Loyalist James Astle is my 5X great grandfather. Through the decades – yes, decades – I’ve gathered tidbits of his life from marriage until death, but I’ve never found a shred of evidence as to his parentage, or the parents of his wife, Elizabeth McLane/McLean, for that matter.
I’ve written about my Astle family several times through the years, but I don’t think I’ve blogged about all the puzzle pieces I’ve found at one time. For this post, a timeline will do nicely to put the facts about James and his family in chronological order.
First, James was probably born
on Mars in England around 1745. Both he and his wife, Elizabeth McLane, appear to have been of legal age when they married as no permissions are mentioned in the church record.
There are NO other Astles or McLane/McLean persons who married in Dutchess County in the same time period as James and Elizabeth except for one Mary McLean who married Heugh McGuire on 25 January 1780 in Amenia, Dutchess, New York. Nothing further has been found on this couple.
James Astle died in Northumberland County, New Brunswick, Canada before 15 March 1815 when the notice of his estate administration was published.
Timeline of Loyalist James Astle’s Life
1770, 23 Nov – married Elizabeth McLane, Dutch Reformed Church, Schenectady, New York
1773, 17 May – daughter Hannah born
1773, 1 June – daughter Hannah buried
1773 – James Astle took out a mortgage on a lot in the Kayoderoserra Land Grant
1774, 19 June – daughter Angelica baptized, Schenectady, NY
c1778 – birth of Hannah, who married Benjamin Davis, and is thought to be James’s daughter, probably in New York
c1779 – birth of son John, probably in New York
c1783 – son Daniel born in Quebec, possibly Sorel
1784 – James Astle Sr. and James Astle Jr. on Paspebiac, Quebec passenger list
c1785 – birth of son Joseph, reported as New Brunswick in the census, but likely Quebec, based on the 1786 census, below
1786 – Quebec Census – James Astle, tailor, married – had females aged 12 and 7, males 6, 2 and 1 in his Paspebiac, Quebec, Canada home
c1788 – birth of Elizabeth, who married John Mitchell, and is though to be James’s daughter, probably in Quebec
1789 – Aug 1800 – lived in Restigouche, Chaleur Bay, based on a deposition given by James on 26 February 1801
1801 – received land on the Miramichi River;
1802 – Overseer of Fisheries, Miramichi
1805, March – served on a grand jury
1806, March – Overseer of the Poor
1807, March – reappointed Overseer of the Poor
1809 – Poundkeeper, Miramichi
1809, 20 June – land grant of 400 acres on the Miramichi River
1815 – Overseer of the Poor
1815, 15 March – Notice published for estate administration of James Astle
1820, 3 April – Widow Elizabeth Astle released her dower rights on land James had owned.
Next, let’s look at a map to see where James made his homes:
Source: Google Maps
Before the start of the American Revolution, James lived and married in Dutchess County, New York.
Exactly how he and his family traveled from Schenectady to Quebec, and his whereabouts from 1774 until the 1783 end of the American Revolution, are unknown.
I am a huge believer in the FAN (Friends, Associates, Neighbors) Club and often use this method to gather information about ancestral families.
While this method works well with the Astle records in Canada, it has proved to be a failure in New York and the American colonies, with the few exceptions noted in the timeline.
ASTLE is an extremely uncommon surname in the American colonies. It sometimes is spelled as ASTILL or ASTLES.
There is a Benjamin Astill who left a Suffolk County, Massachusetts will in 1738. He was from Jamaica, had a wife and three children and named brothers living in England.
There is a Daniel Astle who served in the British Army in New York during the French and Indian War. However, he is too young to have a son marrying in 1770. He could perhaps be a brother of James Astle (who named a son Daniel), but attempts to pinpoint Daniel’s origins in England have not been successful.
In my timeline above, I noted the 1784 Paspebiac lists included one James Astle Sr. and a James Astle Jr. There are descendants of each James – both 4X great grandsons – who have taken Y-DNA tests that indicate a likely common ancestor within about 6 generations.
Although both Jameses were in Paspebiac at the same time, my James (Sr.) and his family arrived in the brig Polly, while (unmarried) James Jr. arrived in the Snow Liberty and had active military service during the war. While James Sr. and family removed to Restigouche and then the Miramichi area, James Jr. settled in New Carlisle, Quebec, where he married and had a large family. James Jr. died in 1823, at the reported age of 64 years, giving a birth year of around 1759.
Unless my James was significantly older than my estimate and had an earlier marriage (no evidence found), then he is too young to be the father of James Jr. Cousins or even uncle-nephew are definitely possibilities, though.
While the Astle surname was rare in colonial America, that wasn’t the case in England and the counties most likely to be the home of the two James Astles are Derby, Stafford and Cheshire.
There is an Astle Project on FamilyTree DNA. However, it is very small and needs lots of English Astles to take a Y-DNA test and share their results. If your surname is ASTLE and you are aware of your English origins, please consider taking a Y-DNA test.
I think the only way more might be learned about the origins of both James Astles is through DNA testing. The paper trails seem to end with the 1770 New York marriage.