post.

The transcribed House of Industry minute books are available on The Internet Archive as searchable PDF or plain text (TXT) documents. Just think how many more stories from Toronto’s past are waiting to be explored. If you find an interesting story in the minute books that you would like to add to our blog, please email our Project Coordinator at

Additional links:

York University—Harriet Tubman Institute—Breaking the Chains—links

Breaking the Chains—Toronto

Breaking the Chains—Ann Maria Jackson

Breaking the Chains—Ann Maria Jackson—primary documents

Breaking the Chains—Albert Jackson

Breaking the Chains—Albert Jackson—primary documents

Canadian Encyclopedia—online article

House of Industry project completes three volumes

by Michael Nettleton

Our dedicated team of Toronto Branch volunteers continues to transcribe and proof the minute books and case recommendations of Toronto’s House of Industry. The records being transcribed date from 1855 to 1882 and total more than 2500 pages. Each year has about 1000 case entries.

We celebrated the New Year by publishing two more volumes to The Internet Archive! This brings the number of completed volumes to three, which is half of the records being transcribed.

You can access the completed volumes at The Internet Archive:

Each completed volume has high-resolution digital images, a searchable PDF of the transcriptions and supporting notes, and a plain text file of the transcribed content.

We expect the fourth volume, covering 1867–1870, will be published to The Internet Archive in the first quarter of 2020.

The HOI project team also is preparing an overall index to the case recommendations, with a release date yet to be announced.

Part of the PDF transcription of 1863-66 volume

Sample of the transcription of the 1863–1866 House of Industry Minute Book

Tangible results from our Toronto Trust Project

Jane E. MacNamara

It is about 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. This is where you’ll find the Toronto Trust Cemeteries database.

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.

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

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.

A Remarkable Page of the Globe

by Jane E. MacNamara

I’ll admit to getting sidetracked from time to time with an intriguing entry in a burial register—hard to resist digging a little further into some of the stories. But sometimes the information is almost too easy to find.

A burial register page for Mount Pleasant Cemetery for January 1911 showed the names of Laura S. Brooks, aged 36, and three young Brooks boys aged 2, 3 and 5 years. All four died on January 21 of suffocation. I had to know more about this sad story.

We’re very lucky to have the two most prominent Toronto newspapers available online through the Toronto Public Library. The Toronto Star and the Globe are also available through many other Canadian public and university libraries.

Page 8 of the Globe for Monday, January 23, 1911, explained that Mrs. Brooks and her three sons suffocated when their home at 435 Indian Road caught fire. The unique house had a concrete exterior, but the inside was finished with oiled Georgia pine. The story is told in great detail—including a lot of family information—but I’d recommend caution in relying on this early reporting. It is always a good idea to watch for later stories that add corrections. Other newspapers can add a different perspective, too.

But let’s look back to page 8 of the Globe. Remarkably, it includes the dramatic deaths of another five people who appear on the same Mount Pleasant Cemetery register page.

“Two Toronto Men Killed in the West” tells of the deaths of Samuel J. Hunt and Richard A. Chapman in a train wreck near Macoun, Saskatchewan on January 21.

“Injuries were Fatal” refers to “a young German” Izzo Luise who was struck by a streetcar at Bloor and McCaul on January 21. (The register lists him as Sizzo Linse.)

“Dies after a Week: William Armitage Killed by Elevator Accident”. The incident took place at the A.R. Williams machine shop—which explains why the company purchased his burial plot. (The register lists him as Samuel Armitage.)

Page 8 also included the death notices. Of the thirteen notices, only one appears on our register page—Hattie Putnam, also known as Birdie, the eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. A.H. Putman who died in the Saratoga Hospital on January 22.

This single page of the Globe has added a remarkable amount of complementary information to the register page—but you’ll have noticed some contradictions in names. Was he Sizzo or Izzo, or William or Sam?

By the way, the Globe tells us the Brooks family were to be buried at St. James Cemetery. We found them in the Mount Pleasant Cemetery register—which notes that they were all moved to Forest Lawn in 1912!

Detail of Toronto Globe 23 Jan 1911

Detail of page 8, showing the beginning of the story about the Brooks family. Click the image to download a pdf of the full page of the Globe.


Heading towards the finish line in 2013

Thank you to all the volunteers who found time to work on the Toronto Trust Cemeteries indexing project in 2012. Every name indexed is appreciated and it has been gratifying to see part of our efforts available for researchers.

In fact, a few grateful researchers are now volunteers on the project.

A snowy Toronto Necropolis. ©Jane E. MacNamara

A snowy Toronto Necropolis. ©Jane E. MacNamara

A special thank you to Barry, Joyce, Verna, Heather, Marg, and Valerie who have each indexed and/or arbitrated over 5,000 records. Quite a contribution to family history accessibility, considering that each record contains at least two names and frequently three or more.

