piątek, 21 kwietnia 2017

The Tolkien Family Tree on Ancestry.co.uk
Why I think John B. Tolkien was born in Gdańsk

I dedicate this note to J.R.R. Tolkien's biographers: John Garth, Christina Scull and Wayne Hammond. I hope it can be of interest to you ☺

The first time I have found the information about the Gdańsk/Danzig ancestry of the Tolkien family's branch to which belonged J.R.R. Tolkien was when I joined the paid services of the Ancestry.co.uk There I found the Tolkien Family Tree made by Linda Winifred Tolkien from Brisbane, Australia. Mrs Tolkien knows that the Tolkiens came from Gdańsk/Danzig, she treats Daniel Gottlieb Tolkien and John Benjamin Tolkien as brothers. But she doesn't know that their parents were Christian and Euphrosina Tolkien from Gdańsk. I have tried to contact Mrs Tolkien...

I would like to show you the fragments of that Tolkien Family Tree which shows the Gdańsk/Danzig roots of J.R.R. Tolkien's great-great-grandfather, Johann (John) Benjamin Tolkien:

John Benjamin Tolkien as younger brother of Daniel Gottlieb Tolkien
Daniel Gottlieb Tolkien and John Benjamin Tolkien as brothers!
John Benjamin Tolkien b. 1753 and his older brother Daniel Gottlieb Tolkien b. 1747 in Gdańsk/Danzig
I would like to show you the proofs that Daniel Gottlieb Tolkien and John Benjamin Tolkien were brothers (there are still the skeptics who demand the proofs). 

John Benjamin Tolkien (father of George Tolkien, grandfather of John Benjamin, great-granfather of Arthur Reuel and great-great-grandfather of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien) was probably born in Gdańsk (German Danzig) in 1753 and he was a younger brother of Daniel Gottlieb Tolkien from Gdańsk (we have his 1794 Act of Naturalization where his birthplace is "Dantzig").

1794, The Act of Naturalization of Daniel Gottlieb Tolkien, son of Christian and Euphrosina
Both brothers were probably also brothers of Christian Tolkien, a Gdańsk antiquarian and Prussian official, who died in 1821 (he changed the family name to Tollkühn after 1812) and is buried in Gdańsk St Mary Cathedral (read about the proofs that Christian Tolkien's parents were Christian and Euphrosina Tolkien).

We have more and more proofs that J.R.R. Tolkien's great great grandfather was born in Gdańsk, Poland (in 1753 Gdańsk was the most important Baltic town in Poland during the Poland-Saxony union). Let me ennumerate them:

(1) the first Tolkiens ever found in England are Daniel Gottlieb Tolkien and John Benjamin Tolkien. Both lived in London from at least 1777 (act of marriage of John Benjamin Tolkien and Mary Warner, see here).
The first Tolkien document in London - J. B. Tolkien act of wedding. See Tolkien's signature:
Johann Benjamin Tolkien (German form Johann)
(2) Daniel Gottlieb Tolkien was a furrier in London. John Benjamin's son, George Tolkien was an apprentice of Daniel G. Tolkien in 1799 (see here).

3) John Benjamin Tolkien was Lutheran and he spelled his first name Johann (see no. 1)

4) Ann Austin, wife of Daniel Gottfried Tolkien was a witness during John Benjamin Tolkien's wedding with Mary Wall (in 1781):

5) John Benjamin Tolkien is buried close to Daniel Gottfried Tolkien; both on the Methodist graveyards in London by the City Road (see here).

Of course I am still looking for the acts of births of Daniel Gottfried Tolkien and John Benjamin Tolkien in Gdańsk (at the moment I suppose their baptisms took place in St Cathrine church in Gdańsk/Danzig)...

To be continued...

4 komentarze:

  1. This is very interesting, thank you!

    Of these, no. 2 – that George became apprenticed to Daniel – is a good indication.

