Basics of Researching Your Loyalist Ancestors

Many Americans celebrate having Patriot Ancestors from the Revolution, but what are the basics of researching Loyalist Ancestors who migrated to Canada?

Lianne Krüger, a Canadian with deep French-Canadian roots, shared a number of points about researching Loyalist ancestors while we visited at RootsTech. She called the Loyalists the “first American draft dodgers!”

Those who fled to Canada were whether heroes or enemies, depending on which side of the conflict you were on.

Watch this video on YouTube.

Know Where The Loyalists Went

Her first tip is that most Loyalists went to Quebec but eventually Quebec became Upper and Lower Canada. However, if you’re often confused about which is which, Liane has a quick geographic lesson to help you remember.

Access Loyalist Records in the Archives

The Library and Archives of Canada website ( is a great resource for Canadiana researchers. The website is available in English and French.

Contact a Loyalist Group

If there is a United Empire Loyalists group in your area, contact them. They have resources and knowledge to help you research your ancestors. Visit the website for more information.

Look for Land Grants

Britain also gave loyalists who left the American colonies land tracts. You can find these records and know where your ancestors lived and. You’re looking for land grants awarded right around the time of the American Revolution and shortly thereafter.

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Some Loyalists Returned to America

Believe it or not, some Loyalists went up to Canada to avoid the war effort but then returned to America or another British colony when the fighting was over. If your American ancestors disappeared for a while and then they returned to the new country, check loyalist records to see if they’re up there.

Picture: “Tory Refugees on the Way to Canada” by Howard Pyle. The work appeared in Harper’s Monthly in December 1901.

To support Lianne Krüger and her work, visit or check her out on Twitter @liannekruger

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