Category Archives: Carlisle

New Clue for Loyalist Wife Catherine (MNU) Carlisle or Just a BSO?

I’ve mentioned before that I am one of those “leave no stone unturned” researchers and I have been true to form with my research on the family and origins of Loyalist Robert Carlisle and his wife, Catherine (MNU). The difficulty here is that there just aren’t many stones around to overturn!

A list of Royal Fencible Americans and families, of which Robert Carlisle was a part, was dissected, looking for possible Catherines who could have been his wife.

Robert Carlisle sold land in 1784, with no wife releasing dower rights, but in the summer of 1785, when he again sold some land, Catherine released her rights. Knowing that their first child was born c1785/6, it doesn’t seem like a stretch of the imagination to believe that they married in late 1784 or early 1785.

As a quick review, Carlisle is a very rare surname in Canada around the time of the Revolutionary War. Robert was given Lot 809 in Parrtown (today the city of St. John) in 1784. He must not have liked city life, as that land was sold and he settled in Sussex Vale, Kings County, New Brunswick, Canada, where he lived until the 1820s. His sons removed to Charlotte, Washington, Maine and Robert and Catherine moved with them.

Until that move, I have no evidence that Robert ever lived in the United States or what was formerly the thirteen colonies. The Royal Fencibles were organized in Nova Scotia, where they served until 1783.

Recently, I read an index of those receiving lots in Parrtown, which is where I found the tidbit that Robert owned Lot 809, which today is at the corner of Prince William and Duke Streets in St. John.

What caught my eye while reading the index was the name of “widow Catherine Cleveland,” whom I had never come across in my research. Why did she catch my eye? Well, it was just because she owned Lot 805, which was just three doors away from Robert on Duke Street.

Source: Google Earth

The purple arrow on the bottom is Robert’s Lot 809 on the corner. The upper purple arrow is Lot 805 and Duke Street actually runs east and west.

Could Catherine have been a young widow who lost her husband either through war or sickness? After all, she was given the lot as the widow of a Loyalist, but there were no other obvious clues that might shed more light on who she was.

Catherine’s name was just one of hundreds in a running paragraph summary of who was assigned which lot number in Parrtown. Robert Carlisle’s name was the fourth name after Catherine’s because their lots were close together.

As you can see, she was called “widow” not “widow of,” which left some questions.

Like Carlisle, Cleveland was also a rather uncommon surname in the area in that time period. A quick survey of Loyalist lists produced one William Cleveland, an Ambrose Cleveland and a Keturah (Briggs) Cleveland. There was also a James Cleveland on the ship that brought the Royal Fencibles to Parrtown, but he had no family onboard with him.

Ambrose Cleveland seemed to be a good starting point since his name was less common than William or James. There was a three volume genealogy published in 1899 about the history of the Cleveland family in America, written by Edmund Janes and Horace Gillette Cleveland.

Ambrose Cleveland’s life and family were sketched out and he appears to be my man. Ambrose was born in 1730 in Freetown, Bristol, Massachusetts and, in 1776, at the start of the American Revolution, he picked up and moved to Canada.

He married Keturah Briggs of Berkley, Massachusetts on 4 August 1753. The list of their children seems to be a bit incomplete, although the eldest have recorded dates of birth – Ambrose Jr., Elizabeth, William, Jonathan, and then maybe Sylvia, Rebecca, Susan, Eunice and John.

It is said that Ambrose Cleveland died in St. John about 1782 and that Keturah was still living as of 1784.

Now, I am a bit suspicious by genealogical nature and what bothered me is that Keturah is a very unusual given name. Use your imagination for a moment and think about faded ink and that K sound that could also be made with a C. Now imagine that the H at the end of her name was faded and a bit difficult to read. So much so that it might have been read as a lower case N. So, Keturah might have been read as Keturan. Now add the likelihood that someone thought her name was misspelled and sound it out: Ca ter in. Catherine?

Was my widow Mrs. Catherine Cleveland possibly Keturah Cleveland or was she a separate person really named Catherine?

Next, the index to St. John County land deeds was searched. There was an entry:

Cleveland, C et al to George Livingston in volume E1:108.

