Documenting Loyalists in the Family Tree: Part 2

Yesterday, an overview of colonial geography and an overview of several immigrant groups to Canada were introduced.

Today, let’s take a look at some of my Canadian ancestors who fit into these immigrant groups. My experience is almost 100% in New Brunswick records, but these examples are universal to all Canadian provinces with Loyalist histories.

The main takeaway from this post is that a researcher must verify not only a potential Loyalist ancestor, but also verify that he/she qualifies as a United Empire Loyalist.

So, how did I document my Canadian ancestors? My research method wasn’t any different than the process I use for any person in my family tree. I worked my way back in time.

First, here’s a list of some of my Canadian ancestors. I’m American and my direct lines place the births of my great grandparents in the U.S. Things changed quickly after that and each ancestral story is slightly different.

At first glance, I thought I had a boat load of Loyalist ancestors, as all but Robert Carlisle had proven lives in the colonies before the war.

  • John Adams
  • Samuel Hicks
  • Philip Crouse
  • Benjamin Burt
  • Robert Carlisle
  • Robert Wilson
  • Walter Stewart
  • James Astle
  • Jonathan Parker

John Adams was the impetus for hooking me on family history. My mother was an Adams, my grandparents lived in Massachusetts and family lore stated that, although we weren’t descended from the Presidents, the family origin was shared with them, meaning we were descended from Henry Adams of Braintree, Massachusetts – the immigrant ancestor of John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

However, although my grandparents lived in Massachusetts, they were born and raised in Calais, Washington, Maine, just across the border from New Brunswick, Canada.

A quick look at the U.S. census records showed my great grandfather, Charles Adams, was born in Maine, but his father, Calvin Segee Adams, was born in New Brunswick, Canada, as were his parents, Daniel and Sarah Adams, and grandparents, Thomas and Sarah Adams. This was problematic for someone who hoped to find a Revolutionary War patriot because Thomas and Sarah Adams were born in 1783 and 1787! In New Brunswick!

By contacting a genealogical society in New Brunswick, I learned that a huge portion of New Brunswick settlers were Loyalists and, in fact, my line connected to John Adams of Fairfield County, Connecticut. The family fled during the war and lived for a time in the New York-New Jersey area, working for the (British) Commissary General’s Department. My first Loyalist!

But what of the others on my Canadian ancestral list?

Samuel Hicks was a Pre-Loyalist, who left Rhode Island in the 1760s.

Philip Crouse was a Dutchman from Zeeland, Netherlands. He first appears in New Brunswick, petitioning land in 1789. He was reportedly from North Carolina, but appears in no records there, has no known military service and it is also unknown exactly when he arrived in New Brunswick. Was he a Loyalist or did he simply decide to emigrate for a different life, perhaps following friends or family?

Benjamin Burt was a Loyalist from Ridgefield, Connecticut. He and his family left for Nova Scotia in 1783, but Benjamin died there in 1785. His family remained in Canada.

Robert Carlisle‘s family origins are unknown. He has no known ties to any American colonies before the war, but was one of the defenders in the siege of Fort Cumberland, New Brunswick, against an American attack. His widow, Catherine, received a pension for his services. Interestingly, while he is my only Canadian ancestor who fought against Americans, he moved his family to Charlotte, Washington, Maine, where he died in 1834. Given that I’ve yet to find any pre-war American connection, I don’t really classify Robert as a Loyalist. He is the only one of my Canadian ties to have military experience, but he was living in Nova Scotia and defended his home. It’s possible he was a Pre-Loyalist, but I’ve had no luck identifying his parents, siblings, wife’s maiden name or any previous home. He might have been born in Canada.

Robert Wilson was a Sudbury, Massachusetts-to-Campobello Island, New Brunswick transplant who was a Pre-Loyalist, living on the island by 1766. He took part in pro-American activities during the war.

Walter Stewart was a Loyalist from Dutchess County, New York who chose to leave in 1783. He has no known military service and settled in Kings County, New Brunswick, Canada.

James Astle was a Loyalist from Schenectady, New York, who first appears in Sorel, Quebec by 1784. He then moved his family to Restigouche County, New Brunswick and finally to the town of Ludlow, Northumberland, New Brunswick in the 1790s. He has no known military service.

Jonathan Parker was from New Jersey and was an Anabaptist in religious belief. Like the Quakers, Anabaptists were against war. Jonathan is classed as a refugee Loyalist, but it is very possible that, because he refused to support the American cause – likely because of his religious beliefs – he found it prudent to leave for Nova Scotia at the close of the war.

Each of these men, on the surface, could easily be classified as Loyalists, absent further research. However, delving into their lives, the facts tell very different stories about how and why they ended up living in New Brunswick.

Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that, for most of these men, by the third generation (their grandchildren), many had returned to the United States.

How can you document Loyalists in the family tree? Next, I’ll provide both American and Canadian resource suggestions to help with your search.

2 thoughts on “Documenting Loyalists in the Family Tree: Part 2”

  1. Very interesting. Go looking for Patriots and find Loyalists! Good luck on further research on the ones as yet undetermined. I have discovered among my collateral kin in Revolutionary New England a “rascally Tory,” as town records characterize him. I’m looking forward to your next entry.

  2. Following along on your Loyalist journey as I look for one Loyalist way back a long way in my husband’s family tree!

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