Research Plan for Understanding the Loyalists

As a follow-up to the previous post about avoiding pinball genealogy through the use of research plans, I have created a research plan to learn more about the Loyalists so I can better understand Thomas Sumner. This research plan is a social history research plan, and not the kind typically used in genealogy to find a new name, date, or place. However, the idea and strategies are similar.

Objective #1: Learn what motivated the Loyalists and why many had to leave and where they went.

Objective #2: Learn what challenges they faced and what life was like for them in the colonies and their new location.

Objective #3: Learn some of the possible reasons why Thomas had to leave, while some of his family members with similar political views were allowed to stay.

I have read that about 1/3 of the colonists were Patriots, 1/3 were Loyalists and 1/3 were somewhat neutral. Depending on locale, Loyalists were persecuted and subject to confiscation of their property (voluntarily or otherwise) and physical violence, including tar and feathering. Thomas lived in Vermont and was well-connected as a judge. He was forced to leave because of his views and lost his property. He went to Nova Scotia (I think) and submitted several petitions to the English government for reparations for the property he lost. He presumably died in Toronto, although at least one of his children returned to Vermont and settled there.


  • Liberty’s Exiles by Maya Jasanoff
  • Tories: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War by Thomas B. Allen
  • Murdered By His Wife by Deborah Navas


Read each of the books listed above and locate additional relevant resources in the footnotes and bibliographies for each book. The first 2 books provide background on Loyalists in general, the 3rd is the true story of murder by a Loyalist woman. These will provide answers to Objectives 1 and 2. Once this is done, I will draw up a research plan for Objective 3.

What events are you interested in learning about? What does your research plan look like?

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