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Travellers Tales

theserpentWhat if we could stop our personal time machine and breathe the air of any moment in history? We’d have a real traveller’s tale to tell but, with deep regret, this chapter is not about time travel. Our ancestors have been travellers in their own times by necessity. It’s called migration and every living creature on the planet is sometimes forced to do so in order to survive and so it was with our ancestors. The reasons are many, in human terms, but primarily it was, and remains the same to this day, about seeking a better existence. So are we English, Dutch, Norwegian, French, German or even American (1)?  Travellers Tales are stories about migration and the fact is, “we are all immigrants, our only difference is that some of us arrived earlier and some of us later”(2).

Travellers Tales are inspired by my cousin David MacKenzie Smith (3); we share a great-grandfather, Frank Morse Smith. We live on different continents – he is American and I am English; those differences were the result of a migration, a story featured in A Letter to America. Since discovering that we share a common interest in our family history, Dave has bombarded me with stories that demand inclusion, not only because we can be entertained by them but also that we can have reminders of how diverse our ancestry really is – they are stories that don’t deserve to get lost. Although these are small bytes, they are compelling and add an interesting contribution to this work. So whilst the opening shots are about an Italian and a Spaniard, be assured there will be stories about many more immigrants. And please, be encouraged to add one yourself.

Joseph Carlo Mauran (1748 – 1813)

A sixth great grandfather on Dave’s maternal side was an Italian, Joseph Carlo Mauran. He was born on 3 June 1748 at Villafranca de Mar in the Province of Verona. At about the age of twelve, young Mauran was sailing on the Mediterranean with a lad named Suchet when he was kidnapped or press ganged by the officers of an English man-of-war, and impressed into service as a cabin boy. By singular good fortune, Mauran escaped from his enforced British service and found himself on shore at New London, Connecticut.

The lad soon found a home in the family of David Maxon, of Westerly, Rhode Island, where he remained until he was about twenty years of age. Leaving Westerly, he came to Barrington, and was employed by Joshua Bicknell, the father of Olive, who was to be his future wife. Mutual attachments held Mauran in the Bicknell home until his marriage to Olive Bicknell in 1772. Olive received a lot of land, as a marriage gift, which was situated on the Barrington River, adjoining and south of the Congregational Meetinghouse lot, on which ‘a commodious dwelling was erected’; it became the family home.

Although of Roman Catholic parentage and education in Italy, Joseph Carlo Mauran accepted the creed and customs of the Protestant faith, and united heartily with his wife, a descendant of staunch Pilgrim ancestry, in support of the ancient faith of her forefathers. Mauran became a loyal American citizen and a devoted patriot, and engaged in the service of defending the cause of the Colonies with true native zeal and courage. He died on 1 May 1813 at Providence, Rhode Island.

Manuel Gonsalus (1670 – 1752)

An ancestor of Dave’s, on his mother’s father’s side, maybe as many as ten generations past, was a Spaniard, Manuel Gonsalus (perhaps González) who was born about 1670. “Sometime before 1700, Don Manuel Gonsalus, a Spanish Puritan, had fled to The Colonies from Spain on account of persecution for his Protestant sentiments.”

He married Marretje Davids, from a Dutch family of Rochester in Ulster County in about 1691. He later married a Rebecca Westfall in 1707 at Kingston, New York with whom he had nine children.

“Gonsales moved to Mamakating Hollow, built a log-house, and entertained those who carried wheat to Kingston market. Wheat, rye and corn were raised in abundance in Minisink, and along the Delaware River. Gonsalus was a house-carpenter who made shingles and raised some grain. He opened trade with the Indians, as they were friendly at that period.”

He died on 18 April 1752 at Mamakating in Wurtsboro, New York.



1. We may argue that almost everyone in ‘America’ is of another nationality but this is too greater subject to discuss.

2. Ruiz (1997)

3.  David MacKenzie Smith has a great website included on that includes no fewer than 7522 people of this and connected families.