Not a particularly common surname now or then. My great great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth who married Thomas Coleman and lived in Calais, Maine was an Astle by birth, born in New Brunswick, Canada in 1809. She married Thomas Coleman and they had a son, William, born in 1834 in New Brunswick. They moved to Calais sometime between William’s birth and the 1840 census.
How hard could it be to connect the dots and find Mary Elizabeth’s parents? Turns out it wasn’t particularly easy at all and it took a number of years of research.
As I hunted around for an Astle family for Mary Elizabeth, only one possibility was found – that of James Astle, Loyalist, who settled in the small village of Ludlow in Northumberland County, New Brunswick at the end of the American Revolution. It doesn’t appear that James had any military service, but ee left behind a handful of records in New York:
James Astle married Elizabeth McLean on 20 Nov 1770 at St. George’s Anglican Church in Schenectady.
Their first two children were baptized in the same church.
i. Hannah, born 17 May 1773 and buried 1 June 1773
Although no birth or baptismal records have been found, James’ and Elizabeth’s third and fourth children were likely born in New York, too.
iii. Hannah (again), born about 1776
iv. John, born about 1779
Later children included:
v. Daniel, born about 1783, probably Sorel, Quebec, Canada
vi. Joseph, about 1786, New Brunswick
vii. Elizabeth (probably), about 1788, New Brunswick
James, his wife, and four children are on the passenger list dated 9 June 1784 for the Snow Liberty which anchored at Chaleur Bay. In August 1784, when land lots were drawn in Paspebiac, Quebec, James Astles Sr., occupation tailor, was on the list of applicants with a wife, two daughters aged 11 and 8 and two sons, aged 5 and 1.6 Many of the people at Paspebiac were identified as refugees who were at Sorel, Quebec in 1783.
If Mary Elizabeth was a grandchild of James Astle, then her father had to be either John, Daniel or Joseph. Early on, I found a footnote reference in a book about the Miramichi region that said Daniel Astle died in 1817 and left no heirs so the focus of the search was on John and Joseph.
Church records are extant for Northumberland County and, without getting sidetracked, baptismal records were found for children of both John and Joseph, but while I found Marias and Elizabeths for each, I found no Mary Elizabeth.
What if the footnote was wrong? In the 1880 census of Calais, Mary Elizabeth Coleman reported that her father had been born in Quebec and her mother in New Brunswick. Hmmm. Maybe Daniel had married and had a family, but they hadn’t yet been found.
Daniel himself left little in the way of written records. When his father James died, probably in early 1815, the following announcement was published:
There is a transcription of an 1816 land deed where he is incorrectly identified as Donald:
Then, in November 1817 comes publication of the administration of his own estate with his brother, John, as administrator:
No other court or church records could be found that might shed light on Daniel’s family, if he had any. Remember the title of this post? “Casting a Wider Time Net. . .” Many more Canadian resources had become available in the intervening years between the start of my Astle research and my return to it. Two of those resources were marriage records and land deeds, microfilmed and available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Yes, land deeds had been found for Daniel, but why look for him for more than a few years after his known death?
First, I delved into the marriage records and found:
New Brunswick George Ripplee of the parish of Nelson and County of Northumberland and Jane Astle of the same place were married by Licence with Consent of Parents this Twenty Sixth day of January in the Year of our Lord one thousand Eight hundred and Nineteen by me.
Signed David (illegible) , G. Ripple and Jane (X) Astle
This marriage was solemnized between us in the presence of Christopher Parker and William Barclay.
Who was this Jane Astle?? John and Joseph had no daughters named Jane, nor were their wives named Jane.
When I searched the index to the land deeds, I decided to check every Astle land deed I could find that was recorded in the 1800’s. I also included the name “Rapplee” or “Ripplee” in the search and found an 1848 deed registered by George Ripple and Astle heirs:
The penmanship isn’t the best on this deed, but I transcribed the portions mentioning people and included only a bare bones description of the land:
This indenture made the twenty first day of October in the year of our Lord on thousand eight hundred and forty eight Between George Ripple of the parish of Nelson in the County of Northumberland farmer and Jane his wife James Astle of the same place Yeoman John Astle of the same place Yeoman and Elizabeth his wife George Astle of the parish of Stanley in the County of York and Elizabeth his wife Thomas Coleman of Calais in the State of Maine Yeoman and Elizabeth his wife and Abraham Clark of the parish of Nelson County of Northumberland and Hannah his wife of the first part and James Mitchell of the parish of Blissfield aforesaid farmer of the second part
Witnesseth. . .land being on the north side of the southwest branch of the River Miramichi in the parish of Blissfield . . . . .being a one- seventh part of Lots twenty eight and thirty nine formerly granted to . . . James Astle deceased . . . .at the upper boundary of the lands assigned to Angelica Walls . . . .
the said Jane wife of George Ripple as the widow of Daniel Astle deceased and the said James Astle, John Astle, George Astle, Elizabeth Coleman and Hannah Clark as children and heirs of Daniel Astle deceased
Jane Astle who married George Ripple was the widow of Daniel. Each of Daniel’s children was named, including Mary Elizabeth Coleman.
Two more clues were gleaned from this deed – the description of the land being a one seventh portion of James Astle’s lots and the land was bordered by land assigned to Angelica Walls. Angelica is a most uncommon given name for that time period and that area. It turned out that she was James Astle’s daughter Angelica.
Daniel’s children were of legal age long before 1848. I have no idea what prompted the family to sell this land at that time. Perhaps it was the land that George and Jane lived on and they were going to live with one of the children in their senior years. Thus, the land was sold and the money divided into inheritances. Either way, I finally had proof of Mary Elizabeth Astle Coleman’s lineage.
As often happens, two more brick walls are left standing – what was Jane’s maiden name? I suspect she may have been a Parker, but have not been able to find proof. The second brick wall is who were the parents of Loyalist James Astle? There was a second James Astle, a younger man, who was on the 1784 passenger lists. DNA test results from a male descendant of each has proven that the 1784 men were closely related – probably either cousins or uncle and nephew – but nothing has been discovered about their English origins.