A Set of Hypotheses for the Origins of John Thompson and William Thompson of New Carlisle

The origins of John Thompson and William Thompson (husband of Sarah Rafter1), both of New Carlisle, are muddled. To date, no record that specifically links either to their parents has been found. The closest we get to John’s origin is that John—or the informant in his household on the 1861 New Carlisle Census—proclaims that he was born in “New York,”2 and on the 1871 Census of the same location, where his death is noted, his place of birth is listed as “U.S.A.”3 Unfortunately, we don’t even have that hint for William.

Claims have been made for different parents, particularly for John. Compounding the problem is the number of Thompsons in the Bay of Chaleur region, both north and south of the Bay. Someone once wrote to me that trying to make sense of the different Thompsons in the Chaleur area was akin to “untangling a mess of fishhooks.” This webpage is an attempt to untangle some of those fishhooks.

The following six sets of parents for John Thompson have either been suggested by researchers, or they suggest themselves by location and age:

1) Andrew Thompson/Mary Leonard—This hypothesis has Andrew born about 1744 in New York City who married Mary Leonard b. Astego Co., New York Province about 1746 and were married on 14 Oct 1772. It is asserted that they had a son John, born about 1772, Providence, Province of New York.

2) Andrew Thompson who had a wife, “Mary.” A.D. Flowers, in his book, Loyalists of Bay Chaleur, mentions this possibility and states that this couple had a son, John, baptized in 1774 in Quebec4 [City].

3) William Thompson/Elizabeth Miller. The proponents of these possible parents for John say that William was born about 1740 in New York City and married Elizabeth Miller, there. It is further put forward that they had a son named John, of “Providence, New York”

Any of the three above could be correct, but I have never seen evidence for any of them that demonstrates a link with the John Thompson of New Carlisle, other than that each of these proposed set of parents had a son of about the right age and that they either were born in New York or, in the case of the John baptized in Quebec, could have been born in New York.

4) William Thompson/Ida Thompson had a daughter, Marie Thompson, born on 27 Aug 17905; another researcher reports what seems to be the same William Thompson, but with a wife named simply “Marie.” They had a daughter, Mary Thompson, born on 27 Aug 17906, the same date of birth as the Marie Thompson recorded in the Gallant transcription of the Bonaventure register.7 These entries have been found in the records by researchers and while they have not been mentioned in connection with either John Thompson or William Thompson (the husband of Sarah Rafter),)8 they cannot be discounted because they occur in the same area and in the relevant time period.

That leaves the two William Thompsons below as possible candidates for the father of either John Thompson or William Thompson (the husband of Sarah Rafter).

5) William Thompson, Pensioner, probably born not later than 1762, considering the probable ages of his children reported in 1784. He had a wife and two sons, the oldest being born about 1780, the youngest about 1783, when they sailed to Paspebiac in 1784 and where William drew lots.9

6) William Thompson born about 1753, married Eleanor (Helen10) McKenzie possibly sometime before 10 March 1789, where they are listed as the godparents of Bridgit McKenzie,11 probably the sister of Eleanor/Helen. (The marriage was also recorded as both 25 September12 and 25 October of 179513 in New Carlisle). Eleanor (Helen) McKenzie is the daughter of Lawrence McKenzie who came with his family along with the William Thompson family and many others, to the Chaleur coast of the Gaspé in 1784.14

I am suggesting the two following hypotheses:

• That the two Williams, both the “pensioner”15 who landed on the beach at Paspebiac in 1784 with an unkown wife and two sons, and the one who served eight years in the Royal Regiment of Artillery16 and later married Eleanor McKenzie, are the same person.

• That John Thompson and William Thompson (the husband of Sarah Rafter), both of New Carlisle, are both the sons of both William Thompson and the unknown wife that were noted in 1784, but not of Eleanor/Helen McKenzie
.


Many researchers have long rejected William, the “pensioner,” as the father of John based on the reported ages of the two sons in 1784, “4” and “1,”17coupled with the ages John, or an informant, gave on the 1861 census as “86,”18 giving him an approximate birth year of 1775, and at his death in 1870, reported on the 1871 census19 and the St. Andrew’s register as “101,”20 giving him an approximate birth year of 1769.

