Dracups emigrate to…Canada


This is the second in a series of posts describing how Dracups from England established themselves in other parts of the world during the Nineteenth Century.

Part two is about how one Dracup emigrated to Canada, so establishing a major branch of the family there. Part one was about the arrival of Dracups in India. Chronologically these were the two earliest Dracup settlements abroad. I plan to publish further parts of the series in the coming months.

There will be gaps in my evidence base and I might have made wrong choices between different versions of events in rival sources. If you know something of the people mentioned in this post and can correct any errors I have made, do please let me know.

Robert Dracup emigrates to Nova Scotia

There are a few separate branches in my English family tree which do not yet connect with the principal line down from George Dracoppe.

One such begins with yet another Nathaniel Dracup (1760-99) who, by the time of his marriage to Rachel Kay (d. 1825) on 31 December 1786, was working as a schoolmaster in Bolton, Lancashire.

One of Nathaniel’s sons – the fourth of six children – was Robert Dracup, born in Bolton in July 1794. He it was who established a Dracup dynasty in Canada.

Some family trees place Robert as the son of a completely different Nathaniel Dracup (1767-1825) – son of the Reverend Nathaniel (1728-98) – and his wife Mary Wright (d. 1819), but I can find no evidence to support this claim.

Robert must have emigrated by February 1818 at the latest since he married Amelia Crosby (1799-1855) in that month in Granville, Annapolis, Nova Scotia.

Some family trees suggest their eldest daughter Elizabeth was born as early as 1814 or 1815, but the majority place her birth in March 1819. It seems unlikely that Robert was in Canada before 1815 so, if the earlier date is correct, Elizabeth was illegitimate. It seems more likely that Robert arrived between 1815 and 1818.

One tree says that Amelia was from Killcullen Bridge, County Kildare, Ireland, although the 1851 Canadian census identifies her as Scottish. Another tree identifies Amelia’s grandparents as John Crosbie (1742-1819) and Henrietta Telfer (b. 1745) who lived in Buittle, Kirkudbright, Scotland.

Other records show that Amelia’s father, Samuel Crosby (1773-1823), married his wife Jane McKenzie in Scotland in December 1793 and died in Halifax, Nova Scotia, so it seems most likely that he emigrated from Scotland just after the turn of the Nineteenth Century accompanied by his wife and young family.

We do not know what prompted Robert’s own decision to migrate from Lancashire to Nova Scotia a generation later. Likely causes include poverty, crime and unrequited love! Perhaps he was simply an adventurous spirit.

His choice of Canada may have been influenced by a peer or a predecessor, or simply by the literature advertising opportunities there.

At first I thought there might be a possible link to Isaac in India, but his regiment never served in Canada. Coincidentally, an entirely different 84th Regiment of Foot – the Royal Highland Emigrants – fought on the loyalist side in the American War of Independence and, on disbanding, many settled in Ontario and Nova Scotia.

I could find no records of an organised exodus from Bolton, either at this time or previously. But some 40 years beforehand there had been an initiative to promote migration from Yorkshire to Nova Scotia. Between 1772 and 1775 over one thousand migrants departed for Canada, many of them Methodists. Nova Scotia’s Lieutenant Governor Michael Francklin was behind the idea.

This website records some of the ships that ferried migrants to Nova Scotia at the time of Robert’s emigration.

Customs returns show that in 1817 387 English migrants arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, as did 320 the following year. Comparatively few ships sailed from England, rather than Scotland and Ireland. Those that did so included:

  • The ship Thomas, which arrived on 5 July 1817 with 30-40 passengers after a 58-day passage from Bristol.
  • Schooners Lavinia and Speculator, which arrived on 11 July 1818 with 50 and 62 passengers respectively after 40-day and 42-day passages from Plymouth.
  • Thomas again arrived in August 29 1818 with 31 passengers after a passage from London.
  • The Brig Mary arrived the same day with 38 passengers from Plymouth.

I found a reference to quite possibly the same Thomas in the Prince Edward Island Gazette of 22 September 1821:

‘For Liverpool, G.B. The Ship THOMAS, burthen 435 tons, copper bottomed, now lying at Bedeque, and will be ready to sail in about five weeks. She is well calculated for carrying Passengers having been fitted out for the East India trade and has excellent accomodations [sic]. She has two cabins, the after one would be let entirely to a family if required. For further particulars apply to Mr. S. Desbrisay, or the Captain on board.’

The journey would have been undertaken entirely under sail. The first steam-assisted Atlantic crossing took place in 1819. The SS Savannah (below) was 98 feet long and weighed 320 tons.




