New Brunswick Loyalist Settlers and Records (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Research: New Brunswick Ancestors  by Althea Douglas, MA, CG(C). The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

A Cautionary Tale[edit | edit source]

Because of their numbers, influence and positions of power in the new Colony of New Brunswick, the Loyalist myths have tended to overshadow the tales of earlier settlers. Though the Yorkshire immigrants remembered their origins, Planters from New England and Loyalists, often from the same places, got mixed in many people’s historical thinking. In the Dominion of Canada, Ontario had made “Loyalist descent” desirable and the thinking spread to the Maritimes. Be very suspicious of 19th century biographies of prominent men that claim “Loyalist descent.” It was a politically correct claim, made by many, but not necessarily true. Here is a real-life example to serve both as a warning, and as a guide to documenting early settlers. A longer version was published in The Loyalist Gazette, Fall 1995, pages 7-8.

When I started checking my family tree for a Loyalist to justify my UL, I worked backward from my grandfather, Adelbert Cavour Chapman. I found an entry for him in Prominent People of the Maritime Provinces:

Chapman, Adelbert Cavour, Manufacturer, Born Dorchester, New Brunswick., Oct.25, 1860, son of Robert A. and Mary Elizabeth (Frost) Chapman. Married P. Althea Cleveland, October 24, 1883; two sons, two daughters. (page 34).

For his father, Robert Andrew Chapman, I found an entry in A Cyclopedia of Canadian Biography:

Chapman, Robert Andrew, was born in Dorchester, county of Westmorland, New Brunswick, on the 2nd of February, 1835, where he has resided ever since. His father was Robert B. Chapman, and his mother, Margaret Weldon. Both Mr. Chapman’s great-grandfather and grandfather emigrated from Yorkshire, England, in l775. Margaret Weldon’s grandfather on the paternal side, came to America from North Allerton, Yorkshire, in 1770, and her ancestors on the maternal side—the Killams—were United Empire Loyalists. (page 263)

That surprised me a little, but perhaps here was my loyalist. Checking further I found an entry for an Amasa Emerson Killam in A Cyclopedia (page 398) that also claimed the Killams were Loyalists. The Biographical Review—Province of New Brunswick (pages 34-37) contains a longer pedigree for Amasa Emerson Killam, showing his father as a grandson of Amasa Killam, explaining that “Amasa Killam was an officer in the English Army and served during the American Revolution. At the close of that he was stationed at Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he died while on garrison duty.”

Here are Loyalist claims made by two branches of the Killam family, one of them repeating it with impressive details, though no proof. However, the Killam family is not listed by Esther Clark Wright in The Loyalists of New Brunswick. On the other hand, Planters and Pioneers: Nova Scotia, 1749 to 1775, lists two Killam families, one being Amasa Killam (Kellam, Killum) of Sackville. The town book for Sackville Township[1] lists the family of Amasa Killam:

John Killam was born in Providence in the Colony of Rhode Island the 8th day of March l758. This was a son Killam had by his first wife. Captain Amasa Killam and Elizabeth Emerson was joined in marriage.

No marriage date given and it continues with a list of their seven children born in the township with birth dates. In 1851 one of their daughters, Elizabeth (née Killam) Weldon told the census taker she was age 81 and born in the Province, which agrees with her birthdate in 1770 as given in the town book. It also agrees with the 1770 census of the Township of Sackville[2] which lists Amasa Killam [Amava Kellum] as head of a household of seven. Moreover, the Indexes to Nova Scotia Crown Land Grants[3] show large grants to Amasa and Superam Killan [sic] dated 1765.

