Anguish in the Loyalist Archives, by Paula Dumas

Keith Grant's picture
Anguish in the Loyalist Archives, by Paula Dumas

Recently at Borealia, Paula Dumas contributed two essays on researching Loyalists using online archival collections. She not only provides a helpful introduction to some of the main collections for locating Loyalists in Upper Canada, but she also raises important questions about how such online primary sources are organized. The essays appeared in a modified form at the Isles Abroad blog and are republished as a collaboration between Isles Abroad and Borealia.

Here’s a taste of the first essay:

"The digitised, handwritten documents found in such collections as the Upper Canada Land Petitions and the Haldimand Papers (two sets I’ve used quite a bit) also serve as excellent reminders that just because a source has been put up online does not mean that it will be easy to search through, read, or use. Even databases with an integrated online search application can give difficult or incomplete results due to many different factors. First, searches are often limited to name and location: content or subject is left out. This is promising for family history and genealogy research, but what if I want to know about early settlers to a specific region or find examples of cultural interactions between different groups? The search engine (and, in some ways, the presentation of the collection) has therefore been aimed at genealogists rather than historians. Also, these collections have been digitised as complete microfilm reels, not volumes, meaning that it is the format and limitations of film and the archival practices of the 1960s that is being reproduced online.[1]

However, the hunt can be well worth it."

You can read the rest of the essay here. As always, you can follow Borealia on Twitter or Facebook  or sign up for email notifications of new posts. You are also welcome to propose a post based on your own research or teaching.