The Journey of the Letters, #17

In the last few years, a lot of new material on the Canadian Patriots who were sent to the penal colony in Van Dieman’s Land in 1838 has been put online. I was even able to find various lists of those in the uprising. Alas, I did not find any record of my great-great-great grandfather, George Tomlinson.

But I still believe that my great-great grandfather Will had a special reason for using an article on Van Dieman’s Land on the front page of his newspaper. Perhaps something will confirm that in the future–through some kind of serendipitous means. I’m open to that.

In the meantime, I have made other surprising discoveries online. For instance, for years I wondered about the discrepancy in birth places between Will’s official naturalization record and the family history that came with the letters. In his naturalization proceedings in 1845, he not only swore allegiance to these United States and disavowed any loyalty to the Queen of England, he also stated that he landed in Quebec in 1828 from Cumberland, in England, before coming to the U.S. in 1838. Yet the family history states that he was born in Seaton, Northumberland, in England. 

The provinces of Cumberland and Northumberland sit side by side in northern England, just below the Scottish border. Cumberland is on the western side of England, and Northumberland on the east. I had always assumed that Will was probably born in Northumberland but sailed from Cumberland.

Then I contacted an archivist in Northumberland to ask how I might find birth and/or baptismal records for him in the Seaton area there. Which Seaton did I mean, she asked. It turns out that there were several. Hmmn. 

Using online resources, I started searching baptismal records for anyone named William Tomlinson in northern England in the years around Will’s birth (1823). I could hardly believe what I found.

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