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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Confusion About Canadian Loyalists Answered

Jim asked an interesting question about an Irish ancestor being a Loyalist

I have Canadian roots in 1850-1869 area of Kingston Ontario Canada, and I am
wondering if they were survivors on a coffin ship, (mine were on the ill
fated Hannah that struck a ice reef and sank) and they have lived in the
Brewers Mills area of Rideau Canal.  MY question is "did they have to become
loyalists" when they got off the ship?  Seeing they were catholic, survived
the "Potatoe Famine" and more than likely hated England? Being a loyalist
did they have a better time of it in Canada than the regular people that
lived there?
OLIVE TREE GENEALOGY ANSWER: Jim - to be a Loyalist a person had to meet certain criteria including:

* Reside in the American Colonies before the American Revolution
* Joined the British Forces before 1783
* Suffered loss of property, goods or life

As you can see, your man did not fit any of these. Besides, no individual "had" to become a Loyalist. A loyalist was someone living in the American Colonies who remained loyal to the King of England and did not participate in the Rebellion on the American side.

If what you are really asking is "Did he have to become a citizen of Canada" the answer is -  Canada was not "Canada" at that time. It was still a British colony until 1867.  

The Canadian Citizenship Act began on 1 January 1947. From 1763 to that date, people born in the provinces and colonies of British North America were all British subjects. Taking the oath of allegiance meant becoming a British subject. Thus immigrants from Great Britain and the Commonwealth (England, Ireland, Wales or Scotland) did not have to be naturalized

It is most likely that, being Catholic and Irish, your ancestors had a rough time of it. There was a great deal of discrimination against the Irish at that time, and being Irish Catholic was in a sense a double whammy. 

But you could find some details by consulting the census to see what kind of home they had - a shanty, a log cabin, a stone house, including how many storeys. You could also consult land records to see if they owned land. There are ways to flesh out the bare bones of names and dates.