While these discrepancies of birth years are troubling, it must be remembered that birth years calculated by counting back from a stated age in a particular year are often inaccurate. Wide-spread twentieth and twenty-first century childhood birthday parties and the constant requirements to fill in our birth date on various forms, beginning early in our schooling, are constant reminders of our own birthdays. This constant reinforcement of birth dates was much less before the twentieth century. Also, there were often reasons to give the impression that you were older than you really were. The desire to marry and have children, to join a military unit, to own real property, or to have a job can all be powerful forces to “increase” your age.

The ages reported for Margaret Gallon, John Thompson’s wife, at various points in her life are yet another example of the problem of estimating birth years. She, or an informant, reported that she was “78” in 186121, “89” in 187122, and "about" “98” at her death, only three years later, in 1874.23 Subtracting her reported age for each of the census years yields a birth year of approximately 1782. While the ages given on the two censuses are consistent with one another, her age at death is not only inconsistent with the ages given on the census, but if we accepted the birth year the age to which her death points, we would also have to accept the highly improbable conclusion that she gave birth to three children after she was 48 years old, including her last child at 54 years of age!24

John Thompson is first identified by name in New Carlisle on a petition in 1802.25 The purpose of the petition is to clarify title to the lands obtained in the lot-drawing of 1784. Not all the people in the 1802 petition are the same as those who drew the lots. It also contains the names of men who have obtained the property through purchase or transfer in the interim. Along with some entirely new names who have purchased the land from the original lot-drawers, there are names of the sons of a few of the fathers who originally drew for the lots in 1784; these sons being too young to draw lots in 1784.

One example of this is the appearance on the 1802 petition of William Flowers (a very young boy in 1784) along with his father, Robert Flowers, one of the original 1784 lot-drawers.26 And, most significantly, another example of the father to son transfer of property on the 1802 petition could be the appearance of John Thompson along with his father, William Thompson,27 also one of the original lot-drawers of 1784. (It’s also possible, but somewhat less likely, that the William Thompson of the 1802 petition could be John’s younger brother.)

William Thompson and John Thomson in both New Carlisle and Eel River

William Thompson, the approximately 29 year-old pensioner who settled along with his wife and two young sons, ages “4” and “1”, in 1784 in what was later to be known as New Carlisle on the Gaspé Peninsula of Quebe, was probably born about 1755 in Ireland and served for eight years in the Royal Regiment of Artillery.28

William next appears on a list of [New] Carlisle settlers compiled in Sept. and Oct of 178429, but after the lot drawing list. and then, again, at about the age of 40 in 1795 at the church rehabilitation of his marriage to Eleanor McKenzie in New Carlisle, which had previously occurred in 1793 by a justice of the peace.30 They also appear together, however, in 1789 as “William Tamsan” and “Helene Tamsan,” the godparents at the baptism of Bridgit McKenzie, Eleanor/Helen’s sister.31 (Eleanor and Bridgit McKenzie were daughters of Lawrence McKenzie who, along with his wife, were a Loyalist family from New York, and were also among the original 1784 settlers.32)

Sometime after their marriage in New Carlisle, William and Eleanor/Helen moved to Eel River (Riv. à l’Anguille) in New Brunswick and raised their large family there.33 John Thompson, who first appears by name in the 1802 petition, married his wife, Margaret Galland/Gallon, in Eel River about 1806 and, based on records of their children’s baptisms, lived between Eel River and the New Carlisle area until 1821.34 From then, until their own deaths, John and Margaret resided in New Carlisle and had their remaining children there.35

How do John Thompson and William Thompson measure up with the hypothesis considering what is known about them from the records?

• John Thompson, or an informant, declares on the 1861 New Carlisle Census that he is from New York.36

Many, if not most, of the original settlers of New Carlisle spent some time in New York before fleeing to Canada. It is entirely possible that William Thompson the pensioner who came to New Carlisle in 1784, with his wife and two sons, spent time in New York, possibly with the Royal Regiment of Artillery.

