Incredible journeys of Loyalist settlers given new life in digital map

A digital mapping project created by librarians and students at the University of New Brunswick lets you follow the lives of Loyalist men and women, revealing the fascinating journeys of some of New Brunswick's earliest settlers.

New Brunswick Loyalist Journeys combines mapping technology with archival material

Staff at UNB's Harriet Irving Library have created an interactive story map to show the travels of Loyalists who landed in New Brunswick. From left, Leah Grandy, library assistant; Christine Jack, manager of microforms; Siobhan Hanratty, data/GIS librarian; Zoe Louise Jackson, UNB student and story-map designer. (Rob Blanchard / Photo UNB)

A digital mapping project created by librarians and students at the University of New Brunswick lets you follow the lives of Loyalist men and women, revealing the fascinating journeys of some of New Brunswick's earliest settlers.

New Brunswick Loyalist Journeys is the result of two years of research using historical documents in the Harriet Irving Library.

Using geographic information system (GIS) mapping technology with archival material, the site tells the stories of ordinary Loyalists who settled in York County after the American Revolution.

Leah Grandy, a library assistant in the microforms department, helped spearhead the project. She said it started off as a biographical project.

As the research progressed, it became clear there was a significant geographic component to each Loyalist's story because they'd been all over the world, she said.

"We thought using maps would be a great way to show how wide-ranging they were and the variety of their experience," said Grandy.

The map blends GIS-mapping technology with archival material, such as this copy of the determination of Abraham Vanderbeck's Loyalist Claim by the British Crown, dated March 6, 1787. (New Brunswick Loyalist Journeys/University of New Brunswick )

Each Loyalist's biography has its own map and is divided into sections depending on where they were at the time.

"It really shows that life journey that they went through, first through American colonies throughout the war, and then resettlement in York County," Grandy said.

The project showcases Loyalists from a variety of backgrounds, including Moses Simpson, a black man who escaped slavery and earned his freedom after enlisting in the British army.

A land petition from Moses Simpson, a Black Loyalist written from Milkish Creek outside Saint John. Simpson is one of 10 York County Loyalists profiled in the map. (The Loyalist Collection, Harriet Irving Library, University of New Brunswick)

Grandy said she thinks the map shows the diverse backgrounds of Loyalists.

"I think when people think of Loyalists, they have this stereotypical image in their head, kind of like the Loyalist man on the Saint John billboard when you come in," she said.

"But Loyalists actually came from a variety of backgrounds, so this project shows that as well."

Zoe Louise Jackson, a UNB history student who worked on the project, said she found women and Black Loyalists were underrepresented in historical documents.

This section of the map tracks Elizabeth Green's migration from New York to New Brunswick. (New Brunswick Loyalist Journeys/University of New Brunswick )

"There wasn't too much information that they left behind," she said.

Jackson said she hopes the project gives viewers a more personal connection to the province's Loyalist roots.

The first leg of the project focused on York County, but the team is now expanding the project to explore the lives of Loyalists who settled in Saint John and Kings County, said Grandy.

About the Author

Sarah Petz

Reporter, CBC New Brunswick

Sarah Petz is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick. She can be reached at sarah.petz@cbc.ca.