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Archive for the ‘Germany history’ Category

At the end of this post, I wrote an update.

Instead of griping about not having time to do genealogy research, I’ve decided to change my attitude. I am so blessed with so many old family photos, that my time is best spent right now trying to identify the photos!

Today’s photo is labelled, but it still presents a few problems. The date is 1951. I don’t know the location, but believe that the location is probably in southwest Michigan. The names are Cora, Fred, Godfrey, Anna.

Waldeck surname

Godrey has to be Gottfried Waldeck (Jr), born 18 December 1880 somewhere in “Germany”–most likely Prussia. He was married to Anna Christine Ruehs. She was born 2 December 1882 (same birthday as my mom!). My mother knew them as Uncle Godfrey and Aunt Anna. I’ve written about him before–how he drove his tractor down the block to work in his fields when he was blind. How I saw him do just that.

I asked Mom, and she confirmed that the two on our right are definitely Uncle Godfrey and Aunt Anna.

I like the photo without the orange a bit better.

But who are Cora and Fred? Godfrey had a brother, Fred. He’s the one who lived at the state hospital. He had brain damage from a terrible accident that happened when he was young and newly married with a young child. Fred was born in 1869 and died in 1953, so he would have been 81 in 1951. You can read more about him at Waldeck Family Research. This man does look the right age, but would he have been in good shape like this? Dressed up in a nice suit and tie?

Take a look at this photo of one of the old Kalamazoo State Hospital photos. It could be the building behind them.

Here is the family photo that includes Fred as a young man. Fred is back row, left side. Godfrey is front row, right side.

I am hoping that I can get verification that this is, indeed, Fred Waldeck who lived at the State Hospital. In comparing the younger Fred to the older Fred in the photos, I do think it is the same person.

If I could find out who Cora was that would be even more amazing!

UPDATE:

Thanks to Linda Stufflebean from http://www.emptybranchesonthefamilytree.com/ I was able to put together the pieces of who is in the photo and who is probably holding the camera.

All along I have been imagining Fred as abandoned at the “asylum” all those years. After all, his son was still almost a baby when Fred was injured. His wife Caroline Meir had to work for a farmer and leave her son Edward with her mother in Grand Rapids. Eventually she became a nurse and lived with her mother and with Edward. Caroline probably worked very hard her whole life and raised Edward to become a pastor. She passed away in 1946.

This new “find,” the photo identified as Cora, Fred, Godrey, and Anna, 1951, shows that the family visited Fred. Cora is Fred’s daughter-in-law, the wife of Edward who must be taking the photograph. So on this day in 1951, Fred’s son and daughter-in-law, and his only surviving brother, Godfrey, and Godfrey’s wife Anna visited Fred who was dressed up in a suit and tie for the occasion. The only close family members not in the photograph, in fact, are my great-grandparents, Clara and Charles Mulder. Clara was Fred’s only surviving sister by 1951.

Little tidbit of info: Fred was to die less than two years later, in January 1953. Clara died mere months after her brother, on 6 September 1953.

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My maternal grandmother’s mother’s family emigrated from somewhere in Prussia. Ancestry has further refined some of the ethnicity findings, and now they are showing me with 6.1% Eastern European (this has been there in varying amounts both here and on 23andme from the beginning). What is different is that Ancestry now believes that this small portion of my ancestors came specificially from an area right around and including Krakow. Their prediction is considered “strong.”

None of my ancestors were supposedly Polish, but approximately 12.5% were Prussians living in an area that is now considered Poland. They spoke German. The descendants of ancestors who stayed behind in Europe were probably relocated after WWII when the Poles expelled the Prussians. Some Prussians also fled the area on their own. I find this an interesting fact of history. I studied history throughout college and even did some graduate work in history, yet I never learned this information until I was researching my own family history. Have we swept the ethnic cleansing of ethnic Germans under the carpet because it came during the complete revelation of the extent of Nazi atrocities? Was it “payback” for what the Nazis did?

What might this Krakow DNA result mean?

