Thursday, December 17, 2015

My Canadian Branches ~ I'm a Steeves, Are You?

Throughout the past year, I have dedicated this blog to selected Canadian branches of my family tree. I have always found that my research leads me down the most interesting paths when I focus on one family group, one line, one person, or one theme. This has proven true especially in 2015. As I stated in my first post, I chose to work on the following 10 families:

Nova Scotia


New Brunswick


My last Canadian branch is the Steeves branch. By way of intermarriage between members of the Steeves family and the Smith family in New Brunswick, I happen to descend from 2 of the 7 sons of my sixth great grandparents Heinrich Stieff and Regina Stahlecker, Matthias and Jacob.

Line 1:

Matthias Steeves (c.1761-1848)
--Jacob Steeves (1788-c.1846)
----William Bleakney Steeves (c.1823-1899)
------Robina Elizabeth Steeves (1854-1929)
--------Wylie Herbert Smith (1874-1952)
----------Harriet Cheney Smith (1906-1985)
------------Marilyn Louise Bustin (1931-    )
--------------Me (1955-    )

Line 2:
Jacob Steeves (1750-1803)
--George Steeves (1785-1870
----Caroline Steeves (1816-1903)
------James Henry Smith (1850-1915)
--------Wylie Herbert Smith (1874-1952)
----------Harriet Cheney Smith (1906-1985)
------------Marilyn Louise Bustin (1931-    )
--------------Me (1955-)

Probably the most prominent member of my Steeves family tree is my 2nd cousin 4x removed, William Henry Steeves, known in the annals of Canadian history as The Father of Confederation.

More on William Henry Steeves can be found at:

Spray, W. A. -- "Steeves, William Henry". -- Dictionary of Canadian biography online.

Next year, 2016, will be the 250th Anniversary of the arrival of Heinrich and Rachel Stieff to New Brunswick (from Germany, by way of Pennsylvania). In preparation of this momentous event, a week-long celebration and family reunion is being held in Hillsborough, New Brunswick. Steeves descendants are coming from around the world, and Yours Truly will be among them!

For more on the Steeves story, and on next year's BIG CELEBRATION, including our attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of individuals with the same last name in the same place at the same time, in the Moncton Coliseum, visit:

Saturday, December 5, 2015

My Canadian Branches ~ My Clan MacKay and My Shelburne County Roots

Alexander MacKay, my third great grandfather, arrived in Canada from the Scottish Highlands as a young man of 29.  A few years later, when he married Eleanor Brown, he was living in Jordan River, in Shelburne County, Nova Scotia. These pictures (made into postcards) have my great grandmother's writing on them.

The young couple, with their first three children, Isabella, Catherine, and John, were living in Ragged Island, by the 1871 Census of Canada. The next 30 years, however, saw the family resettling and living in Upper Stewiacke, in Colchester County. There were six children in all, the first three born in East Jordan, the younger three born in Upper Stewiacke. The oldest, Isabella Fulton MacKay, is my second great grandmother.

       Standing: Hugh Dunlap MacKay, Catherine Margaret MacKay,
 John William MacKay, Isabella Fulton MacKay, George Alexander MacKay.
  Seated: Flora Jane MacKay, Alexander MacKay, Eleanor MacKay (Alexander's wife).

Alexander MacKay (1830-1901)
Eleanor Brown MacKay (1835-1924)

Their Children:

Isabella Fulton MacKay (1861-1945)
Catherine Margaret MacKay (1864-1927)
John William MacKay (1866-1945)
George Alexander MacKay (1872-1955)
Flora Jane MacKay (1874-1941)
Hugh Dunlap MacKay (1878-1934)

Alexander and Eleanor MacKay are buried in the Burnt Hill Cemetery, in Upper Burnside, Nova Scotia. My great grandmother took this picture many years ago:

A recent photo by a findagrave volunteer shows the monument today:


1871 Census of Canada; Census Place: Ragged Island, Shelburne, Nova Scotia; Roll: C-10547; Page: 41; Family No: 132.

1881 Census of Canada; Census Place: Upper Stewiacke, Colchester, Nova Scotia; Roll: C_13175; Page: 4; Family No: 12.

1891 Census of Canada; Census Place: Upper Stewiacke East, Colchester, Nova Scotia; Roll: T-6311; Family No: 124.

Colchester Historeum Marriages 1864-1914,

Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed  4 Dec 2015), memorial page for Alexander MacKay (1823-1901), Find A Grave Memorial no. 124797256, citing Burnt Hill Cemetery, Upper Burnside, Colchester County, Nova Scotia.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

My Canadian Branches ~ My Smiths...Not To Be Confused With Your Smiths

I imagine most family historians dread the research into their lines with common surnames, like Smith and Jones. So it was when I began my research into my Smith line. I really lucked out, though, because my Smiths descend from one of the most famous Canadian settler families.

