The Archives from A-Z

The first issue of The Anglican in 1958 includes a drawing of the Synod Office on its front page.
The first issue of The Anglican in 1958 includes a drawing of the Synod Office on its front page.
 on May 30, 2024
The Diocese of Toronto Archives

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 – Anglican Congress

August 2023 marked the 60th anniversary of the meeting of the 1963 Anglican Congress, which took place from Aug.13-23, 1963. The Diocese of Toronto played host to this event, and the Archives holds records related to various organizational subcommittees, such as housing and transportation, which involved finding volunteers for driving bishops to and from the airport and providing lodgings. There was also a women’s committee, which planned tours, dinners and teas for the bishops’ wives.

This past April, the “MRI at 60” conference was held to mark the 60th anniversary of the Congress. Its name is a reference to the Mutual Responsibilities and Interdependence, a document that was issued at the end of the 1963 conference.


First baptism entry in the parish register for St. James Cathedral, dated 1807.

B – Baptisms

The earliest baptism recorded in the parish registers held by the Archives took place in 1807. It is recorded in the baptism register of St. James Cathedral, with William Bright being baptized on March 24, 1807. Yet, the Rev. George Okill Stuart, first rector of St. James, performed 167 baptisms between his arrival in July 1800 and January 1807, as found in his reports to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. Unfortunately, if there was a register with these baptisms recorded, it has been lost or destroyed.


C – Constitutions and Canons

In October 1854, at the third Synod for the Diocese of Toronto, an initial constitution was framed and a declaration affixed to it. At the fourth meeting of Synod in May 1856, the constitution was amended and submitted with a petition to the Legislature to formally enable the members of the United Church of England & Ireland in Canada to meet in Synod. This resulted in An Act to enable the Members of the United Church of England & Ireland in Canada to Meet in Synod. The published Constitution and Canons from 1854 to present are on deposit with the Archives.


D – Deeds

The Archives holds hundreds of deeds of land, including some Crown grants, going back to as early as 1802. The early deeds are visually striking and quite different from the deeds of today. They are often written on velum or parchment paper and are difficult to decipher, as the text was all written by hand. They are too large and fragile to be scanned on our standard flatbed scanner and would benefit from a large-scale digitization project where all historic deeds for properties still owned by the diocese would be scanned, indexed and made more readily available to diocesan and parish staff.


E – Election

Results of the seventh and final ballot of the 1909 Electoral Synod show Archdeacon James Sweeny elected as the next Bishop of Toronto, a position he held until 1932.

The Synod Journals and handwritten minutes of Synod for the special synods to elect a bishop are part of the Archives collection. These document the results for the elections of diocesan bishops from Alexander Bethune to Andrew Asbil. One of the most interesting election results was for the election of Bishop James Sweeny in 1909. The election took three days, and Mr. Sweeny was elected on the seventh ballot. On the sixth ballot, he had received just 7 clergy votes and 0 lay votes. Shortly before that sixth ballot, a telegram was received from the front runner, the Rt. Rev. George Thornloe, Bishop of Algoma. The telegram read as follows: “Have just emerged from backwoods and read newspaper. Have neither authorized or approved what is being done.” Unfortunately, the telegram is not included with the written minutes. The seventh ballot saw Mr. Sweeny elected bishop with 153 clergy votes and 111 lay votes.


F – Finding aids

Many archives have created finding aids, which are documents that provide a summary and list of records received as part of a fonds. However, they can be any document that provides information on an archives collection. One of our most helpful finding aids is the List of Churches in the Diocese of Toronto established before 1869, which lists by deanery the congregations that existed before 1870 and what years of sacramental records we have on deposit at the Archives. This is helpful to genealogists looking for ancestors born or married before the requirement for civil registration in 1869.


G – General ledgers

The Archives has general ledgers for the diocese going back to 1845. Some of the ledgers are very large, measuring 19.5” x 11.5” x 3.5”, and perhaps we should be thankful they are not often requested. However, there are interesting things to be found in these ledgers. The general ledger that begins in 1866 has a page for the Canadian Bank of Commerce, which merged with the Imperial Bank of Commerce in 1961 to become the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC). This page is headed with the year 1866, yet according to the CIBC website, the Canadian Bank of Commerce was not established until 1867. With a little more review, it becomes clear that there is an error in the general ledger. The next page is headed July 1886 and has the same opening balance as the balance forward at the bottom of the page headed 1866, which covers April to June.


