What do we really know about William Secord, the Loyalist who came from New York to what is now New Brunswick in 1783?
A birth or baptism record would clear up quite a number of questions about William, but it appears that if the record has survived it has not come to light.
1) His name - Some people have him listed as William Henry Secord. I have never seen any evidence to suggest that his middle name was Henry, or indeed that he had any middle name at all. However, it seems that his son William had the middle name Henry, though it did not appear in his baptism record. (He was baptized as William Secord on April 16, 1775 in the First and Second Presbyterian Church in New York City, according to the LDS Church's International Genealogical Index, with this record based on an extracted birth or christening record for the locality listed.) The son William was buried in St. Paul's Anglican Church Cemetery in Hampton, NB, the records of which are online at http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nbkings/Hamp/ki-d05.html. Here is the record involving the younger William:
77: Thomas s/o the late Wm. Henry & Polly Secord d. 10 Jan 1841 ae 36 yrs
78: Wm. Henry Secord d. 27 Apr 1826 ae 51 yrs
h/w Polly d. 31 Jan 1851 ae 79 yrs
It may be that the elder William did indeed have the middle name Henry, but if so it does not seem to have survived in any records. It also may be that because the younger William had that middle name, it was assumed that his father did as well. The elder William's last name is sometimes given as Seacord but it appears that he spelled it Secord himself. See William Secord signatures.
2) His date of birth - The records online for him generally list his birth year as either 1745 or 1758. The latter date is likely an assumption based on when his wife was born. She was baptized in New York City in 1775 at the age of 17, and her year of birth is commonly given as 1758. (See Ruth (Hunt) Secord for more information.) The former date for William is probably an assumption based on a gap in the children of the family to which he is popularly assumed to belong. I have only seen one record that gives us a hint of his age, and that is contained in his Loyalist claim. He stated there that he lived in Orange County, New York and that he "In the year 1766 went to Newboro." That appears to be Newburgh, NY. In Newboro, he "Sowed some grain there." However, Kirk Moulton, whose wife descends from William Secord, has made the convincing case that anything that happened in 1766 was immaterial to a Loyalist claim, and that it must actually have been 1776. I have checked the hand-written statement that contains the date and it does definitely say 1766. However, William gave the date that he went to Newboro to an official who was writing down the details for Loyalist claims, and so the number 1766 was recorded by that official and was not written by William himself. It would be fairly easy for someone to record 1766 for 1776 in error. When you look at the wording of the statement containing that date, 1776 does make more sense to the context than 1766 does: "In the year 1766 went to Newboro', sowed some Grain there, left it, came down to New York..." If he went to Newboro in 1776 and sowed some grain the next spring and left it behind, that would be a better fit with his statement that he went down to New York and joined the British in April 1777.
Assuming that the year 1776 is correct, then that would suggest a year of birth of perhaps 1758 at the latest, making him at least 18 at that point. He and his wife, Ruth Hunt, had their first known child in early 1775 so likely married about 1774. Assuming he was at least 18 at the time of his marriage, that moves the year of birth back to no later than 1756, which fits well with Ruth who was born about 1758. Kirk Moulton has made the point that William may not have been 21 in 1775 when male residents of Orange County were asked to sign the Pledge of Association which rejected the British Government in favour of the Provincial Government in New York. William does not appear among those who signed it or those who refused to sign it. That would suggest a year of birth of no earlier than 1754. He is said to have died in 1843 or 1844 (see below), which would make him about 89 or 90 if he had been born in 1754. My guess is that he was born between about 1754 and 1756.
3) His place of birth - William's Loyalist claim documents mention where he came from in several places:
"formely of New york goverment from oringe Countey"
"formerly of Keakett in Oringe County and Province of New York"
"He lived in Orange County."
See http://www.carensecord.ca/locations/NewBrunswick/Secord/WmSecordLoyalistClaimBackground.html for my reasons for concluding that Keakett was actually Kakiat in present-day Rockland County, NY. Rockland County was set off from Orange County in 1798. It appears that Kakiat is now New Hempstead. None of these statements indicate that William was actually born there, but it does seem that he considered Kakiat his home. There are records that tie other Secords/Secors to Kakiat.
4) His parents - The sites that list William's parents are nearly unanimous in stating that they are Jacques/James Secord and his wife Jeanne/Jane Bonnett, with Jacques the son of Daniel Sicard who was the son of Ambroise Sicard. I have not been able to find any evidence to back that up. David A. Avery, in a book called The Ancestors and Descendants of John Gunton and Eliza Jarvis (published by Mika Publishing in 1982), made the case that William and Elias (see below, under William's siblings) were the sons of this couple. He based it on the following observations:
1) According to his lists of the children for William and Elias, both named their second known son James. He noted that there were three possible Jacques/James candidates for whom they might have been named. My comments: Elias probably did name an early son James, but William's son James was apparently born about 1795 and was likely his fourth son.