My Smith research really began fifteen years ago, during my last visit to Canada. The year 2000 marked the 225th anniversary of the Yorkshire Migration, when, between 1772 and 1775, over 1000 settlers immigrated from Yorkshire, England to the Chignecto Region of Nova Scotia.

My fifth great grandparents, Nathaniel and Elizabeth (Duck) Smith, with their family, sailed out of Hull, England, aboard The Albion in March of 1774. The ship arrived at Fort Cumberland at the head of the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia during the third week of May after first making port in Halifax. Their oldest son, Benjamin, had emigrated a year earlier and purchased a 1500 acre farm with a house and livestock in Cumberland County on his family's behalf. Nathaniel was 54 years old when he and his family left the village of Upsall, Yorkshire, to join Benjamin in the New World.

The first instance of the Smith surname in my family tree is my grandmother, Harriet Cheney Smith.

There are many great source materials on the Yorkshire Migration. In 2000, I was able to purchase a thick, spiral-bound paperback, entitled "The Descendants of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Smith," compiled by Philip and Joan (Smith) Brides. I refer to it often in my Smith research.

For specific background on Nathaniel Smith, I recommend "Nathaniel Smith : Stranger in a Strange Land," published by the Tantramar Heritage Trust, in conjunction with the anniversary.

There is an excellent bibliography at the website Yorkshire Immigration To Nova Scotia, 1772-1775.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

My Canadian Branches ~ Bella MacKay Hamilton and the Moose Chair

Peter Suther "PS" Hamilton and Isabella "Bella" MacKay Hamilton, my 2nd great grandparents, lived in Burnside, Upper Stewiacke, Colchester County, Nova Scotia, their whole married lives. They raised nine children, one of whom was my great grandmother, Melvina Jane "Vina" Hamilton Bustin, from whom I inherited a wonderful treasure trove of photographs.

I came across two pictures that piqued my interest. The first shows my great grandmother's mother, Bella, in front of the "old home" in Burnside, posing beside what appears to be a wooden sculpture of some kind.  It looks like antlers to me.

The second, more yellowing, photo provides another clue.  It was a chair, made out of, presumedly, moose antlers. The handwriting on the front is my great grandmother's, and the back states the same, The Moose Chair, in Bella's handwriting.

Was this some kind of trophy chair made from antlers of hunted moose, or was it a household curio, with no particular connection to family lore?

I have learned that my great grand uncle and aunt, unmarried brother and sister Bert and Stella Hamilton, were the last two family members to live at the old place, so I have to wonder whatever became of the "Moose Chair."

Thursday, August 6, 2015

My Canadian Branches ~ Jane Soley Hamilton's 776 Babies

When Jane Soley married Robert Hamilton (my 3rd great grand uncle) in Lower Truro, Nova Scotia, in 1825, she never envisioned the local legend she would become. The daughter of  William and Mary Soley, she and Squire Robert, welcomed seven children into the world. Two of these children died in infancy, but it wasn't until her youngest, Baxter, was in his 10th year, and she in her 42nd, that her life would take on an expanded role in her community, and future generations still honor her selfless fortitude and courage.

It wasn't until July of 1851 that Jane was called upon to help a woman deliver a child. The mother was Elizabeth Hamilton (probably a relative) and she bore a son. Jane's presence and assistance as a midwife began a long and remarkable career.

In a small, care-worn, "birth book," Jane recorded every birth she attended, with the date, name of mother, and sex of the child. In 1852, she delivered 8 babies, and her path was determined. She averaged 20 entries each year for the next few years, with her busiest year being 1867, when she helped deliver 32 infants. There is no recording on any compensation for her work, although she may have received some small change that the family could spare.

Jane delivered many babies in Brookfield, where she lived, but also attended at births in Hilden, Pleasant Valley, Alton, and even as far away as Middle Stewiacke.

The surrounding cemeteries and graveyards contain many small unmarked stones in family plots, standing sentinel to the early deaths of children who perished too young. Brookfield and Pleasant Valley cemeteries hold at least nineteen of Jane's babies, documenting the epidemics and hardships families faced in those days. Scarlet fever, cholera, croup, dysentery, whooping cough, and diphtheria all took their toll.

