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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Searching for a Loyalist Ancestor

Rosemary asked about her Loyalist ancestor:

I am looking for the connection in the US for William Osterhout, who was my 4th ggfather. He was a private in Butler's Rangers. When he arrived in Niagara after the Revolutionary war, he married Elizabeth Pickard, whose father and uncle were also in Butler's Rangers. They had 10 children! I have found lots of info on the Pickards, but I am not sure where William came from. I am assuming New York State but there are many Osterhouts and many Williams or Wilhelms.

I'm happy you sent this to me because three of my ancestors were Loyalists who fought in Butler's Rangers. So I have a pretty good idea of how I can direct you to find out more details about William Osterhout.

Searching for more on a Loyalist ancestor is complicated and can be a lengthy process. The early Ontario records are held in different locations and are sparse. But don't despair, just keep digging!

The very first thing you should do is obtain all the Upper Canada Land Petitions for William. Be careful to search under spellings such as OOSTERHOUT, OOSTERHAUT and so on.Obtain them all, because you have no way of knowing what tidbits of information will be found in those petitions.

For example my Isaac Vollick's petition contained an affidavit from his commanding officer in Butler's Rangers telling how Isaac's wife Mary and 10 small chldren had been forced from their home in northern New York by those opposed to the British. The detail was of course fascinating to me but best of all it gave a precise location for where the family lived before 1796! I also found mention that Isaac had been jailed in Albany several times during the first years of the American Revolution - another plus having that location which led me to his baptism record

For help with the UCLP (Upper Canada Land Petitions) have a look at the information and instructions found at this link.

Something to keep in mind is that Loyalist units were almost always mustered in one geographic location and the men in them knew each other well, being friends and neighbours. Butler's Rangers was mustered by Col. John Butler in New York and consisting of Mohawk Indians and men from New York. So almost certainly your William was originally from New York.

You should also have a look at the advice and information on Loyalists found at this link. When seeking details of a loyalist ancestor it's very important to understand the process they went through to become a Loyalist and find all records that might exist documenting their hardships. These records often contain gems of genealogical information such as origins.

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