Families

Of course no family line is alone in its history. Although a surname passes down from the father from generation to generation, through marriage there are many lineages woven together to form a unique ancestry. This section explores some of the many families of our particular branch of the Bretz family.

Many of the surname histories have been drawn from the Internet Surname Database and do not have the same level of research as the four main family names.

The coat of arms displayed here are only used to show the family relationships and are do not necessarily belong to a specific individual in our family. For interest, this image shows all of the known coat of arms for our branch of these families arranged in a tree of ancestry.

Wood

The Wood family married into the Bretz family through separate marriages of two Bretz brothers and two Wood sisters; Frank Bretz and Lillian Wood in 1903 and Sydney Bretz and Josephine Wood in 1914.

The girl's father, Thomas Wood, was a carpenter who specialized in window blinds and had a business in Toronto called the Dominion Window Shade Factory. The family was originally from Brighton on the southern English coast. When Thomas was a teenager, his father brought him and his siblings to Canada and settled in Toronto's east side.

It is unclear why the elder Stephen Wood uprooted his young family from Brighton, but it is known that his first wife had died quite young (at age 42) a few years before they emmigrated in 1859. He remarried a woman named Jemima once in Ontario. A son from this marriage, Stephen Jr, would become a sailor and end up starting a family in Australia.

The Wood sister's mother Hannah was from the Gilbert family, another English family who had also immigrated to Canada in the 1860s. The sister's remaining sibling married into the Botham family, many of which ended up in the United States.

Wood is a famous and popular English and Scottish surname of pre 7th century Olde English origins. It is recorded in several forms including Wood, Woode, Woodd, Wod, Wode and the locational Woods and Woodes. The surname derives from the word "wudu" meaning a forest or wood. It was originally given either as a topographical name for one who was resident by a wood, or who in the case of the plural Woods related to a person who was both resident in the wood and who obtained his livelihood from the wood, probably as a forester. The surname is first recorded in the early half of the 13th century and appears in a great variety of records during that time.

For more on the history of the Wood family see here.

 

Hobson

The Hobson family married into the Bretz family in 1876 with the Christmas wedding of Abram Bretz and Alice Hobson.

The Hobsons were Quakers from the County Armagh, Ireland. Alice's father, Ben Hobson, was a grocer and bookkeeper who brought his family to Canada in 1851 where they first settled in Galt, Ontario. His wife, Elizabeth Pillar, had a brown Quaker wedding dress from this union which still exists and is under the care of family member Harry McFee. Ben's own father, also Ben, was recorded as an avid reader of books from the parish library in Ireland, and at some point prior to 1871 joined his son's family in rural Ontario.

The Hobson surname was kept alive in the Bretz family as a middle name for several generations.

A family book called the History of the Rise and Progress of the People Called Quakers in Ireland has been passed down and is now in the care of Cory Bretz. It was printed in 1751. The book is signed by a Fred Hobson and and Charles Wright and dated 1903. It is thought that Fred Hobson was Annie Hobson's (Alice's sister) second husband, but it is not known how or if his Hobson line is associated with ours.

The ancient Hobson surname is originally of English origin and has been recorded as Hobson, Hopson, Hobbes, Hobbs and Hobbiss, and other spellings. It is a patronymic form of the medieval male name Hobb, itself a pet form of Robert. Robert derives from the pre 8th century Anglo-Saxon or Germanic "Hrodbeorht", a compound personal name with the elements "hrod" meaning "renown", plus "berht", bright or famous. The name was probably introduced into England during the reign of King Edward, known as The Confessor, 1042 - 1066, but took hold after the Norman Conquest of 1066. Rodbertus, Rotbert, and Robert, (without surname), are all recorded in the famous Domesday Book of 1086. The popularity of the name subsequently gave rise to a wide variety of "nicknames" including Rob, Dob, Hob, and many others and these developed into surnames in their own right. The patronysmic form with "son" or simply the "s", emerged in the early 14th Century.

Many English surnames were transported to Ireland during the so-called "resettlement" of the mid 17th century. Many families were offered land taken from rebel Irish families of the Uprising.

For more on the history of the Hobson family see here.

 

Gilbert

The Gilbert family married into the Wood family through Thomas Wood and Hannah Gilbert in 1876.

They are thought to have been from the area of Nottinghamshire, perhaps the village of Cuckney. There are many Gilbert and Boaler and even Turner families in that area, and it appears to be one of the few places that the Boaler name was used commonly as a middle name after marriage.

The Gilberts emigrated from England in the 1850s. While eventually settling in Canada, they had first lived in the United States near Baltimore for a few years after their arrival. Hannah Gilbert later told the story of as a child having to hide from Civil War troops in flour barrels for fear they would rape the women and girls.  The census also records that Hannah, their first child, was born in England before they left.

Hannah's father, John B Gilbert worked as a printer, although during the late 1860s and 1870s he was also listed as a dealer of herbal medicine.

The surname of Gilbert was originally a Norman personal name composed of the elements 'gisil' (hostage, noble youth) and 'berht' (bright, famous). The name meant 'the son of Giselbert'. Early records of the name mention Gislebertus (without surname) listed in the Domesday Book of 1086. This given name enjoyed considerable popularity in England in the Middle Ages, partly as a result of the fame of St. Gilbert of Sempringham (1085-1189) the founder of the only native monastic order. This at one time had over twenty houses, but became extinct on the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Many of the early names recorded in medieval documents denote noble families but many also indicate migration from the continent during, and in the wake of, the Norman invasion of 1066. There was a constant stream of merchants, workmen and others arriving in England during this time. A notable bearer of the name was Sir Humphrey Gilbert (1539-83) the English navigator and discoverer; founded (1583) the first British Colony in North America in Newfoundland.