I don’t know!

I started to go through the calculations and comparisons with my mother’s DNA again, but that really leads nowhere as they still have not refined things enough. For example, they haven’t found Krakow in my mother’s results. I checked my father’s just to see, and he has zero Eastern European DNA, so all this EE I have comes from Mom’s family. Interestingly, both my parents have DNA from Norway and Sweden, and mine shows up as all Swedish, but we know that means very little. What all this can mean is that Krakow is probably a clue to the Prussians.

More importantly, can this DNA result help me find my Prussians back in the days when they lived in Prussia?

I had it figured out that my Prussians might have come from Schwetzkow, Pommern (Pomerania), Prussia, based upon one record that I found that might apply to one of my Noffke relatives.

Where is Krakow in relationship to Schwetzkow? Krakow is at the south end of Poland, very near the border with the Czech Republic. It’s about 432 miles south of Schwetzkow (which was in Sweden at one point, although it’s on the continent).  I guess Krakow is just another clue I have to stick in the back of my mind for possible later use, I guess.

Or maybe Ancestry will take away Krakow when they update their results next time. Who knows.

Here is what I would like to learn: what does Prussian DNA tend to look like? Does it look German? Because German DNA according to Ancestry is spread out in rings around what we think of as Germany today. This includes a large portion of Poland. Does it look Scandinavian? Some of Prussia was, in fact, in Sweden, as I mention above. Does it look Polish, since so much of it was on the land that later became Poland? I have not really gotten a straight answer about this from anybody. Maybe they don’t really know yet!

In the meantime, I think DNA is not going to help me find my Prussian ancestors. I need RECORDS for that. Something I still do not have.

Back to the drawing board.

###

On another note, I often write about my Dutch ancestors. Here is an interesting article that relates to the first wave of Dutch immigrants to the United States. It’s about a church building in Brooklyn that is over 200 years old–the church itself, a Reformed Church, was first founded in 1677. Can a Church Founded in 1677 Survive the 21st Century?

 

 

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While Cathy Meder-Dempsey (Opening Doors in Brick Walls) gave me a tutorial in obtaining death records from Alsace, we incidentally found a marriage record from my ancestors. Cathy’s generosity in teaching me, as well as her translations of records, was so above and beyond. Cathy, thank you so much!

This marriage record is for my 2nd great-grandparents, Anne Riehr and Antoine Schirmer on 10 January 1842 in Steinbrunn-le-Bas, Haut Rhin, France. 

What follows is Cathy’s translation of this record.

Here is the translation of the French marriage record. You will notice at the very end that the witnesses and likely the couple and their parents may have spoken German.

 

In the year 1842, the 10 January at 9 o’clock in

the morning, before us Antoine Schweichler, mayor and civil officer

of the commune of Steinbrunn le Bas, canton of Landser, arrondissement

of Altkirch, department of Haut Rhin

 

appeared Schirmer Antoine, famer, age 28 years,

born and resident in this commune, of age legitimate son of Laurent

Schirmer, farmer, age 70 years and Anne Marie

Legibel, without a profession, age 71 years, married couple residing

in this commune, present and consulting in the projected marriage – of one part

 

and the damsel Riehr Anne, without a profession, age 24 years, born and

resident of Luemschwiller, legitimate of age daughter of Jean Thiebaud

Riehr, farmer, age 55 years et of Françoise Sutter,

without a profession, age 58 years, married couple and residents of the said

Luemschwiller, here present and consenting to the marriage – of the other part

 

who required of us to procede in the celebration of marriage

projected between them and of which the publication was made before the

door of our town hall and before the door of the town hall

of the commune of Luemschwiller, the first time on 26 December

1841 and the second time on 2 January 1842

at noon and there being no opposition to the said marriage

having been signified we granted their requisition after having

 

read 1. the extracts of the birth records, 2. the

two publications, 3. a certificate delivered by the mayor of Luemschwiller

on the date of 9 January of the current month constituting that

no opposition to the projected marriage was made, 4. chapter 6 of the

civil code concerning marriage, we asked the future husband

and the future wife if they wanted to take each other for husband and wife

each of them responded separately and affirmatively, and we declared

by law that Antoine Schirmer and Anne Riehr are united in marriage.