"Aunt Jennie's" midwifery career spanned 42 years, and brought 776 children into the world, including 4 sets of twins. By the age of 80, she slackened her practice considerably. Several of her last patients were Hamiltons, probably related to her. In 1893, at the age of 88, Jane delivered Mrs. Sinclair Hamilton of a daughter. The little girl, named Mabel, who only lived four years, was Jane's great granddaughter.

Jane retired from this life's work at 88. Her career spanned 42 years and brought 776 children in this world. She passed away on October 2, 1897, aged 92 years and 8 months. Obituaries appeared in four newspapers,* but perhaps this unidentified newspaper clipping says it best:

"This venerable lady was one of the best known and most respected women in the place .... Ever ready to respond to the call of duty, she faced the most inclement weather at all hours and braved dangers that well might have tried the courage of strong men .... wherever sickness and trouble were, she was ever ready to lend a helping hand and in her quiet, cheerful way, did all that lay in her power to soothe the suffering. Hers was a truly unselfish, Christian life, entirely devoted to the welfare of other." **

Jane is buried next to her husband, Robert, in Brookfield Eastside Cemetery, in Colchester County, Nova Scotia.

*Colchester Sun (Truro), 6 October 1897
  Novascotian and Weekly Chronicle (Halifax), 16 October 1897
  Presbyterian Witness (Halifax), 9 October 1897, p.328
  Truro Daily News (Truro), 6 October 1897

** This obituary was found in an unidentified newspaper clipping in a scrapbook belonging to Mrs. Prudence Parker, North River, Colchester County, Nova Scotia. As of 1982, the scrapbook was still in her possession.

Photo Credit:

"Public Member Trees," database,, "MacIntosh," for Jane Soley (d.. 2  Oct 1897), with linked images.


"Colchester Women" by the Colchester Historical Society.

"Jane Soley Hamilton, Midwife," by Joan E. Kennedy, Nova Scotia Historical Review, Vol. 2, #1 (1982), pp.6-29. [Contains Record of Children Delivered by Jane Soley Hamilton, 1851-1893]

Miller, Thomas, Historical and genealogical record of the first settlers of Colchester county (Halifax, 1873), pp.357-358.

Monday, July 6, 2015

My Canadian Branches ~ The Inventive William H. Bustin of Saint John, New Brunswick and Watertown, Massachusetts

William Hermon Bustin began making harnesses for horses at 15 in Saint John. The second oldest son out of the ten children born to William H. Bustin, Sr. and Agnes "Nancy" Wilson, he left his apprenticeship after only two years and ran away in 1831.

He landed in Boston, Massachusetts, and began working for William Bell, whose shop was on Bromfield Street, near the Granary Burying Ground.

There is evidence to suggest that William at first traveled back and forth from Saint John to Massachusetts, but at age 33 he married a young lady 14 years his junior from Watertown, Massachusetts, Margaret McMaster. It was Watertown where they raised their sizable family and where he would live out his days.

1869 Boston City Directory for William H. Bustin
Father and Son

In 1881, near the end of his working life, he applied for and was granted a patent, No. 236,547, for a "Shaper for Horse-Collars":

William H. Bustin, another one of my 2nd great grand Bustin uncles, died in 1904, probably at his home on Franklin Street in Watertown, Massachusetts, and is buried in Common Street Cemetery there.

Photo Credit:

Harness Makers

Pointed Collar


1850 US Census; Census Place: Watertown, Middlesex, Massachusetts.

1880 US Census; Census Place: Watertown, Middlesex, Massachusetts; Roll: 542; Family History Film: 1254542; Page: 11A; Enumeration District: 420; Image: 0465.

1900 US Census; Census Place: Watertown, Middlesex, Massachusetts; Roll: 667; Page: 20A; Enumeration District: 0987; FHL microfilm: 1240667. Boston, 1821-1850 Passenger and Immigration Lists [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2003. Massachusetts, State Census, 1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed  6 July 2015), memorial page for William H Bustin (1814-1904), Find A Grave Memorial no. 120784177, citing Common Street Cemetery, Watertown, Massachusetts.

"Massachusetts, Boston Passenger Lists, 1820-1891," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 1 July 2015), Bustin, 1845; citing p. 1968, Ship , NARA microfilm publication (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll ; FHL microfilm 419,914.

"Massachusetts, State Census, 1855," Database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 1 July 2015), Wm H Bustin, Watertown, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States; State Archives, Boston; FHL microfilm 953,952.

