‘There’s a lot of unanswered questions”
Halifax man traces his roots back to Digby County
Today there is a community outside of Digby called Conway, but in the late 1700s this area was called Brinley Town.
Brinley Town was a salvation for Black Loyalists and Pioneers. In 1783 the British lost the American Revolution, but they successfully led southern slaves to flee their masters and come to what is now Canada for freedom.
The estimated land borders of Brinley Town are thought to stretch from the Irving Big Stop in Conway to behind the Frenchy’s store.
Brinley Town had several names over the years. It started out as being named the area where negroes had settled. This changed to Negro Town, which eventually became Brinley Town. Starting in 1785, maps started calling it Brindley Town, but there is no reasoning on why the letter ‘d’ was added to the name.
Back in time 10,000 Loyalists and Pioneers came to Canada, with 3,000 landing in Nova Scotia and Brinley Town, which was the second largest free black settlement in the province.
As well, 15 ships from New York came to the Annapolis area with Allister Barton, who lives in Halifax, has traced his roots back to the late 1700s and has unravelled his family tree to find his relatives who lived in Digby County.
Black Loyalists and Pioneers.
A Halifax man, Allister Barton, recently held a talk in Digby about his family tree and how he was able to trace his roots to find his fifth-great grandfather, William Barton, who lived in Brinley Town.
“In genealogy the important question people ask is who do you descend from? And until I started this, I had no idea,” he said. “One day I just had the confidence to
He started his research nearly five years ago and it took him about two years to finish it. He says his research is mostly done for now, but it’s been an interesting journey unravelling his family tree.
“When I first started I wanted to show everyone. I’d find something new and tell my entire family right away,” he said.
Barton first began his research by looking in the Book of Negroes. He wasn’t able to find anyone with the last name Barton, so he continued searching.
The first record Barton found about his fifth-great grandfather was his signature on a 1789 land survey petition for Black Loyalists and Pioneers.
When the settlers came to Brinley Town, they were promised land for farming, but this didn’t happen right away, they had to fight for it. William Barton’s name is listed on four petitions, but finally listed on a land deed confirming he did end up buying 50 acres of land near Jordantown, Digby County.
“How did he get the money for the land? I don’t think I’ll ever find out,” Barton said. “I can come up with speculations, but there’s no way to know for sure.”
Not all of the black settlers stayed in the Digby area. When they weren’t able to get the land they were promised, a lot of them fled to Sierra Leone in Africa to improve their living conditions.
Barton hasn’t been able to find any information about when William was born, but he has found a document signed by William’s son, who confirmed his father William was born in the United States. Allister believes it may have been near 1760.
William died in 1821 with a lot of debt and in 1828 his farmland was split up and sold.
Allister still has some questions. He doesn’t know if William was a Black Loyalist, a slave or a freeborn slave. He thinks he was a Black Loyalist but has no documents to confirm this.
Said Barton, “There’s a lot of unanswered questions I’d like to know the answers to but haven’t been able to find them.”