USA visitor traces ancestor’s steps in Winterbourne
Published on: 29 Nov 2017
A DESCENDANT of a man who was baptised and married in St Michael’s Church, Winterbourne, in the 17th century has visited the village to trace his history.
Trevor Pontz lives in Florida and made his first trip to the UK after discovering his links with South Gloucestershire.
He learned a couple of years ago that his ancestor Anthony Sturgis was born in Frenchay in the 1640s and had been a feltmaker in the hatting industry.
He was also a Quaker who had been given a land grant from William Penn in 1683 for a plot in the new city of Philadelphia.
Mr Sturgis and his wife, Ann, sailed for the New World on the Bristol Factor ship, landing in Philadelphia on October 4, 1683, with four of their children.
Four other children had died in childhood - Mary in 1668, Hannah the following year, Joseph in 1671 and William in 1672 - and although records are inconclusive, it is likely they were buried at St Michael's.
Another of his ancestors, Julius Sturgis, founded the first commercial pretzel baker in America in 1861 and is credited with "inventing" the hard or crunchy pretzel.
Mr Pontz was welcomed to Winterbourne by members of the church and trustees of Winterbourne Medieval Barn.
He was shown around the buildings, which he was told in many ways had changed little since his forefathers used them in the 1600s.
Mr Pontz said he was overwhelmed by the experience and planned to return.
He also thought Winterbourne was quintessentially English with its "one lane roads, tiny cars, stone walls and hedgerows, confused weather, an equal amount of pubs and churches and the kindest people one could ever meet”.
In return, he was thanked for making a “generous donation” to the barn project
several months ago - to an appeal that was part of a bid for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
Final plans for the refurbishment of the buildings surrounding the barn, to bring the whole site into community use, are currently being submitted to the HLF now, with a decision expected in the spring of 2018.
Meanwhile, the barn trust still needs to raise thousand of pounds to match the HLF funding. Visit www.winterbournebarn.org.uk for details.