Do you qualify for the letters U.E.?

Many Canadians have ancestors who remained loyal to the British Crown in the American revolution and, having found themselves on the losing side of the war, were forced to rebuild their lives in Britain’s Canadian colonies.


Today, Canadian descendants of Loyalists can still apply to the UELAC (United Empire Loyalists Association of Canada) to include the initials UE (for Unity of Empire) after their names because the title is hereditary. This is a unique quality amongst Canadian honours. It doesn’t come with any special status or rewards anymore, but at one time it was worth 200 acres of land.

The post-nominal letters and this designation come from Lord Dorcester’s 1789 Proclamation, in which he notes:

Those Loyalists who have adhered to the unity of the Empire, and joined the Royal Standard before the Treaty of Separation in the year 1783, and all their children and their descendants by either sex, are to be distinguished by the following capitals, affixed to their names: U.E. alluding to their great principle the unity of the Empire.

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Loyalist Records Online: An Overview

Loyalist Records Online: An Overview

For the last few weeks I’ve been writing quite a bit about using digitised Loyalist documents (check out my reflections on the struggles inherent in finding specific records and my detailed look at an injured Loyalist’s plea for financial support for his family). I’m thinking that a well-organised overview of some of the digitised sources I’ve been using and writing about might be in order. The resources are presented in a confusing enough way on their own sites; here we might be able to make a bit more sense of them.

Haldimand Papers

Search Page: The papers have not been transcribed and there is no online searchable index. There is, however, microfilm reel C-1475 that contains a typed index of names. Watch out for misspelled names and try to think up and look for alternative spellings. Also look for potential relatives; if a specific person you are looking for is not in the index, they may still be mentioned near a relative’s name in the actual records and were simply missed. Continue reading

A Loyalist’s Request for Assistance in the Haldimand Papers

A Loyalist’s Request for Assistance in the Haldimand Papers

I recently wrote about some of the great online resources now available for conducting research into Loyalist history and experiences in early Canada, and alongside this I reflected upon some of the struggles that go along with trying to search through and utilise these great records. As databases that are very much the straight-forward digitisation of microfilm reels made in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, rather than having been created as an online resource, they are not user-friendly. They are simply organised by microfilm reel. Their related search engines have limited scope (usually just name and location) and give detailed information on where to find associated records in the microfilm, but no links to the digitised version of the source. At times it can be difficult to simply find the online database itself!

In my experience, searching for Loyalist records online involves a lot of jumping around from website to website, trying to find the search page and the actual digitised resources, translating the microfilm details from your search into something that’s meaningful for the online, digitised ‘reels’, jumping from image to image within the designated reel to find the correct volume and then the correct page, and then, if the quality of the decades-old microfilmed image was good and the digitised image of the microfilm sufficient, working your way through the text.

It seems to me that a lot of this confusion could be cleared up by a simple reorganisation of the digitised files. Continue reading

Ulster Sails West

“Many Americans are misled by [Irish] Republican propaganda.  We ask them to remember to whom it is that they largely owe their freedom; we ask them to remember that it was our people in Ulster who were the first to start and the last to quit.”

William Forbes Marshall, also known as the Bard of Tyrone, wrote these words in 1943 in his Ulster Sails West.  Marshall, born in Drumragh, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, in 1888, was a Presbyterian minister who had served at Castlerock since 1928.  At Castlerock, where he lived for the rest of his life, he gained fame for his poetry and promotion of the Ulster dialect.


W.F. Marshall – photo credit: Dictionary of Ulster Biography

Marshall’s stated purpose in writing Ulster Sails West is to tell the story of the emigration from Ulster to North America in the eighteenth century, revealing the extent to which Ulster immigrants had shaped United States government and society.  This task was made all the more urgent, he explains, “now that the American flag so often decorates our Ulster countryside, and we have ceased to stare at American soldiers walking in our streets.”  Northern Ireland was used as a staging area for Allied troops during World War II, with a peak of 120,000 American servicemen stationed there at one time.  An estimated 300,000 American servicemen passed through Northern Ireland throughout the course of the war.

Marshall writes that “few of these welcomed friends have heard our story.”  He accuses Irish Republicans of using the history of the Scotch-Irish to support the end to partition in Ireland; Ireland’s neutrality in World War II also shapes Marshall’s message.  He wishes to educate Americans so that “when appeals are made to them, with reminders of services said to have been rendered, let them remember that these reminders rest on no basis of fact, that Southern Ireland was no more in [the American Revolutionary] war than she is in this one, and that she made no mark on the United States till the 19th century.”

Beyond this direct response to his World War II context, Marshall’s characterization of Ulster Protestant immigrant impact on American history is very similar to what I have found for Ulster unionists in the Home Rule era (1886-1920).  Marshall himself uses several works from the Home Rule era as sources.  He emphasizes the martial excellence of the immigrants, which he must intend to especially appeal to the American soldiers stationed in Northern Ireland.  He quotes tributes to Scotch-Irish fighting abilities in the American Revolution from the likes of George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt.  He recognizes numerous Scotch-Irish generals from all of the major conflicts of American history.

Marshall also highlights the Scotch-Irish contribution to American religion, education, politics, journalism, industry, and inventions.  He credits them with leading the way to the west as pioneers.  And of course, he has the familiar long list of United States presidents of Ulster descent, which numbered fourteen at the time.

