Each link below leads you to the updated page
And they came to America… UPDATED 9-1-2017
Life on the Farm UPDATE 8-28-2017
What’s In A Name? UPDATE 8-26-2017
What’s in a name? Those odd immigrant names really took a beating in the US. Our German great-grand-father’s name was “Boldewahn” But it was spelled:
My favorites are:
To be fair, the name was often spelled in the German church books as Bolduan. The Nagel family think that these spelling variations are due to how cursive writing was taught in Germany before the 1940s. The script was stylized and ornate and is hard for many of us today to read. It was called the “Sütterlin Schreibschrift”. After WW2 the modern “Latin” script was taught that most of us are familiar with here in the USA.
Baltimore, 1884 Oshkosh City Directory)
Friedrich Dragorius’ name was also many variations:
Drigolias (this is the name that Erna Boldewahn said was the correct spelling)
and even Tragorius or Gragorius
The Greeks fared even worse. The “Kamoutsis” family name was spelled:
This book was written and self-published by A. Manetas, a resident of Amygdalia (Plessa), Fokidos, Greece. On page 57-59 he lists family names from the village over the past 200 years. What follows is an imperfect Greek translation. Names are spelled phonetically, so there may be variations:
Begin pages 57-59:
“After several years of research we have largely identified the names of those who lived in the village during the last 200 years, along with their families and origins. When we complete the survey, we will include them in a separate publication. Below are listed the surnames of the families who lived in the village during those years. In alphabetical order is a list of older families that lived in the village prior to 1850, many of which still exist.
1) Voútsinos, 2) Vákrinos, 3) Giannarás, 4) Georgíou, 5) Giannakópoulos, 6) Theocháris (Theocharópoulos), 7) Theodórou, 8) Kallimánis, 9) Kamoutsís, 10) Kaniós, 11) Karagiánnis, 12) Karanásos, 13) Karamántzalos, 14) Karampéllos (Tsíknis), 15) Karasatíris, 16) Katsagsýnis, 17) Kokmotós, 18) Kolokýthas (from Baroíchos), (9) Katsímpras, 20) Konisiótis, 21) Karfákis, 22) Koutsomíchos, 23) Kotrótsos, 24) Koutoniás, 25) Kalantzís, 26) Lálos, 27) Loukópoulos, 28) Manétas, 29) Mantzavis (from Karagiórgos), 30) Machás, 31) Moungoliás, 32) Baroýchos, 33) Makrís, 34) Baskoútas, 35) Bózas, 36) Boúos, 37) Býrpos (Foýskas), 38) Napadópoulos, 39) Papaíoánnou (from Karathanasópoulos), 40) Pappélis , 41) Papageorgíou, 42) Papathanasíou (from Papageorgíou), 43) Polítis, 44) Pordalás (Vourdalás), 45) Portoílas, 46) Roupakiás, 47) Siátas, 48) Skerpaniás, 49) Tsoíinis (from Pordalás), 50) Tempélis, 51) Tourkogiánnis, 52) Tsatsarónis (from Pordalás), 53) Tséllos, 54) Fallídas, 55) Chaídeménos, 56) Chantzís (apó Polítis), 57) Chardaloúpas (from Tempélis) and 58) Chrysanthákis.
After 1850, other families settled in the village: the Daskalopoulos family from the village of Granitsa (Diakopi), the Karaboknis fami
In the present century (1900s), the following families settled in the village: the families of Chaido or Chaidogiannos, the Vassilopoulos family, the Champestis family, the Markos family, the Nkíkas family from the village of Milia, the Karympalis family, the Kontoyiannis family from the village of Sotaina, the Dimopoulos family from the village of Vraila, the Serentellos family from the village of Makryní, the Pontíkas family from the village of Vounichora, the Asimakopoulos and Arvaniti
Most of the older families existed in the village before the revolution of 1821 and their ancestors were native to the region and lived in the village, others came to the village from different parts of the region after the establishment of the village. The area surrounding the village is large, and is ideal for raising livestock, it has resources and arable land and the land is suitable and can support the permanent installation of many families, and consequently it is possible that the village of Plessa did not always have permanent residents.
Such was the family Pordalás, from which the families Tsoúnis and Tsatsaronis came. Also, from other large families came the family Tsellos, the family Karagiannis (or Panagio
The Karampélou and Manetas fam
Karathanasopoolou family (which was renamed Papaoannou) is old and was indigenous to Plessa; Father Papaioannou was the first priest in Plessa (The priest himself writes that he was paternally descended from Plessas).