    The rest are at best vague indications, and no. 4 is circular reasoning: the only reason to assume that the Ann Austin that was a witness for John Benjamin Tolkien's wedding was the same Ann Austin that had married Daniel Tolkien is the assumption that the two were brothers – without that assumption, the link becomes very tenuous.

    But in cases such as this, all we can do is to collect tenuous evidence. Though the individual fibre may be very weak, together they can nonetheless form a strong rope, and in a similar manner, we can hope to gather enough such tenuous evidence that it, taken together, becomes compelling.

    Finding the apprenticeship is a large step in that direction, and it definitely puts it beyond doubt that Daniel Gotlieb and John Benjamin Tolkien knew each other in London, but as evidence of a family relation, the evidence is still far from conclusive.

  2. Thank you, Troels. The voice like yours is important in research like mine. Thanks to you I am more careful and slowler to make brave assumptions. At the moment I am simply looking for the baptism acts of Daniel and Johann.

    And what do you think on (3)? We can see that John Benjamin in the beginning spells his own name in the German way. And he belongs to the German Lutheran parish in London. What about such a proof?

    Do you have other competing theory concerning Johann Benjamin Tolkien. How do you think where could he come to London from?

  3. For me an interesting proof is also this that a member of the Tolkien family (Mrs Linda W. Tolkien is the wife of Mr Tolkien who is a descendant of George Tolkien, son of John Benjamin) treats J. B. Tolkien as brother of Daniel. Isn't it a strong argument?

  4. Thank you, Ryszard.

    I am afraid that I do not find Mrs. Linda Tolkien's work to be very credible without further documentation. She has been working at a time where connecting her own branch of Tolkiens with the branch of the world-famous author would be an extremely desirable and tempting thing to do, even without evidence.

    You have (and thank you very much for that!) demonstrated that Tolkiens, using various variant spellings, were not entirely uncommon in Prussia in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, so the fact that John Benjamin initially used German spelling is not surprising in itself, if he was first or second generation immigrant from, very likely, Prussia.

    As far as I have understood the facts, there could be other ways of explaining them than assuming that the two were brothers, and my assessment is that their being brothers is not necessarily more probable than other explanations.

    I'll offer two alternative explanations to show what I mean:

    a) Daniel emigrated from Danzig to London. There he settles in a part of town with many German Lutherans, and in the local church he meets another Tolkien, John Benjamin, who is either himself immigrated from Germany (likely Prussia), or is the son of an immigrant. The two, who had not met before, decide that they must be family (even though they cannot decide the details of the relation), and treat each other as such, even to the point where John Benjamin's son gets apprenticed to Daniel and Daniel's wife (probably) witnesses John Benjamin's marriage.

    b) Daniel and John Benjamin are family in the Danzig area – third or second cousins, perhaps, or perhaps even first cousins. Both are second or third sons, and so neither will inherit the family business, and they decide to seek their fortune together in England.

    You seem to be working from an underlying assumption that all Tolkiens are at some point a single family, and I have no way of knowing how likely this might be. If it is the case, the two would of course be related regardless of which version we choose, but this might be fairly distant in scenario a). In scenario b), they are of course more closely related, but still not brothers.

    As I know nothing about the emigration history from Prussia to England at that time, I can only base my assessments on a more generalised knowledge of emigration, but on such a basis, I would say that both a) and b) each are at least as probable as the scenario making them brothers.

    Personally, I would dearly love to find that Daniel and John Benjamin were closely related (whether brothers or relatively close cousins as per my scenario b) above), but as a scientist I also tend to get more suspicious of my evidence when I notice that I would like something to be true. My training (I am a physicist) makes me look for alternative explanations that would explain the evidence (the observed facts) equally well, and if this is possible, and if such alternative explanations do not seem too far-fetched (and I would argue that neither of my scenarios above are that), I try to see what kind of evidence might help.

    In this case, evidence in England for the granting of citizenship to John Benjamin or one of his descendants would be good.
    Church books showing the baptisms of either or both of the two would of course also be a real break-through.