Formerly published by GlobalGazette.ca
Article Published February 25, 2000
By Brenda Dougall Merriman, CGRS, CGL., author of United Empire Loyalists, A Guide to Tracing Loyalist Ancestors in Upper Canada
Family historians are always excited to find an ancestor's name in the index of a book.
Finding the ancestor's name on a list of Loyalists is equally exciting. But what does that list really tell us? We need to pay attention to the provenance of a contemporary record, or the sources and parameters that a compiler has used. Is there a date and location attached to the list? Who compiled it? Why was it created?
The word "list" is being used in the broadest sense, to include both published compilations and publications of original records, as well as manuscript material. It is perhaps best to begin with manuscript material, and follow through with derivative compilations or publications. Even then, you will see that there is overlap among them. Any list can be helpful, but identification of an ancestor from other sources is absolutely necessary. It must be stressed that, in each area that ultimately became a Canadian province, there are archival collections of land petitions and land grants, among other material, for documenting early ancestors. Militia muster rolls per se and major manuscript collections of a military nature like the Carleton Papers and the Haldimand Papers will not be mentioned here, since that involves an extensive topic for another day.
The colonies of Quebec and Acadia, under French rule, basically nurtured the old European feudal system of seigniorial tenure for agricultural purposes. With overwhelming numbers of Loyalists camped in Quebec and Nova Scotia — many of them accustomed to more independent rights — the British had to find not only new settlement areas for them, but also an orderly system of allocation. Government departments were developed to handle the transfer of land from the Crown to individual ownership. This development, and the procedures it engendered, was a constantly evolving process over the years, through Quebec's division into Upper and Lower Canada, and later Canada West and Canada East. Therefore we can't point to a single, concrete system that represents the 50+ year period when Loyalists and their children were applying for land grants. However, we can point to lists that existed in some government departments, even though the lists themselves were not static creations. It is very important to know that all names are not the same from one list to another. Each list may have some regular (non-Loyalist) settlers on it, or discharged Army soldiers, while some eligible Loyalists may be missing. In addition, these government-created lists can seldom be precisely dated.
In Upper Canada, the Executive Council List was kept by the Executive Council Office at the top of the chain of command under the Lieutenant Governor. This has often been regarded as the most "defining" list, but perhaps only in comparison to the Crown Lands list. It was created from the District Loyalist Rolls taken in 1796 (see next) now held at the National Archives of Canada (NA) in RG 1, L 7, vol 52a. The list shows names that were expunged, suspended, restored, or inserted; it can be seen at NA on their microfilm reel C-2222 and the film is also at the Archives of Ontario (AO). On the microfilm reel, the list is called "List of United Empire Loyalists" and appears after the Crown Lands list.
District Loyalist Rolls were created in 1796 when Governor Simcoe called for all Loyalists to appear at a District court magistrate with their former land certificates or tickets, in order to clarify their eligibility for a patent (title deed). They were also required to give an oath to this effect. Other non-Loyalist settlers also followed this course, for the same purpose of establishing rightful ownership. These rolls were not microfilmed (RG 1, L 7, vol 52b at NA) when they were transcribed and indexed by E Keith Fitzgerald in Ontario People: 1796-1803 (Genealogical Publishing Company, 1993).
The Register of the Inspector General for Upper Canada (or what is believed to have come from his office) has only recently come to light in Crown Lands records at the Archives of Ontario. The Inspector General received petitions from Loyalists early in the chain of command, as it was his job to verify and endorse "privileged" status before an Order-in-Council for a land grant was issued. In November of 1804, a report from the Inspector General to the Executive Council included 200 names to be suspended from the list (the report is in the Executive Council minutes, aka Upper Canada Land Books, and not in this register). The register has been microfilmed on reel MS 4029 at AO (Archives of Ontario).
The Crown Lands Department List, also called the Old UEL List, was a register from the Office of the Surveyor General in Upper Canada, in two parts. This register too was clearly amended at times; both parts include many known discharged British Army soldiers. The Surveyor General's duty was to locate and identify the exact piece of property to be granted, upon authorization from the Clerk of the Executive Council and the Attorney General. The original register in AO possession is also microfilmed on MS 4029. However, most people are more familiar with a transcription on NA reel C-2222 (where it appears at the start of the reel), or the 1885 publication of that transcription, called The Centennial of the Settlement of Upper Canada by the United Empire Loyalists, 1784-1884 (Rose Publishing, Toronto). The transcription and subsequent book neglected to include names that were crossed out in the original register. The book has been reprinted several times as The Old United Empire Loyalist List (Genealogical Publishing Company) with an Introduction by Milton Rubincam, FASG, FNGS, FGSP. Between the first reprint of 1969 and the second reprint of 1976 (out of print), Rubincam acknowledged his previous unawareness of the existence of the Executive Council List.