 

of all that we have draw up this record in the presence of Joseph Kauffmann,
farmer, age 46 years, Jean Kauffmann, farmer, age
38 years, the two brothers-in-law of the bride, Morand Richard

 

farmer, age 32 years, and Leger Zarsinger(?), farmer, age

38 years, the two residents of Luemschwiller, all

four witnesses, who after we read and

gave an interpretation in German, all signed with us and

the parties of the contractants.

signatures….

***

OK, German. We know that Alsace was pulled between Germany and France, but I’d love to know what the day-to-day lives of these people was like. How did they negotiate the language situation? Did they stubbornly cling to German even when they lived in France? I do believe that my grandfather who immigrated from Alsace was a German speaker. Did he know French? Do you know any novels that might show me a glimpse of what it was like to live in Alsace in the 1800s or the 1700s?

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In two previous posts I have published the death certificates of my 2 grandmothers, 4 great-grandmothers, and 4 of my 8 great-great-grandmothers. The 4 I did not have included two from Budesheim, Germany, and two from Alsace, which are now French records.

Thanks to Cathy Meder-Dempsey who writes the blog Opening Doors in Brick Walls I now have the death certificates of the two Alsatian great-greats.

When you enter the French archives you apparently have to agree not to publish the results online. I only know that because Cathy pointed it out to me. So I will post links and translations instead.

Madeline Groll was born 24 May 1816 in Muespach, Haut-Rhin, Alsace. But was that France or Germany in 1816?

If you don’t know this, Alsace has been a pawn between France and Germany for a long time. According to Wikipedia here is a more “recent” timeline of who controlled Alsace when. The languages spoken are in the far right column.

1618–1674 Louis XIII annexes portions of Alsace during the Thirty Years’ War Holy Roman Empire German; Alamannic and Franconian dialects (Alsatian)
1674–1871 Louis XIV annexes the rest of Alsace during the Franco-Dutch War, establishing full French sovereignty over the region Kingdom of France French
(Alsatian and German tolerated)[citation needed]
1871–1918 Franco-Prussian War causes French cession of Alsace to German Empire German Empire German; Alsatian, French
1919–1940 Treaty of Versailles causes German cession of Alsace to France France French; Alsatian, French, German
1940–1944 Nazi Germany conquers Alsace, establishing Gau Baden-Elsaß Nazi Germany German; Alsatian, French, German
1945–present French control France French; French and Alsatian German (declining minority language)

According to this table, 1816 found Alsace part of France, but Wikipedia gives more specific information for that time period:

In response to the “hundred day” restoration of Napoleon I of France in 1815, Alsace along with other frontier provinces of France was occupied by foreign forces from 1815 to 1818, including over 280,000 soldiers and 90,000 horses in Bas-Rhin alone. This had grave effects on trade and the economy of the region since former overland trade routes were switched to newly opened Mediterranean and Atlantic seaports.

Madeline passed away on 31 July 1847 in the same town at the age of 31. Although I have not done much research at this point on her life, she had at least one child before she died–my great-grandfather.

This appears to be a gorgeous old primary school in Muespach.

Here is the link to her death record:

MADELINE GROLL DEATH RECORD

According to Cathy, the death record “starts out with the date and mayor, followed by the names of the two persons who are the informants. Lists her parents, father deceased and mother still living, and her husband. Place of death. Followed by fact that the first informant was her husband and the second her brother. It is in French.”

Madeline’s father was Ignac Groll, deceased. Her mother was Margarithe Simon, and she was still alive. What is odd is that the date I show for Ignac’s death (possibly given to me by a genealogist years ago) is 29 July 1815, which is more than nine months before Madeline’s birth in May 1816! Maybe an error on Ignac’s death date. She was married to Antoine Scholler. I show his death date was 1839, so if he was an informant about her death in 1847, again, the male’s death date is wrong. I can see what I am going to be researching when the women are done!

