‘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

start look­ing.”

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.”

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