Saturday, 2 April 2016

UE Loyalist lineages: Now easy to research online for free! Part VII

The seventh in an eight part series to help people with potential UE Loyalist lines access the wealth of documentation available online for free, as well as offline sources that can provide further evidence linking generations.

Step 6: Search wills, obtain evidence linking generations

I'd hoped to expand my knowledge about wills across Canada, and retrieve more of them, while writing up this post, but the last few months did not unfold as planned. I do have extensive experience working with Ontario wills though, and have applied my training and experience as an archivist to identify will collections across the country. While I've personally used the Ontario and Saskatchewan probate files, I strongly suspect there are more will series out there than those identified below. So, this step is comprehensive but likely not complete at this time.

Hopefully, by the end of Steps 4 and 5, you have several UEL related names as well as place information.

Given that UELs were compensated with land (typically 200 acres), there is a strong tendency for property transfer records to exist for most of the individuals in the first three generations. Typically, there is a will for the UEL (unless they died very early), possibly his/her widow/er, their male children, sons-in-law, some daughters, and grandchildren, that either went through probate or was registered with a land transfer process at the municipal level.

Primogeniture was not the normal practice and therefore it is common for younger sons and daughters to be listed in the will. Depending on timing, the daughters may be referred to by their married names, either in the will or in the probate process documents, and this can prove a link between generations for those early 19th-century people whose baptism and marriage records have not survived.

Canadian wills and will indexes are not (yet, fingers crossed) generally available online. Quebec does not have a history of English Common law and therefore wills are handled differently there. Definitely check what is online first (if you are fortunate to have family from these jurisdictions within the given time span) as these are by far the easiest wills to access:
The next most accessible wills are those which were handled by a centralized or regional probate or surrogate court and which have been indexed by name, allowing the will to then be ordered on microfilm. Unfortunately, only the following indexes have been posted online so far:
There are also centralized or county court probates which are indexed and available on microfilm:
If you have not found someone in the above indexes, a will may still exist, but it is likely tied to some sort of localized land transfer process or was really only handled privately within the family. In which case you want to ask people with expertise about the locality or the family, if they know of any other will records. More than once I have searched for a will in the collection I expected it to be in, found nothing, then discovered by googling that someone else had an original private copy and had transcribed it to the internet!