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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Newfoundland and Labrador

                                           This mini-map is of the Conception Bay area.

I’ve been asked several times just where Newfoundland and Labrador are located. It’s an island Province in Canada, off the coastline of eastern North America, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It comes in two parts, one a very large island and the rest, part of mainland Canada, sharing a border with Quebec and stretching far north. Its farthest northern tip is on an equal level with the southern coast of Greenland. Its coastline is a continuous line of bays, inlets and small islands, giving some areas an almost fjord-like look. The island of Newfoundland is separated from mainland Newfoundland and Labrador by the Strait of Belle Isle.
The northern areas are considered tundra and the southern is taiga, a moist subarctic area dominated by spruce and fir trees. It begins where the tundra ends. Newfoundland was completely covered during the last ice age, so literally every living thing was scraped from its surface. The soil is shallow and in the northern areas, permafrost is only about a meter (approx. 39 inches) below the surface. This makes it difficult for trees to take root since they can’t get through the permafrost. Many animals have been introduced over the years, but Newfoundland has no snakes, raccoons, skunks or porcupines.
A yearly phenomenon is the ice floes and ice bergs that float past both east and west coasts. Many of these originate in Greenland where they calve off the glaciers. Others are from the northern Labrador regions.

Fishing off the Grand Banks has been the mainstay of this province for nearly five centuries. It drew both local and International fishing fleets. It was said that the waters teemed with Cod, enough so you could scoop them into a boat with a hand net. But in 1992, the Canadian government feared the dwindling numbers of fish foreshadowed extinction and placed an indefinite moratorium on fishing. This put about 30,000 people out of work and ended a way of life in many of the smaller communities. Now, after twenty + years, the fish are making a comeback, slowly, but it gives hope for a positive recovery.
Newfoundland remained an English colony until 1907 and then was given Dominion status, which, basically, made it self-governing and relatively autonomous from British rule. In 1927, Labrador officially became part of the Dominion of Newfoundland. The British government passed the British North America Act which officially joined Newfoundland as a part of Canada, in 1949. It should also be stated that the official and correct abbreviation for Newfoundland and Labrador is NL, replacing NFLD. It was noted while reading some articles that some Newfies are offended by the use of the old version. It would be my guess that this is not widely known. I certainly was unaware of it and I read articles about Newfoundland and Labrador every week.
Fishing seems to have begun here sometime in the 1500’s. The fishermen came from England, Ireland, France and Portugal then returned home, heavily laden with the bounty of the sea. Soon, it became economically wiser to have the fishing fleets stay for the entire fishing season before returning home. Eventually, homes and villages began to spring up all along the coast.  Some of the families who came and then stayed have descendants still living in NL.
The Earl (later Earle) family came from Devon and settled in the Conception Bay area; The Garlands were around Carbonear before 1675; James Howell’s family claimed to have been there also by 1684 and Abraham King was residing there in 1708.  Thomas Pike is listed for Carbonear for 1690 and John Snow’s family, from Dorset, claimed to have been around since 1678. The Clark’s, from Devon or Cornwall, were in Crocker’s Cove by 1705 and the Tuckers were in Port de Grave by the late 1600’s. John Pynn was appointed Commander of the Garrison as a reward for his bravery in 1708. In 1729, William Pynn and Charles Garland were Justices of the Peace for the Carbonear district, which ran from Bay de Verde to Cape St. Francis. By 1747 there were more Moores, Parsons, Butts and Pikes living in the Conception Bay area. To clarify a bit, Carbonear is a district within the Conception Bay locality.
In 1770-71, Thomas Reynolds and John Power were in Crocker’s Cove. The Noel families, possibly from Jersey, came to Harbor Grace around this time too. Thomas Burden is mentioned in 1790 and Elisha Pye arrived about 1799. The early settlers were mostly Church of England immigrants from the West Country of England and The Channel Islands.
Along Conception Bay’s northern shore is Mulley’s Cove where James Reynolds, from Devon, settled in 1749. It hasn’t been discovered how Thomas and James Reynolds may be connected, if at all. A visitor to the area in early summer 1837, remarked on how deserted the towns were along the shore from Carbonear to Victoria to Small Point and Blackhead. This was because the families moved to the Labrador sometime at the end of March and didn’t return again until September or later. This was fishing season and the whole family participated, with the men and young boys hauling the fish while the women, girls and younger children worked on the beaches to prepare the fish for drying and salting. I can only think of what back breaking labor that was and how the children of today would react to that kind of life style.

Cecil J. Reynolds, a descendant of James Reynolds the indentured servant, believed that the Vatchers, LaGrows, Mulleys, Milleys and, probably, the Thistles, all had their origins in the Channel Islands, while the King family probably came from the West Country of England, where the name was quite numerous. James Reynolds (Rennolls) came from Rockebeare, Devon aboard a ship with a cargo of leather for Robert Lacey, a boot and shoemaker. James was an indentured servant to Lacey for 7 years. When his indenture was up, the American Revolution had begun causing the food supplies to dwindle, since they came from the colonies. James signed on for another 7 year hitch with Lacey and was around the age of 33 when he was finally released. It was then he married a teenage girl named Elizabeth Kennedy. James Reynolds and Richard Moores had plots for fishing rooms next to Michael Thistle as reported in the 1783 Plantation Book for Conception Bay North.
Finding the old histories has been time consuming, to say the least.  Some are so general, no names are mentioned. Others are so detailed it takes hours to extract the information you want. I wanted to see how many of my ancestors were involved in the early days of Newfoundland and was pleasantly surprised at the number I found. I am directly descended from the Pyes, Laceys, Reynolds, Kennedys, Pikes, Thistles and Snows and I’m related, by marriage, to the Butts, Sopers, Milleys, Kings, Slades, Clarkes, Powers, Pynns, Coopers, Rumboldts, Harwood, Georges, Stones, Lewis, Davis, Heralds and LeGrows.
I found March to be a very disruptive month in ways that interfered with writing any blog. I’m hoping all that is behind me now and that I can get back to putting out a blog on a more regular basis.