06 February 2012

Loyalists: Eligibility -- Common Sense or Splitting Hairs?

Ah, yes. We’ve been talking about eligibility ... most recently (my prior post on the subject) about successful application for regular membership in the United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada (UELAC). Which is also a corollary to this post. Because membership eligibility and the ancestor’s eligibility are two sides of the same coin. This is the sixth in a small series about Loyalist ancestors.

We are returning to the ancestors again, the major determinants for regular UELAC membership. We know Lord Dorchester recognized them as those who had adhered to the Unity of the Empire and had joined the royal standard before the war officially ended. The UELAC has expressed Dorchester’s qualifications in their general guidelines for the ancestor’s eligibility:
■ Either male or female, as of 19 April 1775, who had been a resident of the American colonies from which they departed to resettle in British territory;  
■ A soldier who served in an American Loyalist Regiment and was disbanded in Canada;
■ A member of the Six Nations of either the Grand River or the Bay of Quinte Reserve who is descended from one whose migration was similar to that of other Loyalists.

A few years ago, the Loyalist’s eligibility was further interpreted to include (all but the last referring to those who joined the Royal Standard, i.e. served in an American Loyalist regiment):
■ Who died either in service or in prison during the War;
■ Who died on their way to Canada but their families settled in Canada;
■ Who settled in Canada and after a period of time, returned to another British Colony or the USA;
■ Who were unable to complete the land grant regulations due to ill health;
■ Women whose documentation demonstrates loyalty above and beyond being spouses of Loyalists.

The UELAC may have approved more refinements to an ancestor’s eligibility; confirmation is not forthcoming yet (anyone?):
■ With appropriate evidence [one assumes], boys from refugee camps, aged nine to sixteen at the time, who did odd jobs helping at the military camps would be considered Loyalists in their own right; 
■ Loyalists who supported the British but arrived as refugees, not appearing on a regimental muster roll perhaps because of age or poor health;
■ Some "Late Loyalists" who arrived in Canada after 1789.

You see how the collected experience of applicants and branch genealogists assists both groups in determining eligibility of the ancestor in question. Some thorny issues have been resolved, for example, the demonstrable Loyalist who died before reaching British territory. Other issues are not so clear or perhaps more contentious, such as a “cut off” date of arrival for the Loyalist. Occasionally it’s possible to uncover the reasons why some individuals lingered on American soil long after the War concluded. Or why some would return to an American state years after leaving it.

Is the status of Francophone residents of British colonies who took up arms and/or supported the British forces still in limbo? They had not been residents of the (rebelling) “American colonies” before 1775. Some lost property; some did not.

Records created by contemporary officials can contain variations in the recognition of UE status from one person to another. You only have to compare some entries on the various lists to get an inkling of that. Not finding indisputable direct evidence, some society applicants will have to collate a proof argument for the ancestor’s status/eligibility from less obvious sources and/or the avenues of whole-family research. Thus both the ancestor and admittance to regular UELAC membership frequently remain to be proved on a case by case basis.

England saw a steady stream of displaced Loyalists arriving during and after the War period, most requiring financial assistance. The initial hearings of claims for losses began August 1782 in London. At that time, the commissioners made probably the first attempt at fine distinctions of loyalty and service, for compensation purposes. Their deliberations preceded Dorchester’s landmark resolution, so the reports make interesting reading (as do the concurrent parliamentary debates).

Since then, as you see above, fine distinctions are still being explored. And that makes more blog discussion possible. 
Talking to myself is not productive. Bloggers always appreciate comments on their posts; all points of view are welcome. Dialogue is healthy.

© Brenda Dougall Merriman, 2012
labels: Loyalists, United Empire Loyalists, Upper Canada


Earline Hines Bradt said...

I am glad that my loyalist ancestry was documented,although they weren't famous for anything, it made it easy, just locate the documents. I don't envy anyone whos ancestors didn't leave a paper trail. Thanks for blogging about the UELAC, our association is a valuable and under-recognized resource in preserving and sharing Canada's heritage.

Earlline Bradt UE
member of Bicentennial Branch of the UELAC

BDM said...

Thanks for your comment, Earline. Right - some people do have an easier time locating the information they need. I think the UELAC has become more proactive in promoting its visibility and programs in recent years.

Anonymous said...

Good discussion. Some of the documentation is pretty hard to come by. Especially in the case of Loyalists who died before they got patent to their land. Keep the post coming

Brian Anderson said...

Thank you for this blog entry. I descend from various loyalist lines (most UEL, but some were never part of the lists). I had always considered joining UELAC, however ironically I also descend from Revolutionary soldiers (makes for a conflicted family). I appreciate your blog, and the detailed research that you put into it!


BDM said...

Brian,... and I appreciate finding a new cousin! So many Loyalist descendants also share a Patriot ancestor. It really brings human nature into micro-context.