 

Pillar

The Pillar family married into the Hobson family in Ireland though Benjamin Hobson and Elizabeth Pillar in 1849.

The Pillar family were Quakers originally from the County Tyrone, Ireland, near Dungannon. Elizabeth's father James Pillar was a farmer.

Elizabeth's brown Quaker wedding dress from this union still exists and is under the care of family member Harry McFee.

From Old French pilleur ‘plunderer’, formerly used as a nickname for a bailiff. Topographic name for someone who lived by a tidal creek (see Pill, Pyle). Topographic name from Old French piler ‘pillar'.

 

Moore

The Moore family married into the Wood family through Stephen Wood and Sarah Ann Moore in 1841. The Moore's were likely from Hampshire, England.

Sarah Ann Moore died quite young at just 42 and is recorded having worked as a tobacco dealer in Kemp Town, Brighton. Her family was from Portsea just down the coast.

The Moore surname recorded in a wide range of spellings including: More, Mores, Moor, Moores, Moors, and in Scotland Muir, has a number of possible origins. The first is a topographical name for someone who lived on a moor or in a fen, both of which were denoted by the Olde English pre 7th Century word "mor", or from one of the various villages so named such as Moore in the county of Cheshire, or More in Shropshire. Secondly it may have been a nickname for someone of dark or swarthy complexion. In this case the derivation is from the Old French "more", meaning dark-skinned. There was also a personal name of the same origin, which was borne by several early saints. The given name was introduced into England by the Normans, but was never as popular in England as on the Continent. In Ireland the surname originated as a form of the Gaelic O'Mordha, composed of the elements O', meaning descendant of, and Mordha, a byname translating as proud or stately. In Scotland and Wales the origination was as a nickname for a large man, from the Gaelic word mor or the Welsh mowr, both meaning great.

 

Turner

The Turner family married into the Gilbert family through John Gilbert and Hannah Turner around 1850. It is thought they first met in England, as their eldest daughter Hannah was born there before they emigrated.

It is not known where the Turners were from, but if consistant with the Gilbert/Boaler history (above) they might be from Nottinghamshire.

The Turner surname is recorded in several spellings including Turner, Turnor, Thurner, Tourner and Tournor. With over fifty entries in the Dictionary of National Biography, it perhaps surprisingly it has at least three possible origins. Firstly, it may be an occupational name for a maker of small objects of wood, metal, or bone by turning on a lather, deriving from the Anglo-Norman French word "torner". Secondly, it may be a nickname for a fast runner, from the Middle English elements "turnen" to turn, plus the fusing of "hare" a hare. Thirdly, it may be occupational for an official in charge of a tournament, deriving from the Old French word "tornei".

 

Wieler

The Wieler family married into the Bretz family through Jacob Bretz and Nancy Wieler in 1827.

The Wielers were Mennonites thought to be originally from West Prussia. Gerhard emigrated to Philadephia, Pennsylvania on October 12th, 1802 aboard the ship Tom. He married Agnetha Classen in Pennsylvania in1807 and later moved to the Waterloo area of Ontario around 1812.

There are numerous spellings of this surname including; Wieler, Wiehler, Wheeler, Wheler, Wehler, Willer and others.

It is likely a topographic name from Middle High German 'wuol', or 'wüele+er' meaning dweller near a waterhole.

 

Strickler

The Strickler family married into the Bretz family through Jacob Bretz and Mary Strickler around 1797. So far the Canadian Bretz connection to Pennsylvania is established through a very few actual documents, but one of these shows the couple in the will of Mary's father Ulrich Strickler in 1804. Ulrich's father, Henry Strickler, is mentioned on pg. 195 of Stricklers of Pennsylvania : a history of the Strickler famielies who emigrated from Switzerland and settled principally in Bucks, Lancaster, York, and Lebanon counties in Pennsylvania, by Abigail H. Strickler. It has not been established when Henry Strickler came over from Switzerland or indeed what his connection is to the several other Strickler lines in Pennsylvania.

Henry Strickler was a Mennonite originally from Switzerland. He emigrated to Pennsylvania sometime prior to 1750, when he took the oath of allegiance, settling in the area around Rapho with some of the earliest Mennonite families.

A great collection of information on the Strickler families in Pennsylvania has been assembled by Frank Duff.

This occupational name of Strickler is of German and Dutch origin, a name given to someone whose job was to fill level measures of corn, by passing a flat stick over the brim of the measure, thus removing any heaped excess.

 

Immigrants to the New World

Below are a list of immigrants important to our modern Bretz family in Canada.

  Year Origin Boarded Landed Destination Ship
Unknown Bretz and family ~1730-1750 Pfalz, Germany Rotterdam Philadelphia Lancaster, Pennsylvania ?
Henry Strickler ~1730-1750 Switzerland ? ? Lancaster, Pennsylvania ?
Gerhard Wieler 12/10/1802 Ellerwald, West Prussia Hamburg Philidelphia, Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Tom
Benjamin Hobson and family 12/11/1851 Belfast, Ireland Belfast, Ireland New York, New York Galt, Ontario Riverdale
John Gilbert and family ~1851 England ? ? Baltimore,  Maryland ?
Stephen Wood and children 1859 Brighton, Sussex ? ? Toronto, Ontario ?