The Daily Sun (Saint John) 1 Jan 1895, via Daniel F Johnson's New Brunswick Newspaper Vital Statistics, PANB (

"United States Census, 1860," Database, FamilySearch ( : accessed 1 July 2015), Margret Bustin in household of Wm H Bustin, Watertown, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States; from "1860 U.S. Federal Census - Population," database, ( : n.d.); citing p. 52, household ID 349, NARA microfilm publication M653 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 803,510.

U.S. Patent No. 236,547 (

Sunday, June 28, 2015

My Canadian Branches ~ The Seafaring Legacy of Benjamin Bishop Bustin, Master Mariner


Benjamin Bishop Bustin, my 2nd great grand uncle, went to sea as a young man drawn to adventure and profit, sailing out of Saint John, New Brunswick. By the time he returned to Saint John, to marry Elizabeth Knollin in the fall of 1837, he was Captain of the brig "Kentville."

Benjamin commanded various vessels, as part of the British merchant fleet, for over fifty years, with Liverpool, England, his homeport for most of those years. He obtained his Certificate of Service, No. S36324,* due to his lengthy service. However, there is evidence to suggest that his wife Elizabeth sailed with him on many of his voyages.

Out of eleven children, three of the oldest, Elizabeth Knollin, Benjamin, and Mary Utt died in infancy or early childhood between 1843 and 1848. Their daughter, Mary Utt Bustin, died in Jamaica, according to newspaper reports carried back to Saint John. Their next three children, Edward Sancton, Agnes Hannah, and Maud Catherine, were born in Liverpool, but all died as very young children.

The other five children, three sons and two daughters, lived to adulthood, and the sons followed their father into the merchant trade. The oldest son, John William, worked his way from Second Mate up to Master Mariner, but unfortunately fell overboard off the coast of England and drowned. He was 27 years old, and had just obtained his Master certificate:

William Walker also obtained his Master certificate:

James Scoullar also went to sea, in 1883 aboard the ship "Anselm," as attested by this newspaper announcement of his death:

"...the announcement of the death of James Scoullar BUSTIN, the second s/o Capt. B.B. BUSTIN of this city. Mr. Bustin died at Cardiff on 18th ult., but the news of his death did not reach St. John until yesterday. Some months ago he was taken ill with fever in Africa, but on his return to the U.K. he recovered so rapidly that he started on another voyage. When he returned to Cardiff he was sent to hospital where he died soon afterwards."
-- The Daily Sun (Saint John) 18 Feb 1891

Perhaps the greatest price Benjamin B. Bustin paid for his life sailing the seas was the death of his wife Elizabeth. She died aboard the ship "King Cedric," where she was accompanying her husband on a voyage from Bombay to Hull. She was, of necessity, buried at sea.

d. 2nd Jan., on board ship "King Cedric" on voyage from Bombay to Hull, Elizabeth Knollin BUSTIN w/o Capt. B.B. BUSTIN, St. John, N.B. (cross reference: Elizabeth KNOLLIN)

By the 1891 Canadian Census, the widower Benjamin Bishop Bustin was living back in Saint John with his brother Thomas, and within a year he was dead at the age of 80 years old. He is buried in Fernhill Cemetery, although no headstone exists. His obituary in the Saint John Globe illustrates his long life, and his relationship to his grandfather, and my 4th great grandfather, the Loyalist Thomas Bustin:

"Capt. Benjamin B. BUSTIN, one of the oldest St. John shipmasters, died this forenoon in his 80th year from paralysis. Born in St. John, Capt. Bustin went to sea at an early age and when twenty years old commanded a vessel. For fifty years he was a master of ships and in all that time never lost a vessel and never met with a serious accident. Ten years ago he retired from active seafaring life. By his death the first break in 75 years is made in a family of eight boys. Capt. Bustin leaves two daughters residing in St. John and one son, master of a steamer, with residence in Liverpool. The grandfather of Capt. Bustin was a Loyalist - Thomas BUSTIN, who was born in North carolina and who joined the royal army at New York when the revolution broke out. He served three years under General Burgoyne. Once, it is recorded, when in a tent with the General, a shell dropped through the canvas. Fortunately the fuse went out. Thomas left New York in 1783 in the second fleet for St. John (Parr Town) on board ship "Sovereign". He was married on Sept. 6, 1785 to Miss UTT in a log house on the corner of Princess and Charlotte Streets, on the next lot below what is known as Bustin's corner."
-- Saint John Globe, Saint John, 20 May 1892

Index to the Captains Registers of Lloyd’s of London (Guildhall Library Ms 18567) ( Can be consulted at the London Metropolitan Archives.