In 2012, we indexed 68,838 records and arbitrated 24,590. Our numbers are down a bit from 2011 (when we indexed a spectacular 81,000 records) but still well above the figures from previous years.

We are getting so close to the end! Let me see if I can quantify just how close.

By my calculations, we have indexed roughly 229,000 records since the project started on September 30, 2009. That number includes both indexers, so the real number is about 114,500 records*.

The folks at FamilySearch tell me that we have indexed about 90% of the images or batches, or about 4,260 of the 4,747 images in total. Now if we divide 114,500 records by 4,260 we have an average of about 27 records per page.

But the batches we’re working on now have considerably more than 27 records—closer to double that—so while that means we’re not at 90% of the records, we’re sure getting close!

Please make indexing one of your new year’s resolutions! Even a page or two will help push us towards the finish line in 2013. If you’d like to help, contact us at

*In FamilySearch indexing, every record is indexed by two volunteers independently. An arbitrator resolves any discrepancies between the two interpretations.

A Toronto Trust Cemeteries Indexing Project Milestone

We’ve had exciting news from our partners in Salt Lake City today (August 29). Another installment of the index we’ve made with the help of our partners at will become live and searchable on overnight. (It may take a little longer to update the intro page.)

The new records will be:

  • York General Burying Ground (Potter’s Field) 1826 to 1855
  • Toronto Necropolis 1877 to 1935 (1850 to 1877 were already available)
  • Mount Pleasant Cemetery 1876 to 1903

This is exciting stuff. The more recent records include plot owners and next of kin names and full addresses. All indexed.

You can also search by year or place of birth or death. Just as a test tonight, I found 26 people born in Chicago, 210 born in Montreal, and 8 born in Todmorden. Think of the possibilities this type of access opens up!

Congratulations to all the volunteers who help make these records available to researchers around the world.

There are more records in progress: Mount Pleasant Cemetery 1904 to 1935, and Prospect Cemetery 1890 to 1935. A lot of names.

A Mount Pleasant musical note

One of our FamilySearch indexing volunteers, Vera Reed, came across a familiar name while working on the burial registers of Mount Pleasant Cemetery for the Toronto Trust Cemeteries project. Vera writes:

Luigi Von Kunits was born in Vienna in 1870 and died in Toronto in October 1931. He is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery. He was a musical prodigy—at the age of 11 he was invited by Brahms to play second violin in one of the composer’s quartets.

His travels took him to the U.S. with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; and for 14 years he was the conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

After another sojourn in Vienna he came to Toronto. Here he founded the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and was its conductor until his death. There is a bust of Von Kunits in the lobby of Roy Thomson Hall.

Vera Reed is an Ontario Genealogical Society member from Toronto and has been a very active member of our Toronto Trust project right from the start.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Fifth Season 1926–27, conducted by Luigi Von Kunits (Toronto Public Library)

A Family of Mariners, a Remarkable Ship

By Jane E. MacNamara

While arbitrating a page of the Mount Pleasant Cemetery records, today, I came across Captain James K. Harbottle. James Keith Harbottle died on April 1, 1897, age 37 years, 11 months. He was buried in plot C 17 12.

Harbottle was the popular master of the steamer Chicora*, a vessel that took passengers from Toronto to Niagara Falls for some 36 years. His death made the front page of The Evening Star of April 1.

Chicora had earlier been captained by his father Thomas Harbottle. Thomas had emigrated from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Buffalo, and then to Toronto about 1850. He plied the Great Lakes in a number of different vessels until he took on Chicora in 1876. In 1882, he was appointed Inspector of Hulls and Equipment for the Port of Toronto. Thomas died suddenly in 1894 at the age of 73. The father of 16 children, six of his sons served as his pallbearers.

Our Captain James K. Harbottle’s sailing siblings included Harry G., Thomas E., Neville, and George (also a druggist). You can read more about their careers at Maritime History of the Great Lakes.

*The steamer Chicora’s 74-year history is remarkable. Built in Liverpool as a Confederate blockade runner in 1864, she left Charleston after the war for Halifax. Purchased for use in Toronto in 1867, she was brought to Quebec where she was cut into two sections for passage up the canals. Chicora served as a troop ship during the Northwest Rebellion, and was refitted as the vice-regal yacht for Governor-General Lord Dufferin, all before her Toronto-Niagara career. Read more about  Chicora in the Toronto Marine Historical Society’s Scanner.

The steamer Chicora in 1903. Photo by Rowley W. Murphy (Toronto Marine Historical Society)