This past Saturday, I drove out to Amherstburg, first to take a look at the new palisade going up at Fort Malden, and then to snap a couple pics of the old Bellevue house that’s been in the news lately. My next stop was at Wesley United Church on Sandwich Street for the Roots to Boots Genealogy Seminar, where participants in the free event were given tips on finding an ancestor who may have been involved in the War of 1812.
I didn’t know much about the workshop before going in (only that I’m a nerd and I dig these types of things), and I soon discovered it was a starting point for Essex County folk to apply for a certificate, honouring them as a direct descendant of someone in the War of 1812. The application is a lengthy one, as the Ontario Genealogical Society wants proof of each generation, leading all the way back to the beginning of the 19th century. Hence, the seminar.
Speaking at the event were two genealogists from the OGS, both from the Essex Branch. Kathryn Hogan gave us hints on how to best track your family tree, giving us resources to check like Library and Archives Canada, the Olive Tree Genealogy website, and the popular Ancestry.ca online community. She also gave us a brief look at the types of documents we’d find, focusing on census records, as these are the most helpful. No other recorded document gives you a snapshot of an entire household at a single point in time, and it’s information like this, where you can read between the lines, that can be the most intriguing.
Besides census records, your best bet to finding information on your descendants are church records. Church officials usually recorded all the baptisms, marriages and deaths in their archives, and the Roman Catholic parishes around here were no exception. Assumption Church has an extensive collection of BMD records (birth, marriage, death), dating back to Father Potier‘s time in the late 1700s.
The second speaker was Debra Honor, a prominent genealogist in the area who takes part in the monthly ‘Ask a Genealogist’ workshops at the main branch of the Windsor Public Library. She spoke to us about how to find that particular ancestor who may have lived through the war here in Essex County. We learned which regiments were stationed here; the 1st and 2nd Regiment of the Essex Militia (including William Caldwell’s Rangers), the 1st Regiment of the Kent Militia (along with the Loyal Kent Volunteers led by Captain John MacGregor), the Provincial Marines and the Indian Department.
Alas, after looking into the resources available at the seminar, I found that I am not a direct descendant of someone involved in the war of 1812. My great-great-great grandfather was too young (born in 1800), and his father was dead by the time the war was declared. I was able to find out that two of my great-uncles claimed losses due to the war, and were awarded ₤25 and ₤37 respectively in remuneration for having hogs killed, bushels of apples stolen and a horse saddle and bridle taken by the Indians. You can click on each dollar value to see a PDF of the actual handwritten claims.
Two other fun facts I learned… Windsor-Essex is the only area in Canada that has ever been occupied by a foreign country (when the Americans took over the Baby house in the War of 1812), and that all the ships to fight in the Battle of Lake Erie were built right in Amherstburg, at the King’s Navy Yard.