Tag Archives: Robert Carlisle

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.

What Do Loyalist Peter Stover & California 49er Daniel Carlisle Have in Common?

You never know what tidbit of information will break open a brick wall, especially when it is found in a completely unexpected source.

First, I happened to come across an image of an index card, found on Ancestry, for an early California pioneer, Daniel Carlisle. It is part of the collection at the California State Library in Sacramento.

How did I come across this card for a person who I didn’t know? I was looking for traces of two of the sons of my Loyalist ancestor, Robert Carlisle and his wife, Catherine (MNU). Both sons were born in the late 1780s. Daniel sold land in Kings County, New Brunswick, Canada in 1816 and disappeared from the records. He was married, though, as wife “Alison” released dower rights.

Land deeds helped out with Robert Jr., too, as he sold land in Kings County, but stated that he was a resident of Upper Canada, which is modern day Ontario. I was able to track Robert to Kent County, Ontario, Canada, where he died between 1848 and 1850, again based on land records.

On a whim, I began searching websites for “Daniel Carlisle” of Ontario, hoping that Robert and Daniel might have both settled near each other, if Daniel was even still alive to be able to do so. Like I said, it was a whim and I had no clue what had happened to Daniel.

That’s when this magical card appeared:

Source: Ancestry

The hair on the back of my neck tingled for several reasons:

1. Daniel, born 1825, was of an age to be a child of Robert OR Daniel Carlisle.
2. Daniel was born in CANADA in or near KENT, the very county where Robert settled.
3. Daniel’s mother was ELSIE STOVER. I was very familiar with the Stover surname, as Elisha Stover, son of Loyalist Peter Stover, married into my Stewart line, which had married into my Carlisle line. Like the Carlisles and the Stewarts, Peter Stover settled into hi new life in Canada in Kings County, New Brunswick. Furthermore, in his senior years, Peter Stover left New Brunswick to live with adult children in Kent County, Ontario!

Remember I said that Daniel’s 1816 land sale includes “Alison,” who released her dower rights? Well, remove the final letter N and you have “Aliso.” I’ve found variant spellings of Elsie in the early days and young ladies with that name are recorded as Ailsey, Alcy, Elcey, and more. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how a slight misunderstanding of her name might have led the county clerk to add an N and turn her into Alison, which I’ve always thought very odd for a name of someone born in the 1700s.

It also doesn’t take much to see how “Aliso” could phonetically be a match for Elcey, as the name was later passed down in this family.

My curiosity was way more than piqued and I immediately headed to FamilySearch to look for land deeds for Peter Stover in Kent County, Ontario, Canada. I found several, but one, filed in 1835, was immediately followed by a land deed recorded by Peter CARLISLE! Both lived in Harwich, Kent, Ontario. It just so happened that Robert Carlisle Jr., who lived in Ontario by 1831, also lived in HARWICH!

I think I stumbled onto another possible child of Daniel Carlisle! A further search turned up a land patent for Daniel Carlisle for Lot 7 in Harwich on the town line bordering Howard Township. It was dated 1837, so this Daniel couldn’t have been Daniel the 49er.

I quite unwittingly stumbled onto two of the sons of Daniel Carlisle, as I was able to trace Daniel and “Alison” and fill in more of the puzzle pieces of their lives. The added bonus is that I now also have “Alison”s maiden name!

To answer my question “What do Loyalist Peter Stover and 49er Daniel Carlisle have in common?”

Peter Stover’s daughter, Elsie (by whatever spelling) is the mother of Daniel Carlisle Jr. Peter is therefore the grandfather of Daniel Carlisle.

I will be telling more of the stories of Peter Stover, along with Robert and Daniel Carlisle, along with Daniel the 49er, in future posts.

Remember to cast a wide net for difficult-to-find ancestors. You never know where that essential bit of information will be found!