Professional Research & Maritime Historian, Author, & Conservator

Did You Know?

While the preceding passage appears in Quest for Blackbeard, the genealogies of various pirates will be explored in similar depth in Brooks’ Dictionary of Pyrate Biography, currently in the planning stages.

Brooks has over 35 years of experience in genealogical research, has worked as a professional genealogist, and lately studied in the Maritime Studies Program at East Carolina University as a professional historian.

His upcoming peer-reviewed article, “ ‘Born in Jamaica of Very Creditable Parents’ or ‘A Bristol Man Born’? Excavating the Real Edward Thache, ‘Blackbeard the Pirate’ “ in the July issue of North Carolina Historical Review includes the genealogy of the most famous pirate of them all!

Webpage designed by Baylus C. Brooks—Copyright 2015-2017 Baylus C. Brooks

All Rights Reserved

By any other name...

Teach, Theach, Thach, Thache, Thatch, Tach, Teech, Teatch, etc...

I’m not sure that anyone can claim Blackbeard smells like a rose, but the quandary over this man’s name is a long-standing issue with Blackbeard’s historiography. While many, both laymen and scholars, have worried over the spelling of Capt. Charles Johnson’s most “notorious” character, Edward “Blackbeard” “Teach,” it will surprise many to discover that folks in the 18th century did not really care how their name was spelled in official documents—as long as the point was understood. Sir Walter Raleigh famously spelled his own name five different ways! This is very different from modern times. I’ve had clerks ask me my name and when I say “Brooks,” they respond “Is that with an ‘e’?” I’m tempted, as an historian of the colonial era, to jokingly answer “Does it matter?”

Spelling did not become a matter of consistency until the mid-19th century. Blame Noah Webster (the guy in the photo). Until then, spelling was almost always one phonetic variation after another. As a professional genealogist, I often heard client after client telling me that their family’s name was spelled such and such and that the family using a slightly different variation in the census from the next county over wasn’t related to them. But, how did the census taker know how to spell your name if you probably couldn’t read or write yourself or ever cared anyway?

From my genealogical study of the Thache family, oddly enough, there was some consistency in this matter— unlike most American ancestors, the Thaches were not poor as dirt and did not grow up in a wilderness. Blackbeard’s probable grandfather, Rev. Thomas Thache, attended Oxford after all! From the good reverend’s family, in the county of Gloucestershire, England (of whom I believe Capt. Edward Thache to have belonged), the spelling of the name was almost always “Thache.” With the Thaches of Jamaica, they seemed to use “Thache” also—in the documents that I believe they wrote themselves. Other legal documents, however, where a clerk wrote it for them, that clerk invariably attempted to spell their name phonetically —once three different spellings appeared in a single document! The result? Many different spellings appear in documents, especially those written by captains, governors, mariners in their depositions, clerks on various islands, and admiralty representatives across the Atlantic—people who had no idea how to spell such an unusual name. These mean absolutely nothing and the debate over them is pointless. The family themselves used “Thache” more often and so, I have adopted this spelling.

Historians like to call the practice of impressing modern ideals onto the past “Presentism.” This is almost always a fallacy. Times have changed and these types of ideas and practices have changed. If Blackbeard were alive today and some clerk asked him for his name, to which he answered “Thache,” that clerk is just as likely to ask him the same surprising question that they ask me: “Is that with an ‘e’?”

Then, there’s the Thachs of Perquiman’s County, North Carolina… without the “e!”

Noah Webster, Jr. (October 16, 1758 – May 28, 1843), was an American lexicographer, textbook pioneer, English-language spelling reformer, political writer, editor, and prolific author. He has been called the "Father of American Scholarship and Education."

Port Royal was a city located at the end of the Palisadoes at the mouth of the Kingston Harbour, in southeastern Jamaica. Founded in 1518, it was the centre of shipping commerce in the Caribbean Sea during the latter half of the 17th century. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1692 and a subsequent tsunami, and fires. Severe hurricanes have regularly damaged it. Another severe earthquake occurred in 1907.

Port Royal was once home to privateers employed to nip at superpower Habsburg Spain's empire when smaller European powers dared not directly make war on Spain. As a port city, it was notorious for its gaudy displays of wealth and loose morals. It was a popular homeport for the English and Dutch sponsored privateers to spend their treasure during the 17th century. When those governments abandoned the practice of issuing letters of marque to privateers against the Spanish treasure fleets and possessions in the later 16th century, many of the crews turned pirate and used the city as their main base during the 17th century. Pirates from around the world congregated at Port Royal, coming from waters as far away as Madagascar.

After the 1692 disaster, Port Royal's commercial role was steadily taken over by the town (and later, city) of Kingston. Current plans for Port Royal will redevelop the small fishing town into a tourist destination serviced by cruise ships. It is going to capitalize on its heritage, with archaeological findings at the heart of the attractions.

Underwater City of Port Royal

Principal Investigator: Dr. Donny L. Hamilton

Remains of Port RoyalA map of underwater Port Royal
RSS Feed Widget

Baylus’ Blog:

History of Port Royal


Archaeological Excavations at Port Royal


Historical Research


Simon Benning, Port Royal Pewterer


Artifact Anaylses


Selected Port Royal Publications


Port Royal Archives