The Legend of the Shipwrecked Baby
Legend has it that the Seburn name in my family, originated several generations ago when a small child was found as the only survivor of a raided Loyalist camp during the early part of the American Revolution. Because the child was too young to identify himself and was found close to the ocean, he was given the name “Sea born” to indicate “Born of the Sea” with unknown lineage. That name, according to legend, morphed into Seburn, which is the name more commonly heard among today’s Seburn generations.
When I heard this story as a young teenager, I was fascinated. At that point in my life, my family history didn’t have much essence so this story injected some drama into my otherwise, dull past. I held on to the story for years, hoping that someday I would have time and resources to explore its origins.
With the development of the internet, I began to research my “Sea-born” story to see if there might be any truth to this tale. To my amazement, an identity in cyber-world reached out and indicated a similar story in her “Seburn” past. Tara Browner, who I now know as a 4th cousin, published a post on a genealogy message board, suggesting she had Seburn lineage which included a Stephen Seburn who was the sole survivor of a shipwreck or Indian attack. I immediately responded to the post for I couldn’t believe that there was another person, from another side of the continent, reporting the same story I heard as a teenager. As luck would have it, Tara was planning a trip up my way for genealogical research and I arranged to meet her.
Since she was coming to Southwestern Ontario, I offered to drive if she would share what she knew about the Seburn line. She was a wealth of information. She brought pictures, showed me grave sites and she passed along stories of the war and property and introduced me to Tim Seburn, a 5th cousin 1 time removed. He also knew the legend of the shipwrecked baby.
We all discussed “The Legend” and each had our own spin on it. There was my version, of course and there was Tara’s version of a French/Acadian boy who was “somehow left behind during the expulsions in the 1750s and adopted by a British soldier”. Tim’s rendition was that Stephen, or perhaps an earlier Seburn , was an unidentified babe from a lost Dutch ship and later adopted by an English family in Kent. Whichever story you chose to explore, the bottom line was that there was a child who was an orphan around the time of the American Revolution and who grew up with the name Seaborne or Seburn and is the beginning of Seburn lineage in the Niagara region and beyond.
And it doesn’t end there. Several years passed since then. I had to put family research on hold as I completed more education, married, had a family and established a career. I fell out of touch with Tara and Tim and my new-found adventurous history, until recently. Rekindling my love of genealogy, I thought about my long-lost distant relatives and wondered if they might be on Facebook and they were! Reconnected again, Tara directed me to Tim and he mentioned there could be more to the Seburn legend than we thought and that he’d keep me posted.
Of course there was more to the story. On January 4th, 2016, Tim sent an attachment with just the words, “Let me know what you think”. When I opened the attachment, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was an image of the original adoption papers for Stephen Seburn and it was dated 1758. Talk about a Fascinating Family Find.
I was curious how Tim came about finding this document. In an email he sent to me he wrote:
“…no question that this is the original document Stephen brought with him to Canada. It was in a box of stuff that was in the original homestead on Beechwood Rd, and was taken to BC by … the last owner of the homestead. It took me 5 years to track him down. His mother’s transcript of the document was found in … files at the Mayholme Foundation in 2011, so, even if his mother didn’t possess the document, I knew she had certainly one time saw it. When I finally got [the gentleman] on the phone he assured me he had a lot of stuff, but not the adoption document. But he was curious enough to open his mother’s boxes which had remained sealed for decades, and there it was!”
Tim indicated that: “I now anticipate that the Seburn legend was a lie told to a little boy to create the impression that his ‘adopters’ were wonderful to have taken young Stephen in”. Were they indeed wonderful for taking him in? We may never know. What we do know, is that Stephen was an orphan, he came to Canada and has left a legacy and a lineage that is very much entrenched in our family history.
- Tara Browner, December 30, 2000 (5:00 a.m. GMT), comment on the original Seburn, “Niagara Area Family,” Ancestry.com, on December 30, 2000, http://boards.ancestry.co.uk/localities.northam.canada.ontario.lincoln/125.300.301/mb.ashx
- Tim Seburn, email message, January 4, 2016.