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The "Wonders" surname is not a common one and when encountered, it frequently arouses curiosity as to its origin. The author has spent over three decades attempting to solve this puzzle. Its earliest documented presence is in Northumberland in Northeastern England in the mid-seventeenth century. However, he is convinced that it evolved from a much earlier presence as "Winders" with an origin in Cumbria in Northwestern England, dating as far back as the twelfth century. It is likely that it was originally derived from an Irish-Norse place name. He also includes other sources in mainland Europe which form an entirely separate group of "Wonders" today.
The author sets out the nature of the various areas in which his ancestors lived and the conditions which prevailed at the time, as he follows their known movements from Northumberland to County Durham and emigration to the United States. For some two centuries, these were linked to the coal mining industry but from the latter part of the 19th century increasing numbers of them moved into agriculture and subsequently into widely varied careers. This took them across the U.S.A. to the Midwest and finally to the Pacific coast, with the author's grandparents ultimately moving north to Southern Ontario.
Wonders draws on a wide spectrum of material--official records, church and archival documents, contemporary newspapers and published accounts, family records, letters, questionnaires and interviews--to provide a vivid backdrop for the lives of his Wonders family over time. Material and information has been collected by him in England, the United States and Canada.
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William C. Wonders, C.M., C.D., B.A. (Toronto), M.A. (Syracuse), Ph.D. (Toronto), Phil. Dr. h.c. (Uppsala), F.R.S.C., is University Professor and Professor Emeritus of Geography, University of Alberta. Born in Toronto, Ontario, he began his academic career as a faculty member at the University of Toronto, then moved to Edmonton, Alberta, as the founding head of the Department of Geography in the University of Alberta. He was also founding Chairman there of the Boreal Institute for Northern Studies (now the Canadian Circumpolar Institute). His major academic interests have been in settlement geography, historical geography, and Northern Regions. During his career, he has held professorships and research fellowships at the University of Victoria and St. Mary's University (Canada), the University of Oklahoma (U.S.A), Uppsala University (Sweden), the University of Aberdeen and Edinburgh University (Scotland), and the Free University of Berlin (Germany). After 35 years at the University of Alberta, he retired to Victoria, British Columbia.
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