During the first years after the liberation from the Turks, the following were married in the village and created their respective families: Katsagounis family
The Konisioti family had relatives in Granítsa (Diakópi) and probably originated from Koniska. The Macha family had relatives in Teichio and Krokyleio. These families are suggested only and we will try to confirm them via a family tree. Before 1821 there were no official names. From various writings, the available data shows that most of the old families named above were formed and existed or were formed during the revolution or shortly thereafter, although we do find written mentions of some of them before the revolution. Some families came from amending other original families or branched from larger families which were separated.
During World War 2, all of Greece was occupied by the Germans and their allies, the Italians. In Dec 1942, Plessa was burned by Italian forces in retaliation for the ambush deaths of several Italian soldiers. The event has been documented by one of the eyewitnesses Athan. Manetas in his book “The Burning of Plessa”. In the book one there is one mention of the Kamoutsis family. What follows is a rough translation from the book.
“The day of the ambush, farmers in the area saw the fighting and by the same evening began to evacuate their flocks. Throughout this region, fear reigned. The 38 year old, Efthimios Dimitrios Kamoutsis having a sheep corral in Ntovrovítsas area, didn’t want to move nor did 75 year old Kostas Efstathios Tsellos and his 40 year old son Eustace. The latter, at the prompting of his father-in-law of George Theoch. Theocharopoulou and his brother-in-law law Theochari, finally agreed to move. He promised that he would move the herd west of Ntovrovítsas to Mesovoúni. By the next day, Saturday December 19, the entire village had learned what happened to them.
After the ambush, the Italian army, battalion strength, gathered nearby the ambush area. They came from Lidoriki and Amfissa. They also disembarked in Eratini and other Italian military forces were sent from Nafpaktos. At the battle site, they found nothing other than the dead and the destroyed car. Some investigated the area and surroundings and then they arrested Efthimios Kamoutsis outside his corral along with Kostas Efstathios Tsellos. Tending his flock was his 22 year old Efthimios John Baroúcho was located on the eastern slope of Mesovounou.
Some of the Italians approached them unawares. Efthimios Baroúcho who was nimble, and who had bitter experience with the Italians because they had captured him in Vounichora and had beaten him in Amfissa a few days earlier, escaped running. Efstathios Tsellos, not wanting to leave his flock, remained and was arrested by the Italians. Efthimios Kamoutsis and Efstathios Tsellos, both fathers of 3 small children were tortured and killed. The Italians left their bodies beside the highway that leads to Amfissa, a few meters after the intersection (Union Eratini).
In retaliation for the death of their ten soldiers, the Italians executed a total of ten innocent Greek citizens. They were Efthimios D. Kamoutsi and Efstathios K.. Tsellos (who were killed where they were captured), along with eight others* who were executed as a group outside Lidoriki at “Tragoudáki” next to the road leading to the field of Skaloula Andritsou….
The bodies of the two men executed in ltovrovitsa, Efthimios Kamoutsis and Efstathios Tsellos remained unburied and after the departure of the Italians their relatives were afraid to collect them. The brother of Efthimios Kamoutsis, Panagiotis Kamoutsis, went Monday to Lidoriki to ask the Italians for permission to receive their bodies, but fearing arrest he did not approach them.
On Monday evening residents of our village went to the village cemetery, but soon learned that P. Kamoutsis had not been authorized to transport the bodies back to the village. The next day, more adventurous villagers brought the bodies to the cemetery where they were buried.”
Several Kamoutsis families also lived in Vralia a few miles away. In 2013, the village erected a plaque in their community center that memorializes the complete burning of their village by Germans on July 24, 1943.
“Η ΒΡΆΙΛΑ ΜΑΣ ΚΑΗΚΕ ΟΛΟΣΧΕΡΩΣ ΑΠΟ ΤΟΥΣ ΓΕΡΜΑΝΟΥΣ ΚΑΤΑΚΤΗΤΕΣ ΣΤΙΣ 24 ΙΟΥ ΛΙΟΥ 1943
*The names of the other villagers who were executed by the Italians:
The Short Version. In the early 1800s, my grand-mother’s families were ethnic Germans living in Prussia, in what is now Poland but what was, at the time, then part of the German Empire. Both of my great-grandparents emigrated to the US in the mid-1800s where they met in Wisconsin and were married.
Albert Rheinhold William Boldewahn
My great-grandfather was Wilhelm Boldewahn. His full name was Albert Rheinhold William Boldewahn but he preferred William. His family came from the village of Gruenwald in the northern part of Kreis Neustettin (County Neustettin). Kreis Neustettin was located in the northern part of Pommern, Prussia.
