Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Happy 214th Deathday, Nicholas Welch (?-1797)

John Welch's third-great-grandfather

Who doesn't love a good mystery?  This ancestor Nicholas is it.  I think he may have been what first got me interested in genealogy, when as a teenager I read his one page bio and was told there were no answers for the mystery told therein.  
my cousin--this ancestor's namesake--looking for his Irish roots
Here are the details:  Nicholas was a native of Ireland who emigrated to Chesterfield, England in 1790 with two nieces.  He bought property at 68 Beaver Street, so called because of a nearby factory for making beaver hats.  He established an inn called the Hat and Feather Inn.  At about the age of sixty years Nicholas married Mary Preston.  He bequeathed 68 Beaver St to his son Nicholas; it was a four-room cottage which fronted the east, and Nicholas Junior built a more modern house directly opposite on a vacant lot in 1825. 
church in Chesterfield, England

twisted spire in Chesterfield

And here is the legend, written by great-granddaughter Eleanor Welch Schow: "Nicholas' birth date and parentage are unknown. He came to England about 1790 or immediately after a severe Irish rebellion.  He was a native of Ireland who had evidently taken an active part in the rebellion.  I have heard my father John Welch say that the name 'Welch' was assumed in order to lose his identity because there was a price on his head due to his part in the rebellion.  It was said he was a gentleman of culture and education, well-versed in some languages.  Some said that he started an inn while others said that he came to an established inn, purchased it and named it 'The Hat and Feather' and married the chambermaid.  Others said she was the owner's daughter and that she worked at the inn.  

"Elizabeth and John Welch told me that this Nicholas Welch I was very anxious that future progeny should know of his family, ancestry, and life in Ireland.  He felt that this was of merit and consequence, in so much that he spent a great deal of time writing an account of all this.  Because the laws in England were so severe on "rebels" and their children, he sealed it up and hit it away in the house of his wife's aunt.  It was left there some time after his death as he ordered, for he feared that his family would pay dearly for his being a 'treasonable rebel.'  It seems he wanted his identity left unknown until such time as it could be safely known, yet he felt it would be of great import to his familiy.  But the record he made so painstakingly was destroyed by fire and so, lost!  I have heard members of the family repeatedly say he was of noble origin, etc."

Another has speculated that he left Ireland due to being disinherited for marrying against his father's wishes.  We're still hoping for DNA testing to elucidate this Welch line.

Nicholas, I would give you a fire-safe box! 

1 comment:

  1. I'd give him a novelist to rewrite his story, or at least a fire extinguisher.