4 Things I Learned About Loyalists on #GenChat

The American Revolution is a one-sided conversation when you grow up in the United States of America. Yep. The Redcoats are bad and the folks who supported them are traitors. You wait for the “Whites of Their Eyes” and then eventually you have a new country separate from the King of England. But, there’s another side to the story and I didn’t appreciate it until my Grandma Helen Zumstein Geiszler indicate that her lineage has folks who supported the crown and went to Ontario after the Revolution because they supported the crown. Oh dear! I’m in trouble.

Thankfully much of that learning took place 20+ years ago. In that time, I discovered that the Loyalist ancestor is John Comfort who was born in 1741 in Newton, Ulster, New York. His family was divided on the American Revolution as some of his brothers qualify descendants for the Daughters of the American Revolution, while his documentary trail has been established and accepted by the United Empire Loyalists. But before the war, they were all in Ulster, New York. What’s awesome about this discovery, is I can just ride on the coattails of other relatives research. Yeah!

But, there might be more Canadian relatives on my tree who were Loyalists. How would I go about proving their connection? Well, that’s where #Genchat comes in. Grab your favorite drink and join the conversation every other Friday at 9 CST. Look below for the next one on February 10th.

So the conversation usually starts off with a simple question. For January 27, the question was, “Do you have a Loyalist?” As you’ve just read, my answer is yes. The next question for us was “What do you know about Loyalists?” And, I was in a bit of a quirky mood and responded with this:

Sexy #genchat participants
Loyalists are Sexy, right? #genchat

Yep. I had a little too much hot cocoa with marshmallows. I had been freezing all day in Texas (yeah, I know. 50 degrees isn’t really cold but when you left all your cold weather clothing in Iowa, that’s pretty cold). I digress. Soon, we were learning vast amounts of helpful information:

Tom Reid shared this great information on Who Were Loyalists? 

Loyalists were:

1. As of 19 April 1775, a resident of American colonies, and joined the Royal Standard prior to Treaty of Separation of 1783

2. S soldier who served in an American Loyalist Regiment and was disbanded in Canada, OR

3. a member of the Six Nations of either the Grand River or the Bay of Quinte Reserve. 

Wow. That was very informative. Many people just knew the paraphrased version of essentially those loyal to the crown who left the colonies following the American Revolution and started life over. Man, I love learning new things!

There were many insights as to, “Where did Loyalists settle after the American Revolution?” The most common answers were Lincoln and Welland Counties in Ontario (where my ancestors lived), Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and northern Quebec. Essentially many settled in Lower Canada and Upper Canada.

Now, here’s where #genchat really became helpful. I’ve often confused Upper and Lower Canada. Check out this map and tell me I’m not going crazy.

Map of Upper and Lower Canada
Map from the Canadian History Project

See! I’m not insane. Upper Canada is lower than the Lower Canda. It’s time to throw in a little geography and my #genchat comrades were there to help.

Understanding Upper and Lower Canada
#genchat buddies have the answer!

The teachers for this evening found that many of us were clueless when it came to some of the questions. But that’s the beauty of #genchat! When the community lacks education, those with more knowledge can share and all walk away enlightened.

The question was How do you prove your Loyalist Relationship? 

To be honest, many of us didn’t know. Some of the answers were what you’d expect in genealogy. You start with yourself and work your way back through time finding using birth, marriage, and death records.  Then The Healstorian said that the Loyalist connection could be proven through “ship manifests, land grant records, military records, possible arrest/court docs.” I love this answer but the trick is, how would you know? How would you know that this information would be something to pursue?

First, look for clues: Christie McCloud suggested that you “an ancestor who was from Canada whose ancestry was from US.” She’s right, and the trick is the timing. The ancestor needs to have been an adult in 1776 living in the 13 Colonies and then move to Canada. (Which goes back to Tom’s point and was new to me information).

Then submit the documentation that establishes your genealogical relationship to the crossing the border ancestors. But I still wondered if a birth record in the US would truly suggest that the ancestor was a Loyalist if then they went to Canada? Could some enterprising individual claim Loyalty just for new land? The Healstorian had this to say which I found profound, “Modern historians differ re true loyalists. Some say there were levels of loyalists. Others say only refugees.” So, who do you prove your Loyalist Relationship? Genealogical documents that connect you to a ‘cross-the-border” ancestor who fits Tom’s criteria or as close to it as possible.

#Genchat Poldark
Grab your favorite beverage and join us next time!

The evening closed out with links to great resources to research your Canadian ancestors and possibly prove their Loyalist connection. Here are some the links:

But David Allen Lambert also threw a curveball into the mix. He shared this advice, “Remember if the settled in Canada before 1775 they are “Planters” not “Loyalists”. Oh goodness. I have German to Canada ancestors in that time period. So, I asked David about that side topic and he had this to say, “Many of the settlers that came from Germany settled Lunenburg during the Expulsion of the Acadians.”So if we want to learn more about this, we should “See Crowell’s New England to Nova Scotia for pre-1775 New England “Planters” to Acadia on @AncestorExperts”

To sum up, here are the Four Things I Learned for Canadian research via #genchat.

  1. Who were the Loyalists? There’s a little more to the answer than what I had thought.
  2. How to understand Upper & Lower Canada… it involves a river!
  3. How to Prove Your Loyalist Relationship
  4. Canadian settlers pre-Loyalists were Planters

Oh, and I learned how to add really great GIFs to my twitter feed. Oh, yeah. I got a little carried away.

Are you busy every other Friday at 9 pm CST? If not, then you might want to join #genchat. I superfast hour of Q&A on a different topic each session.  Here’s a link to learn more about how #Genchat started!

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

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