Mr. Toni Richard Turk has pursued an interest in researching the roots of his family name since 1963. “When I was young, I wondered what the origin of my last name was. I found it very interesting and started my research,” says Turk.
What began as modest research has become a large genealogy site on the internet with the contributions of many people from numerous countries. Ms. Nancy Turk, who shares Mr. Turk’s family name but is not related to him, is his close associate in his studies.
Let’s answer the questions posed at the beginning of the article…. According to Mr Turk’s research, approximately 45 thousand people having no kindred with each other, and living in seven different geographical regions, bear the last name “Turk.”
He emphasizes the point that having the family name Turk doesn’t mean one is of Turkish origin. According to his research the origins of many people with the last name Turk range from Poland to France, and from England to Denmark. He himself is of Polish descent, and was a teacher for 30 years in Texas, moving to Blanding, Utah after his retirement.
Mr. Turk, who also claims relatives among the members of the first American colonies of Jamestown and Plymouth, added another dimension to his research by using DNA tests in 2004. Mr. Turk, age 62, says that his research for 62 years will be continued by his associate Ms. Nancy Turk (you can check out Mr. Toni Richard Turk’s research at http://home.earthlink.net/~trturk)
When you started the research, if you did not have an internet access, communication must have been limited. How did you conduct your research?
My research began in 1963 - long before the internet. My research was very traditional and involved countless hours reading microfilm, visiting archives and writing letters. Internet research was given a real boost during the last decade. Since 2002 DNA research has entered the picture.
What kind of difficulties were you faced with during your research?
The biggest problems have been those where records either did not exist or were inaccessible. Examples are those involving American Indian research and records in the former Soviet bloc countries.
How many countries have you traveled to for the project?
Besides the United States, my research has taken me to the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland), Ireland, Germany, France, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland and Turkey.
According to your research, how many people are there around the world who have the last name Turk, or a name derived from Turk?
The database for the Turk guild currently exceeds 45,000 individuals.
In your family, is there anybody who is willing to continue the research?
I am a robust 62 years of age. I still have a lot of years of research left in me. I am partnered with the much younger Nancy Turk. At some point I will need to find someone to take over this project. There are other Turk researchers out there that I hope will step into my shoes.
What did you find out during your trip to Turkey? What was the people’s reaction?
My initial reaction was that my dad would have blended in with the people of Istanbul very well. I found a lot of interest from everyone, starting with the desk clerk of our hotel when he saw our last name, to the rug dealers and other merchants who sold us Turkish products. We were in the Sabah newspaper and people we encountered had read about us and our research.
(July 2005, 17th Issue)