The Abel Sands Mystery: A Case of Bastardy (Part Two)
If you are reading this blog post, this means (hopefully) that you have been attentively following the Abel Sands Mystery! If you have yet to read part one of “The Abel Sands Mystery: A Case of Bastardy,” please refer to our previous blog post.
As mentioned, I conducted extensive research on both Ann Mickens and Abel Sands. While I was most interested in Ann Mickens’s background, it is unsurprising that, due to the fact she was a woman, I was unable to find any information about her in both The Loyalist Collection and the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick website. Because this was nineteenth century Saint John, Ann Mickens would have been largely recorded under her husband’s name (i.e. Mrs. Joe Mickens). Unfortunately, Ann’s husband’s name was not mentioned in these various court appearances. Moreover, the spelling of Ann’s last name varies in the recordings—making it even more difficult to find her husband:
I choose to refer to Ann as “Ann Mickens” because this name variation appears more frequently than the others mentioned. However, the combination of Ann’s gender, her surname discrepency, and the unavailability of her husband’s first name made it practically impossible for me to delve any further into her background.
So, with this in mind, I then turned to Abel Sands. Unfortunately, because of the sharing of first names amongst family members, there were at least two Abel Sands within the family at the time of these court proceedings. The first, Abel Sands Sr. (1758-1821), was married to Eliza Brooks Sands (1767-1825) and had several children. Abel Sands Sr. resided in New York, though, and because his death occurred in 1821, it would have been impossible for him to appear in court in 1826 to be determined the father of a bastard child. Some of his children, however, did reside in Saint John along with his two brothers: Edward Sands and Richard Sands. Edward Sands served the Crown as a military officer and retired to New Brunswick as the war ended. He settled in Saint John and was a major in the militia, an Alderman of the city, and a Coroner. Richard Sands was a Saint John merchant with no children of his own, and he therefore caused some of Abel’s children to migrate to Saint John.
One of these children was also named Abel. Abel Sands Jr. (1802-1842) was a merchant in Saint John who married and had four children with Jane Ratalie/Rapalje Sands (Ruggles) (b. 1812)—eldest daughter of the prominent Timothy Ruggles Esquire of Nova Scotia. Because Abel Sands Jr. was born in 1802, this would mean that, if he were the father of the bastard child, he would have been 14 at the first court appearance in 1816. This is an improbable (but not impossible) scenario, as this would mean he would have been no older than 13 when Ann Mickens became pregnant.
These discoveries during my research were incredibly frustrating, and unless Abel Sands Jr. appeared in court pretending to be Abel Sands Sr. after his death (you never know!), it’s relatively unlikely that either of these Abels were involved in Ann Mickens’s case. Based on all of my findings, my educated guess is that there is a third, generally undocumented Abel Sands who fathered Ann Mickens’s child. Again, because family names were so generously shared, this hypothetical Abel could have been a cousin to either Abel Sands Sr. (1758-1821) or Abel Sands Jr. (1802-1842).
Sadly, not all research is fruitful; roadblocks are likely to be encountered, and sometimes one is left without the answers that they originally sought. I apologize for not being able to solve the mystery as originally planned. Nonetheless, I hope that I have enticed you to delve into The Loyalist Collection and conduct your own research. Who knows… you may find your own interesting case to explore!
Bethany Langmaid is a student assistant for the Microforms Unit at the Harriet Irving Library. She is entering her fourth year of her Bachelor of Arts degree at UNBF in the English Honours Programme.
SUBJECTS: Saint John, New Brunswick, loyalist, law, crime, law enforcement, genealogy, bastardy, research skills