European Places of Origin

This is part of a write-up I did for a family history on my mom's ancestors. My mom is Carolyn Eileen (Zinck) Shaver. The surnames you see mentioned here are her direct ancestors. My major source of information was The "Foreign Protestants and the Settlement of Nova Scotia" by Winthrop Pickard Bell, and my Grollier Encyclopedia CD helped out a bit here and there!

Nancy Shaver
E-mail: nancy at flora dot org (insert @ and . in appropriate places)

General Conditions in the European Regions of Origin

Europe in the mid 1700's was made up of a lot of tiny little separate states. Together they formed "The Empire", but each state was administered independently by it's own ruler. Most of the emigrants were hereditary serfs, who sometimes had to buy release by payment of an indemnity to their lord.

People were unable to easily move around without a permit from one's lord, even the few miles that it often was to the next municipality. Because movement was restricted agriculture was slow to receive or benefit from new ideas. Also, trade was suffocated by dues and tolls at innumerable borders. The handicrafts industry was controlled by ancient guilds. In some areas protestants were discriminated against by catholic rulers, either overtly or in more subtle ways.

Taxes (paid to princes) were often a costly burden against which there was little or no redress, and many of the rulers had extravagant lifestyles which required a lot of funds! Young men were often forced or coerced into becoming mercenary soldiers to raise funds for their ruler. These tiny states were also rather administration-heavy relative to their size, which was expensive, and a nuisance too for the taxpayers.

In short, these conditions led to widespread hardship and stagnation, and there were pockets of relative overpopulation. These factors together combined to make the risks involved in emigrating to an unknown land a reasonable option for a better life.

Palatinate

This small state, in what today is part of Southern Germany, was around 1 1/2 times the size of Prince Edward Island. It was well located, straddling the middle and upper Rhine River. It included some of the most fertile lands of the river plain, and some of the best grape-growing slopes. However, war, and oppression against protestants, as well as overpopulation was the impetus driving many towards emigration.

Our ancestors who emigrated from Palatinate include the surnames Wagner, Hubley, Corkum (they had originally come from the Netherlands), Zwicker, Schaffner, Schmitt and Knickle.

Würtemberg

This state was a bit larger than Palatinate, and a bit more compact. It was a region of hills and valleys on the east side of the Black Forest, and was not as good agriculturally. The are is drained by the River Neckar and it's tributaries. The population was derived from old Swabian tribal stock.

Here too, the protestants were discriminated against. The rulers were extravagant, and were notorious for the arbitrary and oppressive measures they adopted for raising funds from their poor subjects.

Our ancestors who emigrated from WŻrttemburg include the surnames Kolb (Colp) and Loffler.

Kleinheubach

This state was a tiny strip on the River Main, and belonged to the countship of L˝wenstein-Wertheim, but was separated from the main body of that small land by territories of other princes, and it constituted an enclave comprising not much more than a couple of villages with their fields and woods.

Winthrop Bell quotes an eyewitness account of our ancestors departure from Kleinheubach found the book by DesBrisay (unfortunately, I don't have the title, just the author, but it's a famous book you see quoted everywhere!):

"Mrs. Beechner, who came from Germany some time after the first settlers, and who died in Lunenburg at the age of ninety-six years, described the manner in which some of them left home, as witnessed by herself. They assembled together at Klein Heibach, whither they were accompanied by friends and relatives. On the morning of their embarkation the church bell summoned them to special religious services, and great lamentation was manifested at their departure."

Our ancestors who emigrated from Kleinheubach include the surnames Zinck and Conrad, with the names Schurk, Kappes, and Klein also found in earlier generations. Our ancestors who emigrated from the affiliated state of L˝wenstein-Wertheim include the surname Conrad, with the names Von Ludwig, Schwind, and Rentz found in earlier generations.

For more information on Kleinheubach, check out the article written by Polli Turner after her trip there in 1977.

Hesse-Darmstadt

These states were located in southwestern Germany, extending into middle western Germany. It fell within the region of the upper, or upper and middle Rhine. Both states were protestant, with both the Lutheran and Reformed varieties present. Hesse-Darmstadt had suffered severely in the wars of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748).

Our ancestors who emigrated from Hesse-Darmstadt include the surname Barkhouse (Berghaus).

Montbéliard

This state (with town of the same name) was almost surrounded by France, and today is a part of it. It was Protestant in religion and French in language, and a part of "The Empire". The people here were not heavily persecuted due to religion, but there were always "annoyances and vexations", leading to a feeling of precariousness which motivated many to emigrate.

The people who emigrated from here were largely rustic in origin, mostly farmers, with a few tradespeople. Most emigrants were from the forest and employed "in the woods", so they were thought to be likely to be good settlers.

Our ancestors who emigrated from Montbéliard include the surnames Vienot, Boutilier, Robert (Robar), and L'eau (Lowe), Joudrey, Daré, Masson, and Lods. More distant ancestors include the surname Quaty.

Switzerland

It is theorized that some of the Swiss rulers obstructed emigration, and often forced young men to become mercenaries. Obstructing emigration would make sure that a pool of potential mercenaries would remain available, and if young rural men had few other options (i.e. to emigrate if work or farmland unavailable due to overpopulation) they would be relatively "willing" to serve in this capacity. Switzerland also had free cities mixed in among those cities and states that were more opressive towards their citizens.

Our ancestors who emigrated from Switzerland include the surnames Dimon, Hatt and Matler (married Lloy).

Gorinchem, Netherlands

Gorinchem is where our Corkum ancestors, who we are descended from along two branches of the family tree, originated. This paragraph about the town is gleaned from the internet (and due to my haphazard approach to this project, I have misplaced the source- apologies to readers and the source!)

"Gorinchem is an old town, it did evolve in the very early middle ages from a fishermen settlement on the river banks of the rivers Merwede and Linge and was grounded as a town at the beginning of the 13th century. It is situated 40 km east of Rotterdam on the north bank of the river Merwede, also the picturesque small river Linge flows through the old town into the Merwede. The surrounding country is the Dutch river landscape with lots of water, bushes, green meadows, dikes and windmills. Gorinchem has a very cozy old town center, surrounded by 17th century dike-like town walls. The town center has historic buildings, lots of shops, pubs and restaurants. There is also the old harbor with historic riverboats."

England

England in the mid 1700's was relatively prosperous, and in the midst of an agrarian revolution. The enclosure movement meant that land was being farmed more efficiently, and this was freeing up people to work in industry. The industrial revolution was also underway. Good conditions in England meant that it was tougher to convince it's citizens to emigrate, and they would not be motivated to live under the hard conditions required to settle a new land. This is why the British government targeted Europeans for the settlement, and why our family has only have one identified English ancestor who immigrated around that time, John Crooks.

Northern Ireland

Scottish Presbyterians had been settled in Northern Ireland (Ulster) by King James I of England in the 1600's. They were somewhat of an elite over the Catholics, but many emigrated to the New World. The Grollier Encyclopedia notes that "Protestants had not won for their parliament the powers that the landed elite of England had won for theirs in the Glorious Revolution. Furthermore, British trade policies discriminated against Ireland, and many of the Scottish Presbyterians in Ulster began to emigrate to America, where their descendants became known as the "Scotch-Irish." The Parks family came to Canada from Northern Ireland.


Back to the home page