Shedding Light on the Family Tree: Home and Away

The 39th in a series on my family tree

Prompt: Road Trip


Researching family history offers a great excuse for a road trip. Armed with a road map, an understanding of or, perhaps more importantly, a keen interest in our origins we can travel to an area known to be associated with our ancestral roots, and explore.

As fate would have it we live within two-hours driving distance of Niagara ~ a region much associated with the history of the United Empire Loyalists, including my ancestors the Springers. In fact, it was my fifth great grandmother, Margaret (Oliver) Springer who, following the Revolutionary War, abandoned the family home and walked the Mohawk Valley to Niagara from Albany, New York (talk about a road trip!) with several young children in tow.

Niagara-on-the Lake, originally dubbed Butlersburg in recognition of John Butler who formed Butler’s Rangers, holds a special place in my heart as it was here my fifth great grandfather, Daniel Springer (14 years old at the time), along with his brother Richard (age 20), were based as members of that much-feared Loyalist fighting force. These two young men leapt into service shortly after their father, Rev. David Springer, Margaret’s husband, was killed during a skirmish outside their home at Stillwater, NY, in August 1777. He was on his way to enlist with General Burgoyne’s campaign at the time.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum
Source: Personal Archives

Niagara-on-the Lake

Nestled on the shore of Lake Ontario at the gap of the Niagara River is “The Loveliest Town in Canada,” Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL). With a climate ideal for fruit growing NOTL has in recent years become the heart of the Niagara wine region and a popular tourist destination. It’s one of our favourite road trips. It’s a place that speaks to my heart, and somewhere I’ve always felt rooted. In fact, it was only after I started getting acquainted with my family history that I understood why I felt that way. It’s funny how we can feel an inexplicable connection to places our ancestors frequented without us knowing they were even there. I feel the same way about various places in Europe and Great Britain. It’s only after I’ve done some research that I make the connection. It explains so much.

But I digress …

During a recent NOTL excursion we stopped at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum. I wanted to see if there was any reference to the Springers and how they might have participated in the original settlement. It appears that like many Loyalist families the Springers arrived as refugees and stayed only long enough to secure land grants from the Crown in other parts of the province. By 1791, Daniel Springer had moved on to Barton Township, Wentworth Co., a little further up the lake, and by 1794 he’d married Ruth Fairchild, (also from a Loyalist family), and moved west to settle 200 acres in Delaware, Middlesex Co., Ontario.

The Final Word

The outcome was different than I had thought, but fruitful nonetheless as I came across the book, Butler’s Rangers: The Revolutionary Period by Ernest Cruikshank in the museum bookshop. Naturally I bought a copy. Daniel, Richard, and their father, David, are listed in the Nominal Roll.

Family history road trips are a fun way to piece together more of the genealogical puzzle. One day when I have a little more time on my hands I’d like to head to the Eden Cemetery in old Streetsville (now part of Mississauga), a mere hour away, where my fourth great grandfather, Peter Sparling, is buried. And then to London, Ontario, to meet in person some distant Springer cousins we’ve connected with while doing research, and to check out Daniel Springer’s grave site at the Tiffany Cemetery in Delaware.

In the meantime, I’ll follow the mental road map and do my research from home. ❦


©Dorothy E. Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2022 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

Old Canada Map … Ontario Landowner 1840


Butler’s Rangers ~ Niagara Falls Museums

Burgoyne’s Campaign: June-October 1777 ~ Fort Stanwix National Monument, Saratoga National Historical Park

Explore and Experience Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Unique History ~ Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Crown Patentees of Barton ~ from the Papers and Records of the Head-of-the-Lake Historical Society, Hamilton, Ontario, Vol. 1

2 thoughts on “Shedding Light on the Family Tree: Home and Away

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