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.





Recommended Reads

Recommended Reads

Here are my picks of the week:

Research Resources

Was Your Ancestor a Miner? Mining Resources for Genealogists by James Tanner on Genealogy’s Star

FamilySearch’s New Vermont-Canada Border Crossings Collection Contains Much More Than the Misleading Title Suggests by Gail Dever on Genealogy a la Carte

British Goad Fire Insurance Maps by John D. Reid on Canada’s Anglo-Celtic Connections

52 Ancestors #25: Working with Land Patents and Plat Maps by Schalene Dagutis on Tangled Roots and Trees

Freedmen’s Bureau Records – Volunteer Indexing Effort of 4 Million Freed Slave Records Underway by Diane L. Richard on UpFront with NGS. Volunteers got the 1940 U.S. census done in a matter of months. Sign up and help.

Have You Thought About Researching Business Records? AND

Finding Business Records – A Real Challenge, both by James Tanner on Genealogy’s Star

NARA Article Explains US-Canadian Border Crossings Collection by Gail Dever on Genealogy a la Carte

Savannah, Georgia Digital Images Now Available Online by Leland Meitzler on GenealogyBlog

Quick Tip – Find Graves on Photos of Churches by Yvette Hoitink on Dutch Genealogy. This is a great tip that can be used anywhere if your church had burials/gravestones right next to the church building itself.

Ancestry Has Over 700 Free Data Collections by Randy Seaver on Genea-Musings


Update on the Livescribe Pen by Janine Adams on Organize Your Family History

Family Stories

John Vincent: War of 1812 Veteran and “Habitual Drunkard” by Dana (Stewart) Leeds on The Enthusiastic Genealogist

Where Do I Come From? by Mark on DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy. This is a great read about an adoptee’s path to finding his birth family!

Is There a Cadet Nurse From WWII in Your Family Tree? by Heather Wilkinson Rojo on Nutfield Genealogy

52 Ancestors: The Old Homestead – She Ain’t What She Used to Be by Wendy on Jollett Etc.

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up! by LJacobs63 on No Stone Unturned

Lois McNiel (c1786-1830s), Eloped?, 52 Ancestors #77 by Roberta J. Estes on DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

Oh, Foolish Young Love by Joanne Cowden on Researching Relatives

The Sibling Problem by Schalene Dagutis on Tangled Roots and Trees

Grandma’s Hug by Amy Archibald on Revealing Roots and Branches

Issues, Theory, General Info and Methodology

Copyright Infringement or Common Occurance? (sic) by Nancy on My Ancestors and Me

Old Dogs, New Tricks by Tony Proctor on Parallax View

Grandma Isn’t Playing Nice. . . on either Side by Tracy Meyers on Family Preserves

A Quick Count: The Revolution in Genealogy Blogs by James Tanner on Genealogy’s Star. Are personal genealogy blogs on the decline?

The Emperor’s New Clothes: A Pep Talk AND

On the Other Hand, both by Jacqi Stevens on A Family Tapestry

The Scourge of Phthisis (Tuberculosis) by Wayne Shepheard on Discover Genealogy

Such a Huge Abandoned Cemetery in Pennsylvania by Lorine McGinnis Schulze on Olive Tree Genealogy

Trying to Find Common Ancestors for Close DNA Matches by Randy Seaver on Genea-Musings. Randy has begun a new researching quest.

Why You Can’t Find Great-Grandpa’s Death Registration by Lorine McGinnis Schulze on Olive Tree Genealogy


Family History Library Announces Free Webinar Classes for July 2015 by Leland Meitzler on GenealogyBlog

Indiana Genealogy Resources

Another state that I’ve visited, metaphorically speaking, for family history research is Indiana, mainly because my husband’s very large Miller ancestors and siblings moved far and wide after they migrated from Virginia about 1813.

There are many more records available online today than when I was working on the family. Here are links to current websites:

Indiana State Library – This website about encompasses everything as it not only has to records at the state level and a link to INGenWeb, it also has individual links to each county in the state.

In spite of comprehensive information on that site, I would still like to highlight several other sites so you are aware of them if Indiana is a state linked to your family history.

Indiana Digital Archives – This link will take you to photos, institutional records, military records, naturalizations and other historical records. What I like about this site is that it even has a list of “Coming Soon” so if what you need isn’t online yet, you can check to see if it is in the queue.

Allen County Public Library holds one of the foremost genealogical collections in the United States, although not all of its materials by any means are available digitally. This link will take you to its page of database links which are free to all and can be accessed from anywhere.

IN GenWeb is a robust site with lots of information on it. If you aren’t familiar with US Gen Web, each site on it is hosted by volunteers. The amount and quality of information depends on community contributions and records that exist. Most information is grouped by counties. If a county is a “burned” county with major record loss, there may be less information posted than from a county with mostly complete records. However, all US GenWeb sites are free and I have found superb information, thanks to the generosity of others. has an excellent list of links to various Indiana records. If the link says access is free, it is likely to records collected by the Family History Library. Dollar signs mean paid sites, such as Ancestry, fold3, etc. Some links are to index-only databases and they are so noted. Look carefully at the link choices. For example, there are two links to an Indiana death index, 1882-1920. One is free and the other is a paid site. They appear to be the same database, shared on two sites.

Online Indiana Death Records and Indexes – This site has a compilation of death records available online for Indiana. Some links are to free sites and some note that access is by subscription.

Indiana State Library Genealogy Database: Marriages Through 1850 – If your family was in Indiana pre-1850 and had members who married there before that date, then use this search engine to locate the marriages.

Sullivan County Public Library – Their genealogy database page indicates that new information is being entered daily and there are already multiple links to online records. If your family lived in Sullivan County, be sure to check this site out.

Vigo County Public Library has a couple of excellent resources on line, the Local History Books Online Index and Wars and Military Records concerning those who served from Vigo County, including some links to Grand Army of the Republic records.

Wabash Valley Visions and Voices Digital Memory Project – The Wabash Valley is partly in Indiana and partly in Illinois, centered on the Wabash River. Larger cities in the region include Clinton, Lafayette, Mount Carmel, Princeton, Terre Haute, and Vincennes.

Indiana Historical Society – There is a digital image collection available online that include early maps, documents and photos. Take some time to browse through them.

In addition to these sites, be sure to search your county of interest and even the towns of interest as there may be other online resources available.

Happy hunting!