American Loyalists in Canada
by E.B. Lapointe
Canada was founded by three peoples: those of the Aboriginal
community; those of French descent; and the American Loyalists, people
loyal to Britain who fled the Thirteen Colonies* during and after the
American Revolution. Approximately 40,000 fled to Canada and formed the
basis of the English-speaking society in the country. In Canada, they
settled in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and
Nova Scotia (including Cape Breton).
It has been 220 years since the American Loyalists came to Canada.
They have included Harvard graduates, lawyers, merchants, craftspeople,
farmers, old settlers, and newly immigrated peoples from Europe. Driven
from their land and businesses by the American Patriots during the
Revolution from the Thirteen Colonies, they settled in New York City,
and it was from there that they eventually left for other lands as the
Revolution came to an end in 1783.
The Welcome Sign to Canada’s First Loyalist Settlement
Shelburne, Nova Scotia
Photo Credit: Charles Barclay
The United Empire Loyalist Association, 50 Baldwin Street, Suite 2002, Toronto, ON M5T 1L4 (http://www.uelac.org
) has an excellent overview of the Loyalists and their history. They publish the Loyalist Gazette
twice a year and give a listing (including e-mail addresses in all
cases) of all the branches across the country. If proven, they can also
confer "UE" to descendants of Loyalists: it is the only hereditary
title in Canada.
In the Library and Archives of Canada facilities at 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa, ON K1A 0N3 (http://www.archives.ca)
there is microfilm of some of the records of the Loyalists. These
inlcude land petitions in Ontario (Microfilm Reel C-2222 & C-1476,
and claims from the Maritime Loyalists, of which there is a nominal
index on Microfilm Reel C-9821). These microfilm reels can be borrowed
from the archives through their interlibrary loan service. Reference is
also made to them in the Archives booklet, "Tracing Your Ancestors in
Canada," which is found online on their website.
The "On-Line Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies" (http://www.royalprovincial.com)
is committed to posting original records to the Internet such as that
of the military at the time, the history of the Loyalists, and their
genealogy. One can also search the website by surname to see if
Loyalist ancestors are included.
The "Canadian Genealogy and History Links" website (http://www.islandnet.com/~jveinot/cghl/loyalist.html) has a Loyalist section in which Internet resources are linked. The "Olive Tree Genealogy Homepage" (http://www.olivetreegenealogy.com) also has a Loyalist website on which databases can be searched.
There are also a number of listserves and message boards available, such as found at http://www.ancestry.com and http://www.rootsweb.com which
can be extremely helpful when researching American Loyalists. Since
their leaving the United States happened both during and at the end of
a revolution, many of the papers which would have stated their
residence—such as deeds, bills of sale of land, and passenger lists for
ships coming to Canada—were probably lost during the conflict.
Therefore, listserves and message boards have become important tools in
the determination of the status of the individual.
* Thirteen Colonies - They
were made up of the following states: Massachusetts, Vermont,
Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey,
Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and
In 1783, these former colonies formed the basis of the new republic of the United States.
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"A former newspaper reporter in Canada's capital, Ottawa, I
became interested in writing about genealogy when researching my own
ancestor, Andrew Barclay, an American Loyalist from Boston, Massachusetts,
early in 1990. Quickly, my interest spread beyond my own family, and by 1994,
I was editing a genealogy newsletter and by 1997, I was editing the Sourcing
Canada series of books. Since then, I have gone on to write "My Ancestor Was
French Canadian" and a series of booklets on Canadian genealogy. I love to
travel the Canadian and American countryside looking for interesting people
and places to photograph and to write about." - E.B. Lapointe