Almost Métis

I used to think my dad’s ancestors were Métis. They’re not, but I ended up with a seemingly permanent interest.

The Métis are a Canadian group, a mixture of Anglos and Indians from the area between the Great Lakes and the Rocky Mountains. Not all mixed-race people in Canada are Métis, just the ones where the men in the founding group were employees of the Hudson Bay Company.

One of those men was John Hourie (1779-1857). He came to Hudson’s Bay in 1800 from South Ronaldsay, one of the Orkney Islands off the northern coast of Scotland. About 1809 he married Margaret Bird, a Shoshone (“Snake”) woman. She was adopted daughter of James Curtis Bird.

Howery is not a very common surname. When I was maybe 13 or so and just getting started with genealogy, I knew almost nothing about my father or his family. I eventually eked out the information that his grandfather was Elmer Phillip Howery, who everyone agreed was born in England. (Recently it’s occurred to me that probably I was not hearing the difference between English and Anglo that would have been significant for my mother and some of the others I was talking to.)

I wrote confidently to Somerset House, the English vital records place. Nothing. No record, they said. In fact they had no records of any Howerys. That’s just England, though. Since it was obvious Howery is a British name (so naive back then!), I started thinking Howery is probably a Scottish name. Maybe Irish.

In those pre-Internet days each little nugget of information was a treasure. My access to information was essentially just the local library and quarterly issues of The Genealogical Helper.

I could also order Family Group Sheets from the LDS Genealogical Library in Salt Lake, but I had to be pretty focused. I needed to have name, date, and place. It’s hard to finesse a form when you don’t have much real information. There was no Family Group Sheet for Elmer Phillip Howery, so I was out of luck.

Lucky me. I found Black’s Surnames of Scotland (1946). Yep, there’s an entry for Hourie. I wasn’t finding anything remotely similar anywhere else in Europe, so I was sure this was going to be my family.

One of my strategies back then was to use phone books to find addresses of people who had the surnames I was looking for. The Grand Junction Public Library didn’t have a large collection but they did have some. I would also call directory assistance and do a little fishing for names and addresses. My allowance at that age wasn’t so high I could afford a lot of stamps, so I had to be cagey, looking for the best opportunities. Then too, most people never wrote back, even though I learned to type on my mother’s fancy Olivetti, she taught me to use business format, and I enclosed stamped return envelopes.

With my Howery search I eventually connected with Ian Howrie in Dallas, Texas. He told me, in one paragraph, the story of his ancestors John Hourie and Margaret Bird from Red River, Canada. I was sure that was my connection. The other people I talked to mostly agreed.

I think it was probably several years before I made contact with Pat Sorenson in Yuba City, California. That was through one of her ads in The Genealogical Helper. She couldn’t help with my line, not directly, but she offered the very firm advice that my line probably belonged to the large clan of Midwest Howerys and Howreys descended from Jacob Howry of Howrytown, Virginia, and he in turn from (she thought) the Mennonite Hauris and Howrys from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Pat turned out to be right. I gave up my Métis ancestry, almost without noticing. Too bad. I think my dad would have liked that line to pan out. Many years later when I wanted Ian Howrie to do a DNA test for the Hauri DNA Project, I couldn’t find him again. The whole Métis piece just receded into the distance, although I think there might be distant cousins here and there who still think we’re descended from John Hourie and Margaret, his Shoshone wife.

More Information

  • John Hourie“, Red River Ancestry <>, Dec. 5, 2016, retrieved Aug. 23, 2020.

Jacob Howry

I’m a member of Sons of the American Revolution through my ancestor Capt. Andrew Grant. I’ve been thinking lately I might want to do supplemental applications for other qualifying ancestors. There are a lot of them. My first thought was to do a supplemental application for James Kenney, because my mother and sister belong to DAR through him. Also because I’ve been thinking I might use that line to join Boonesborough Descendants. But sister Laura suggested there might be a better use of my time and resources.

Instead of doing ancestors who are already done, Laura suggested I could focus on ancestors who’ve never been used to join SAR or DAR. Maybe even focus at first on my dad’s side, where—frankly—it’s not very likely anyone else would be interested.

That’s when I had the idea of doing a memorial application for my step/adopted father Carroll Place. His ancestor Thomas Place served in the Vermont Militia. I wrote about that last week.

It took a bit longer for me to think of the obvious. Why not a supplemental application for my paternal ancestor, Jacob Howry, of Howrytown? He served in Capt. Andrew Pawley’s Company, 5th Battalion, York County Militia (Pennsylvania).

So now I have another project.

More Information

Some Anniversaries

February 8th is one of those days that stands out in the calendar of my family history. For me it has become Genealogy Day, a day to do something special about my interest in family history. Like Christmas but for me not Baby Jesus. And it helps a bit that Losar, the Tibetan New Year, is right around this time of year.

It’s the anniversary of my grandfather’s death. Harry William Swanstrom (1903-1957). By coincidence it’s also the anniversary of his sister’s death. Ellen Sophie (Swanstrom) Hinkle (1895-1949). She was the first of the kids to pass away.

