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 FamilySearch.org will become live and searchable on FamilySearch.org 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. We would welcome your help. Please contact Jane MacNamara at fsi@torontofamilyhistory.org if you’d like to participate.

Human calculator buried in the York General Burying Ground

This drawing of Toronto harbour is taken from an 1849 sketch by F.H. Granger. It shows the back of City Hall (where the Deshong inquest was held) in the background. Although the tower has been removed, the building still exists as part of St. Lawrence Market. The arched windows of the council chamber now overlook a bustling market rather than the harbour. (Robertson's Landmarks of Toronto, vol 3, p346.)

Well, you never know who you’re going to find in the Toronto Trust Cemeteries burial registers!

In an attempt to decipher some really careless handwriting in the register of the York General Burying Ground, I consulted the online version of the Globe newspaper. For many of us who live in Ontario, this resource is available free though our public libraries.

I could tell that the name in the register was “Peter M. Desh…” but the rest was very questionable. The place of death looked like “Str City”. Mystifying.

But the following account of an inquest from the Globe on Tuesday 22 October, 1850 (page 3, column 1) confirmed the surname as Deshong, and allowed me to expand the “Str City” to “Steamer City of Toronto”.

On Sunday, an inquest was held before Coroner Duggan, on view of the body of Peter M. Deshong. The Jury met on board the steamer City of Toronto, and afterwards adjourned to the City Hall. It appeared from evidence, that the Steward of the steamer had gone down to call Deshong, shortly after leaving Kingston, on her upward trip; but he was lying in his berth, and made no answer. Supposing him to be asleep, nothing farther was done until next morning, when he was discovered to be dead. The Jury, amongst whom were Dr. Gavin Russell and Dr. Norman Bethune[1], returned a verdict of —Died from Apoplexy. On his person were found 5 dollars, and a few shillings. His effects were handed over to Mr. Williams the undertaker, by order of the Coroner, and his body is lying in the vault, waiting instructions from his parents, who have been informed of the sad event by telegraph. It appears from an advertisement in the Indiana Palladium, of August 31, that deceased had invented a new mode of computing figures, by which a person could give a sum total of any column as fast as the answer could be written. The sum total of a column of dollars and cents could be given without adding the figures together, by a peculiar rule of his own, —the same rule, applied to fractions and interest at any per cent. Deceased had been lecturing on Mathematics in Quebec, and was on his way to this City, for a similar purpose, when arrested by the hand of death. He was about 35 years of age.

The cemetery’s estimate of his age was 25, a full decade less that shown in the account of the inquest. Peter M. Deshong did not stay long in Toronto. The register indicates that he was “Removed by his father.”

If you’re eager to know more about Mr. Deshong’s calculating method (which he claimed you could learn in a half hour, for the modest fee of $10), type “Peter M Deshong” into your Google search box.

If you’re eager to lend a hand with the indexing of the Toronto Trust Cemeteries records, please contact <fsi@torontofamilyhistory.org>. Our gratitude will be “incalculable”.

[1] This Dr. Norman Bethune (1822–1892) was the grandfather of Dr. Henry Norman Bethune renowned for his service in China.

How to record relatives’ addresses in the York General Burying Ground records

As we move into more recent records at the York General Burying Ground, the clerk occasionally notes a location (usually a street name) for some individuals in the “relationship” column.

Three occurrences of addresses—March Street, Front Street and Yorkville

Please record that location information in the “Nearest Relation: Address” field. If you followed my instructions for reorganizing the fields, the “Nearest Relation: Address” field will be hidden. You’ll need to retrieve it using the same “Organize Fields” tool under the File menu. Just highlight it and click on the arrow to bring it back to the active left side.

Don’t worry if you already bypassed some of these addresses, we’ll likely catch them in arbitration!

Reorganize fields for the York General Burying Ground

Some of you may have already downloaded a batch from the York General Burying Ground—the earliest cemetery in our project. I’ll write more later, but you should consider reorganizing fields to make indexing easier.

You’ll find instructions in my November 5 blog entry. Here’s what the re-organized fields should look like:

York General Burying Ground-fields

Tricks for deciphering that careless handwriting!

L to R: Reduce, Enlarge, Invert (negative), Brightness/contrast

L to R: Reduce, Enlarge, Invert (switch to negative), Brightness/contrast

Don’t you sometimes wish you could ask that clerk why he didn’t use better ink, or a sharper pen, or at least why he didn’t take his time? Did he not realize that we’d be trying to read his writing 100 years later!

Here are a few tricks you can try:

  • Enlarging and reducing the size. You’ll find the enlarging controls at the top left of the indexing screen, just above the image (the plus and minus buttons.) It is not always the case that bigger is better. Sometimes seeing a letter or word in context  will help.
  • Darkening the page to make very faint ink look denser. You can also change the contrast. Use the “sun” button at the top left to get sliders for brightness and contrast. It may take a few seconds for your screen to show the change.
  • Strange, but true, that sometimes switching to a negative image make fine lines stand out really well. This technique slows the computer down a little, so be patient. The button to “invert” the image, also at the top left, is black and white split diagonally.
  • Share a batch with another transcriber. Sometimes what you need is a second opinion. Go to the “File” menu at the top left and select “share batch”. You will get a number that you can e-mail to another project member, who will be able to open the same batch and be that other pair of eyes.

We’re all working with different computers and screens, and yes,—EYES. If you come upon a batch that you are finding really difficult, and you think it may be either your equipment or your eyesight that is the problem, the best route might be for you to send the batch back for someone else to do. Look for “Return batch” under the “File” menu.

No problem. There are lots of other batches to go around. Don’t feel you have to struggle!

Recording additional property owners

Quite frequently, we’ve been coming across plots with multiple owners–likely siblings in most cases. We have been recording only the first owner which meant that we might be missing the opportunity to index additional family surnames .

NEW: If there are two or more owners, record all the first names, separated with the word “or” in the “Property of: Given Name” field. For instance, “John or Peter or Susan”. Record all the surnames in the “Property of: Surname” field, again, separated with “or”. For instance, ” Cooper or Smith or Brown”.

If the given names have been abbreviated, do not expand them. If you can’t decipher a name, use ctrl+u to mark it unreadable.

How do I deal with two names on one line?

Indexer Pat Jeffs has brought forward a anomaly in the Mount Pleasant registers for which we now have an answer. Pat noted that, in a couple of cases, there were two individuals listed on a single line in the register–one set of twin infants, and a husband and wife.

Each individual should have a separate line entry. Do them in the order written. The line numbers increase automatically, but you can change them. The second number will be a duplicate, but that’s OK.

Remember that if there’s not an actual name the line should be marked as a blank; don’t be tempted to use “wife” or “child”, etc.

Instructions for this problem have now been added to the field help screens. Thank you to Pat (from England) for asking, and Rose (from Utah) for providing the answer.