H – Home District Clerical Association

The minute book for the Home District Clerical Association begins with the minutes of the first meeting of the association, which was held at the house of the Rev. George Mortimer, Thornhill, Yonge Street on Feb. 17, 1841. Those in attendance included the Rev. Henry James Grassett, curate of Toronto, the Rev. Vincent Philip Mayerhoffer, rector of Markham and Vaughan, and the Rev. Featherstone Osler, missionary at Tecumseth. It’s interesting that in 1841 the Home District Clerical Association included missionaries serving Penetanguishene, Shanty Bay and Orillia, as Simcoe County was detached from the Home District in 1837. In 1874, the Home District Clerical Association was succeeded by the Yonge Street Clerical Association. In 1876 this became the North York Rural Deanery, and in 1885 the West York Rural Deanery.


I – Iron gall ink

Iron gall ink was a standard ink formulation used in the 1800s when some of our earliest records were created. Iron gall ink is quite acidic and can be corrosive to paper over time, causing degradation, particularly if exposed to high humidity or water. Some of the registers from the 1800s held by the Archives show signs of iron gall ink degradation. The Archives received grant funding through the federal Documentary Heritage Community Program (DHCP) in 2022 to complete some necessary conservation work. This included stabilizing the pages of one of our registers that had significant degradation caused by iron gall ink, which was creating holes in the page and risking the loss of information. The conservator used Japanese paper with an alcohol-based adhesive to stabilize the page and prevent further deterioration. The most severely affected pages were then interleaved with an archival paper containing an alkaline reserve to buffer the acidity.


J – Junior Clergy Association

The Archives holds the minutes for the Junior Clergy Association (JCA) for the period 1923-1934. This was not a committee of Synod, so there is little information about this group documented outside what is captured in the minutes. The JCA was established in 1922, and a constitution was written up. The association also set two objectives:

  1. The promotion of fellowship and mutual understanding among the junior clergy of the diocese.
  2. A determination of the contributions that the junior clergy can make to the life of the Church, and action in whatever direction is necessary for making such contribution.

Unfortunately, it is unclear whether this association continued after 1934, and if so for how long. Although the minutes end partway through a book, there is no indication in the last few entries that the JCA was to be dissolved.


A certificate of consecration for St. Thomas, Kleinburg in 1894.

K –  St. Thomas, Kleinburg

Working in the Archives, we often learn something new, either through a search request or while reviewing records. As we struggled to find a word for the letter K, we learned of St. Thomas, Kleinburg. This was a congregation that was part of the Parish of Woodbridge. It was first listed in the Synod Journals in 1883. The church itself was not built until around 1886, as the bishop notes in his charge to the 1887 Synod that “six new churches have been erected during the past year. . . St. Thomas’s, in the village of Klineburg (sic), of brick, value $1,200 with 120 sittings.” On May 22, 1894, the church was consecrated. According to a note dated 1926 and found in the property file, the church closed around 1906, though it was still listed in the Synod Journal up until 1917. There aren’t a lot of records in the Archives for St. Thomas, Kleinburg, though the few records we do have are accessioned under the parish of Woodbridge.


L – Land

Land has been acquired within the boundaries of the current diocese going back to before the Diocese of Toronto was set aside in 1839. These earlier grants of land were often transferred to the missionary for the particular area in order that a church might be built or to provide an endowment for a church in a particular township. The Archives holds a land register for the period 1845-1849, which also includes a list of endowments that had been received as of Jan. 15, 1836. It provides information on who the endowment was made to, the lot number and concession number, the property description per deed of land, and the number of acres.


The first page of a newsletter from Church of the Redeemer, Bloor St. in 1892.