A look at volume E1 page 108 brought up the deed and it was the only Cleveland entry found in that volume.

The most important detail was exactly what piece of property was described in this deed. The red arrows answered my question – LOT 805 on Duke Street. It was, indeed, the lot given to widow Catherine Cleveland.

Next most important detail was who were the sellers? They are all listed on the second page of the deed, page 109: Samuel Smiler and Cynthia his wife, Elizabeth Cleveland (described in the deed as the sister of Cynthia Smiler), Jonathan Cleveland and Ambrose Cleveland.

The deed is dated 1 May 1797.

Now, let’s take another look at those children of Ambrose and Keturah Cleveland – Ambrose, Elizabeth, William, Jonathan and maybe Sylvia, etc.

Sellers include Ambrose, Elizabeth and Jonathan and perhaps the sketchy information about a daughter Sylvia might be an error for Cynthia. Jonathan Cleveland named a daughter Cynthia, but she was too young to be the one married to Samuel Smiler.

Unfortunately for me, I think I’ve answered my own question. I believe the widow Catherine Cleveland was actually a misspelling of widow Keturah (Briggs) Cleveland and that she died sometime between a second recording of her land grant on 1 January 1785 and 1 May 1797, when her children sold it off to George Livingston.

I have to say I am very disappointed that I think this was just a shiny BSO. What do you think?





Which Brick Wall Would You Most Like to Bust Wide Open in 2021?

Which brick wall would you most like to have break wide open in 2021? For me, my Loyalist ancestor, Robert Carlisle, is well represented in a brick wall. There are a few chinks, here and there, but not a peep of light shining through anywhere!

I know quite a bit about Robert after he married, probably in Parr Town (today, St. John, New Brunswick, Canada) in the summer of 1785.

I know almost nothing of his life before the American Revolution.

Here is what I do know, working backwards in time:

1. Robert died in 1834 in Charlotte, Washington, Maine, according to widow Catherine’s statement when she applied for a widow’s pension available in Canada for soldiers of the “old war.”
2. The family lived in Sussex Vale, Kings County, New Brunswick, Canada until they removed to Charlotte, Maine in the 1820s.
3. Robert filed two land deeds in St. John in the summer of 1785. Both were for land sales. In the first, no wife released dower rights. In the second, Catherine released her rights, so Robert apparently married in the summer of 1785. That fits with the birth of their first child about 1786.

Before Robert’s appearance in St. John in 1785, I have only one bit of proven information about him. He served with the Royal Fencibles. Again, Catherine supplied that helpful detail in her pension application.

You would think that would be a huge lead for further research. Well, not really. My research has shown that relatively little is known about the Fencibles during the war.

Here are a few facts:

1. The Fencibles were recruited in Boston (Massachusetts), Newfoundland and Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1775. By October of that year, the regiment consisted of about 200 men. However, no muster rolls survive.

2. The only known combat for the Royal Fencibles was the defense of Fort Cumberland, near Sackville, New Brunswick in late 1776.

3. The regiment constructed Fort Howe at the mouth of the St. John River in 1777. They served under Gilbert Studholme there until the end of the war.

4. They disbanded at Fort Howe and Halifax on 10 October 1783.

5. There is no evidence that the Fencibles ever entered the American colonies as a military force.

Back to Robert Carlisle –

The only American census record for Robert shows him living in Charlotte in 1830 with son James and his family. Living next door is another son, John, and his family. The census places Robert’s birth year between 1751-1760 and wife Catherine’s between 1761-1770. Catherine’s pension application indicated she was born in 1761, so the 1830 age categories are likely correct.

I have no evidence that Robert Carlisle ever lived in the American colonies before the Revolutionary War. None of his children lived to the 1880 census in the U.S. or the 1881 Canadian census. If he did live in the colonies, he hid his past well.

It is likely that Robert was born 1755-1760 since Catherine was born c1761. He would have been about 20 years old if he joined the Royal Fencibles in 1775. Since he evidently was a private or perhaps of some other low military rank, his young age would fit that scenario.

