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Toronto Branch monthly meetings are an opportunity to learn and to meet with fellow members. Most meetings have an hour-long presentation as well as a 10-minute presentation from one of our members. Meetings are normally held the fourth Monday of the month at 35 Lytton Boulevard, Toronto  M4R 1L2 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

What Lies Beneath
Mar 27 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
What Lies Beneath @ Eglinton St. George's United Church | Toronto | Ontario | Canada

Speaker: Sherilyn L. Bell, BSc UE

This lecture will provide an overview of a genealogy covering the early 1900s.  The subjects are not relatives of the speaker.  What started as a brief distraction from regular lunch-hour genealogical research soon escalated into an ominous looking family history.  The facts took shape in Coboconk and Toronto roughly a century ago and after a while, the question arose “Is this just bad optics or can some people literally get away with murder?”  The research path included the usual census returns and vital statistics, but also led to interviewing a Fire Marshal Investigator and accepting an invitation to a “practice house-burning”.  This presentation will also touch upon the decision-making process and the occasional ethical dilemma that can pop up unexpectedly.

Sherilyn Bell received her BSc in Biology in 1986 from the University of Toronto and periodically speaks on genetic genealogy.  As part of an anthropology course, she assembled her family’s pedigree and never stopped, joining the Ontario Genealogical Society in 1989.  Sherilyn met fellow genealogist Jeff Stewart at the Archives of Ontario; they eventually married in 1993.  Naturally, they honeymooned in Salt Lake City.  She researched a specific branch of her family back to their Loyalist immigration, earning her UE designation.  She currently works at The Centre for Applied Genomics, The Hospital for Sick Children.

Mini-presentationInaugural Brick Wall Buster Session, featuring expert researcher James F.S. Thomson.

Demonstration Table – 6:30 pm – 7:20 pm: Linda Reid, the Facilitator of our Genetic Genealogy SIG and some fellow members will be available to answer your questions about DNA testing.

Ontario’s Second Wave of Settlers
Apr 24 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm

Ontario’s Second Wave of
19th Century Settlers:
One Family’s Story

Speaker: David Corkill

By 1840 Upper Canada was a flourishing agricultural society. Along the lakeshores and on the Niagara Peninsula many mature communities were developing. Villages and towns served farmers needs with mills, roads and even regular stagecoach services carrying passengers and mail. Urban merchants dealt with distant cities in England, Europe and the US linked by lakes, rivers and canals.

Still, many poor immigrant families continued to pour into the country. To find land they could afford they needed to push away from these communities into the wilderness beyond. Unfortunately, much of this land was very poor for agriculture. The initial enthusiasm of living off the land was soon dispelled as these newcomers faced clearing the land, building shelters, and sowing crops in desolate, remote locations with poor soil. They had to find other ways to facilitate their survival in this harsh environment. One source was the Canadian Shield itself that they were living on. It was found to contain many riches with which eventually many could sustain themselves. Railways began pushing into the interior, greatly helped them exploit these resources. This is the story of one such family and how their ingenuity and hard work allowed them to survive and prosper and eventually escape the toil of the farm.

David Corkill was born in Toronto and was the third generation to graduate as a Mining Engineer from Queen’s University in Kingston. David worked at various mines in Ontario and across Canada including Wawa Ontario, a town well known to people from the 60’s.  An interest in workers’ health and safety led him to a regulatory role in Ottawa.  He retired to Vancouver Island but felt a call to family and Toronto where he now resides. He maintains an interest in geology and the history of mining in Ontario and in recent years he has become very involved in family history research.


Life on the Farm
May 29 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Life on the Farm @ Eglinton St. George's United Church | Toronto | Ontario | Canada

Life on the Farm: Your Ancestor’s Place in Ontario Agriculture

Speaker: Jane E. MacNamara

We often think of farming as a traditional occupation—something that hasn’t really changed much. But that is not and was never the case. Farmers had to react and adapt to changing conditions like climate, technology, economics, new markets and new competitors. Some farmers did more than adapt. They set out to be the most productive by innovating with new techniques and processes, products, and marketing. Farm journals and business records survive in many archives. Farmers may have had help and encouragement along the way from agricultural associations, community groups, government agencies, or private patrons. Digitization of many of the records of these pro-agriculture organizations has made them a viable source to help us understand the changes that were happening around our farming ancestors—and whether they were leading the way or following the pack.

Jane E. MacNamara, Toronto, is the author of Inheritance in Ontario: Wills and other Records for Family Historians (OGS/Dundurn, 2013) and writes about genealogy at A long time member of OGS, Jane lectures about research methodology, Ontario, and English family history to genealogical and historical groups throughout southern Ontario. She teaches courses for Toronto Branch OGS, most notably hands-on courses about Ontario records. She leads regular trips to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and is the organizer of Genealogy Summer Camp, an innovative program that brings out-of-town researchers to Toronto for a week of tutorials and hands-on research. As a trained graphic designer, Jane creates WordPress-based websites and helps clients with book projects.


Mining Databases for Information
Jun 26 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Mining Databases for Information @ Eglinton St. George's United Church | Toronto | Ontario | Canada

Are you really finding it all when you search?


Mining Databases for Every Nugget of Information

Speaker: Marian Press

Many family historians confine their searches of Internet search engines and online databases to the most simple of keyword searches, often using just a relatively random choice of words, thereby potentially missing nuggets of information buried deep. This presentation aims to remedy this, showing how to get the most from a database by knowing both the general principles of online searching, as well as database-specific methodologies: concepts such as Boolean operators, truncation, wild cards, synonym searching, word order and simple versus advanced search. Whether results can be exported and analyzed will also be covered.

Internet search engines will be discussed, along with major genealogy databases such as Ancestry, FindMyPast and FamilySearch. There will also be discussion of databases that are not aimed primarily at family historians, but are full of relevant information and are readily available online through public libraries, such as Historical Abstracts, America History and Life and JSTOR. But the overarching theme is that the principles outlined in the presentation will help with searching any of the many, many online databases available to genealogists.

Marian Press, MLS, MA, is a retired academic librarian in Toronto. Born in New Zealand, she has been researching her Scottish, English, Irish and Portuguese roots for over 35 years, sharing the results online and in articles in family history journals. Much of this research involves travel to the places where her ancestors lived and worked. She is a frequent speaker at genealogical workshops and conferences and a writer on family history topics. In 2011, Dundurn/OGS published her book Education and Ontario Family History: A Guide to the Resources for Genealogists and Historians, the result of her years at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.