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Family origins « Douglas Fisher

Fisher

 

Reflections: Family origins
Transcripts of interviews with Douglas

My ancestry is largely a mystery to me and what I do know does not extend much beyond sketchy information about my great grandparents. Although now I rue it, I never took a great interest in my antecedents – and those who might have taught me so much more are now long gone.

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Family lore said that our Fisher line started in Canada with Samuel, who immigrated from England in 1824 or 1827, from either Sussex or Kent. By the bad luck of the draw, it is said, he got a swampy, rocky land grant at the headwaters of the Grand River in what is locally known as the ‘Luther County swamp’. Other than that, his life remains a blank to me. He would have been my father’s great-grandfather, near as I can determine.

The next family tale is by far the most exotic: that my Dad’s grandmother was a Delaware Indian woman whose family name was Morris. Somehow I have a photograph that may well be of her: a dark, alert young woman, dressed, I’m guessing, in the style of the 1860s. Where she came from, or how my great grandfather (Samuel’s son) came to marry her, I don’t know. There are at least two Delaware Indian reserves in western Ontario just north of Lake Erie: at Moraviantown, on the River Trail near present day Thamesville; and at Muncey, on the Thames River west of St. Thomas. Both of these groups moved to Canada from the northeastern United States around 1800. The name ‘Moraviantown’ undoubtedly reflects the Christian background of these people, who were converted by the Moravians – an early and originally Czech Protestant group who had established themselves at Bethlehem and Nazareth, Pennsylvania after 1741 for the purpose of spreading the gospel to native Americans. As they were German, or ‘Deutsch’, their name was corrupted into ‘Pennsylvania Dutch’ – which also fits family lore for it was said that great-grandfather’s wife had a Pennsylvania Dutch connection of some sort.

As for the Delaware, who call themselves ‘Lenni Lenape’ (the real people), they were the first Indians encountered by Europeans in what is now the United States. An agricultural people speaking an Algonquian language, their villages dotted the northern half of what is now the US eastern seaboard. Voluntary and coerced migrations eventually scattered them across the US mid-west and west. Some moved to British North America.


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