[February 13, 2020] This site is my narrative of the history of the Billick and Jackson/Jablonski family lines. This is a biggish document: it mentions around 1,000 individuals. The original Word document is over 50,000 words long. It is a work (probably always) in progress: there are still over 7,000 “hints” to be examined in my Ancestry.com tree. So I expect to be updating regularly. At some point, I hope to add a separate photos and documents section to supplement the illustrations included within the text. Input/Feedback is always welcome; just go to the Contact page.
On this page…
Preface § Notes on 2019 and 2020 editions § Scope § Introduction § Generations § Ancient Roots § History Boxes § Organization §
OUR COMMON ODYSSEY: THE JOURNEY OF THE BILLICK AND JACKSON FAMILIES FROM EUROPE TO THE SHORES OF LAKE ERIE
Why Common Odyssey as a title?
“Common,” because I imagine tens of thousands of other Middle-American families like mine whose origins lie in England or Central Europe. And most important, “Odyssey,” because that journey, whether in one generation or over centuries must have been arduous beyond our modern psyche’s ability to comprehend. Our predecessors fled war, famine and religious intolerance. They trekked hundreds of miles by horse-drawn cart or coal-powered locomotive. Passage across the North Atlantic, even in the 19th century was terribly uncomfortable. For the 17th-century Pilgrims it was surely a wretched and occasionally deadly experience.
Once in the New World, Colonial-era settlers in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania encountered heavily forested, rocky land inhabited by not always friendly Native Americans. Nineteenth-century immigrants were herded about unceremoniously then sent out to bustling cities like Philadelphia and New York from whence they dragged their families to rural, sometimes remote hamlets in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Whether it was the 1600s or the 1900s, everyday life was hard. But our intrepid ancestors endured, undertaking one peregrination after another; felling a single tree, then a hundred; unearthing a field of rocks here and a colossal boulder there.
Over the winter of 2018 and the spring of 2019, I renewed work on this document, especially exploiting Wikitree.com and its occasional links to online primary sources. In addition to adding a few details for 18th– and 19th-century persons, that work uncovered more than seventy medieval-period Norman and Anglo-Saxon ancestors who flourished between circa 932 to the mid-1400s. Writing up these folks expanded the document by about seven pages and 3,000 words.
Most of the new information on the Normans and Anglo-Saxons is found in the “French Connections,” “Early English Families,” “and “Viking Roots” headings. In addition:
- a whole new section was added for the Dutton surname (page 27).
- a new section was added for the Fitton/Downes families (page 30).
- information on the Pakington family was expanded (page 32).
- the section on the Eisenhauer ancestors of the Krotzer line (page 90) was expanded from one sentence to two pages.
- I added a page or so on the Krotzer’s maternal German lineage (page 93).
I did a major edit of the entire document. After doing more research in Ancestry.com and consulting Wikitree, Geni.con and other online genealogy sites I found many corrections, deletions and additions. The biggest deletion was the 15th-century Wentworth family and the medieval period Senlis. Major additions included: Viking Roots (page 18), Trenoweth of Cornwall (page 32), Greenaway (page 41). I feel I was able to more reliably document Josephine Szaflarski’s surname (see page 115). And I added family trees to nearly every lineage to help visualize relationships.
In these pages, I attempt to trace my mother and father’s ancestry, as far back as I’m able: more than thirty generations and a thousand years for one branch. There’s a relatively superficial survey of a dozen or so French and English ancestral families from the 9th through the 16th centuries. The narrative focuses on my mother, Bonnie Billick’s, parents, Dorotha Krotzer Jackson and John Jablonski (Jackson), their siblings and their direct ancestors as far back as 902. The bulk of this narrative, however, chronicles a far more recent era beginning with the 17th-century immigrants to North America and their gradual trek westward to Wisconsin and Ohio.
A good deal is known about our Buckeye State predecessors: and there were lots of them. Several generations of the Krotzers had large families: Grandma Dolly was one of thirteen children! Several of her siblings had three to five offspring as did some of her ancestors. The first Ohio resident of the group, Adam Brunthaver, Jr., may have fathered over twenty children himself. Herein I don’t undertake an exhaustive inventory of those more than one thousand individuals that could be traced back to our most remote progenitors. Rather, I follow only those connections that can be substantiated via official documents or other written records, like local histories. There is a plethora of family trees online, but these do not always provide generational relationships validated by unambiguous proof.
