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The search for the origins of John Paterson who first came to Gaspe in 1764 has involved a lot of research that, to date, has turned up very little information. In order to minimize repetition of work already done it will be useful to share a record of what has been examined and the results of those investigations.
The search results have been divided into categories that reflect what we think provides the best chances to uncover some meaningful information on John. These categories have identified by examining what we know about him and where he may have left some sort of trace in the records.
An outline of the movements of the 42nd, the 77th, and the 78th British Regiments duirng the Seven Years War in North America.
By family tradition John is supposed to have served in the army of General Wolfe at the sieges of Louisburg and Quebec and also on the raid on Gaspe. This clearly makes a search of any surviving British military records a logical place to start. While many records from this period have survived, there are also some gaping holes in these records. While some tantalizing leads have been uncovered all of these have proved to be dead ends. While there are more records to be examined at this point we have been unable to find a soldier in the British army by the name of John Paterson who could even be our ancestor.
At the end of the Seven Years War all British soldiers who decided to remain in Canada were offered the chance to take up land from the King in lieu of receiving a pension for military service. For many who came from landless families, or were younger sons and unlikely to inherit any land this was an attractive proposition. In many cases disbanded soldiers would prepare a petition asking for a particular plot of land, and include many details on their family and military service. Unfortunately it appears that John did not submit such a petition, yet there are still some options among land related documents that might yet gives us some more information on John’s earliest days in Gaspe and some hints as to his origins before arriving in Canada.
In 1768 John Paterson was appointed Bailiff for Gaspe. While most of the bailiff’s appointed in the Province of Quebec were selected from short lists prepared by local votes, the bailiffs along the Gaspe coast appear to have been appointed without a vote. It would seem logical that if John was appointed there must have been some recommendation made, and that this recommendation would provide some information as to why he was a suitable candidate for the role, likely including some information on his military experience.
In 1777 legislation was passed to set up a militia in the Province of Quebec. In 1775 Nicholas Cox was appointed Lt. Governor of Gaspe, but he was unable to actually go to Gaspe until 1777. As part of his instructions Cox was to establish a militia in the district of Gaspe. We know that Gaspe merchant Felix O’Hara was commissioned as Captain in the Gaspe militia. There is also some preserved correspondence that indicates who the captain, lieutenant, and ensign of the militia in Percé were. Uncovering some records on the Gaspe militia from this time could provide answers to two questions. 1. Was John a lieutenant in the Gaspe militia, and thus the origins of the likely origins of the myth that he was a lieutenant in Wolfe’s army? 2. Would any documents relating to his recommendation for a commission in the militia provide details of this previous military involvement in the regular British army?
There is nothing like a nasty lawsuit to bring out all sorts of details on someone’s background, business dealings and family/community relationships. Even a petty lawsuit can provide some surprising details in one’s life. It is not known whether John was ever personally involved in any legal matters, but if not, his duties as an officer of the court (Bailiff) might be just enough to get another glimpse into his life and origins.
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