Francis Gores (1826–1899)

Prussia_1854_thaler_Sincona_4-04335At the age of 27, in the spring of 1854, my 3rd-great-grandfather, Francis “Frank” Gores (born Franciscus Gores), left his native homeland in the Kingdom of Prussia (or Königreich Preußen) with two of his siblings—Johann, aged 29, and Maria, aged 25. Francis was noted to be a farmer, and his brother Johann was recorded as being a butcher. They were leaving Schönecken, a small market town in Rhenish Prussia (in what is now the Rhineland-Palatinate on the western edge of Germany), home to the Gores family for many generations prior to them.

The village of Schönecken is located in the valley of the Nims river, which meanders through the hilly landscape of the Rhineland-Palatinate. The 400-million-year-old sandstone bedrock that forms the hills produces rich soils for agriculture. The population today is essentially the same as it was in 1854—about 1500 people.

I do not yet know why the three siblings decided to give up their lives in Europe and head to the United States, but one contributing factor may have been the famine that struck much of Europe due to repeated crop failures that began in 1846–1847, most notably potato rot. Land prices were also rising at a pace that exceeded the profitability of farming the land; if a farmer sold his land, however, he could easily afford to relocate his entire family to the United States.

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Alfred Wharton Prettyman (1823–1892)

My 3rd-great-grandfather, Alfred Wharton Prettyman, was the man responsible for bringing the Prettyman family to Minnesota. I haven’t yet written a post about Alfred W. Prettyman, so this will be an overview of his life, to be built upon in future posts.

By the time of Alfred’s birth, seven generations of his Prettyman ancestors had lived their lives on the Delmarva peninsula. The immigrant John Prettyman moved to the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay in 1643 (he actually immigrated from England a few years earlier, first settling on the the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay 1638, in St. Mary’s, Maryland). While the immigrant John died in the Virginia portion of the Delmarva peninsula, his son John and his descendants have lived in and around Sussex County, Delaware, ever since. In fact, this year marks 370 years that Prettymans have lived in Delaware, and 375 years that Prettymans have been in North America.

Alfred Wharton Prettyman was born in Georgetown, Sussex County, Delaware, on December 1, 1823, to Robert Prettyman (1800–1863) and Elizabeth (Pepper) Prettyman (1803–1837). While Alfred would be the last Prettyman of his line to be born in Delaware, it was actually Alfred’s father, Robert Prettyman, who first broke tradition and departed the Prettyman’s ancestral stomping grounds in Delaware for the wilds of West Virginia (then just the western portion of Virginia). According to Edgar Cannon Prettyman’s 1968 work, The Prettyman Family in England and America, 1361–1968, Robert lived most of his life in Woodsfield, Ohio. Woodsfield is just about 15 miles to the west of the Ohio River and the West Virginia border.

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Horace catches his death of cold

F5.largeIn a previous post, I introduced Horace L. Scott, my 3rd-great-grandfather (he was the paternal grandfather of my great-grandmother, Gertrude (Scott) Askew). In that first post, I laid out all I knew about Horace at that time. Horace was born in New York, around 1842, and he served in the Union Army during the Civil War. While serving in that war, he appears to have either been injured or become ill, as he applied for an invalid’s pension in 1870, five years after the war, when he was only about 28 years old.

Sometime between 1870 and 1875, Horace died and was buried in Alden, Illinois. His widow Caroline and their children moved to Deer Creek, MN, to live with her parents. Was Horace wounded in the Civil War? Was that the cause of his status as an invalid after the war? Did it contribute to his premature death?

I applied to the National Archives for copies of Horace’s Civil War service records and any pension applications that he, his widow, or his children might have filed. I recently received two packages from the National Archives with 65 pages of scanned documents about Horace. One of the packages contained a copy of Horace’s Civil War Military Service File, and the other package contained a copy of his Full Civil War Pension File. Among the pages of these scanned documents were answers to my questions about his infirmity and death.

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Elizabeth Miller McMurry’s paintings, part 2

Detail of cabinThis post is a continuation of a post I wrote yesterday on a series of three oil paintings that are said to have been painted by my 3rd-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Miller McMurry (1828–1876). In today’s post, I’ll be taking a closer look at one of the paintings (the pastoral scene with boy and cattle), and looking for hints as to the date(s) and settings of the paintings.

My grandmother’s first cousin, Art McMurry, the owner of the paintings until his death twenty years ago, said that they were painted by Elizabeth while she and her husband were traveling west by wagon. If true, these canvases would have been painted at some point between Elizabeth and Luke’s marriage in 1851 and Elizabeth’s death in 1876. She never made it further west than Arkansas, but her family later reached the area near Olympia, Washington. From what I can tell from the images I currently have available, nothing about the paintings or their mounting and framing is inconsistent with dating from the mid-to-late nineteenth century. Continue reading

Elizabeth Miller McMurry’s paintings, part 1

Botanical still lifeAround 1990, when both my grandmother, Dorothy Ruth (McMurry) Black (1917–1997), and her first cousin, Arthur “Art” Edgar McMurry (1915–2001), were still alive, I paid a visit to Art out at his home on Black Lake, outside of Olympia, Washington. Art had become the caretaker of the McMurry family heirlooms, and in addition to the photos and artifacts he possessed, he had a prodigious memory for family history.

Art pointed out three old paintings he had on the walls of his house and told me that they were painted by Elizabeth Miller McMurry (1828–1876), his great-grandmother and my 3rd-great-grandmother. Previous to this, I hadn’t heard anything about Elizabeth being a painter. Her three paintings were amazing. They all appeared to have been painted with oils on canvas and then coated in varnish. Each of the paintings had been framed in ornate, gilt wooden frames. The frame of one painting had three areas of modest damage, and the canvas of that same painting was punctured and torn—apparently from having fallen on a dining room chair at some point. The other two paintings and frames were in better shape.

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Luke McMurry’s journey to the Washington Territory

Luke cased image, small detailI’ve written about my more recent immigrant ancestors’ migrations from Norway in 1850 (and I’ve got an upcoming post on the Askew migration from England in 1875), but most of my ancestors have been on this continent for 300+ years, and as of yet I know little, if anything, about most of their journeys to the New World.

During the same time period (mid-to-late-1800s) that my more recent immigrant ancestors were sailing to the U.S., many of my longer-established ancestors were forging their way across the continent in search of new homes in the West. Today’s post gives some details of my research into the story of one such journey across the continent—that of my 3rd-great-grandfather Luke R. McMurry and his family.

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The diary of Knudt Thompson

Knudt ThompsonI find myself of late in the enviable position of finding and receiving information about our family history faster than I can analyze it and write it up. Rather than sit on this information until I have a chance to write about it, I’ll share it with you now and then I’ll circle back at a later date to look into it in more detail.

For today’s post I’d like to share a document that my cousin Anne sent along last week. It’s a transcription of the diary of Sever Severson’s brother-in-law, Knudt Thompson (Knudt’s wife Anna and Sever’s [future] wife Martha were sisters). Among other things, the diary recounts the voyage of Sever, Knudt, Anna, Martha, and more than a dozen other members of their extended family from Sør-Aurdal, Norway, to America. I’ll be looking into their trip from Norway to Wisconsin in another post in the not-too-distant future.

I haven’t yet seen the original diary or images of the original diary, and have only the four-page typewritten transcription that Anne recently sent along to family members working together on the Syndé/Severson family history. What follows is a verbatim transcription of that document.

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