The Archives from A to Z

Ornate silver stand with inscriptions
Bishop John Strachan’s ink stand.
 on June 20, 2022

Collection sheds light on diocese’s life

In April, the diocesan Archives joined the Archives of Ontario in its #ArchivesAtoZ campaign, with the aim of increasing the public’s awareness of archives and their collections. Staff shared posts on the Diocese of Toronto’s website showcasing items from the Archives’ holdings and providing information about archives terminology based on each letter of the alphabet.

A – Archives

The Diocese of Toronto Archives as we know it began collecting material for permanent archival preservation in July 1956 when Bishop Frederick Wilkinson established the Archives Committee and appointed the Rev. T.R. Millman as chair. This committee decided to “collect, preserve and make available” the following:

  • ​journals and proceedings of Synod
  • ​diocesan charters
  • reports of Synod committees
  • reports of diocesan officials
  • correspondence of bishops
  • registers and vestry minutes of churches
  • published books and pamphlets

The Archives Committee was given a room in the basement of the old Synod House in Toronto to store the material it collected. When the Synod Office was moved to the present building at 135 Adelaide St. E. in 1958, the Archives was given two rooms in the basement. The Archives Committee began to collect material from diocesan files and to receive material from parishes.

The first trained archivist, Canon Mary-Anne Nicholls, began work on Oct. 1, 1983, and established a formal accession process while promoting the Archives to receive ongoing transfers of records from parishes. Since then, the Archives has received 724 accessions from 369 congregations, parishes and missions.

B – Boundaries

In 1858, the Canon for the Erection and Division of Parishes, and Settlement of Boundaries was adopted, which determined that “the boundaries of every parish erected under the authority of this Canon be entered and registered in a book to be kept by the Secretaries of the Synod.” The diocese’s Archives holds the books of parish boundaries dating from 1874. One of the first entries is for St. Philip, Spadina Ave., which closed in 1940.

C – Church Society of the Diocese of Toronto

Before “An Act to Incorporate the Synod of the Diocese of Toronto, and to Unite the Church Society of the Diocese of Toronto therewith” was passed on Jan. 23, 1869 by the Legislature of Ontario, the diocese operated as the Church Society of the Diocese of Toronto. The Archives holds the Church Society Standing Committee minutes from 1852-1869, as well as the Church Society Lay Committee minutes from 1842-1860.

D – Donations

The Archives recently received an interesting donation of materials that had belonged to Bishop Frederick Wilkinson. The donation included an album that had been presented to Bishop Wilkinson from the Toronto Daily Star of photos taken during the 1963 Anglican Congress, hosted by the diocese. In reviewing old editions of The Anglican, we found an article in the November 1963 edition recognizing this gift from the Toronto Daily Star.

E – Episcopal Acts

Among the responsibilities of the bishop is the duty to perform episcopal acts, including such things as consecrations, ordinations, appointments, confirmations and the laying of cornerstones. The Archives has records of such episcopal acts, beginning with Bishop Alexander Bethune’s register of these events, which begins in 1867. Bishop Bethune was elected coadjutor bishop of Toronto in 1866 and Bishop of Niagara in 1867.

F – Fonds

The entire collection of the records originating from the same creator are called a fonds. The Archives has fonds for most parishes in the diocese, for the diocese itself and for Anglican groups like the Anglican Church Women and the Downtown Church Workers. Some fonds with records close to 200 years old include the Parish of Fenelon Falls, which includes its parish register beginning in 1839, and the Parish of Cavan, which includes its parish register beginning in 1819.

G – Genealogy

The Archives has recently produced two resources to help individuals conducting genealogical research determine what records the Archives has that might be helpful in their search for an ancestor. One is a document that lists churches with records prior to 1869, when legislation was enacted requiring the registration of births, marriages and deaths in the province, and includes the dates covered by the records. Another is a map that plots the rough location of churches in the diocese outside the City of Toronto, along with the dates they were established.

H – The Rev. George Hallen

The Rev. George Hallen arrived in Canada in 1835 and settled his family on a farm near Coldwater, which he called Rushock. The first register for St. James-on-the Lines, Penetanguishene is also referred to as the Hallen register, and the first entry was for a baptism he performed in 1835 aboard the ship The Albion on his passage to Canada from England. There are further entries in the register of baptisms and marriages that occurred at his home.