On my father’s side, this work only goes back one generation. For lack of any obvious links, his ancestral story ends with his parents’ arrival in America in 1906. On my mother’s side, both the Jackson/Jablonski and Krotzer families offer an abundance of source material and their forbearers are readily tracked after their arrival in North America: around 1892 for the Jablonskis and 1630 for the Krotzer line.
On both sides of the family tree, I focus on the most direct lineage in each generation and occasionally call out other relatives with particularly interesting or poignant biographies. The Ancestry.com Billick family tree encompasses over 2,600 individuals; only a couple hundred are commented on here.
Blame it on the weather. It’s December 2016 and I’m sitting at my computer looking at still another rainy day outside Seattle, Washington. I’d been aware of Ancestry.com, Cyndi’s List, Familysearch.org and other online genealogy resources for years. I think my experience as a reference librarian working in government documents and U.S. Census records made me want to never have to deal with such resources again. But that was ages ago… and the format was microfiche and microfilm. Nearly thirty years into the Internet age, so much of that kind of investigation can now be done online, at my desk.
And at a certain age, I began to regret not being more curious about my “roots” and not having asked so many obvious questions about mom and dad’s youth and how my grandparents came to be where they ended up. Thus one drizzly afternoon, I signed up for a free trial on Ancestry.com and more than a year later, I’m still digging.
When I mention my research to friends, they inevitably ask, sarcastically, if I’m related to George Washington or some European royalty. Well…Yes. Kind of… The score or so of early Medieval ancestral families we know about were of some noble heritage. That’s just an artifact of ancient record-keeping. The relationships of people of wealth and station were noted; the names and activities of common folk were not. And by the time one traces ancestors back thirty generations, you are inevitably going to be linked to some well-known –at least among their contemporaries—person. For the record, it seems rather certain that Bonnie Jackson’s 24th great grandmother was the 11th-century Queen Maud of Scotland.
So what did I discover having lived with my ancestors for the past three years?
From a purely historical perspective, I had no idea of the family roots in early Medieval France and England in an era when these political entities did not yet exist. The best-documented pre-Colonial ancestors are clearly English in the modern sense, but their ancestors were mostly Anglo-Saxons, Franks, and Normans. Of course, some of those ancient Normans were direct descendants of earlier Viking invaders.
Nor was I aware that our family stock had such extensive roots in England. My generation’s knowledge of our ancestors knew only of Polish and German origins. However, on my mother’s side, Germanic blood wasn’t introduced into the family line until around 1800. All the ancestors before that, for seven generations and several hundred years were British. And from around 1600, they were predominately Puritans.
One trait that stands out among those many long-gone relatives is their courage. Just getting to North America, be it in 1640 or 1900, required incredible daring and resolve. I’ve constantly asked myself what drove these people to gather all their earthly possessions and set out for a land they’d never seen. It’s such a monumental commitment and evidence, I suppose, of a degree of fortitude and courage that is difficult for the 20th-century mind to comprehend. Studying the history of the period when ancestors left their European homes provides a general context of why they might have resolved to begin a new life, thousands of miles from their familial lands. But I still wonder when and how, for the specific individuals recounted herein, the need for a new horizon became so compelling.
Secondly, I envision individuals of unbounded tenacity with an inexhaustible capacity for hard work. The 17th-century Pilgrims endured a tortuous two-month Atlantic crossing followed by hunger, cold and Indian attacks, but endured to build one after another home, farm and town. If one wishes to fantasize a bit, one can find similar traits among those long-forgotten invaders/settlers of Normandy with their relentless zeal to conquer and assimilate the early cultures of France and England.
The English, German and Ukrainian ancestors alike were closely linked to the soil, both by circumstance and disposition. There would be an occasional shoemaker or carpenter and more than a few blacksmiths, but most of our precursors worked the earth. Until this past century, most of the planet’s human inhabitants were farmers so it’s no surprise that most of the individuals noted in the following pages led an agronomic life. Like so many immigrants, the Billick-Jackson forefathers relied on farming until the forces of the Industrial Revolution and the Great Depression offered or forced them to follow other avocations.
