Family Network of Capt. Colin Robertson Sinclair

Under Construction, using the Sinclair genealogy compiled by Garry Hnatowich (1997) as a starting point. Please note: as is the case with all information posted this site, historical ‘facts’ are mutable because only reflecting my best understanding at a moment in time. They are therefore subject to change as more defensible propositions are found. Additional information, suggestions, and corrections are welcome.

Family of Origin, parents’ generation:

Paternal Aunt: SINCLAIR, Ann.

Paternal Aunt: SINCLAIR, Mary.

Paternal Uncle: SINCLAIR, Thomas.

— Link to pdf, “H.B.C. Pioneers: William Sinclair (1766-1818),” The Beaver 7, no. 1 (June 1927): 18-20, a biography of William Sinclair I, which includes an excerpt from Isaac Cowie’s The Company of Adventurers, and a photograph of William’s grave site at York Factory:

— Link to pdf, S.J.C. Cumming, “HBC Posts, Keewatin District: No. 11 — Oxford House,” The Beaver 9 no. 1 (June 1929): 225, a description of the post established by William in 1798:

  • Mother: HOLDEN/ HALDANE, Margaret Nahoway/ Nahovway/ Nehoway. Birth date unknown. Reputed by her grandchildren to be the daughter of George HOLDEN and a Cree woman of York Factory (George may have been related to John HALDANE, initially a wintering partner with the Northwest Company, later a HBC Chief Factor). Baptized 1 February 1825, St. John’s Cathedral, Kildonan.

[For notes on problematic aspects of various assertions about Nahoway’s paternity — particularly those of a later generation of descendants that allege a connection to Moses Norton see  In Search of Nahoway: Conflicting Family Traditions, this site]

— spouse, 2nd marriage, FORBES, John: Nahoway’s descendant Donna G. SUTHERLAND, maintains that Nahoway remarried — as does a remark appearing in Walter Jackson McCrae, Pioneers and Prominent People in Manitoba (1925). See Donna G. Sutherland, Nahoway: a distant voice (Petersfield, MB: White Buffalo Books, 2008).

Siblings with spouses and links to family pages listing children and descendants (numbered by generation):

  • 1. SINCLAIR, William [II], aka ‘Credo.’ Hudson’s Bay Company Chief Factor. Born “in the Service” c. 1798/99; married 21 June 1823, Norway House; died 12 October 1868 at Brockville, Ontario.

— spouse possibly McKAY, Mary. Daughter of William McKAY and Josette LATOUR HALDANE. Stanley Hulme notes: “Josette is identified in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Volume VI, page 465. According to this reference she married William [McKay], according to the customs of the country, sometime between 1796 and 1807. After William retired she became the ‘country wife’ of John Haldane.”

– or – WADIN-McKAY, Mary. Possibly born c. 1804 to Alexander McKAY and Marguerite WADIN who later married Dr. John McLoughlin; through her mother Marguerite, Mary would have been granddaughter of Jean-Etienne Wadin/ Wadins/ Waden/ Wadens/ Vuadens and a First Nations woman; bapt. 21 June 1823; died 1893.

Sylvia Van Kirk, “Many Tender Ties”: Women in Fur Trade Society, 1670-1870 (University of Oklahoma Press, 1983), 277 n. 16, Google Books,, posits “Although absolute proof is lacking, all evidence points to … Mary McKay, a daughter of Alexander McKay and Marguerite Wadin McKay McLoughlin,” having been the country wife of Donald McKenzie [as of 1812]. They apparently had 3 or 4 children together. Mary was “married off to William Sinclair, Jr.”  when McKenzie retired — taking their children with him. McKenzie married again on 18 August 1825 to Adelgonde Droz, a Swiss migrant to Red River, whom he had hired as governess to the children — and who bore him thirteen additional offspring [see “Exploring a Relationship,”].

children & descendants:

  • 1. SINCLAIR, Phoebe. Born c. 1792/ 1798; married 9 September 1820; Baptized 25 August 1822, St. John’s Cathedral, Kildonan; died 1 July1848. Roy St. George-Stubbs implies Phoebe was born c.1804, bore 5 children, and that she was 16 years old when she married while her husband was 43. It seems to me that the birth date of 1804 is unlikely. My argument in favour of an earlier date is as follows:

