March 29, 2013

Women's History Month: Set a Female Ancestor in History

Affidavit re Anna Maria Vollick
My friend and fellow Blogger Lisa Alzo has a Meme for March - Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women's History Month

I encourage readers to join in. Lisa has some terrific blogging prompts for each day of Women's History Month.  


I will write my own stories each Friday from the 5 prompts I came up with at Celebrate Women's History Month! Time for Stories I hope you'll join in with your own:

Here is my last entry for

 Choose one female ancestor and the historical context during her life. Pick one historical event that would have impacted on her life. Perhaps she lived through the Spanish influenza in the early 1900s or she was widowed during the Civil War, or lived through the Depression? Every ancestor has a story to tell and this is a great opportunity to tell about one of your fearless female ancestors! 

This was an easy choice for me. I often think about my 5th great-grandmother Anna Maria Warner. Anna Maria was born to a Palatine family in Schoharie New York in 1735. At the age of 22 she married Isaac Van Valkenburg who later took the surname Vollick.

Shortly after the American Revolution broke out, Maria's husband Isaac took the side of those loyal to the King and joined Butler's Rangers. He was arrested on three separate occasions and sent to prison in Albany. The family was living near North River in northern New York, and when Isaac was released from prison he left with the Rangers and Maria was left alone with ten children.

Maria continued to aid the British, and in 1779 she and her  children (the youngest only four years old) were taken from their home in North River and made prisoners by American patriots. Their home was burned and Mary and the children were marched 80 miles north through the forest and left in destitute circumstances. With the help of Indians from Canada, Mary and family made their way to Canada and reached Montreal Quebec by July of 1779.

How she managed to keep going with seven young children is a testimony to her strength and courage. Her oldest child was her 19 year old daughter, her youngest only 4. She had no way of knowing where her husband and older sons were, nor even if they were alive or dead. And she had no family support except her children.

Once in Quebec Mary and her children received minimal food rations,  and were provided with lodging and blankets from the British Government. They had nowhere to go and with other refugees lived under these crowded conditions for three years. Finally in 1782 Maria reunited with Isaac and they settled in the Niagara area as impoverished Loyalists.

Ontario was a wilderness at that time and the Niagara area had no settlements until the disbanded Rangers were sent there.  They arrived with nothing, all their lands in New York having been confiscated. Can you imagine living and working the land for over 20 years and suddenly you are tossed out, your home burned in front of you and with only a few blankets you are marched into the woods and left to either die or make your way to a land you have never seen?

Then you live for  3 years in hardship and finally reunite with your husband, only to be sent out to the wilderness with only a few Government promises, most of which were never kept.

The following submission to the House of Commons in 1786 describes the grave situation in which Loyalists found themselves.

"It is impossible to describe the poignant distress under which many of these persons now labour and which must daily increase should the justice of Parliament be delayed until all claims are liquidated and reported. Ten years have elapsed since many of them have been deprived of their fortunes, their helpless families reduced from independent affluence to poverty and want."

To top it off, five years after arriving in the Niagara area, the disbanded Loyalists faced starvation in what became known as "The Hungry Year" , the winter of 1787/1788.  Settlers faced  crop failures, shortage of food and a severe winter.  Game was scarce and many people died. With the coming of  spring new leaves on trees were gathered and eaten. Roots were dug out of the ground and eaten. Bark of certain trees was stripped off and consumed as food. Those were the conditions Maria and her family faced some 12 years after being forced out of their home in New York. Did her suffering never end? What a strong brave woman she must have been. And I am so proud to call her one of my Fearless Female Ancestors.

5 comments:

Mariann Regan said...

I don't know when I've read a more spectacular story. Impoverished loyalists. Ripping the leaves off the trees to eat them. A miracle that they lived, a testament to their endurance.

Linda Huesca Tully said...

Eloquently written, Lorine.

How difficult it must have been for them to stand up for their beliefs, no matter how unpopular they were. It is hard to imagine how a single person could have done this, let alone a mother of seven children with no other family support. Anna Marie was truly a courageous lady.

What ever happened to all of them after they were reunited?

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

I am happy to say that Isaac and Mary (Anna Maria) settled in the Niagara area of what is now ONtario and finally got free land in right of being a Loyalist.

Their sons and daughters (9 of the 10) stayed in Ontario and also received their land as was their right as DUE (d/o Loyalist) and SUE (s/o a Loyalist). One son went back to New York and married there.

Betsy Barber said...

Hi, Lorine - what amazes me is that Isaac & Mary separated in New York, yet he found her 3 years later in Canada! How they found each other would be an interesting story. Thanks for sharing your history. //Betsy, Conway, SC

Geri said...

Bless them all, who had the strength to carry on. It greatly helped to bring us to where we are today. We all have a past that we did not have a say in. Make wise choices to help the future "relatives" to be proud too.