Vancouver Island Loyal List
The year 2022 marks the 95th Anniversary of the founding of the UELAC Victoria Branch
At its initial formation on February 4, 1927, the branch was named the United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Vancouver Island. A later iteration was the United Empire Loyalists of British Columbia Branch. While the Victoria Branch is the official name on the current branch charter, the branch serves all of Vancouver Island.
As an anniversary project the Victoria Branch is creating a list of Loyalist descendants who made their way West to Vancouver Island in the early days after the founding of Fort Victoria in 1845.
The idea for this project was first proposed by the Branch President Mike Woodcock, UE and is now under development and will be called the ‘Loyal List’. The project was inspired by the 2014-15 booklet Moving Ever Westward: Loyalist Descendants Come to British Columbia which documented how 25 Loyalist descendent families came to British Columbia between 1857 -2000. This booklet was developed by the UELAC Vancouver Branch with contributions from the other three B.C. Branches.
As Dr. Peter Moogk UE outlined in his introduction to Moving Ever Westward, the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railroad in 1885 is a key date in B.C.’s history as it created a reliable and efficient connection to the rest of Canada. Prior to this transportation linkage, it was said that it was easier to get to B.C. from Hong Kong than it was from Eastern Canada.
In a tribute to our 95th anniversary, we envision to include all UEL descendant families who lived on Vancouver Island in the 90 years between 1860-1950.
The ‘Loyal List’ project will include the creation of an online interactive database listing the early arrivals of Loyalist descendants to Vancouver Island and thereby showcase interesting UEL descendant “firsts” for Vancouver Island including the first UEL descendant arrivals, their marriages, births, deaths, etc. As has been documented, the Fraser Canyon and subsequent Cariboo Gold rushes had a massive impact on Victoria and Vancouver Island. Prior to these large influxes of gold seekers and camp followers, Victoria was just a sleepy Hudson Bay Company (HBC) fort. There were no UEL descendants in the initial company town folk. The first UEL descendants arrived in the 1860’s with other fortune seekers with some of them marrying into HBC community. The ‘Loyal List’ will capture our early UEL descendants’ integration into this early settlement stage.
An excellent snapshot of the small cohort of UEL descendants on Vancouver Island during this early period is available through the 1881 Canadian Census. This was the first Canadian census to include B.C. since joining Canada in 1871.
The twenty-five individuals or family units living on Vancouver Island in 1881 make a solid foundation for construction of the Loyal List. This UEL descendant group includes the Overlander Robert Burns McMicking who walked/rafted across the country and B.C.’s second Lieutenant Governor Albert Norton Richards. While most of this group are not well known, they do have fascinating stories and provide key insights into the early history of Vancouver Island. The sheer distance of Vancouver Island from the Loyalist heartland and the massive early emigration into B.C. from the United Kingdom, China and the United States naturally limits the UEL impact and influence on B.C. development. However, a good case can be made that the descendants of UELs to B.C. always “punched above their weight.”
A major ‘Loyal List’ benefit will be facilitating the discovery of UEL descendance by those who are not aware they have this ancestry. Given the elapsed time and great distances, many people on Vancouver Island with UEL ancestry and heritage have lost all connection to their past beyond one or two generations. The ‘Loyal List’ will identify Vancouver Islanders of our grandparent and great grandparent generations who are descended from Loyalists. Therefore, instead of needing to search back eight generations for a 5th or 6th great grandparent UE Loyalist, one only needs to search back three or four generations for their great or 2nd great grandparent UEL descendant. Essentially, the ‘Loyal List’ should serve to reduce the size of the family tree that needs to be searched by half. And, as all Vancouver Islanders know, if families were here between 1860-1950, they are likely still here as hardly anyone leaves The Island.
Aside from census records, we have already been able to find and confirm many UEL descendants from Newspaper archives and Cemetery burial records. While the building of the ‘Loyal List’ is challenging work, it is amazing what we have been able to find in few months at this project. An example is, discovering the son of a United Empire Loyalist buried at Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria, the oldest cemetery in B.C. Also buried there are religious leaders of many denominations including a Catholic Bishop; and sons of two Fathers of Confederation. All these findings serve to reinforce that our Loyalist history needs to be captured in a coherent and accessible format.
A strength of the online ‘Loyal List’ is that it fosters interactivity with people searching for their relatives and/or researching early Vancouver Island history. Each overview of a UEL descendant will request feedback (edits, additions, corrections) and provide an easy means to provide feedback to the ‘Loyal List’ site manager. The ‘Loyal List’ will be a “living document” that has unlimited potential. The greater the number of UEL descendants in the ‘Loyal List’, the greater the refinement and ongoing growth of the List.
The weblink to the first version of the ‘Loyal List’ will be available this September with an initial focus on UEL descendants whose personal information was collected in the 1881 and 1891 Canada censuses for Vancouver Island.