I was born in Toronto and grew up there, attending local schools and the University of Toronto. But in my mid-twenties I left for England, married, settled down, raised a family, and eventually retired. I discovered family history around 1980 and have traced most of my own lines back to at least 1800. One line was living in the vicinity of Toronto even at that early date and another arrived around 1840. These two lines moved into Toronto itself in the 1890s and merged (married) in 1901. The other side of the family arrived from Scotland as a married couple in late 1903.
I joined a local family history society here in the UK in the early 80s and around the same time we bought our first computer. The two came together when the society decided to transcribe the local census. With my husband's help I worked out a template for entering and displaying census transcriptions. When the LDS decided to transcrbe the British census of 1881, I did quite a bit of work in my local county of Buckinghamshire and also in Scotland. My 3x great grandfather had been census registrar in Rothesay on the Island of Bute in 1881. I had the privilege of transcribing out what he had put in.
Once on the internet with what we call a broadband connection and what North Americans call high-speed internet, I started investigating the online resources for Ontario, particularly the area around Toronto. The Ontario GenWeb Census Project included transcriptions of the 1851 and 1861 censuses of Markham, Vaughan and King townships. This was where half of my paternal ancestors had lived. But it wasn’t just viewing my great-great grandfather’s family that made it interesting, it was looking at all the families. I started to match those which I could find in both 1851 and 1861 censuses. I also found lists of marriages and tied those in too.
From there I went on to transcribing both the 1851 and the 1861 censuses for York Township--now completely within Toronto's metropolitan area, but then a rural township surrounding the original city. In 2005 I turned my attention away from the rural area to the urban core and commenced work on the 1861 census of Toronto itself. The work was done from microfilm at a local LDS library here in England. Copying was initially done by hand and transferred to spreadsheet on the computer once I got home. Later on I acquired both a digital camera and a "personal digital assistant" and these modern-day miracles speeded up the process of transcription no end.
The 1861 census for Toronto was based on forms filled in by the householders themselves. At least it was supposed to be. The literacy of the population, or lack of it, was soon made evident to the census enumerators who started their contracts assuming they had the easy job of delivering the forms and picking them up a few days later. They had a lot more work to do than they had expected! But a good many householders did provide completed forms. The variety of the handwriting in itself made the transcription process interesting.
The original spreadsheets on which I collected my data were converted to Access databases so that I could compare the census data with lists of marriages and also with city directory listings which allowed me to find the exact locations where people lived and expand my mind's picture of many of the families.
In hindsight Access was probably not the best holder for my data. Confining myself to the one project has also not been in my favour. Technology has moved on and I don't know how to present the material to the world at large. Right now I am giving it a holiday and using the time to put my own family (which suddenly expanded sideways by 300 people--thanks to a spasm of curiosity) into WeRelate.
Along with genealogy I have always had a lively interest in geography, both historical and political. I have been putting this to use in WeRelate by building up the details on the Place Pages for southern Ontario.