Crestleaf.com’s 12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds: January

The Legend of the Shipwrecked Baby

Legend of the Shipwrecked Baby, Seburn Family History, Niagara History

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.

Tara Browner, Seburn Family History, Niagara History, Legend of the Shipwrecked Baby

Tara Browner

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.

Tim Seburn, Seburn Family History, Niagara History, Legend of the Shipwrecked Baby

Tim Seburn

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.

Seburn Family History, Stephen Seburn, Niagara History

Original Apprenticeship papers for Stephen Seburn

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.

12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds

 

Notes

  1.  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
  2. Tim Seburn, email message, January 4, 2016.
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Crestleaf.com’s 12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds: June

12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds

I’m very intrigued and excited about Crestleaf.com’s 12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds Challenge.  During my family research journey, I’ve discovered lots of great stories and uncovered interesting personas that I want to share with other genealogy enthusiasts.  The problem is that I don’t always get my stories together in a timely fashion due to a full-time workload, mommy to 2 busy boys and being an active community member.  This just might be the right challenge to motivate me to get these tales posted.

Norfolk County “Cowan’s”

For my first month challenge, I dug into my paternal grandmother’s lineage to discover The Cowans were amongst the first settlers to Norfolk County in Ontario.  I hadn’t spent much time on my father’s side of the genealogy tree because he had cousins who had done quite a bit of research.  Why reinvent the wheel and redo something that had already been done?  When I finally joined Ancestry.ca and had my eyes opened to the wealth of information available, I soon realized that my dad’s cousins had only revealed the tip of the ancestral ice berg.  In fact, I only had detailed information about my dad’s father’s line and nothing about my dad’s mother.  She was Marjory Cowan.  I grew up with several Cowan’s around where I am from.  Some of them related, some of them not, but not really knowing the Cowan connection.

Cowan Ancestry

Marjory (Cowan) Noels

Through my membership, I was able to go back through my father’s mother, Marjory (Cowan) Noels (1926 – 1993) her father, William Burton Cowan (1900 – 1962), to his father, William Henry Cowan (1873 – 1948) to his father, David Cowan (1843 – 1923) to his father John Cowan (1813 – 1894) and it ended there.  I was content with that for a time and jumped over to other branches for a while.  I came back to John Cowan and explored deeper.  Where was he from besides Norfolk County, Ontario?  The census records indicated he was “born in Scotland”.  I wanted to know where in Scotland.  I spent months searching Cowan records trying to find the right connection but nothing added up.  I was able to find a cemetery through the Ontario Cemetery Finding Aid that had a David Cowan buried in it.  There were John Cowan’s listed also, but they didn’t meet the criteria I needed for “my John”.  So, I loaded the van up one Sunday afternoon with my parents and my sons (who were 5 and 9 – not too enthused to be “cemetery-hopping” – ice cream helped) and sought to find the cemetery of this “David Cowan” that was buried there.  I was  hopeful of finding clues to other Cowan’s that might make the connection over the sea.  I did, in fact, find David’s grave and it was indeed my 3X great-grandfather.  Buried beside him was his wife Anna Eliza Garnet.  The stone was barely legible but he was buried in the North Middleton Baptist / Acacia Cemetery.  Their daughter, Mary Catherine Cowan, was buried with them also.  She died at 42 years of age of Typhoid fever according to her death certificate (Ancestry.ca).  Although the trip made for an adventurous afternoon, I did not learn anything new about David Cowan or his lineage.

Colquhoun, Cowan

Colquhoun Tartan – Cowan is a sept of

Back to the research I went.  I searched the internet again and again.  I found reference to a John C. Cowan on “The Long Point Settlers” site.  His life dates, however, 1747 – 1826, didn’t match the dates of my John Cowan.  The short description, however, on this site did indicate that he had 4 sons, James, John,William and Alexander.  This could possibly mean that the John listed here was who I was searching to connect but I couldn’t prove it without further cross referencing.  I did finally find a missing piece to this whole puzzle.  John, the son of John was not the John I was looking for.  There was a piece in between.  A 1841 document found on Ancestry.ca indicated a James Cowan from Scotland (John C. Cowan’s son) settled in Charlotteville Township in Norfolk County.   This James came from Scotland with a family.  His wife, Elizabeth and 3 children, Elizabeth, James and John.  Other children followed upon arrival to Canada, but this information was enough for me to see my John’s place in this family line.  James Cowan came to Canada in 1817 with his father, John C. Cowan (of the “The Long Point Settlers“),and family from Scotland, England.  His son, John, my John, was 4 years old, born in 1813.  This was the piece I needed.  Further exploration allowed me to cross-reference this information with that of John’s wives, Catherine Pettit and Charlotte Gibbons.  My mystery was solved.  My John Cowan, according to research, came from Glasgow, Scotland.

Another Scottish branch on my family tree.  Cowan’s belonged to the Colquhoun clan.  And a new search begins…