This year, I’m going to try to participate in 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. That’s pretty aggressive this year considering I have essentially been doing that for two years, give or take a week here and there.
So, here goes…
This week is Fresh Start. Last week, I wrote about how I am regrouping and attempting to get my sources in order and properly recorded for use in publications. That could be considered a fresh start; however, it’s not about a specific ancestor.
When I hear fresh start, I think of our many immigrant ancestors. I had written a little about them in Ellis Island, Castle Garden, or bust in June 2018. I have made some progress in these areas, so let’s recap. To date they include:
- Aleck – arrived from Germany in 1850.
- Cobe – from Ireland c. 1840 most likely overland from Canada.
- DeJean – c. 1795 from France into New York.
- Gage – still investigating but likely colonial 1600’s, of English origins.
- Johnson – still investigating but before 1820.
- Rhoades – still investigating but likely pre-revolution or close to that time, from Prussia.
- Russell – still investigating but before 1840, possibly of Irish origins. According to our Gleason cousins, they arrived in Massachusetts in 1635.
- Stockford – from England c. 1840 via New York.
- Kucks – from Prussia/Germany in June 1870.
- Hinkle – from Prussia, arrived with the Morgal family in 1859 via Castle Garden.
- Morgal – from Prussia, came with John Hinkle at Castle Garden in 1859.
- Madden – new research, before 1795 and possibly pre-revolution.
- Wood – new research, before the American Revolution.
- Miller – new research, before 1777.
I couldn’t pick just one ancestor for fresh start because each one was doing this when they arrived in America. Based on basic history and without confirming through individual research, our pre-Revolution immigrant ancestors were looking for a fresh start in a new land complete with freedom of religion. Our immigrant ancestors from Prussia (Germany) were fleeing war and economic hardship. Our Irish ancestors were fleeing weak economies and overpopulation. Our modern culture thinks it’s hard and scary to move from one state to another, but it is nothing compared to what our ancestors faced.
Each group had to face the challenge of coming to a new continent at a time when the land was still wild, Native Americans and new white settlers clashed, and a fledgling government was establishing itself in the worlds pecking order. They left family, friends, communities, and the known hardships (and conveniences) of their homeland to take a chance in the unknown, many times as the earliest settlers of a region. What many of these immigrants found was virgin land that needed to be cleared before it could be farmed. Rough homes were made in haste to provide shelter in time for the first winter. Civilization was scarce, the nearest doctor could be miles away by horseback if there even was one in the area. Illness and disease were commonplace and oftentimes fatal.
The Gage family came as early as the 1630s with the Winthrop Fleet. The immigrant patriarch, John, helped to establish modern-day Boston, then Ipswich and Bradford (Rowley/Merrimack) through his work as a farmer, selectmen (government officials), juryman, surveyor, and lotlayer. Not only was he making a fresh start for himself and his children, but he was also helping to make a fresh start for his fellow puritans. I have yet to fully prove the link to this John, but if my assertions are correct, then it is this Gage family we descend from.
The DeJeans had the most fresh starts in one generation. They arrived shortly after the American Revolution when they fled the violence and uncertainty of the French Revolution. Stephen arrived with his father and siblings as early as 1795 at Albany, New York, and may have made their way by river and marsh to a French settlement called Castorland. Aside from trappers and neighborly Native American’s, this land was virtually unsettled. It took weeks for supplies and letters to make it from Albany to Castorland as the way was dangerous and frustrating. The DeJean’s appear to have had an early interest in joining this settlement but moved on to Chautauqua County when Castorland was abandoned by the French. Stephen started fresh again after the War of 1812, clearing some land and building a home. His third fresh start was when he forfeited his property in Chautauqua to follow his son into Wisconsin territory, where they participated in establishing towns and farm communities.
The Madden’s, Wood’s, and Miller’s all settled in early Virginia. They had several homesteads that they moved between, seemingly due to disputes with Native American’s who raided the settlements farthest from established towns and forts. They struggled along the modern-day border between Virginia and West Virginia before their descendants pushed further west into Ohio for their own fresh starts.
But they did it. Each time our ancestors succeeded, they ensured our future and made the cities and counties we know today.