John Thompson, or an informant, reports his age on the 1861 New Carlisle Census as “86,” giving him an approximate birth year of 1775; and at his death in 1870, reported by an informant on the 1871 New Carlisle census and the St. Andrew’s register as “101,” giving him an approximate birth year of 1769.37

If either of these ages are correct, and we further accept the ages of the unnamed sons reported by William Thompson the pensioner in 1784, then this William cannot be the father of John Thompson because the two sons reported in 1784 would have an approximate birth years of 1780 and 1783.

If, on the other hand, we accept the idea that the ages reported for John Thompson on the 1861 Census and the 1871 Census (along with the age of death reported in the St. Andrew’s register of New Carlisle) are inaccurate, then it is possible that William Thompson, the pensioner of 1784, is John Thompson’s father.

William Thompson of New Carlisle (who I am hypothesizing is the son of William Thompson the pensioner of New Carlisle and the brother of John Thompson of New Carlisle and Eel River) married Sarah Rafter.38 Sarah Rafter is probably the daughter of Thomas Rafter and Margaret McKenzie.39 Margaret is probably the sister of Eleanor/Helen McKenzie,40 the wife of William Thompson of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, New Carlisle, and Eel River. Both Eleanor/Helen and Margaret McKenzie, then, are the probably the daughters of Lawrence McKenzie who, along with his family, came with William Thompson, the pensioner, his wife and two sons, and many other families and individuals to the beach at Paspébiac in 1784.41

Alone, this falls far short of strong evidence. Combined with everything else, however, it is at least an interesting coincidence that at least supports a further look at the hypothesis concerning Sarah Rafter’s husband, William Thompson, being the son of William Thompson of the Royal Regiment of Artillery.

Summary

The indirect evidence discussed here suggests that William Thompson, the pensioner of New Carlisle, and William Thompson, who served in the Royal Regiment of Artillery, and who resided in New Carlisle and Eel River, may be the same person. With the exception of the ages reported on the census and the St. Andrew’s register for John Thompson, this same circumstantial evidence also suggests that John Thompson of Eel River and New Carlisle and William Thompson of New Carlisle are the sons of this William Thompson.

Another way of looking at it is this: Could there just be two young Thompson boys who show up with their father in 1784 and then simply disappear into the mists of time, even though their father is still in the area? And, further, that there are two young Thompson men—with fathers not identified--with ages consistent with being possible sons of either William Thompson, the pensioner of New Carlisle, or William Thompson of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, and who are not either of their sons, but who appear in early 19th century New Carlisle without a clue as to their origins: John who is connected with both New Carlisle and Eel River, places with which William Thompson who served in the Royal Regiment of Artillery is also associated, and William who is married to the daughter of that William Thompson’s (possibly) second wife’s sister?

It must be restated that this is not being put forward as a conclusion. I do feel strongly enough about this, however, that it should be publicly stated and discussed. In order to make further progress toward finding the origins of John and William Thompson, any evidence for other suggested parents or any other evidence that refutes the hypotheses proposed here should also be brought forward.

The Role of Y-DNA

This is yet another genealogical problem that could be illuminated by a Y-DNA study. In this case, an analysis of the Y-DNA of male Thompson descendants could certainly reject the ideas being put forward here. One or more patrilineal Thompson descendants from the William Thompson, John Thompson and William Thompson (husband of Sarah Rafter) lines could be tested. A match between all three would strongly support the hypotheses being put forward here, even if it falls short of certain proof that William Thompson is the father of John and William; (it could be, for example, that the father of either John or William is a brother of William Thompson, either the pensioner or the William who served in the British artillery). Reliable mismatches, however, would be proof that no relationship exists.

In order to move closer to a conclusion regarding the discussed Thompsons, this website will host a Chaleur-area Thompson Y-DNA project and is looking for male Thompson volunteers who are willing to donate some cells, self-obtained through a painless swabbing of the inside of the cheek with a Q-tip type swab. Go directly to the Chaleur Thompson YDNA Project Page or to this area of the forum for more information on this project. Many of the Thompson surname have already been tested world-wide, and this promises possible Thompson connections beyond North America and further back in time.

Endnotes

1. An extract of the marriage is recorded in abbé Patrice Gallant, compiler, Les Registres De La Gaspésie, 1752-1850 (Montreal , Canada: Publications de la Société Généalogique Canadienne-française). p. 293, where their child's, Guillaume's [William's], birth is also recorded. William Thompson and Sarah were probably married sometime before 1810.