On the other hand, It is entirely possible that Robert Carlisle was not a member of the Fencibles for the entire length of the war. He might have only served with them for a year or two. With no muster rolls or payroll lists surviving, it is impossible to verify the length of his service. More on that in a bit.

Have Nova Scotia records shed any light on Robert Carlisle?

I wish I could say yes. I was fortunate enough to visit the Nova Scotia Archives in 2019 and spend a couple of hours there.

Robert was unmarried until the war ended. Not only does he not appear in land or probate records there, the Carlisle surname isn’t even found in those early records.

Except. . . . for one mention. Dennis Heffernan married one Mrs. Jane Carlisle in December 1761. Where they married isn’t stated on the library catalog card, but Dennis Heffernan lived in Halifax, so it seems likely he married Mrs. Carlisle there.

Dennis Heffernan was a business man. He had two known children, Dennis, born c1762 and Jane, born in the 1760s. Mr. Heffernan died on 24 March 1789, also found on a card in the Nova Scotia Archives catalog.

I think part of my difficulty in finding family for Robert might be that he had no brothers and, perhaps, didn’t even have any full siblings. It’s a possibility that Mrs. Jane Carlisle was his mother and was a young widow with a toddler when she married Dennis Heffernan.

However, aside from the notation of her marriage, Mrs. Jane Carlisle slipped into history leaving no other trace of her existence. Given that Dennis Jr. was born c1762 and a daughter was named Jane, she probably is the mother of those two Heffernan children.

Is she Robert Carlisle’s mother? I have no idea. Robert didn’t have any known daughter named Jane, but it is certainly possible that he could have had a daughter by that name who died young.

Robert’s first three children were sons Robert, John and James. I’d guess from those choices that his own father likely bore one of those names.

There are Carlisles/Carliles in southern Maine  around York County at the turn of the 19th century. However, I’ve found no documentary links between that family and my Robert Carlisle.

Apart from the marriage of a Mrs. Jane Carlisle in 1761, there is one other possibly tantalizing clue to follow.

Loyalist Walter Stewart was the father of John Stewart who married Robert’s daughter, Catherine Carlisle, in Sussex Vale, New Brunswick, Canada in 1814.

Walter Stewart was from Dutchess County, New York and in his memorial, it is stated that he served with the Loyal American Regiment, based in Dutchess and Westchester Counties, New York.

What is intriguing about the Loyal American Regiment is that one JOHN Carlisle enlisted with them on 21 December 1782 AND on 25 June 1783, one JAMES Carlisle is noted as having deserted the same regiment.

Could Robert be related to this John or James Carlisle? Again, I don’t know.

A search of Dutchess County land and probate records hasn’t turned up any instances of the Carlile/Carlisle surname in the years leading up to the American Revolution.

I would dearly love to find parents and siblings for Robert, but I  have been stymied at every turn.

Suggestions, anyone???





Robert Carlisle Jr. of Ontario, Canada, Son of a Loyalist

During the last few months, I’ve written about newly found pieces of the Loyalist Robert Carlisle puzzle. Today’s post will share the story of Robert Carlisle Jr. and his family.

Robert Carlisle was born c1785, New Brunswick, Canada, likely the eldest son of Loyalist Robert and wife Catherine (MNU) Carlisle, who lived in Parrtown, now St. John, at that time.

No marriage record has been found for Robert Jr., but he married (1) Elizabeth (thought to be Lambert?), c1806, probably Sussex Vale, Kings, New Brunswick, Canada. Elizabeth died before August 1830. (2) Mary (MNU) Stewart, widow of William Stewart, before 8 August 1830, probably Kent, Ontario, Canada, when Mary sold land in Kent, Ontario, Canada as Mary Carlile.

Robert Jr. died between 1848, when he and Mary sold land in Harwich, Kent, Ontario, Canada, and 10 March 1850, when Mary sold another tract of land  in Harwich to Peter Shubert. At that time, she was called the widow of Robert Carlisle.

Although it took many years, and the internet, to pick up the trail of Robert and his family, he and Elizabeth did help out by baptizing all his children at one time in Sussex in 1817. Therefore, there were five names to look for and daughters Anna and Catherine married in New Brunswick.

