Monday, June 7, 2010

Chasing a United Empire Loyalist Connection

I have traced one family line of my wife, Ellen's direct descent from Andrew Kimmerly, her 4th great grandfather. Andrew, who was born in Tyron County, New York State in 1765, was a United Empire Loyalist, that is for one of many possible reasons, he remained loyal to the King during and after the American Revolutionary War. Some loyalists may have felt a sense of personal loyalty to the King, others may have been concerned that the Revolution would result in less desirable outcome than living under British rule even if they disliked the impacts of that rule, and perhaps others simply hoped that resolution without revolution was achievable.

Whatever Andrew's motivation, he, like many, was probably not particularly welcome in his home community following the Revolutionary War and he moved north to Upper Canada (now the Province of Ontario). In 1789, Lord Dorchester, the then Governor of British North America, proclaimed that the Loyalists and their descendants should be allowed to append the post-nominal letters "UE" after their surname "alluding to their great principle, the Unity of Empire." The Loyalists were compensated for war losses if they met the strict criteria that was established. Andrew received 100 acres of land and 200 pounds. Andrew settled on land in the area of Richmond, Lennox and Addington County, married Susannah Sagar [Sager], herself a native of Albany, New York, and together they had 15 children.

As Ellen is a direct descendant of Andrew, she is entitled, should I succeed in my efforts to fully document this ancestral line, to use the post-nominal letters "UE," although this confers no special privilege to her. I just like the challenge because it is much harder than it first appears.

The challenges to compiling the necessary documentation are, as would be expected, in finding sufficient reliable sources prior to civil registration in Ontario, which commenced in 1869. Fortunately, a number of histories including biographical sketches were written about the Loyalists in the last half of the nineteenth century with references to source documents, notably church records that document Andrew and his family. It's Andrew's grandchildren that present some "brick wall" challenges. In addition, with the introduction of privacy legislation over the past twenty years, more recent events become a little more challenging and necessitate applying to different provincial jurisdictions for documents concerning Ellen's parents and grandparents.

Even though "access" to government records is supposed to have equal footing with "privacy" protection in most legislation, risk-averse government jurisdictions sometimes focus too much on the privacy component and place obstacles in the path of those who desire access. Just something more to heighten the challenge! I'll report periodically on my progress as I suspect that to provide frequent updates might be like asking you to watch paint dry!

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