From 1845 men intending to become masters or mates of foreign-going British merchant ships, had to take voluntary examinations of competency.  This system was made compulsory by the Marine Act of 1850 and the Merchant Shipping Act of 1854 extended it to masters and mates of home trade or coastal vessels.

Certificates of Service were issued to those who were exempted due to long service, but those without sufficient service, or wishing to rise in rank, were granted Certificates of Competency on passing formal examinations.

Photo Credit:

A trading brig drifting into a Continental harbor, oil on canvas by Charles John De Lacy
[Charles John De Lacy [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]


1891 Census of Canada, Census Place: Queen Ward, Saint John City, New Brunswick; Roll: T-6303; Family No: 158. 1861 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2005. 1871 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004. Canada, Seafarers of the Atlantic Provinces, 1789-1935 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Liverpool, England, Crew Lists 1861-1919 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. This collection was indexed by Ancestry World Archives Project contributors. UK and Ireland, Masters and Mates Certificates, 1850-1927 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.

Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 27 June 2015), memorial page for Capt Benjamin Bishop Bustin (1812-1892), Find A Grave Memorial no. 82041498, citing Fernhill Cemetery, Saint-John, New Brunswick, Canada.

FreeBMD. England & Wales, FreeBMD Death Index, 1837-1915 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006.

Index to the Captains Registers of Lloyd’s of London (Guildhall Library Ms 18567) (

New Brunswick Courier, Saint John, 28 Oct 1837, via Daniel F Johnson's New Brunswick Newspaper Vital Statistics, PANB (

New Brunswick Courier (Saint John) 14 Oct 1843, via Daniel F Johnson's New Brunswick Newspaper Vital Statistics, PANB (

New Brunswick Courier, Saint John, 23 Dec 1843, via Daniel F Johnson's New Brunswick Newspaper Vital Statistics, PANB (

New Brunswick Courier (Saint John) 22 July 1848, via Daniel F Johnson's New Brunswick Newspaper Vital Statistics, PANB (

New Brunswick Courier (Saint John) 15 May 1852, via Daniel F Johnson's New Brunswick Newspaper Vital Statistics, PANB (

New Brunswick Courier (Saint John) 24 July 1852, via Daniel F Johnson's New Brunswick Newspaper Vital Statistics, PANB (

Saint John Globe, Saint John, 20 May 1892, via Daniel F Johnson's New Brunswick Newspaper Vital Statistics, PANB (

Surnames Index to Baptisms, Wesleyan Chapel, Upper Stanhope Street, Toxteth, 1851 to 1889. (,%20Upper%20Stanhope%20Street,%20Toxteth/Stanhope%20Street%20Wesleyn%20Chapel%20Baptisms%201851%20to%201889.htm)

The Daily News (Saint John), March 13, 1877, via Daniel F Johnson's New Brunswick Newspaper Vital Statistics, PANB (

The Daily Sun (Saint John) 18 Feb 1891, via Daniel F Johnson's New Brunswick Newspaper Vital Statistics, PANB (

Tracing seafaring ancestors in the Merchant Navy Information Sheet (Mersyside Maritime Museum) (

Sunday, June 21, 2015

My Canadian Branches ~ Finding Fulton Graves (From Afar)

Like so many other descendants of James and Margaret Fulton (my 6th great grandparents) of Bass River, Nova Scotia, I was familiar with the early family history: the immigration from Ireland, the settlement in New England, and the re-settlement in Nova Scotia. Short of visiting the ancestral homeland, I have immersed myself in the rich saga of "Judge" James Fulton, and his son, the chair-maker, George Fulton.

When it came down to locating the final resting places of my Fulton ancestors, however, it is a mixed bag.  To get a clearer picture of the graves I had located online, and to determine those I was missing, I put all I had in an Excel spreadsheet. I included Relationship, Name, Cemetery, Source/Site, URL/FAG #, and Picture?. This exercise showed me some burial plot patterns over time, but contained some surprises.

My 6th Great Grandparents, James and Margaret Fulton, three of my 5th Great Grand Uncles (with their wives), as well as a 4th Great Grand Uncle and his wife are buried in the Island Cemetery, in Bass River. Another 5th Great Grand Uncle and his wife are buried in the Portaupique Cemetery, in Portaupique.

