By Drew Preston

Unlike our parents, my younger brother and sister and I have always thought of ourselves as Nebraskans.

Tim Preston and Terri Allen met when they were in college. They were one year apart at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa. They were married in 1993, and I was born two years later.

They moved to Omaha shortly before I was born – they were the first members of their family to live in Nebraska.  My immediate family represents a sharp departure from the past.

Photo by Cassie Kernick

All but one of my grandparents, and even my dad, grew up on a farm. I grew up in a city, in a state that’s new to my family, and was raised on money made from tech jobs. This adds to the sense that my family is the first part of a new chapter in my family’s history.

Tim was born in Sioux City, Iowa on June 21, 1971, to Wayne and Carol Preston. Until he went to college, he lived on the Preston family farm, which my grandpa sold in the ‘90s so he could retire and travel.

My mother’s family history is not documented well. Terri was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on May 24, 1970, to Mary Ann and James (Jim) Allen. She was the second youngest of her seven siblings. Mary Ann’s father, John Magnuson, was a Swedish immigrant, but our family’s records aren’t clear exactly when he was born or came to the United States.

The lineage of the Preston family, on the other hand, is impressively documented, thanks to the efforts of my aunt Melissa Willer – my dad’s sister. Despite this, I’ve never felt particularly attached to my family history.

Bits and pieces of my family’s past appear in my life. My middle name, James, comes from Jim Allen. Some of the food we ate for dinner when I was a kid, like stroganoff, recalled my family’s northern European heritage.

But besides that, I feel separated from my heritage. Willer’s work somewhat makes up for this.

Prestons emigrate from Scotland

Exactly a century before my dad was born, his ancestors arrived in the United States from Scotland. Until my dad’s generation, the Preston family stayed put and farmed the same plot of land outside of Battle Creek, Iowa – a small town about 50 miles southeast of Sioux City, Iowa.

The furthest back the Preston name has been traced (to a specific place and time) is to David Preston, who was born in 1776 in Tealing, Scotland. His son, John Preston (born in Gallow Hill, Scotland, in 1806) is the father of the John Preston who was the first to come to the United States.

The younger John Preston was born on June 27, 1857, in Strathmartine, Scotland. He was the second youngest of nine kids, though his oldest sister, Janet, died before he was born.

Iowa roots set down

John and his surviving seven siblings immigrated to the United States in 1871; their parents stayed in Scotland. It’s unclear what John did during his first decade in the country, but by 1882 he was living in Battle Creek, Iowa. There he married Margaret Todd, another Scottish immigrant who had arrived in the United States in 1880.

John and Margaret’s son, Henry Roosevelt Preston, is my great-grandfather. He was born in 1904 in Battle Creek and was the youngest of six siblings.

Wayne Preston, my grandpa, was the youngest child of Henry and his wife, Blanche Goodrich.  He was born in 1938 on the Preston farm, where he lived and worked most of his life, until he sold the farm.

Wayne married Carol Lorenzen in Battle Creek and they raised my dad and three other children.

Carol died in 1996 when I was barely more than a year old. Not knowing her is part of the reason I feel somewhat disconnected from my family history. This being the case, I know that her side of the family brought some German heritage to my dad’s family when he was young.

German heritage traced back

As with the Preston side, Willer traced the Lorenzens back to their European roots.

Carol’s great-great-grandfather, Matthias Lorenzen, was born in 1860 in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. Both Matthias and his father, Lorenz Lorenzen, came to the United States, but they didn’t arrive together.

Matthias arrived in the United States in 1887. By 1889 he was living in Jones County, Iowa, in the eastern half of the state near Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. By 1910 he lived in Battle Creek, where the Preston family was living.

Lorenz left for the United States through Hamburg, Germany, in 1891, and arrived in New York by the next year. Lorenz followed his son across Iowa, but moved to Steele County, Minnesota, in the last few years of his life. He died there in 1920.

Matthias’ son, Christian, was born in Jones County, Iowa, in 1893. He married Cecelia Clemmensen in 1916 in Holstein, Iowa, near Battle Creek.

Mathias Lorenzen was Christian and Cecelia’s second oldest child. He was born in Battle Creek in 1916, and married Leona Baumann in 1936. Carol was middle of their three children; she was born in 1940 near Holstein.

It’ll certainly be interesting to see where our line goes from here, but I doubt it’ll take a century to move more than a few miles.