Over the past month I’ve been looking at Loyalist history and the records that have been preserved and digitised for historians and family historians alike to use to find out more about the early European and Loyalist American settlers in Upper Canada (now Ontario). Several of my ancestors were Loyalists who settled near the shores of Lake Erie in Upper Canada and many of their descendants are still living in the region.
Today I wanted to demonstrate what can be found within these records. I did this briefly with my look at Jacob Anguish’s request for aid that is found in the Haldimand Papers. Today I want to show what can be found across a range of sources for one person, namely Henry Anguish, Jacob’s son.
Henry is my 5x great-grandfather. Over the course of his life he moved from Canadian to American-held territories and back again. This demonstrates the fluidity of movement across borders during peacetime between the Canadian and American territories. He was one of the first Europeans settlers in the area of Tonawanda, New York. By opening the first tavern in the area in 1811 and creating the first building in what would become the village and then town, he is sometimes referred to as the town’s founder. However, he ultimately settled in Rainham Township in Haldimand County, Upper Canada. Continue reading
For the past few weeks I have been writing about the digitised sources available for historians and genealogists (family historians) alike for finding out information about Canada’s Loyalist ancestors. I wanted to take a slightly different perspective on the blog today by looking at what it meant to be a Loyalist.
Who were the Loyalists?
United Empire Loyalists were men and women who were in the thirteen colonies in America and who opposed the American revolution. Estimates of their numbers vary, but there were perhaps around 50,000 Loyalists.
These were people who:
- lived in the American colonies as of 19 April 1775 (the date of the Battles of Lexington and Concord) and either joined the Royal Standard before 1783’s Treaty of Separation (aka the Treaty of Paris) or demonstrated loyalty to the Crown, and settled in British-held territory, OR
- were soldiers who had served in an American Loyalist Regiment and then relocated to Canada, OR
- were members of the Six Nations of either the Grand River or the Bay of Quinte Reserve and were descended from those whose migration patterns were similar to the Loyalists’.
There were Loyalist regiments, Loyalist forts and garrisons, and Loyalist settlements. Continue reading
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.
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
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
Recently I’ve been looking into some Loyalist records from early Canada. Thanks to government-funded digitisation programmes such as Héritage and the work of Library and Archives Canada, many sets of records once only available in the British Library or on 1960s-era microfilm at select national libraries are now online and free to access.
The digitised, handwritten documents found in such collections as the Upper Canada Land Petitions and the Haldimand Papers (two sets I’ve used quite a bit) also serve as excellent reminders that just because a source has been put up online does not mean that it will be easy to search through, read, or use. Even databases with an integrated online search application can give difficult or incomplete results due to many different factors. First, searches are often limited to name and location: content or subject is left out. This is promising for family history and genealogy research, but what if I want to know about early settlers to a specific region or find examples of cultural interactions between different groups? I’d have to go through page by page. The search engine (and, in some ways, the presentation of the collection) has therefore been aimed at genealogists rather than historians.
Excerpt from the Petition of Jacob Anguish to Lieut. Col. Peyster of Niagara, dated 4 August 1784. The Haldimand Papers, H-1448, 399 (pp. 419-21), Images 335-7.
The search results may also be affected by the quality of penmanship and the skill of the archivist. Continue reading
We all benefit from the efforts of libraries, archives, museum, and government bodies to organise, catalogue, and digitise documents and collections, but it can be very hard to keep up with what’s online! A collection you searched for which you were disappointed to find as only available on microform through inter-library loan only a few months ago might now be accessible from your living room. In this era of digitisation, what’s the best way to keep on top of what sources are coming online?
Following the blogs of libraries and archives that hold the types of material and specific collections you are typically interested in, especially those with government funding who are more likely to be able to devote people, money, and resources necessary to digitise and host online collections, is a great way to start.
For example, while I was conducting some genealogical research, I found evidence that a land petition of my 6x great-grandfather, a United Empire Loyalist, was in the Haldimand Papers. I prefer working with full-text primary sources rather than printed summaries or indexes, but the original papers were in the British Library and microfilm copies were available in Canada but nowhere near where I was living. I took note of how to find them and stored that away for another day. A few months later Library and Archives Canada blogged about their latest digitisation efforts and amazingly the Haldimand Papers was on the list! And that’s when I realised that these blogs can valuable tools for furthering one’s research.
It seems that most university libraries nowadays have one or more blogs, so why not Google your favourite library + blog and see what’s on offer. To get you started, here’s a list of some great blogs from libraries and archives that reflect upon the digitisation of resources and material of interest to historians of British and Irish global history. Feel free to let us know your favourites in the comments below!