Saturday Night Genealogy Fun – Who Made a Critical Life Decision?

This week, Randy Seaver’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge is to share the story of the person in our family tree who made a critical life decision.

I would have to say that the person in my tree who probably made the most critical life decision was one of my Loyalist ancestors, John Adams, and that decision was to remain loyal to King George III.

John’s 2X great grandfather, Edward Adams, settled in Milford, Connecticut about 1640 and the family soon moved from New Haven County into Fairfield County, where they lived at the time of the American Revolution.

John Adams was born c1740 and married Sarah Coley on 31 August 1765 in Fairfield County. She was the daughter of Jonathan Coley and Lucy Sturges.

As the colonies drew closer to declaring war against England, families were often split in their political leanings. The Adams and Coley families were no different. Although there were patriots living in the suburban area around New York City, Fairfield County was a hotbed of Loyalism.

The Adams family was living in Westport, which even then apparently was a very well-to-do community. John Adams pledged his support to the king, as did several cousins and in-laws. I don’t know what his occupation was before the war – perhaps farmer – but he put his life and livelihood, along with that of his young family, on the line, when he took a political stand.

By the fall of 1783, the Adams family was no longer living in Connecticut. During the war, they had fled to New Jersey, where John and his eldest son, Jonathan, served in the Commissary General’s office, and then sailed to New Brunswick, Canada to start over. They had lost everything.

When John and Sarah reached Canada, they were the parents of eight young children with the ninth, my ancestor Thomas, born soon after they got off the ship. One more child, William, was born in 1785, also in New Brunswick.

What kind of life did the Adams family develop in Canada? I haven’t found any evidence that they settled on land that John owned. In fact, the only mention of John Adams on a piece of property is in an 1818 land deed that essentially called him a squatter on Adams Island, part of the West Isles of New Brunswick, Canada.

The island is uninhabited today, but even back then I doubt there were more than several families living there and they made their living as fishermen. I have no idea what Sarah thought about this desolate life far away from her family and friends, nor is there any indication of when she died. John himself appeared in no other records after the 1818 mention. By 1851, most of the family had left Adams Island and settled on much larger Deer Island.

I would love to talk to John to ask him if he ever regretted his political stance. The family truly lost their way of life. In return, they had to survive a rough life on a small, almost totally uninhabited island.

To add insult to injury, at least two of John’s sons, Sturges and Thomas, moved back into the United States and died in Maine. Many of his grandchildren also left Canada and removed first to Maine and then to Massachusetts.

John Adams must have been rolling in his grave, having given up so much, only to have children and grandchildren return to the United States.

4 thoughts on “Saturday Night Genealogy Fun – Who Made a Critical Life Decision?”

  1. Very interesting that they left the country for Canada to remain loyal to the crown. I had read of people leaving PA to head for Canada because they did not want to fight due to religious convictions. Great post. I enjoyed reading it.

  2. It must have felt like an awful knife in the back to him for them to come to the US after all he and their mother gave up. I imagine that such wars have given birth to a lot of grave-rolling. The things we do to our forefathers….

    I enjoyed your post, though it has much sadness in it with them having to leave the life they knew behind. I’ve been there. That is what my post is about. Here’s the link to my post:
    Saturday Night Genealogy Fun

    Have a blessed week!

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