Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Shakespeare Connection

Once upon a time--1609 to be precise--an adventurous young man set out from England on a trans-Atlantic voyage intended to take him to Jamestown in the New World. Little did he realize that his journey would lead to mutiny and the threat of execution, and inspire one of history's greatest literary minds.

My ancestor Stephen Hopkins, by most current accounts, was born about 1578, probably in Hampshire, England. By 1609, he was married with three children: Elizabeth, Constance and Giles. His family situation did not deter him from making the long voyage to America, specifically Jamestown in the Virginia Colony.

The wreck of the Sea Venture, as
depicted on Bermuda's coat of arms
At least, Jamestown was the intended destination. The ship Sea Venture encountered a storm that drove it off course toward Bermuda, where it ran aground. With their ship wrecked, the crew was stranded on the "Isle of Devils" for 10 months, subsisting on wild game. Six months into the ordeal, Hopkins declared the Virginia Governor held no power over a wrecked ship and earned a charge of mutiny for inciting others. He was tried and sentenced to death for the affront. Only by pleading on behalf of the family he left behind was he able to have the sentence overturned.

Hopkins and the others did eventually reach Jamestown after building a small ship from the wreckage. He remained for several years before returning to England. His wife Mary, unfortunately, had died during his absence. He remarried (to Elizabeth Fisher) in 1618 and had seven more children. The second child, a son named Oceanus, was born aboard the Mayflower during Hopkins' next--and more auspicious--journey to America in 1620.

Image and signature
of Stephen Hopkins

I first read of Hopkins' adventures in the back of a massive book titled The Freeman Families of Nova Scotia. The last place I expected to encounter his story again was in a Renaissance Literature class at university several years later. We were studying William Shakespeare's The Tempest that semester. As I read through the introductory text to the play, I came to a passage regarding the wreck of the Sea Venture and the crew's mutiny. The incident, according to my textbook, was widely regarded as Shakespeare's inspiration for writing The Tempest in 1610.

I knew the story was familiar, but I couldn't make the connection right away. None of the mutineers were named. I had to dig through several books and files before I found the Freeman Families reference again. The two accounts did indeed match.

Discovering stories like this is the true reward of genealogy. And this is just part of Stephen Hopkins' story. His life in Plymouth, Massachusetts, continued a pattern of ups and downs that could probably fill a book. Did he live happily ever after? That's a story for another day.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Dobson Strays in Redcar, Yorkshire

I've come across a handful of old photos that I need help with. All feature Dobson men of Redcar and, though I have their names, I can only guess how they might fit into my family tree.
Dick Dobson (standing) and friend

First up is Dick Dobson (right). I don't know the date of the photo, but Dick is the one standing. The seated man is a complete unknown.

I can't say for certain, but, based on available information, he may be Richard Dobson, a long-time ironstone miner, born 1853 to George Dobson and Elizabeth Taylor and married to Angelina Bratt.

"Lucky Dick" Dobson (left) and Alan Picknett (right)
flank the catch of the day
Next is another Dick Dobson, a.k.a. Lucky Dick (left). He's the one with the beard. The other man is Alan Picknett. The original photo is in the Kirkleatham Museum and is dated circa 1920.

My best guess is that he's Richard Dobson (1864-1944), lifetime fisherman and son of John Dobson Sr. and Mary Jane Buckton.

Dick "Dicky Switch" Dobson (facing camera)

Third photo includes yet another Dick Dobson, a.k.a. Dicky Switch (right). This one's dated sometime in the 1930s. Dicky's the one facing the camera.

He may be the son of Richard Dobson and Angelina Bratt (above), but there's not enough information yet for a definite ID.

Frank "Tosha" Dobson with a
different sort of seaside catch
   And finally we have Frank "Tosha" Dobson, 1936-1980 (left).
   I know, he breaks the pattern we've set so far. (Maybe the
   cat's name is Dick.)

   I can't even begin to guess who his parents are at this point.

   If you can shed any light on the identities of any of these
   men, please drop me a line. Whether you confirm my
   guesses or set me straight, I want to hear from you.

Friday, September 23, 2011

By Any Other Name: The Sartorius/Shrider Connection

Recently, while searching on for clues to the origins of my ancestor Valentine Sartorius, I was surprised to see the surname Shrider and its variants among the search results (all the more intriguing since Shrider, like Sartorius, is part of the history of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia).

Valentine "Walter" Sartorius arrives in the United States in 1777 (according to "Hessian Troops in the American War for Independence: An Index According to Surname"). He serves as a private with the 60th Regiment - Royal Americans during the American Revolution and settles in Nova Scotia after the war. By October 1783, at which point he is in Halifax, Nova Scotia, awaiting his land grant, he is married to Elizabeth, daughter of Ludovic Jacob Brusch (also of the 60th Regiment), and has an unnamed daughter (see Sgt. Johann Henrich Reuter, Loyalist). Valentin dies about 1791, prior to the birth of his youngest child.

Brass button from a 60th Regiment uniform
The Shrider name in Guysborough County begins with George Shrider (alternatively spelled Schrader), whose origins are even more mysterious than Valentin's. According to the census records of his children, George is born either in Nova Scotia or the United States (two to one odds on the former). He dies 6 January 1866, age 77, in Halifax.

Further research reveals that Sartorius is the Latin form of Schneider (meaning "taylor") and its variants, including Shrider.

