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Article Published January 4, 2001

Loyalist Petitions For Land Grants: Part Four
By Brenda Dougall Merriman, CGRS, CGL., author of United Empire Loyalists, A Guide to Tracing Loyalist Ancestors in Upper Canada

Links to all four parts of this series:

Loyalist Petitions For Land Grants: Part 1
Loyalist Petitions For Land Grants: Part 2
Loyalist Petitions For Land Grants: Part 3
Loyalist Petitions For Land Grants: Part 4

Part Three of the discussion about land petitions referred to some typical problems that researchers may encounter, in determining the status of a Loyalist ancestor. Some of those problems were illustrated with discrepancies or anomalies in the results of theirs or their children's petitions. We also saw how Jeptha Hawley was not allowed to claim a land grant as the son of a Loyalist, in addition to his own proven right as a UE.

Another example of a Loyalist himself running into a problem was Jeptha's relative, (brother?) Davis Hawley of Ernestown. Davis petitioned in 1808, "his name being Exspunged from the UE List at York, Prays that it may be Inserted there on ...".(1) No earlier petition is recorded in his name. This was just before Davis' children began to petition for their own 200 acres each. When was his name put on the list, and why was it expunged? He is certainly on the endorsed roll of the Midland District, in Ernestown, dated between 11 October and 15 November 1796 (2).

Davis had much earlier received a certificate for 300 acres from the Mecklenburg Land Board on 26 August 1789. The schedule submitted by the Land Board was precise: Hawley's grant was for lot 26 and one-half of lot 27 concession 1 of Camden township; he was also scheduled for lot 19 concession 4 Ernestown. (3) But these certificates were recorded as being granted under Old Regulations, not as UE grants.(4) The petition of 1808 resulted in successfully restoring his name to the UE list. While we may not always find explanations of expunging or suspension, other sources to investigate for more information would be his children's petitions, old Land Board records, and the Archives of Ontario's Township Papers series. (These latter two sources will be described in later columns.)

A newcomer to Loyalist research (also to genealogy in general) would be rather skeptical that two or more men of the same name, causing identity problems, could throw a monkey wrench into the machinery of genealogical procedure. But no-one promised that life, including family history, would go smoothly, right? The extended Hawley family is but one example of recurring same names Jeptha, Davis, Martin. In 1798 the Surveyor General submitted a search schedule of Midland District property descriptions which were questionable or unclear to him, and which needed addressing by the Land Board commissioners. Martin Hawley was one of those on the list, whose property (lot 25 concession 7 Fredericksburg), it was observed, "appears to be afterwards allowed to a man of the same name".(5) At this time, the provincial Administrator, Peter Russell, instructed the Attorney General "to suspend issuing his fiats upon the 101 claims noticed in the within observations".

Queries on the UEL listserve sometimes illustrate the attempts of family historians to sort out same-name men. Oliver Church does not seem to be a "common" name, but at least two men of that name appear in Upper Canada before the turn of the 19th century, originating from Vermont. One is a Loyalist, but it is proving difficult to identify the other, and whether he had Loyalist connections. While some Loyalist hunters bemoan the lack of records for a specific name, the descendants of John Wert of Osnabruck in Stormont County represent a different problem. They are dismayed to find multiple references to Johannes or John Wirth-Wirt-Weart-Werdt, and so on, from early records of Upper Canada right back into 18th century New York church registers.
To separate and identify same-name men, it may be necessary to employ the genealogical techniques of building timelines and charts to reconstruct the families.

The study of Loyalists, particularly those who had lived in New York prior to the Revolution, brings up the anglicizing of Palatine and old Dutch names. Anglicizing is just a polite modern way of saying that the person who wrote down the information spelled it like he heard it. A person who could write down the information, a person who had the requisite literate skills, was definitely in a small minority in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Obviously this included clergymen and government officials or clerks, and even they may not have been familiar with cultural spellings, not to mention contributing some appalling handwriting. Many religious ministers and census enumerators were unable to make fine phonetic distinctions, and this includes the Gaelic Highlander names.

This is why good genealogy courses advise you to abandon a precious belief that "my family surname has always been spelled such-and-such". Simply not true. You cannot reject a Donald McDonald occurrence in the right time and place just because his name was not written MacDonald. The best instructors tell you to put yourself in your ancestor's shoes if you can. Why was this record being created? Who wrote it at a local level? Are you looking at an original document, a copybook memorial, an abstract, or a transcription? English-sounding names like Brooks, Young, can well be derivations of original surnames like Bruch, DeJong, etc. One listserve correspondent has found Stoneheap as a form of Steinhoff.

