The Harrison family were Catholic Recusants which meant that they resisted conversion to the Church of England when it was created by Henry VIII in 1534. They recused themselves from participating in the new Church of England and so were called "recusants". The area of North Yorkshire where they lived was well known for Catholic recusancy and many families were persecuted for continuing to practice the Catholic faith. However it was not because of this that they left and emigrated to Canada. Catholics were able to worship openly from 1790, and the Catholic Relief Act of 1829 repealed the last restrictions. A Catholic Chapel was built in Egton Bridge in 1798. So it was not religious persecution that drove the Harrisons to Canada, they emigrated for economic reasons. Looking for a better life for their children in Canada.
Roman Catholic Chapel, Egton Bridge, North Yorkshire, built 1798. Now St. Hedda's Roman Catholic School
© Michael Harrison 2009
For further information on Catholic recusancy in this area of North Yorkshire and the many families that remained Catholic have a look at Leslie O'Connor's manuscript Hearts of Oak. Mr. O'Connor researched and wrote the manuscript in the 1950s and 1960s. It was an incredible amount of research that he undertook before the internet made this research much easier. There is a chapter on the Harrison family entitled the Harrison Saga.