Mary Elizabeth Astle, My 3x Great Grandmother

Mary Elizabeth Astle looked like she was going to be an easy subject. She was born about November 1809 in Miramichi, Northumberland, New Brunswick, Canada and married Thomas Coleman on 22 June 1830 in Nelson, Northumberland, New Brunswick, Canada. Thomas, from Richmond, Maine, made his way north to Canada in the 1820’s. He might possibly be in the 1820 census household of Joseph Coleman in Calais, Maine, if that Joseph is my guy and Thomas’s father. Mary Elizabeth Astle Coleman died on 26 December 1889 in Calais.

Astle is quite a unique surname in colonial America and I was sure that Mary Elizabeth was a grandchild of Loyalist James Astle, who fled Schenectady, New York in the fall of 1783. He sailed to Canada, first stopping in Paspepiac, Quebec, where he was mentioned on a 1784 list, and then receiving land in New Brunswick with many other Loyalists.

I found little information about Loyalist James back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, before the internet age. William R. MacKinnon, Jr. published Over the Portage, Early History of the Miramichi in 1984. That was my main source of sparse Astle details. I also hired a Canadian researcher to trudge off to the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick to retrieve and documents she could find about James Astle and his children. There weren’t many to be found.

James Astle and his wife, Elizabeth McLean, married in Schenectady, New York on 20 November 1770. Seven children were likely born to them: Hannah, Angelica, Hannah (probably) again, John, Daniel, Joseph and probably Elizabeth. My initial interest in the family was only in the sons, as I was certain that one of them was the father of my Mary Elizabeth.

I mentioned Over the Portage. The original edition of this book mentioned that Daniel Astle, who died before 20 November 1817 in Miramichi, was unmarried and left no children.

His brother John was the administrator of his estate according to a very short newspaper notice.

Daniel Astle Estate Notice

For the time being, an unmarried childless Daniel Astle left his brothers, John and Joseph, as potential fathers for Mary Elizabeth.

John Astle was born about 1779, likely in New York and married Hannah Underhill on 29 September 1802 in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. They had only three known surviving children: James Leonard, born 18 December 1803, Maria Rebecca, born about 1805, and Elizabeth, a baby who died at the age of four weeks on 28 July 1807. No further records were found for other children.

Joseph Astle was born about 1786, probably in New Brunswick, Canada. He married Mary, possibly maiden name Cooper, about 1810. Their children were David, born about 1811, James Peter, born about 1812, Julia Ann, born about 1816, John Cooper, born 4 June 1816, Maria, born 12 August 1821, Sarah Elizabeth, born 22 April 1823, Mahala Ann, born 12 October 1825 and George McLean, born about 1833.

Neither man left a will and neither seemed promising as Mary Elizabeth’s father.

That brought me back to Daniel Astle. Mary Elizabeth Coleman was enumerated in the 1880 census of Calais, Maine:

Mary Elizabeth reported that she and her mother were both born in New Brunswick. However, she reported that her father was born in QUEBEC! Daniel Astle was likely born between 1780 and 1785 with his family appearing in Paspepiac and Sorel, Quebec about 1783-1784.

When Canadian records became more readily available in the United States, I began searching for all Astles in the New Brunswick land deeds in the 1800’s. On 21 October 1848, thirty-one  years after the death of Daniel Astle, a land deed was filed in volume 44, page 588.

It is quite lengthy, but the important part is the opening paragraph, which reads:

This indenture made the twenty first day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and firty eight Between George Rapple 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 . . . .

Later in the deed, they are mentioned as heirs of Daniel Astle, deceased.

It was deeply buried, but proof of Mary Elizabeth Astle’s parentage was finally uncovered.

In the revised edition of Over the Portage, which was published in 2000, Bill MacKinnon thanked numerous people for contributions in furthering knowledge of the early settlers on the Miramichi and I was thrilled to see my name included.

Courting, Early 1900’s Style

Dave’s grandparents, Earl Marcus Stufflebean and Pearl Lillian Brasher, married in Norman, Oklahoma on10 August 1916.

Before Earl and Pearl married, they courted, although for how long I don’t know. I’ve mentioned before that Pearl was a saver and among her papers we found letters that the two exchanged in the year or so before they were married. Although they are short messages, they provide a great picture to the past and days when young men “called on” young ladies.

R: Pearl and Earl, out with friends

They obviously were enjoying each other’s company, with a bit of teasing going on:

Earl Teasing Pearl

Two notes were together in the same envelope. I think
3 NovemberPearl stuck two notes inside the same envelope, dated October 1915, about ten months before they married.

Miss “Pearle Brasier”

This envelope is made of quite heavy paper and is only about 1 1/2 inches by 3 inches. Note that it is addressed to “Pearle Brasier.” Pearl sometimes added the “e” at the end of her name when she was young. Earl even put an “e” at the end of his name once. I wonder if that was to signal a commonality with Pearl? Brasher is sometimes spelled as “Brasier,” which looks more French. I wonder if Pearl used that spelling to present a more exotic family background? My 2x great grandmother Elida Hicks Stuart changed the family name from “Stewart” precisely because the “ua” spelling was more French and European.