This link to agrarian life was exemplified, in my experience, by my grandparents, Louis and Tekla Billick. Their property, next door to ours, reserved over half an acre for a vegetable garden, chuck full of cabbage, green beans, dill, carrots, etc. My mother would occasionally send me to fetch fresh eggs from the hen house. And there was a long row of pear and apple trees between our lots. This configuration was very common in that Polish neighborhood. These were not hobby plots but a source of fresh produce in season and canned and pickled items in the winter.
Family life was central to the immigrant experience in several ways. Given the perpetual tribulations of pioneer life, everyone had to contribute just to survive. Pioneer and immigrant families tended to be large. The Billick-Jackson ancestors were champions of big families. Thus, the maternal experience of our ancestors was very different from 20th– or 21st-century motherhood. Today, nearly one in four mothers gives birth to a single child. The average number of children for the marriages traced in this document was more than eight; and a few mothers bore seventeen or more children. Pregnancy was almost a permanent condition. One of my 4th great grandmothers gave birth to the last of her twelve children when she was forty-seven years old. My own mother, Bonnie, was 42 when my sister was born: some sixteen years after me. Another unexpected fact was the relative rarity of infant and early childhood deaths. Very few such tragedies are documented out of the scores of families I followed.
Many of the ancestors discovered in these pages married more than once, and a few, three times; and one had four wives, outliving every one. The Puritan forbearers, especially, seemed to not be able to tolerate more than a few months without a spouse. Second marriages often occurred within a few months of a spouse’s passing. And it wasn’t always to have a helpmate to raise or support children. A good number of these second and third nuptials occurred when the female partner was past child-bearing years and previous offspring were no longer resident in the household. There just seems to have been a compelling need to have a wedded partner.
It is difficult to assess the role of formal education among our ancestors. It is not a piece of information typically recorded in any official document until the time of the 1850 U.S. Census. We know the Puritan ancestors placed significant importance on the education of their children even though they did not early on create a system of public schools. From what can be surmised from documents and activities of our ancestors, virtually all of them could read and write although few had any formal education until the 20th century. I sense that although traditional schooling was not available, all the antecedent families ensured the children acquired these foundational skills.
Women are not very prominent in the Billick-Jackson annals. Unfortunately for historians but in accord with the societal norms of the time, women’s activities were rarely documented, except for birth, death, and marriage records and occasional wills. That’s not to say they did not have a profound role in family life. They were likely the primary teachers of the children and worked as hard as their husbands dealing with the needs of maintaining a house in the pre-electricity, pre-running water era. And, they were pregnant about half their adult lives.
Finally, it’s a commentary, I suppose, on American history that so many Billick-Jackson males served in the military. They participated in virtually every conflict from the Colonial period French and Indian Wars, the Revolutionary War, and so on up to the Vietnam conflict. It’s surprising, really, that only a few perished in these conflicts.
I am by no means a historian. My academic training touched on history but otherwise my interest in my ancestral past stems from pure curiosity. Not far into the family history endeavor I found myself wondering repeatedly what drove people over many generations to uproot themselves and move to wholly new, often largely unknown realms. Thus a lot of what follows tries to answer the question not only WHO but also WHY and HOW.
I love footnotes; so there are lots of them here. I try to keep simple references for quotations concise by referencing “author, year, page number” in the footnote, as in Price, 1910, p. 123. So if you need to see the full citation, look for the item by “Price” dated 1910 in the Sources. Most notes supply supplemental, often historical, information not critical to the Billick-Jackson family history but helpful in understanding the context.
As will be apparent, on my mother’s side, the Brunthavers, Clinks, and Krotzers are challenging to trace and astutely summarize both due to the number of individuals involved and the plethora of potential documentation about them. It’s easy to confuse one “John” or “Adam” or “Mary” with another and equally difficult to track children by second spouses. There are over 100,000 records in the Ancestry.com database somehow associated to the “Krotzer” name alone and some 5,000 related family trees. The Brunthavers and Clinks are scarcely less abundant.
