My Father's Ancestry

Map and Photo Essay

 

One of the main reasons I quit my job in 2001 and took a six-month roadtrip around America was to research my family's history.  I learned a lot about my father's family during the trip and have posted some of the information on this page.  After my trip I created this ancestral map that shows how my father's ancestors migrated west across America over the past 400 years.

  • RED LINES:  Routes of his father's ancestors, who came to Ohio in the 1800s from Switzerland.

  • BLUE LINES:  Routes of his mother's ancestors, who came to Massachusetts and New York in the 1600s from England.

My Father's Ancestral Map

(Click to enlarge)

 

Photo Essay:  My Father's Ancestry

  

Above left:  I took this picture during my 2001 trip around America.  That's me in Ipswich, Massachusetts, where my ancestors, the Bradstreets and Chaplins, landed from England in the 1630s.  They were among the earliest settlers of North America.

Above right:  The 1690 gravestone of my eight-times-grandfather, Captain Moses Bradstreet in the Rowley, Massachusetts cemetery.  Moses, born in nearby Ipswich, Massachusetts in 1644, is my oldest ancestor who was born in America.  This is the oldest gravestone in the cemetery and it reads: 

Hear lys what was mortal of ye worthy Cap Moses Bradstreet deseased August 17 1690 in ye 47th year of his age.  Friends & relations, you might behold a lamb of god.

 

       

Above left:  My first cousin, Israel Putnam, was a prominent colonial officer during the French and Indian War in the 1760s and then a major general for the American Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.  He fought the British at the Battle of Bunker Hill in Boston in 1775, among other encounters.  His was the same family that founded the Putnam Publishing company.  Looking at this painting now you know where I got my love for doughnuts.

Above center:  My great-great-grandfather Ransom Myers (1842-1897) was born in Michigan and fought in the Civil War (see Ransom Myers).  He lost his left arm during a battle in Kentucky and, after recovering, rejoined the Union Army as a one-armed courier.  After the war he became a preacher and local official.  Ransom and his wife, Hannah, raised a large family near Mayville, Michigan.  Ransom's youngest daughter was Minnie May Myers, my great-grandmother.  I visited many of Ransom's Civil War battle sites during my 2001 trip around America.

Above right:  I'm visiting Ransom and Hannah's graves near Mayville, Michigan in 2001.  The graves of Ransom's parents, Solomon and Charlotte Myers, are nearby.  Solomon fought for the American army during the War of 1812 near Buffalo, New York.  In return for his service to the country he was awarded a land grant, which he later redeemed in Michigan, a few miles from the cemetery where he was buried.

 

   

Above left:  These are two of my father's grandparents, in Michigan.  This is Ransom Myers' daughter, Minnie, around 1889 at age 18, a few years after she eloped with Harrison Plane, a fur trapper.  Minnie was quite independent and headstrong.  She deeply loved Harrison and was devastated when he died of tuberculosis in 1900.  The distraught and now-widowed Minnie moved west to Seattle with her daughter, Minnie Plane, to be with her sister, the memories of Michigan being too painful for her.

Above right:  My dad's other grandparents were Georg (pronounced "gay-org") Leu and Emma Schneider.  This photo was taken around 1886 in Cleveland, Ohio.  Georg and Emma had several children.  Their oldest child, their son George Leu, left home around 1910 when he was about 20 and traveled to Seattle to track down his brother, Cliff, who had gotten into an argument with their father, Georg.  My grandfather, George Leu, decided to stay in Seattle and never returned to Cleveland.

 

   

Above left:  Georg Leu, shown in the photo above, was born in this house in Altdorf, Switzerland, in 1863.  He was the middle child of three boys.  Around 1882, after their father died, Georg got into a dispute with his brothers and left Switzerland.  He traveled through France and hopped on a ship bound for America.  After arriving in New York, he made his way to Toledo, Ohio where his former neighbors in Switzerland had settled, and he married their daughter, Emma (shown above). 

Above right:  Georg's family had lived in Altdorf, Switzerland (circled in red) from the 1700s through the 1800s.  Other Leu family members lived in Hemmental (circled in blue), north of Schaffhausen.

 

   

Above left:  Georg Leu standing proudly next to his meat market in Cleveland around 1910.   Georg was quite a gruff and crusty character from what I understand, but he worked hard and grew a successful business from nothing. Georg died in 1929 but Leu family members continued to operate this meat market well into the 1980s.

Above right:  In 1924 Georg traveled out to Seattle to visit his sons.  That's my grandfather, George Leu, on the left holding his son, Bill.  On the right is Georg's son, Cliff.  Many years earlier in Cleveland, Cliff had gotten into an argument with his father Georg and left on a train, going as far away as he could, to Seattle.  Cliff changed his last name to Lee and so today I have many Lee relatives in the Seattle area. 

