While researching something else on behalf of a friend recently, I came across an interesting fact that I had not known before. That started me thinking on the topic of why people move from one area to another. I’ll mention the interesting fact later in this post, but I want to put it in the entire context of the migration of the Russell family from their origin about 1000 years ago until now.
Prior to coming to the US
As I have posted earlier, the Russell family name began in Normandy, France in about the year 1000. However, they were only there a short time. In 1066, the Baron Hugh de Rozel went to England with William the Conqueror’s army as they defeated the tribes there. After the defeat, the Russell family settled in the south of England in Dorset. They were there for 4-5 generations, then moved to Strensham in Worcestershire. They remained in that part of England for several hundred years until the late 1500’s, then briefly moved to Yorkshire. It was from Yorkshire that Robert Russell migrated to America, specifically Andover, MA, about 1640. So there were only a few moves of any consequence in the first 600+ years of the family.
Massachusetts to New York
It was only a few generations later that the Russell family began disbursing. Some of them headed north into New Hampshire, but my great*6-grandfather, Robert Russell (1722-1784) moved to Westchester County, NY in the mid-1700’s. Records are somewhat sparse from back then, but the Russell family were farmers and the stop in Westchester County was a brief one as he later moved to Putnam County, NY and then on to Dutchess County, NY.
Settling in Dutchess County, then a move to Connecticut
The Russell family stayed in Dutchess County for about 100 years and continued to farm. John Russell (1756-1820) was in the county by 1772, Caleb Russell (1780-) lived his entire life there, and Silas Russell (1803-1886) lived there until the late 1870’s. All were farmers and according to census records did not know how to read or write. Walter Russell (1852-1895) was also born in Dover, Dutchess County, but he decided to better himself and move on. By 1870 he had moved to Kent, CT, just a few miles to the east of Dover. By 1880 the family had moved a few miles to the south to New Milford, CT. There he learned how to be a millwright and not a farmer like his father.
Moving around Connecticut
My great-grandfather, Louis Russell (1871-1946), was born in Kent, but grew up in New Milford. He learned how to be a millwright from his father. He initially worked for the New England Lime and Cement Company, then trained to be an electrician and began working for the Tucker Electrical Construction Company.
Here’s where the interesting fact I learned comes into play. During WWI, Connecticut produced nearly ¾ of the brass munitions used by the US. There were a number of large brass mills in Waterbury, CT, one of which was Scovill Manufacturing Company. When Russia entered the war, they wanted to have access to these same sorts of brass munitions. Czar Nicholas II paid Scovill to build a new power plant so they could increase their production and sell this increase to him. The Tucker Electrical Construction Company was selected by Scovill to build this new power plant. So my great-grandfather moved his family to Waterbury during the war to help build this new power plant – a move that was funded by the Russians!
When the plant was finished, my great-grandfather was hired by Scovill to help run the plant that he had helped build. So on August 26, 1918, the Russell family began working for Scovill – a relationship that lasted for over 60 years.
My grandfather, Erskine Russell (1894-1970), had been born in Sherman, CT (just outside of New Milford). He married when the family still lived in New Milford in 1914, but when the US entered the war he and his wife moved to Bridgeport, CT where there was work available. My aunt and my father were born there. But my grandparents’ marriage was not going well and they separated in 1924. My grandmother remained in Bridgeport, but Erskine moved to Waterbury where he lived with his father, Louis, and step-mother. Louis got him a job working in the power plant. Erskine moved out (just a few blocks away) for a short time in 1928 as he attempted to reconcile with his wife, but that did not work out, so they divorced and he moved back to his father’s house. He got married a second time in 1933 and moved across town, but he continued to work with his father in the power plant.
My father, Vernon Russell (1920-2006) moved around quite a lot – being born in Bridgeport, then with his mother to Waterbury for a short time as mentioned above, then back to Bridgeport, then to New Milford, then to Danbury when his mother remarried a much older man (30 years older). In 1937 he moved to Waterbury to finish high school, living with his grandfather. After graduation he also began working for Scovill in 1939 where he worked until 1981.
There was a short break from that work in 1944-1946 when he was in the Navy in WWII. His grandfather finally retired from Scovill in 1945 and died just a few months later. Freed from the oversight of his father, Erskine also resigned from Scovill in 1945 and began working for Pinkerton as a security guard.
Meanwhile, my father returned from the war in 1946, lived briefly with his sister just mile or so away, then married and moved to the next town, Wolcott, where he lived until his passing in 2006.
People are much more mobile these days. While I worked in CT for a few years after getting married, I got a job offer and moved to Pennsylvania in 1975 where I still live. My son was born here, worked in New Jersey, after graduating from college, for 15 years, then recently moved to Florida, but staying with the same company.
So – from France to England to Massachusetts to New York to Connecticut to Pennsylvania to Florida. Many moves and for a variety of reasons. But we are still all Russells and still all connected.