my personal space on the web

George Porteous, 1818-1898

I have a large inventory of material for George Porteous. I’ll post all of my material here as I go through the many documents and details I have collected about my great-great-grandfather.


Not all of the images for this page have been uploaded. I’m working on it…


George Porteous gave his place of birth as England on the 1851, 1861 and 1871 Ontario censuses. He was double-entered on this latter census; his family provided census details on his behalf, as did the Provincial Insane Asylum in Toronto to which he was admitted late in December, 1870.

The International Genealogical Index, which is available on the Web at, shows a single entry for a George Porteous when we search for a person by that name who was born in England in the year 1818 (the approximate year of birth based on the age given in the above censuses, and inscribed on his tombstone at the Pine Grove Cemetery in Prince Albert, Ontario). His parents are listed as George Porteus and Ann. There is an 1809 marriage in Dunnington, Yorkshire between a George Porteus and an Ann Simpson; I strongly believe they are my great-great-grandfather’s parents. George and Ann had moved to the village of Elvington, Yorkshire some time before the 1814 birth of their son William.


BAPTISMS solemnized in the Parish of Elvington in the county of York in the Year one thousand eight hundred and eighteen. Elvington is just outside the “historic city of York”.

When Baptized Child’s Christian Name Parents Names Abode Profession By Whom
July 26 George George and Ann Porteus Elvington Labourer Illegible

A search of an 1841 UK census microfilm revealed a George Porteous of the right age (22) living in the village of Youlthorpe and working as a “male servant”, which in those days was how an indentured farm labourer was classified. The census takers were instructed to round the ages of adults down to the nearest 5 years; fortunately, not all census takers did so.


George Porteous married Margaret Stewart, most likely late in 1845 or early in 1846. Their first known son, William Simpson Porteous, was born 30 Sep 1846. William’s 1930 obituary states “Mr. Porteous was born in Markham Township, York County, but he spent the greater part of his life farming in this vicinity.”. The Wesleyan Methodist Baptismal registers indicate a birth place of Reach Township as does William’s marriage registration. It is difficult to know why the obituary is somewhat emphatic about his place of birth.

I know only that Margaret’s parents were Irish, and that she was born in the United States around 1823.


The Ontario Land Record Index has two entries for a George Porteous; my understanding of these indexes is that they show only the first person to acquire a particular property. I have uncovered additional land transactions, but they need to be better organized. The first of the OLRI entries is dated 11 Oct 1845 and is for the southern half of Lot 2, Concession 5 of Reach Township, Ontario County. The second entry is dated 27 Jan 1863; the land was located in Somerville Township, Ontario County. Having visited Somerville Township, an area that is ideal for cottages but whose rocky ground would seem to make farming very difficult, it appears obvious why the family did not remain there.

Illness and Hospitalization

On 1 Dec 1870, for reasons as yet unknown, George Porteous was incarcerated in the Whitby Gaol; no charge was specified. As was probably usual for the time and location, most of George Porteous’ fellow inmates had been charged with public intoxication (“drunk”). George’s name is near the bottom of the excerpt from the jail’s admission register below:

On 20 Dec 1870, a warrant, signed by the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Sir William Pearce Howland, was issued to Nelson Gilbert Reynolds, sheriff of Ontario County to convey George Porteous to the Provincial Lunatic Asylum at Toronto. The cover of this 1870 warrant follows:

The jail register shows that George Porteous was discharged on December 28, 1870, and I believe he was escorted on the trip between Whitby and Toronto by the prison doctor, Dr. Robert Gunn (At “Dr. Robert Gunn, Mayor of Whitby in 1862 and 1867-68 and surgeon at the Ontario County Jail.”):

“Dr. Gunn is not prepared to say whether he would be benefited [sic]. This Gunn fires less loudly than Dr. Shaver – see 3695.”

George is the only person in our family history to be hospitalized for such an illness. To be added FIXME: a copy of the asylum admission register showing the entry for George Porteous.

The provincial insane asylum in Toronto (date unknown)


George Porteous died of senile decay at the Asylum 19 Jul 1898 and was buried the following day at the Pine Grove Cemetery in Prince Albert, Ontario. It is not known whether his wife or any of his other family members visited him while he was a patient. We do know that his son George, my great-grandfather, lived in Toronto no later than 1874 and left the city in 1875. A conversation with a retired head of the hospital, which is now known as the Queen Street Mental Health Centre, led to the conclusion that the senior George’s “illness” was of an organic, not a behavioural, nature and may have been the result of some kind of injury or physical illness. In the past, the reasons for admission were far broader than they are today.


I found the following marriage registration at It is interesting to see that a John Porteous was a witness at William Howland’s marriage:

12 July 1843 – William Pearse HOWLAND of Lambton, Home District married Mary Ann WEBB of the same place, widow of the late [blank] WEBB of the City of New York, deceased. Witn: John PORTEOUS & John HOLMES

One very unusual coincidence: In 1969 or 1970, I attended a party at a large home near the intersection of Rathburn Road and Islington Avenue in Etobicoke, Ontario. I now believe that this was one of the homes of Sir William Pearce Howland, the man who signed my great-great-grandfather’s Asylum admission warrant. Given that our family came to the area from British Columbia, some 4,500 kilometers to the west, this is an amazing coincidence. This excerpt from a Web site gives William Pearce Howland’s exact address:

“Thorncrest Village is named after the former summer home of Sir William Pearce Howland, one of Ontario’s first Lieutenant Governors. Thorncrest house, built in 1854 is still standing today, set back from the street at 36 Rathburn Road.”

Written by Doug

January 24th, 2012 at 2:21 pm