Welcome to Exploring my Family Roots

I'm kicking off my journey with my great uncle Dick D'Orsay, Treasure Hunter!

From Szikszay to "Dorsay"

How our names changed

When Elmer and his little brother, Deczo came to America they wanted to put the past behind them.  They were proud of their Hungarian names but it must have become evident very early that life in their new home would be easier if they simplified their names.

So they decided to use the name of the town in France where they grew up.  So "Szikszay" became "Dorsay".  Translated as "from the town of Orsay".  Dick added an apostrophe for who knows why. 

Who is Neal Ashmun?

To make this a bit more challenging, my mother, Jeanette Dorsay, married Don Dilley (my father) and moved out west to Colorado.  They divorced when I was seven.  Mother re-married, Robert Ashmun.  Eventually he adopted me.  So that is how I became Neal Ashmun.

Path To America

Additional Information

Having lost both parents by 1918 to sickness and suicide, Grandpa Elmer and his brother Dick, were under the care and guidance of their uncle, Janos. Hungary was in crisis.  “The old order collapsed under the harrowing weight of a lost war.” [1]Being a member of the failed Karolyi Government and hunted by the communists, Uncle Janos left Hungary and urged the boys to do the same. By 1923 they had immigrated to America.  Grandpa Elmer brought his new bride over from Budapest and started a family in New York City.  Uncle Dick had other adventures in mind and headed to Florida.  As a lifeguard on Miami Beach family lore has it that he once swam out in a hurricane to rescue drowning swimmers.


[1]Vermes, Gabor, “The October Revolution in Hungary from Karolyi to Kun”, Hungary In Revolution 1918-1919 Nine Essays, 1971, University of Nebraska Press

The Dorsay Family

 

Brothers

  

Grandpa Elmer brought his new bride over from Budapest and started a family in New York City.  Uncle Dick had other adventures in mind and headed to Florida. As a lifeguard captain on Miami Beach, family lore has it that he once swam out in a hurricane to rescue drowning swimmers.

The Valverde Treasure

  

By the mid-1930s, Dick was working for mining a company in Ecuador when he came across an exhibit describing a lost Inca gold mine in a museum in Quito. [1]A map called the Deroterro, written, by an eighteenth century Spanish soldier named Valverde described the mine. Valverde married an Inca princess who led him to this mine. He died a rich man and left the map to the King of Spain. After authenticating the Valverde legend and documents, Uncle Dick became obsessed with finding the treasure.  He spent the next twenty years and fifteen trips into the Llanganates Mountains and jungles, learning Indian languages, studying geography, and unraveling the mysteries of the treasure. [2]


 [1]”Lost Inca Gold”, National Geographic, Owen, James, accessed 5 April 2018 https://www.nationalgeographic.com/archaeology-and-history/archaeology/lost-inca-gold/

[2]“Comments On The Valverde Legend”, Richard F. D’Orsay, 21 November, 1947, Personal archives of Neal Ashmun

Shrunken Heads

  

Family lore has it that my great-uncle Dick sent a shrunken head as a memento of his adventures in Ecuador to his brother’s family in New York City sometime in the 1940’s. My mother swears she saw it before my grandmother swiftly disposed of it. Thus the legend of my Uncle Dick the “Explorer and Treasure Hunter” began. 

Find out more about Shrunken Heads

Indian Massacre

Excerpt from Personal Letter from Dick to Elmer, 5 October 1943

While in Ecuador, Dick lived with several Indian tribes, learned their languages and became close friends.  In the 1940s this remote and wild area was dangerous.

The Treasure

The Derretoro

The Derrotero describes “five days”, each with specific landmarks, on the trail to the gold.  Dick discovered and explored four of the five “days”.  On his last expedition he was in sight of what he believed was the fifth day’s landmark, “a rock formation like a cathedral door”.  Before he and his Indian guide could reach their goal, they were caught in a rockslide which killed the guide and broke one of Dick’s legs. After dragging himself back to civilization, and returning to America, he was never able to bankroll another expedition.

Learn More

This is a content preview space you can use to get your audience interested in what you have to say so they can’t wait to learn and read more. Pull out the most interesting detail that appears on the page and write it here.

Find out more about the Valverde Treasure

Climax Colorado

  

By 1947 Dick was out of funds and found himself in Leadville Colorado working for the Climax molybdenum mine above 11,000 feet. In his last years, in a letter to his brother, he said that the treasure was “no longer and obsession.”  Dick began to let go of his desire to “finish something he had started.” His philosophy on life became more elevated, more spiritual and much less materialistic. “It must be my karma to seek and never find.”  He continued, “All of the sudden, without really knowing just what brought it on, I have lost a number of anxieties such as fear of old age, fear of the future, I am actually gaining self-confidence and constructive manhood.” In 1957, only months after he wrote those words he succumbed to Lupus. 


In 1973 I inherited a trunk full of his letters, photos and personal effects.  I have mined these treasures for inspiration and family lore ever since. Dick’s adventures live on in me and my family.  My appetite for adventure and self-reflective nature are “treasures” he left me.  I can do without the shrunken heads.




My Blog