 

   

Above left:  My grandfather George Leu married Minnie May Plane in Seattle in 1912 and they raised six children.  This is their family around 1929.  Those are my grandparents, Minnie and George in the back, with Minnie's cousin on the right.  My dad is front row, left getting his head rubbed by his sister, Dorothy.  By this time George had become a successful grocer and was the first president of PSQ (Puget Sound Quality), a consortium of independent grocers in the Seattle area similar to IGA.

Above right:  The Leus around 1932 at the Seattle Airport.  The Morrell Meat Company offered them a ride on the company airplane because George was a prominent grocer in Seattle.  This was the Leu family's first plane ride and everyone went except for George, who was afraid of flying.  My dad is front left wearing a spiffy suit, standing next to his brother Bill.  A year later George's grocery store went bankrupt during the Depression, plunging the family into poverty.

 

  

Above left:  My father (center, right) with his five siblings in Skykomish, Washington around 1940.  From left to right:  Eileen, George Jr., Lucille, Don, Dorothy and Bill Leu.  The Leu family had moved to tiny Skykomish, in the Cascade Mountains, during the mid-1930s after George Leu's grocery store in Seattle had failed during the Great Depression.  The family was suddenly plunged into poverty but they all worked hard and endured those difficult times.

Above right:  My father, Don Leu, in his 1941 senior portrait at Skykomish High School, wearing the only suit he owned.  He entered Western Washington Teacher's College (now Western Washington University) a few months later.  After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in December 1941, he volunteered for the U.S. Navy and eventually became an officer with the Navy's special operations group called Scouts & Raiders, known today as the Navy SEALs.

 

      

Above left:  My grandparents, Minnie and George (with their granddaughter, Charlotte) at Leu's Market in Skykomish, Washington around 1942.  During the Great Depression in the 1930s George had extended a great deal of credit to his grocery customers in Seattle then his store failed as a result.  He moved to the small town of Skykomish in the mid-1930s where he opened this small grocery store in desperation to feed his family.  He was successful and operated this store until he suffered a stroke in the late 1950s.  George died in 1965 and the store burned down in the early 1970s.  Today the site is a city park.

Above right:  Three generations at Leu's Market in Skykomish in June 1945.  That's my dad and mom with their first child, Dorothy (my sister).  My dad's parents, George and Minnie, are standing on either side.  Moments after this photo was taken, my dad boarded a train for Los Angeles and was sent overseas to China during World War II.

 

       

Above left:  Once again, this is my great-great-grandmother, Minnie May Myers (left), this time around 1945.  When she was 28, in 1900, her husband, Harrison, died of tuberculosis in Michigan.  She and her daughter, Minnie Plane (right), moved to Seattle a few months later.  The elder Minnie married three more times but never found the true love that she'd known with Harrison.

Above center:  Here's my grandmother, Minnie Plane, around 1950.  Like I say, she moved to Seattle with her mother, Minnie, when she was a little girl.  When she was 18 she met a young man named George Leu at a dance in Seattle, and they married and had the six children shown above.  My grandmother Minnie died in 1957, a few years before I was born, so I never knew her.  But from what I understand she was quite vivacious and had an adventurous spirit.

Above right:  My grandfather, George Leu, (Minnie's husband) around 1950.  George was quiet, a hard worker, and an avid reader.  He loved kids and baseball and was very kind.  According to a family legend he had played baseball with the Cleveland Indians when he was a teenager, around 1905.  But he got hit in the head with a pitch one day and decided that was the end of his baseball career so he became a grocer.  It was a much safer profession.

 

   

Above left:  This is the last photo taken of my grandfather, George Leu, in a retirement home near Seattle in 1965.  He died three months later at age 78.  His wife, Minnie, had died eight years before.  This visit, when I was five years old, is my only memory of him.  Our family lived in Michigan at the time but we visited him each summer.  George loved children and my dad told me that George often cried after we left.

Above right:  The grave of my grandparents, George and Minnie Leu, in Monroe, Washington.  I took this picture in 1993.

 

   

Above left:  The six Leu children at a family reunion in Index, Washington in 1973.  From left to right (and youngest to oldest):  Don (my father), Bill, Eileen, George, Dorothy and Lucille.  I believe this was the last photo taken of all six Leu children.

Above right:  The five Leu children in 1993 at a family reunion near Don's house in Sudden Valley, Washington.  From left to right:  George, Dorothy, Eileen, Bill and Don.  By 2004 they had all passed away.

 


 

More pages about my father's ancestry:

 

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