Is there a South Shields link with Indian wars?

William Hurlbutt and his wife Robina.

William Hurlbutt and his wife Robina.

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When Ann Franklin began researching her family roots, little did she expect to find a possible link between her ancestors and warring North American Indians.

Yet that is the theory she is continuing to investigate, and the subject of what promises to be a truly fascinating talk in South Shields later this month.

A 19th-century engraving depicting an incident in the Pequot War.

A 19th-century engraving depicting an incident in the Pequot War.

Ann will be giving her talk, entitled “William Henry Hurlbutt, A Yankee on Tyneside and the search for his Connecticut roots”, at a meeting of the South Tyneside branch of the Northumberland & Durham Family History Society.

“My talk is centred around my great great grandfather, William Henry Hurlbutt (my mother’s mother was his granddaughter), whose existence I discovered when I started to research my maternal family, who I believed went back for generations in South Shields,” explains Ann.

“From a census, I found William had been born in America, and his wife Robina, in Kirkwall, Orkney.

“From there I was reminded of the ‘Hurlbutt family tale’ that an ancestor of ours had ‘commanded a fort in America’.

“In pursuit of this story, my research has taken me back to the first settlers in New England, the engagement of an English engineer who was responsible for building a fortification at the mouth of the Connecticut River, in Saybrook, as a defence against the native Americans, and who took with him, on his voyage, a Hurlbutt.

“It detailed the Pequot Indian War, in 1637, and how the Hurlbutt ‘clan’ subsequently grew in the USA, along with the growth of Connecticut itself.

“During my talk, I am then going to add how William brought the Hurlbutt family to Tyneside, and explain as, best as I can, his life in North Shields, which contains a few sad tales along the way!

“I will conclude that although my great-grandmother was brought up on the north side of the Tyne, she was actually born in South Shields, and after her marriage to William’s son Andrew, and the birth of their eldest children, the family moved to Military Road, South Shields, where her younger sons were born, hence why I believed they were a ‘South Shields’ family through and through.”

The society’s publicity officer Pat Pierpoint says she is sure the talk will be of great interest to people in both South and North Shields.

“Among other things, the story involves, on one side of the Atlantic, early American settlers, battles with Pequod Indians, and the founding of Fort Saybrook, and on this side of the pond, Bell Street, North Shields!”

The talk, which starts at 1.30pm, takes place on April 20, at St Hilda’s Church Visitor Centre, Market Place, South Shields.

Ann is a trustee of the Northumberland & Durham Family History Society and a member of the South Tyneside branch.

For more details on this and subsequent talks, contact the society’s branch secretary, Gerry Langley by emailing southtynesidebranch@ndfhs.org.uk