That’s on the Swanstrom side. Then on the Howery side, today is the anniversary of the earliest surviving mention of the surname Hauri in history. A Conrad Hauri (Chuondradus dictus Hovri) was mentioned on 8 February 1282 as owing 9 shillings annually for his land at Steffisburg (Bern, No. 334), when Werner von Steffisburg leased certain lands to Kloster Interlaken. The taxes Conrad owed for his lands were in line with amounts throughout the region for larger peasant holdings. He was probably our ancestor but there’s no way to prove it.

For my Genealogy Day last year I started the process for getting a grave marker for my grandmother’s two babies that died at birth. Charles Edward Swanstrom (1932) and Harvey William Swanstrom (1934). It took nearly a year start to finish, which is part of the reason I’m just writing about it now.

My grandmother always intended to have a marker made for them and place it in Eden Valley Cemetery. It was one of the last things she mentioned to me just before she died. Actually, the babies are buried in Rock Springs but the funeral home has said there would not be enough left of their bodies to move them to Eden. And, we could mark the graves where they’re buried but then they would end up being disconnected from the family story.

So. We got the gravestone, and we had it placed between my grandparents’ graves. Also this year we did a memorial brick for my grandparents and another for my sister Evonne in the Peace Walk at the Amitabha Stupa in Sedona. But that’s a story for another time.

Interview with Grandma Hazel

hazel-alloway-howeryThe other day on someone contacted me about a cassette they found in an old camcorder at a garage sale in Laramie. The tape turned out to be an interview my Aunt Bunny did with her mother, my grandfather’s wife, in 2005.

What a wonderful find. I had no idea the tape existed. Neither did anyone else, it seems.

So often I tell people a big part of the trick to doing genealogy is advertising. You need to let people know who you are and how to reach you. This proves it.

I’ve uploaded a copy to YouTube as one part of a strategy of preserving information, even when it’s not about my own direct ancestors.


Remembering Conrad

Grant, O Gods, that the earth may lie soft and gently upon the shades of our ancestors, and may their urns be filled with a perpetual springtime blooming with the sweet scents of crocus. – Aulus Persius Flaccus, Satura VII, 207-8

On this date each year, I honor the memory of Conrad Hauri, the founder of my patrilineage. He was a wealthy peasant in the village of Steffisburg, in the Interlaken district of Switzerland. I know about him only because his lord, Werner von Steffisburg, leased some lands to the church at Interlaken 723 years ago, on 8 February 1282. The lease mentioned Chuondradus dictus Hovri (Conrad called Hauri), who owed 9 shillings per year for his lands. The fact that he owed a rent for his land tells us that he was a peasant. The amount he owed, a percentage of his holdings, tells us that he was very well-to-do. (In the absence of a genuine money economy, he probably paid his rent in produce and labor.) His by-name, Hauri, meant loud or boisterious in the Alemannic dialect of Switzerland, giving us a fleeting glimpse of Conrad as a person. Conrad’s by-name became the surname of his lineage, a family that came to specialize in those most lucrative (and shady) of medieval occupations, miller and bailiff. They profited by the explusion of the Habsburgs from Switzerland, and by the time Napoleon unified the Swiss in 1798 the Hauris dominated local politics in a dozen Swiss villages. Their ancestral mansion at Reinach, called Schneggen, is now a hotel.

There was probably nothing remarkable about Conrad; he just happened to live at a time when by-names were becoming hereditary surnames. So, he became the ancestor of the Hauris. He lived at a time when Switzerland was solidly Christian and had been for centuries. The area in which he lived had been home to the Helvetii in the 1st millenium BCE. Their La Tène culture was an Early Iron Age culture of the continental Celts. Roman incursions began as early as 107 BCE, and the area was conquered by Julius Caesar in 58 BC with his victory at Col d’Armecy during the Gallic Wars. The region became the Roman province Helvetia, and was a favorite area for retired soldiers. The Romans withdrew and in 406 the area was overrun by the Alamanni, who had previously been settled north of the Rhine. The Alamannian kingdom was conquered by the Franks in 496. (This was the victory that led to the Frankish king Clovis becoming a Christian). The Franks divided Alamannia into Gaue (districts) such as Aargau and Thurgau, which they ruled through royal deputies (counts). The Alamannians were converted to Christianity in the 7th century by the Irish missionaries, Saints Columba and Gallus. The Frankish king Charles Martel incorporated Alamannia into the Frankish realm in the 8th century; thereafter, it was part of the Eastern Frankish kingdom. It became briefly part of the Kingdom of Upper Burgundy when Rudolf the Welf founded that kingdom in 888, but was incorporated into the Duchy of Swabia, one of the stem duchies of the German kingdom, in 912. In 1033, it became part of the Holy Roman Empire. In Conrad’s time, the Duchy of Swabia was disintegrating, and this area was coming the control of various local dynasties. It was ruled by the Counts of Zähringen until 1218, by the Counts of Kyburg 1218-1264, and by the Counts of Habsburgs thereafter. This area was controlled by the Imperial Free City of Berne, founded by Berthold V, Duke of Zähringen in 1191 and made a Free Imperial City in 1218.

