From pit villages to Pennsylvania

Kurt and Janina Strouse
Kurt and Janina Strouse
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THE Family Roots word is spreading.

Our weekly spotlight on genealogy is attracting interest all over England, and now over “the pond” as well.

Kurt Strouse is from Bechtelsville, Pennsylvania, in the USA.

He is a keen researcher of his own family tree and his countless hours of dedicated study show his roots lie in County Durham.

CHRIS CORDNER reports.

KURT Strouse is fascinated by his family tree.

The 39-year-old American is the latest genealogist to share his story with us and it traces right back to the pit villages of the North-East.

He told us: “It’s exciting to learn more about this history.”

But there are still questions to answer and he’s hoping that Hartlepool Mail readers can step in.

Did one of his descendants work in the mines of east Durham and were they one of the child workers unfortunate enough to endure a life at the seam?

Kurt, from Bechtelsville, Pennsylvania, explained more.

He told us how his descendants quit Olde England for the new country to begin what they hoped would be a better life after suffering tragedy in the pits.

Kurt is a descendant of men from mining stock.

It was a dangerous profession.

His great-great-great-grandfather Joseph Watson Faulkner died aged 53 in an explosion at Tudhoe Colliery in 1882, one of 37 men to perish.

His son was also called Joseph and was also a miner. He had no luck either.

He developed a disease which was the dread of all miners, a condition called mineworker’s pneumoconiosis which was also known as black lung. It was caused by long bouts of exposure to coal dust.

Kurt said: “My aunt told me that, because he was developing black lung, he and his wife moved to Pennsylvania.”

But America’s paths were not paved with gold.

Kurt explained: “Unfortunately, the only sort of work that he could find was in a coal mine. He eventually found work outside of mining but died in Philadelphia from his condition in 1902.”

By then, though, he and his wife Isabella had managed to establish strong links with the States.

Kurt said: “Both of them seem to have travelled back and forth between England and the United States. Isabella seemed to have done so with each child in order to ensure British citizenship, which seems quite expensive for a miner’s pay.”

Documentary evidence shows Isabella and her daughter Violet arrived at Ellis Island in 1904 on a Norwegian vessel.

Kurt’s maternal great-grandmother, Margaret Faulkner, was also born in County Durham, in 1877, and she too swapped County Durham for the USA.

He said: “She emigrated to the United States in 1895 through the Port of Philadelphia, and married my great grandfather, Joseph Peter Weber, in 1904 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She died in 1949.”

Kurt’s research has clearly established the reasons for the shift to America. Now he’s looking to add to his lineage research further back in time.

The father of Joseph Watson Faulkner was Joseph Faulkner. He was born in 1789 in Limehouse, London but moved to the north of England later in life.

Kurt asks: “I do not know the story behind his moving up north. Did he move to work in the coalfields? Was he one of the child labourers brought up to work the pits? I wonder.”

He also knows that Joseph’s parents were James and Susanna Faulkner and would love to find out more.

As for Kurt himself, he explains: “Like probably most Americans, I have a mixed ancestry.

“In my case, it is Swiss, German, English, Ulster Scots, French, and Irish.”

Kurt is married to Janina, from Kassel, Germany, and has a 20-year-old son, Phoenix.

The couple are expecting a daughter in April.

Kurt added: “The earliest ancestors of mine in the US that I’ve identified arrived (from Switzerland, via Germany and the Netherlands) in the early 18th century.

“The Swiss line I can trace back to the 16th, possibly 15th century.

“I’d love to find out more about my English lines, though, both northern and southern.”

Can anyone help?

Contact Chris Cordner by writing to him at New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX, via email to chris.cordner@northeast-press.co.uk or by calling (01429) 239377.