The names are connected, but are these two particular families? Or is it merely coincidence that they reside in the same area?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Update on Diggedon Surname

When I first posted about my ancestory Stephen Diggedon, I overlooked one vital clue. In early census records, some of his children claimed Irish heritage (although later they listed themselves as English).

According to Michelle Deedigan (posting on GenForum), other variations of the name include Deedigan, Deighidan or Deegidan (added to previously known variations Diggadon, Diggdon and Digdon, all sometimes ending in "en" rather than "on").

In the same message thread, Maureen Borwick adds the following variations: Deggidan, Digaden, Degidan, Degidon, Digodan, Digidan, Degiden and 0'Duigeadain (the original Gaelic spelling).

If you're researching any of these variations, please consider joining the Digdon mailing list at Rootsweb.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Postcard from Vogler's Cove

Back in August, I shared an old photo by Dobson & Co. Portraits of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, that I picked up in an antique shop.

I also bought an old postcard on the same day. The front of the card -- "Greetings from Vogler's Cove Canada" -- immediately caught my eye because I'm descended from the Vogler family (Johann Heinrich Vogler was a Prussian who came to Nova Scotia in 1752 as part of the Foreign Protestant migration).

The message on the back is addressed from Jas. Vogler (only adding to my interest) to Mr. Alex. Conrad, Halifax N.S., Victoria General Hospital (the latter scratched out and replaced with "Try Voglers Cove") and postmarked February 1913. There's also a February 13 1913 date stamp, probably placed there by someone in the hospital mail room.

The message reads as follows:

     Dear Sir:---
                      I am very glad to hear that you are
     getting along so well. Hope you will soon be able
     to come home. We miss you very much. All are
     well at home.
     Yours truly Jas. Vogler

There seem to be many James Voglers kicking around in 1913, so I don't know the identity of the sender or of the recipient. But the words suggest a possible family relationship ("We miss you very much").

As with other family mysteries, I'm hoping someone will read this and fill in the missing bits.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Sgt. Johann Henrich Reuter, Loyalist

Of all the resources I've mentioned in the past, your state/provincial and national archives have to be among the most vital. In addition to such genealogical staples as vital records and census returns, archives hold a wealth of information beyond dates and places. In some cases, you won't know what you're looking for until you find it. 

Case in point: while looking up my many ancestral surnames in the card catalogue at Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management several years ago, I saw a reference to an article about Johann Henrich Reuter, one of my Loyalist ancestors. A whole article? And the file also included correspondence between the author and one of the Archive's researchers. I couldn't believe my luck! 

While I waited for the records clerk to bring out the article from storage, I try to limit my expectations. After all, I might not learn anything new. The article might even be little more than a snippet. 

I wasn't disappointed, though I was initially frustrated that the article was written in German. I was able to get the letter translated in full and the article in part (pulling out the vital data), thanks to a German-Canadian who was willing to help a friend of a friend. 

Turned out the article revealed when and where Johann Henrich was born (19 June 1754 in Hesselbach) and the names of his parents (Valentin and Elisabeth), brother (Jacob), first born son (Jacob), father-in-law (Jacob Brusch), and sister-in-law's husband (Valentine Sartorius). 

The jewel of this collection was the letter that Johann Henrich wrote to his family in Germany, preserved for generations by his brother's descendants (author Ulrich Weiss being one of them) and transcribed in full as part of the article. 

The translated version is reproduced here.

My heartily loved brothers and sisters, 

My brother duty and what I owe you is to write a letter even I have already sent you different letters but I never got any answers from you. That's the reason I want to let you know Thank God I'm healthy and I hope the same from you. 

Dear Brothers, sisters and friends—I'm now a free man and free from my duty as soldier after eight years and I have in mind here to stay here in this country because to me as a Sergeant I was promised 200 morgen [150 acres] and one year supplies and house furnishings which makes me able to work on the land. There is nobody on the land but I find the land is just as good as Germany. 

Dear Brothers and sisters and friends—I am married and for that reason I hope you will forgive me for I am staying here in this country. It would be too much to write you everything from me. But the courier of this letter was at the same regiment as I was and he promised me with heart and mouth that he will deliver the letter and tell you everything that happened to me over here. 

Dear brothers and sisters and friends—I hope you are satisfied with the letter and I am sure that you be satisfied with all that the man has to tell you. 

Now I beg you to give my best regards to all my friends and people I know and I wish for you my dear brothers and sisters and some of my friends would be here because we would be able to live off the land. But I think it will be impossible. I beg you my brothers and sisters and friends to write me a few lines. The reason is that we want to let you know what you have to do. 

For now I hope you all live well and I and my wife ask God that you always will be safe up to the death. 

True brother and brother-in-law
Johann Henrich Reuter 

From my comrades who stayed here with me the courier will tell you all about them. 

The wife I have is the oldest daughter of Jacob Brusch [or Busch] of Eberbach and we have a son we named Jacob after his grandfather. But he died and I have since then a daughter which is still alive and I hope we have a lot of good things from her. The other daughter [of Jacob Brusch] is married to valentine Sartorius and has a daughter too which is still alive.

Button from a 60th Regiment uniform
NOTE: Johann Henrich Reuter, Jacob Brusch and Valentine Sartorius all settled in Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, after serving the British cause during the American Revolution (as part of the 60th Regiment - Royal Americans). I've so far been unable to find additional information on the origins of Brusch and Sartorius.