on July 22, 2002
Over the past forty years, Coldham has become a very highly regarded compiler of volumes of information from London's Public Records Office relating to British emigration to North America. This time he mines the PRO's vast collection of papers dealing with American Loyalist Claims. (The National Genealogical Society attempted this as long ago as 1980, but they managed to abstract only thirty-seven boxes of papers -- out of 150 -- before funding dried up.) The first claims were made following depredations against property owned by Loyalists by mobs opposing the Stamp Act of 1765 and they resumed ten years later and continued throughout the Revolution. The papers themselves vary widely, "from one-liners jotted on a dirty scrap of paper to immaculately penned essays and printed expositions," and Coldham has examined and extracted key data from all of them. An introductory essay describes the conditions under which applications for relief were made and the problems encountered by those who made them. Proving residence and ownership of property apparently was the major stumbling block in dealing with the Claims Commission's bureaucracy in London. A large part of many of the memorials examined was the applicant's elaborate protestations of loyalty to the Crown, which have been deleted. Unfortunately for some readers, Coldham seems also to have eliminated the details of British military service included in many others. However, complete citations to the originals are included in each alphabetical abstract for followup research. If you haven't found DAR-type service for your late-18th century ancestor, you will want to peruse this volume. And of special interest to those of us here in Louisiana are the three dozen relief applications submitted by those residing in West Florida.