Category Archives: Toronto

Seven Quick Takes – Who loves ya’?

Seven Quick Takes Friday

  1. I have to admit that after 30 years of marriage, Valentine’s Day has something of a been-there-done-that feel to it. We love each other madly, but really don’t need a day to revel in it more than we normally do. But here’s a shot from a year or so after we were married and spent six weeks in France and England. On the left is Zouheir’s younger brother.

    Jacques, me, Zouheir. Christmas 1984. Villeneuve-le-Roi, France
    Jacques, me, Zouheir. Christmas 1984. Villeneuve-le-Roi, France
  2. I’ve successfully found a home for the memorial cards I blogged about a few weeks ago. The contact I made through resulted in a referral to a granddaughter of Samuel, one of the younger siblings of the deceased children. He moved with his wife to Winnipeg MB in 1915 and his granddaughter lives on the west coast. I’ve popped the cards into the mail for her.
  3. Last week, I booked a table at a downtown resto for tonight through the Opentable system. Earlier this week, I got a message from them saying that we were seated in the bar, there were no more spots in the dining room, and that we were limited to an hour and a half as they needed the table. I cancelled. And tweeted about it. The restaurant replied to my tweet saying “sorry for the confusion, it’s just an estimate for 2ppl that we try to communicate. You can take as long as you want.” Sorry. Too little too late. Sadly, i’m sure they’ll be fully booked tonight and really don’t care.
  4. We’re seeing Heartbeat of Home, part of the Mirvish subscription series, tomorrow night. This is not something I would buy single tickets for, but Richard Ouzounian gave it 4/4 stars so we’ll see what all the fuss is about. We’ve booked a table at Portico before, a new restaurant (to us).
  5. I’ve made contact with another branch of my ancestry! My maternal grandmother was a Goddard, and thanks to the intrepid work of members of the Goddard Association of Europe, I have connected with a third cousin who is a sheep farmer in northern Ontario (near New Liskeard.) My second great grandfather William and his great-grandfather John both emigrated to Ontario from Kent in the UK around 1870. The children of Willam came south to Toronto and his grandfather John Jr. went north to Temiskaming. Very exciting! We’re hoping to meet up sometime in March when he’s passing through Toronto.

    Great-grandmother Minnie, Grandmother Daisy, Great Uncle Percy, Great Grandfather Stephen
    My Goddard ancestors: Great-grandmother Minnie (Price), Grandmother Daisy, Great Uncle Percy, Great Grandfather Stephen
  6. House of Cards season 2 is now available on Netflix. This may be our Valentine’s Day watching tonight. Yesterday, President Obama tweeted

    Here’s the trailer for the new season:

  7. I’m still loving my Bulletproof Coffee every morning. Check it out if you’re looking for a way to feel energized and productive. I’m gonna post more on this topic soon.

Lots more Seven Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary!

Seven Quick Takes Friday


  1. I was interviewed by a writer from the Wall Street Journal yesterday for a piece on white noise apps. I had blogged about it at some pointWhite Noise iPhone Icon (although I can’t seem to find the piece now) and she contacted me by telephone. While white noise machines have been around for a long time for use in helping people sleep, the emergence of apps for smartphones is relatively recent and she’s exploring what people do with them. My main uses are to block out noise when I am trying to read (in a waiting room, on the subway, etc.) or to help me sleep when I’m in a noisy environment like a plane or train. The app I use is White Noise and it’s available from the App Store on iTunes.
  2. I dropped by the Oakwood branch of the Toronto Public Library for the first time this week.Michael was at a trombone lesson nearby and it offered comfy chairs in a lovely light-filled space. Check out the door handles!
  3. We’ve been loving our new grill! I can’t believe how much more I am willing to cook in the summer when it does’t involve heating up the house. We’ve made some great steaks, chicken, lots of grilled veggies with onion and mushrooms, and tonight we’ve got some wild salmon that I think I’ll do in foil. Corn is in season, so I’ve also been enjoying that, although I haven’t grilled any yet. I’m going to try that tonight using the advice from the National Post, which is to just shuck it, brush the cobs lightly with oil and pop it directly on the grill. Easy peasy. 
  4. A couple of pieces from Zen Habits have really struck me this week. The first is a guest post by Chris of Zen to Fitness called Four Simple Fitness Fundamentals in which he encourages people to focus on the basics of living a fit life before getting all fancy. These include (1) using your bodyweight (squats, pushups); (2) not hyperfocussing on cardio; (3) walk and stretch every day; and (4) live an invigorating life.