Phoebe’s father, William Sinclair [I] was in Scotland by August 1790, arriving back in Rupert’s land in August 1792. Although he travelled inland in 1792, I suspect he married Nahoway c.1796-98 on the basis of a statement in a biography written for the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives that notes that William [I] travelled to York Factory on August 1, 1797, then moved on to Split Lake House. He did not remain there, but his whereabouts were not noted until he arrived back at York Factory via the Nelson River Settlements on 21 June, 1798. The list of servants in Hudson Bay at this time described William as “a good Trader, a Steady Man, and belov’d by the Natives.” To my way of thinking, the status “belov’d,” and the suggestion that he had spent time at the Nelson River hunters’ camps signals that he had married into a local family.

According to a handwritten notation on the folder containing a copy of the will of William Sinclair [I] that was obtained from Sheriff Colin Inkster c.1912, “Phoebe married Dr. Bunn, Liveryman, City of London at 14 years of age, husband over 80 [sic. likely meant to read 30].” A daughter of the couple is said to have died 8 March 1816, although William Sinclair [I]’s will does not mention the marriage of Phoebe to Bunn as of 1818, and, as the daughter who died is identified as the Bunn’s ‘youngest’, the girl was likely one of Phoebe’s stepchildren — a daughter of Thomas Bunn’s first wife, Sarah McNab. According to William Sinclair [I]’s will, his eldest son, William Sinclair [II], was not yet 21 in 1818 which places the latter’s birth sometime around 1798. I doubt that much of a gap would have existed between his birth date and Phoebe’s. By 25 February 1819 she was “Mrs. Bunn.” I suspect, therefore, that she was born about 1799 or 1800, was about 33 years younger than her husband, and may have married at age 14-16, as early as 1812-1816, but perhaps did not marry until 1818, in which case she would not appear to have had any children of her own.

— spouse: BUNN, Thomas. Baptized 14 September 1765; died 1853.

children & descendants:

  • 1. SINCLAIR, Catherine. Bapt. 27 October 1824; married by Rev. David T. Jones 27 October 1824; died 1881.

— sp. COOK, Joseph. Born c. 1788/92 Rupert’s Land; died 23 February 1848; buried at the ‘Indian Church’ Red River Settlement.

children & descendants:

  • 1. SINCLAIR, Jane. Born c.1801 in Rupert’s Land; marriage c.1816, sanctioned by clergy 25 August 1822; reported by family genealogist Garry Hnatowich to have died 1861. However, Roland William Saint-Clair, The Saint-Clairs of the Isles: Being a History of the Sea-Kings of Orkney and Their Scottish Successors of the Surname of Sinclair Arranged and Annotated By Roland William Saint-Clair (Auckland, New Zealand, 1898), p. 8, mentions “Jean Sinclair,” born in Hudson’s Bay, who married James Kirkness and had two sons and a daughter. Saint-Clair reports that Jean died at the residence of “Mrs. Capt. Slater, of Liverpool,” c.1894.

— sp.  KIRKNESS, James. Born c. 1774; HBC trader; died 6 November 1843 at Harray, Orkney. A transcript of the 1841 Census, Sandwick, Orkney (accessed 25 September 2004), lists the family of James and Jane/ Jean Kirkness residing at no. 113 “Kirkness.” According to The Library at Kirkwall, Records of the Harry Churchyard, Old Portion, p. 4, grave 19, James’ burial stone reads: “Erected by Jane Sinclair in memory of her beloved husband James Kirkness, who departed this life Nov. 6, 1843 – 69 years…”

children & descendants:

  • 1. SINCLAIR, Ann ‘Nancy’. Born c.1796  or post 1800. I believe a 19th century birthdate is more likely: based on Wm. Sinclair I’s will, Ann appears to be one of the younger daughters. Along with Mary, she is mentioned separately from the other daughters and further distinguished from them by the language used to describe the size and kind of her bequest. Ann’s husband, John Spencer, is not mentioned – nor are children. In fact it appears she was at that time, like Mary, ‘without issue’ and thought perhaps capable of dying without issue. William II was not yet 21 in 1818 which places his date of birth much closer to 1800 and it appears most of his siblings were younger than he. With three sisters born before Ann, it seems most likely she was born after 1800; died c. 1861-1864 in Goderich ON.