Fortunately, I found pictures of all 12 of these graves on either Find A Grave, or Canada Gen Web's Cemetery Project.

The first surprise was the absence of any burial information for my 5th Great Grandparents, George Fulton and Esther Creelman. For each of them to be from two of the more prominent Colchester County families, this baffles me.

I also have found four Fulton cousins, most with spouses, buried in Pembroke Cemetery, in Upper Stewiacke, 7 out of 9 with pictures. And, yet, surprisingly enough, I have no burial information for my 4th Great Grandparents, Isabel Fulton and John Brown.

I posted my spreadsheet, from my Dropbox under Files on the Genealogy of Colchester County Facebook Page, and also posted a request for anyone to stop by and fill in some of my photo gaps. This resulted in my receiving some wonderful pictures from Burnt Hill Cemetery, in Burnside, of the graves of my 3rd Great Grandparents, Alexander MacKay and Eleanor Brown. Though not Fultons, these pictures were a great gift. With the photographer's permission, I was able to add them to their Find A Grave memorials.

Graves of Alexander MacKay and Eleanor Brown
Burnt Hill Cemetery, Burnside
c/o Floyd Mesheau


Bass River Heritage Society

Bass River...the Fulton ancestors http//

Colchester Historeum Cemetery Index

Dominion Chair Company, Our History

History of Bass River, by Marion R. Davidson, written for the centenary edition, Truro Weekly News, June 29, 1967.

History of Bass River, produced by the Women's Institute of Bass River in 1955, and revised in 1978 by the Bass River Senior Citizens Club.

History of Founders of Bass River, by J. Currie Creelman (1935).

James Fulton, in Dictionary of Canadian Biography

The Fulton Family of Atlantic Canada; Sponsored by the Fulton Family Associates, Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada - 1979., The Fulton Family of Atlantic Canada, (Sponsored by the Fulton Family Associates, Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada - 1979).

The Island Cemetery

Thursday, May 21, 2015

My Canadian Branches ~ Loyalist David Blakeney's Military Career

The year was 1775, David Blakeney (my 6th great grandfather) and his family had lived on the shores of Cane Tail Creek in the Ninety Six District of South Carolina since 1767. Having received a Crown Grant of 100 acres, David had built a house, a barn, stables, and a loom house. His farm had horses, cattle, sheep, and hogs. He harvested wheat, Indian corn, and flax.

As tensions began to boil over in the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution, particularly in the South Carolina backcountry, it often was a struggle of conscience for many settlers, and David may have faced this conflict with mixed allegience. There is evidence to suggest that he initially served in the "rebel militia," probably under Andrew Williamson, "in some degree forced into it." Williamson, the first major double agent in the American colonies, later joined the Loyalist cause, and David possibly followed suit.

By 1780, it became apparent to the British command that more vigilant defenses were essential to retaining the Southern territory. 

"Keeping possession of the backcountry is to utmost importance, indeed the Success of the War in the Southern District depends totally upon it." 
– Lord Cornwallis to Lt. Col. Cruger, August 5, 1780

The eight-pointed Star Fort at Ninety Six was the result. Upon completion the walls stood 14 feet high and it is estimated the walls were 10-15 feet thick. In addition, the defense included abatis (felled trees with sharpened branches), a steep ditch, fraise (sharp stakes protruding from the walls), and sandbags which surrounded the Star redoubt. Approximately 200 soldiers were stationed inside to keep guard.

Fort Ninety Six

David served as a Private in Colonel John Cotton's regiment of the Stevenson's Creek militia (the 96 Brigade), and narrowly avoided being involved in the King's Mountain conflict on October 7, 1780.

By May of the next year, approximately 1000 Patriot forces under Nathanael Greene were trying to seize the fortified settlement, and failing that, began the Seige of Ninety Six.There is evidence to suggest that David served continually throughout the 28-day seige, from May 21st to June 18th, the longest field siege of the Revolutionary War. As British Lieutenant Colonel Francis Rawdon ("Lord Rawdon") attempted to rescue the Loyalists who were manning the Fort, Greene's forces tried unsuccessfully to breech the enemy defenses on June 19th. but eventually retreated. The Loyalist forces, under Rawdon's influence, decided to abandon the Fort and concentrate their military efforts on the coast. By the time the British left Ninety Six of their own accord, on July 1, 1781, it was the last Loyalist fort in South Carolina.

David and his fellow militiamen proceeded to destroy the wooden structures and fort, and marched to Charleston.  When David left Ninety Six, he did so without his family. Taking only what they could carry, they were eventually sheltered by other Loyalist settlers.