The hardships of emigration

It is difficult now to appreciate the sheer hardship involved in such extended journeys by sea. Here is an extract from an almost contemporary account of a voyage to Quebec in 1821. I have divided it into shorter paragraphs to make it more accessible:

‘Having, with many of my countrymen, determined to embark for Canada; little dreaming, from the flattering accounts which had been so industriously published respecting that country, of the hardships attending such an undertaking, I left Glasgow for Greenock, to embark on board the ship David of London, for Quebec, along with nearly 400 other passengers…

…The wind rose, a heavy gale commenced, and the waves rolled mountains high, and made a mighty noise. To see a ship making her way in the midst of a storm, over these lofty billows, is both grand and awful. We now became like drunken men, reeling and staggering to and fro. To walk on deck was impossible, and the places where the pots were erected for cooking, tumbled down, so that we could not get any victuals made ready, and some of our associates were compelled to mix a little meal and molasses, and use this composition as a substitute for better fare. The comparative want of food, and the storm together, rendered us very weak. This storm continued nine days. The captain affirmed, that he had never witnessed a tempest of such long continuance at that season of the year.

…Several times many of our company got themselves drenched with the waves of a heavy rolling sea breaking over the deck, and which also entering the hatch-hole, wetted us very much. On this account, we were completely shut up in the hold. At the commencement of the storm the weather became very cold. This circumstance, providentially, was greatly in our favour, from our being so much crowded together, which in several respects was very disagreeable to our feelings.

This cold state of the weather continued till we approached the mouth of the St. Laurence, when it became so warm, that I was nearly suffocated from the smell and heat below deck. I was consequently compelled to sleep on deck, together with many others, who were in a similar situation. Every favourable day the Captain ordered all his passengers to bring up their clothes and air them. The sick passengers were also all ordered above, those who were unable being assisted…

Four births took place during our passage, but three of the children died, and a boy of four years old…’


on board an emigrant ship


This 1820 Emigrant’s Guide has some interesting snippets about life in Canada at this time:

‘The trades likely to flourish in the Canadas, are those of the shipwright, block and mast maker, blacksmith, house carpenter, joiner, millwright wheel-wright, boat-builder, cabinet makers, saddler, painter, baker, tailor, tanner, hair dresser, and whitesmith. There are others, no doubt, which I do not immediately recollect, that would answer extremely well. Skill and industry will make their way everywhere.

I have known, in several instances, an association of the house carpenter and blacksmith to expedite considerably the formation of an infant settlement. They have emigrated together from England, and their union has materially facilitated the progress of their establishment in their adopted country…

…The wages of artificers are good, but they must imitate the ants. Those who cannot save during the Summer, are miserable during the Winter, when many are out of employment.

For a small society like that of Canada, the number of unfaithful wives, kept mistresses, and girls of easy virtue, exceed in proportion those of the old country, and it is supposed that in the towns more children are born illegitimately than in wedlock. Trials for crim. con are however unknown.

Good female servants are very scarce in Canada. Following the example of their mistresses, few can be found who are exempt from the vices of the age. Their wages are from £12 to £20 per annum, and notwithstanding they are so liberally paid, they seldom remain above a month in a place. A servant that remains in her place four or five months is looked upon as a pattern of excellence. Farmer’s servants get from £36 to 40 a year currency, and provisions. A careful man may of course lay by something.’


Robert Dracup in Nova Scotia

At the time of Robert’s arrival, Nova Scotia was of course a separate British colony. It is hard to find a good contemporary map online. This one dates from 1854.


Nova Scotia


Granville is located opposite Annapolis, close to the coast of the Bay of Fundy, beneath the ‘u’ of Fundy.

I found online a ‘History of the county of Annapolis, including old Port Royal and Acadia’ by W A Calnek (1897). It describes the location of Granville Township thus:

‘This fine township is bounded as follows: On the north by the Bay of Fundy; on the east by the township of Wilmot ; on the south by the Annapolis River and basin, and on the west by the strait connecting the Annapolis Basin with the Bay of Fundy. The range of hills, locally known as the North Mountains, divides it into two nearly equal parts, which may be termed the mountain and valley districts. The former consists of a strip of land gradually increasing in width from its western end at the strait aforesaid to its eastern extremity at the Wilmot boundary; its northern edge is washed by the waters of the Bay of Fundy, and its southern side is formed by an irregular line, following the greatest elevation in the chain of hills before named.’

It says that the population of the township in 1827 was 2,526 and some 4,200 acres of the land was cultivated.

I was unable to discover whether Robert purchased land in Nova Scotia or whether he worked as a farm labourer until he had funds sufficient to buy land in Ontario.

