June 2008

I am indebted to Terrence M. Punch for valuable feedback on an early draft of this article.

The MOSERs in Nova Scotia descend from two men, (Hans) Jacob and Peter, who came, originally from Switzerland, on the Speedwell in 1751. Jacob and Peter may have been brothers but that is not known for certain; it is also possible that they may have been (say) first cousins. It is not even certain that they were related at all. I happen to be descended from Jacob MOSER.

[the statement about there being only two MOSER families in Nova Scotia originally is not quite true: a third man, Georg Albrecht MAUSER from Germany did leave male line descendants in the Port Medway/Queens County vicinity.]

These MOSERs (they arrived with families) settled in Lunenburg in 1753. My MOSER ancestor (one of a series of John Henrys) left Lunenburg Co. and settled on the Eastern Shore of NS (Moser River in fact) ca. 1796. Some others also went elsewhere on the Eastern Shore and a handful of others to the outskirts of the City of Halifax. A significant number of these MOSERs who left Lunenburg Co. kept the spelling "MOSER". However, a large fraction of those who remained in Lunenburg Co. at some stage anglicized the spelling of their names by inserting an "h", to become "MOSHER". The appearance of MOSHER began probably by the mid 1800s or so (in some cases even earlier), but the practice grew during the latter part of the nineteenth century and then was greatly accelerated by the anti-German sentiment aroused by the First World War. However, the Eastern Shore MOSERs by and large did not change.

[this latter comment about the Eastern Shore families seems to be true of the people as far down the Eastern Shore as Moser River, but not the families closer to Halifax who more often than not inserted the "h" in their surname. On the other hand, the St. Margaret's Bay MOSERs, although few in number, seem to have kept that spelling (mostly).]

It is also important to realize that there is a MOSHER family in Nova Scotia which is originally from England. They have been primarily associated historically with Hants County, Nova Scotia.

This means, unfortunately, that if you come across MOSHERs in Nova Scotia you can't tell from the name whether they have Swiss/German ancestry, or English ancestry. A great pity!

[another small caveat: the name MOSER is also found in England, but in quite small numbers]

Further Reading:

  • A Talk on the History of Lunenburg over the past 250 Years
       Chris Young's excellent presentation on his Jung/Young family history. A valuable resource for any of the Lunenburg families, as are many other of the links from the home page.
  • Early Moser Emigration
       Some discussion of the early history of the Moser name. Mentions that Mosers emigrated from Switzerland to Maryland before 1670.
  • The Moser Family
       Some interesting material by the flutist John Wion of New York on his Moser ancestors, who were from Alsace. Mr. Wion also provides a useful description of the immigration to Pennsylvania from the Palatinate here.
  • Mosier Family Origins
       Begins with: "The Mosier Family was a large family living in Germany at the time of the Thirty Year War, and they were driven out by the invaders for being Protestant; some went to Alsace Lorraine, some to Holland. The ones that went to Alsace were driven back to Germany, it was then that they added the "I" to the name which until then had been spelled "Moser" --they were now known as French Alsatians." Includes a useful collection of links.
  • 18th Century PA German Naming Customs
       By Charles F. Kerchner, Jr.
  • The Palatine Project - Nova Scotia
       Extensive information about the "Palatine Project"—includes many links.
  • The Mosher Family of Hants County
       By William Mosher, of Mosherville, Hants County, Nova Scotia. These are what I have referred to as the "English" MOSHERs, who came to Nova Scotia from Rhode Island.
  • Origin and History of Mosher Family and Genealogy of One Branch of that Family
       This book by William C. Mosher of Alhambra, California, provides the earlier history of the English and Rhode Island (and Hants County, NS) MOSHERs, tracing them to a family of German origins living in Alsace, and continues with the genealogy of the American branches of the family (Source: Online Collections at BYU). This opens the possibility that there may be a distant connection between the "English" MOSHERs and the Swiss/German MOSERs after all.