Monday, February 25, 2013

Serendipity in Disney World

Wherever you are, there is always a possibility of a new discovery, if you are open to the whim of serendipity.  Today I was walking through Epcot in Disney when my wife and I noticed a kiosk near the American Adventure, sandwiched between the kiosk for Disney pins and a food kiosk. I would not ordinarily expect to find anything of genealogical interest while visiting Disney World, but what we found today was an unexpected and pleasant surprise.

We discovered was that the kiosk offered a personalized book celebrating a child’s heritage.  Up to four countries can be included in one book, providing personalized information about the national heritages for the child for whom the book is designed.  The books are beautifully illustrated by Alicia Bresee, and are printed with the child’s name, which appears throughout the book, along with interesting information about the languages and traditions of the national heritages unique to the child.  We decided on the spot that our grandchildren should have a copy of the book designed for them.  Our three granddaughters will have a book celebrating their Irish, German and Italian heritage.  Our grandson’s book honors his German, Italian and English heritage.  There are pages in each book to record family traditions as well as a four-generation family tree.

We have all at times been concerned that the next generation in our family might not share our concern for preserving family history.  These books offer an opportunity to pass on to our children and grandchildren a brief glimpse of their heritage that might stir their interest to learn more.

The books are produced by Kids Heritage, Inc.  At Epcot, they had the ability to personalize, print and bind each book ordered within 45 minutes, so we could walk away with the books we ordered.

I noticed that the author of the books, and I assume the owner of the company, Deanna Bufo Novak, was from Mahopac, NY.  I asked if she might be interested in attending our June conference in Albany as a vendor, to make her books available to our attendees.  She expressed an interest in doing so.  I hope she is able to arrange to be with us in June so that you can all see and appreciate what she has to offer.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Palatines in North Carolina

Our Palatines to America treasurer, Margie Weiler, suggested that I include information in this blog about the 1710 settlement of New Bern, North Carolina.  I  have previously written about  the 1766 North Carolina settlement of Germans in Salem.  However the New Bern settlement deserves its own mention.

Christoph von Graffenried, a native of Bern, Switzerland, born in 1661 and Franz Ludwig Michel, both part of the Ritter Company, wanted to establish a Swiss colony in the New World.  Queen Anne of England, facing a flood of Palatine immigrants made an offer of land and support for the settlement plans if they would agree to include Palatines among those they transported to the New World. 

In September of 1709, Parliament granted Graffenried and Michel more than 13,000 acres of land in the Carolinas, with a promise of assistance once they arrived.  As a result, 650 Palatines, led by John Lawson and Michael Gale, sailed from England in January 1710.  During the thirteen week voyage, they lost about one half of the Palatines as a result of the harsh conditions of the trip. When they arrived in North Carolina at the juncture of the Neuse and Trent rivers, they found that no provisions were waiting for them and no work had been done to provide shelter for them in the settlement at New Bern.

Conditions did not improve until Graffenried arrived in September 1710 with about 100 Swiss settlers.  He had the land surveyed, forests cleared and houses erected. Within eighteen months, the community seemed to be well established.  Unfortunately this good fortune did not continue for long.

The Tuscarora Indians who had inhabited the area until the arrival of European settlers, began a campaign to rid their native lands of those intruders.  In Early September 1711, Graffenried and surveyor John Lawson, who had led the initial group of Palatine settlers to New Bern, set off to explore the area north of New Bern.  The Tuscarora captured both, killing Lawson.  They let Graffenried go free because they believed that he was the governor.

While Graffenried was journeying back to New Bern, the Tuscarora attacked the white communities along the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers, killing many of the settlers.  They destroyed houses and crops and took away livestock. 

Graffenried never recovered financially from the war with the Tuscarora, and many of the original Palatines dispersed among the surviving English communities of North Carolina.  Graffenried returned to Europe.