2) He points out that the use of the spelling "Seacord" appears in the sons of James/Jacques who was the son of Daniel who was the son of Ambroise. My comments: After William and Elias moved to what is now New Brunswick, we do see the spelling "Seacord" for them occasionally in the records, and never "Secor". Most of the time, though, it's just Secord, and that is how both men signed their names. (See William Secord signatures and Elias Secord signatures.) Some of their descendants appear in the records with the surname Seacord.
3) He states that the Loyalist trait in the Secord family predominates among Daniel's descendants.
Given the popularly assumed dates of birth of William (1745) and Elias (1748), David Avery concludes that they could be among the younger sons of James/Jacques who was the son of Daniel who was the son of Ambroise. This is quite a reasonable assumption based on the evidence he had. I believe that this is the source of the information on the parentage of William and Elias that now appears in numerous places on the Internet.
However, now that I have looked further into what is known about these men and William in particular, I think there is evidence to conclude that this assumption is not correct, for William at least. David Avery himself notes that the records of the Secord family are incomplete, which is certainly the case, and as such there might well be another family in which William and/or Elias would fit. He also notes that it was the younger sons of James/Jacques, son of Jacques (not Daniel) who was son of Ambroise, whose families were associated with Orange and Rockland Counties, and not the family of James/Jacques and Jeanne/Jane (Bonnett) Secord.
One piece of evidence that suggests that David Avery's assumption is incorrect is found in William's Loyalist claim documents, as above. He said that he went within the British lines in 1777. Included in his losses were, "Two Horses, one at his Fathers, taken by one Sicker after Claimant went within the Lines." That seems to be pretty solid evidence that William's father was alive in 1777. James/Jacques who was the son of Daniel apparently died on November 8, 1773. I have had it suggested to me that one could call his father's place "his Fathers" even after his father had died, but it seems to me that four years after the death of a man, if his property hadn't been sold, then his place would be in the hands of a relative (likely male), in which case William would have called it "his Brothers" or equivalent.
5) His siblings - It seems that everyone is in agreement that William Secord had a brother named Elias Secord who also came to what is now New Brunswick. (Then of course they are both said to have as brothers and sisters the children of Jacques/James and Jeanne/Jane (Bonnett) Secord. As noted above, I don't think think that William, at least, belonged to that family.) So were William and Elias themselves brothers? There is no documentary evidence to support that, as far as I can see. It might have been passed down in the family that they were brothers, or it might just be an assumption based on the fact that they appear together in their early years in what is now New Brunswick. There is DNA evidence (see below) that suggests the possibility that Elias and William may not have had the same father.
6) His wife - There is evidence that William's wife's name was Ruth Hunt, from the baptism record of her son William Secord from the registers of the First and Second Presbyterian Church of New York City on April 16, 1775, as above. On the same day, William and Ruth Secord's son William was baptized. (See Ruth (Hunt) Secord for more information.)
7) His marriage - I haven't found a marriage record for William and Ruth. Presumably they were married in New York. It was likely about 1774 as their first known child, William, was born on February 18, 1775. As noted above, Ruth was 17 in April of 1775 when she and her son William were baptized, so it seems unlikely that she was married much before 1774.
7) His children - See William Secord's children for more information. Here is a list, in approximate birth order, with estimated birthdates:
1) William Secord the younger - born Feb. 18, 1775
2) Rachel Secord - born about 1776-1777
3) Anne Secord - born about 1778-1781
4) Sarah Secord - born about 1782-1783
5) Elizabeth Secord - born about 1782-1783
6) Olive/Olivet Secord - born about 1786
7) Gilead Secord - born about 1787-1788
8) Elijah Secord - born about 1790
9) Susan Secord - born about 1792-1795
10) James Secord - born about 1795-1796
11) Mary Secord - born probably 1798
12) Carmel Secord - born about 1803
8) His occupation - One page of William's Loyalist claim documents at http://www.carensecord.ca/locations/NewBrunswick/Secord/WmSecordLoyalistClaim3.html starts off with, "Know all Men By These Presents That We William and Ellias Secord Black Smith..." Which one was a blacksmith, or were both? The book Early Loyalist Saint John by D. G. Bell (1983, New Ireland Press) indicates that Elias came to what is now New Brunswick on the ship Bridgewater, for which a passenger list has survived. That list gives Elias's occupation as sawyer. It seems likely that both men were principally occupied as farmers in New Brunswick.
