Friday, June 22, 2012

The Bell Family of Guysborough Nova Scotia

As mentioned in an earlier blog post, the surname Bell is a rather common name to New England, Canada, Scotland, Ireland and the British Isles.

My very distant ancestors (who are also ancestors of many tens of thousands of New Englanders) were John Bell & Elizabeth Wurttemberg of Nova Scotia (formerly of Scotch-Irish background).  At least two of their reportedly 11 children moved to Dover Maine and started large families in the early 1800s, and their story is traced here.

This blog post covers what is known, suspected, and questioned regarding their prior home in Nova Scotia, which was home to many Scotch-Irish immigrants.

John Bell was reputed to have been a loyalist during the American Revolution, and won a land grant from the King for his service, although his children were unsuccessful in locating and claiming that land.  We have been unable, as of this writing (July 2012), to locate any proof of records of John having been a Loyalist.  If and when we find such proof, we can then add his name to the UELAC Loyalist Directory.

The question of "where in Nova Scotia did they live" is a long mystery of all the Bell researchers.  Below is a collection of facts and ideas which may lead us to narrow down the likely places.

The Mormon Family History Library collection regarding Nova Scotia Deeds currently only offers Halifax County, which I don't believe our Bells come from.  There are many dozens of recorded deeds involving "John Bell", during the years 1749-1851.  According to Helen Thompson, a fellow researcher, this John married a Catherine, so it's not ours.

Helen also writes about a John Bell of around that time who was victimized by the 1792 Great Fire of Shelburne, Nova Scotia.  I'm doubtful this is our John as well, due to the commonality of the name John Bell, and the distance between Shelburne and the town of Manchester, where we have found many easily validated records.  Helen is to look in Shelburne vital records on microfilm order.
Helen did some nice research in Guysborough County records, most of it in Manchester town, per her message below:
The first record I have for a land transaction for John Bell, yeoman, in Canso is the 1812 land grant in which he is named with William Phipps. It states that they were both of Canso at the time of the grant. The land was then sold by The Sheriff in 1815 on behalf of "John Bell late of Canso" for the sum of Thirty Six Pounds .. subject to the "Equity of Redemption", sale being to the highest bidder Abraham Whitman.   Abraham Whitman seems to have taken out a writ against John Bell in 16 Oct 1813 for Twenty six pounds seven shillings (debt and costs), which seems to have led John Bell to abandon his land and property in Canso. A similar situation occurred with William Phipps as his land was also sold by The Sheriff at the same time.
Going through the other records I have found the following:
Christ Church Baptismal Records (film 1378473), Parish of Manchester, Gusyborough County (transcribed records)
-- Bell, Robert. Son of John and Elizabeth. Born Feb 12 1799
-- Bell, Catherine. Dau of John and Elizabeth. Born May 15 1805
-- Bell, Alexander. Son of John and Elizabeth. Born Oct 20 1706 --- I think this should read 1806
-- Russel, John. Son of Major and Mary. Bapt Jan 12 1799

-- Phipps, William. Son of William and Mary. Born Dec 15 1805
No burial records for any Bell, Holland/Hollien, Phipps or Russell.
Registry of Marriages, Birth and Deaths for the town of Manchester 1783-1870 (film 1376195)
Alexander & Katherine Cumming  (is this Catherine Bell?, a daughter of John Bell)
-- George b[orn]. Dec 2 1784
-- Katherine d[ied]. Dec 12 1784
p.78 Marriages solemnized by [J Cutler]
1802 - December 26 William Phipps was married to Mary Russel
From the book  "Guysborough Sketches and Essays" by A.C. Jost, p.320
Russell, Major. Married Mary Bell 8 May 1797. Family
-- John Bapt. 12 Feb 1799
-- Ann
-- Elizabeth
(It appears Major Russell died, and I have seen somewhere that he possibly drowned or died at sea. Mary (Bell) Russell then married William Phipps, 1802, which led to the birth of at least one child - William (see above)

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