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 →
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.
George Irvin Prettyman (or G.I. Prettyman, as my grandfather told me he liked to be called) was my grandfather’s uncle. I recently learned that a cousin was looking for some information on G.I. and his wife Frances, and I discovered that while I had some new information for him, a lot of what I had was contradictory and could use some dedicated research. For instance, my grandfather William Prettyman once told me that his uncle G. I. Prettyman didn’t make it past the fourth grade, as he was needed to help out at home on the farm. However, according to a contemporaneous biography (Minnesota and Its People, 1924, by Joseph Alfred Arner Burnquist),
[G.I.] “was reared and educated in Hewitt, attended the grade and high schools of the town, and then took a course in a commercial college at Little Falls, Minnesota.He was then sixteen years old and after completing his education entered the banking business and continued in it until 1911…”
I’m hoping that relatives reading this summary of what I’ve learned about G.I. Prettyman may be able to contribute considerably more than I’ve presented here. Please leave a comment below if you have additional information or stories about G.I. Prettyman or his family.
On the Prettyman side of my family, Paul Gore’s name keeps coming up, but I know next to nothing about him. I have no identified photos of him, and I’ve heard only a couple of snippets of stories about his life, so I’m writing this post in the hopes that someone among my Prettyman relatives might be able to identify him and tell me more about him.
The name he went by as an adult was Paul N. Gores, according to my grandfather, William Prettyman (Paul’s nephew), and he was born Paul Nicholas Gores. Paul was born on June 7, 1898, in Wadena, Minnesota, probably the youngest of 6 (or possibly 7) children born to my great-great-grandparents, Judge Fredrick Eugene Gores and Veronika Evertz (also spelled Everts, Ewertz, or Eberts):
At 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.
My great-great-grandfather, Judge F. E. Gores (1866-1936), had a considerable reputation. A real estate company in Wadena, MN, that he founded is still named The Gores Company, precisely because of his reputation. A considerable portion of his good reputation was earned in the Great Depression, when the stock market crashed and panic caused citizens to run to their banks to try to withdraw their money. At many other financial institutions, people found their savings and investments were gone. Every last person who came to the F. E. Gores Mortgage Company asking for their money, however, had their money fully returned to them.
In addition to being in the Mortgage business, he was a real estate investor, the Mayor of Wadena, a prohibition judge and a probate judge. But before the successes of his later life, Fredrick Eugene (“F. E.”) Gores, the son of central European immigrants, had a very different career path. He was a grocer and a merchant. He ran a business called City Grocery, and he apparently specialized in teas and coffees. Continue reading →