Monday, April 27, 2015

Am I Descended From a Loyalist?

One question that is periodically brought in the various Canadian related genealogy Facebook groups is "How do I know if I'm a related to a Loyalist?". Often that question surfaces due to a family tale being passed down through the generations. Unfortunately, like many genealogy related questions, there is no easy answer to that question. Instead we need to rely on our research skills and methodologies to work through the problem.

First we need to agree upon a definition of a Loyalist. In this case I refer you to the general guidelines published on the web site of the United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada for their definition:
  • Either male or female, as of 19 April 1775, a resident of the American colonies, and joined the Royal Standard prior to the Treaty of Separation of 1783, or otherwise demonstrated loyalty to the Crown, and settled in territory remaining under the rule of the Crown; or
  • a soldier who served in an American Loyalist Regiment and was disbanded in Canada; or
  • 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.

This typically means that a soldier that was born in the United Kingdom and joined the military in the UK and then fought in the Revolutionary War in British North America is not considered a Loyalist.

The starting place is to work back in the family tree until we get to someone born in the late 1700s or early 1800s. That person may be a son or daughter of a Loyalist. Yet we still have one more generation to get back to ... their parents. If we can get back that far then the next challenge appears: proving that they are Loyalists. So what resources can you use to help you out?

  • Census Records (may state "Loyalist")
  • Land Records such as petitions and deed may state UEL1, SOL2, DOL3
  • Military records such as nominal rolls, pension records and applications
  • Government publications especially those lists compiled from lists from the above sources
  • Books on the history of military regiments and Loyalists
Don't forget about the Loyalist Directory found on the UELAC web site. There you may find a listing of known Loyalists and possibly even the completed certificate application to be recognized by UELAC as a descendant of a Loyalist.

Many of those resources above may not be online so a visit to your local archive or library may be in order. If an Interlibrary Loan isn't possible then you may even need to plan a genealogy vacation to visit a national or provincial archive in order to review the documents. However, there are many online resources to be found. For a list of those sites and collections that I commonly use in my own research see my post from December 2014 titled "Online Resources for Your Loyalist Research Project".

1. UEL: United Empire Loyalist
2. SOL: Son of a Loyalist
3. DOL: Daughter of a Loyalist


  1. It's sort of looking like I might have a Loyalist ancestor; I have to dig a bit more to be certain. This is very interesting and helpful. Thank you for posting it. I've included it in my NoteWorthy Reads post this week:

  2. Keep searching, you are bound to find a Loyalist in your background. I did and now I have found 16!