Years ago, I was in a public library in Los Angeles and found reference books on family names. I looked up mine, Anger. It said the name came from France, from the region of Anjou, with its main city being Angers. I was thrilled with the idea of being French.
When I came home, I told my father. He said “French! No! We’re German.” He had always said when asked that he didn’t know the family origins – “a little bit of everything” was his answer. So I remained convinced that we were French.
Much later, when I started delving into family history and found other family members doing the same, I discovered that Dad and I were both right.
The family was Huguenot or French Protestant. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Protestants in France had to convert to Catholicism or be killed or expelled. Or they fled the country. They went to Protestant countries, among them the territories that became Germany. And that is where the known history of our family starts.
Georg Frederick Anger migrated to Pennsylvania in 1754. When the American colonies went to war with Britain, George Frederick chose the British side and he and his sons fought as Loyalists to the crown. After the war, they moved across the new border and settled in Bertie Township, near Fort Erie. They joined Butler’s Rangers, a British regiment made up of Loyalists.
The Anger men weren’t done with war. In the War of 1812, they again found their new homeland in the midst of American and British conflict. Then, forty years later, the Angers of Bertie literally found themselves in the midst of battle. In the 1866 Battle of Ridgeway, part of the Fenian Raids in Upper Canada, the Anger homestead was smack in the midst of the battlelines. Bullet holes are still visible in the bricks. The house was turned into a field hospital, being handy to the wounded.
Several years ago, Jim and I made a trip to Ridgeway to find the family. First stop was the Ridgeway archives and library. I found out that my great-great-great-great-grandparents were buried in the “Coloured Cemetery,” north of Ridgeway near the Anger house. Close to the American border, the area had become home to escaped and freed slaves. But just when I was thinking, with delight, about what the Anger place of burial meant for my personal ancestry, the archivist told me it had been the cemetery for everybody in the early days of the settlement. White people, generally, had gravestones. Black people had wooden crosses. The Angers have gravestones.
All the cemeteries near Ridgeway have Angers buried in them. But several of the children of George Frederick’s son John Charles moved west. One of them, also named John Charles, had a son Peter who moved to Hazen Settlement in South Walsingham Township, Norfolk County. It is from him that all of us here in Elgin County claim descent.
This is for my father, George, who died nine years ago today. He had seen his family history in computer printouts first by my cousin Chris Anger and then by me. Dad and I also came to agree that the family was German and French. The title for this is from his saying about his surname – “Anger by name, Anger by nature.”