McCargar Genealogy and History

Joseph McCargar

Joseph McCargar was born about 1748 in County Antrim, Ireland. While we do not have any records that indicate his exact birth date or birth place, we are able to deduce both from documents we have.

We have determined that Country Antrim, Northern Ireland is the most likely place for his birth for three reasons:

  1. Much of our family lore has County Antrim as one of the possible origins for Joseph and his brother Thomas. Glengarry, Scotland is the other popular choice, but we have found no supporting evidence for this.
  2. All of the references we have found from the “old country” prior to 1800 are from County Antrim, and date back to 1653.
  3. A 1759 document titled “Index of will proved in the Diocese of Conner” lists a Thomas McCarger of Antrim, Ireland. Due to the rarity of the McCargar name, this leads us to speculate on a close family relationship, possibly father or grandfather.

Determining Joseph’s birth date is more problematic. We have five documents that give an age and three that put him in an age category, and between the eight documents we have three possible birth dates: 1748, 1752, or 1758. Most of the evidence points towards 1748 as Joseph's probable birth date:

  1. Joseph’s June 24,1784 British Army letter of discharge has his age at 27, indicating a birth date between June 1757 and June 1758.
  2. The 1800 New York census lists him under the “over 45” age category (birth prior to 1755), supporting both the 1748 and 1752 dates.
  3. The 1804 South Gower census lists his age as 52, indicating a birth date around 1752.
  4. The 1808 South Gower census lists his age as 59, indicating a birth date in 1748 or early 1749.
  5. The 1810 South Gower census lists his age as 61, indicating a birth date in 1748 or early 1749.
  6. The 1813 South Gower census lists him under the “over 60” age category, supporting both the 1752 and 1748 dates.
  7. The 1817 South Gower census lists him under the “over 60” age category, supporting both the 1752 and 1748 dates.
  8. Joseph’s January 5, 1831 land application has his age at 82, indicating a birth date in 1748.

We have no information on Joseph's immediate family (parents or siblings), other than that he had a younger brother, Thomas, who came to America with him as a fellow soldier in the British Army. We have no documented proof that Thomas was actually his brother, but family lore is adamant that they were brothers, and the rarety of the McCargar name pretty much guarantees that their concurrent enlistment in the 21st Regiment means they were either brothers or (at worst) cousins.

The American War of Independence

The oldest record we have of Joseph (and his brother Thomas) is a muster roll for the 21st Regiment of Foot taken on February 28, 1777 at St. Johns, Canada, in which Joseph is identified as a private, present for the entire muster period (June 25, 1776 to December 24, 1776). In an 1831 land application, Joseph also states that he came to America as part of Burgoyne’s army, presumably in the 21st (see The McCargar Connection for details on the mystery surrounding Joseph's enlistment).

Joseph’s army career spanned 8 years, from 1776 to 1784. Up until the end of December 1776, we know that he was a member of Captain Jaspar Farmar's Company in the 21st. At some point between December 1776 and June 1777, he was transferred to a detachment of the 21st under Captain Frederick Disney, where he remained until July 1778. On July 25, 1778, Joseph and about a dozen others from the 21st were transferred to the 34th Regiment of Foot. Joseph stayed with the 34th until his discharge on 24th of June 1784, but apparently that wasn’t the end of his military career. The same muster roll that shows his discharge also lists him under an Intermediate period as re-enlisted on Sept 8, 1784 and subsequently “deserted” on Oct 14, 1884.

On an 1807 land application, Joseph claimed he was captured at Saratoga (with Burgoyne’s army), escaped, and returned to Canada and joined the 34th Regiment. None of the Regimental muster rolls support this claim, but instead indicate that he remained in Canada throughout the war - they even show him as being present in Canada for the full muster while the battle and surrender occurred at Saratoga. Further evidence that refutes his claim is that his commanding officer, Captain F. Disney, does not appear on the list of Burgoyne’s officers that surrendered at Saratoga. Joseph probably tried used the “captured and escaped” story (taken from his brother’s escapades) to garner sympathy for his land application.

