The Family of Charles Throckmorton Shryock
Tom M. Liston

      This manuscript was written by Mr. Liston about his grandfather's family.  Although only having very little in common with the family of Lewis Gilbert Shryock, it contained a very interesting historical and human perspective about the European family and their plight.  It accepts as fact the claims to nobility so popular by the Shryock family and descendants.  The portion of his manuscript that is relevant to the lineage of Lewis Gilbert Shryock and his family is reproduced below.  The reader is again reminded that this claim has not been substantiated.

European Origins and Background

      On August 28, 1733, the English ship, Hope docked at Philadelphia.  Several weeks earlier she had departed the Dutch port of Rotterdam with a cargo of German emigrants, among them three sons of Friedrich von Schrieck: George, John, and Jacob.

      When the brothers disembarked at Philadelphia they immediately took the required oath of allegiance to George II, king of England and all her colonies.  They then set out for Yorktown 86 miles to the west, which had become a center for German immigrants to Pennsylvania.  It was here they settled initially and the Shryock family, which today counts descendants in every state of the union, was founded.  Before beginning our history of the American branch, however, let us discuss what is known of the European ancestors.

      The Shryock family ( or Van Schrieck as they were then known ) originated in a place known as the Duchy of Brabant, which today comprises the southern-most province of the Netherlands.  Until 1648 it was one of many European principalities ruled variously by Franco, Spanish or German nobles.  The precise area was called Bois-Ie-Duc, at or near the present town of ‘sHertogenbosch.  One of the "oldest and most romantic towns" in Holland, 'sHertogenbosch ( pronounced Ser-toggaen-bos ) "derived its name from Duke Godfrey of Brabant, who granted it municipal privileges in 1184 the name literally means" the Duke's woods" - Hertog being the Dutch word for Duke and Bosch the word for woods."  (Bois-le¬-Duc is the French variant ).

      Comprehensive research has been done on the Shryock ancestry by other individuals, notably one Frank Kimball Leland, Ph.D.  Dr. Leland has been deceased for many years, but his work on the family origins survives.  He detennined that the Shryock line began with a man named Alarick Schreeck, who fought in the First Crusade ( 1096 -1099 ).  The family coat-of-arms supports this contention as the following explanation will show.  First, the cross on the shield is the cross of St. Andrew ( i.e. not upright as in the case of Christ ).  This was the symbol of the Crusaders, who fought for Christianity against the infidel and the Turk from 1095 to 1271 AD.  Secondly, the arms were won in war, as indicated by the helmet above the shield, and in the heat of battle as the visor is lowered.  The birds in the four quarters of the shield were added hundreds of years later when the 17th century descendants of Alarick fled Brabant for Germany.  They symbolize migration from an original homeland.

      The lineage is undocumented from Alarick's time until 1545, but it is probable that he was rewarded for his service in the Crusades by the grant of a feudal barony, which stayed in the family down through the centuries.  In 1545 Wilhelm Friedrich, Baron Van Schrieck, was born.  He lived and died in Bois-le-Duc, the date of death being 1583.  Next in line was his son, Karl Friedrich, Baron Van Schrieck, who lived from 1580 until 1630, also in Bois-le-Duc.  Jarick Hans Van Schrieck was his son and it was during this man's lifetime that the family left the barony in Brabant and migrated to Germany.  ( The reason for this emigration is discussed later ).  Jarick Hans' son, Friedrich, was the first descendant to be known by the Germanized surname, von Schrieck.  He lived from 1668 until 1734 and was the father of the three brothers who came to America.

      As mentioned before, sometime between 1610 and 1685 ( the lifetime of Jarick Hans Van Schrieck ) the family migrated from Bois-le-Duc to the kingdom of Hanover in northwest Germany.  The reason for this move was probably directly related to the religious and political turmoil which wracked continental Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries and which made the tenure of the landed families uncertain at best.  The Reformation, begun by Martin Luther in 1517, had sparked a continuing series of small wars, as Catholic dominated principalities fought with those which had embraced Luther.  Eventually the Calvinists became involved and in many instances the Protestants were as contemptuous of one another as the Catholics and Lutherans.  Most of this religious turmoil was concentrated in Germany, which, "divided against itself lay open to the designs of other nations of Europe".

