Benjamin Brawn, My Ancestor – or Not???

My 4x great grandfather, Thomas Adams, son of Loyalist John Adams and Sarah Coley from Fairfield County, Connecticut married a young lady named Sarah Brawn on 28 August 1803 in Maugerville, New Brunswick, Canada.

Thomas was born, according to the 1851 Canadian census, about 1783 in New Brunswick. If that is true, then he was born late in that year because the American Revolution was ending. His parents and eight older siblings boarded the British ships sailing out of New York that fall and headed to Canada. Sarah Brawn, according to census records,  was born about 1786, also in New Brunswick, Canada. Sarah apparently predeceased Thomas as they were living in Canada for the 1851 census, but both gone in 1861. Thomas is found in the Calais, Maine 1860 mortality schedule, with death reported as July 1859 when he must have been living with son, Daniel’s family.

Sarah has not been found in the U.S. or Canadian records after 1851.

Although Sarah’s maiden name is known from their marriage record at the Maugerville Anglican Church, I have never seen any clues, suppositions or theories about her parents and possible siblings.

I think that is a bit odd, especially as Thomas’s older brother, Sturges, born in 1777 in Connecticut, married Lydia Brawn, about 1807, probably in New Brunswick. Lydia may well be the sister of Sarah Brawn. Lydia was also born in New Brunswick about 1787 and died on 1 January 1866, just across the border in Calais, Washington, Maine. Sturges Adams predeceased her by many years, dying in Calais on 12 January 1827. Lydia married (2) John Foster. He was born about 1769 and died on 20 September 1867. All are buried in Calais, Maine.

Family records record the maiden names of both Sarah and Lydia as “BRAWN,” not Brown. For many years, I thought the name, being so common, might be either spelling, but I have come around to the way of thinking that their name was, indeed, Brawn.

Sarah and Lydia lived in close proximity to each other all their lives. People traveled daily back and forth from Calais to the West Isles and they were close in age so could easily be sisters.

I have searched off and on for years for Brawn parents who might be the parents of Sarah and Lydia. Family lore said they thought the Brawns were from Lubec, but nothing has ever come of that and I don’t think it’s true anyway, since both ladies reported births in New Brunswick. I believe the answer is in New Brunswick records.

It is always worth taking another look at sources you’ve reviewed before. The Provincial Archives of New Brunswick is one of my favorite Canadian websites and more records are being added to it all the time. More transcribed records are also being added to Canadian genealogical websites, too.

I think I have found a candidate to be the father of Sarah and Lydia Brawn. He is in the right place at the right time and is a known associate of members of this family by marriage.

The 1761 lists of the first settlers of Maugerville, Sunbury County, New Brunswick includes the name “Benjamin Brawn.” A group of pre-Loyalists left Newburyport, Massachusetts in that year and headed to a new life in Canada. Although the settlers departed from Newburyport, not all of them were actually inhabitants of that town. Benjamin Brawn was not from Newburyport and I have found no clues yet as to where his home might have been.

Regardless, Benjamin Brawn (always BRAWN, not “Brown”, just as with the few records of Sarah’s and Lydia’s surname) settled there by 1761. The Maugerville Anglican Church was founded there very early on, but its earliest surviving records cover the time period from 1787-1803 and then jump to 1847. Thus, there are no birth or baptismal records for possible children of Benjamin.

There are a few crumbs of a trail indicating that Benjamin Brawn remained in Maugerville for the rest of his life. In 1785, he is mentioned in the land petition records of John Sayre when he applied to block his request for Lot 51.

More importantly, in 1790, he is named as one of the proprietors of Oromocto Island. The important point in this petition is that another of the proprietors is Nicholas Rideout, also a pre-Loyalist who settled early in the area. His daughter, Grace, married Jonathan Adams, the eldest brother of Thomas and Sturges Adams. With this tie, it is reasonable to assume that the Brawn family knew the Adams Loyalists.

Aside from a few mentions in the land records, Benjamin Brawn left little paper trail. There is a burial record for him at the Maugerville Anglican Church on 8 December 1798.

The New Brunswick Royal Gazette, published on 2 April 1799, gives notice that Elijah Miles was appointed executor of the estate of Benjamin Brawn.

