I am trying to track down a few individuals that I believe may have immigrated to Canada following the American Revolution but before the War of 1812.

Assuming a primary motivation for moving to Canada following the American Revolutionary War was that you were a loyalist, I searched several of the common Loyalist Muster roles but so far not been able to find them or their known spouses.

I also looked at the existing answer to this question Relocating back to the US, 1830-1850: Would there be naturalization records about children born Canada to parents born in the US? Adult children?

The area was still relatively rural at the time and so I assume someone could just pick up and move to Canada at will without being documented.

Question: British Loyalist emigrations to Canada seemed fairly well documented, but if they were not a Loyalist what other documentation should I first be pursuing and checking for the time period that would document their immigration/naturalization/settlement of Americans to Canada?

Going into the American Revolution there were about 20 children of the family under 30 from different siblings believed to be living in the area. In the 1795 Census there is only a handful of head of households and graves do not exist in the area for all of the other individuals.

All I have to go on is mostly a rumor of them moving to Canada, but to cover my bases.

  • Some vague notes like "believed they may have moved to Canada, but not sure".
  • The town of Catskill, New York (where the individuals I am researching were from) was completely razed by the British during the Revolutionary War and the family survived it in its entirety to the best of my knowledge and was there (those who were not fighting) the entire course of the war.
  • Many of the family members are documented on the American side of the war; none have been found on British or Loyalist musters rolls.
  • No graves exist for the individuals exist in the area to account for the difference in their numbers and names.
  • The family otherwise mostly disappears out of American records except for a few, and a couple of those disappear and then reappear 20 years later.
  • The Vetter Historical library says they have no information.
  • A few of the family members were still present in 1790 and 1800 in the area, but by 1820 very few of them were still present (only one sibling and their children of many siblings).
  • One of the siblings children eventually ended up in Michigan in the 1850s after serving in the US military in various campaigns. (who the parents were of these siblings is not clear currently).
  • There are no ship manifests of them reverse immigrating to Europe, at least showing up in US records.

I also haven't found any records of them in Canada or anywhere else so far under the name they had in New York. They were at least 2nd or third generation Americans by this time (originally from a German speaking country) and from the records (family bible and Catskill records) appear to have spoken both some German and as well as English fluently.

Note: I will admit I do not have an International subscription to Ancestry.com or other sites but wanted to see if there were other resources I should check before expanding my subscription to specifically pursue additional information that may or may not exist.

  • 1
    Considering the hard sentiments during and immediately following the Revolution, it's difficult to understand the motivation of American "patriots" to go to Canada. Loyalists had many incentives, including land grants if proven to have suffered or fought as Loyalists. More likely, the missing years were spent in a frontier region (within current US territory) - perhaps Ohio. Maybe the placename was vaguely like 'Canada' or they traveled along the Lake Erie shore (border area) to get there. Do you have the source of the Canada reference?
    – bgwiehle
    Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 15:30
  • @bgwiehle The Canada note was just a random note on someone else research that was largely unsourced. It is one of the better leads I have as to where they all went right now or at least the path they might have taken to get there. I read about a PA/Ohio migration from but none of that has panned out yet but still exploring. It would make my day (truly) if I could link them to that migration from NY.
    – CRSouser
    Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 15:37

1 Answer 1


This blog post at Olive Tree Genealogy might be of interest:

It's Not Just Loyalists! (A Misleading Title on Ancestry)

Lorine reports that while the title and description of Ancestry's database UK, American Loyalist Claims 1776-1835 gives the impression that all the records in the database are about Loyalist claims, it isn't so.

But a very quick look in Series II (AO 13) reveals that in the section titled "American-Loyalist Claims Series II (140) Miscellaneous 1801-1835", we find Claims for Losses in Upper Canada after the War of 1812.

These claims for losses were not filed by Loyalists but by ordinary citizens who suffered at the hands of the Americans or the Indians during that War. This specific (and valuable!) list of those filing claims is dated May 1824 and begins on image 15 of 228. It ends on image 49 at claimant number 2054.

She predicts this database is likely to be overlooked because people whose families aren't loyalists won't look in it, or if users find things via global search, they'll wrongly assume that their family members were Loyalists since they're in this database.

These records are not marked as naturalization or immigration records, but any record group where individuals make claims is worth looking at -- you never know what other documents or information might show up in the material submitted to support the claim. You might find the dates that someone had moved to Canada, or other useful information.

It might be worthwhile to search for other lists which are 'advertised' as being about Loyalists to see if your family's records might have been swept up in those databases (because they relate to the same localities and time periods). Ancestry's 2014 Learning Center Guide Loyalist Resources on Ancestry gives an overview of their resources. As you look over the databases, be sure to look at the "About the database" notes for each one, paying attention to the original records.

If the originals are held in the US, look for archives and libraries for all levels of jurisdiction -- look for records from the time period you need and for research guides about doing research in that era.

  • Look for Federal Records at the US National Archives (NARA).
  • Look for State Records at the state archives; Ancestry's Learning Center and FamilySearch's Research Wiki are good starting places to find those archives.
  • Don't neglect county and town archives and historical societies. I've found fantastic research guides in local public libraries and on the websites of local genealogical societies.

If the originals are held in Canada:

  • Look for research guides at Library and Archives Canada (LAC)
  • Check for provincial archives
  • Look for local museums, libraries, and archives

If you haven't already done so, broaden your search and look for the FAN club (friends, associates, neighbors) to get an idea about what migration patterns were common for the entire area. Even if your families were not Loyalists themselves, the same economic forces which drove out the Loyalists would have applied to them, too -- and if they had connections with Loyalist families, it might have been easier for them to migrate in a group with those other families.

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