|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 77.
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 as Poll Tax.
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