11 October 2009

Who says the Barters are from Devon?

I'm heading off to England next week and I plan to spend some time in Totnes, Devon where Sam says the Barters originated. I've always wondered what this belief was based on and today I came across a 1985 letter from my cousin Charles Herrick Barter (now deceased).

He says: "Uncle Sam held that we sprang from Totnes and had visited Barters there [after] the first World War. [CR: An image from a set of souvenir postcards is at the top of this post.] There is no evidence of them there now [CR: actually there are a number of Barters in the telephone directory] but, in fact, Barters are widely and thinly found in most of the southwest of England ie. Devon, Dorset, Wiltshire and Somerset. An American Barter from Colorado has traced two branches of his family to farms near Totnes so there is a chance that Uncle Sam had met a family who had moved to town (ie. Totnes) but the 'root stock' probably lies in the country."

So I suppose that the family tradition handed down parent-to-child was that the Barters are from Devon or at least the southwest of England -- and that is probably correct. However there is a record of a James Barter and Anne Kingston marriage in 1729 at Berry Pomeroy near Totnes. According to the parish historian, "There were Barters in the early records but these are very difficult to read and... Many of the headstones in Berry Pomeroy are now missing [and] many are unreadable... Totnes is only a couple of miles away and a larger town where the people did seem to move to live and work." So I'll do a bit of digging in Totnes later this month.