2. Bay of Chaleur Genealogical Society, transcriber, John Thompson household,1861 Bonaventure Co., Quebec, Township of Cox Part 1 Census, typescript, 1998.

3. Bay of Chaleur Genealogical Society, transcriber, Nominal Return of Deaths, 1871 Bonaventure Co., Quebec Cox, Division No. 2 Census, typescript, 1998.

4. A. D. Flowers, Loyalists of Bay Chaleur (Vancouver, Canada: Precise Instant Printing, 1973). p. 97.

5. Gallant, Les Registres De La Gaspésie, 1752-1850, p. 293.

6. Unspecified source for the "Carleton Register." So far, I have not been able to find either the entry for William/Ida or William/Marie in copies of the actual registers in order to verify them. Because of the parish registers in which they are said to appear and the dates, I think it is possible that they refer to a possible daughter of the William Thompson and Eleanor McKenzie, even allowing for the improbable, perhaps mistaken, name of “Ida” as William’s wife.

7. Gallant, Les Registres De La Gaspésie, 1752-1850, p. 293.

8. Ibid.

9. Haldimand Papers, A Roll of the Loyalists who have drawn lots in the Township of Paspibiac [sic], MG21-Add.MSS-21862, pp. 172-173, Library and Archives Canada, microfilm A-773, Ottowa, Canada.

10. Eleanor McKenzie is also listed as "Helen" in some records, and may also be assigned the saints' name of "Mary," "Marie," or perhaps even the given name "Ida?" in other records.

11. Parish Registers 1759-1876, Elise Catholique. Saint Joseph de Carleton, Register 2, 1773-1791 (Carleton, Quebec), p. 206, B 567, Baptismal entry for Brigitte Makeanse, "Le parain a ete William Tamson et de la maraine Helaine Tamson"

12. Gallant, Les Registres De La Gaspésie, 1752-1850, p. 293. According to Gallant's reading of the register, William Thompson and Helen McKenzie are both known as "Irishmen." ("tous deux sont dits 'Irlandais d'origine'" [both are known as Irishmen of origin]). Eleanor/Helen Thompson attests to her father's origins, herself, in her 1817 land petition, stating that "Lawrence McKenzie was a native of Ireland]." This petition is entitled Eleanor Thompson, Bay Chaleur, No. 11, Eel River, 9 May 1827, RS108, 1827, F4211, Provincial Archives of New Brunswick.

13. Marcel Dugas, St. Joseph de Carleton, les registres, 1795-1798, Volume 3 (2003), p. 8

14. Haldimand Papers, A Roll of the Loyalists who have drawn lots in the Township of Paspibiac [sic], p172

15. Ibid., p. 173

16. No. 11, Memorial of Wm Thompson & sons, River Charles, 22 Jan 1816, RS108, 1816, F4179, Provincial Archives of New Brunswick. The River Charles identifies the boundary of the Thompson lot within the area known as Eel River (Riv. à l’Anguille).

17. Haldimand Papers, A Roll of the Loyalists who have drawn lots in the Township of Paspibiac [sic], p173

18. Bay of Chaleur Genealogical Society, transcriber, John Thompson household,1861 Bonaventure Co., Quebec, Township of Cox Part 1 Census. The 1861 census was probably enumerated before 1861, perhaps significantly so. Calculations made concering ages, then, have to be approximate.

19. Bay of Chaleur Genealogical Society, transcriber, 1871 Bonaventure Co., Quebec Cox, Division No. 2 Census.

20. Quebec Vital Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967, New Carlisle, Anglican, Church of England, 1821-1940, 1870 Leaf 7, Image 7, subscription database, Ancestry.com, for John Thompson.

21. Bay of Chaleur Genealogical Society, transcriber, John Thompson household,1861 Bonaventure Co., Quebec, Township of Cox Part 1 Census.

22. Bay of Chaleur Genealogical Society, transcriber, Daniel Thompson household, 1871 Bonaventure Co., Quebec Cox, Division No. 2 Census, typescript, 1998.

23. Quebec Vital Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967, New Carlisle, Anglican, Church of England, 1821-1940, 1874 Leaf 10, Image 10, subscription database, Ancestry.com, for Margaret Gallan.