I – Ink Stand

The Archives holds the ink stand that was presented to Bishop John Strachan “by the clergy of his Diocese in Visitation assembled at Toronto, as a slight but heartfelt token of their dutifulness and affection A.D. MDCCCXLVII (1847).” After Bishop Strachan died, his family presented it to Bishop Bethune, the second Bishop of Toronto, and his successors in office. The names of subsequent bishops and the years they were ordained are engraved, up to Bishop Lewis Garnsworthy in 1972.

J – Journals

One of the first items the Archives Committee began collecting when it was established in 1956 was the journals and proceedings of Synod. Thanks to their endeavours, the Archives has journals of diocesan meetings going back to the meeting of the Church of England Tract Society in 1842, followed by meetings of the Church Society of the Diocese of Toronto starting in 1843. The Church Society was formed on April 28, 1842, in pursuance of a recommendation contained in the Bishop’s Charge to his primary visitation held on Sept. 9, 1841. There were triennial visitations in 1841, 1844, 1847 and 1851. (The 1851 meeting would have occurred in 1850 if Bishop Strachan had not been in England.)

The Archives has records of the visitations of clergy to meet with Bishop Strachan beginning with the 1851 meeting, when it was decided to petition Queen Victoria, through the Archbishop of Canterbury, for leave to hold diocesan Synods. For his October 1853 visitation, Bishop Strachan asked clergy to bring lay representatives, and he declared it to be a diocesan Synod. After 1853, the diocese met as an unofficial Synod on a yearly basis, but it wasn’t until May 28, 1857, that the diocese was officially enabled to meet in Synod with the passing of “An Act to enable the members of the United Church of England and Ireland in Canada to meet in Synod together with the canons, passed by the Synod of the Diocese of Toronto, under the episcopate of John Strachan, D.D., Lord Bishop of the Diocese of Toronto, A.D. 1857.

K – Kinmount

The Archives has the oldest parish register covering the years 1882-1902 for Kinmount, Irondale and Burnt River, which were part of the travelling mission of Galway. The Rev. Soward was appointed to the mission of Galway in March 1882, and in 1883 the church of St. James, Kinmount was built, becoming the main point in the Parish of Galway. Unfortunately, there is a gap in the later records for St. James, Kinmount due to a fire that destroyed much of Kinmount, including the rectory, in 1942. Fire and flooding are the leading causes of lost records.

L – Letters Patent

When the Diocese of Toronto was established, letters patent was issued by the Crown on July 27, 1839, setting the diocese apart from the Diocese of Quebec. The letters patent includes a cased royal great seal made of red wax. Bishop John Strachan was then consecrated bishop of the Diocese of Toronto on Aug. 4, 1839.

M – Mission Board

The Mission Board was established at the diocesan Synod held on June 12, 1860. Its purpose was to receive contributions of money or lands for the support of the missionary work of the Church in the Diocese of Toronto. The Archives has the minutes from July 5, 1860 to 1970, when the Mission Board, along with the Diocesan Council of Social Services and the Urban Board, merged to become the Community Services Board.

N – Notes

In 1936, the Rev. Canon R.W. Allen was appointed diocesan historiographer, a role he held until the Archives Committee was formed in 1956. In 1959, Canon Allen donated the various notes he had put together about the churches in the diocese. The most referenced of those notes by staff are his 37 volumes documenting the chronology and events of the diocese broken up by area. Unfortunately, these were typed up on non-acid-free paper and are yellowing. The Archives hopes to be able to work on digitizing these fabulous resources.

O – Oral Histories

In 1994 and 1998, the Archives Committee worked to gather oral histories from a few individuals in the diocese. The Archives holds cassette tapes of conversations with several individuals, including Bishop Allan Read, suffragan bishop from 1972-1981, and Canon Margaret Banks, who began work at the diocese as secretary to the Diocesan Council of Social Services from 1958-1965. She returned in 1968 as secretary for the Church Extension Committee and was Bishop’s Secretary from 1972-1996.

P – Penmanship

The penmanship of a priest or lay person recording entries in a parish register or in committee minute books can range from beautiful calligraphy to barely legible scrawls across the page. It’s certainly much more enjoyable to conduct research into records where the penmanship is legible and neatly written.

