Arrival in the Colonies

There are two different family stories, with variations, as to how Claudius arrived in the Colonies and settled into the New York area:

  • One indicates Claudius came through Canada, traveled across Lake Erie in small boat (some family states this was a “collapsible” boat,) and then into the Westchester area of New York, possibly during the French & Indian war (also known as the seven years war, from 1754 to 1763.) i
  • The other claims that Claudius came to America, landing in the Long Island area, possibly West Hempstead, then migrated into the Westchester area.

It seems there’s little to no documentation to support either view, although there are whispers of old letters somewhere in the family detailing this history; copies would be much appreciated.

A French Ship c 1750

A French Ship c 1750

It’s often assumed Claudius came to America with the French army to fight in the French & Indian wars, defecting to the Crown and staying on in the British colonies. ii  If Claudius did come through Canada with the French army, it may be reasonable to consider an earlier arrival date – he was in New York in 1755, but we don’t know when he left France, or under what circumstances.

Perhaps Claudius was in Canada with the French army during one of the earlier conflicts – or perhaps he not with the army at all at the time of his arrival in the Americas. He may have come during the several years lull between wars.

Another Boatman descendant, a cousin who has been instrumental in researching the Boatman family, Dolly Cairns, has reasoned that the French army at the time of the French Indian war was primarily Catholic. A Huguenot in Claudius’ time would not be allowed to serve in the army, at least openly.  All Huguenots were banned from emigrating, and most certainly banned from settling in “New France” which Canada was called. iii  One might assume a certain amount of subterfuge in Claudius’ arrival in the British colonies in America –  and perhaps enough danger to precipitate a risky crossing in a small boat across the enormous Lake Erie?

Map c 1750 -click to enlarge

Map c 1750 -click to enlarge

It is very interesting that family legend gives such specific information, expressly stating that Claudius came across Lake Erie. It seems an odd way to come from Canada to New York, and one has to wonder how a small craft could safely navigate such a large body of water. Perhaps Claudius only had to cut across a small portion, or perhaps it was actually a different lake.

Tales passed down do sometimes become a bit garbled, but usually their is some truth to them. It seems very likely that Claudius entered into Pennsylvania from New York, first travelling overland to the Susquehanna, then by boat, to their home in Mahoning township. Perhaps some family, knowing he came by boat, and assuming he came from Canada, simply put two and two together and came up with the idea Claudius came by boat from Canada.

With no offense intended, our ancestor did not always make the easiest or safest decisions, nor did he live in the easiest or safest times…as we learn more about his life, it is perhaps a wonder that he lived to the ripe old age he did.

Claudius mentioned in a biographical sketch of Dr. Richard James Boatman of Mahaska, Iowa. iv The biographer, in expounding on the Boatman family and says, “…the Rev. J. A. Boatman of Fairfield, being a cousin of the doctor’s and a descendant of Claudius Boatman, a Frenchman who came to America during the Revolution and served under General La Fayette.”  Family historians have been, for years, trying to tie “our” Boatmans to the “southern” Boatmans to no avail. Neither James Richard Boatman or the “cousin” Rev. J. A. Boatman are descendants of Claudius. Their ancestors settled into Canada, and later generations moved into the states.  The author confused the family with Claudius’ son, the James Boatman’s family who lived nearby. It could be a hint, though, that Claudius may have had relatives in Canada who settled there long before Claudius left France.

Some believe Claudius was caught up in the Acadian expulsion (1755 to 1764) – the forced removal of thousands of Acadians from Novia Scotia, New Brunswick, the Prince Edward Islands and parts of Maine. v The Acadians were primarily Roman Catholic, and Claudius a Huguenot – the time period could be right, but was Claudius an Catholic, or pretending to be, only free to practice his own religion after arriving in the Colonies?  There is very little documentation regarding Claudius’ religious views, but the speculation of the descendants that Claudius Boatman was Huguenot is repeated so often, it feels almost like “certainty,” and very well likely is. Claudius certainly was documented in New York as a member of the “English” Church. vi

NYC,1755-Surveyor's Map

NYC,1755-Surveyor’s Map

If Claudius came in through what is now the United States, perhaps he settled in the English settlements of New York or New Jersey, as a large number of Huguenot refugees did. Since we find him in New York, in 1755, that location could be reasonable, as well.  The Long Island area and West Hempstead are quite a distance from Westchester county, where Claudius is later found, but the areas did have early Huguenot churches, and a population of former refugees.