Family trees do not entirely agree but mine shows that Robert and Amelia had as many as twelve children between 1819 and 1847. Most were born in Granville, but the last three were born in Ontario, suggesting that the family moved in 1835 or thereabouts, 15-20 years after Robert’s arrival in Canada.

According to my records, the children were:

  • Elizabeth (1819-1871) who married David Carscallen (1812-1886). The marriage took place in 1835 in Thurlow Township, Hastings County, Ontario. They had five children.
  • Mary Jane (1820-1856) who married Johnson Mabee (1811-1882). The marriage was in 1840 in Belleville, Hastings, Ontario. Mabee was a blacksmith at the time of the marriage but became a farmer in Ameliasburgh Township, Prince Edward County. There were three children.
  • John (1821-1893) who married Henrietta Carscallen (1835-1910), presumably a relation of Elizabeth’s husband. This marriage took place in 1851 in Victoria, Ontario. They had three children.
  • Thomas (1826-1919) who married Cassandra Saffery (1846-1910) in 1863 in Belleville. They had three children.
  • William Robert (1826-1900) seems not to have married.
  • Amelia Ann (1830-1914) who married Nathan Empey (1823-1903) but I do not have the location or date. There were three children.
  • Harriet (1835-1872) who married George Empey (1833-1904) in 1859 in Hastings County. He was presumably related to Amelia Ann’s husband. I identified one child only.
  • Catherine (b.1836). She appears in the 1851 census but I can find no trace of her afterwards, so she might have died young.
  • Caroline (1836-1912) who married Joseph Hewitt (b.1835) in Belleville in 1883. They lived in Vancouver City, British Columbia.
  • Edmund (1838-1898) who married Dorcas Vandervoort (1843-1906) in Hastings County in 1861. They had four children.
  • Albert (Charles) (1845-1931) who married Rebecca (Bertha) Kennedy (1852-1883) in Rawdon Township, Hastings County in 1868. They had two children.
  • George (1847-1885) who married Margaret Auld (1856-1939) in 1878 in Melrose, Hastings County. They had two children.


Postscript (May 2016): While research another post I came across the record below, which places the move from Nova Scotia to Ontario exactly in April 1834. Most members of the family traveled together on board a Nova Scotia schooner, the William, which put into the harbour at New York City on 22 April.


Canada addition Capture


The chart below (click to magnify) shows Robert and Amelia and the two succeeding generations of Canadian Dracups as they appear in my family tree


Descendants of Robert Dracup


Robert Dracup in Ontario

The 1851 Canadian Census records Robert (aged 58) and Amelia (aged 53) living in Hastings County with William Robert (24), Thomas (23), Amelia (21), Caroline (19), Edmund (17), Catharine (15), Albert (12) and George (7). One female – presumably Harriet – is listed as ‘absent’. Four children are attending school.

The family live in a frame house with one-and-a-half storeys. Robert is listed as a farmer, William Robert as a labourer and Edmund as a carpenter. The family’s religion is given as Methodist.

John and Henrietta are living with James and Mary Carscallen, Henrietta’s parents, and John is working as a labourer on their farm.

Hastings County is approximately 1,000 kilometres to the west of Granville, Nova Scotia, so this was a not inconsiderable journey.

There is a useful page in the Ontario archives showing how the Province developed between 1788 and 1899. The 1855 map below shows Ontario when Robert moved there. Hastings County is the light blue rectangle directly above the ‘R’ of Lake Ontario.




Robert Dracup’s farm was located in Sidney Township – lot 20 from concession 4.

I found an advertisement in the Kingston Gazette of 11 May 1816 stating that lots 19-24 in the 4th concession formerly owned by one William Atkinson would be seized on the suit of John Kirby and auctioned on 16 October of that year.

This was followed by a notice in an October 1816 edition stating that Thomas Atkinson forbade the sale because the land belonged to him. Finally, in a January 1817 edition, Thomas Atkinson advertises for sale lots 22, 23 and 24 and one-quarter of lot 20.

I was unable to trace who owned Robert’s land when he bought it. Here is part of a map dating from 1878 showing the location of his 100 acre plot. Alternatively use this digital map from McGill University to navigate to Robert’s lot.


Sidney Township Capture


A near-contemporary historical atlas (Belden, 1878) provides an insight into Sidney Township at this time.

