I was recently going over some older documentation I had gathered about my grandfather, Bill Prettyman (1919–1998) in preparation for writing a biographical sketch of him and I made a charming discovery I’d like to share with you.
I was interviewing my grandfather around 1982, and he relayed a little story I hadn’t thought about much since hearing it from him. Bill said that when his parents took him to the church to be baptized, his parents intended that he should be named “William Frank Prettyman.” His maternal grandfather, F. E. Gores (short for Franz/Frank Eugene Gores, pictured in the thumbnail above) had other ideas. F. E. Gores was apparently a prankster who liked to pull practical jokes. According to Bill, F.E. Gores pulled the priest aside and told him to change the middle name from Frank to Eugene and the priest complied. So ever since, Bill’s middle name was Eugene instead of Frank. Continue reading →
My longest-enduring genealogical brick wall has finally been broken through, thanks to the generous help of Serena Stuettgen, Museum Curator at the Luxembourg American Cultural Society and Center, and Jean Ensch, expert on Luxembourger emigration to the United States.
My grandfather’s great-grandmother Margretha Wolff (see this earlier post for a summary of details prior to breaking through the brick wall) was born in Luxembourg 190 years ago, and the link back to her birth country has been lost for at least the last 113 years, when she died in 1910. The last time her birth country was correctly recorded was on the 1880 US census. From 1885 onwards, her family seems to have forgotten where she was born and assumed it was Germany, presumably because she spoke German as her native language. Continue reading →
In a recent series of posts about the deep history of Schönecken, Germany, I covered the human history and prehistory of the area from when Neanderthals roamed the area in the Middle Paleolithic (roughly 200,000–40,000 years ago) until the European Potato Failure of 1845–1846 caused famine across the continent. You can review that history here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
Now that we know what was happening and when in Schönecken’s history, let’s review my Franz Gores’ decision to emigrate from the land where his forebears had lived for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
Franz Gores was born on June 2, 1826, in the Schönecken area to Nicholas Gores (1800–1867) and Susanna (Wallerius) Gores (1799–?). The Gores, like everyone in Schönecken, were Catholic, and they had young Franz baptized at the church in Wetteldorf the day after he was born, on June 3, 1826.
Before we go any further into Franz’s life, let’s take a look at the lives of his parents: Nicholas Gores and Susanna Wallerius, who were both born at the very end of the 18th century in Schönecken. Continue reading →
In Part 1 of this series, I covered the history and prehistory of the Gores family’s ancestral home of Schönecken, Germany, from when Neanderthals called the area home in the Middle Paleolithic (roughly 200,000–40,000 years ago) until Charlemagne had himself crowned the new Emperor of the Romans in 800 AD. In Part 2, I covered the history of the Schönecken area from the death of Charlemagne in 814 AD until the Trier Witch Trials that began in 1581.
In Part 3 of this series, I’ll cover the history of the Schönecken area from the Cologne War of 1583–1588 until the period of great hunger (the Great Famine of 1815–1816 and the Potato Failure of 1845–1846) that preceded my Gores forebear’s emigration from his ancestral homeland. Continue reading →
In Part 1 of this series, I covered the history and prehistory of the Gores family’s ancestral home of Schönecken, Germany, from when Neanderthals called the area home in the Middle Paleolithic (roughly 200,000–40,000 years ago) until Charlemagne had himself crowned the new Emperor of the Romans in 800 AD.
In Part 2 of this series, I’ll cover the history of the Schönecken area from the death of Charlemagne in 814 AD until the Trier Witch Trials from 1581 until 1593 AD. Continue reading →
When I was a 10-year-old boy, I watched the TV miniseries Roots with my family. I was amazed that Alex Haley could trace his family back to his ancestor Kunta Kinte and to Kunta’s ancestral homeland in the Gambia.
During those eight evenings from January 23–30, 1977, a fire was ignited within my imagination that has only intensified since then. I wanted to discover who my ancestors were, and where my family’s homelands were. I wanted to someday feel the type of connection to a place that eludes many Americans whose ancestors migrated here from elsewhere long ago—I wanted to know the place(s) that my ancestors had lived in for hundreds or even thousands of years.
What does it mean to be connected to a place? How much of the history of a place where your ancestors lived for generations is truly the history of your ancestors? It may be fun to claim Celtic or Etruscan ancestry as your own if your family is from Brittany or central Italy, for instance, but how likely are those claims? Only by learning about the deep history of a place can we answer that question. Continue reading →