Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Canadian Connection to American Revolution? (Loyalists)

United Empire Loyalists
5 Resources to Researching Your Loyalist (Tory)
Canadian research can be quite fascinating, as seen on WDYTYA with Rachel McAdams and sister Kayleen. Knowing the 18th century history and settlement of Canada reveals a few interesting facts. Canadian researchers will find that one Canadian in ten has a Loyalist ancestor. Descendants of these Loyalists are widespread, as kinship – cousin DNA matches have proven.  Descendants of loyalist traced to Canada, may have originated in the United States, or settled in one of the other British commonwealths – Australia, New Zealand or another British Colony.

Recap of Who Was a Loyalist
Loyalist Settlements
A Loyalist (also called a Tory) was a North American colonist who sided with the Empire, and was loyal to the British crown during the American Revolutionary War, that began in 1775.  Land and property of Loyalists were seized during the War. And, these “King’s Men” often left the colonies. Up to 100,000 Loyalists settled in Canada beginning in 1776. It was the Boston Loyalists noted for the first large exile to Canada in 1776. New York was a stronghold that did not fall to the “rebels” and can boasts the greatest number of Loyalists.

The United Empire Loyalists (UEL)
In determining eligibility for compensation for War losses, Britain identified Loyalists as those born or living in the American colonies at the outbreak of the War and rendered war services to the Crown. Britain classified Loyalists as those who left America by the end of the war or soon after. These honored Loyalists, given the United Empire Loyalist (UEL) title, settled in Quebec, modern day Ontario, and in Nova Scotia (News Brunswick).  Although many Loyalists returned to America after the War, those who remained and complied with the parameters  set forth were awarded land grants of 100 to 1000 acres for Army Officers. The average family was awarded 200 acres. (See The Old United Empire Loyalist List below). 

Know that others may be considered “late loyalists.” Visit Historica Canada for more information.

5 Resources to Begin Loyalists Research 
American Claim, 1789
Like the Loyalist/Tory ancestral research conducted on WDYTYA, Rachel McAdams episode, Season 5, researchers are able to uncover worthy information of their American Revolutionary War Loyalists who settled in America or in Canada. This may include military officers or others who served the Crown. As mentioned, your ancestor may be found on both sides of the border, as many exiled Loyalists returned to America after the war.

In addition to the five resources below, be sure to use the keyword “Loyalist” in the catalog for indexed images of papers, books, deeds, and patents.
Officer Letter Book, 1789,
1.  The Old United Empire Loyalists List, 1885 (United Empire Loyalist Centennial Committee), has been indexed on Unfortunately the original documents are not shown, but the transcriptions are quite useful in uncovering 7000 Loyalists and their descendants.

2.  Order Upper Canada Land Petitions, 1783 – 1865.
Canadian Claim, 1786
 These land petitions contain petitions for grants or leases of land and other administrative records for over 82,000 references to individuals who lived in Ontario between 1783 and 1865.

Albany Land Grant

3.  Review Letters and Diaries and NY Loyalists. Military officers and Loyalists often corresponded via letters or recorded events in diaries. Here are two resources giving an account of New York’s Revolutionary War history That Ever Loyal Island: Staten Island and the American Revolution by Phillip Papas is filled with names, dates, and social content of Staten Island and the Loyalist sentiments.  Notes of Chapter 5 give a reference to various loyalist claims by names; and Merchant and Redcoat: The Papers of John Gordon MaComb, July 1757-1760, Albany New York. This bound 3 volume doctoral dissertation captures the early life of Albany, NY leading up to the American Revolutionary War highlighting The Papers of John Gordon MaComb, July 1757 to Jun 1760 (New York, British Army). A copy of the dissertation may be ordered from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor library.

4.  Loyalist Muster Roll Index The National Archives of Canada holds various volumes (C" Series”) that gives an account of the Loyalist Muster Rolls.

5.  Library and Archives Canada. Researchers must be familiar with the holdings of the Military Research collections at the Canada Library and Archives. 

Black Migration to Canada During American Revolutionary War
In exchange for their freedom, free-coloreds and slaves, as early as 1779, were encouraged to fight for the British. Over ten percent of the Loyalists that arrived in the Maritime colonies of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island were black men, women, and children.

However, few realize that since slavery was legal in Canada there were also slave-owning Loyalists from the 13 colonies who migrated with their slaves.  Approximately 2000 slaves arrived in Canada - 5500 in Upper Canada (Ontario), 300 in Lower Canada (Quebec) and 1200 in the Maritime colonies.

Additional Resources
Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers


  1. Kathleen, good coverage. May I also suggest a book resource for a large settlement area: United Empire Loyalists, A Guide to Tracing Loyalist Ancestors in Upper Canada, by Brenda Dougall Merriman? Published by Global Heritage Press (

  2. The United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada maintains a Loyalist Directory listing families identified as United Empire Loyalists. More information is available on our website -