9) His military service - It appears to me that William did not serve in any Loyalist regiment during the Revolutionary War. He stated in his Loyalist claim that he worked in the shipyards (presumably in New York City) after going within the British lines in 1777, and this is likely what he did throughout the war. (See http://www.carensecord.ca/locations/NewBrunswick/Secord/WmSecordLoyalistClaim2.html.) He was commissioned as a lieutenant in a Loyalist militia unit on June 1, 1783, shortly before leaving New York. However, these units were created for administrative purposes rather than for military service. See http://www.carensecord.ca/locations/NewBrunswick/Secord/WandESecordPassagetoNB.html for more information.
10) His religion - As noted above, the baptism records for his wife and their son William appear in the registers of the First and Second Presbyterian Church of New York City. It appears that his wife Ruth, at least, and likely William too, attended Trinity Anglican Church in Kingston, Kings County, NB, based on her burial record as below.
11) His date of death and place of burial - He is said to have died in 1843 or 1844, but so far I have not been able to find any documentary evidence of this. His will was dated Oct 21, 1843. The will does indicate that he was elderly: "I William Secord late of the Parish of Greenwich now residen in Springfield being come to a Grate lengh of days..." Ruth, according to the burial records of Trinity Anglican Church (from 1816-1870, as found on microfilm F-1011 of the Provincial Archives of NB), was buried in the cemetery at Trinity Church on July 12, 1837. The same records give her age at the time of her death as 79, which fits with a year of birth of about 1758. Presumably William was buried in the same cemetery, but it appears that there are no stones for them.
12) DNA evidence - See Secord/Secor/Seacord Surname DNA for more information. We have y-chromosome test results for five men named Secord, Secor or Seacord. Four of them match, except for one mutation, and this is consistent with their paper trails back along the straight male line to Ambroise Sicard, the Huguenot immigrant to New York in the 1680s. One of these four is a descendant from Elias, so that is also consistent with Elias being a descendant of Ambroise along the male line as well. However, the fifth man descends from William and he does not match the others. Clearly he does not descend from Ambroise along the male line; there has been a break somewhere between Ambroise and him. My assumption is that the break happened at William, and that William was perhaps adopted and ended up with the Secord surname but not the Secord y chromosome to go with it. However, until and unless I can find other William descendants to test, I can't confirm that.
13) Where he lived - As noted above, I think that William came from Kakiat, Orange County, New York, which is now New Hempstead, Rockland County, New York, though I don't know if he was actually born there. His Loyalist claim documents state that he moved to Newboro, presumably Newburgh, New York, in 1766 but as noted above that was likely actually 1776. Newburgh is about 30 miles north of New Hempstead, and is located at the north edge of Orange County. We also have William's statement that he joined the British in April 1777, and worked in the shipyards, likely in New York City. He probably stayed there until he left for what is now Saint John, New Brunswick in July 1783. The information at http://www.carensecord.ca/locations/NewBrunswick/Secord/WandESecordPassagetoNB.html indicates that his family was present in Saint John for a muster in May 1784 but not in June 1784, so it seems likely that he left the Saint John area about that time. William says that he went to Maugerville, about 70 miles north of Saint John and not far from Fredericton, but it's not clear when that happened. There is a land petition dated January 1785 that involves William and a group of others asking for land on Long Island in Kings County. This petition indicates that the men had already built houses, so it seems likely that they had been there from the summer before. William's Loyalist claim also indicates that he was "down once". Presumably that meant a trip back down to Saint John at some point. There is also a petition involving just William that was dated July 1786 in Saint John, so that was likely his trip back to Saint John. We know from his will that he was "late of the Parish of Greenwich now residen in Springfield". I think that he lived in Kings County, New Brunswick from about 1784 to his death.
14) His known associates in New York - William noted in his Loyalist claim documents, as above, that he had left a horse with "Cornelius Akers" when he went within the British lines in New York. He also stated that some livestock of his had been taken by one "Sicker" of the militia after William joined the British, and that the horse with "Cornelius Akers" had been taken by a Smith.
15) His known early associates in New Brunswick - William petitioned for land with the following men in 1785:
16) Other Secords/Secors/Seacords with ties to the Kakiat, NY area -
A second John Secor
17) What William's descendants thought their origins were - Looking at the 1871 census, I can see Secord males who were sons, grandsons, and great-grandsons of William and Elias, and their answers to the census category "Origin" varied from U.S. to English, French and even Dutch.