After the War

Until August 1, 1797, discharged soldiers were offered land in lieu of transportation back to England. The lots available to them were put in a hat and each soldier pulled his allotment. Of course the quantity and quality of land was determined by rank, with the officers receiving the most and the best, and the privates receiving the least and the worst. A private’s allotment of 200 acres tended to be far from water, difficult to find, and marginal at best for farming. The only records kept of these allotments were a land occupancy ticket with the lot number as proof of ownership (given to each soldier) and a map with the soldiers’ names written on the appropriate lots. To sell his land, all a soldier had to do was sign the back of his ticket and give it to the new owner. There was no Government land registry system until 1795.

Soldiers receiving these land grants weren’t expected to go into the wilderness and support themselves right away, so the British government provided them with rations for three years on a reducing scale. Each person in the soldier’s family over the age of 10 received full rations in the first year, two-thirds rations in the second year and one-third rations in the third and final year. Children under 10 received half that amount. After the end of the third year the settlers were expected to be able to support themselves. A typical daily ration consisted of one pound of flour and one pound of beef or 12 ounces of pork, but there was considerable variation in the rations, depending on availability.

Joseph received his allotment of land in 1784 in Township No.5, Bay of Quinte (Marysburgh, Ontario). At that time it was still considered to be the western part of the Montreal district of the colony of Quebec, Canada. He appears on the 1784 and 1785 Provisioning lists as being eligible for one ration (this establishes that he was still unmarried up to the end of 1785). The 1784 list (dated October 4) also shows a notation beside his name: “Gone up to Niagara to settle with Regt. Expected this fall”. This notation may go a long way in explaining the “deserted” notation on the June to December 1784 muster roll for the 34th regiment. We have always assumed that it was a “sneak off into the bush” kind of desertion, but the Provisioning list notation seems to indicate that it may have been an amicable separation with the “deserted” designation not carrying the same meaning as it does today. If it was a “sneak off into the bush” kind of desertion, it is hard to believe that the British would have kept providing him with rations.

We have no records of Joseph’s whereabouts for the next ten years, between 1786 and 1796, but we believe he probably remained on his land in Marysburgh. In an 1831 land application, he claimed that he returned to England (for an unspecified time), but we have never found any evidence of such a journey. He may also have gotten married during this period, although the first record we know about that mentions a wife is from the wedding of a Revolutionary War pensioner near Guilderland, New York from sometime before 1800, where Joseph and Catey (Catherine) McCargar were listed as witnesses. We do not have a copy of marriage record so we do not know the exact date or the groom’s name.

Sometime between October 11 and November 15, 1796, Joseph appeared in a Kingston, Upper Canada (Ontario) court to exchange his land Occupancy Certificate/Ticket for the deed to the land he reportedly occupied. As it turns out, Joseph jointly owned the land (lot 7, 1st Concession at Marysburg) with John Husley, who was a fellow discharged soldier from the 34th Regiment of Foot. This would not have been land allotted to either private, as 1st Concession land was the best land (usually with river access), reserved for Officers. Privates received Concession 8 and 9 land. Joseph must have sold his share of this property sometime between 1796 and 1800, as he next appears on the 1800 Granville, New York census with one female 26-45 (presumably his wife Catey) and one male 10-16 (we suspect this is the Joseph Malvin who lived with Joseph and Catey in South Gower for many years).

By 1802, Joseph was back in Canada, in Edwardsburgh, Ontario applying for land as a military claimant, stating:

“That your petitioner served his Majesty, first as a Volunteer, afterwards as a soldier in the thirty fourth Regiment of Foot during the space of eight years and having enlisted after his Majesty’s Proclamation of the 16th December 1775 become entitled to his discharge.--

That your Petitioner has a wife and three children--

Your Petitioner therefore prays your Excellency in Council that you will be pleased to grant him such portion of land as is allowed in like cases--and your Petitioner as in duty bound shall ever pray.

I Joseph McCargar the above named petitioner do solemly make oath that I am of upwards of twenty one years of age and that I have never received any land from the crown.”

Joseph neglected this application (probably because he had moved to South Gower), so it was cancelled. In August 1803, Joseph and thirty-one other applicants (including his brother Thomas) applied for land in South Gower, Ontario. The land was granted to the brothers and twenty-seven others by order of Council on October 12, 1803. This grant was for vacant Crown land, given to immigrants who reportedly had been in the Province for upwards of four years. The 200 acres of land that they received cost each applicant 5 pounds Sterling, plus one pound, seven shillings and six pence surveying costs. There has been some family speculation that this application was as a military claimant, but this land was purchased.

