1890: Horace Burr and the Records of Old Swedes Church

In 1890, the Society published The Records of Holy Trinity (Old Swedes) Church, Wilmington, Del., from 1697 to 1773, a translation of the church’s records by Horace Burr. This important publication made a wealth of historical and genealogical information available to the public.

Who was Horace Burr—and why was he interested in, and able to, translate these records?  Horace Burr was born in Connecticut in 1817.  At the age of 18, he began to teach school, and also to educate himself in science, mathematics, and, especially, languages.  After three years of teaching, including some time in Delaware, he went to medical school at Yale.  He had a medical practice in Connecticut for a number of years, but moved to Wilmington at the age of 51, around1868.

In Wilmington he began a new medical practice and continued his literary and linguistic pursuits.  Dr. Burr loved the study of languages.  He learned French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Anglo-Saxon, Dutch, Low Dutch, Danish, Icelandic, Russian—and Swedish.

Dr Burr was also an active member of Trinity Parish, of which Old Swedes is a part.  His love of Old Swedes and his love of languages combined to lead him to translate the records of Old Swedes.  The work was a labor of love for him.

Even though we now know that there are errors in the translation, and that it is time for a new version, Horace Burr’s work has been and continues to be a valuable resource for historians and genealogists.

Horace Burr, 1880s
Horace Burr, 1880s

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