|About From Across the Pond - The Welcher (Witcher) family and more...
Christchurch, Hampshire County, England, 1838, the birth of
William Whitcher. William's story is partly fact and partly legend.
William was apparently born out of wedlock, or became an orphan at a very young age.Legend has
it that his father died while serving in the British Navy. At the age of 12 William was
abandoned by his mother to a "Workhouse" where he had to work or beg for his keep. The 1851
census lists William, and a John Whitcher age 9 (possibily a relative) as inmates in a
workhouse in Christchurch.
Its not known how long he served in the workhouse,but at the age of 22, according to legend,
William's life was about to change forever. It's 1860 Scotland. William is a labourer working
on the docks in Dundee harbor. It was there that he met and befriended Capt. William Kean of
Pool's Island, Newfoundland. Kean is in Dundee to take possession of the S.S. Wolf for its new
owners, Grieve & Co. from St. John's. The Wolf would become the first steam ship to be used in
the Seal hunt of the coast of Newfoundland. Ironically, the Wolf was the first steamer to sink
while prosecuting the seal hunt.It was crushed by an iceberg in 1871. William wanted to travel
to Newfoundland along with Kean on the Wolf, but the Captain of the vessel, Capt. Givens, would
not allow it. On a cold dark night,in January, 1861, William, not one to give up easily, crept
silently and unnoticed aboard the Wolf and hid below in the stores. His new journey was about
to begin. 2 days out in the cold north Atlantic, crew members found William cold and hungry
hiding below. Capt. Givens placed William in the care of Kean until they reached Newfoundland.
William moved to Pool's Island and worked as an apprentice for Kean and eventually moved to
Flower's Island where he met and married Maria(Mariah) Sturge. William and Maria had 12
children and relocated to Nor Wes Arm in the late 1880's. He died there in 1915 at the age of
One obstacle researchers may have to contend with while doing genealogy is the various
spellings of the same surname. For example, Kean has been spelled Caine, Kane and Keanes. The
name Welcher, is no different. Over the decades it has been spelled, Whitcher, Wiltshire,
Wilsher, Witcher, and finally Welcher. For the purpose of this site, when referring to the more
modern day name, you will see it spelled Welcher... for the earlier names, Witcher or Whitcher
will be used. In either case, it refers to the same family line.
This interesting and long-established surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and has two distinct
possible sources, each with its own history and derivation. Firstly, Whitcher may be an
occupational name for a maker of chests deriving from the Olde English pre 7th Century
"hwicce", chest, with the addition of the agent suffix "-er". Early examples of the name
include: Robert le Wiccher and Robert le Whicchere, noted respectively in "Middle English
Surnames of Occupation", Sussex (1285), and Hampshire (1333), and the synonymous William le
Wyccewrichte (Somerset, 1256). As the Olde English "wic", hamlet, dairy-farm, dwelling, became
both "wike" and "wiche" in Middle English, the surname may also be topographical in origin for
a dweller at a dairy farm, the "-er" in this case, implying "dweller at". Alternatively, the
name may denote "dairy farmer", as in Peter le Wycher (Worcestershire, 1327). In the modern
idiom the surname is variously spelt: Whitcher, Whicher and Witcher. On June 5th 1615, Thomas
Whitcher and Elizabeth Newby were married at St. Gregory by St. Paul, London. The first
recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Wicher, which was dated
1176, in the "Pipe Rolls of Berkshire", during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The
Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189. Surnames
became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known
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