Extracts from the 1816 Untitled Relief Book
|© Copyright 2001 William J. Flowers. All rights reserved.|
Left: Front cover of the "1816 Untitled Relief Book," also known as the "1816 Famine Book," or the "1816 Relief Book." Right: Book open to two of the pages of petition entries. On the left page of the open book, middle entry, is the petition of Robert Flowers, Sr. The text of that extract follows below.
This simple ledger, or journal, documents the tremendous impact that a volcanic eruption in the south Pacific in 1815 had on a small community on the Gaspé Peninsula, thousands of miles away. So much ash was thrown into the air when the Indonesian volcano, Tambora, erupted that it partially blocked the rays of the sun for more than two years. The temperature drop throughout the northern hemisphere led to what was called the "year without a summer,"
Those hardest hit filed in to petition the provincial government for relief in order to make it through the ensuing winter, the preceding summer and fall lacking the life-sustaining harvest that ordinarily provided food for the families through the long, bitter winter so characteristic of this area.
The 1816 Untitled Relief Book, along with the musters of those boarding the ships to bring the settlers to this area in 1784, are the keystone documents that can aid us in finding the origins of these hardy folk. These documents shine a light to assist us as we peer into the murky past, hoping for a glimpse of elusive ancestors even further back than the petitioners of 1816-17.
At once, the Relief Book not only chronicles the economic hardship caused by the eruption of the volcano, it also provides biographical information and the family configuration of many of the petitioners. Ages of petitioners and their wives, the number of children, military background--and sometimes other types of information--are listed, and tied to a known date.
It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of this document. Following are examples of two of the relief petitions that are relevant to our search, along with statements of their disposition. Abstracts of many other petitions can be found on Raymond Garrett's site.
This Petitioner lives in New Carlisle, aged 68, together with his wife aged 63, and that they keep a young Grand Child -- Had a Bad Crop of Potatoes from the Frosts, and no more Grain than will serve for seed next spring, and in all has but 8 or 10 Barrels of Potatoes on hand -- Served in the 29 & 53 Regiments for 11.¾ years, and in several engagements during the American Rebellion -- badly wounded in storming an American Fort at Lake Champlain, and now lame in his limbs by Rhumatism -- Prays a free and Bounteous Relief being unable to pay or make any Return.
30 Decr 1816
It is ordered that the Petitioner have a Barrel of Flour delivered to him Gratis.
No 54 ~ Petition Samuel Chatterton
The Petitioner lives in New Carlisle aged 54 -- has a wife and 12 Children 10 of whom are living with him in his House along with his wife is settled in New Carlisle, and has several Acre lots, but had a bad Crop of Potatoes from the Frosts, having no more than 15 Barrels in return, but by digging Potatoes for a neighbour he earned a few Barrels, so that now he has about 15 Barrels in his Cellar -- Has about a barrel of Grain, bad in quality, but no Flour -- Has a sufficiency of Beef and Pork to pass the winter -- was a settler in the Bay of Chaleur in 1784 under the Patronage of Gov. as a discharged soldier -- offers Pine Boards and Planks for a Barrel of Flour. Prays Relief Accordingly --
8th Jany 1817
It is Ordered that the Petitioner have one Quintal and a half of Flour delivered to him for Pine Boards and Planks ~
© Copyright 2003 William J. Flowers. All rights reserved.