Genealogy My Way

During a recent brutal winter storm, I began to think about how challenging it must have been for pioneers besieged by such trying weather. Unlike today, city officials could not be notified to bring out mighty snowplows to ease the situation.  Crossing the bridge over the Welland Canal, with its oft slippery surface, would have witnessed some drivers struggling to control the reins of their trusty steeds, while businessmen must have silently cursed the ravages of winter; their stores possibly silent on these occasions. The good old days were not always so good.

Our paternal family name, Fuchs, originated in Germany; our forbearers dwelling in Pilgramsreuth, District of Oberfranken in Bayern, Bavaria, near the border of Czechoslovakia. Johann Fuchs and his wife, Margaretha, came to Canada in the middle 1800s joining other families: Fretz, Sherk and Winger. I am uncertain which port they left from; although, it was probably Bremen, as the city had a fine reputation as an emigration centre. The laws were strict and ship owners were forced to provide a minimum of food and lodgings. At this time, European emigrants mainly used the ports of LeHavre, Antwerp, Bremen and Hamburg; British emigrants departed from Liverpool and smaller ports such as Greenock.

Major northern arrival points were New York, Halifax and Montreal. Disembarking on a busy wharf in New York City, 1850, the promise of a better life would have heightened my ancestor’s eagerness to establish a home in Canada. With only a copy of the Emigrants Handbook to guide them in this strange new world, and the limitations of speaking in a foreign dialect, they must have been terribly overwhelmed. Prior to the opening of Immigration Stations, people went ashore wherever their ship docked. Receiving Stations such as Castle Garden, 1855, and Ellis Island, 1890, were later set up to protect the ports of entry from potential incoming disease and to shield the naive newcomers from the cities more enterprising citizens. With a myriad of other immigrants, my ancestors would have travelled up the Hudson River to Albany by steamboat, and then boarded flat-bottomed boats drawn by horses and oxen that conveyed them through the Erie Canal, west to Buffalo. With all their worldly belongings, they would have crossed the Niagara River by ferry and taken carts or stage coaches to the Black Creek area known as Lincoln County, now Bertie and Willoughby Townships. For a complete itinerary of this trip, a chapter in the book carries you back to New York, where with a dash of dramatic licence and a little imagination, you can follow the route the Fuchs family took to their new home in Lincoln County.

Bringing their bibles, daily devotional guides and prayer books with them from Germany (some of these books still exist in good condition), they attended the first St. John’s German Evangelical Protestant Church in New Germany or Snyder: the two names being synonymous. It is recorded this church was built in 1834 under the pastorate of a Rev. George Keller; a minister who was also serving a church in Buffalo doing mission work among the German immigrants. In May of 1845, the church acquired "the old cemetery across the road from the church." In September, 1867, a number of the members broke away forming the St. John’s Lutheran Church, Snyder, under the pastorate of the resident minister, Rev. J.N. Munzinger. In later years, about 1890, some of the Fuchs family joined the Brethren in Christ Church, west of Stevensville, Ontario; therefore, explaining the burial of some family members in the Brethren in Christ Cemetery.

With a strong work ethic and unfaltering devotion to their faith, they built a home for their growing family. There is documented proof that they were steadfast members of the German community; one being the mention of Great Great Uncle William as a Coroner Jury member in a suicide hearing in Bertie, 9 February 1877.  They appeared to be honest, upright citizens.

Ship scriveners, English-speaking clerks, postmasters, census takers and tax collectors anglicized the names by spelling them as they sounded; therefore, Fuchs became Fox.

My mother’s family was certainly more affluent, establishing themselves in a number of villages in Ontario. Members of the family immigrated to Canada at different times from Greenock, Scotland. The early settlers established their new homes in Lanark, Welland, Crowland Township, Lyons Creek and Sleeman, Ontario.
William Miller, a native of Dumbarton, Scotland, arrived in Canada in 1820 having travelled from Greenock, Scotland, on the vessel, the "Commerce". Married to Margaret Burns, a probable descendent of Robbie Burns, they immigrated with their eight children: William, Thomas, George, John, Mary, Jessie, Ann and a son, Peter, seven years of age, who died on the voyage. John married Margaret Blair in 1831, and a son, Stewart, was born in the village of Rawdon, Ontario, 27 September 1842. Stewart married Janet Conroy: my grandmother’s parents.

The Edward Conroy family settled in Lanark County, having set sail from Greenock, Scotland, aboard the "Prompt" on 4 July 1820. A third ship often referred to as the "Brock" left Greenock at the same time. In my possession, I have an original advertisement for the "Broke" that I believe is the correct name of the vessel. A picture of this document has been included in the book. The previous winter in Ireland and Scotland had been particularly harsh which pressed the need for change. Before leaving their homeland, the families divided themselves into two colonization societies, the "Lesmahago" and the "Transatlantic". The President of the Lesmahago Emigration Society was Thomas Scott and his wife, Margaret Todd Scott. Their daughter Lillian was to marry the Conroys’ son, Thomas B: parents of Janet. The Conroys sailed with the "Lesmahago" to Quebec, travelled to Prescott and continued their trip by boat to Brockville. Fighting their way through the bush trails by wagons and carts, they ended up in the military settlement of Perth. Pulling a lot number from a hat, assured them of that property when they arrived at Lanark. My ancestors decided to settle at Watson's Corners, named after John Watson who had established a tavern there.

David Price, of Welsh descent, the first white settler in Welland, was born in the valley of the Mohawk River about 1750. At the age of 21, he and a young companion were surprised by a band of Seneca Indians while walking through the fields. Living with the tribe for seven years, David was eventually released and took the position of interpreter and clerk at Oswego. Once the post of Oswego was evacuated, David moved to Niagara and later Fort George, at the mouth of the Niagara River. It was here he worked as an interpreter in the Department of Indian Affairs. In the book, I have included a partial piece written about David, as recounted by his son, John.  In 1800, he married Michael Gonder's daughter, Margaret, a mere lass of seventeen. Settling his family on the Chippawa Creek, the present site of Welland, Ontario, Margaret and David had eleven children; the youngest daughter, Julianna, marrying Jacob Buchner on 16 February 1845. Their daughter, Rosabelle, married my great grandfather, Alexander Hurst. A son, Alexander, married my maternal grandmother, Gertrude Miller.

With my father's steadfast care of the Fox chronicles and my mother's lineage: the Millers, Conroys, Prices and Gonders, it is important for me to ensure their safe keeping. I hope that the information provided in this book will assist others in reaching out to explore their family roots. To read some sample pages from our book "Genealogy My Way" please click on the NEXT button below.