Friday, 20 April 2012

My (Albeit Distant) Connections With America

With the recent release of the 1940 US Federal Census, I hoped to find my distant cousin (3xRemoved!) Louis Goodall Preston, but after trawling through a total of 571 images for Nevada County (which took me 3 days I might add), I did not locate him.

Louis Goodall Preston was born in 1887 in Holt, county Norfolk, England. His father was an astute businessman in the town, running a stationers shop with his brother as well as selling musical instruments, and teaching music. Louis wanted to be a mechanical engineer, and in 1903 when he graduated from Gresham’s School he was well on his way to making that happen.

The 1911 census for Holt shows Louis working as a Motor Engineer. This trade would have been at the pioneering stage, as motorcars were still in their infancy and many average working-class people in England could not afford to buy them. Indeed, in a small market town such as Holt Louis would not have been able to progress in his field at a rapid rate, so he turned to the United States of America where motor car companies of the twentieth century were the avant-garde of auto technology.

Less than two weeks after the 1911 UK census was recorded, Louis Goodall Preston left from Liverpool to sail for America on the SS Campania. His final destination is recorded in the passenger lists as Greeley, Colorado His uncle, Arthur Ling, was already long established there (he had immigrated in 1888) and Louis sought to make his own future, living between Canada and the USA for the next 30 years.

Greeley, Colorado c. 1910
Sometime between 1914 and 1916 Louis married Lorna Elizabeth Annis. Lorna Annis, born in Michigan, was the daughter of a successful lawyer in Fort Collins, Colorado; Franklin Joseph Annis. Louis and Lorna had one daughter Lillie, born in 1916. The 1920 US Federal Census shows Louis, Lorna and Lillie residing in Denver, Colorado. Louis is shown to be making his living at an Auto Agency as an Auto Mechanic.
After 1920 comes the interesting part in that Louis’ love life becomes murky and mysterious, which I am still yet to de-mystify. It would appear that Louis and Lorna divorced as a descendent of the Ling family told me that Louis married Ethel Switzer in 1933 and they had one daughter, Lois. It is also my own belief that Louis returned to Canada sometime during the 1920s and possibly remained there though to the late 1930s. He died in Nevada, California in 1942.

It has been really exciting for me to research my cousin Louis Goodall Preston, because he was the first ancestor (apart from his only sister Eva Maud Preston – whose life and travels is another story for another time) whom I discovered as having immigrated to the United States of America. Not only was he a keen traveller and motivated to succeed in his chosen vocation but he was amongst the cutting edge of American auto engineering; at a time of Henry Ford et al!


  1. It will be easier to find him when the 1940 census has been indexed. I wonder where you'll find him?

    1. Thank you for your comments. You are not wrong, indexing the census will be a godsend! Waves to you in lovely Norfolk. xx

  2. Incidentally, I live in Norfolk where he came from ;-)