On February 19, 1807 Joseph again applied for land as a military claimant, stating:

“That your Petitioner was a soldier in His Majesty’s 21st Regiment of Foot and was made prisoner with the Regiment at the Convention of Saratoga, when he made his escape and joined His Majesty’s 34th Regiment and obtained a good, valid, and sufficient discharge at the conclusion of the War. That your Petitioner has received no lands from Government for his services – Humbly solicits Your Excellency in Council for such a quantum of land as usually granted to persons of his description.”

This petition was rejected.

On January 5, 1831, Joseph yet again applied for land as a military claimant. On this application he states:

“That your Petitioner first came to America as a Private Soldier under General Burgoyne in the year 1776 under whom he served during the Revolution, at the close of which he received his discharge as Sergeant in the light company of the 34th Regt and returned to England. Your Petitioner afterwards returned to this country, purchased a lot of land, on which he resided until a few years since when it became unavoidably necessary that he should dispose of it to support himself and his aged wife. That he never received any lands nor order for any lands from his Majesty’s Government of Upper Canada, although fully satisfied from the munificent character of the British Government that it might be obtained had it been applied for – but so long as your Petitioner retained his health and activity he did not wish to trouble your Excellency’s predecessors with an application for lands, but he had now arrived at the advanced age of 82 years and having no fixed place of residence, unable to do any kind of work for a living, and totally dependant on the fluctuating feelings of humanity for the common sustenance of life, he prays your Excellency will be pleased to devote a few moments to reflection upon the justness of your Petitioner’s claim and make such order in his behalf as your Excellency in your wisdom may consider just.”

His petition was rejected on April 9, 1831 with the statement:

“All claims for military lands ceased on the 1st August 1797 – therefore the prayer of the Petition cannot be recommended.”

Due to the many questionable statements that Joseph made on his land applications, we have come to the conclusion that unless we have other corroborating evidence, none of his claims are trustworthy. While the embellishments on his early applications may have been solely to gain sympathy for his petition, by the time of his last application (age of 82) the embellishments may have become the truth to him.

We believe that Joseph died in 1831, most likely in South Gower, but we have no records of his death date, death place, or burial place.

Catherine (Catey) McCargar

We know Joseph’s wife’s name from the South Gower census records for 1804, 1805, 1808, and 1810. Unfortunately, we do not know when or where they married, nor do we know Catey’s maiden name.  We suspect that Catey had a previous marriage since they had a boy named Joseph Malvin living with them for many years. There is also an account from a direct descendant of Joseph Malvin that the Malvin family emigrated from England and that the father died on route aboard ship. This may also explain Joseph’s claim of three children if they were Catey’s from her first marriage.

We believe Catey was born about 1759, but her actual birth date is confused by conflicting records. The 1804 South Gower census shows her age as 45, while both the 1808 and 1810 South Gower census records show her age as 46. Any of the three ages could be true, but we feel the 1804 census was probably closer to the truth.

As with Joseph, we no records of when or where Catey died. We do know that she was still living as of the 1823 South Gower census.


We believe that Joseph did not have any children of his own, despite the declaration that he made on his 1802 land application. We know from the British provisions list of 1785 (muster roll #16) that he was still unmarried at the end of that year. This means that the earliest a child of his could be born would be late 1786, and consequently, by his 1800 census there should have been three children listed under the age of 13. None of Joseph’s census records show more than one child (Joseph Melvin) living with him. We suspect that the three children Joseph referred to (if there were actually three) may have been Catey’s children from her previous marriage, used as a ploy to try to gain sympathy for his land application. If the children were from a previous marriage of Catey, it would explain why the young boy, Joseph Melvin, was living with them for many years (Melvin would have been her first husband’s last name).

However, contrary to the above hypothesis, we have found a couple of McCargars who do not fit into know family lines that are of the appropriate age to be Joseph’s offspring (or the wife of an offspring). The first is a James McCargar, born between 1775 and 1794, who appears in the 1820 Baltimore census with a wife and two boys under age 10. The second is a Keziah McCargar, born between 1780 and 1790, who appears in the 1830 Baltimore census with three girls (born between 1810 and 1820) and no males in the household. We have not found any documents to connect these two McCargars to Joseph (or any other family line), and as their lines seem to end after one or two generations, we are left with very little information to use to prove or disprove any potential family relationship.


Updated: October 1, 2010