    The second piece, written by Leo Babauta (the host of Zen Habits) is The Amazing Power of Being Present. So many people have monkey-brain these days, and spend a lot of time worrying about what they SHOULD be doing instead of focussing on what they ARE doing. There is definitely a lesson for me here, and practicing this, along with using the brain dump(pdf) recommended in Getting Things Done, are probably crucial to moving forward the million projects I have spinning around in my head.
    I’m looking orward to living an invigorating life when the temperature drops a bit!

  5. I just discovered Val McDermid, a writer of rather gory police procedurals set in England. I’ve read the first two Tony Hill and Carol Jordan mysteries namely The Mermaids Singing and Wire In The Blood. Very gory. But hard to put down. I put them down when I needed a break from the gore and then picked them back up again. 
  6. Another discovery this week:  we have free on-demand stuff with our cable* service. Maybe it’s a new thing, but there are quite a few decent movies and a bunch of series that we can get. I watched the HBO mini-series Mildred Pierce earlier this week and it was fantastic! Starring Kate Winslet and Guy Pearce, it is apparently a more accurate portrayal of the James M. Cain novel than the 1945 film starring Joan Crawford. I’m now catching up on Season 3 of Nurse Jackie that I somehow completely missed. Makes ironing pass quickly!
    *[Edited to correct: we don’t have cable per se. We have IPTV or internet television. Glorious HD over a telephone wire.]  
  7. My current reads are:
    Book:  Bech: A Book by John Updike. I haven’t read any of the Bech novels, so am looking forward to this one.
    Audio: Apple Turnover Murder by Joanne Fluke. Slightly better than I was expecting, plus bonus recipes for baked goods.
    Kindle: Alice Adams by Booth Tarkington. Haven’t actually started this yet, but it’s on my Goodreads list to finish by the end of August. 

Pop on over to Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes! 

1860 Death Notice: Thomas Young, Toronto Architect

As part of my volunteer work for the Ontario Genealogical Society’s Toronto Branch, I do some look-ups at the Ontario Archives for enquiries that come in to the Branch.

This week, I had three sets of look-ups to do.  One involved finding a news item in the Toronto Leader for Thomas Young.  Young was born in England in 1805 where he trained as an architect, and emigrated to Canada where he taught drawing and produced some of the earliest images of the growing city.  He soon became active as a working architect and was commissioned to design a number of significant municipal and private buildings.  HIs career foundered and he died of “apoplexy”, a general term used to describe cardiac or cerebrovascular events.

The article about his death appeared in the October 4th edition (1860) of the Toronto Leader:


It reads:

Sudden Death

Yesterday morning a gentleman named Thomas Young, and old resident and well-known architect of this city, was found dead in his bed at the Grand Trunk Hotel, Palace street, where he had been staying for the previous week. On Tuesday night, he retired to rest apparently in good health; but not appearing at an advanced hour in the morning his room was entered and he was found a corpse. An inquest was held in the afternoon by Coroner Scott and a post mortem examination made by Drs. King and Alkin.The result of the medical inquiry showed that death had been caused by apoplexy.The jury returned a verdict accordingly. The deceased, who had no relatives in the city, occupied at one time an eminent position in his profession, but for some cause or other he unfortunately gave way to the seductive but destroying influence of liquor.

(Note:  Palace Street is today’s Front Street)

Source:  Entry for Thomas Young in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.

