Miss Anne Powell Travels to Detroit, the final installment
Miss Anne Powell and her party did eventually make it to Detroit on June 9, 39 days after leaving Montreal. Along the way, she met Chief Joseph Brant, and visited Niagara Falls. Her letters describe in some detail her impressions of the Niagara Gorge and the Falls, a council that she witnessed of 200 First Nations chiefs near Fort Erie and some of the event’s participants. From Fort Erie it was a five-day journey from Fort Erie to the Detroit River at the head of Lake Erie, some thirty kilometres below Detroit. Interestingly, Miss Anne notes that since the British had ceded Fort Detroit to the Americans, a new town must be built across the river from it. This town, named Sandwich, was not actually established until 1796, around the time that the Americans took up residence at Fort Detroit. Later, the town of Sandwich was renamed Windsor. Fort Detroit eventually disappeared beneath the streets of the expanding city of Detroit and has been lost to history.
And so we leave Miss Anne Powell enjoying the social life and the parties and the scenery on the Detroit River, because that’s where her letters leave off. Later, she returned to Montreal and married Isaac Winslow Clarke. Clarke was a Loyalist who had before the American Revolution lived in Boston. In fact, he was one of the consignees for the British East India Company’s shipment of tea that was thrown overboard during the famous 1773 “Boston Tea Party” event, as noted by Old Province Tales author William Renwick Riddell, where we find Miss Anne Powell’s story. Clarke later served in the British army during the War of 1812. He died at sea on his way to England in 1824, in his late 70s. Sadly, Miss Anne Powell died in 1792, barely 30 years old.
One caution here: remember that a resource like Old Province Tales is a secondary source. While it may be a good place to start (not to mention a lot of fun to read), if you’re planning to apply this type of source to your research be sure to cite is as such and don’t take anything the author says for granted. Even though an author may state that someone was born or died at a certain date, for example, this may be incorrect. Always verify these types of claims through primary resources if possible.
As I’ve noted previously, sources other than the traditional genealogical sources like censuses, cemetery records, land petitions and deeds, and so on can often reveal interesting tidbits of information that we might otherwise never discover. However, we sometimes have to go to more offbeat sources online to find records like these. One source I highly recommend you make use of is Archive.org.
Archive.org is a non-profit Internet library founded in 1996 for the purposes of, as the site’s “About” section notes, “offering permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format”. They hold a vast amount of digital resources, including old manuscripts. I have found and used city directories (another useful resource for locating family members), commercial directories, digitized Canada and U.S. census documents, books, pictures, even old movies. It is an incredible resource that you should check out. You can download many of these materials in PDF, epub, and Kindle formats. Some are only available through Archive.org’s collaborator, Google Books (another repository of old manuscripts).
Tips for Using Archive.org
Although they have a lot of Canadian documents, these are not always found where you might expect them. For example, under the drop-down menu “Texts” you will see headings like “American Libraries”, “Canadian Libraries”, “University Libraries”, “Project Gutenberg”, etc. Even though you might be looking for Canadian documents, many of these have been contributed by U.S. universities and libraries from their own holdings and will be found under the heading of U.S. contributors. I recommend that when searching for Canadian textual materials you search using the “Texts” heading, which will return results for texts from all sources.
Another useful tip is to use the Subject and Author links that you will find in the landing page of the text you’re looking at. So, once you’ve searched on your terms and received links, after you choose a link you will see the landing page. Here you will see “Author”, “Subject”, and “Publisher” headings, which are also linked. Often these links can lead to additional discoveries. An historical author may have written more than one work, a publisher may have related works that have been uploaded, and you may find additional works on the same subject.
Another link to pay attention to on the landing page is the “Book contributor” link. These are the folks who provided the digitized materials to Archive.org. Often they have whole catalogues on the site that you can browse through to find additional materials.
The Wayback Machine
(picture source: Wikipedia)
Finally, the site has a feature called “The Wayback Machine”. If you’re not old enough to remember it, the “Wayback Machine” is a reference to the cartoon “Peabody’s Improbable History” from the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons of the 1960s. Archive’s WM, though, is a function that allows you to search for websites from the past. that no longer exist If you find yourself clicking on a dead link on a website, and you really want the information that just might be on that dead website, try copying and pasting the link into the Wayback Machine and click the “Take Me Back” button. Chances are good that the site is archived and you might still find the information you were looking for.
