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 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.

Published! St. John’s Norway Cemetery

by Gwyneth Pearce

The Toronto Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society celebrated the completion of a 20-year project in March 2011 with the publication of the transcription of grave markers at St. John’s Norway Cemetery and Crematorium.

Main gate of St. John’s Norway Cemetery, Toronto

St. John’s Norway Cemetery, also known as St. John the Baptist Norway Cemetery or St. John’s Cemetery, Berkeley, was originally established as an Anglican churchyard in 1853 on three acres of land donated by Charles Coxwell Small. (The community was known as Norway or Berkeley at various times.) The first recorded burial in the cemetery was that of William Dawes, a local farmer, who died on 19 July 1854. The cemetery was consecrated by Bishop John Strachan in July 1855. It is now inter-denominational, and its grounds have expanded over the past century and a half to cover about 35 acres of land at the northwest corner of Kingston Road and Woodbine Avenue in Toronto’s east end.

The transcription of this cemetery was a massive project that took two decades to complete and involved dozens of dedicated volunteers. The project was headed up by Branch Cemeteries Co-ordinator Jack Tyson, who obtained the necessary approvals, handled the paperwork and logistics, and organized teams of transcribers, inputters, indexers, proofreaders and editors.

The field work for the project took place at the cemetery itself. Transcribers set out week after week, typically in pairs, equipped with spray bottles of water, probes and digging tools, and went up and down the rows of tombstones, carefully recording what they found on each one. They handed over their notes to be typed up by computer inputters, and then made two more full sweeps of the cemetery to check and update the computer printouts. All the data was indexed, proofread and redacted several times. Final proofreading and editing was done by Jeannette Tyson.

The St. John’s Norway Cemetery transcription is 3454 pages in length and contains about 55,000 names in its index. It has been published on CD only, in a fully searchable PDF format. The cost is $30.00 plus $2.50 postage and handling. To order the transcription (Publication number TRN-009), visit contact

For more information about this project or how to help with ongoing transcribing of Toronto cemeteries, contact


Spring! And a family historian’s mind turns to… cemeteries.

The Victoria Day long-weekend is the traditional time for Ontarians to open their summer cottages, dust off the patio furniture—and for genealogists—to think about transcribing cemeteries.

Members of the Ontario Genealogical Society’s Toronto Branch have been very busy this winter and spring preparing to host close to 800 guests at the largest genealogical gathering in Canada, OGS Conference 2010. Forty-five of our “guests” had a look at the Toronto Necropolis as part of the “Toronto’s Irish Heritage” bus tour. But the conference is all done now!

Toronto Trust Cemeteries Project

We were very pleased that Stephen Young from FamilySearch in Salt Lake City was able to come to Conference 2010 and talk about our Toronto Trust Cemeteries indexing project as part of a session called “New Toronto Research Tools”. It has inspired several new indexers to join the project, and now that the conference is out of the way, it is full steam ahead for the rest of us! To become an indexer, contact us at:

Transcribing at St. James Cemetery

If you’re in Toronto this weekend, you can join the transcription team at St. James Cemetery on Parliament Street, just south of Bloor. A sun hat and gardening gloves would come in handy. We’ll be there from 9:00 am to noon on Saturday, in Section 2. (There’s a map just inside the gate to help you get your bearings.) It is a beautiful and fascinating place. I wonder if our single-minded cardinal companion will be there? (You’ll just have to come to find out more about that.) For more information about transcribing and the schedule for St. James, contact:

Mount Pleasant Cemetery Tour

This Sunday, May 23, at 2:00 pm, you can join historian Mike Filey for a tour of the west side of Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Meet just inside the Yonge Street entrance. Expect a very large crowd! Here’s a map.