For the remainder of 1781 and through much of 1782, David served in the Loyalist militia on James Island, near Charleston, and apparently saw little action as a non-commissioned officer in Colonel Baily Cheney's regiment. The following is from Clark's Loyalists in the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War, Vol. 1, p.339.

In November of 1782, Charleston was finally evacuated. David, along with his family, sailed with the troops on the troop transport ship "Argo" and landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on November 21st.


  • I have used here David's surname spelled Blakeney. Be advised, however, that there are many variations through the insuing generations, namely Blakney, Blakeney, Bleakeny, Bleakny, Bleakney, Bleakly, and even Bleachly.
  • The Seige of Ninety Six began 224 years ago today.
  • I descend from David on this line:


1779 Census of Ninety-Six District (

96 Revolutionary (

Blakney, David, in Loyalist Directory (

Cann, Marvin L. “War in the Backcountry:  The Siege of Ninety Six, May 22- June 19, 1781.”  South Carolina Historical Magazine 72 (1971):  1-14. (

Clark, Murtie June, Loyalists in the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War, Vol. 1, pp.339-340 (Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1981) (

Moss, Bobby Gilmer. The loyalists in the siege of Fort Ninety Six (Blacksburg, S.C.: Scotia-Hibernia Press, 1999.

Online Tour Stop 11 - Star Fort (

Our Loyalist Ancestors, by members of the Halifax-Dartmouth Branch of UELAC in 1983; made available online in 2015 by Brian McConnell, UE, Nova Scotia Branch (

Patriot siege of Ninety Six, South Carolina, begins (

The Revolutionary War in South Carolina (

South Carolina Townships, 1731-1765, map

Tarleton, Banastre. A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781 in the Southern Provinces of North America (London: Printed for T. Cadell, in the Strand, 1787) (via Google Books)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

My Canadian Branches ~ Willie Bleakney Drowns in North River

Five young men in their twenties took advantage of a beautiful early June afternoon in 1892, and were swimming in the North River, at Victoria Mills, in Westmorland County, New Brunswick. It wasn't a break from school they were celebrating, as these youths were farmers' sons, warm from wearing their Sunday best, and dreading the morrow, when another day of late spring planting waited for them.

It would be a day that four of them, and their families, would always remember, and wish they could forget. With the braggadocio of most young men of their age, none of them confessed to the level of their swimming ability.  Showing off spoke far louder than words, indeed. So, it wasn't long before the more able of the five were matched against the new initiates, and the dreaded result.


Amidst all the shouting, laughing, and cavorting, it was not immediatly noticed that Willie was gone. Perhaps he had run up on the bank to take a breath, or was playing a prank on the rest of them. Minutes sped by like seconds, and the reality began to dawn. Willie had not dared to confess that he didn't know how to swim. The river was very deep once you swam out too far.

Two of the boys ran to the nearest farmhouse for help, screaming to neighboring farm help and families in wagons as they ran. The remaining boys stayed at the riverbank to mark the spot where Willie had last been heard and seen. Several families rallied to their calls, and gathered along the river to assist in the search.  It would take all of them eight long agonizing hours before finding Willie's limp body.

Willie's father, also named William, would have the heart-wrenching task of signing his only surviving son's death certificate, hastily correcting "William" to "Willie", thankful that his son's mother, Mary, had not lived to witness such a loss. 

On Tuesday next, The Saint John Daily Telegraph ran the following, dateline Moncton, June 13:

William BLEAKNEY, age 20, only s/o William A. BLEAKNEY of Steeves Settlement (West. Co.) was drowned in Main's mill pond at North River yesterday. The unfortunate young with four companions was bathing and being unable to swim got beyond his depth and sank before assistance could be extended to him by his comrades. The body was recovered after about eight hours search. The deceased's family consists of his father and two sisters living.

And, on Wednesday, the Albert County Maple Leaf  ran this, dateline Salisbury (West Co.):

Word reached here Monday of the drowning at Victoria Mills, of a young man while bathing on Sunday. The young man was a son of William BLEAKNEY, Victoria Mills in this parish.

It wasn't until almost ten day later that young Willie was laid to rest, although the location of his grave has yet to be found. This notice of his funeral was published by the Kings County Record in Sussex:

The funeral of Willie BLEAKNEY who was drowned at North River took place Tuesday morn. He was buried by Christel Lodge, I.O.G.T. of which he was a member.*

Willie Bleakney was my 3d cousin, 4x removed. I was able to glean quite a bit of family history from the above documents, while a few questions remain.