24. The last three children's birthdates are found in Quebec Vital Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967, New Carlisle, Anglican, Church of England, 1821-1940, 1825 Leaf 2, Image 2, for Andrew Thompson (18 Dec 1824); 1826, leaf 8, Image 8, for Margaret Thompson (12 Aug 1826); and 1828, p. 17, Image 9, for Daniel Thompson (28 Jun 1828).

25. Haldimand Papers, The petition of the undersigned inhabitants of the Inferior District of Gaspe within the said Province and occupiers of certain lands within the said province and occupiers of certain lands with the same under and by virtue of location certificates, RG 1, Series 32, pp. 94255-94257, Library and Archives Canada, microfilm C-2567, Ottawa, Canada.

26. Haldimand Papers, A Roll of the Loyalists who have drawn lots in the Township of Paspibiac [sic], p172

27. Haldimand Papers, The petition of the undersigned inhabitants of the Inferior District of Gaspe within the said Province and occupiers of certain lands within the said province and occupiers of certain lands with the same under and by virtue of location certificates, pp. 94255-94257.

28. William Thompson is listed as "60 years of age" on No. 11, Memorial of Wm Thompson & sons, River Charles, 22 Jan 1816. (The petition, itself, is dated 24 March 1815.) The memorial further states that William Thompson "formerly served eight years in the Royal Regiment of Artillery, in the former American war, from which corp's [sic] your petitioner has an honorable discharge." The British actively recruited colonists for this regiment and it would be a mistake to assume that William Thompson was necessarily recruited in the British Isles for this British unit. More research is needed to determine where he was recruited.

29. Heritage Branch (Montreal) of the United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada, The Loyalists of Quebec, 1774-1825, (Montreal, Canada, Price-Patterson Ltd., 1989) p. 439. William Thompson being listed in a book of this title does not necessarily mean that he is a Loyalist; men are included on the list where he is found in Loyalists of Quebec that are not Loyalists. Again, whether or not he was a Loyalist, and his place of origin are yet to be determined.

30. Gallant, Les Registres De La Gaspésie, 1752-1850, p. 293.

31. Parish Registers 1759-1876, Elise Catholique. Saint Joseph de Carleton, Register 2, 1773-1791 (Carleton, Quebec), p. 206, B 567.

32. Haldimand Papers, A Roll of the Loyalists who have drawn lots in the Township of Paspibiac [sic],p172.

33. Gallant, Les Registres De La Gaspésie, 1752-1850, p. 293.

34. The Eel River marriage is referred to and four of the childrens' births or baptisms are referred to in Gallant, Les Registres De La Gaspésie, 1752-1850, p. 293. The remaining children are noted in the Quebec Vital Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967, New Carlisle, Anglican, Church of England, 1821-1940, subscription database, Ancestry.com .

35. Quebec Vital Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967, New Carlisle, Anglican, Church of England, 1821-1940.

36. Bay of Chaleur Genealogical Society, transcriber, John Thompson household, 1861 Bonaventure Co., Quebec, Township of Cox Part 1 Census.

37. Approximate birth years for John Thompson are inferred from ages given on censuses and at his death.

38. Gallant, Les Registres De La Gaspésie, 1752-1850, p. 293.

39. Quebec Vital Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967, St. Joseph's Parish, Carleton, 1790-1821, 1795 page 36, Image 19, subscription database, Ancestry.com, for marriage of Thomas Rafter and Margrite McKenzey . This marriage is possibly a rehabilitation of a civil ceremony that took place earlier. Sarah Rafter is probably a daughter from this marriage.

40. The marriage of both William Thompson and Helen McKenzey and that of Thomas Rafter and Margrite McKenzey are listed immediately next to each other in the Carleton register. Moreover, the baptisms of children of both couples, with both children named Laurent [Lawrence], both occur on the same day and the entries are immediately next to each other in the Bonaventure register, found in Quebec Vital Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967, St. Bonaventure Parish, Bonaventure, 1777-1811, 1802 page 31, Image 19, subscription database, Ancestry.com,

41. Haldimand Papers, A Roll of the Loyalists who have drawn lots in the Township of Paspibiac [sic], pp. 172-173.

© Copyright 2007 William J. Flowers. All rights reserved

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