All the pieces are beginning to fit together:

1. There is only one man with the Brawn surname early in New Brunswick and that is Benjamin, there by 1761. Thus, he could be the father of daughters born in New Brunswick in the 1780’s.|
2. Benjamin settled in Maugerville, where the Loyalist Adams clan lived for a time after they arrived in Canada. Thomas Adams married Sarah Brawn at the Maugerville Church in 1803, the same church where Benjamin Brawn was buried five years before.
3. Thomas and Sturges Adams’ sister, Hannah Segee, her husband and family appear in the early church records there and it is probable that the younger family members, still unmarried, attended this church.

Now, it is time to throw a monkey wrench into the mix, at least the part about Sarah Brawn. No marriage record has been found for Sturges and Lydia Brawn, but with their first child born in April 1808, it is reasonable to believe they married about 1806 or 1807, probably at the Maugerville Anglican Church, whose early records stop in 1803.

Now, back to that little notice in the New Brunswick Royal Gazette that I mentioned just a bit ago. An executor had been appointed, not an administrator. Remember, too, that I mentioned that it is always worth another review when working on brick walls.

It took some time before I found an abstract of the will of Benjamin, indexed as “Brown.” Benjamin’s will, dated 24 June 1793 was proved on 3 January 1799. Wife, un-named,(but called Mary in other records) was to receive half of his farm in Maugerville for life. Their daughter Phebe was to inherit the other half  and receive the widow’s half when she died. There are two unnamed grandchildren, a son and daughter of son Benjamin, who Benjamin Sr. directs  to be supported by his wife and daughter Phebe until they come of age “or removed by their father.” I am not sure why a grandson and granddaughter were living with and being raised by a grandmother and aunt when their father was still alive, but it may well be that Benjamin Jr.’s wife died and he had not remarried by the time of the will.

Further, Benjamin names another son William, son Benjamin, daughter Lydia, daughter Mary, and daughter Susannah and leaves each with a 5 shilling inheritance.

Two executors were named: Elijah Miles and Gerhardus Clows, although only Elijah was confirmed in 1799. Perhaps Gerhardus Clows either declined or had died by then.  Witnesses to the will were Israel Perley Sr., Israel Perley Jr. and  Solomon Perley. The Perleys were also early settlers in Maugerville and had likely known the Brawns for many years.

Notice that Benjamin did, indeed, have a daughter, Lydia and I feel certain that Lydia Brawn Adams Foster was the daughter of Benjamin Brawn. One name, though, is glaringly missing and that is Sarah Brawn. Sarah would have only been about seven when this will was written so she clearly would have been named by her father.

Absolutely no records have been found indicating a year of birth for Benjamin Sr., his wife or Benjamin Jr., Phebe, William, Mary or Susannah. Some online trees give a birth year of 1743 for Benjamin Sr., but I believe that to be too late. He would not have been on a list of grantees of land if he had not reached legal age so he was born no later than 1740, but who knows how much earlier than that? I also believe that Benjamin Jr. was one of the oldest children, as he had not only married, but had two children in 1793.

My theory about Lydia and Sarah being sisters has now evolved. I believe they were aunt and niece, even though only a couple of years separated them in age. I think Sarah Brawn was the unnamed granddaughter, daughter of Benjamin Jr., named in her grandfather’s will.

I will continue taking extra looks at this family to see if later records, – like land deeds (although none exist for just Mary Brawn or for a Phebe Brawn, who likely married) – shed more light on this family because I think I’m finally on the right track, but all I have is preponderance of evidence.

Thoughts, anyone? Please leave a comment.





7 thoughts on “Benjamin Brawn, My Ancestor – or Not???”

  1. Do you know the origin of the family name Brawn? My Brawn ancestors lived in Dexter, ME and growing up I was told they were Scottish, but a conversation with a cousin of my grandmother a few months before he died said the Brawns were Welsh. So far I can only get back as far as Ebenezer Brawn born in Maine in 1806.

    1. Marti,

      I am Kenneth Brawn’s daughter, Melanie. I will contact you on Ancestry DNA, since we are linked there.

  2. P.S. The cousin, Kenneth Brawn, did mention a Peter Brawn who canoed up the Kennebec and had an Indian wife.

  3. Hi Linda,

    I have a theory I’d like to run by you! I think Benjamin Brawn may be the son of Peter Brann of Pro Kittery, York, Maine, USA. The timing works.

    Let me know what you think!

    If this is in fact the case – the Brawns may be descended from a Micheal Brawn born 1615 in Devenshire, England

    Some of the records spell the last name Brann/Brawn

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