Black Loyalists to Nova Scotia

by E.B. Lapointe

They landed at Birchtown, Port Mouton, Annapolis Royal, Fort Cumberland, Halifax, Port Roseway (Shelburne) and Saint John* and settled in Annapolis Royal, Cornwallis/Horton, Weymouth, Digby, Windsor, Preston, Sydney, Fort Cumberland, Birchtown, Shelburne, Port Mouton and Saint John.*

Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor of Virginia, declared that any slave or indentured person was to be given their freedom if they took up arms and joined the British against the Rebels. Over 2,000 slaves and indentured persons joined the forces.

Sir Henry Clinton, the British Commander-in-Chief, also offered freedom to the Blacks as well as a "Certificate of Freedom," a passport giving permission to board the ships to Nova Scotia. To make sure that no one left without permission, 114 ships in New York Harbour were inspected.

At one time, Birchtown was the largest settlement of Black Loyalists outside of Africa. Due to inadequate planning on the part of the Nova Scotia government in giving them grants of land and food rations, the Sierra Leone Company, in 1791, agreed to take over 1,200 of them to Sierra Leone in West Africa.

If one visits the Black Loyalist Historical Society website <>, they will find that there is a page of the "First Canadian Black Loyalist Registry" where, if one is of Black Loyalist descent, one can register in the first registry of its kind in Canada. Also at the website are photos of the Canadian Heritage Site, and of the community itself, including St. Paul's Anglican Church and the old schoolhouse, which has been turned into a research centre.

They were also listed in the "Book of Negroes" by their name, age, physical description, status (slave or free), owner's name, or a reference. There is a list of surnames on the web at <>, as well as a list of names at <> of Birchtown Loyalists and the companies they came in to Port Roseway (Shelburne) in 1783.

There is an article on Black Loyalists of Digby at <<>. At the Shelburne County Genealogical Society's website <> are found "Loyalist Sources," a bookshop, a "Member's Search Interest", and the "Black Community Files."

The Halifax Public Library of Halifax, Nova Scotia will be celebrating "African Heritage Month at the Library: 20 Years of Celebration" this year.

They have placed a display on their e-library website <> There are also copies of "A Chronology of Black History of Nova Scotia," and "A Lookback at 20 years of African History Month" at the library.

* (Saint John was part of Nova Scotia at this time, but later joined New Brunswick when it became a separate province in 1784.)

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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

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