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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How to Find a Loyalist Ancestor

Colleen's question:
My husband's grandmother Elizabeth Jane CUNNINGHAM was born in Rainham, Haldimand, Ontario, Canada in 1835. Her father was George B., CUNNIGHAM , b.1802. in Selkirk. His father was George CUNNINGHAM; mother unknown.

1. Is George (the first ) married to Mary SITTS?
2. Were the CUNNINGHAM's loyalists?

I have consulted members of the family; "The Story of Mary Sitts.,"Frontiersmen of New York, Volume 2","the Original Settlers of Haldimand", census sheets, and "United Empire Loyalists". among others. Everyone who writesseems to indicate that Mary Sitts is the ancestoress. That doesn't seem to fit.
Olive Tree Answer: Hello Colleen - Let's tackle Question #2 - where the Cunningham's Loyalists? There is no one list of Loyalists, and it is a
misconception to think that there is.

There were lists of approved Loyalists, but there was more than one, they are all different in varying ways, and no one list is considered the final word.

For example the Crown Lands Department created lists of Loyalists based on various sources. This is the Crown Lands (aka Old UEL List). It contains approximately 6,000 names but only about half are qualified UEL.

The Executive Council devised a different list from various district rolls. This lists is called the Executive Council UE List. This list, considered more accurate than the Old UEL List, contains about 3,000 names but is *not* complete.

*Both* these lists, which were first drawn up in the 1790s, have been altered since they were written. The important thing to remember is that when/if you consult
these lists, a negative result (your ancestor's name doesnot appear) does not necessarily mean he is not a qualified Loyalist!

That is why you must search ALL records. The first place I look for a possible Loyalist ancestor is in the land records, for Loyalists and their families were granted land in accordance with their military rank and dependants.

CLRI (aka Ontario Land Record Index) summarizes land grants from sales of Crown Land, from Canada Company sales or leases and from Peter Robinson settlers' grants.

UCLP are the actual Petitions for land which were submitted in Upper Canada (Ontario) . They frequently contain information about the petitioner and his or her family. Loyalists and discharged soldiers often mentioned the regiment in which they served.

Land Books are basically a summary of land grants. They
rarely contain more info than name, date and location. Sometimes they have little gems in the comment section. But they're helpful because if you can't find a petition in the UCLP it may be in the Land Book so at least you have some
record of the event.

I took a quick look on your behalf and I see that George Cunningham is recorded in Land Book "C" on June 17, 1797 as living on Lot 10, Concession 1 in Haldimand Township. You can check Abstract Indexes to Deeds to find out how George obtained the land - was it a grant? Did he purchase it?

I always start with the UCLP because it is indexed (UCLP Index) *and* if your ancestor is found, you may be lucky enough to find a wealth of genealogical information in his/her petition(s) for land grants.

After thoroughly searching the UCLP (and being very creative with spellling!!), I move on to the other sources,leaving no stone unturned.

You can also consult the following offline sources

- Haldimand Papers - papers and correspondence of Haldimand, Sir Frederick from 1758-1784

- Loyalist Claims and Conversion List, 1790-1837 - Audit Office 12 and 13

- The Loyalists in Ontario: The Sons & Daughters of the American Loyalists (Caveat: Reid's work must not be considered the final say - it isn't.But it's a great place to look for clues, and he does include that all important OC date if there is one )

- District Loyalist Rolls

- United Empire Loyalist Lists

All of these sources are fully explained on Finding a Loyalist Ancestor You will also find the microfilm reel numbers (if applicable) and location of each source.

1 comment:

  1. Not to mention:
    Loyalist Children of Upper Canada
    Loyalist and Military Settlers of Upper Canada
    UE Loyalist, Military, Early Settlers of Upper Canada...they are a great reference as well before the microfilms...