Family History Found

June 20, 2009


It’s been a long, long search.  For 4 years I have been tracing my ancestors on both my father’s and mother’s side.  Not content to choose one set of ancestors I chose both of Dad’s and both of Mom’s parents and quite often the peripheral relatives too.  Finally, I’ve reached the point where I believe I have done about as much research as I can and answered the questions I need to answer.

On my dad’s side I’ve found his Blake ancestors in Devon England back to the 1700’s.  Likewise the Bickford’s to the 1500’s.  Tonkins in Cornwall into the early 1800’s and Shinton’s and Whildins in Wales to the early 1800’s.  Now let me tell you.  Those valleys in Wales, while beautiful, are very, very hard to do family research in!  PHEW!  I’ve learned that everybody in County Devon is related somehow (or so it seems!), while in Wales everybody is named Evans or Jones or Morgan or Shinton.  SIGH.  If that’s not enough, there are vast numbers of Evan Evans, Morgan Morgans, Thomas Shintons, Morgan Evans etc etc etc.  In every county.  None really related in any discernible fashion.  Many of them didn’t attend the Church of England parishes…instead they were non-conformists (which would explain so much about me!…so due to religious persecution records are not plentiful.  But with the help of dedicated volunteers at places like the Glamorgan Family History and the Devon Family History Societies I’ve found loads of information.  Credible information.  Thank you so much Gwynn!  Then there are the distant “relatives” I’ve met in the UK…all of us researching the same family.  From them I’ve received data, photographs, lasting friendships.  Jenny, Mags, Gail, Janet….thank you!   I’ve closed in on a family mystery that has provided closure for some members of the family and met a wonderful new friend in the offing…thank you Jennie!  Thanks to my cousin Artie for providing me with his mom’s “scribblings” which helped me to validate my research.  What a wonderful two years of discovery this has been. 

On my mom’s side I’m a bit stymied.  Her Hall and Landrock relatives seem impossible to research.  I get back to the mid 1800’s.  That’s it..and only in this country.  However, her father’s relatives, the Kutz’s…well, what a wonderful ride that has been!  I’ve become reacquainted with a second cousin I knew vaguely when I was a teenager, met a new couple of second cousins…all of whom have researched the Kutz name.  Loads of info was already on the web in Ancestry…but we’ve put together our notes and those on Ancestry and defined the line straight back to Nicholas Coots/Coutz/Kutz, the first known settler in Berks County by that name back in the early 1700’s.  We traced from him, right on down to my grandfather and theirs…through the founders of the borough of Kutztown.  We had always been told that somehow we were descended from those Kutz’s but nobody really knew where.  Well we do now.  And it’s all sourced information.  YIPEE!  Thanks to my cuzzies Vicki, Lynn and Janelle for all the information they’ve shared.    Thanks to the Berks County Grave Preservation folks (yes, you Anne!) for leading me to the Kutz family cemetery in Maxatawny Township.  I hear that weeds need pulling.  Maybe that would be a good project for the minions….teach them to respect the dead, learn about their history and include a bunch of Berks history lessons to boot!

This all started out as a small hobby.  Something to fill some time and use the computer for.  Over the last couple of years I feel like I’ve really come to know some of these folks and have put together whole stories based on their occupations and how they’ve moved from town to town…or not moved.  I’ve learned a huge amount about 18th and 19th century British history, Welsh history, the cultures of Wales and Cornwall.  I’ve learned about Berks County PA and its history.  I’ve read about Indian massacres…WHAT?  They only happened out West I thought!  Nope.  Berks County historical documents lists numbers of citizens and names of those scalped, scalped and killed, captured, massacred etc.  Who would have thought those pastoral farms had Indian attacks???  I’ve learned more about the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the War of 1812 and the Spanish American War from the accounts of the units various ancestors were assigned to.   I’ve learned of a real life hero…a second cousin of my dad’s…who lost his life in WWII when the American’s sunk a Japanese supply ship carrying Bataan Death March prisoners from Cabanatuan back to China.  We didn’t know there were human POW’s on the Arisan Maru and torpedoed it.  The grands have also learned this history with me…these stories of the fiber and essence of our forebears. 

WOW.  It’s been a journey.  One I never anticipated.  But it’s really just beginning a new phase.  Now I’ve got to corral these 7000 names and stories into something meaningful, with illustrations where possible, and compile them in a book.  Something my brothers can keep on their coffee tables and share with their kids and grandkids.  Guess what they’re getting for Christmas?



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