Once upon a time, genealogists thought that Conrad was an illegitimate son of one of the Counts von Reinach, who in turn were supposed to be a branch of the Counts von Habsburg. Such tidy explanations for the devolution of power are now out of favor. In 1960, one of my distant cousins in Switzerland wrote an article purporting to prove that Conrad was one of a group of Russian merchants given a license to settle at Steffisburg. I suspect that personal politics had a bit to do with that theory, too. It’s interesting, but I don’t buy it. I prefer to imagine Old Conrad as a descendant of the Alamanni, or perhaps of the Romans, just another man of his village, high-spirited enough to merit his nickname, with a healthy dose of the slyness and acquisitiveness that were said to characterize the medieval peasant.

Whoever he was, I honor his memory, and with him, the memory of all the other members of my patrilineage, known and unknown.

Hauri Families in Bern

A Conrad Hauri (Chuondradus dictus Hovri) was mentioned on 8 February 1282 as owing 9 shillings annually for his land at Steffisburg, when Werner von Steffisburg leased certain lands to Kloster Interlaken. The dues he owed for his lands are in line with amounts throughout the region for larger peasant holdings and there is nothing to indicate that these lands were anything else.

Conrad Hauri (Conrad dictus Hovri) was mentioned again on 29 March 1308 when Werner von Matten bequeathed lands, including Conrad’s holdings, to Kloster Interlaken. In the same document Werner von Matten bequeathed other lands, which belonged half to the Hauri farmstead, to his daughter Adelheid, wife of Peter von Wichtrach. It should be noted that different lands seem to be involved in these documents, and that Conrad seems to have held lands simultaneously from the von Steffisburg and von Matten families.

A Nicholas Hauri (Nicholaus Hovri) was mentioned in a 19 January 1303 charter as owing 8 shillings annually for his farmstead at Steffisburg, when Walter ab der Matten renounced any claims he might have to lands given by his father to Kloster Interlaken. Conrad and Nicholas Hauri might have been brothers, because both were living at the same time and holding lands in the same area.

An Ulrich Hauri (Uolriens Hoori) was mentioned 24 July 1310 at Jegenstorf as living near two farmsteads sold by Squire Bleiso (Junker Bleiso) to Peter von Krauchtal, a burgher of Berne. In 1323 and 1336 Hauri’s property (Hauris Gut) was mentioned in the same area. This Ulrich might have been the son of Nicholas and nephew of Conrad Hauri. He might have been the Hauri (Hörinus) named in 1313 and 1324 at Beromünster.

The earliest Hauris, then, are Conrad (living 1282-1308), Nicholas (living 1303) and Ulrich (living 1310-1324). There is nothing to prove their relationship to one another, although they were living in the same area and were very likely close relatives.

The surnames Haari, Hari, Harri, Hauri and Houri were recorded in a 1798 census of Berne that included all men between the ages of 20 and 70 [Men of Bern: The 1798 Bürgerverzeichnisse of Canton Bern, Switzerland].

Lazarite Connection

A Conrad Hauri or Conrad Horn (Chuondradus dictus Hornus), a Knight of the Order of Saint Lazarus, lived at the order’s house at Gfenn in Dübendorf, now a suburb of Zürich. He was named in a charter dated 13 April 1272, when the order sold the church at Meiringen in the Bernese Oberland to Kloster Interlaken. Conrad might have taken his surname from Höri in Zürich. This is the earliest mention of a possible Hauri and the only reference to imply that the family might originally have been nobles.

Other readings are possible. There were Horn families at Sigriswil and Schüpfen in Berne, and at Riehen in Basel. There were Horni families at Leutwil in Aargau, and at Bärschwil in Solothurn. [Emil Meier, Familiennamenbuch der Schweiz (Zürich 1968-71)]

A charter dated 7 March 1290 names Nicholas, Conrad and Ulrich “of the Hospital” (dicti des Spitals), as among those living at the Manor of Bernensem near Engi when that manor was granted by the Master of the Lazarite Hospital near Bern to another party. The Nicholas, Conrad and Ulrich of the Hospital were probably close relatives, as other persons named in the same document are each given their different surnames.

L'Hopital Coat of Arms
L’Hopital Coat of Arms

It has been suggested, but not proven, that these men are identical with the Hauris of the same name. There is no problem with identifying Conrad Hornus (1272) with Conrad of the Hospital (1290), although the identification rests only on similarity of name. It would be more of a stretch to identify either man with Conrad Hauri (1282-1308), of Steffisburg. Further, there is nothing to support the identifications of Nicholas and Ulrich. If the two Conrads were in fact identical, the mutual connection with Kloster Interlaken might have brought the Hauris from Höri in Zürich to Steffisburg in Bern.

Perhaps coincidentally, the early Hauris used the same coat of arms as the French family de L’Hôpital, who claimed descent from the first royal family of Naples.

On the whole, these theories of relationship might merit further investigation but cannot now be taken as more than a curiosity.