So, Amasa Killam was a Planter, and a resident of Nova Scotia well before the Revolution. In W. C. Milner’s History of Sackville New Brunswick I found a curious comment “A lot at Crane’s Corner had been owned by Amasa Kellam, who being mixed up with the Eddy War, his property was confiscated and sold at auction and purchased by his son-in-law, Atkinson.” (page 45)

Participation in the Eddy Rebellion was a sensitive subject in 19th century Nova Scotia. Richard John Uniacke was arrested for his support of Jonathan Eddy, but in time became Attorney General of Nova Scotia. Not surprisingly, almost no records of that abortive little rebellion are to be found in the Archives of Nova Scotia. However, I turned up a warrant for the arrest of Jonathan Eddy and 26 others “late of Cumberland”, issued April 28, l777. [4]

Among those listed is Amos Kellum (or Kethum). The annotation on the back, stating that most of the wanted men were not to be found, spells the name Amos Kellam. There being no other Killam/Kellum family in the area at that time, it almost certainly refers to Amasa; remember we are now back in a time of phonetic spelling, when people who could write wrote down what they heard, or thought they heard, spelling a name as it sounded.

Next, in volume 9 (Kab-Lus)Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War (l902), page 70, I found:

Kellum, Amasa. Courier; pay roll of field and Staff officers and other persons serving under Col. John Allan and stationed at Machias for its defence; entered service June 1, l778; discharged July 8, l778, served 1 month 8 days.

I have found no record of Amasa Killam’s death at the Citadel in Halifax, and in light of the Cumberland warrant, he could hardly have been serving with the British Army. Rather, as a rebel “courier” he may have been captured, as Uniacke was, and placed under arrest there. If he had been executed for treason, some record ought to exist, but if he happened to die while in custody he may have been buried with little ceremony. Administration of Amasa Killam’s estate[5] was granted his widow, Elizabeth Killam on May 24, l779. The inventory shows a “Balance in favour of the Heirs” of £287.17.10. of which £200 represented the value of 1,350 acres of land. There is no reference to Amasa being “Captain,” or to Halifax as the place of death.

Elizabeth (née Emmerson) Killam’s family must have rallied round to help her retain the property and sometime after 1781 she married as his second wife the Yorkshireman, John Wheldon. Her daughter, Elizabeth Killam, married John’s son, Andrew Dale Weldon, becoming the grandparents of Robert Andrew Chapman. Perhaps I could use that ancestry to join the Daughters of the American Revolution, but I have a better line through Robert Andrew’s father-in-law, Shepherd Johnson Frost, architect, millwright, American and bigamist.

And my Loyalist ancestor? He was on my father’s side of the family, one Robert Forsyth, who petitioned and received land on the Mirimichi, abducted Jane Martin thus becoming a defendant in the first case heard by Northumberland County Court of Quarter Sessions, and raised a family of at least 9 children. The family, and the sources of information are detailed by W.D. Hamilton inOld North Esk Revised, pages 154-155.

Loyalists[edit | edit source]

The Revolution Ends 1776-1783
[edit | edit source]

When the American War of Independence ended there were refugees, citizens who had supported the losing side, or were perceived by their neighbours to have done so. From 1776 onwards, some were driven out and some fled, seeking refuge in British territory, determined to remain loyal to Great Britain, or so they say in their many petitions and claims for compensation.

Throughout the rebellion in the North American Colonies, Nova Scotia had remained more or less loyal to Britain, though many of the inhabitants had come from New England, and had friends and family still living there. The Eddy Rebellion was a minor incident, though the seige of Fort Cumberland did leave some hard feelings against the British Army, who had burnt a number of homes.

The Boat People Arrive[edit | edit source]

However, in 1783 the country’s first “boat people” arrived on the shores of Nova Scotia, most evacuated by the British from the New York area, though their homes may originally have been in other colonies. They came by boat, and that meant that unlike those who fled overland to Québec (part of which would become Ontario), some brought a number of personal possessions with them. Quite a lot of silver tableware and mahogany furniture managed to survive the first primitive years in the wilderness, or so families’ legends tell us.

British officials had been making some preparations for this influx, though not enough. There was unsettled land north of the Bay of Fundy and so, on April 16, 1783 so-called “Spring Fleet” of twenty transports sailed from New York, arriving at the mouth of the St. John River in early May. The exact day is disputed by historians but since the majority only disembarked on the 18th that date was later chosen as “Loyalist Day.” The influx had begun and as a result, in August 1784, Nova Scotia was split into three colonies (Cape Breton only lasted for a generation) but New Brunswick would become a province of Canada in less than a century.

