Post war recovery, prohibition, Flappers and all that jazz; the 1920s left the old ways behind and engulfed our ancestors into a time of glitter, glitz and a new abstract way of living. I was able to witness the grand reveal of the newly t 1921 Canadian Census via Ancestry.ca recently in downtown Toronto. My travels to the city began in Markham where I took the Go Bus down to Bay Street. From this point I had two choices, one to take a street car or walk. Hmm…both seemed tempting. The morning was cool and brisk so I decided on the latter. It was a walk down memory lane, albeit not only mine. Walking through the business district with the blend of old and new buildings reminded me of my youth when my parents would bring u for a visit or a Judo tournament; yes dad was an instructor and revelled in the martial arts even before my birth. I saw old churches and plenty of home décor stores along with cafe’s that dotted the street every few blocks or so. The smells of a big city filled my nostrils tingling my recollections in the back of my mind that yes I was in Toronto or perhaps if I closed my eyes I could transport myself to other grand cities around the world that I had experienced before.
I told myself if I could find a reasonably priced hair salon along the way I would treat myself, but this was highly unlikely I thought or so I told myself. Funny how things work out as shortly after I spotted the very place I had imagined. Peeking through the window I found the place to be empty minus one customer being attentively looked after and to my left I spied the prices I was hoping for. Did I have time to do this and make it to my destination in time? Could they take me right away? Realizing I could catch the streetcar the directions from the TTC Internet search had supplied me further down the street, I took my chances and entered the hair salon. Immediately a dark haired man popped out from behind a shampoo display and told me he could take me right away. I later learned that this hair stylist was from Iran, that he had a daughter from his first marriage to a Pilipino woman and that I was lucky to get in on such short notices as the shop was full of clients by the time I left and usually the shop was busy at the time I entered the building. Of course you guessed it, my stylist asked me enough questions to find out that I am a Professional Genealogist. He was quite interested to learn more about his ancestors, but felt that all the wars in Iran may have caused great loss to family records. I could not confirm or deny this as I have not experience in that area, but a small part of me felt that the government there probably keep meticulous records on their citizens. I loved what he did with my hair, thanked him and proceeded on my way.
Checking my watch, 12:10 pm, I hurried to locate the next streetcar stop a few blocks further. An elderly woman whose front teeth were missing was apparently waiting for the same Streetcar, which I confirmed upon asking her. Ps This is where my daughter would be mortified as she is a very quiet person whom I have taught not to talk strangers, but I can’t help myself and if I feel comfortable safe I do when need be. This was one of those times and thus I struck up a conversation with her regarding the correct stop, streetcar and where I was to get off. She was very helpful telling me I had to get off one stop earlier because of construction and that I should be careful about the cars that drive in the path of the pedestrians trying to jump on the streetcar. A good thing to know when you are a newbie in a big city trying to find your way to a destination you have never been to before. I could not help thinking that this woman could have been my Great Grandmother who had lived modestly in the 1920s in Toronto; perhaps she was my guardian angel who knows.
Confirming with the driver of the streetcar what the old woman had told me, I paid my fare and proceeded to find my seat. Sitting facing in the direction the vehicle is moving is a must for me as I suffer from motion sickness and the smell of diesel can trigger a bout of nausea as well. As the computerized female voice announced each stop I took care to watch for my stop on Parliament Street, when all of a sudden I heard two voices exchange that they were genealogists. I thought that a bit strange and figured that these two individuals must be heading to the same Ancestry.ca function as d myself. I engaged them in conversation and found out that yes indeed they were going my way, thus we proceeded together off the streetcar at Parliament Street, a bit reluctant that we had truly got off at the correct stop and started walking to Trinity Street where Ancestry.ca would be waiting our arrival. I introduced myself and realized I knew the female accompanying me and learned that the fellow was an Archivist from the Archives of Ontario. It was nice to know that I was not the only invited guest that would arrived just on time. Ten minutes later we found our building with a young man waiting outside to greet us.
Once we obtained our name tags, hung up our coats and took a drink offered to us (water being my personal and preference) we began to mingle with the other guests. I immediately spotting several other members of the Ontario Chapter of the Association for Professional Genealogists that I knew well and had not seen in a very long time and went over to chat with them. After helping ourselves to the hors d'oeuvres we were treated to a few speeches and then left to tryout the newly indexed 1921 Canadian Census through the Ancestry.ca website in conjunction with the Library and Archives of Canada. I found all my grandparents except my paternal grandfather. Not sure where his family was the day of the census, but I know that they were in the North Bay area at that time. My grandfather would have been about 15 years old as he was born in 1906 in South Africa and came to Canada when he was 1 ½ years old with his mother. I also found my husband’s maternal grandparent and maternal great grandparents; his paternal grandparents had not emigrated from Italy until 1923 and 1930 respectively. I also located my Great Great Uncle and found out that he had adopted an orphan girl from the US that was a niece of his uncle from his mother’s side of the family; he had no children of his own with his wife so it seemed.
I knew there was plenty more individuals waiting for me to discover them on the 1921 Canadian census, but they would have to wait for me to return home as it was not time for me to venture back up King Street in a westerly direction towards the northbound subway to meet up with my sister-in-law who had offered to give me a ride back to Markham; saving me time and money. It was nice to ride back and have someone to chat with about my day. I was now eager to share what I had found on the 1921 Canadian census with family, friends, clients and my readers. Have fun looking up your ancestors at Ancestry.ca on the 1921 Canadian census which is free to peruse I believe. If you first don’t succeed try try again looking for them under different spellings, by age, place, race or occupation. Have a roaring good time stepping back into the glamour and glitz of the 1920s with the 1921 Canadian census at Ancestry.ca.
Tammy Tipler-Priolo The Ancestor Investigator