— sp. SPENCER, John Hodges. Born 7 Apr. 1790, England; bapt. 16 Nov. 1790 St. Peter’s, Cornhill; married after William Sinclair I’s death in 1818, but from Healy, Women of Red River (1923), p. 92, it appears he married before 1822. See also “Letter to Geo. Moffat, Montreal, 1818″ which notes “Spencer embarks in Macleods canoes, this is the modest unassuming young man. Novelists when nonplussed for a sentiment, generally extricate themselves by saying this or that is much more easily conceived than expressed. So that Mr. [Spencer] has left Mamlle. [Ann Sinclair] in a situation more easily conceived than expressed. She goes with her mother to Red River, where it is supposed the young sheriff will make his appearance” ; Chief Trader HBC at York Factory in 1823; died 1870 St Catherine’s ON.

children & descendants:

  • 1. SINCLAIR, Mary. Born 15 December 1804 at Oxford House; married 20 January 1826; died 29 January 1892, at Seven Oaks House.

— sp. INKSTER, John ‘Orkney Johnny’. Born c.1798/99 in Orkney, he was likely the son of John or Henry Inkster (brothers of James Inkster I) but possibly was the son of James Inkster II and Molly NICHOLSON who James Inkster II left behind in the Orkneys; probably a cousin of James Inkster born 1826, who married Elizabeth Sutherland born 1830, and whose father was an Inkster from the Orkneys in 1815; died 30 Jun. 1874.

children & descendants:

  • 1. SINCLAIR, John. Some histories state that John died as a child. Nevertheless, according to family lore (passed on by Sheriff Colin Inkster and recorded by Cecil S. Walley c. 1912), John Sinclair grew to adulthood, married, then finally left Red River, apparently to go ‘with the Mormons to Salt Lake [Utah].’

This family story is supported by an article entitled “Error is Manifold,” printed in the Nor’-Wester (14 February 1860), which indicated Mormons had visited the settlement sometime previous (after 1846 and the advent of the Mormon Trail). Although the article describes the visit as “a failure” in attracting many converts, it is possible that John and family did in fact accept the “spirit-rapping” message at that time.

A Peter Sinclair (perhaps related?) is listed among “about 640 names” of participants in the ‘Black Hawk War’ of 1865- 1872 in Utah that have been placed online — and apparently there are at least as many that are not posted. [see also Peter Gottfredson, History of Indian Depredations in Utah (1919), 206. Incidentally, see also John Sinclair, letter, “Sufferings of the California Emigrants,” dated 28 January 1847 about the Donner Party and attributed to an alcalde (magistrate, 1846-1849) of the Sacramento district.]

If the Sinclair family was not wiped out during conflict — or had not moved on to California during the gold rush [a John Sinclair headed a mine staffed by ‘Indians’ at the North Fork. Had Capt. Colin Sinclair encountered him? and passed information about him on to Sheriff Colin Inkster?] — then there is a possibility that descendants of John Sinclair were among the Mormons from Utah that migrated to Alberta and began a settlement in 1887 on “disputed land” that Canada had removed from the Blood Reserve. [see Hugh A. Dempsey, “Treaty Research Report – Treaty Seven,”]

— sp. DELORME, [Eliza?].

2. SINCLAIR, [John? Borne 1829?]

2. SINCLAIR, [Margaret? Born 1829?]

  • 1. SINCLAIR, James. Born c.1805-6 [or 1811?]; died 1856. there is a Mount Sinclair [named officially by the Geographic Board of Canada on 5 February 1924], Sinclair Canyon [named by the Geographic Board on 5 March 1953; earlier known as Red Rock Gorge], Pass, and Creek [both named by the Geographic Board of Canada in 1915], all at Radium Hot Springs, south of Golden (near Lake Louise) in the Rocky Mountains.

— sp. BIRD, Elizabeth. Born 1811; died 1845.

