Wild Turkey Artist and the Fraktur — Treasure Chest Thursday

For my Kinship Determination Project (CG), I am researching Nicholas Snavely and his wife Mary (Mollie/Polly) Pickle.  During my literature search, I found Addendum to Early Settlers of Old Mount Airy Wythe County, Virginia by Joseph Rodney Cameron, Sr. & Constance Ann (Levinson) Cameron and in it I find this tantalizing tidbit:

A fractur of Adam and Elizabeth’s son, Nicholas, states that Nicholas’s mother was Elizabeth Wassum, and that Elizabeth was the daughter of Nicholas and Elizabeth Wassum. Beverly Repass Hoch, of Wytheville, Virginia, kindly showed us a copy of the old fractur.1

OK, I have to see this fractur.  But what is a fractur, what exactly am I looking for?

A little internet research informs me that those of German ancestry often commissioned a fraktur or fractur to commemorate births or other events.  And given that there are no birth certificates in Virginia in the early 1800’s, I really need to see this.

I find Beverly Repass Hoch on the APG list, cross my fingers and send her an email.  Turns out not only is Beverly a CG, but she is also incredibly friendly and helpful.  And a very distant cousin!

She explained the origin of the word fraktur to me: “fraktur in German refers to broken letters, more like calligraphy, and the word itself is both singular and plural.”2

She sent me a copy of her copy of the fraktur and the translation and gave me permission to publish them here. (Remember, always ask before you publish documents that are not yours!)

Fraktur for Nicholas Snavely (Finding Forgotten Stories)

Copy of the Fraktur for Nicholas Snavely’s birth provided by Beverly Repass Hoch, CG 3

The translation of the original text on the fraktur, provided by Beverly:

In the year of Christ ano 1811 the 10th [or 12th] of April was born to the light of the world Nicholaus.  The father is Adam Schnably and the mother Elisabeth, born Wassem and the sponsors are the grandparents Nicolaus Wassem and his lawful wife Elisabeth

Also written in various places, in English, are other dates of interest in the life of Nicholas, transcription also provided by Beverly:

  • Polly his wife was born April the 27 1815
  • Alexander Cambell Snavely was born April 15 day 1847
  • Adam Snavely I was born the August 25 1832
  • Elisabeth Snavely was born September the 22 1834
  • Nicholas Snavely and Polly were married Septemberber [sic] the 15 1831
  • Mary An Snavely was born June the 17 [or 18] day 1838

These statements all are written in English and must have been written and time after the creation of the fraktur.

Wild Turkey Artist was a fraktur artist working in Wythe County, Virginia and there are about 30 copies of his work that are known.4

I’ve ordered an article on Wild Turkey Artist and a book to help me learn more about Frakturs, which are a completely new document type to me. Yes, I’m Christmas shopping for myself 🙂 and expect a copy of The Genealogist’s Guide to Fraktur: For Genealogists Researching Families of German Heritage in my mailbox any day now.


1. Cameron, Joseph Rodney and Constance Ann (Levinson) Cameron, Addendum to Early Settlers of Old Mount Airy Wythe County, Virginia (Wytheville, Virginia: By Authors, 1999), 242.
2. Beverly Repass Hoch, Virginia, to Anne Gillespie Mitchell, email, 20 Dec 2012, discussing meaning of fracture; Personal Correspondece, 2012; Snavely Family, Mitchell Research Files; privately held by Mitchell, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] California.
3. Nicholas Snavely Fraktur (certificate), birth, (Wild Turkey Artist, Wythe County, Virginia); copy owned 2012 by Beverly Repass Hoch, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE];. translation of fraktur by Beverly Repass Hoch.
4. Beverly Repass Hoch, Virginia, to Anne Gillespie Mitchell, email, 8 Dec 2012, discussing Wild Turkey Artist frakturs; Personal Correspondece, 2012; Snavely Family, Mitchell Research Files; privately held by Mitchell, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] California.

5 thoughts on “Wild Turkey Artist and the Fraktur — Treasure Chest Thursday

  1. RoreyCathcart

    Thanks for a great post Anne. I love learning about new document types and this is one I’d never heard of. As I’ve begun to see more German heritage in my client base, I’ll have to read up on this.

  2. Jodie Hartshorne Williams

    Thank you for posting this article! Your Nicholas is my 4th great grandfather’s brother! (Peter B). I have left my email. Can you please contact me?

  3. Jill Miclean

    So happy I stumbled on your site. There is much confusion over who John Adam Snavely’s wife was. Was she Elizabeth Wassum? Was she Catherine Elizabeth Groseclose? Were they the same person but married a Wassum or Groseclose? Online researchers even have the death date for both women being the same which is very frustrating and so far, no one, including myself, can find any resources to back up these wives. Your “fraktur” is very helpful in associating John’s children to the right spouse! Just wish the images were still available to view.

    1. Anne Gillespie Mitchell Post author

      This is a confusing bit of history, isn’t it. My research shows that Adam Snavely’s wife Elizabeth Wassum. I have never seen any documentation that his name was John Adam Snavely and I think that is were the confusion comes from. John may have had a second wife, but I do not have any documentation on that.

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