Wilhelm was born on May 30, 1851 to Johann Boldewahn and Charlotte Freiberg. He had two siblings: Wilhelmine “Minnie” Fredericke Auguste (born 1845) and Henriette Louise (born 1847). Minnie married Martin Adam Pommerening on July 31, 1863 in a church in Gramenz, Kreis Neustettin and stayed in Prussia. Sister Henriette emigrated to Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1870 and married Johann Schabloski on August 27, 1870.
Wilhelm emigrated to Wisconsin via the port of Bremen, arriving in Baltimore on April 1876 on the ship SS Braunschweig. After living in Oshkosh and working in a saw mill, he married my great-grandmother on July 17, 1880. In 1905 they established a farm in Vinland. The farm was sold in 1929 and the family returned to Oshkosh. They had three children: Otto, Meta and Erna. William died on May 30, 1937 and a picture of his grave in Riverside Cemetery can be found here.
Uta Härtling has written a detailed and comprehensive “History of Gruenwald”.
Family names that appear in the Boldewahn family tree: Freiberg, Abraham. By marriage: Luebke, Kohls, Nimmer, Kalbus, Jeske, Stueck
Ernestine Wilhelmine Dragorius
My great-grandmother was Ernestine Wilhelmine Dragorius. The name has many different spellings over the years: Dragerius, Dragurius, Dregonis, Dragorus, Drigolias, Tragorius and even Gregorius.
It is unclear when my great-grandmother emigrated to the US, but it was at a relatively young age. In the 1900 US Census, Ernestine gives her emigration date as 1865. On her marriage certificate, she lists her father as Frederick Dragorius and her mother as Caroline Koenig. An Ernestine Dragorius, age 6 arrived in 1865 on the ship Othello from Hamburg to Quebec City with her parents Frederick and Louise Dragorius. On the shipping form, their residence was listed as Putzig Hauland, Preußen (Germany). Putzig Hauland is located along the river Netze in Posen, a few miles south of Romanshof. This would make her birth date 1859 which approximates Ernestine Boldewahn’s birth dates as reported in the 1920 US Census.
In a newspaper article about her 50th wedding anniversary, Ernestine said her family emigrated to the US when she was 1 year old – this would place their emigration date in 1860, not 1865. In her obituary, she was said to have emigrated when she was 3 years old, which would place their emigration date in 1862.
After emigrating to Wisconsin, Ernestine‘s father worked in a saw mill. He died in 1882 when she was 23 years old. Her mother passed away in 1881. Both were buried in Riverside Cemetery in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in unmarked graves.
Ernestine died on Jan 28, 1935 at the age of 75. She too was buried in Riverside Cemetery in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. A picture of her grave can be found here.
My grand-mother, Erna Boldewahn married my grandfather, John Kamuchey on March 8, 1926 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Erna and John eventually moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and had 9 children. Info about Erna’s family is found in the Kamuchey section.
Life in Prussia in the 1800s.
In the late 1700s and early 1800s many ethnic Germans emigrated to East Prussia. While Germans had always settled in the areas now owned by Poland, after the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s, many Protestant Germans were forced to leave Poland’s primarily Catholic holdings. This left the Polish nobility with fewer skilled workers to develop their lands so they they slowly started to invite Germans back to work for them. Leaflets were sent out to Germany, promising free travel, financial assistance in setting up their farms, and religious freedom. These new settlers settled into “colonies” with German names. The colonies would negotiate the rights to the land from the Polish nobles and were able to set up their own schools, churches and laws.
Unfortunately, the area suffered from significant political unrest with numerous military actions. At one point in time the area was held by Germany, Poland, France, Russian and even Sweden. During this time many of the legal rights negotiated by the German settlers fell by the wayside and in some areas Protestant churches were destroyed. However, all that changed in the late 1700s when the area was partitioned and divided between Germany, Russia and Austria. But whether Polish or German, the constant warfare had its impact. Rising tax rates meant that land became prohibitively expensive to buy. Waves of disease and crop failures swept across the area. In 1842, a cholera epidemic killed almost half of the population of the city of Czarnikau. Potato blight in 1845 caused widespread famine. This was followed by disastrous weather conditions in the mid 1850’s. Steep declines in grain prices in the years 1880-1886, caused by imports of cheap cereals from America and Russia, and an accompanying drop in wool prices severely reduced farm revenue.
It is no wonder then that mass numbers of Germans left Prussia to move to the United States where land was cheap and plentiful.
Of the more than 100,000 foreign-born Wisconsinites in 1850, only 48,000 could claim English as their native language. Nearly one-half of these English speakers were Irish. Of the non-English speaking immigrants, the Germans were by far the most numerous. Norwegians constituted the second largest group, followed closely by Canadians of primarily French descent.