      In 1618 the Protestant German princes and the Catholic Haps started the Thirty Years War.  Ostensibly a religious conflict, it was in reality a struggle for political power.  In its initial stages it could be described as a civil war in which German Protestants battled German Catholics.  Eventually, however, it became an international war, as France, Spain, Denmark, and Sweden rushed in to carve out slices of the European pie.  Thus, for 30 years, "one army after another dragged itself across the soil of Germany, killing, raping, burning, sacking, leaving famine and disease in their wake, quartering their troops in the homes of people, seizing women and children for servants".

      Unfortunately the Duchy of Brabant was a crossroads in this conflict and suffered accordingly.  Its fertile farmlands were laid waste, its towns destroyed, its people uprooted.  It was at this time the Van Schriecks were forced from their lands, their move to the north and east being a retreat from the terrors of war.  Once established in the kingdom of Hanover ( Prussia ) the Dutch "Van" in the surname was supplanted by the German 'von'.  When the sons of Friedrich von Schrieck departed Rotterdam for America they did so as German citizens, the family having lived in Prussia for at least a century. Their origins however were clearly Dutch.

      Why America?  German immigration to the English colonies, particularly Pennsylvania, had begun originally in the 1680's in response to William Penn's tract, Some Account of the Province of Pennsylvania.  Written in 1682 and translated into German, French, and Dutch, it described what sort of people Penn, an English Quaker, wished to populate his colony in the new world.  It promised complete religious liberty and easy terms for land.

      These promises must have had great appeal to Germans living in the wake of the Thirty Years War.  The Peace of Westphalia, which had ended the war in 1648, had left German sovereignty in the hands of various princes, rather than with a central authority.  While other countries which had been involved in the conflict emerged from the treaty with specific borders and centralized autonomy, the jealousies spawned by the German arrangement, pitting the interests of one prince against those of another, were to cause Germany to suffer political disorder for centuries to come.  It is no wonder Penn's blandishments found a ready audience among Germans, and from the 1680's until well after the War of Independence they streamed across the Atlantic to avail themselves of the freedom he promised.  Almost certainly the three Von Schrieck brothers were aware of this promise when they severed their ties with Europe and boarded the Hope, so propitiously named for their momentous journey.

      American Beginnings: Three Brothers

      An ocean crossing in the early 18th century was an ordeal which tested the stamina and the courage of the voyager.  "Gottlieb Mittelberger, who came to Philadelphia in 1750, described the misery during his voyage: - bad drinking water and putrid salt meat, excessive heat and crowding, lice so thick that they could be scrapped off the body, sea so rough that hatches were battened down and everyone vomited in the foul air;  passengers succumbing to dysentery, scurvy, typhus, canker, and mouth rot.  Children under seven, he said, rarely survived the voyage, and in his ship no fewer that thirty-two died".  We can be sure that the voyage of the Hope in 1733 was not dissimilar and that the Von Schrieck brothers were subjected to the same perils described so vividly by Mittelberger.

      Most immigrants in these days were indentured servants.  Being too poor to provide their own outfitting and passage, they contracted with an employer in the colonies, who subsidized the voyage in return for a few years' labor - usually four or five.  This system was the principal means of populating the American colonies even for many years after they became independent.

      Whether or not the brothers were indentured is not known, but they probably were not.  As descendants of a landed family it is likely they were sufficiently well-to-do to provide their own transportation costs.  According to one source their possessions, upon arriving in Philadelphia, included an iron cooking pot containing a sum of gold, which was concealed by a layer of lard.  Also, while half of the passengers on the Hope signed their respective oaths of allegiance with a "mark", the von Schriecks did so in their own handwriting, indicating they were literate and probably educated.  While these facts tend to indicate that the brothers arrived as free men, the alternative cannot be ruled out.

This page was last updated: June 17, 2020
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