Connecting the Corbets

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For years, I’ve been trying to figure out where my 3x great grandfather, John Corbet, was born.

Prior to the Ontario Genealogical Society’s 2017 conference held in Ottawa in June, a call went out for applications to their ‘Ask an Expert’ service and I submitted the following query in the hopes of obtaining time with one of their experts:

Searching for the birth place in England (and parents’ names) of my 3x great grandfather: John Corbet, b abt 1791 in England per 1851 Canada census & headstone at Union Cemetery, Oshawa, Ontario (d 21 Dec 1853 Whitby, Ontario); died intestate (probate file sourced at Archives of Ontario).

John Corbet owned land on Broken Front Concession, known as ‘Corbetts Point’, now Thickson’s Point (per land records), married Esther Elliot McIntosh 31 Oct 1829 Home District, Ontario; had 3 children — Mary 1831-1899 (married James Pringle 1824-1911), James 1834-1909 (never married), Janet 1838-1917 (married William Thompson 1833-1901). Staff at Whitby Archives have been consulted.

Using Findmypast, birth records for that time period have been searched in England but all John Corbets/Corbetts found remained in England; a John Corbett, labourer, appears on a British Navy Ship Muster Roll and Pay List discharged by order of Commissioner Robert Barrie at Kingston 17 Oct 1820 ‘services no longer required’ … this may possibly be my 3x great grandfather but this document does not show age or place of birth.

My query was declined by OGS with the following notes provided by their expert:

I have done some online searching ahead of time & this query is a very tricky one – involving finding the whereabouts in England/Britain of the birth of the Corbet ancestor in question (c1791). The online databases (beyond just FMP which seems to be the only one used by the enquirer) have not been much help, altho the 1841 & 51 UK censuses have revealed a couple of Corbet families headed by possible siblings – from Guernsey in the Channel Isles. FamilySearch brings up a John Corbet in the 1851C, born the right year (1791) – but he is still in the Channel Isles, not in Ontario!

Unfortunately Channel Island BMDs on Ancestry don’t start till 1820 and Guernsey’s parish registers (1570 to present) are not online but are at the Priaulx Library in St Peter Port, Guernsey – see http://www.priaulxlibrary.co.uk/about If the enquirer has not already done so, it would be worth contacting the librarians there for any other John Corbets baptised c1791.

What I’m leading up to is that I suspect it would be more meaningful to check Ontario sources for info re John Corbet’s place of birth (other than just “England” – as per 1851 Canadian Census & headstone at Union Cemetery, Oshawa). When it comes to that, I am not experienced enough in early 19C Ontario/Canadian records to suggest sources. My only suggestion in that respect would be to check the land grants, which the enquirer has already done.

My conclusion is that this question might better be dealt with by an expert in early 19C Ontario records.

If nothing else, it was heartening to read that even an expert was stumped by my 3x great grandfather! Heeding the expert’s advice to ‘check Ontario sources’ and even more determined to find John Corbet’s birthplace in England, I went back to the timeline spreadsheet I’d put together for him and something immediately jumped out — in 1836 and 1837, there were THREE Corbet males living in Whitby, Ontario. [Note: this surname appears in numerous documents with various spellings – Corbet, Corbett, Corbitt. In this article, I will use surname spellings as they appeared most often in documentation for each individual.]

From Historic Sketches of Oshawa, T. E. Kaiser, M.D.; Oshawa: The Reformer Printing and Publishing Co., Ltd. 1921, pg 207; East and West Whitby in 1836 –

Whitby, Ontario; Thos Corbitt BF* 19, James Corbitt Con 3 Lot 8, John Corbitt BF 20

From 1837 Toronto & Home District Directory http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~onyork/people-1837C.html

Whitby, Ontario; Thos Corbitt BF 19, James Corbitt Con 3 Lot 8, John Corbitt BF

*BF = Broken Front Concession

From land records, I already knew that my 3x great grandfather, John Corbet, owned property at Broken Front Concession 19 and 20. The listings above show Thomas Corbitt at Broken Front Concession 19 in 1836 and 1837. It was beginning to seem highly possible that these three men were brothers. This led me to begin researching the lives of the other two Corbet men, Thomas and James.

With help from Linda Lovely, Supervisor of Union Cemetery in Oshawa, Ontario, burial records for my 3x great grandfather, John Corbet, and for James Corbit were found. The information provided for my 3x great grandfather and his family was what I had expected to receive except for the fact that their surname was spelled ‘Corbet’ on the headstone and recorded as ‘Corbett’ in the burial records.

