Ontario Loyalist Records

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Online Records[edit | edit source]

History of the American/United Empire Loyalists[edit | edit source]

As a result of the American Revolution, approximately 8,000 United Empire Loyalists (individuals who had remained loyal to the British cause) migrated to what is now southern Ontario. They were among the first white settlers of the province and were influential in creating the Province of Upper Canada in 1791. The term “United Empire Loyalists” usually refers to individuals who:

  • were living in the British colonies that had declared their independence as the United States in 1776, and
  • fought on the British side during the American Revolution, and
  • later fled to the colonies that had remained British.

In 1789, Lord Dorchester, Governor-General of British North America, issued a proclamation granting families that had defended the unity of the British Empire the hereditary right to add the capital letters UE after their name. Originally, only people who had arrived in the British colonies before the date of the proclamation could qualify as United Empire Loyalists but, in the case of Upper Canada, the deadline was later extended to 1798.The proclamation also granted Loyalists and their families the right to obtain land (and later, to have fees waived for free grants), and to have the mark “UE” inscribed on militia rolls. Loyalists in Upper Canada and their families mostly used the land-related privileges. In the records, you may find the mark “UE”, or “DUE” (daughter), or “SUE” (son) of United Empire Loyalists.

Not all individuals who had supported the British cause were considered United Empire Loyalists, even though their names may appear in official records. Those not considered to be United Empire Loyalists included, but were not limited to:

  • two groups of military claimants: residents of the provinces of Québec or Nova Scotia before the Revolution who had fought in British regular or colonial troops AND disbanded soldiers of the British regular army and auxiliary German mercenary corps. Both of these groups qualified for land-related privileges similar to those that the Loyalists enjoyed.
  • conscientious objectors (e.g., Mennonites and Quakers) who had supported the British but refused to take arms for religious reasons.[1]


Loyalists Claims[edit | edit source]

In the years following the close of the American Revolutionary War, there was a special provision that made the children of the Loyalists who settled in Ontario eligible for land grants free of fees as they came of age or married. The compiler of this work extracted from the Canadian Orders-in-Council thousands of references to the land grants made to these sons and daughters and arranged them systematically under the names of their Loyalist parents. The references in the Orders-in-Council generally provide, in the case of sons, the name of the petitioner, his place of residence, and the name of his father--the Loyalist through whom he claimed the land grant. In the case of daughters, the reference states the name of her husband, her place of residence, and the name of her father. Mr. Reid has also supplied, from additional sources, marriage dates, birth and death dates, and the names of wives of the sons of the Loyalists.

Numerous Loyalists had been forced to abandon substantial amounts of property in the United States. Britain sought restoration or compensation for this lost property from the United States, which was a major issue during the negotiation of the Jay Treaty in 1795. Negotiations settled on the concept of the United States negotiators "advising" the U.S. Congress to provide restitution. For the British, this concept carried significant legal weight, far more than it did to the Americans; the U.S. Congress declined to accept the advice. [2]

In 1783, the British government appointed two commissioners to visit British North America to receive and adjudicate claims submitted by Loyalists for losses of land, houses and other possessions in the United States. The commissioners heard evidence during 1785 and 1786, but they did not complete their work until 1790. The claims’ records have information on the lives of the Loyalists at the time of their arrival and before the American Revolution. The official (Loyalist Claim Records (D 12) are available on microfilm in the Archives of Ontario Reading Room, and at Library and Archives Canada. They contain:

  • administrative and official records
  • evidence books (submissions made by claimants, and commissioners’ decision, arranged by the American state of origin of the claimant)
  • supporting documentation (such as land records, affidavits, notices of confiscation issued by American authorities).[1]

Land Records[edit | edit source]

United Empire Loyalists were among the first British settlers in what is now Ontario andtheir names figure predominantly in the early land records. Also, they and their families were entitled to a waiver of administrative fees for free grants of land from the Crown. For information on early land records, click here to access the Research Guide 215:

Books[edit | edit source]

Archives of Ontario[edit | edit source]

There are several options for accessing Loyalist records at the Archives of Ontario. Records can be searched at the Archives of Ontario, requested in interlibrary loan for use in your local library, or you can hire a researcher from the provided list of individuals who are certified by the Board for Certification of Genealogists or who are members of the Association of Professional Genealogists.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "United Empire Loyalist Records Research Guide". Archives of Ontario, http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/en/access/documents/research_guide_227_united_empire_loyalists.pdf, accessed 10 October 2020.
  2. "United Empire Loyalists", in Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Empire_Loyalist, accessed 10 October 2020.