A couple weeks ago, I posted the family tree of the Mabees, my paternal grandmother’s family. It’s the family I knew least about, other than there are a lot of them in the Tillsonburg-Courtland area. And I claim the fabulous figure skater Christopher Mabee, from Tillsonburg, as kin. Don’t know how he’s related, but I believe he must be, so I call him “Cousin Chris”.
Anyway, the internet allowed me to connect my limited knowledge of the Mabees with sources of a lot of information about them. The thing that I was delighted to discover is that the Mabees came to Canada from the US as United Empire Loyalists. That makes my entire lineage, both sides of both parents’ families, UEL.
So talking with my husband, who was born and raised in the US, about the Loyalists. His children are Canadian because of the Vietnam War. I am Canadian because of the Revolutionary War. Telling him about a Mabee ancestor whom the British hanged as a “spy” for the rebels. The rest of the family came north to Canada. The American rebels, later known as the government and citizenry of the USA, seized their lands.
So what was that like? Families divided by political opinion and geography. For those who left, returning to the US was not an option unless they were willing to risk arrest. Sounds like the American Civil War, doesn’t it? Only it was a national border between them in the latter 1700s.
Black, white and First Nations – all belonged to the group that the new United States saw as traitors and that Canada called United Empire Loyalists. All contributed to military efforts against the American “rebels” and all made new communities in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario.
Voluntarily or not, the loyalists had already left their homelands at least once. Europeans like my ancestors had sought freedom from religious, economic or political oppression in a new land.
One tyrant or a thousand tyrants
Presumably, my kin in the Mabee, Burwell, Anger and Lymburner families had found that in the beginning. But when total independence was being discussed and fought for, they preferred political ties with Britain to living in the proposed republic. “Better to live under one tyrant a thousand miles away, than a thousand tyrants one mile away” was how UEL Daniel Bliss put it. And, to the north, there was a country/colony that agreed with that philosophy. So they picked up stakes again and moved to British North America.
Double rebels, and divided families. Family members maybe never saw each other again. Those who left had to abandon the land and homes they’d built up. They had to homestead all over again in new country. New generations became American or Canadian, maybe not really thinking much about their connections to the other country and their family there.