If his wife Elizabeth was a Lambert, her father is likely Loyalist John Lambert, who was first at Parrtown in 1785. Later, he received a land grant on the Kennebecasis, like Robert Carlisle Sr.

Eventually, Lambert removed to Deer Island in the West Isles, New Brunswick, Canada, but there are a couple of early Lambert families in the Ontario land records, who may have been part of a family migration to Ontario.

Mary, widow of William Stewart, may also have been from Sussex, Kings, New Brunswick, Canada, as  William may have been part of the extended Stewart family in Kings County. I am also descended from that family, which included Loyalists Walter, James and probably John.

Robert was initially linked to Ontario, Canada because he filed a deed in Kings County, New Brunswick, Canada in 1831, describing himself as living in Upper Canada.

It appears that Robert and Mary had no children together and no other Carlisles have popped up in Ontario that appear to be other children of Robert Jr.

Extensive data was found on the Fennacy family, although it is a nightmare name to search in Canadian records. I use LAC’s free census website. The search engine is slow and the only wildcard that can be used is one * at the end of the beginning of a surname.

Martin and Anna seemed to settle on Fennacy as the preferred spelling of their name, but no one told the record keepers. I found it as Finsey, Finesy, Fennacie, Phenecie (!), Fennessey, Fanacy, and countless other ways. That is a lot of wild cards in a slow search engine. First names can’t include wildcards, so Ann, Anna and Annie required three searches. Another issue is that it is impossible to page from, say, page 12 to 13, if the family is enumerated on two pages. Lastly, trial and error proved that an advanced search for, say, Westmorland and Moncton in New Brunswick won’t bring any results unless “Moncton (City)” is entered as the place.

There are many quirks with the website, but in spite of the weaknesses, I am grateful that there is an online free  option to read Canadian census records. My mother always said patience is a virtue!

I was also very excited to look at some of my DNA matches who had Carlisle as a surname in the family tree. The #2 person on the list is descended from Martin and Anna Fennacy! Fun! 🙂


  1. Anna, born 14 August 1804, Kings County, New Brunswick, Canada; died 21 January 1891, Lapeer, Lapeer, Michigan: married Martin Finesy/ Fennacy, 20 April 1823, Sussex, Kings County, New Brunswick, Canada. Martin was born c1800, possibly in Ireland; died between 30 January 1858, the date he wrote his will, and 14 April 1858, the date the will was recorded, Harwich, Kent, Ontario, Canada. He owned Lot 6 in Harwich, which was on the town line of Harwich and Howard – important for the study of Ann’s uncle, Daniel Carlisle. Fennacy is spelled at least ten ways in records, including starting with PH instead of F.
  2. Catherine, born c1807, probably Kings County, New Brunswick, Canada; died 1890, Queens County, New Brunswick, Canada; married James Starkey, 6 February 1832, Queens County, New Brunswick, Canada. He was born c1801; died 1869, Queens County, New Brunswick, Canada.
  3. Abigail, born 1809; died after 1817 baptism; no further record.
  4. John, born 1811; died after 1817 baptism; no further record.
  5. Hugh, born 1813, Nova Scotia, Canada; died between 23 February 1853, when he lived in Dover East, Kent, Ontario, Canada and quit claimed land to Edward Fenesy (Deed Book B:945, memorial #633) and 1855, when Joannah was remarried to Daniel Richmond, Kent, Ontario, Canada; married Johannah Shanahan, c1844, probably Ontario Canada, as her second husband. Johannah was born 1823/1829, Ireland and was Catholic. Hugh was Episcopalian. She married (1) Richard Fuller, 31 October 1843, Detroit, Wayne, Michigan and (3) Daniel Richmond, c1855, probably Ontario, Canada. She had one child, Mary Matilda, born c1844, Michigan with Richard Fuller, three children – John, Elizabeth and Martin – with Hugh and then seven children with Daniel Richmond.

If you are descended from Robert and Elizabeth, or any other child of Loyalist Robert and Catherine (MNU) Carlisle, I would love to hear from you.