Lists of Loyalists[edit | edit source]

Esther Clark Wright’s 365 page book, The Loyalists of New Brunswick, recounts the whole story in great detail. This book is where you start. She prints names given in several source documents, and at the end, a 90 page (in very small type) list of some 6,000.[6] “The New Brunswick Loyalists,” giving the names of heads of families or single men of eighteen and upwards, then if the information was obtainable, their former homes, service during the Revolution, their first grant, and subsequent grants and/or place of residence.

Her interest was demographic and Dr. Wright warns researchers about the 1785 muster by Thomas Knox, explaining “Knox’s list was confined to the Passamaquoddy and St. John River districts.”

There was no mention of the Mirimichi, the Petitcodiac, the Memramcook, nor the Tantramar districts, which all had Loyalist settlers. The distribution shown contains many surprises. The population of the Passamaquoddy Bay area was nearly as great as that of the City of Saint John, and almost one fifth of the total. There were more Loyalists on the Kennebecasis, the Bellisle, and the part of the St. John River between, than in the City of Saint John, and twice as many as in Queens County. Maugerville had nearly as many Loyalists as St. Ann’s and its adjacent lots (Mill to Phyllis’s Creek) [now Fredericton]. (page 107)

Dr. Wright, you remember, wrote histories of the three main river systems and you can trust her advice on where to look for Loyalists. In Chapter Ten she discusses where, when and why they settled in various locations.

For maps, see Volume I, Historical Atlas of Canada: From the Beginning to 1800, Plate 32, the later 18th century settlement, mostly by Loyalists. “The Coming of the Loyalists, plate 7 in Volume II, Historical Atlas of Canada: The Land Transformed, 1800-1891, gives further details of their settlement. As you can see, the Loyalists clustered in the south west quarter of the province, with only a few in the south east, and some on the Mirimichi, probably lured there by the tall pines that the British Navy needed for masts.

Two hundred years after the First Fleet arrived, Sharon M. Dubeau compiled her researches in New Brunswick Loyalists: A Bicentennial Tribute (Agincourt, Ontario: Generation Press, 1983). Terence Punch reviewed it for Canadian Genealogist (Vol. 5, No. 3, October 1983, page 184), and reports “she does not weigh down the book with yet another potted history of the Loyalists”. The book provides “accurate, brief yet comprehensive accounts of many of the Loyalist settlers of a province,” though he also points out some errors and omissions. If she caught your Loyalist in her research, the book will tell you more than Dr. Wright, but she only lists some 1200 names.

Sharon Dubeau missed my Loyalist, Robert Forsyth, who ended up on the Mirimichi, but he is in Dr. Wright’s list of “New Brunswick Loyalists,” probably because of his petition in PANB documenting his Loyalist status. Nevertheless, Dubeau’s book is a must for Loyalist research.

The United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada, Sir Guy Carleton Branch, Ottawa, have produced “A select index to the names of Loyalists and their associates contained in the British Headquarters Papers, New York City 1774-1783 (The Carleton Papers)” a database of 54,658 records, originally issued on 3.5” high density diskettes, now available on CD-ROM.

  1. LAC, MG9 A12 vol.6 (mf.C3201), Page 73.
  2. Report of the Public Archives of Nova Scotia (1934), Appendix B.
  3. PANS, RG20 Ser.A, Vol.12, Books 6 and 7.
  4. PANS, RG39, Series "C", Box 17.
  5. PANS, Record Book A, Cumberland County, Abstract of Wills, pages 17, 18, 19. (mfm.19,256 "Early Cumberland Wills")
  6. See page 166: "The list has been carefully screened to delete Pre-Loyalists, Captains of Transports, Nova Scotia Loyalists who had grants on the St. John River but remained on the south side of the Bay of Fundy, officers who had grants with their regiments but were not present in the province. Disbanded soldiers are not included unless there is some trace of their having actually been present in the province.


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