My other 2x great-grandmother from Alsace was Anne Riehr (sometimes Reihr), born about 1816 in Luemschwiller, Haut-Rhin, Alsace. Although born in Luemschwiller, she married a man from Steinbrunn-le-Bas, Haut Rhin, Alsace, and had her children there.  The above photo is from Wikipedia of the town hall at Steinbrunn-le-bas. MAIRIE means TOWN HALL in French. I wish I knew when the building was constructed.

Here is the link to Anne’s death record (it actually begins at the bottom of the page before this):

ANNE RIEHR DEATH RECORD

And here is the translation from Cathy of that record:

Here is the 1866 death record and translation. The record begins on the bottom of the previous page. In the margin of the record is No. 3 Riehr Anne died the 19 January.

In the year 1866, the 19 January at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, in front of us Grienenberger Nicolas, mayor, officer of the (état civil) civil records of the commune (Niedersteinbrunn) Steinbrunn le Bas canton of Landser, arrondissement of Mulhouse in the department of Haut Rhin appeared Schirmer Antoine, farmer, age 53 years, husband of the deceased, and Betterlin Antoine, farmer, age 46 years, neighbor of the deceased, the two are residents in this commune, have declared that today at 10 o’clock in the morning, has died in this commune, Anne Riehr, without a profession, aged 50 years, native of Luemschwiller resident in the present commune, wife of the first registrant and daughter of Jean Thiebaut Riehr, farmer, age 84 years, resident of Luemschwiller et his wife Françoise Sutter, deceased in Luemschwiller. After being transported to the deceased to assure us of her death, we drew up the present record that the registrants signed with us after the reading and interpretation.

Anne was 50 years old when she passed away.

Now that Cathy has given me a tutorial on working with French records I will work my way through the other records in the lives of these women, their husbands, parents, and children. But don’t hold your breath. I find the handwriting coupled with the French very daunting.

What I do love about European records like the French and Dutch is that they are very thorough, and the records are very accessible online. Also, the fact that the women are recorded under their maiden names feels like a miracle in comparison with searching for American women through their married names.

Now for the German 2x greats. Yikes. They might have to be searched through the on site (as opposed to online) church records. Heaven help me. I don’t foresee a trip to Budesheim, Germany, in my near future. Any ideas?

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For as long as I could remember my family always celebrated Christmas Eve the same way. After the Christmas Eve service at church, the family would head over to my grandmother’s house–or that of one of her siblings. There was a progressive meal so after awhile we would move on to another house. I remember three houses and three courses, but eventually, I think it became two houses. Nobody does it any longer as my grandmother’s generation is all gone now.

While there were always a lot of delicious Christmas desserts (Grandma, in particular, was a wonderful baker), the main course–the one that couldn’t be avoided missed–was the oyster stew. Year after year, I watched the women stirring the pot of oyster-studded milk, but do you think I ever thought to ask where this tradition came from? Well, maybe I did, but I never got an answer. Maybe nobody knew.

What I should have specifically asked Grandma is “did your mom make the oyster stew on Christmas Eve, too?” But I didn’t.

Suddenly this year I wondered where oyster stew came from. It seemed so out of the ordinary, and my family’s holiday eating habits were not out of the ordinary at all. Turkey or ham, casseroles, cole slaw, jello dishes, cookies–“All-American” food.

I thought about how Grandma’s whole family participated in this tradition. Nobody ever said, “Hey, let’s make clam chowder instead.” Or meatballs. Or tamales. Nobody said, “Let’s try this new recipe.” Nope. Oyster stew.

I wondered if the recipe and the tradition had been passed down in the family. If so, they would have gotten it from Grandma’s mother, Clara Waldeck Mulder. And if it went back still further, it would have come from her mother, Alwine Noffke Waldeck, who might have been born, as her brother August was, in the little Pomeranian town Schwetzkow. Schwetzkow is about 12-15 miles from the Baltic Sea. Alwine was an adult with children when she immigrated her, so she would have brought her traditions with her.

