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By Ryan Taylor

Toronto Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society has so many publications, it can be difficult to keep up with what's available.

Every year at the OGS Seminar I ogle the Toronto branch table, dazzled by the offerings but unsure which ones might be new. Unlike the other OGS branches, Toronto does not publish a complete listing of its publications, for the simple reason that there are too many.

This year I was pleased to find an impressive transcription of records which will complement the Hawke Papers dealing with pre-1850 immigrants to Ontario. Records of the Society for the Relief of the Sick and Destitute, 1817-1847, by Michael Harrison and Dorothy Martin ($15) was published in 2002.

The authors state that members of the Family Compact, the ruling elite of the time, formed the Society which became the principal welfare agency in the town of York (as Toronto then was).

Many families emigrating from Britain to Canada found the voyage more expensive than they had planned. By the time they had arrived in Montreal and travelled down the St. Lawrence, their funds were depleted. In addition, the seasickness so prevalent on board ship left people susceptible to other diseases once they were in Ontario. A charity to provide some medical care and food was the answer.

The Society tried a work for food program in 1820, but it was a failure and their usual method of operation was to donate funds to the needy. Eventually their work was taken over by the local poorhouse, which opened in 1837, and a number of religious charities.

The transcription is very detailed. Owen Rafferty, who arrived in 1827 from Ireland with a wife and seven children, was found living in the park. They were described as 'sick and destitute'. Officials provided fresh beef and wine for the sick children.

Other details will be especially useful for researchers. John Connoly, another Irishman, was found sick and poor at Wilmot's Inn and provided with rations and money for lodgings. An added note says he is 'a young man traveling with John Leaky, came up from Kingston.' The Leaky connection might provide some family information.

Janice Nickerson has self-published two booklets which provide a digest of sources to help find relations. One is called Thirty-One Ways to Identify your Immigrant Ancestor's Origins. Although it does not deal specifically with Ontario, or even Canada, it does provide a checklist of resources.

Her other book is How to Locate an Ancestor in Ontario, Canada West and Upper Canada. It also provides a checklist of resources based on geographical materials.

Both these small publications cost $6.25 and can be bought from Toronto branch.

Ruth Burkholder did a survey of Census Indexes in Toronto Libraries in 1999 ($5). She listed indexes of Canadian, American, British and Alsatian census' in the Toronto Reference Library (near Bloor and Yonge) and the North York library. Although now a little old, it will still be useful for those contemplating a genealogical visit to Toronto. Burkholder is also the author of many indexes of York Region resources, which are sold through York Region branch OGS at its website.

Toronto branch has published many cemeteries from the city and its satellites, and a book on deciding which cemetery might contain your relations, Shirley Lancaster's Accessing Burial Records for Large Cemeteries in Metro Toronto & York Region (1993). They have been active in transcribing and indexing church records. They also sell publications from other sources, particularly about Britain and Ireland.

Publications lists and other information about the branch can be found at its website. Or write to them at Box 518, Station K, Toronto M4P 2G9.

Posted June 19, 2003
Column copyright © 2003 Ryan Taylor

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