To further illustrate the tangled experiences of some Loyalists, Benjamin Lockwood's petition in April 1795 at Newark stated his intention to become an inhabitant of this province. He mentioned his good stock of cattle, his trade as a mechanic, and gave personal references to Messrs Beasley and Wilson of Burlington. He was duly granted 200 acres with no special privilege.(6) The wording of his petition sounded clearly like a man who had recently arrived as an "ordinary" settler (who were expected to pay fees and fulfil some settlement conditions). Another petition from Benjamin in October 1796 requested a "donation" of 400 acres of land in Beverly township, with the briefest of statements that he had come into the province in 1778. The petition was delayed for reasons unknown, and not read by the Executive Council until mid-1802. Lockwood's presence was requested in order to proceed "as a common application subject to settling duties". By August 1804 he had not appeared before the Council, and the petition was dismissed.(7)

A different story emerges when we look at the petition of one of his children in 1832. David Lockwood requested a land grant as the son of a Loyalist, with several enclosures. Not all of these were microfilmed, unfortunately. (Lockwood signed his name David, but the clerk wrote Daniel in the Council notes.) One of the filmed enclosures was a letter from Richard Beasley of Barton township dated December of 1832. Beasley wrote it in response to the Inspector General's letter to Benjamin Lockwood, informing him he was suspended from the UE list. Beasley's letter reads in part:
    "he was put on the UE list by the land board at Niagara on the proof of Mr Pell Sen'r then residing in the District who knew him in N York in the revolutionary War he is since dead. the I General letter states that his petition states that he wishes to become a settler. if so any inaccuracy should not be taken advantage of. he was on the UE list some time before he applied for his land ... [he] was attached to some of the Provincial Regts in New York at the peace of 1783, went to Nova Scotia with the disbanded refugees, came into the Province to the best of my recollection on the 1794 or 95 ... his claim after being proved before the land board, after 35 or 36 years residence in the Province should be disputed as a Singular case ...".(8)
Benjamin's son Daniel was thereby granted land as SUE, and further on the same petition, "Benjamin Lockwood from Documents produced is recognised an UE Loyalist" in the hand of the Inspector General, Jacques Baby. Benjamin Lockwood had many children, who eventually received appropriate land grants. Undoubtedly they too had to produce some evidence of their father's service or recognition. The discrepancy between his own statement that he was in the province in 1778, and information that he was in the evacuation to Nova Scotia, remains a mystery until Benjamin's military participation can be uncovered. Certainly he was on the District Loyalist Rolls as "Persons who have satisfied the Justices of the Peace for the Home District ... that they joined the Royal Standard in America before the year 1783."(9)

Some of the points to emphasize in this example are:-

  • The wording of a petition could have specific implications when taken at face value, by contemporary officials and perhaps by today's researchers. Having previously received early recognition, Benjamin took his status for granted when he next asked for 400 acres of land.
  • Loyalist research is geared to constructing direct-line ancestry; this should not exclude research among all the children at this important generation. Some of them may explain or resolve the suspension or expunging of a father's name.
  • By viewing these three petitions alone, we only see a hint of Benjamin's "Singular case". We do not know if he actually went to Nova Scotia, or if he petitioned for land there. Normally the receipt of a land grant in one colony would make a Loyalist ineligible for a grant in another.

  • Another issue to address is the sometimes-conflicting documentation between Loyalist military service and regular British army service. When the size of Loyalist (militia) grants was soon standardized with those of regular army officers (military), some Loyalists petitioned to have the amount of their lands "equalized". This could result in a grant, or Order-in-Council, with "MC" noted on it. We previously emphasized that the initials "UE", "SUE", and "DUE" on a petition are indicators of a Loyalist ancestor. (These initials also show up on the OntarioLand RecordsIndex [OLRI] in the "type of free grant" column.) "MC" stand for Military Claimant and normally would apply to regular soldiers who did receive a free grant in terms of the land itself, but were not exempt from administrative fees.

    To keep the issue fuzzy, occasionally a soldier slipped through as a Loyalist. It has been argued successfully in some cases for UEL Association applications that a man who received an MC grant was indeed a Loyalist. Much depends on supporting documentation from other sources, of course, and each case must be viewed on its own merits or defects. I do not have a good representative example of this situation, and if anyone is familiar with such a case, I invite them to share with us.

    The discussion of petitions for land would not be complete without reference to a totally different series at the Archives of Ontario. These are the Crown Lands petitions (RG 1, C-I-1 at AO). When the Crown Lands Department was created in 1826, free land generally became an item of the past. Thus, Loyalist researchers seldom consult this record group. Surprisingly, it can be a rewarding source for some ancestors, especially when you consider that some children of the Loyalists were born and/or lived well beyond that date of 1826. In fact, the government had some prepared forms for just such petitioners.

