A Comfort-able beginning

When I decided to start searching for my ancestry on my own, I was a broke student, so a subscription to Ancestry.ca wasn’t in the cards for me. So I decided to start by Googling the one surname I thought would yield positive results: Comfort.

At the reunion, we visited this maple tree which grows on land that a Comfort relative bought in 1816. Image from: http://www.niagaragreenbelt.com

When I was around 10, my family went to my mom’s maternal grandmother’s family reunion. Looking back at it, “reunion” doesn’t quite cover the experience; it was more like a Comfort convention. But let me begin at the beginning.

In the late 1700s when many of our friends to the south decided they no longer wanted to be part of the British Empire, some decided that they would like to remain British citizens. When they started moving north, they were dubbed United Empire Loyalists and received land for their loyalty. My Comfort ancestor was one of them and he settled near St. Catharines.

As we learned at the reunion, this Comfort gentleman married and had 5 children. Organizers of the reunion had assigned each of these children a colour and plastered the walls of a hockey arena with the family trees of their descendants on appropriately coloured paper. As I’m sure you can imagine, it was quite a sight. These pages were also available in a colour coded book that was for sale.

To help everyone get to know each other, they also provided us with name badges that had little flags on them, corresponding to our ancestor’s coloured pages. Mine was a light teal. As we walked around the arena, my sister and I started noticing that some people had two flags on their badge. Then we noticed some had three. And then four. As little girls, we wanted to know why some people had more ribbons than we did. I don’t remember exactly what my dad said to explain it, but I’m sure he gently, and likely quietly, explained that Ontario used to be a very small place and that relatives marrying happened a lot a long time ago. But, I was left with the distinct impression that all these people’s parents were cousins. One of my uncles joked,

“The ones with 5 flags they left at home.”

It took a few years before I got that one.

That weekend is why I decided to start my search by Googling the Comforts. But, as you may have gleaned, I had no idea what the original Canadian Comfort’s name was. So I started Googling everything I could think of in conjunction with “Comfort” and “United Empire Loyalist.” I tried every family last name and location that I could think of. Even ones that didn’t make sense together. In my opinion, there is no wrong Google search. Try everything.

I finally hit pay dirt when I found this PDF application to the United Empire Loyalist society. I quickly saw all her Comfort information- but were they my Comforts? I read on. Then, on page 6, I got lucky. One of my uncle’s names was listed, indicating that yes, these were our ancestors!

I was thrilled. I found what I was looking for; my Comfort had a name: John. And he had been here since 1787.

As if that couldn’t get any better, the PDF had given me more names to explore. But that’s a blog for another day.

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