Researching Land Records in Ontario

Land records have been an important resource in documenting the history of the Fleming families in Derby Township, Grey County. The most useful record has been the “abstract index to deeds” adopted in the land record offices in 1865. The abstract is a summary of the transaction showing dates, instrument number, transaction type, lot and concession, acres, grantor and grantee, dollar amount. Transaction codes indicate “bargain and sale,” mortgage received, discharge of mortgage, release, grant, and other events. In a nutshell it shows the history of the changes in ownership and financing arrangements, and sometimes the disposal of an estate. For further detail, it was sometimes necessary to find the memorialization of the deed or transfer by the instrument number in the copybook for the township or locate the original document.

Previously, researchers had to go to the county land registry office or Archives of Ontario. Today the Ontario Land Registry Access (OnLand) website provides online access to digital images of the index pages. This posting is a short guide for searching that service.

Land records are organized by concession and lot. In our case, we knew the concession and lot numbers of the properties Alexander Fleming bought in 1847 and 1858. Another source for this information are farmers’ directories – especially the Gazetteer and Directory of the County of Grey  1865-6 (Toronto: W W Smith, 1865)

In this example, we are looking for the history of “Forest Lawn” on the north half of Lot 9 Concession 6. James Fleming obtained the lot from his father in 1853 and during his lifetime developed it into an estate of orchards and gardens. Continue reading

New York Heritage Digital Collection

Photograph of the Pan Am Exposition of 1901 in Buffalo illuminated at night with latest technology for electrical wiring.
Panoramic View of the Pan-Am Exposition of 1901 in Buffalo. NY. Source Wikimedia  (1)

Several members of the Fleming family moved to cities in New York State in the late 1800s. Researching their movements and lives has led us to the trove of the New York Heritage digital collections (https://nyheritage.org/) created by eight members of the Empire State Library Network.

Two cousins – Jean Agnew, daughter of Jessie (Fleming) Agnew, and Margaret Fleming, daughter of James Fleming –  were among the first to enter new nursing programs being started in New York State in the 1880s.

Jean Agnew arrived in Rochester NY to begin her training at the Rochester City General Hospital around 1887. The Rochester City Hospital School of Nursing, the third nursing school in New York State, opened its doors in 1880. Continue reading

Online Newspapers in Canada

Why Toronto Mothers Oppose Daylight Savings - 1923 - vintage ad
From Toronto Telegram, 31 December 1923, posted to Flickr – https://www.flickr.com/photos/jbcurio/14133682628

My favourite research source, bar none,  is the newspaper for that time and place – often  a storehouse of social announcements and background on issues and concerns. My greatest frustration arises from the huge holes in the digitization of Canadian newspapers – parts of Ontario have never been touched, and secondly, in the usually klutzy search interfaces –  access through Proquest  for the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star Archives comes to mind. Putting that aside, there is one major collection site to use as a starting point for online newspapers and one recent news item.

The Ancestor Hunt maintains a page of links to newspapers in the United States and Canada, and links to collections in Australia, Europe, and the Caribbean. It also provides thirteen lessons on best ways to search online newspapers and other informational articles.

John Reid at Canada’s Anglo-Celtic Connections also keeps an eye for announcements concerning digital Canadian newspapers, the latest being Canadian Newspapers on the British Newspaper Archives (14 February 2020). He reminds us that Canadiana Online and Google Newspapers also hold some publications.

Oh – would that we had a Canadian Newspaper Archives online!

Postscript 20 February 2020: The blog entry of The British Newspaper Archive – Hot Off The Press for 17 February – describes more fully their new additions of the Toronto Daily Mail, Hamilton Daily Times, and Saturday Night spanning years 1875 to 1920.  Stated reason was “these newspapers are a useful resource for people with ancestors who emigrated, whilst illuminating a time of great change and growth in the North American country.” Yes – an archive to watch – maybe they’ll add more.

Vernon’s Owen Sound City Directories

Page from Vernon's Directory for Owen Sound 1917
Page from Vernon’s Directory for Owen Sound 1917

People researching residents and businesses in Owen Sound may now go to Family Search to use digitized copies of Owen Sound Vernon city directories for the years: 1942, 1961, 1964,  1991, 1997/98, 2001/02. Search Family Search > Books (https://www.familysearch.org/library/books/records/) for owen sound to see the selection. This tremendous project of the Ontario Genealogical Society is described in this announcement –  Vernon Directory Digitization Project (February 18, 2019). Let’s hope that more of the earlier years are added soon.

The 1917 Vernon directory for Owen Sound that is held by the Toronto Public Library directory has been digitized and is at both the Internet Archive and at Toronto Public Library site.

Postscript 23 Nov 2019 – Gail Dever (Genealogy à la carte) in Dozens more Ontario Vernon’s Directories on FamilySearch describes the project and briefly, the search. For example: “a free FamilySearch account is required to view each individual directory. ”

Postscript 28 Dec 2019 – Digitized years now available are: 1928, 1930,1932,1936, 1938,1940,1942, 1958, 1961,1964, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1977,1979, 1981, 1983, 1985,1987, 1989, 1991, 1993/94, 1995/96, 1997/98, 1999/2000, 2001/02, 2003/04, 2005/06.

News about online resources

New Online Resources
New Online Resources

A few notable news items about resources have come to my inbox from genealogy newsletters.