Between 1852 and 1855, the Wisconsin Commission of Emigration actively encouraged the settlement of European immigrants in Wisconsin. Pamphlets extolling the state’s virtues were published in German, Norwegian, Dutch, and English and were distributed throughout Europe as well as in eastern port cities. Advertisements were placed in more than nine hundred newspapers. By 1855, however, the rise of antiforeign sentiment, or nativism, led to the dissolution of the commission.
Wisconsin’s foreign-born population continued to increase, though, owing to the efforts of the Commission of Emigration, the propaganda produced by land speculators, and the letters sent back to Europe by immigrants encouraging friends and family to join them. Although not as statistically significant in the overall population as the Irish, Germans, and Norwegians, many other ethnic groups left their mark on particular areas of Wisconsin, including the Finns in Douglas County, the Danes in Racine County, and the Italians in Kenosha.” Source: Wisconsin History Turning Points
“When [linguists] set out to study the area’s census, church and court records, [they] had no idea the language had thrived for so long. The year 1910 was already a full generation after the mass migration had dropped off, yet Salmons discovered not only that many in Hustisford and other farm towns were still bilingual, but that a sizeable portion was monolingual.
“It turns out a lot of these people were born in Wisconsin,” Salmons says. “And a fair number were born of parents born in Wisconsin. That is, these guys were not exactly killing themselves to learn English….In other words, there were taxpayer-funded bilingual public schools in the U.S. a century ago.” Source: In Rural Wisconsin, German Reigned For Decades
The Family Version: In the early 1800s, my grand-father’s ancestors lived in a coastal town called Messolongi, situated on the Gulf of Patra in Greece. In 1820s, during the war of Greek Independence against the Turkish Empire, my great-great-grandfather fled during the Battle of Messolongi into the Mount Parnassus region looking for a safer a place to settle. He came to a village situated on the slopes of Mount Parnassus called Plessas (Πλέσσα) in the Doridos region of Central Greece. He opened a business and eventually was able to buy several homes and shops in the village.
What Might Have Really Happened. In the late 1700s, two men named “Kamoutsis” lived in or around Plessas. Where they came from, how long they lived there, and how they were related is unknown. Andreas Kamoutsis was born in 1777 and Stavros Kamoutsis was born 1795. Our family line descends from Andreas Kamoutsis.
What We Know Actually Happened. In the early 1900s, two of Andreas Kamoutis great-grandsons – my grand-father (John) and his brother (Peter) emigrated to the USA. We have photos of the Kamuchey family here, including a wedding photo of my Grandfather and Grandmother (John and Erna) and a photo of my Great-uncle Peter. The Kamuchey name is an American construct. In Greece the name is spelled KAMOYTEHE (ΚΑΜΟΥΤΣΗΣ) and it is pronounced Kamoutsis.
Village: The village was recognized as a town in 1912. In the 1920s, the village Plessas was renamed Amygdalia (ΑΜΥΓΔΑΛΙΑ or “Almond Tree”). The name “Plessas” may be based on a Slavic word “Plesso” which means “bald spot” or “area without a forest.” The village is characterized by its beautiful stone houses, the nice doorways, stone walls, narrow roads, the view to the lowlands, which is why the community is considered to still be very “traditional”. The village is now part of the Fokida or “Phocis” Prefecture (State) and is contained within the Lidoriki Municipality (County). History of the region can be found here, and an overview (translated from Greek) is here. Sample traditional costumes from Central Greece can be found here; ones from the Phocis region are here. An overview of the village can be found at the Greek version of Wikipedia (link takes you to an automatically translated version of the website).
Current demographical information about Amygdalia is here. The population is about 500, but tourism brings in more people during the summer.
And if you still want more history on the town, here is an archived copy of the town’s website (now offline) (in Greek; you may need to run the page through Google’s automatic translator).
A video slide show of the village can be viewed on Youtube here.
A Kamoutsis Kingdom?
One family story is that the Kamoutsis clan once lived in a specific area north of Plessas, between Plessas and the village of Vralia (see the arrow above). The land sits on a flat area beside a river with two nearby valleys. and is known as Vathirema (Βαθύρεμα) which means “Deep River” or “Deep Creek’ (the river dries up in the summer from May to November). The tale says that the Kamoutsis families lived on the land until the time came to select a clan leader. One man was strong but dumb. The other was weak but clever. Because the families could not agree, they scattered and some went to Vralia and others to Plessas and others to the surrounding villages. There are two other towns in the area: Sotena and Malandrino. It is unclear if any Kamoutsis family members moved to those towns.