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 →
Update (2023-06-03)—Margretha’s origins have been discovered! I’ll put a link to the solution to this mystery at the end of this post.
There are brick walls (ancestors whose own ancestry resists all attempts at discovery) who will probably always be brick walls. These individuals often lived in times and places where record-keeping was sparse or non-existent, or were trying to run away from their past or reinvent themselves, or had descendants who purposefully or accidentally destroyed evidence of the ancestor’s life, or had other circumstances that make it understandable why we may never learn about their ancestry.
And then there are brick walls who have no reason being brick walls. These individuals lived lives that were relatively well documented, they were not trying to hide their past, they had/have descendants who cherish their memories, and they’re only a couple/few generations removed from living descendants. My third-great-grandmother Margretha (“Marg”, “Maggie”) Gores is just such a brick wall. She’s one of my most enduring brick walls and she’s certainly the closest to me in time. For my Prettyman cousins reading this, Margretha was Judge F.E. Gores’ mother.
Today’s post is just a brief one to share an interesting discovery with you. I just learned that my third-great-grandfather Frank (“F. E.”) Gores traveled to England in 1930 with his second wife Gertrude.
Traveling with them on the six-day transatlantic return trip were Frank’s 64-year-old sister-in-law Mary Magdalena (Doffing) Gores, her youngest daughter Gertrude Josephine Gores (27), and her daughter Magdalena (“Lena”) Margaret Gores (38). The elder Magdalena’s husband and father of the two girls was F. E. Gores’ eldest brother Nicholas Paul Gores, who had passed away two and a half years prior on March 9, 1927.
While in England, they were all staying at the Royal Hotel in WC1 London. I haven’t been able to find a photo of the hotel, but I did find this fabulous photo of a London street taken in April 1930 that might help you visualize the London that Frank and his family saw.
Veronika (Evertz) Gores (her maiden name was sometimes spelled Ewertz) was my grandfather Bill Prettyman’s maternal grandmother—she was his mother’s mother. She was born in Germany around 1860 and immigrated to the United States, where she met and married the son of German immigrants. Bill never had the chance to get to know his grandmother Veronika, as she died when Bill was less than a year old. Bill’s mother also died tragically early (read that story here) and after a prolonged period of strain in their relationship that had its origins in a fatal car crash eight years earlier (read that story here). Whatever details Bill’s mother Rose (Gores) Prettyman may have known about her own mother’s German origins apparently never got told to Bill, as he had no stories about Veronika to pass on to me.
Additionally, the stigmatization of German ancestry in the United States that began in the 1910s and carried through the end of World War II caused American families of recent German descent to hide their German ancestry (see here and here for more on this topic) for fear of being seen as un-American or unpatriotic.
Whatever the reason, there is a lot that we don’t know about Veronika Evertz’s German heritage. What we do know is that Veronika was born in Germany to German parents—Peter Evertz and Magdalena Kaufmann, that she had eight siblings (although we don’t know who they were), that her parents also came to the US, and that her mother lived with Veronika and her husband Frank E. Gores in her old age. But that’s just about all we knew for certain.
In an attempt to keep today’s post more brief than it might otherwise become, I’m going to be focusing on just one aspect of my research into Veronika’s German heritage—my discovery of the identity of her maternal grandparents. To the best of my knowledge, this is information that has been lost for nearly a century—since the death of Veronika herself on February 13, 1920.
As I was making drinks for my wife and mother last night in our home tiki room that I named after my grandfather Bill Prettyman (“Prettyman’s Atoll”), my mother reminded me that the previous day (March 1) was Bill’s birthday. I’ve never been good with birthdays, but I can remember years, and so when she said that, I realized that March 1 was the 100th anniversary of Bill’s birthday on March 1, 1919. Had he lived, he would have turned 100 years old on Friday.
I feel like the 100th anniversary of his birth calls for a post, but as these posts usually take days to write and I only have a few hours before I return to the workaday world, I’ll see what I can do. I’d love to write a full biography of him, but given the short time I have, I will instead present a short sketch of the first twenty-five or so years of my grandfather’s life.