It is Week 14 in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks’ writing challenge. And trust me when I tell you, this week’s writing prompt, Water, was much harder than I first believed.
I thought about the men in our combined families whose professions were on the water. However, as I had previously written about the mariner men in our families’ trees, I needed another option.
I then considered the surname Water or Waters. Surely, with 12,000+ people in our combined families’ tree, there must be at least one Water/Waters within the branches. There was not. Really?
At this point, I was at a loss and had no clue about whom to write. I needed an idea…fast, so I went back to our ancestors’ list and perused the names again. Suddenly, a wave of inspiration washed over me. Instead of limiting myself to Water/Waters, maybe I should cast a wider net: What about “bodies of water” surnames instead?
The first “body of water” surname I found was Beck, which means “a mountain stream.” The earliest known Beck in our family tree is Johann Lorentz Beck (my spouse’s 6th great-grandfather).
Johann Lorentz Beck was born on 28 March 1726, near the towns of Ammerschwihr and Colmar, located in the Alsace Region. For more than 300 years, starting in 1618 with the Thirty-Years War, the Alsace region was heavily contested between France and various German states. As a result, denizens of the area spoke either French or German or both.
Although nothing is known of his parentage or childhood, we do know that Johann Lorentz Beck wed a woman named Anna Maria (surname unknown). In his professional life, Lorentz Beck was an “official who administered a local noble estate. Beck, from Ammerschwihr, was assessed at 6,000 florins and was the second richest man in Colmar.”¹
In the early fall of 1764, Lorentz and Anna Maria Beck left their homeland, departing from Rotterdam, bound for the American Colonies. They arrived in Philadelphia on 27 October 1764, aboard the Ship Hero (captained by Ralph Forster).
The couple settled in Heidelberg Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania, where they had at least two children: son Henry Beck, my spouse’s 5th great-grandfather, who was born in 1771; and daughter Elizabeth Beck, who was christened on 23 November 1788, in Saint John’s (Hains) Reformed Church in Lower Heidelberg Township of Berks County, Pennsylvania.²
The couple did have at least five other children, as evidenced by the 1790 U.S. Census. Enumerated in the “Lawrence” Beck household were two free white males age 16 and up, including heads of family (Lorentz and Henry), three free white males under the age of 16 (unknown), and four white females (two of whom were Anna Maria and Elizabeth).
Then, five years after this census, Lorentz Beck passed away on 23 June 1795, at the age of 69.
The second water-related surname in our family tree is Brook/Brooke, which is a small stream. The first known Brooke in our family is Richard Brooke, my spouse’s 12th great-grandfather.
Richard Brooke was born in England in 1525. Although nothing is known about his younger years, we do know that he was a successful banker who wed well. In 1552, Richard Brooke married Elizabeth Twyne of Longparish, daughter of Sir Bryan Twyne and heiress to her brother, Sir John Twyne.
Together, the couple would raise their six children—Thomas Brooke, my spouse’s 11th great-grandfather, who was born 1561; Richard Brooke; Robert Brooke; Elizabeth Brooke; Barbara Brooke; and Dorothy (Dorothee) Brooke—in Whitchurch, Hampshire, England.
Even after their children were grown and gone, the couple remained in Whitchurch, residing near their parish church, All Hallows, in a large home called Parsonage Farm.
Then, on 16 January 1594, in his 64th year, Robert Brooke died and was interred at All Hallows Whitchurch.
Richard Brooke left a will, dated 10 January 1588/89 at Somerset House, London, England and was proved on 6 May 1594.
Five years later, wife Elizabeth passed away on 20 May 1599. Her will, dated 16 May 1599, and filed at Somerset House, London, England, was proved on 2 June 1599.
Four years later, in 1603, their youngest son, Robert, an apprentice to a London goldsmith, marked their tomb with two brass likenesses and the following inscription:
This grave (oh grief) hath swallowed up with wide and open mouth,
the bodie of good Richard Brooke, of Whitchurch, Hampton South
And Elizabeth his wedded wife, twice twentie yeares and one,
Sweet Jesus hath their soules in heuen ye ground flesh skin and bone.
In Januarie (worne with age) daie sixteenth, died hee,
From Christ full fifteene hundred yeares, and more by ninetie three.
But death hir twist of life in Maie, daie twentith did untwine
From Christ full fifteene hundred yeares and more by ninetie nine.
They left behinde them well to live, and growne to good degree,
First Richard, Thomas, Robert Brooke, the youngest of the three,
Elizabeth and Barbara, then Dorothee the last.
All six the knot of Nature’s love, and kindness keepeth fast.
This toome stone with the plate thereon thus grauen fair & large
Did Robert Brooke the youngest sonne, make of his proper charge.
A Citizen of London state by faithful service free
Of Marchante great adventurers a brother sworn is hee.
And of the Indian Companie (come gaine or losse) a lim,
And of the Goldsmith liverie, all these Gode gifte to him;
This monument of memorie in loue performed hee,
December thirtie one, from Christ sixteen hundred and three.
Anno Domini 1603. Laus Deo
Please note: The date is given old-style (i.e. when New Year began on 25 March), so Richard actually died in 1594.
The final “waterway” ancestor is someone whose surname is doubly so: Thomas Seabrook (my brother-in-law’s 11th great-grandfather). Nothing is known of Thomas Seabrook other than he married a woman named Margaret (surname unknown) and that their son, also named Thomas Seabrook (my brother-in-law’s 10th great-grandfather), was born in 1537 in Bolton Percy, Yorkshire, England.
Son Thomas Seabrook married a woman by the name of Olive (surname unknown). Their son, Robert Seabrook (my brother-in-law’s 9th great-grandfather), was born on 25 September 1563, in Wing, Buckinghamshire, England. Some claim that Robert might have married Alice Goodspeed, the daughter of Nicholas and Margaret Goodspeed; however, no evidence has been found thus far.
Then, in the early 1640s, Robert Seabrook immigrated to the area near Stratford, Connecticut, where he raised his family and resided until his death:
Seabrook, Robert – An elderly man, one of the early settlers in Stratford, he did not long survive. His will is not found, and our only knowledge of it comes from mention made of it in Stratford Deeds, where land was entered to the following persons which they had by gift from their grandfather Robert Seabrook: Samuel Fairchild, Thomas Fairchild, Jehiel Preston, John Wheeler’s wife, Samuel Stiles’s wife, and perhaps others not noted. From this, we deduce that he had daughters who married Thomas Fairchild, William Preston, and Thomas Sherwood; the wives of Wheeler and Stiles were daughters of Sherwood.
Preston was from Chesham, co. Buckingham, and the name Seabrook is common in that county, where at Wingrave a Robert Seabrook married 12 Sept. 1596, Alice Goodspeed, bapt. 19 Aug. 1576, daughter of Nicholas, Jr., and Margaret Goodspeed. She was a cousin of Roger Goodspeed, the Barnstable settler. If this was the emigrant Robert, he may have married more than once; but unless research in England be made, we have only vague surmise on which to build.³
¹ Harrington, J. F., & Smith, H. W. (1997). “Confessionalization, Community, and State Building in Germany, 1555-1870.” The Journal of Modern History, 69(1), 77–101.
² Kershner, W. J., & Lerch, A. G. (1916). History of St. Johns (Hains) Reformed Church in Lower Heidelberg Township, Berks County, Penna. Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/historyofstjohns00kers
³ Jacobus, D. L. (1930). History and Genealogy of the Families of Old Fairfield. New Haven, CT: Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor.