As Luck Would Have It: March Genealogy Blog Party

Elizabeth O’Neal has posted the theme for the March genealogy blog party and, not much of a surprise, it is related to luck, whether it be the luck of the Irish (alas, I have no Irish lines) or other kinds of luck.

Since I have no known Irish ancestors, I’ll share a piece of genealogical good fortune that happened a number of years ago.

My 3X great grandfather, Thomas Coleman (1800-1888) married Mary Elizabeth Astle (1809-1889) on 22 June 1830 in Nelson, Northumberland, New Brunswick, Canada.Their son, William was born there on 10 June 1834 and about 1836, the family removed to Calais, Washington, Maine.

It was a real struggle trying to connect Mary Elizabeth Astle to her parents, in spite of the fact that ASTLE was an extremely uncommon surname in New Brunswick and even in the colonial United States during the American Revolution.

In fact, the only Astle to be found in the colonies was James Astle, thought to have been born c1740-45, place unknown, who married Elizabeth McLean on 20 November 1770 in Schenectady, New York. The Astles were Loyalists and traveled first to Sorel, Quebec in 1783 and then moved on to Ludlow and Nelson in Northumberland County.

James and Elizabeth had six known children: Hannah, Angelica, John, Daniel, Joseph and probably Elizabeth.

I was positive that John, Daniel or Joseph was the father of Mary Elizabeth, but I needed proof.

First, I eliminated Daniel because William MacKinnon, who published Over the Portage, about early life on the Miramichi River, stated in a footnote that Daniel died young and unmarried. Daniel did, indeed, die before 20 November 1817, when his brother, John, was administrator of his estate and posted a notice in the newspaper, which has survived.

That left John and Joseph to research. It took quite a while – three or four years – but I finally determined that John, who married Hannah Underhill, had three known surviving children – James Leonard, Maria Rebecca and Elizabeth (born and died in 1807). Church records seem to be quite complete and no further children born to them could be located.

That left Joseph, who married a woman named Mary (and I suspect her maiden name was Cooper, but haven’t proved it) about 1810. They had quite a few children born between 1811 and 1833 – David, James Peter, Julia Ann, John Cooper, Maria, Sarah Elizabeth, Mahala Ann and George McLean.

There was no Mary Elizabeth to be found.

That left Daniel Astle, so I turned my attention back to him. He was born in Quebec, according to Mary Elizabeth’s census information, and since the Astles were only there from 1783 to about 1784, he was probably born about 1783. Dying in 1817, Daniel would have been 33 or 34 years old, so was he really unmarried or was his family MIA?

I don’t really believe in genealogical luck, as I think success has a lot more to do with persistence. This all happened before the internet age, so I hired a Canadian professional genealogist and, later, accessed microfilmed records in Salt Lake City at the Famiy History Library.

I started digging deep. Probate research was quick, as there were no results for Daniel Astle found.

Next, I began searching all of the Astle land deeds I could find. Even though Daniel died in 1817, I learned long ago to search very wide time spans and that practice led to my “lucky” find:

The deed is quite lengthy and the only important part of it in terms of this post is the last line of the first portion found at the bottom of the deed book:

“Thomas Coleman of Calais in the State of Maine Yeoman and Elizabeth (next page), his wife”

I had my proof. I guess the moral of this story is that luck happens when genealogists do their own work and leave no stone unturned.

Bill MacKinnon did include the family of Daniel Astle in the revised edition of Over the Portage, which I appreciated very much. He even autographed my book.




6 thoughts on “As Luck Would Have It: March Genealogy Blog Party”

  1. Deeds! Not luck but your persistence and skill cracked the case. Congratulations on proving this…and next time we chose ancestors, can’t they have distinctive given names as well as surnames?

  2. It must have been very gratifying to have the results of your hard work included in Over the Portage.

  3. Loved this story, as I can relate. My Mum’s side is all from New Brunswick, specifically the Miramichi. When I was going through my family history I was having troubles trying to piece everything together… which is actually hilarious and ties in nicely with this linkup! Luck of the Irish we happen to both be participating 🙂

    – Alex

  4. Awesome find, Linda! I completely agree that what looks like luck is just sheer persistence. You never know what you’ll find in the most unusual places. Thank you for sharing this story in the March Genealogy Blog Party. I’m always happy to have you participate! 🙂

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