What I learned:

  • Willie's approximate birth date
  • Willie's birthplace
  • Willie's death date and death place
  • Willie's father's name
  • Willie's mother, older brother, and two of his four sisters predeceased him
  • Where Fawcett Hill, Wheaton Mills, and Victoria Mills are located

What I would like to find:

  • Willie's grave
  • The remaining information on the rest of his immediate family

I.O.G.T. stands for International Organisation of Good Templars, a temperance organization, which still exists in many countries today.


Three years ago this week, our family lost my sister's second child, Kerry James Queen, accidently and suddenly, at the same age as this ancestor.
 I wrote this story with Kerry
 in my heart.


Photo credit:

"Boys At The Beach"
Albert Edwin Roberts [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Daniel F. Johnson's New Brunswick Newspaper Vital Statistics, 1784-1890, Vol. 81, No. 1972. Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, Fredericton, NB, Canada. Accessed  4/20/2015.

Daniel F. Johnson's New Brunswick Newspaper Vital Statistics, 1784-1890, Vol. 82, No. 1598. Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, Fredericton, NB, Canada. Accessed  4/20/2015.

Daniel F. Johnson's New Brunswick Newspaper Vital Statistics, 1784-1890, Vol. 84, No. 202. Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, Fredericton, NB, Canada. Accessed  4/20/2015.

New Brunswick. Dept. of Health and Social Services. Vital Statistics from Government Records (RS141), Provincial Returns of Deaths (RS141C4), Reference C4/1892, Microfilm F14021. Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, Fredericton, NB, Canada. ( Accessed  and downloaded 4/20/2015).

"New Brunswick Provincial Deaths, 1815-1938," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 20 April 2015), Willie A Bleakney, 12 Jun 1892; citing Wheaton Mills, Westmorland, New Brunswick, certificate 001204, Provincial Archives, Fredericton; FHL microfilm 1,944,029.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

My Canadian Branches ~ The Loss of Charles and Nancy Creelman's Children

Charles Creelman, my first cousin 6x removed, married Agnes "Nancy" Johnson in 1849, and settled on property he inherited from his father in Springside, Upper Stewiacke, Nova Scotia. From 1850 to 1870, they welcomed four sons and six daughters. But it is not the births of these children that is notable, but a definite pattern in their deaths.

The FTM Timeline Report for Charles, showing family events as well, indicated the span of years, from 1871 to 1892, when these children, at the dawn of their lives, confronted death.

What this report does not reveal, but further research does, is that:

  • Daughter Mary Ann died at age 19, unmarried
  • Son Frederick died at age 22, unmarried
  • Daughter Maggie died at age 19, unmarried
  • Daughter Hannah died at age 29, unmarried
  • Daughter-In-Law Elizabeth "Jane" (Tupper) died at age 24
  • Daughter Ellen died at age 25, unmarried, and
  • Daughter Martha (Creelman) Nickerson died at age 34

All of these young people were buried in Pembroke Cemetery in Upper Stewiacke, where their parents were also laid to rest.

Mary Ann Creelman's Grave
Frederick Creelman's Grave
Maggie Creelman's Grave
Hannah Creelman's Grave
{No photo of Jane Tupper Creelman's Grave available}

Ellen Creelman's Grave
Martha Creelman Nickerson's Grave
Charles and Nancy Creelman's Graves

Who knows what epidemic or pestilence swept through the Stewiacke Valley during this period to take these young lives. There is evidence of an influenza plague that threatened North America during this period. Perhaps that is the explanation. Or, perhaps a genetic medical condition, that was apt to strike down people in their '20's, was the cause. Was it consumption for all? Mary Ann died of it, now known as tuberculosis. How tragic it must have been to watch such young folks pass on.

Photo credits:

I am indebted to 3rd cousin, 1x removed, Richard Graham, for taking the headstone pictures in Pembroke Cemetery for CanadaGenWeb's Cemetery Project.


Cemetery records; Colchester Historical Society Museum Archives, Truro, Nova Scotia (

GeneJane's Roadmap to Colchester Families (

Miller, Thomas. Historical and genealogical record of the first settlers of Colchester County, down to the present time, compiled from the most authentic sources. (1873).

Nova Scotia.  Historical Vital Statistics.  Registration Year 1871, Book 1804, Page 574, Number 118. Mary Ann Creelman. ( : accessed 25 March 2015).