The poem now commonly known as “The Night Before Christmas” was originally published anonymously in 1823 by the Troy Sentinel (New York). It has been integral in the formation of the modern North American vision of Christmas; in particular, the appearance and role of St. Nick or Santa Claus. A unique hand-written copy of this poem is included in the Odell Family Papers which are part of The Loyalist Collection.
Following from last week’s post, you will find in this entry a listing of practical “Tricks” to help in identifying surnames in primary documents, as well as a collection of resources which will aid in this undertaking.
As a continuation to the last post, Who is That?!: Help with Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Given Names, here are some “Tips” to assist in the interpretation of last names with a focus on Maritime Canadian resources, although many of the following suggestions are applicable elsewhere.
Dorcas, Nehemiah, Mehetabel, Eliphalet . . . If you have done any research with early North American documents, you have probably noticed that some names were fairly common in the past that are certainly not common today. This change over time in naming traditions may leave the modern reader puzzled. There are, however, some background knowledge and tricks that will help in the interpretation of early Canadian and American given names.
John Saunders was born and raised in Virginia from a well-established and wealthy family. Saunders’s staunch loyalism had a two-fold motivation: firstly, because of the economic considerations, and secondly, and even more importantly, because he strongly believed that being a loyalist would help determine the importance and influence of his family. Later in his life, he stated that he had been taught since infancy “to fear God and honor the King.”
Hopefully the summons did not come when he was snug in bed on a crisp fall evening, but if there were marauding pigs on the loose, it was the sworn duty of the hog reeve to find, capture, and wrangle the wayward swine to a secure location before it did any damage to valuable crops. “Hog reeve” was just one of many parish officers who held an important position in colonial New Brunswick society.
A portion of “Loyalists in the Classroom: Students reflect on historical sources” is reposted with the kind permission of our friends at Borealia: A Group Blog on Early Canadian History.
Many people have asked me over the years: “why offer a course on the Loyalists of the American Revolution?”