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Article Published November 26, 1999
Introduction To Loyalists In Canada
By: Brenda Dougall Merriman, CGRS, CGL.
Recent monitoring of email lists reveals quite an interest in Loyalists, specifically whether an ancestor was or was not ... ! So many questions, from so many eager Internet surfers, with so little homework done, — most of them swirling around a family tradition or written family history that a Loyalist ancestor awaits in their background. With the huge technology leaps of the 1990s, the newest ancestry addicts may be more comfortable with (or dependent on) the computer as their main research tool rather than on conventional methods of study. The Internet continues to grow as the great "leveller" for genealogists and family historians seeking information from distant places.
In a major sense, this preliminary article is directed at newcomers who deserve credit for reaching out, but need some warnings about the instant gratification that arrives from cyberspace or compiled databases, with uncited or dubious sources. Novices to genealogy, let alone Loyalist ancestry, can acquire solid background skills (without eschewing the Internet) — by reading books on genealogy methods, taking a local course on basic procedures, studying books and journals on Canadian sources, and joining a society in the ancestral area of interest. It's more difficult to do the research work from a distance, which is why the Internet and CD-ROMs are so attractive.
They can be of service — credible websites do exist, databases (online or CDs) can deliver clues, you can locate societies and resource centres, and email lists may sometimes be rewarding, but nothing replaces the investigation of original sources and gathering your own documentation. Many of the Canadian repositories that hold the records you need now have websites that will give you some finding aids or inventories, but don't expect many searchable databases. The networking and news provided by local society membership should never be underestimated.
Experience and monitoring tells us that often the concepts of "Loyalist" and "UE" are not clearly understood. The recognized postnomial (initials attached to a person's name) description of a Loyalist ancestor, or a descendant, is UE, not UEL. The ancestor can be referred to as a UE or a Loyalist. UE stands for Unity of Empire and thus loyalty to the British Crown. On the other hand, UEL is commonly used to denote (a descendant's) membership in the United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada, although — (there are always exceptions to the given, your grade-school teacher must have told you) we do see UEL used informally about an ancestor. Clear as mud?!
Regular Membership in the UEL Association is acquired through a successful, approved submission which cites the applicant's direct-line lineage to a Loyalist, at the same time providing sufficient evidence of the ancestor's said status. The application must be made to join one of the UEL Association Branches, eighteen in number across Canada; your choice could be one near where you live, or where your ancestors resided.
The postnomial usage of the initials UE can be spotted today on stationery letterhead, business cards, with authors of genealogical articles, or in other situations of a somewhat formal, print nature. Alleged descendants can claim Loyalist ancestry and employ the initials UE. The UEL Association has no "power" to "grant" postnomial usage. It does issue a certificate that the applicant has successfully shown evidence of both lineage and the UE ancestor. To anyone with self-respect, the claim demands the research to produce the evidence. Considering the nature of its genesis, usage of the UE initials is traditionally only employed by descendants who themselves recognize Her Majesty Elizabeth II as their sovereign.
Let's have some very general questions to lead off:
What is a Loyalist? To paraphrase the acknowledged criteria of the UEL Association, a Loyalist was:-
Who is a Loyalist? Here are some caveats up front. It should be understand right from scratch that many Loyalist ancestors may be difficult to define. There is no definitive list from which you can triumphantly "prove" your Loyalist ancestor, although there are a number of lists to consult — compiled by various people, agencies, or offices at different time periods or for different purposes. Most lists can point you to a name and a geographic location. Lists can be supportive, but do not equate to or replace personal research in original records. In fact, lists can often give you two, three, or more names that match your ancestor! Loyalists have at times been confused in bureaucratic records with other settlers of the same period, and even one Loyalist may not have been consistently recognized in contemporary documents. Necessary sources that could provide answers for you may be missing or non-existent.
It's a worthy challenge, not to mention immensely self-satisfying, to work your way around, under, or over the problem area. To quote from the home page of the United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada, " ... the research provides an exceptional opportunity for a family to establish and celebrate its past."
Future columns will address more about Loyalist lists, the UEL Association, reading material, the most useful sources, case examples, online databases, and readers' questions or comments. Websites and reading suggestions will follow at the end of each article.
Related Web Sites:
United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada - (see also their link to A Loyalist Bibliography) http://www.npiec.on.ca/~uela/uela1.htm
In Search of Your Canadian Roots by Angus Baxter, MacMillan of Canada, 1994 (1999 third edition, now available).
United Empire Loyalists, Pioneers of Upper Canada by Nick and Helma Mika, Mika Publishing, 1976. (out of print)
King's Men, the Soldier Founders of Ontario by Mary Beacock Fryer, Dundurn Press, 1980. (out of print)
The Loyalists of Quebec, 1774-1825, a Forgotten History, Heritage Branch-Montreal, United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada, 1989.
The Loyalists of the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Sir John Johnson Centennial Branch, United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada, 1984.
The Loyalists of New Brunswick, by Esther Clark Wright, 1955. (out of print)
The Loyalist Guide, Nova Scotian Loyalists and their Documents, compiled by Jean Peterson, Public Archives of Nova Scotia, 1983.
Loyalists and Land Settlement in Nova Scotia, by Marion Gilroy, Public Archives of Nova Scotia (Publication No 4), 1937; reprint Genealogical Publishing Company, 1995.
1. That territory might have been the then colonies of Québec, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Florida, certain Caribbean islands, or England itself.
2. Assuming that all readers of Global Gazette have Internet access, the full text of Lord Dorchester's Proclamation can be viewed at http://www.npiec.on.ca/~uela/uela8.htm
More Loyalist Resources