M – Magazines

Parish magazines or newsletters can be a wonderful source of information about the life and work of a congregation over time. Some congregations may have published a magazine or newsletter over many years, while others may have published one for only a few years. The Archives holds parish magazines dating back to the 1890s for several congregations, including Church of the Redeemer, Bloor St., St. Stephen in-the-Fields, and Church of the Epiphany. These early magazines included a congregation-specific newsletter on the first two to four pages that detailed events, meetings and social activities of the congregation, as well as local advertisements. This was followed by an insert of the Parish and Home Magazine, a monthly magazine published in England and sent out for local distribution.


N – Newspaper

In 1956, Bishop Frederick Wilkinson began to plan for the first diocesan newspaper, seeking insights from local publishers on what would make for a good newspaper. The first issue of The Anglican was published as the Easter 1958 edition. The front-page story related to the plans for the new Diocesan Centre at 135 Adelaide St. E. Inside, there is an article by the bishop explaining the need for a diocesan newspaper. He advised it would allow for better communication and sharing about the activities of parishes and organizations within the diocese.


O – The Rev. Canon Henry Bath Osler

The Rev. Canon Henry Bath Osler was a travelling missionary in the Bolton and Lloydtown areas from 1843-1874. In 1874 he became the rector of St. John, York Mills, and in 1891 he established the Eglinton Mission, which became St. Clement, Eglinton. He retired from St. John, York Mills in 1900. On deposit with the Archives is a record book he kept that includes early meetings about the establishment of an Eglinton Mission from 1888-1892, annual return information and communicants for St. John, York Mills and the Eglinton Mission from 1891-1895. It also includes his written histories of the various missions that he ministered to in the Bolton and Lloydtown areas from 1843-1874. These include Bolton, Lloydtown, Nobleton, Albion, Bolton Mills, Woodbridge, Kettleby, Roley’s Station (Palgrave) and Sandhill.


An 1866 architectural drawing of St. John the Evangelist, Port Hope by Gundry & Langley.

P – Plans & drawings

Early architectural plans and drawings, which were hand drawn rather than drawn using computer programs, can also be works of art. The Archives holds only a few architectural plans that were created before the 1950s. One of these sets of architectural drawings are the 1866 drawings for St. John, Port Hope by Gundry & Langley, which they have coloured. As determined by conservation work completed in 1987, these drawings have been done on a starched cotton fabric called drafting linen rather than on wood-pulp or rag paper.


Q – Questions

The Archives often receives questions about donating prayer books and bibles, especially if they were printed before 1900. Unfortunately, unless there is something special about them, such as having belonged to a bishop with their signature or notes inside, we don’t accept them.


R – Restricted access

Some records that are held by the Archives are considered to be restricted access due to privacy considerations. The most often requested of these records are the parish registers. The Archives follows the direction of the Archives of Ontario and provides public access only to baptisms to 1918, marriages to 1941 and burials to 1951. Records after those dates can be released to the person named in the record or their next of kin, along with proof of ID.


S – Scrapbooks

Scrapbooks can be a fun way of documenting the history of a parish and may include pamphlets, newspaper clippings, photographs and even sometimes items made of fabric, such as ribbons. Some scrapbooks are primarily newspaper clippings, which, due to the acidic nature of newspaper, tends to be difficult to preserve well. These types of scrapbooks are also often missing contextual information, such as written explanations, to help understand the overall purpose of the scrapbook. Were they just newspaper articles the person found interesting, or did the newspaper articles have some sort of common theme to the person compiling the scrapbook?

The Archives holds a lovely example of a scrapbook from St. Nicholas, Birch Cliff. This scrapbook documents the history of St. Nicholas from 1912 until 1987, and the first pages include a memorial book plate from a bible salvaged from the 1916 fire, an image of the tent used for services before the building was rebuilt, and a copy of the original 1923 building fund poster. Someone has taken the time to identify the items that are attached to the pages, making it easy to maintain order even though the pages have been removed from the cover to allow for better storage.


Minutes from the Temperance Society central association for the Rural Deanery of Toronto in 1883.

T – Temperance Society

On April 13, 1883, a group of clergy from parishes within the City of Toronto met to form a Temperance Society central association for the Rural Deanery of Toronto with the “view of unity of action as to their work, and of adopting measures for increasing the number as well.” At the June 1883 Synod meeting, the bishop’s charge mentioned the good works of the Temperance Society central association for the Rural Deanery of Toronto and encouraged that “the present session of Synod must not be allowed to close without . . .  forming an energetic and capable Diocesan association of the . . . Temperance Society.”