— sp. CAMPBELL, Mary. Born 1826.

children & descendants of James Sinclair, Elizabeth Bird, and Mary Campbell:

  • 1. SINCLAIR, Thomas. Born c.1810; died 1870.

— sp. CUMMINGS, Hannah. Born 1812; died 1846.

— sp. PRUDEN, Caroline. Born 1830; died 1908.

children & descendants of Thomas Sinclair, Hannah Cummings, and Caroline Pruden:


17 Responses to Family Network of Capt. Colin Robertson Sinclair

  1. linda says:

    Colin mckay inkster passed away july 29 2010 in alberta his great grand father was colin inkster sherriff of winnipeg manitoba

  2. David Courchane says:

    I am a descendent of Francis Ermatinger and Mary Three Dresses and would like to exchange information. Thanks

  3. Rod says:

    For Nahoway, it makes no sense for her to have been John Haldane’s daughter, having been born about the same year he was (for Haldane’s est. dob, see e.g., his DCB entry). Nahoway was certainly raised by the York Fort “homeguard”, but the suggestion that she was a daughter of Moses Norton is at least plausible (although without evidence) .
    Her son William II Sinclair was born in late 1794 or early 1795. The evidence for that is an 1806-1807 request from his father to the honourable committee: “requests his son now 12 years of age may enter service” (HBCA Reel 1M678 B.239/d/133). According to my notes, the precise date of the request is not indicated, but normally such a request would have been made in June or July (in this case, of 1807), just upon, or just before, ship’s arrival. The request would have been received in London in the fall of 1807, and approval sent back to York in 1808. William II Sinclair was on the payroll starting in 1808, and there are numerous ways to confirm that. He certainly was not just ten years old in 1808.
    As for Phoebe, I think she was born before William II, say early 1794. It’s a shame we don’t seem to have an account of the death of Thomas Bunn’s previous wife, Sarah McNab. At a guess, Sarah McNab died in 1808, shortly after giving birth to Sarah Bunn, leaving Thomas Bunn in need of a mother for his children by Sarah. So Phoebe could well have been just 14 when she married Bunn. To state that Sarah was married in a later year, one must negate the scrip affidavit of Frances Bunn:

    July 4, 1875 Made scrip affidavit at St. Clements: I, Frances Harriott, St. Clement, Lisgar, widow of John Edward Harriott, say: I am a Half breed head of a family resident in St. Clement, but resided with my nephew Thomas Bunn. I was born 1810, York Factory. Thomas Bunn (English) was my father; Phoebe Sinclair, halfbreed, was my mother. FRANCES HARRIOTT; 4 July 1875; English; JOHN EDWARD HARRIOT; WILLIAM TAYLOR farmer.

    I don’t see any need to do that.

  4. Rod says:

    erratum – to state that Phoebe was married in a later year

  5. Heather says:

    Are you aware of the book written by Donna Sutherland “Nahoway” , she has done a lot of research.

  6. ken martel says:

    Is there a solid genealogical line between William the elder and the first Sinclair of Roslyn?

  7. Tannis says:

    I am a grand daughter to Grace Clifford (Favel) I have a genealogy that has a lot of ties to these questions.

  8. Ken Holden says:

    I am interested in comparing notes on any information you have on George Holden. I am a researcher with family connections to the Holden, Hoskins, Vandal, Sinclair, Dawson, Shuttleworth, Mackenzie, Churchill, Beresford and Middleton family lines.

  9. ken martel says:

    I am a direct descendant of William the first of the HBC in Canada. My grand mother Catherine was the daughter of James Nicole Sinclair. Recently there was a post that one of James Sinclair the explorer’s descendants has had their DNA tested. Does anyone know what the family tree BEFORE William (I) of HBC looks like. How far can one go back on that line in Scotland?

    • Lorn Sinclair says:

      Hi Ken. I have a list of Sinclairs from William to Thomas in 1540 in Orkneys if you are interested. Also I am the retired Secretary of the Clan Sinclair of Canada and one of our members got a DNA sample from one of William’s descendants in Canada. They are trying to prove that William is descended from the Earls of Orkney and the Earls of Caithness.

      Lorn Sinclair

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