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?”
One aspect of The Loyalist Collection that distinguishes it as a useful resource for learning about early Atlantic history during British rule is the unique information it provides to patrons that has otherwise been largely forgotten or overlooked in the annals of history. One example of such unique information centres on the experiences of Colonel William Rhett, a prominent official who resided in South Carolina during the early eighteenth century.
Researchers encounter an amazing variety of script (or sometimes more like scratch!) amongst the handwritten documents produced in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. To become adept at interpreting historical cursive writing, readers must develop particular skills over time. The art of reading and analyzing historic handwriting and manuscripts is called palaeography.