Friday, December 9, 2022

Checking an Occupational History


Though many a family's story can be pieced together simply by genealogical resources, when we hit those research roadblocks, it's time to consult other avenues. In the case of my Uncle DeMilt's Eggert family, we have the advantage of their unique occupation to help provide answers.

Granted, even when consulting such specialized resources as historical accounts of American watch, clock and chronometer makers, some have noted gaps in available information. One writer was said to have specifically noted that there was little known about the lives of "most of these important individuals."

We'll start, first, with a review of what is known about the family behind the Eggert chronometer. Next week, we'll move from there to see whether any clues revealed can lead us to confirm or reject a connection between my uncle and the original "D. Eggert" and the unnamed son affiliated with his business.

In searching online for examples of Eggert chronometers, it was fairly easy to see photographs of some of these products. Better yet, when I encountered a narrative describing not only the item for sale but the history behind the device, it provided more guidance to answer my questions.

One such posted entry described a 48 hour American chronometer made by Dominic Eggert & Son in New York City. The entry went on to explain that the business was established in 1847—too late for the original chronometer sale I had seen mentioned earlier—and even provided the addresses where the business was located over time. That entry also provided the date of Dominic's death—1892—and the curious detail that at one point, he had taught the chronometer business to the son of celebrated American clockmaker Simon Willard.

From another example online, I discovered that the company was also identified as "D. Eggert's Sons" at one point. In addition, since each chronometer was labeled with a number specific to that device, it seems it would be possible to date the evolution of the business name based on the changes on the name plate and the numbering system. Eggert began his numbering system at number 100. In addition, notes from this online example explained that Eggert had a contract for providing and servicing chronometers for the United States Navy until the contract was terminated in 1863. To add confusion, the notes for this entry indicated the Eggert business was established in New York City in 1838, not 1847 as noted in the previous example. This date makes more sense, based on what we had discovered the other day.

However, though these notes are helpful in our quest to learn more about the Eggert family business, we are still missing information on just which Eggert descendants these "& Sons" might have included. As it turns out, collectors of timepieces are just as keen to discover the genealogy of their most valued horologists as they are to track the history of the evolving craft, and thankfully have written their thoughts on puzzling over this very topic. Next week, we'll take a look at a thread on the Eggert business from a collectors' forum, to see whether we can find any other leads. 


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