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