Down the Ritchie Rabbit Hole
According to my great grandfather’s nephew, Alva Lawrence Ritchie, in his 1929 letter about the origin of our family name, the Richelieus arrived in Rosehearty, a small port village just north of Aberdeen, Scotland, around 1630, immediately anglicizing their name to “Ritchie” to disguise their identity. This was right around the time of the “Day of the Dupes” in November 1630, when the enemies of Cardinal Richelieu mistakenly believed they had succeeded in persuading Louis XIII, King of France, to dismiss Richelieu from power. Presumably, members of the Cardinal’s family escaped in the nick of time, thus avoiding being murdered by his enemies.
OK, that’s a lot to digest. Let’s start at the beginning:
Back in the summer of 1929, near the end of a two-year mission in England and Scotland (young Mormon males are expected to serve as missionaries), Alva Lawrence Ritchie, stationed at Aberdeen, made a trip to Rosehearty, on the coast about 45 miles to the north. Arriving late afternoon that day, he found the streets deserted. Later he learned that the entire village was observing the old British custom of tea time. Finally, nearly colliding with a kindly looking gentleman, he asked if the man could provide any information as to where any Ritchies might live in the village. The man replied, “I am Mayor Ritchie of Rosehearty. Nearly half the population of Rosehearty are Ritchies.”
Pleased that Alva was an American and had taken the time to visit his fair village to look up family history, the mayor invited Alva to his home for supper, and afterward took him to the house of the town councilman, who had all the town records in his possession. The councilman was living in the old Ritchie homestead, a home “well-built of rock soon after the Richelieus arrived in Rosehearty” almost exactly 300 years before Alva’s visit.
During a full evening of visiting and looking at records, the councilman explained that when the Richelieus arrived, they had promptly changed the name Richelieu to Ritchie — its present spelling — partly to conceal their identity. Alva believed that it was not Cardinal Richelieu, by far the most famous member of the family, who had settled in Rosehearty, but rather most likely it was the Cardinal’s two brothers — and maybe his mother and…