In my last post, I showed you a sample of the fascinating papers of the Honourable David William Smith, Upper Canada’s first Surveyor General, in anticipation of a lecture at the Ontario Genealogical Society Conference 2014. The conference and the talk are now history themselves.
As part of the presentation, I showed sample images from Smith’s various official roles as well as some personal documents. His service as a military officer/administrator for the 5th Regiment of Foot at Detroit and Fort Niagara, and his work as Surveyor General and member of the District Land Boards generated records of the widest interest—because they contain the most names. But beyond names, these documents let us see the process, the problems encountered in settling Upper Canada, and how the various players reacted and interacted. Smith’s land documents are an important complement to the Crown Lands record group at the Archives of Ontario.
I was very pleased to hear from audience member Nancy Cutway after my lecture, that I’d selected a sample document that shed some light on her family. (See the image at right. Click on it to zoom in.)
It is one of a number of reports written to David William Smith or commissioned by him, in his capacity as Surveyor General, that attempted to differentiate between grantees with the same or similar names.
Here’s what Nancy wrote. (It appears with her permission.)
MY Isaac Gilbert is the second one, Sgt from the Queen’s Rangers, who settled in Norfolk Co. But that confusion explains the erroneous information about him in E.A. Owen’s book Pioneer Sketches of Long Point Settlement (1898).
Owen’s chapter on Isaac says (p. 261): “Isaac Gilbert was the son of an English emigrant who settled in the colony of New Jersey somewhere about the middle of last century. He was born in 1743, presumably in England. There are no records in the Gilbert family that throw any light on the history of the family previous to the settlement in Woodhouse; but, according to a family tradition, Isaac enlisted in the British navy during the War of the Revolution, and was promoted to some minor official position.”
… all of which is wrong. And I could never figure out why! From there forward it is more correct: Owens knew that MY Isaac—a native of Connecticut, great-grandson of Matthew Gilbert who was one of the “seven pillars” who established New Haven Colony in about 1630, and I have church records proving that descent—settled after the Revolution first in St. John NB (along with the rest of the Queen’s Rangers) and then came to Upper Canada. (Since these men had served under John Graves Simcoe, they moved almost en masse from St. John to Upper Canada when they learned of his appointment as Governor. Land records from New Brunswick and UE claims from Upper Canada bear this out. Despite Owens saying that Isaac did not receive a loyalist grant in Upper Canada, I have a copy of several documents, since he received that 400 acres referred to in your document, plus later wrote about another 300 acres, and could he swap some to make the properties contiguous.)
And Owens did have the family descendancy info more or less correct, as compared with documentation from other Gilbert researchers, including one who provided a copy of Isaac and Mary Gilbert’s family bible entries.
Your [D.W. Smith] document has now illuminated E.A. Owen’s confusion, and eased mine. Now I wonder how many other errors exist in Owen’s book which could be explained by some of those documents you mentioned which clarify individuals with similar names.
It is great to know that even in 1803, civil servants got confused.
My choice of that particular document was accidental, but I’m glad I could bring Nancy Cutway and her Isaac together! If you’d like to connect with Nancy about her Isaac Gilbert—or the other one, please comment below.