Corbet headstone June 2017

John Corbett cemetery record

from Union Cemetery burial records

Information from Union Cemetery regarding James Corbit showed that he was born 23 Nov 1800 at Ullesthorpe, Leicestershire, England. This place name is even engraved on his headstone.

James Corbit headstone

James Corbit married Sarah Rent (or Dent) 25 Dec 1830 in Home District, Ontario and they had one daughter, Mary Eley Corbit b 13 Jan 1834. James Corbitt died 5 Feb 1881 in Oshawa, Ontario and was buried in Union Cemetery. His daughter married William Dickie, an Oshawa merchant (William was the informant on his father-in-law’s death registration). It appears that Mary Corbit Dickie died childless in 1904. The family surname appears as ‘Corbett’ in the Union Cemetery records.

Union Cemetery Corbit

from Union Cemetery burial records

Research on the Thomas Corbitt who appeared in 1836 and 1837 Whitby, Ontario sources led me to some extremely interesting information. A Thomas Corbitt born 9 Apr 1807 in Ullesthorpe, Leicestershire (noted in some sources as ‘Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire’ and ‘Osgarhorp, Leicestershire’) appears in Latter Day Saints records. He’s recorded as having owned land (Spears, Block 2, Lot 3, T6 R8 Sec 6 – Nauvoo Land and Records). Thomas, along with his mother, Mary, ‘crossed the plains with the Heber C Kimball Company in 1848’. https://familysearch.org/photos/artifacts/12561375 [NOTE: It’s not likely that Thomas’ mother Mary travelled with the Heber C Kimball Company. She died 1 Sep 1847 in Winter Quarters, Nebraska Territory – see below.]

These findings led me to search through baptismal records in the Ullesthorpe, Leicestershire area.

On 7 Jun 1809, a John Corbet (b 13 Mar 1793) was baptized at Claybrooke, Leicestershire. Parents names were noted as ‘James and Mary his wife, late Mary Nicholls, spinster’. Residence was noted as Ullesthorpe. Could this be the baptism of my 3x great grandfather?

J Corbet baptism 1809

I then went through my Ancestry DNA matches, uncovering 11 individuals who are predicted to be my 4th – 6th cousins, all matching myself and each other, with ancestors who were early Mormon settlers in Utah. We all match on only one segment of DNA.

At this point in the process, I am leaning heavily towards believing that these three Corbet men were brothers. It seems highly likely that my 4x great grandmother was their mother, Mary (Nicholls) Corbet. She appears to have left Ullesthorpe, Leicestershire, England after the death of her husband James in 1832, travelling first to Upper Canada, then to Nauvoo, Illinois* with her son Thomas. They then headed for Utah three years after the death of the LDS church founder and prophet, Joseph Smith. Mary Corbet died 1 Sep 1847 at Winter Quarters, Nebraska Territory at the age of 81. She is buried at Cutler’s Park, Nebraska.

*http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Nauvoo

Three marriages have been found for Thomas Corbitt – to Sophronia Kelley (or Kelly) at Winter Quarters, Nebraska 13 May 1848; to Sarah Ann Brett in 1855 at Salt Lake City, Utah; and to Cecelia Brown in 1855 at Salt Lake City, Utah. So far, it appears that Thomas only had one child, a son named James Don Carlos Corbitt (1852-1898) whose mother was Sophronia Kelley.

From the Ullesthorpe, Leicestershire baptismal records, I have found an additional three children for James Corbet and Mary Nicholls, all of whom remained in Leicestershire:

William Corbet (1789-1874, m Elizabeth Everton)
Kitty Corbet (1791-?, m John Golding)
Charlotte Corbet (1796-1862, m Charles Varnam)

One of William & Elizabeth Corbet’s sons, George (1815-1881) was born in Claybrooke, Leicestershire. He emigrated to Canada and settled in East Whitby, Ontario. Spelling of George’s surname appears in documents as ‘Corbitt’. He died in East Whitby, Ontario 22 May 1881. What are the odds that a FOURTH Leicestershire-born Corbet man would settle in the same location as my 3x great grandfather, John Corbet?

Based on all of this information, I am now fairly certain that John, James and Thomas Corbet/Corbitt were brothers, all born in Ullesthorpe, Leicestershire, England and that I may well have finally answered my own question!

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