How the Ontario Genealogical Society's Toronto Branch is making records more accessible—and how you can help


As part of the celebrations of our 50th anniversary in 2017, Toronto Branch OGS funded the digitization of a major portion of the House of Industry fonds at the City of Toronto Archives—some 75 printed annual reports and 13 handwritten manuscripts detailing the individuals and families helped by the institution from 1837 to 1909.

The manuscripts, in particular, are a phenomenal source of information about families made vulnerable by illness or injury, an absent parent or spouse, addiction, or simply temporary bad luck.

The 88 books have been digitized by The Internet Archive and are available to view at The Internet Archive: House of Industry, City of Toronto Collection. The printed books have been processed by OCR making them fully searchable, but that process was not possible for the 13 handwritten manuscripts.

Toronto Branch volunteers to the rescue! Machines may not be able to read the handwritten records—but humans can. Beginning in mid-2018, a dedicated team has been transcribing the 6 volumes of minute books and case recommendations of Toronto’s House of Industry. The verbatim transcriptions make the manuscripts searchable on every word. Minute book entries record:

  • Decisions and deliberations to grant accommodation in the House, and food and fuel for those with lodgings and limited means;
  • Name, address, age, nationality and religion of each applicant;
  • Information about children and other family members;
  • (And, often) other details of the family background, descriptions of living arrangements and statements of perceived character, especially of applicants rejected.

All of these transcriptions are available  with each of the individual minute books:

Minute Book 1855-1859

Minute Book 1860-1862

Minute Book 1863-1866

Minute Book 1867-1870

Minute Book 1871-1874

Minute Book 1879-1882

Right under the digitized images for each completed book, you will see links to the transcriptions in two formats:

  • a searchable PDF of the transcriptions and supporting notes
  • a plain text file of the transcribed content (also searchable).

And now, we’re very pleased to provide this single, searchable PDF combining the transcriptions of all six volumes, containing all of the over 22,000 minute entries covering the quarter century 1855-1882. Click here to access the Consolidated Index.

Would you like to be a part of this project? We are moving on to other manuscripts and can always use more volunteers. Since the work is done online, you don’t have to be in Toronto. Please contact the project coordinator for more information.

Image of a substantial brick building with leafless trees, surrounded by a high board fence.
A photo of the House of Industry in the 1880s (Toronto Public Library Baldwin Collection image S 1a-3239a)