The first documented records of Claudius appear in Westchester County, New York – regardless of how Claudius got here, get here he did, and if Claudius had thoughts of settling into a nice peaceful existence with his family, it certainly was not going to be the case.  Freedom he would have, but at a price.

I’ve had a lot of fun researching Claudius, and am pleased to share everything I’ve learned, much of it due to other researchers before me – please feel free to use anything on this site – I do ask you to source it, though, so others may find it.  And please, share what you know in the same spirit this has been shared.  mvkirby – I can be emailed directly at


i Ancestry boards – discussion of Claudius Boatman; various descendants

ii A very brief synopsis of the French & Indian War

iii A very brief synopsis of the Huguenots

iv Biographies and Portraits of the Progressive Men of Iowa…, Volume 2 by Benjamin Franklin Shambaugh, Benjamin F. Gue. Des Moines, Conaway & Shaw Publishers, 1899
Pages 112 – 113

v A site that explores the Acadian Expulsion, focusing on the myths that we often believe.

vi Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc, 2010. Original data: Filby, P. William, ed. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s. Farmington Hills, MI, USA: Gale Research, 2010

5 thoughts on “Arrival in the Colonies

  1. Some of my thoughts: Another consideration is the French government barred Huguenots from settling in New France , so many Huguenots sailed to North America and settled instead in the Dutch colony of New Netherland (later incorporated into New York and New Jersey); as well as Great Britain’s colonies, including Nova Scotia. The Expulsion of the Acadians was the forced removal by the British of the Acadian people from present day Canadian Maritime provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island (an area also known as Acadia). The Expulsion (1755–1763) occurred during the French and Indian War, and started by the British deporting Acadians to the Thirteen Colonies and then, after 1758, the British sent them to France. Approximately 11,500 Acadians were deported. This time period coincides with Claudius first appearance in New Rochelle, New York in 1755 which may explain the tradition that says he came to New York from Canada. Of course one might say why would Claudius then fight with the British against the French in the French and Indian War? In saying so, remember that Claudius was a French Huguenot who, we assume, had fled France to escape the brutal treatment of Huguenots and to find religious freedom. He had managed to escape French rule once and, it seems almost certain, he would not have wanted his new homeland in New York to fall into the hands of the French

    • We assume much, especially Claudius’ religion – and we do assume he was Huguenot because a) we’ve been told he was, and b) we have one record of him at the “English” church. I’ve been dismissive of the possibility he was Acadian because the Acadians were generally Roman Catholic, although when I first started researching, I thought the time period was “right” too, and was very excited.

      We might need to consider the possibility that Claudius wasn’t “overly” religious – and that perhaps he was raised to be both Catholic and Huguenot. After the Edict of Nantes was repealed, the Huguenots were required to conform to the Catholic faith – being baptised, etc. in the Catholic church. If he was, indeed, inducted into the French army, at age seven, he most likely worshipped at that time with the Catholic church. How much confirmation to a particular faith would a child of seven carry through into adulthood.

      Once away from the religious fervor and persecution in France, perhaps Claudius worshipped where it was expedient – it would be a huge undertaking to be traveling to get to a “right” church. Maybe even “Marie” was the Protestant – it certainly wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen the women of the time drive the “faith.”

      Certainly, in Orange county, New York, Claudius and family went to a Baptist church, and probably before that church was founded, many of the local populace met at people’s homes. Many of Claudius’ grandchildren were Methodist, and Methodism didn’t always sit well with members of what was thought of as the “Church of England.” I’ve seen many records where Methodists were referred to as “ranting” Methodists. If Claudius, as the patriarch fo the family was a very strict Protestant, one would wonder if he would stand for such a thing.

      Always, as I think about Claudius, I have more questions than answers!

  2. Perhaps he was as religious as was necessary and adopted the religious coloration of the situation he was in?

    • I’ve wondered that as well; I’ve tossed back and forth thinking maybe he wasn’t really religous, and then wondered again if maybe he was…

      It’s so hard to speak about religion in the very early days of our country; to many, religion was everything. Claudius, in Warwick, was baptised into a Primitive Baptist Church, which indicates a membership, a commitment well beyond someone who just worships there. Of course, it was the only church there at the time…

      From a genealogical perspective, figuring out where and how Claudius worshiped could possibly turn up more records, giving us a few more hints about his life, and possibly that of Marie and thier children.

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