Earl's Note to Pearl Pg1
3 Nov 1915

Notice first that this note is typed, not handwritten, but the closing is “Friend, Earle.” Secondly, notice at the top it says “From Lock Box 1234 to Lock Box 2360.” Earl wanted to come visit with Pearl that evening. I am assuming that a century ago in a small town mail that was local was just placed into patrons’ mailboxes. There was no home delivery – people dropped by the post office to collect their mail. Thus, Earl could “mail” this note in the morning, Pearl could collect it, say, by noon, and actually accept or decline the visit invitation, again by “mail,” on the same day.

Earl's Note to Pearl Pg2
2nd Note


Noble, Okla.
Oct. 13, ’15
Miss Pearl Brasher
Dear Pearle
Hello Pearle

how are you this
morning? I am all
Have you been going
to the meeting. I have
went one night.

Pearle if you have
no engagement for tonight
would be glad to have
your company to (choir?)
to night if you (care?) to go.

Now don’t go just on my
account if you have to study
your lessons.

Write and let me know
in time.
Please excuse this writing
as I am in a hurry.


The second envelope contains an explanation from Pearl to Earl that she wasn’t really on a date with someone else! This is dated 5 August 1915, a year before they married. Earl was apparently living in Oklahoma City at this time. By the way, Earl was four years older than Pearl. Not a lot by today’s standards, but in 1915, Pearl was seventeen and a senior in high school. Four years age difference is quite a bit when Earl was the age of a typical college senior!

Note from Pearl to EarlAug1915
Second tiny envelope, 1 1/2 x 3 inches

Note from Pearl to Earlaug1915Pg1
Page 1

Note from Pearl to Earlaug1915Pg2
Page 2


Noble, Okla.
Aug 5, 1915

Mr. Earl Stufflebean,

Dear Friend,
Earl that was all O.K. about
Sunday evening. Mr. J. M. . . .did
not have a date with me, and he did
not ask for a date to go to church until
after I told him I was going
car riding with you. If I am not
mistaken he just asked for that date
for spite “C” and he is not through
yet. Will tell you more the next time
I see you.

I went to a party last night. Miss
Moon gave it in honor of her cousin
Mr. . . .Somebody. . .that is here visiting.
Pearle Brasher (know her?) and the
“Morrison Brothers” were the only ones
invited. As I was the only girl there
Mr. J.. . .M.. . .took me home. “C” Miss
Thacker was not there, nor Miss Farris
(Ha ha! I should worry.) I went to
Singing Tuesday night. Guess I will
stay at home tonight and write letters,
as I just owe twelve.

Miss Farris went home Tuesday. I
went with her to the Depot and we took
some pictures. Stella went to Purcell
Tuesday to spend the week, so you
“C” I am lonesome too.

Yes, I think that the roads are
some better. I hope that you have
recovered from your fright, for I
believe Carl was sure enough

Well I must stop.
“Be good and you will be happy.”

Pearle Brasher

So went courting in times long gone by.


U.S. Church Record Libraries and Depositories

When ancestors lived in locations that didn’t require vital record registration at the time, church records can help fill in the gaps when trying to document their lives. Traditionally, though, church records have often been somewhat difficult to access, not only online, but in paper form, too, because they are often housed at the local level. Little by little, this is changing, and some are becoming accessible online.

Here are some sources to check for specific religious denominations. Many of them house mostly historical information, but some biographical data and/or vital records are mentioned. Each link provides detailed descriptions of what is available and how their collections may be accessed.

1. Baptist Church Records:

American Baptist Historical Society
National Association of Free Will Baptists
Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives

The Baptist resources include a few links to other resources and depositories.

2. Church of the Brethren:

Brethren Historical Library and Archives

3. Congregational Church:

Congregational Library and Archives – has a free digital collection on line, based in New England

4. Dutch Reformed Church:

RCA Archives – There is a PDF guide online with information on types of records available at repositories around the U.S.

5. Church of the Latter Day Saints:

Family Search – wiki on Tracing LDS Ancestors with links

6. Lutheran Church:

Evangelical Lutheran Church of America Records, 1875-1940 are now on, but a subscription is required to access them.

Concordia Historical Institute – Missouri Synod – its archives and manuscript collections are searchable.

7. Mennonite Church:

Mennonite Library and Archives (MLA), Bethel College, Kansas – They are building a digital collection, but much is not yet online.

8. Methodist Church:

United Methodist Archives Center – Biographical information may be found about its clergy, but churches hold information at the local level. There are links to help you find local churches.

9. Moravian Church:

 Moravian Church in America – Winston-Salem, North Carolina – The archives has 12,000 memoirs published about its members, some of which I know from personal research date well back into the 1700’s. This library also has the twelve volumes on Records of the Moravians in North Carolina.

Moravian Church Genealogy Links – database of surnames with links found to genealogical records online.

10. Roman Catholic Church :

These records are kept at the local level.

If you are searching for a death date and know approximately when a person died, several dioceses now have large cemetery databases either searchable online or an e-search request can be made.

Archdiocese of Chicago, Illinois Catholic Cemeteries
Cleveland, Ohio Catholic Cemeteries Association

11. Society of Friends (Quakers):

Haverford College – catalog can be searched online, but records must be viewed in person.

Quaker Information Center – website has historical links as well as a Genealogical Resources link.

Swarthmore College – Friends Historical Library has some online records.

12. United Church of Christ:

Evangelical & Reformed Historical Society – German Reformed Church merged with the Evangelical Synod of North America in 1934. There is a limited amount of information digitally available.

Genealogy Tips & Family History