I consider myself a west coast woman. Five of my great-grandparents were born on the west coast (three in Southern California, one in Oregon, and one in Washington). A sixth great-grandparent was born in Ohio, but moved to Southern California as a young boy. As for the final pair of great-grandparents, this year marks the centennial anniversary of their arrival on the West Coast…along with their six biological children, plus my great-grandmother’s first-cousin-once-removed, whom they took in during their first year of marriage.
Before moving to a farm outside The Dalles, Oregon in the fall of 1923, Mathias and Ellen (Litherland) Kortge had to sell their farm in Illinois, along with pretty much everything on it. They did this by having a public auction on Monday, August 27, 1923—exactly one hundred years ago today! I know this because they kept a copy of the advertising poster printed by the auctioneer. Continue reading A Family Auction One Hundred Years Ago Today→
Family history research gives us an opportunity to learn more about our ancestors’ experiences in their communities. The histories of buildings and institutions can help provide context for the lives of those who built and used them. When it comes to understanding the stories of Greek immigrants to United States, it can be helpful to turn to the histories of Greek Orthodox churches in America. Tracing the history of a Greek Orthodox church can help paint a picture of the activities of its individual parishioners and the community as whole.
Let’s look at the Hellenic Orthodox Church of the Assumption in Price, Carbon County, Utah as an example. Jobs in the coal mines attracted Greek men to Carbon County at the turn of the twentieth century. Helen Zeese Papanikolas, a Greek American historian and native of Carbon County, writes:
“The newest Greek arrivals heard of the coal mines in Carbon County and, by 1905, there were Greeks in Castle Gate, Spring Canyon, Hiawatha, Sunnyside, Black Hawk, Helper, Winter Quarters, Scofield, and Price. New coal veins were constantly being opened and the young Greeks wrote back to their villages that there was work for all in the mines.”1
This past May, I taught a class on 18th century Pennsylvania and highlighted some documents I had discovered for my Pennsylvania ancestors. As I prepared for the class, I reflected on one of the biggest brick walls I had encountered in my own family research, and thought about what advice I’d give to someone researching their own colonial ancestors. After looking back at my own challenges and triumphs, I came up with three recommendations: don’t trust family lore or uncited published genealogies, consider various spellings of the surname, and visit the local historical society.
For years and years, I tried to breakdown a brick wall that seemed to plague every descendant of my 6th great-grandfather William Ashton of Bristol, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. A quote from one of the many compilations by his descendants had this to say about William and his ancestry:
“The first Ashton, in this country, of our family was neither banished for crime nor traded for tobacco, but belonged to one of the oldest titled families of England. He was, as I understand, disowned because he espoused the Quaker faith. This Ashton family were related to the Hutchinson’s of England, one of whom, Thomas Hutchinson, was colonial governor of Massachusetts.”
Hugh MacDiarmid, one of Scotland’s most successful modern-day poets, once described his home country as having “loose ends.” Scotland is, undeniably, a land steeped in legends, myths, and mysteries—from the enigmatic Loch Ness monster to the ancient marvel of the Ring of Brodgar. The allure of the unknown, these “loose ends,” as MacDiarmid put it, has always been an integral part of Scottish culture. As someone deeply rooted in Scottish ancestry, my admiration for the country my ancestors and I grew up in has been deepened even further by the aspects that have no concrete answers. Recently, I was invited on an insightful genealogy tour of Edinburgh organised by American Ancestors/NEHGS, allowing me to delve deeper into these mysteries and pursue my own family’s “loose ends” in Scotland.
We embarked on a genealogical journey through Scotland, focussing on tracing our tour members’ Scottish ancestors. We visited three national repositories: The National Records House which houses Scotland’s People Centre, the National Library of Scotland, and the Scottish Genealogical Society. Continue reading Tying Knots in the Loose Ends of Scotland→