All in all Archive.org is a fantastic website. I have spent hours browsing through the resources there. And I always find something new and unexpected.
I have listed below some of the resources I used in researching and writing this little series. As always, please feel free to comment or ask a question. You can also contact me via my website at www.pearceheritageresearch.ca. I am always happy to answer questions about Canadian heritage.
Biographi.ca, Entries for William Dummer Powell and Richard Duncan, www.biographi.ca
Brymner, Douglas, archivist, Report on Canadian Archives, 1889, Brown Chamberlain, Ottawa, Collections Canada
Carp, Benjamin L., Terms of Estrangement: Who Were the Sons of Liberty?, Colonial Williamsburg Journal, Winter, 2012, http://www.history.org/foundation/journal/winter12/liberty.cfm
Riddell, William Renwick, Old Province Tales, 1920, Glasgow Brooke and Company, Toronto
I know I’m diverging from finishing the Miss Anne Powell train of stories, but I thought I’d throw this post out there. A part of my focus in writing this blog is to give new family history researchers some helpful tips and interesting information. This post fits that focus. I was watching some YouTube videos from Vsauce the other day and one of the videos reminded me of the issue I’m writing about here. If you are new to genealogy, you may not have come across the concept of “pedigree collapse”. The following is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, Genealogy Basics for Canadian Family History Researchers. I’ve added some links so that you can go read more about the concept.
Let’s Do Some Math
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to trace your family back 500 years? 1,000? Would it even be possible to trace all of your unique ancestors on both sides of your family back so far? For most of us, the answer is “probably not”, and not only because there are no historical documents to trace your lineage that far back.
Your family tree is, at its simplest, two separate pedigrees, one for your father and one for your mother. If we consider a generation to be about 25 years, we would be thinking about 20 generations for 500 years of history and around 40 generations for 1,000 years of history. Now consider this: for every generation we go backward the number of our ancestors doubles. You’re number one, you have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great-grandparents, and so on. By the time you go back 500 years, you would be looking for more than half a million people. If you could go back another 500 years to 1,000 years ago, you would be looking for 550 billion people (and by the way, I did the math using a spreadsheet, so please feel free to correct me if you think my math is wrong). Now stop and think about that. There are 7 billion people in the entire world today; the highest number in history. How could you have 550 billion unique ancestors? The short answer is: you can’t.
In genealogy there is a concept called “pedigree collapse”. This means that, at some point in the past, both your father’s line and your mother’s line will have a single common ancestor and the unique pedigree for each collapses. In other words, both of your parents are descended from the same person at some point.
According to Rhode, et al., in a letter published in the journal Nature, the most recent common genealogical ancestor of everyone living today came from Taiwan about 2,300 years ago. This means that if we could trace our family history back 2,300 years genealogically, each of us could name this person as an ancestor. According to another source, if you go back 20 generations, one-third of your ancestors will be duplicates. So if you could go back 500 years (20 generations), approximately 175,000 of your potential half million ancestors would be common to both your family lines. In fact, anyone in your country in the same ethnic group likely will be your relative. If you’re European in descent, the point where the number of possible ancestors is the same as the estimated population (the entire population, not just the adult population) occurs sometime during the mid-fourteenth century. So, as you can see, it is impossible in this respect to trace your family tree as two separate pedigrees back 1,000 years. Somewhere along the line they are going to converge into a common ancestor.
I have one client whose family I traced back to 1800. This client’s father’s direct ancestor in the surname line had come to Canada from the United States around that time. I wasn’t researching the client’s mother’s line, because the research objective was to prove a bit of family lore about a First Nations ancestor in the father’s line. Surprisingly, when I researched the client’s paternal grandmother and grandfather’s lines to the early 19th century, I discovered that they converged at the same individual, the one who arrived in Canada from the U.S. in 1800. This is an example of pedigree collapse.
Of course, this is only one small part of all this client’s ancestry. There were certainly other immediate ancestors who were in no way so obviously related to that first ancestor in 1800. Early 19th century Upper Canada had a population of, according to the Library and Archives Canada website, 70,718, and so had an equally-limited population available for marriages. This type of limited pedigree collapse is a fairly likely occurrence for most people who trace their ancestry through both lines to early Upper Canada or the same area of another part of early Canada. Further, such convergence demonstrates why the number of your ancestors can never be more than the population of a given ethnic group, country or continent at any given point in history. Thank goodness for immigration.
Til next time, take care Cousin.