All throughout the book he denies the right of Irish Republicans (as he characterizes the situation) to use this history and achievement as their own.  With the repeated emphasis on this history as solely belonging to the Ulster Protestants, he reveals how strongly he felt the threat of the history being “stolen.”  He states, “We are not willing to lose the credit for those achievements of our people.  We are not willing that this credit should be stolen from those to whom it belongs, and made part and parcel of a tireless propaganda for our political extinction.”

As with the Ulster unionist use of American history in the Home Rule era, there is some question of what Marshall hoped to achieve with this call for the “rightful” use of history.  He states at the end of the book that he hopes the American people would be guided in their views of Ireland by knowledge and thoughtful consideration of the facts.

And perhaps also guided by the sentiments of the noteworthy poem that opens the book:

Hi! Uncle Sam!  /  Wherever there was fighting,  /  Or wrong that needed righting,  /  An Ulsterman was sighting /  His Kentucky gun with care:  /  All the road to Yorktown  […]  /  That Ulsterman was there!

On Friday I’ll be taking a look at some related things to consider when examining at this source and others like it, so stay tuned!


Suggested Reading:

Marshall, William F.  Ulster Sails West.  Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1984.

“GI Guide to Ulster (Pocket Guide to Northern Ireland).” Your Place or Mine, BBC Northern Ireland.

“Northern Ireland and World War II.”  Irish History Live, Queen’s University Belfast.


Harry Dickinson, the Magna Carta, and the American Revolution

On the evening of January 26, 2016, Harry (H. T.) Dickinson, Emeritus Professor of British History at the University of Edinburgh, presented a lecture on “Magna Carta in the American Revolution.” As an audience member, I live tweeted the lecture using #HTDickinson on my Twitter account, @HistoryByPaula and spoke to Dickinson at the reception that followed. This public lecture was given as part of the festschrift in Dickinson’s honour and coincided with the launch of a new book, Liberty, Property and Popular Politics: England and Scotland, 1688-1815 (Edinburgh University Press, 2015). Many of the contributors to the volume were also in attendance.

Harry Dickinson has an unparalleled publication record and excellent reputation in the field of British history. As Gordon Pentland noted in his introduction, 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of Dickinson’s first contract with the University of Edinburgh. What has always struck me about Dickinson is his wealth of knowledge, capacity to synthesize vast amounts of information, and ability to make clear connections from which to formulate opinion and further one’s understanding of a topic.

Tuesday’s lecture was no exception. Beginning with a brief discussion of the passing of the Magna Carta in 1215 and 1225, Dickinson provided a detailed analysis the 1225 version’s Chapter 29, and then returned repeatedly to this chapter as he spoke. We followed along his carefully prepared outline of the origins, events, and outcomes of the American Civil War and were amazed as he teased out connections between the rhetoric of the colonists and their British opponents.

Dickinson was able to show numerous ways in which both sides were able to use the rights guaranteed to them by the Magna Carta to support their position in opposition to the other and, after Independence, how the American side concluded that they no longer needed the Magna Carta as they were creating a republic. It was fascinating.

For his sources, he drew from political records, letters, popular pamphlets and treatises, coins, artwork, architecture, and state and national constitutions. In the Q & A that followed, he was apologetic that we were only hearing 6000 words out of the full 22,000 word paper, “Magna Carta in the Age of Revolution,” that he had written on the subject, and I was surprised and happy to receive an email from the event organisers the following day with a link to his work. What a great advantage to be able to dig deeper into the sources, the connections, and the findings following a lecture. I enjoyed the evening and will be hoping to hear him speak again soon.

Live Tweeting Harry Dickinson’s Lecture

This evening, January 26, H.T. Dickinson, Emeritus Professor of British History at the University of Edinburgh, will be giving a lecture entitled “Magna Carta in the American Revolution” that will coincide with a festschrift in his honour (Liberty, Property and Popular Politics: England and Scotland, 1688-1815, Edinburgh University Press). Harry is a dynamic speaker, an endlessly supportive supervisor, and an accomplished author and historian. His unparalleled knowledge of British political history over the long eighteenth century will no doubt be demonstrated this evening.

I’ll be attending “Magna Carta in the American Revolution” and plan to live tweet the lecture on Twitter beginning at 5:15pm GMT (12:15pm EST). Follow me on Twitter @HistoryByPaula and search for the hashtag #HTDickinson to follow along.

Suggested Reading:

Pentland, Gordon and Michael Davis, eds. Liberty, Property and Popular Politics: England and Scotland, 1688-1815. Essays in Honour of H. T. Dickinson. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015.

Selected Works of H.T. (Harry) Dickinson:


The Politics of the People in Eighteenth-Century Britain (London and New York, 1994 and 1995).

Caricatures and the Constitution, 1760-1832 (Cambridge, 1986).

British Radicalism and the French Revolution, 1789-1815 (Oxford, 1985).

Liberty and Property: Political Ideology in Eighteenth-Century Britain (London and New York, 1977 and 1979)

Edited Collections:

Britain and the American Revolution (London, 1998)

Britain and the French Revolution, 1789-1815 (Harmondsworth, 1989).