In November 1883 a Diocesan Temperance Society was established, and the Temperance Society Central Association held its final meeting on Dec. 3, 1883. The Archives holds the 1883 minute-book for the Temperance Society Central Association for the rural deanery of Toronto, as well as the 1883-1894 minute-book for the Temperance Society of the Diocese of Toronto. Another year we may have to touch on rural deaneries as the precursor to regional deaneries, as it’s quite amusing to think of Toronto as being a rural deanery.


U – St. Philip, Unionville

St. Philip on-the-Hill, Unionville has an interesting history with an early connection to the Lutheran Church. In the early 1800s, the Unionville area was largely settled by Dutch, German and Danish Lutherans. After the Lutheran pastor, Rev. Peterson, left in 1829, the community had trouble finding a German-speaking Lutheran minister. This problem was solved by the arrival of the Rev. Vincent Philip Mayerhoffer, an Austrian Roman Catholic priest who had recently been ordained in the Church of England. The Lutherans and Anglicans shared the Lutheran St. Philip’s Church, with a German Lutheran service conducted in the morning and Anglican services conducted in the afternoon.

In 1837 during the Upper Canada Rebellion, a split between the two congregations occurred, as the Lutherans sympathized with William Lyon Mackenzie and the Anglicans supported the Family Compact. Stories suggest that one Sunday, the Rev. Mayerhoffer arrived to conduct the usual Anglican service only to find the church locked and a guard in place to prevent him from entering.

The Diocesan Archives holds only a photographed copy of the early register that begins in 1819. The entries before the arrival of Rev. Mayerhoffer in 1829 are for the Lutheran congregation and are largely in German. After 1829, the register contains entries for both the Lutheran and Anglican congregations. The original register remained with Rev. Mayerhoffer rather than with the church and ended up in a personal collection before being donated to the Markham Museum.


V – Vestry Minutes

The Archives holds the vestry minutes for many congregations. The earliest vestry minutes we have are for St. James Cathedral and include warden minutes from 1807 and the first vestry meetings. Other early vestry minutes on deposit include St. Peter, Cobourg minutes beginning in 1827, St. Peter, Erindale beginning in 1828, Christ Church, Mimico beginning in 1834 and St. John, Bowmanville beginning in 1841. These vestry minutes are a useful source of information on the early activities of a church. They can also be beneficial to genealogists, as their ancestors may have been active members of the church and participated in vestry meetings.


W – War memorials

World War I and World War II saw many young men go to war, and sadly many lost their lives. A number of parishes have memorial plaques and other memorials in recognition of the members of their parish who served in these wars. Veteran Affairs Canada has an internet-based database of all military memorials. If you have a military memorial in your parish, it’s helpful for Veterans Affairs to get information about where the memorial is located in the church or to get photographs to add to the existing listing.


X – X-Acto knife

As the Diocesan Archives continues to work on conservation efforts, X-acto knives allow us to safely and easily cut mat board and paper to make acid-free enclosures for archival material. These custom-made enclosures ensure that delicate material doesn’t shift and get damaged in larger storage containers, which may house multiple items.


Y – Yellowing

Yellowing is a process that occurs with paper as it ages due to acidification. This acidification ultimately leads to the paper’s deterioration. While yellowing may occur with all paper made from wood pulp, it’s most notable with newspaper. If a newspaper clipping is stored directly against another type of paper, it will begin to yellow the other paper in the area where it’s touching more quickly than in the area around the clipping. To mitigate yellowing, records are stored in acid-free buffered folders and boxes, and as we review materials we separate newspaper clippings from other papers.


Z – Zeal

We give thanks to priests in our diocese, including the Rev. Canon R.W. Allen and the Rev. Canon Bracken, who had a zeal for history. They worked tirelessly to document the history of the diocese and establish a Diocesan Archives. They began the process of collecting some of the very early records of the Synod House and parishes. Their work has allowed these records to be preserved and continue to be made available to researchers.


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