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 →
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 →
Receiving loads of old papers and photos has been a godsend for me as a family historian, but sometimes they come in like a tsunami and I don’t have time to properly pore over everything before I must turn my attention back to work and the rest of my life. So it was with me and a couple of boxes of family-history-related items I brought back with me from my grandmother’s house after talking with her for several hours about family history. Normally I would have taken months to go through every last tidbit I brought back, but before I had a chance to do that I travelled to my grandmother’s home town (Wadena, Minnesota) for 10 days and I came back with enough data and scans to occupy me for a couple of years.
Among the items I brought back from my visit with Harriet were a number of photos and written notes that Harriet herself had inherited from her aunt Eva (Scott) Martes, who died on November 22, 2006. Eva was the younger sister of my great-grandmother Gertrude (Scott) Askew (1897–1980). I had time to scan a few hundred photos and sheets of notes before I had to set the project aside to prepare for my Wadena visit. Continue reading →
World War I—the “war to end all wars”—was ended by an armistice that took effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. One year later, on November 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson gave an address to the nation on what had come to be called Armistice Day in the U.S. and allied countries. In 1938, Armistice Day became a legal holiday, and in 1954 the day was renamed “Veterans Day” to honor all veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, not just those who served in World War I.
My family has a proud heritage of serving our country. My father Keith V. Black served in the Navy immediately before the Vietnam War. My paternal grandfather Vernon C. Black served in the Army in Europe during World War II. My maternal grandfather William E. Prettyman served in the Army Air Corps in the Pacific during World War II. And many, many more of my ancestors and relatives have served in the many wars our nation has engaged in over the past 400 years.
I present this list to honor their service and their memory.
William Horan is my 3rd-great-grandfather, and like his wife Anora (Lee) Horan, whom I wrote about yesterday (see the post here), the details of his life have proven elusive.
William Horan was born in Ireland, but we don’t know when he immigrated to the United States. His parents reportedly ran a hotel called the “Horne Hotel” in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but I have yet to find evidence of the hotel’s existence. At some point around 1863 or 1864, William Horan met and pursued Anora Lee, a young woman working in the Hotel. The two married on July 24, 1864.
Yesterday I received additional details about William and Anora from my cousin Lorna:
William wasn’t a very reliable father and husband. He came and went from the household. Anorah worked at the Moffet Castle in St. Paul to earn money for the family. William stole a team of oxen and was sent to State Prison for two years in 1882. (His children were told their father died.) While he was in prison Anorah divorced him and married Francis Marion Prettyman.
Anora (“Anna”, “Annie”) (Lee) (Horan) Prettyman (1847–1892) was my 3rd-great-grandmother and she has been something of an enigma to all recent researchers—myself included—who have tried to discover who she was and where she came from.
Thanks to new information I’ve gotten from a handful of newly discovered cousins, I think I’ve got a much better handle on Anora. While there are still large gaps and unknowns in her story, I’ve revised so much of her history that a new post is warranted. Most notably, I had the misidentified her parents (there were two girls named Anora/Anna/Annie Lee born in Indiana at the same time, and I was tracking the wrong one) and I got some details of her early years wrong.
I’d like to thank my newly discovered cousins Lorna, Suzette, and Michael for sharing what they know about our shared Prettyman ancestors as well as Anora’s first husband, William Horan. I’d like to give special recognition to Lorna for responsibly caring for, recording, and organizing so much Horan and Prettyman history and photos. Without her and her late father’s impressive memory, many of the details of Anora’s life would have been lost forever. Continue reading →
A little over twenty-six years ago (December 12, 1993) I wrote a letter to my great-aunt Anelia (Shearer) Hayes asking her what she knew about her father Ray Shearer’s family history. Anelia was my grandfather Vernon’s sister. My grandfather was old enough to remember his father Ray Shearer leaving their family, and he went to lengths to distance himself from his birth father, including unofficially but permanently changing his last name to that of his mother’s second husband, Frank Black.
Vernon’s sister Anna Cornelia (she preferred “Anelia”) was born around or just after when her father left the family. Unlike her brother, she kept her father’s surname and she went on to develop a deep interest in family history. Anelia was the one who compiled the “Edell Family History” in 1991 and hosted the Edel/Edell family reunion.
Today’s post is about the response Anelia sent to my letter of twenty-six years ago. When I received her response, I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of new fascinating information she provided to me. To this day, the letter she wrote is still the sole source for many pieces of Shearer family history that might otherwise have been lost forever.
Today’s post is not only about a new mystery photo I just discovered. It’s also a reminder to double-check anything possibly related to family history before throwing it out. You never know what might be hiding within unless you check thoroughly.
From about the mid 1970s to the late 1980s, my father and grandparents accumulated a number of faux vintage photos and frames. I don’t know whether they were fans of the style or whether that’s just the way that the stores they frequented marketed their frames. In any case, they accumulated piles of these that I later inherited and am still going through.
What I mean by ‘faux vintage’ are generally stained and sometimes artificially distressed oak frames with matted black-and-white or sepia-toned prints behind glass. And to add a layer of realism, my grandmother and father were both heavy smokers for periods of their lives, so the glass and frames were coated with a nicotine patina that made them look like they had been hanging in an old house for decades. But when you turn over these faux vintage frames, their modernity becomes a little more apparent. Relatively clean cardboard is held in place by shiny staples that were hastily and asymmetrically placed during mass production. Remove the cardboard and you find that the antique print is just a modern print on thin, glossy paper.