Sunday, August 9, 2009

Daughters of the American Revolution: Loyalist Edition

On my maternal grandfather's branch of the family tree, many of my ancestors' arrival to this country pre-dates the American about 150 years. By the time Thomas Jefferson and John Adams and the like all decided they no longer wanted to be British, my family had been American-born for several generations. They were well-entrenched on Long Island. So it's not odd to assume that it should be a breeze to get membership into the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). I personally have never had much interest in pursuing that opportunity, but I have a cousin who has recently decided that she would, and so my grandmother volunteered my services to try to find a connection that would open that door for her.

But ah, those Raynors...even after 150 years on the other side of the pond, they were still very happily British...

In my Loyalist family's defense, the entire Hempstead area of Long Island was apparently a hotbed of British support. I have long been aware of the stories of the Raynors being Tories, so I figured I'd take a look at some of the other long-standing families they married into - the Seamans, the Ackerlys, the Storys, the Spragues. has a lot of military records in their database, which is how I first discovered my Civil War veteran ancestor, Charles Haase, but for the Revolution, I was turning up big fat nothings...till Zachariah Story, turned up a couple of hits in a book entitled "Loyalists in the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War Volume III." He had military service in the Revolution, all right...fighting for the British.

If you look up St. George's Episcopal Church in Hempstead, where many of my ancestors were baptized and married, on the Web, you find out that after the Battle of Long Island, British soldiers used the church as a headquarters. By the 1770s, not all Americans were descended from British immigrants, but in Hempstead, they were, and for whatever reason, they felt no need to make any changes. what is interesting is that I have several branches of my family based in Canada - when you trace their migration pattern, it comes back to people who lived on Long Island who either chose to leave the country as the Revolution was brewing and spilling over because they were loyal to England, or who were forced to leave in the years following the end of the war because they were loyal to England.

Which brings me to my point that I'm not sure I'll be successful in helping my cousin with her DAR ambitions. Besides the fact that the generation who would have fought in the war is where my actual hard evidence of relation starts to break down, I just don't think the "yay America" attitude was there. I did go to the DAR website to see what they took into consideration for membership and was interested to learn that it doesn't necessarily have to be a veteran ancestor - it could be anybody who supported the independence movement, such as a doctor or nurse who tended to American soldiers or someone who served in a pro-America governmental role. So there's still the slim possibility of finding that elusive relative, but I really think I'll probably just end up suggesting that my cousin look into whether or not there is a Loyalist version of the DAR that she could join instead.

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