British Home Child Day Act – Today at Queen’s Park

This Act is being re-introduced at Queen’s Park today.  If you are a descendent of a British Home Child and are in the city, drop by the Legislature today (and then to the Duke of York for a reception.)

Good news to all British Home Child descendants and friends!

After two attempts to bring a British Home Child Day Act to fruition in the Legislature of Ontario, I am making one last attempt to accomplish this, before my retirement as the Member of Provincial Parliament for the Riding of Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry. 

With 2010 having been the national “Year of the Home Children”, I had hoped that my Private Members’ Bill would have been passed before the end of last year. Unfortunately, the official opposition would not cause this to happen, so I’m following another route in order to have an official day for recognition of the British Home Children in Ontario, September 28th.

On Thursday, May 19th, through the kindness of MPP Monte Kwinter, I will have a chance to re-introduce my British Home Child Day bill, and to have it passed through Second and Third Readings. MPP Kwinter gave up his 15th spot in Private Members’ business, so that I could re-introduce my bill.

As you may know, my previous bills have either died or stalled in the Justice Committee. This time, I will have the bill co-sponsored, with PC MPP Steve Clark and NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo agreeing to be co-sponsors. I’ll be moving Second and Third Reading on that day, and then it will require Royal Assent, a formality from the Lieutenant-Governor’s office. The bill will not be referred to the Justice Committee.

Having said the above, I would be honoured to have you as my guest in the Ontario Legislature on Thursday, May 19th. Mine will be the third bill debated on that afternoon, with the first debate beginning around 1:20 pm. The debate for each bill last for about 50 minutes. 

Following the debate, I would like to invite you to the Duke of York, 39 Prince Arthur Avenue, Toronto, for a toast to our Home Child ancestors. 

I would be honoured to welcome you to the Legislature, and I thank all who have supported me in the past. I look forward to the day that we will have an official day in Ontario to recognize our Home Child ancestors who contributed so much to the development of our province, with little or no recognition. This is our opportunity to honour and celebrate their legacy!

Christine Shaver, my Legislative Assistant is taking the lead on this project, and she may be reached at In the riding, I have asked my new Constituency Assistant, Alex de Wit to assist with my latest quest. His email is

Kindest regards,

Jim Brownell, MPP
Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry

Genealogical volunteer work.

I have been interested in genealogy for most of my adult life and since moving to Toronto in 2007, have gotten involved with the Toronto branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society.  In the past year, I’ve joined the Enquiries team, a small group that responds to requests for information that come in to the Branch from researchers around the world who would like assistance accessing records available in local libraries and archives.  I have done “look-ups” at the North York Central Library (mostly the Canadiana Room) as well as the Archives of Ontario and these are of great help to me as I learn about how to access these records while doing the work.

Recently, a request came in for records from the London Insane Asylum. The Archives of Ontario holds these records and they are available in a couple of forms.  Lists of patients are available in their original notebooks, stored in archival boxes, and I was able to take digital photographs of these for our client.



The actual case files are on microfilm, and the film-readers are driven by computers that let you save the images to an external storage device like a USB stick or portable hard drive.  

I find this kind of research very interesting and I try to undertake a few lookups for my own personal research when I’m at the Archives or library.

Late last year I was asked to blog for Simcoe’s Gentry, a project of the Toronto Branch that is documenting the original Park Lots granted under Lord Simcoe in the Town of York.  Their website is an ongoing repository of research, and the blog will help to introduce people to the work.  The first post was in February and is here. You can scroll through the posts using the navigation at the upper right of that page.  This is a very interesting project and I’m getting to know a lot about the history of Toronto.


[1851 Township of York – The original map can be seen at the Toronto Reference Library (call number 912.71354b68)]

Finally, I have taken on the role of Twitter-mistress for the branch, sending out announcements of interest to our followers every couple of days. These can include meeting reminders, course information, history or heritage events of interest to genealogists in Toronto, and links to new online resources.  We set up the account in late January and hit 100 followers today, which suggests that we are offering a service of value to both our members and other followers with similar interests. You can follow us at