Old civil and church records, genealogies, and local histories are not neither consistent nor highly accurate with respect to dates and the spelling of names. I try to use the date(s) and spellings most frequently associated with a given individual in primary documents (if there are any). Surname spellings often change from one generation to the next. So when you see a parent with one spelling (e.g., “Kendrick”) and a child with another (say “Kenrick”), it’s probably not an error; I’m just using the version I found most frequently associated with that individual.
It can be confusing when one reads about 7th– or 8th– or whatever great-grandparents. More so, even, when there seem to sometimes be so many of them. But here’s how it works. Every generation back doubles the number of grandparents and thus the number of direct ancestors you might discover.
So, by time you get back thirty generations, there are tens of thousands of grandparents and literally millions of other individuals you are related to.
The grandparents of any given generation might not be exactly contemporaneous due to different birth years and life span, but they usually overlap for a substantial portion of their lives. Nearly all of Bonnie Jackson Billick’s grandparents, for example, no matter how far back or how far separated geographically, were born within five to ten years of each other.
The doubling of grandparents in every generation back means, of course, there are a huge number of potential ancestors out there. The most exhaustive record of them is in my Ancestry.com family tree. As of this writing, it includes nearly 3,000 individuals. In this document, I make no attempt at a complete documentation of them all. Indeed, especially for those more remote from modern times, I describe some of the more interesting families and individuals and very often omit even a mention of numerous other known children, aunts and uncles, and the like. Most of the mini family trees I include here are vastly simplified. And there are some very several generations of ancestors for which the only documentation are longs lists of perfunctory birth, baptism, marriage and death dates. I have totally ignored such figures here.
Everyone would like to find some royal, noble person in their family tree. It turns out the chances are kind of good. Moving back in time fifteen generations presents over 65,000 grandparents (4 the first, 8 the second, 16 the third, and so on). In most cases, records for those potential links die out and the line comes to an anonymous end. However, as one progresses back into the 15th and 14th centuries, surviving records are mostly for the more prominent figures. So, if one does have documentation for even one family line that far back, it’s likely to be for someone notable.
Similarly, we always want to know “Who’s our oldest relative?” Bonita Jackson’s most distant roots might be found in several families dating back to 10th-century France and 11th-century England. If you just can’t wait to find out, jump to the list of “Old-Timers” on page 154. Of course, any genealogies going back ten centuries are suspect with relationships derived mostly from a few records in medieval Latin, Old French or Old English.
Occasionally, I’ve chosen to provide a bit more historical context; tidbits not directly related to family lineage but helpful, I think, in understanding the time period our relatives lived in and what their life experience might have been like.
I’ve enclosed these asides in what I’m calling “history boxes”; like this.
In an effort to coherently organize the family’s European and Colonial antecedents, I’ve divided the narrative into five sections.
Part One offers some background about family roots in France and England from Medieval times through the first settlers in North America.
Part Two focuses on the mostly Puritan families from about 1630. This section is taken up largely by the Brunthaver, Clink and Krotzer families and follows the ancestors beyond the greater Boston region to western Massachusetts and into Pennsylvania, New York, Wisconsin and Ohio.
Part Three is dedicated exclusively to the Jablonski ancestors. Their story is a briefer one since nothing has been found regarding their Old Word roots.
Part Four provides a history of the Billick branch of the family beginning with their landing in Ellis Island in 1906.
Part Five offers up a potpourri of fact-lets I think readers might find interesting. Who are some of the longest-lived ancestors? Any really famous relatives? And who knew great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great (more or less) aunt Elizabeth was a Salem witch? Stuff like that.
Finally, there are a few family trees, a list of some of the sources I found most helpful, an appendix with information based on my DNA analysis from 23andMe, some revision notes and a detailed index.
At the end of any given section, a particular family’s story will reach a temporary hiatus while other branches are brought up to a corresponding point in the timeline.
 Very enlightening in this regard is Lars Brownworth’s The Normans: From Raiders to Kings (Crux Publishing, 2014).
 “Peak farm” in the Unites States occurred in the 30s; farmer ownership has declined from a peak of over 6 million in 1935 to fewer than 2 million today,