To try to get to the origins, I researched the subject through my friend Ms. Google. One of the most popular articles right now is this one: Oyster Stew on Christmas. This writer argues that the origin lies with the Pilgrims who were “oyster crazy.” She says that when the Irish Catholics came in the 19th century, they latched onto the oyster stew because it closely resembled the traditional Irish ling stew and ling (a type of fish) was not available in the United States. Hmm, my oyster-stew-slurping family are definitely not DAR and not Irish and not Catholic. I couldn’t imagine anybody choosing a tradition of oyster stew just for the heck of it.

At least one article said that Germans couldn’t get oysters because the water is too cold, but then why does Russia get oysters from the Baltic? All in all, the research was very sparse about the Baltic, other than the problems with invasion of foreign species and pollution. Another issue is that in the 19th century, oysters were inexpensive and could be eaten by people without means. Canned oysters have also been readily available in the winter.

I posed my question on both my personal Facebook page and on the Prussian Genealogy group on Facebook. Interesting to see the difference in responses. On my personal page, where I am friends with people who come from a wide variety of backgrounds, only two people (besides family) had heard of the tradition. They both ate oyster stew on Christmas Eve with their Swedish in-laws. This didn’t deter me because Sweden and Pomerania were on opposite sides of the Baltic, and part of Pomerania was even Swedish for some time!

I wrote to my friend, the Swedish writer Catharina Lind, and asked her. She said that there have “never been oysters either in the Baltic Sea or the Bottnian sea, the east coast of Sweden. The salinity level is too low for oysters and the water is too cold. There are oysters in the Nordic sea, but very few, so oysters have never really been part of any Swedish tradition. There are no oyster dishes in Scandinavian (Sweden, Norway, Finland) Christmas traditions. Though a lot of fish, mostly herring and whitefish, and in modern times also salmon. We traditionally eat plenty of pork.” Catharina went on to speculate that perhaps the Swedish Christmas soup made with porcini and oyster mushrooms could have evolved over time to mean fishy oysters instead of mushrooms.

So I thought it was all over.

But then, on the Prussian Facebook Group, where everyone has Prussian, if not only Pomeranian roots, people began to chime in–lots of people have said that their Midwestern Prussian relatives always served oyster stew on Christmas Eve.

Then somebody found the recipe for several German Christmas soups printed in German–and oyster stew is one of them!

OYSTER SOUP RECIPE

Recipe in English

Servings: 4

24 pcs oysters (including juice)

40 g of butter

3/4 cup whole milk (hot)

sweet paprika

salt

pepper

For oyster soup, cook the thrown oysters in the hot butter with oyster juice. When the oyster margins begin to ripen, add the milk, season with salt and pepper and heat. Serve the oyster soup in soup bowls sprinkled with sweet paprika (if desired).


None of this research leads to a definitive answer about the origin of my family’s tradition. Clearly, a lot of ethnicities in the United States have claimed oyster stew. If you’ve ever eaten it, you might wonder why anybody would want to claim it. The only time I liked it was when my husband joined the family and “sneaked” wine and spices into the dish. Now it’s been years since I’ve eaten oyster stew, and I don’t miss the taste, but I do miss everybody who was there at the time.

I wonder if anybody in my family still serves oyster stew!

Catharina’s Christmas books are available here. I also recommend her beautiful book, “Fly Wings, Fly High!” It’s a lyrical memoir about the magpie family she shares her yard with and her own struggles with heart disease.

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After reading the tragic story of August and discovering that maybe, just maybe, he was born in Schwetzkow, Pommern (Pomerania), Prussia, I decided to do a little more digging.

I started with the family reunion notes. The Waldeck-Noffke family held regular family reunions, had officers, and kept notes. Imagine people doing that today!

The junction of the two families was the marriage between Gottfried Waldeck and Alwine Noffke, both of Prussia, my great-great-grandparents.