Q – Queries

Helping researchers is one of the Archives staff’s favourite things to do. Every year, they answer an average of 600 queries and help patrons both virtually and in person by appointment. Queries come primarily from genealogists, parishes and diocesan staff.

R – Registers

The Archives holds a large number of registers from our congregations, parishes and missions going back to the early 1800s. The oldest register in the Archives is the parish register for St. James Cathedral, with the earliest entry being the marriage of Jesse Bennett and Catharine Koover, both of the township of Vaughan, on Sept. 9, 1800.

S – Bishop Sweeny’s Diaries

So many bishops with a surname starting with S! You might think the obvious choice would be Bishop Strachan, but the vast majority of his personal papers are on deposit with the Archives of Ontario. So instead, we will talk about Bishop James Sweeny’s diaries. The Archives holds his diaries from 1895, 1901-1919 and 1930, as well as his personal copy of Episcopal Acts 1909-1932. These diaries cover some of his time as rector at St. Philip, Spadina Ave., where he served from 1885-1909. In 1909, he was elected and consecrated the fourth Bishop of Toronto. The remainder of the diaries cover his time as bishop, although there is a gap between 1919 and 1930.

T – Travelling Missionaries

From the early days of the Anglican Church in Canada, travelling missionaries allowed for people to worship together where there were not yet churches built. They also performed marriages, baptisms and burials along the routes they travelled. Their early registers often remain with a congregation that was established as a result of their work in a particular area. For instance, in 1819 the Rev. William Macaulay, a former pupil of John Strachan’s, received priest’s orders from Bishop Jacob Mountain at Quebec and was appointed to Cobourg. The early registers for St. Peter, Cobourg, which begin in 1819, include people with residences in the townships or towns of Hamilton, Hope, Clarke, Darlington, Haldimand, Fenelon, Emily, Seymour, Percy, Asphodel, Colborne and Belleville. While some would have travelled to Cobourg, many would have been visited by the minister travelling on horseback in these early days.

U – U-Matic Tape

U-Matic was made available in 1971 and was among the first video formats to contain the videotape inside a cassette, compared to the reel-to-reel or open-reel formats that were common at that time. The diocese holds several U-Matic tapes, including the consecration of bishops Arthur Brown, Basil Tonks and Desmond Hunt on Jan. 27, 1981. Unfortunately, the Archives doesn’t have the equipment necessary to view these items, and as time passes, they may no longer be accessible. The Archives hopes to find the means to get these tapes digitized for long-term preservation and accessibility.

V – Vellum

Vellum is a type of early paper made from stretched calf skin. The Archives has a couple of items made of vellum, including an early baptism register from St. George-the-Martyr (now St. George by the Grange). This is an interesting register, as it’s an effort to compile baptisms that occurred at the church between 1855 and 1861 after the original register was lost in a fire at the home of the Rev. Dr. Stephen Lett in 1862.

W – Women’s Auxiliary

The Women’s Auxiliary was the original name of the Anglican Church Women. The Archives holds a large number of records related to the early years of the Diocese of Toronto Women’s Auxiliary from 1887-1966, when its constitution was amended and the Woman’s Auxiliary became the Anglican Church Women (ACW). These records consist primarily of meeting minutes and correspondence but also include records of the Dorcas and supply department regarding bales supplied to missionaries. Included in the Archives is a sample of what a bale looked like on the outside and the large needles and skewers used to secure the bale for mailing.

X – is for their mark

In the 1800s and even early 1900s, many individuals were illiterate. When a signature was needed for a deed, or in many cases a marriage record either as the bride, the groom or a witness, those who couldn’t write their name would take the pen and mark an X, also known as their “mark.” There are a number of signatures like this in the marriage registers held in the Archives.

Y – Young People

The Archives holds records related to diocesan youth programs from 1910-1972. These include records related to the Anglican Young People’s Association and Camp Couchiching. There are a number of photographs, including one of the fifth annual diocesan AYPA conference held in 1952 at St. John the Evangelist, Peterborough. The participants included individuals from St. Michael and All Angels, who are displaying their AYPA banner.

Z – Zero

In some cases, the Archives has no records for a particular person or group, or it’s missing records that have been lost to fire, flood or being misplaced along the way. Records may have been lost or destroyed because an individual didn’t realize the value of records they had in their possession. The Archives hopes that some of the records that have been misplaced will eventually make their way to it.


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