‘Sidney was named after Lord Sidney who, in the time of the revolutionary war, was Secretary for the Colonial Depart­ment, and was surveyed and laid out about the year 1787, by Louis Kotte, assisted by one McDonald. A map on file in the Crown Lands Department has inscribed upon it, “Sidney in the District of Meklenburg.” It is bounded on the north by the township of Rawdon, on the east by Thurlow and the city of Belleville, on the south by the Bay of Quinte, and on the west by the river Trent and the township of Murray in the County of Nor­thumberland, and is at present one of the best settled and wealthiest town­ships in the County of Hastings.

The settlement of Sidney was permanently effected during and from the year 1787, by three classes or grades of settlers, 1st. United Empire Loyalists; 2nd. Sons and daughters from the Loyalists of older townships on the Bay, who had drawn land there, and also by persons of Loyalist origin who came from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and elsewhere, where they had first settled; 3rd. by Americans who subse­quently settled there after the war of 1812, and probably at an earlier period.,,,

… The township contains about 68,400 acres of excellent land; its surface is somewhat rolling, well-watered with several streams, the princi­pal of which is the Trent. Sidney has about 1,295 ratepayers, with a population of 6,475; assessed value, 1878, $2,588,755, which is one of the best evidences of its prosperity.

There is a large cheese manufacturing interest in the township of Sidney, its lands being well adapted for dairy purposes. There are scattered throughout the municipality several large cheese fac­tories, which annually turn out thousands of pounds of a superior quality of cheese, paying their several patrons well for their investments. The River Trent flows through the western part of the township and empties into the Bay of Trenton, it is spanned by two substantial covered bridges, one at Trenton and the other at Frankford, affording to the farmers on either side an excellent means of passage…

… The Belleville and Stirling, and Belleville, Frankford, and Stirling mac­adamized road runs through the township. The farmers seem to be in a well-to-do and prosperous condition, as is evidenced by the character of their several buildings, the well-cultivated fields, now covered with promising crops of grain, and the many acres of thriving fruit orchards everywhere to be met with throughout the municipality. School-houses and churches are located at various points, whose teachings are free as the air we breathe.’

A Sidney Township timeline provides more detailed information about the development of the community during this period.

By the time of the 1861 Census, Robert is widowed. Still listed as a farmer, he is living with William (33), Thomas (29), Caroline (24) and Edmund (23). It is not possible to reconcile all the ages given with those in the previous census. The family’s religion is given (mistakenly?) as Church of England.

Albert Dracup, his age given as 18, is lodging with a family called Hamilton in Lennox and Addington County elsewhere in Ontario.

Robert died in December 1866. He is buried in the Stone Church Cemetery, Hastings County and shares his headstone with his son William Robert. It says simply:

‘In memory of William R. Dracup born Dec. 26 1826, died Feb. 19 1900

Robert Dracup born in England 1792 [sic], died Dec. 28 1866′


The farming dynasty established

The sons followed in their father’s footsteps. The 1861 census records that Edmund Dracup is farming 100 acres, part of lot 21 from the 4th concession in Sidney Township.

An 1869 Directory of the County of Hastings lists six areas of farmland belonging to members of the Dracup family:

  • Albert Dracup – part of lot 12, 5th concession Rawdon Township
  • George Dracup – part of lot 9, 6th concession Rawdon Township
  • John Dracup – part of lot 31, 1st concession Sidney Township
  • Robert Dracup – part of lot 20, 4th concession Sidney Township
  • Edmund Dracup – part of lot 22, 8th concession Thurlow Township
  • John Dracup again – part of lot 14, 2nd concession Thurlow township

Robert Dracup had presumably willed his land to one of his sons by this time. William is listed as a farmer in Sidney in the 1871 census so he may have inherited. He is living with Albert, now married to Rebecca. Albert’s employment is given as carriage maker. Thomas is working as a carpenter in Belleville.

Another source reveals that Edmund subsequently purchased land in Rawdon Township (lot 16, 7th Concession):

‘The south half (100 acres) was patented by the Crown to Thomas Johnson (of Carlton Colville, County of Suffolk, England) on January 15, 1869. The north half (100 acres) was patented by the Crown to Samuel Graham on April 20 1881. Edmund Dracup and wife purchased the South half from Thomas Johnson on July 16, 1872 for $1500, five hundred in cash and a $1000 mortgage held by Johnson. Edmund Dracup and wife then purchased the North half from Samuel Graham and wife on July 4, 1882. Samuel Graham held the mortgage in the amount of $1300.’

By 1881, Albert is located in London City with his family, still working as a carriage maker. Thomas is farming in Sidney and William is now living with him.

By 1891 Albert is widowed and living with his family in London City, but by 1901 he has moved to live with the Hewitts in Vancouver City.

The Dracup family are still farming in Hastings County to this day.



April 2016

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