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Finding historical texts and pictures

The richness of resources on local history – and that of Ontario in particular – constantly amazes me. Today I have two starting points to recommend: the University of Calgary’s digitzation project, and a list prepared by the Toronto Public Library of resources for finding photos.

Library and Cultural Resources Digital Collections at the University of Calgary (https://library.ucalgary.ca/digital) has a daunting number of collections – many about Alberta and some about the Arctic – even some about Japan. But the area of particular interest at present is Local Histories and Local Histories (2). Select one or both from the list and enter search terms for the subjects, people or places of interest.  The search interface provides guides to further filtering by date, subject and title.

Ourroots, the service that had digitized many Ontario historical texts, was taken over by the University of Calgary project and gradually all (or nearly all) texts have been remounted on new servers with the improved search interface. Two titles of great interest to us that are now available are: Continue reading

More maps and drawings at Scotlands People

National Records of Scotland has released to Scotlands People “more than 2,400 historic maps, plans and drawings”  that show country estates and plans of towns and cities.

See News Article: Maps and Plans Release (June 13, 2018).

Spanning four centuries, the collections cover both manuscript and printed topographical maps and plans. They are particularly strong in estate and railway plans; architectural drawings; and engineering drawings, particularly of ships, railway engines and rolling stock. More maps and plans will be added to the ScotlandsPeople website.

Requires free registration at Scotlands People to access and search

A search on Atholl delivers “Plan of the estates of Fincastle, Borenich, Lick and Duntaulich, Blair Atholl” (RPH6594). Dated 1832, this map shows the lands along the Tummel River.

Speaking of Scottish resources, Ancestral Findings offers this list of  Online Resources for Researching Your Scottish Ancestors.  Scotlands People and five others (including Family Search) are described here, and there are links to other postings related to Scotland.

Time-Travel to Scotland

Excerpt for Logierait Parish from the New Statistical Account of Scotland (1838-1845) Vol X Perth. Source: Internet Archive
Excerpt for Logierait Parish from the New Statistical Account of Scotland (1838-1845) Vol X Perth. Source: Internet Archive

Outside of watching the TV Series Outlanders for its historical time-travel into the Scottish Highlands in the 1700s (or, of course, reading the novels by Diana Gabaldon’s on which the series is based), our best method for learning about the people and places of the time is through resources on the Internet. This may be a less entertaining way, but it can be rewarding. In researching the Scottish background about the Fleming Family, we have dug into several tremendous resources about Scotland’s past that includes historical accounts, maps, drawings and images, and fiction.

The Scots, with great foresight, undertook two extensive and detailed accounts of the geography, population, economy and society in the late 1790s and mid-1800s. The First (or Old) Statistical Account of Scotland (1792-99) in 21 volumes was compiled by Sir John Sinclair who engaged over 900 ministers in the parishes to report on their areas guided by his questions. The Second (or New) Statistical Account of Scotland (1834-45) was done for the Society for the Benefit of the Sons and Daughters of the Clergy in Scotland and was produced similarly.

Both may be searched and read in digital format through Statistical Accounts of Scotland Online, a superbly rich website. Use the clickable map to zoom into a county and then browse from the list for a parish, or use a keyword search. Locating the parish – for example, Logierait – leads to links to the digitized images in the sections in the Old and New Statistical Accounts. This resource was created by EDINA, a division of the University of Edinburgh’s Information Services. Searching and viewing are free, but a fee-based subscription is needed to have access to transcripts, downloads, printing, enhanced searching, and other personalized features.

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R.M.S. Tunisian – Montreal to Liverpool – June 27 to July 6, 1903

R.M.S. Tunisian - postcard postmarked Sarnia June 25, 2003
R.M.S. Tunisian – postcard 1903.  Courtesy Simplon Postcards, The Passenger Ship Website

Boarding in Montreal, the Fleming party settled into their quarters on the Tunisian at 7:30 pm Friday, June 26. Roy noted – “We put baggage in our rooms. Mine is Room 126 Berth 2, Uncle James 126-4. Aunt Jennie 128 – 2 – Minnie 128-4.” They were on the Upper Deck, in cabins on the outside wall. The Saloon Deck with the dining, music, and smoking saloons for second class and first class was above. The two top decks were the Bridge for First Class and the Promenade deck .

The Norway Heritage website has a full history of the Tunisian with postcards and the cabin floor plan.

With advances in steamer technology and ship design, travelling to Great Britain and the continent had become more comfortable and increasingly fashionable. They were travelling second (cabin) class in rooms that accommodated four people. Roy immediately remarked, “Rather neat appearance of rooms and dining rooms. Music Room and Smoking Room.”

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Something Different

What if we could tell a family story through a mix of media, constructing a narrative arc with text, pictures, voice, video, and suspense; as well as one that involves family members? This is what has been accomplished in “Daddy, what did you do in the war?” A Soldier’s Story of WWI – a film (at YouTube) written and produced by Martha Rowlett about her father, a farm boy in Virginia who was drafted into the USA army during World War One.

ROWLETT FILM THUMBNAIL YOUTUBE A

The author crafted the script from letters Peyton Lee Rowlett wrote to his family, employed official war records, and blended in background information about the United States and its war effort in the years 1917-1918. Two young people from the current generation are the voices for the earlier generations. Continue reading