At the beginning of the notes is an attempt to sum up the “pioneers” of the family in the United States.

The first person who immigrated–or as I think of him, the canary in the coal mine–was August himself, the man who I wrote about last week, Alwine’s older brother. He was born in 1841 or 1842 and left Schwetzkow in 1869 at age 28.

INFO FROM PASSENGER LIST

August Noffke

Male

Age 28

Tischler (carpenter)

DOB abt 1841

Residence: Schwetzkov, Prussia (Germany)

Departure Date: 7 May 1869

Port of Departure: Hamburg

Port of Arrival: Hull (New York via Liverpool)

Ship: Roland

Captain: Paulsen

Shipping clerk: Louis Scharlach & Co.

Shipping line: H. J. Perlbach & Co.

Ship Type: Dampfschiff (steamboat)

Ship flag: Deutschland

Accomodation: ohne Angabe (without indication)

Volume: 373-71, VIII B 1 Band 015

Household members: August Noffke, age 28

Hull might be a port for “transmigrants” in England. I wish I knew what “Hull (New York via Liverpool)” really means.

The family notes say that his “parents and family” followed him “in about three years.”

The notes also say that August first went to Chicago, then resided in Caledonia township (Kent County, Michigan) with his parents, before returning to settle in Chicago. Also written is that the family doesn’t know when the pioneers (being August and his parents) died. So he was written off to Chicago.

There are records for an August Noffke in Chicago, but then there are quite a few August Noffkes. It apparently was not a rare name.

The Grand Rapids city directories show August living in Grand Rapids in 1872 (and throughout the 1880s), marrying Maria Mueller (Mary) of Big Rapids, Michigan, on 2 November 1875, and having children subsequently, all in Grand Rapids.

The passenger list shows that August was a tischler, which means carpenter. The article in the paper at the time of his death mentioned that he was a cabinet maker.

I do wonder why he left Prussia at age 28. Wouldn’t he have been married already? Why wait until that age?

More questions than answers, as usual!

Apparently, August was buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Grand Rapids. I’ve requested a photo of his headstone through Findagrave. Amberly at The Genealogy Girl suggested I look for the divorce filing since the newspaper article indicated that he had tried to file for divorce and then had stopped because of the children. I am awaiting news from the Western Michigan University archives on that matter.

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Two years ago I posted about Grandma’s uncle Fred Waldeck and his wife Caroline Meir (Meier). Fred was terribly injured in a streetcar accident. Because of severe brain damage, he had to live out the rest of his life at the State Hospital in Kalamazoo. He lived there for over 53 years.

Before the accident, the young couple had had one child, Edward. He also was involved in an accident when he was fourteen years old–when a man hit his bicycle in a hit-and-run!

Here are two posts about Fred, Caroline, and Edward.

The Waldeck Search Begins to Yield a Few Answers

Waldeck Family Research

I had never seen a photograph of Caroline or Ed, although I do have the one photograph of Fred with his family of origin. Fred is the man standing on the left, behind his father. The mother is Alwine, the younger sister of August Noffke. The little girl seated is my great-grandmother, Clara.

Recently, I made contact with a man named Roy through Ancestry.com who is related to Caroline Meir Waldeck. He rescued some negatives of the Meir family that his father was going to throw away and had them made into photographs.

 

Caroline Meir Waldeck, Wilhelmina Draheim Meir, and Louise Meir Schulz (Caroline’s sister)

Both Roy and I would like to know if Edward Waldeck is in the group shots. Edward August Gottfried Waldeck (1897-1971) was my first cousin, 2x removed.

Here is one of the young men so you can focus on them. Roy has names for the ones on each end, and thinks he knows who the second from left is.

Could the third from left be Edward?

Here he is with a young woman, maybe his future wife or wife Cora van Strien? Does he show resemblance to Caroline and/or to Fred? If you know who these people are, please let us know.

So wonderful that Roy saved the negatives and thus the images of the Meir family!

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