It has not been easy tracing my mother’s biological roots. I know that many other relations are likely on the very same journey. While I may never know all of the details of this branch of my family tree, I have become much more educated these last couple of years. I’m publishing a post I wrote some time ago as an introduction to this search and my pilgrimage back to Souris and Cardigan.
The drive yesterday was the culmination of three years of research and interviews and as such, it was an emotional day, a blessing-day! The book I have been reading recently, The Shadow Man: A Daughter’s Search for Her Father has been a significant ‘read’…given the never-knowing-or-understanding presence or non-presence of a biological father in my mother’s life. Yesterday, I stepped into and through his life, as I could, and met him at the very point that I’ve always wondered about. Life is full of mystery.
Got to Cardigan and after eating my sandwich on a bench outside of the small museum/information center, I went inside and met young Leanne. She was enthused when I asked her a question about The Shepards because she just happened to be putting together a slide show about local Black Islanders. She pulled out her research. I pulled out mine. And then we shared stories and I felt pleased that I could give her some details and name some of the people in their photographs…people who had remained unnamed for some time. She told me that if I really wanted to know some details, Nora Macdonald had gone through the local church records and she knew more about the Shepards of Lot 52 and 53 and would I like to try to contact her? It was only minutes later and Nora stepped into the Center and minutes after that that she opened her scribblers, filled with family history scrawled in ballpoint pen, notations that she had recorded directly from the church documents and we were swept up in a whirl of information-sharing.
From Cardigan, I headed on a sidetrip to Georgetown. It was raining hard by that time, but still Max got his brief connection with the beach before we headed east to Souris.
This exerpt borrowed from Island Studies: Black Islanders by Jim Hornby.
Several people who I’ve connected with the last while, do not have access to this book and there are some interesting ‘bits’ concerning these two. I hope that this will be to some assistance in their research. My thanks to Jim Hornby. This information is eloquently shared on page 27.
Mr. Hornby tells us that it is almost a certainty that David Sheppard was brought to Prince Edward Island by Lieutenant-Governor Fanning. Fanning was, at the time, a Loyalist who was forced to leave North Carolina after the Revolutionary War…and I believe (that is me) that he went on to the State of Virginia. From there, Fanning “moved to Nova Scotia, and then Prince Edward Island.” David Sheppard was one of at least four slaves owned by Fanning, who may have been part of the group that moved north to Atlantic Canada. “Fanning complained, ‘It has actually cost me in removing my servants and baggage to this Island nearly 100 guineas.’”
As I’ve been seeking information, I have found both a David Shepard and a Kesiah Sheppard on the ship, l’Abondance. I don’t have any validations stating that these are my two. It is a possibility. Here, right out of the Book of Negroes.
“David Shephard, 15, likely boy. Formerly the property of William Shephard, Nansemond, Virginia; left him 4 years ago. GBC.”
Back to Jim Hornby’s narrative.
“David Sheppard’s life is recorded largely in court documents. In February 1792, he was convicted of larceny. On July 2, Executive Council accepted a petition that his punishment be remitted. Supreme Court Minutes for July 14, 1792, note: ‘Davy, a black man, convicted of stealing a saw, was sentenced to receive 39 lashes – but was afterwards pardoned.’ It is possible that Davy was spared because he was the governor’s property. Historian T. Watson Smith wrote in 1899 that Fanning had given ‘Shepherd’ a farm when he set him free, and while this statement has since been repeated, no corroboration has yet been found.
Sheppard and his wife Kesiah (or Kissy) had several children. Benjamin (who might have been born before they arrived) was baptized on March 22, 1789. Catherine was born to David and an unrecorded woman on July 4, 1791. Anna Maria was born on February 13, 1794, to David and Kesiah Wilson and two more girls followed: Sarah (April 4, 1799) and Mary Millicent (January 23, 1803).
Sheppard’s relationship with his wife was perhaps rocky, because on October 28, 1802, he was brought to court and ordered to post a 20 pound bond to keep the peace – ‘particularly towards Kesiah Shepard, his wife.’ Whether David died soon afterward, settled on his supposed farm, or left the Island, is not known. In any event, within ten years Kesiah Sheppard was married to another balck man and probable former slave, Samuel Martin, and together they helped to found the black district in Charlottetown.
While David Sheppard’s life remains obscure, his descendants became the most prolific black family name on Prince Edward Island.”
The book that I am referring to above is no longer in print and I am hoping that this offers some assistance. I thank Jim Hornby for his thorough research as many families knit together their histories. Given the huge struggles of both the French Acadians and the displaced Black families of early Canada, it is a marvel that we are able to put the puzzle together!
I also wish to thank the Black Islanders of PEI site, for sharing the schematic of the First Generation of David and Kesiah.