Mary Elizabeth Astle looked like she was going to be an easy subject. She was born about November 1809 in Miramichi, Northumberland, New Brunswick, Canada and married Thomas Coleman on 22 June 1830 in Nelson, Northumberland, New Brunswick, Canada. Thomas, from Richmond, Maine, made his way north to Canada in the 1820’s. He might possibly be in the 1820 census household of Joseph Coleman in Calais, Maine, if that Joseph is my guy and Thomas’s father. Mary Elizabeth Astle Coleman died on 26 December 1889 in Calais.
Astle is quite a unique surname in colonial America and I was sure that Mary Elizabeth was a grandchild of Loyalist James Astle, who fled Schenectady, New York in the fall of 1783. He sailed to Canada, first stopping in Paspepiac, Quebec, where he was mentioned on a 1784 list, and then receiving land in New Brunswick with many other Loyalists.
I found little information about Loyalist James back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, before the internet age. William R. MacKinnon, Jr. published Over the Portage, Early History of the Miramichi in 1984. That was my main source of sparse Astle details. I also hired a Canadian researcher to trudge off to the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick to retrieve and documents she could find about James Astle and his children. There weren’t many to be found.
James Astle and his wife, Elizabeth McLean, married in Schenectady, New York on 20 November 1770. Seven children were likely born to them: Hannah, Angelica, Hannah (probably) again, John, Daniel, Joseph and probably Elizabeth. My initial interest in the family was only in the sons, as I was certain that one of them was the father of my Mary Elizabeth.
I mentioned Over the Portage. The original edition of this book mentioned that Daniel Astle, who died before 20 November 1817 in Miramichi, was unmarried and left no children.
His brother John was the administrator of his estate according to a very short newspaper notice.
For the time being, an unmarried childless Daniel Astle left his brothers, John and Joseph, as potential fathers for Mary Elizabeth.
John Astle was born about 1779, likely in New York and married Hannah Underhill on 29 September 1802 in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. They had only three known surviving children: James Leonard, born 18 December 1803, Maria Rebecca, born about 1805, and Elizabeth, a baby who died at the age of four weeks on 28 July 1807. No further records were found for other children.
Joseph Astle was born about 1786, probably in New Brunswick, Canada. He married Mary, possibly maiden name Cooper, about 1810. Their children were David, born about 1811, James Peter, born about 1812, Julia Ann, born about 1816, John Cooper, born 4 June 1816, Maria, born 12 August 1821, Sarah Elizabeth, born 22 April 1823, Mahala Ann, born 12 October 1825 and George McLean, born about 1833.
Neither man left a will and neither seemed promising as Mary Elizabeth’s father.
That brought me back to Daniel Astle. Mary Elizabeth Coleman was enumerated in the 1880 census of Calais, Maine:
Mary Elizabeth reported that she and her mother were both born in New Brunswick. However, she reported that her father was born in QUEBEC! Daniel Astle was likely born between 1780 and 1785 with his family appearing in Paspepiac and Sorel, Quebec about 1783-1784.
When Canadian records became more readily available in the United States, I began searching for all Astles in the New Brunswick land deeds in the 1800’s. On 21 October 1848, thirty-one years after the death of Daniel Astle, a land deed was filed in volume 44, page 588.
It is quite lengthy, but the important part is the opening paragraph, which reads:
This indenture made the twenty first day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and firty eight Between George Rapple of the parish of Nelson in the County of Northumberland, farmer and Jane his wife, James Astle of the same place yeoman, John Astle of the same place Yeoman and Elizabeth his wife George Astle of the parish of Stanley in the County of York and Elizabeth his wife Thomas Coleman of Calais in the state of Maine Yeoman and Elizabeth his wife . . . .
Later in the deed, they are mentioned as heirs of Daniel Astle, deceased.
It was deeply buried, but proof of Mary Elizabeth Astle’s parentage was finally uncovered.
In the revised edition of Over the Portage, which was published in 2000, Bill MacKinnon thanked numerous people for contributions in furthering knowledge of the early settlers on the Miramichi and I was thrilled to see my name included.