    On 27 February 1850, John Jones in Augusta township petitioned on behalf of his late brother who is described as someone who "never received any land or order for land, or scrip therefor, from the Crown, as such child of a U.E. Loyalist" in the pre-printed words of the form. (10)

    Click to view larger image
    Click illustration to view larger image (60 sec.)

    These "late" petitioners were encouraged to accept scrip, a monetary equivalent of 200 acres of land. Hence it may be almost impossible to find them in the usual indexes to land locations. However, the researcher finds many other compensations. The petition form not only asks for the expected name of the Loyalist father, but also the precise date and place of the petitioner's birth. In addition the accompanying affidavit requests
    • the exact date and place of death for the Loyalist father, and his age at death
    • the name of petitioner's mother, her marital status as 1st, 2nd, etc wife of the Loyalist, and her (living) age or year of death
    • names and dates of birth of all children of this Loyalist, born since the end of 1821, with husbands' names for the married daughters
    • the children of multiple marriages are to be distinguished

    Click illustration to view larger image (60 sec.)

    We also learn from this that John Jones was born 29 January 04779 [the "township" is clearly an American name with no state attached]. His father was Capt John Jones UE, late of Augusta, who died in 1802, age 52; his mother was Catherine, the first and only wife, who died in 1804; the only other sibling named was Augustus Jones born 16 May 1788 in Augusta, who died there intestate in 1809, on whose behalf John was petitioning. The petition form filled out by Philip Shaver of Matilda in the same year has a slightly different format in that 40 of scrip was pegged as the going rate for 200 acres of land. These petitions are indexed in the Archives' RG 1 Finding Aid.

    Additional Notes

  • Joan McIlmoyl Cleghorn UE of the Victoria Branch UEL Association reminds me to stress that it is not necessary to have a Loyalist ancestor to join the Association. Everyone with an interest in this period is welcome to join as an Associate Member. If you have one of those family stories that suggest Loyalist heritage, joining a Branch is the best way to acquire knowledge and skills. Some, like myself, join for the sheer interest in this fascinating era of our history. See the website address below, or contact: Dominion Headquarters, United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada, George Brown House, Baldwin St., Toronto, ON M5T 1L4.

  • A correspondent helped me track down an article that will be of interest to many descendants of New York colonists. Duncan Fraser wrote "Sir John Johnson's Rent Roll of the Kingsborough Patent" in the periodical of the Ontario Historical Society, Ontario History No LII (52), 1960. The rent roll itself is reproduced with the names of the tenants, the date of their taking a lease, acreage size, and annual rent. The dates run from 1766 to 1780, although it was said that the first settlers had come by 1754. In about half the instances, the lot number is entered (it is suggested that these can be precisely located on a map of the Kingsborough Patent in the State Library at Albany NY). Mr Fraser located the original source, for this first-ever publication of it, in British Audit Office 13/114 as a supporting document to Sir John Johnson's claim for losses. Presumably this means it can now be found in the microfilmed AO 13 series. Mr Fraser studied in depth many of the related claims among Sir John, Col Guy Johnson, Daniel Claus, and Peter Johnson to give a very succint historical description, along with the roll.

  • NOTES:
    1. National Archives of Canada [NA], RG 1, L 3, Upper Canada Land Petitions, vol 226, "H" Bundle 9, no 33, microfilm C-2046
    2. Ontario People:1796-1803 by E Keith Fitzgerald (Genealogical Publishing Company, 1993), pp 131 & 163.
    3. "Land Book A" [for Quebec] in Seventeenth Report of the Department of Public Records and Archives of Ontario (1928), pp 93 [where he is called "David" Hawley] & 95.
    4. Archives of Ontario, RG 1, OntarioLand RecordsIndex.
    5. "Land Book D" [for Upper Canada] in Twentieth Report of the Department of Public Records and Archives of Ontario (1931), p 121.
    6. NA, RG 1, L 3, Upper Canada Land Petitions, vol 283, "L" Bundle 1, no 6, microfilm C-2124.
    7. NA, RG 1, L 3, Upper Canada Land Petitions, vol 285a, "L" Bundle 7, no 12, microfilm C-2125.
    8. NA, RG 1, L 3, Upper Canada Land Petitions, vol 292, "L" Bundle 17, no 98, microfilm C
    9. Fitzgerald, op cit, p 178
    10. Archives of Ontario, RG 1, C-I-1, Crown Lands Petitions (alphabetical arrangement), John Jones; MS 691 reel 30.

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