For the Maritimes area, there are a number of manuscript collections containing lists of Loyalists in the Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management (NSARM), formerly called the Public Archives of Nova Scotia with its familiar initials, PANS. The private papers focus on specific groups, — as one example, MG 1, vol 1891, document 8 has a list of Capt Hunt's Company of Loyalists heading for Annapolis Royal from New York, a list of many who sailed to Britain from New York, Loyalists who went to Cape Breton from Quebec, and returns of disbanded soldiers in certain places. Government correspondence between the colony and Britain also concerns much about the settling of Loyalists. The PANS publication called The Loyalist Guide, Nova Scotian Loyalists and Their Documents should be studied with care, particularly the Primary Sources section. (GlobalGenealogy.com aquiring copies for resale 1 800 361-5168)
The same holds true for private manuscripts and government records in the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (PANB). ExtensiveLand Recordscollections at PANB — petitions 1784-1850, and grants 1763-1868 — include thousands of settlers, not all of them Loyalists, of course. There were many cases where lands granted in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick reverted to the Crown when settlement requirements were not fulfilled. Information about New Brunswick Loyalists who arrived there before the province was created in 1784 may also be found in NSARM records. The good news is that an electronic database of Loyalists has been developed; see "More Reading" and "Websites" below.
The most comprehensive list of Nova Scotia Loyalists was compiled by Marion Gilroy as a special publication of PANS in 1937, Loyalists and Land Settlement in Nova Scotia. The source for the compilation was land papers and records in both PANS and the Department of Lands and Forests. Again, there is no claim that this is a "perfect" list because of some incomplete or missing sources. Cape Breton records will not be found here; individual petitions for land after about 1800 were not included. While the names were compared to pre-Loyalist records for elimination purposes, as with other lists, it is possible that non-Loyalists appear and some Loyalists may be missing. The collection of (alphabetical) land grants at NSARM in RG 20 is more "complete"; Series B includes Cape Breton. But then again, the whole collection is not strictly for Loyalists alone.
A similar list was compiled for New Brunswick in 1955 by Esther Clark Wright, as an appendix to The Loyalists of New Brunswick (out of print). Interestingly, one can see names here, and in Gilroy's book, that appear later as settlers in Upper Canada. It is always good advice to read the textual content of the books, not just the lists. The Ward Chipman Papers (a former Attorney General of Nova Scotia) at NA (MG 23, D 1) are a source often consulted for their content of Loyalist material for both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
For Prince Edward Island, see "Websites" below for an introduction to names and sources.
For Quebec, original sources and documents can be found in Lower Canada Land Petitions and Land Books, which are not exclusively confined to Loyalists. As with Upper Canada petitions, these records are in the RG 1, L3 series at NA.
The Quebec Family History Society produces nominal indexes to Quebec Crown land grants 1763-1890 in alphabetical groups by first letter of the surname (all available from GlobalGenealogy.com at 613-257-7878).
Here follow some of the most widely-consulted or accessible publications; other suggestions are welcome.
Ontario People: 1796-1803 (see above, District Loyalist Rolls)
Loyalists and Land Settlement in Nova Scotia (see above, Gilroy)
The Loyalists of New Brunswick (see above, Wright)
The Loyalists in Ontario, Sons and Daughters of the American Loyalists compiled by William D Reid in 1973. Reid used land petitions as his main source for reconstructing family units, supplemented by information from AO sources and published early religious registers.
Loyalist Lists, over 2,000 Names and Families from the Haldimand Papers compiled by E Keith Fitzgerald, Ontario Genealogical Society, 1985; includes some provisioning lists as well as disbanded Loyalists.
New Brunswick Loyalists, A Bicentennial Tribute by Sharon Dubeau is an alphabetical list of selected brief biographical sketches; it includes, when known, place of origin in the American colonies, militia service, land grant location, and children.
The Loyalists of Quebec, 1774-1825, A Forgotten History from Heritage Branch—Montreal, UEL Association, contains an alphabetical list of Loyalists in that province taken from 1784 muster rolls, in such places as Montreal, Sorel, Carlisle and other settlements on the Gaspé. Another list of names consists of extracts from British Audit Office 12, vol 120, proceedings of the committee to hear Loyalists' claims for losses, sitting in Montreal, Three Rivers and Québec.
The Loyalists of the Eastern Townships of Quebec, from Sir John Johnson Branch of the UEL Association has some lists of confiscated property in New York and Vermont, besides many other names throughout. It did not have an index to names, but Linda Corupe, UE, has produced one (210 Allan Drive, Bolton, ON L7E 1Y7; email firstname.lastname@example.org).
The New Loyalist Index by Paul Bunnell, in three volumes to date; brief biographical entries apparently based on both archival and secondary sources; not familiar to this writer.
Loyalists in the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War by Murtie June Clark in three volumes identifies about 35,000 Loyalists from the southern and middle Atlantic colonies; Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore.
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