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Archive for the ‘History of Kent County’ Category

Because my mother’s grandmother, Clara Waldeck Mulder, died less than two years before I was born, I always felt that I had missed out by not knowing her. It seemed as if our paths had almost crossed, but missed. By the time I knew what was what, Great-Grandpa was married to Margaret, a sweet lady who was a good great-grandmother. But I knew I had missed out on meeting the mother of my grandmother, the woman who once managed that scary and fascinating stove in the old farmhouse in Caledonia, Michigan. I knew Mom thought she was a good cook.

So it was really fun that as I was scanning the photo album my mother had made documenting her teen years I found a photo of Great-Grandma a year before she died.

How well I remember those aprons! When you cook, they are the smart thing to wear, although the tummy area always gets the worst of it because it’s convenient to wipe your hands there. They were a style of the past when I was young and newly married, but I still prefer an apron that really covers me up like that to one that ties at the waist.

Jeanne mentioned at the top of the photo is my mother’s cousin Jeanne who in a lineup of cousins is #2 to my mother, my mother being the oldest.

Their Grandma was photographed by Jeanne in the summer of 1952, and she would die 6 September 1953, at the age of 69 years old of uterine cancer. (Yes, her death certificate is posted here).

Great-Grandma Clara is pictured here as a young bride with her husband, Charles Mulder, my great-grandfather.

You know that lineup I was mentioning? Here is one!

That’s Mom there on our left with the big bow and Jeanne right next to her.

The littlest ones aren’t in the photo and probably not yet born, but this is a good start on all the cousins, the grandchildren of Clara Mulder!

 

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Last week, for Women’s History Month, I shared the death certificates of my 2 grandmothers and 4 great-grandmothers. I then searched for death certificates for my eight 2x great grandmothers. All eight were born in other countries: Netherlands, Germany, and Alsace (now France).

MATERNAL SIDE

This one is for Alice Paak DeKorn, who died 5 May 1908 in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

The cause of death is heart disease. Since she was only 55, that seems somewhat unusual. She is the woman who survived a terrible fire. Could that have caused permanent damage to her heart?

Next up is Jennie Bomhoff Zuidweg who passed away 13 December 1924 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, at age 86 of senility.


That cause of death as senility is a bit mystifying to me. Grandma remembered his grandmother. After all, he was born in 1908, so when she died he would have been 16 years old. He never said anything about her having dementia at all when he talked about her, and I have to believe he would have mentioned it. She looks pretty old in this photo, and she looks like she knows her own mind, so to speak.

But can I quibble with a death certificate when I wasn’t there at the time?

Alwine Noffke Waldeck died 9 June 1912 in Caledonia, Kent County, Michigan. She was 65 years old.

The cause of death is “interstitial nephritis” and dropsy. Dropsy means edema, a subject close to my thoughts because I have lymphedema. Hmm, here is another kidney disease death, like the two in last week’s post. Only this one is on my mother’s side and not my father’s.

Alwine is the mother seated in the middle.

My fourth maternal 2x great grandmother was Nellie Gorsse Mulder who died in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on 12 October 1932. Cause of death was pulmonary tuberculosis, which she had had for 15 years. She also had had diabetes for 5 years.

This is Nellie who died at age 63.

PATERNAL SIDE

I’ll be darned, but I don’t have a single death certificate or death record for these four women. Note that my maternal 2x greats all passed away in the United States, but the paternals did not (to my knowledge).

Elisabetha Adelseck Wendel and Elisabetha Wink Klein were both born in Budesheim, Germany. Presumably they both died there. I wrote for records, but have not received a response. I am not sure how to obtain these records on my own if I can’t get responses to my emails.

Same problem with the other two.

Anne Reihr Schirmer from Leumschwiller, France, and Madeline Groll Scholler from Muespach, France. Again, I think they both died there. But nobody has responded to my requests.

Until I can get those records, it’s hard to feel that they are “real.”  I have no photos of these women either, but feel very lucky to have the four above.

As to the 3x great grandmothers and beyond, I do have some records of many of the Dutch ones because the Dutch records are so easily available online. They makes things so much easier for me! Of course, none of these have causes of death listed.

Any ideas on how to move forward on finding death records for the women from Germany and France?

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Because of Women’s History Month, I thought I would pull together information on how the women who came before me passed away. I wanted to put all my grandmothers together in one post and thought by sharing their deaths it would shed some light on their lives, at least at the end. I also have a ghoulish fascination with looking them over for the variety of ways I might die myself. After all, their deaths could be a form of inheritance.

But what I discovered made me pretty mad at myself. I have so neglected death certificates. I think it’s because a death certificate in Michigan tends to be a document that I have to pay for that I have relied on social security death info, as well as burial info and death registry dates. I haven’t been assertive about going after the certificates themselves. This is why I don’t call myself a genealogist, but a family historian. I’m more of a storyteller than a rock solid researcher.

Here are my grandmothers and great-grandmothers and how they died.

My maternal grandmother, Lucille Edna Mulder Zuidweg, passed away on 21 September 2000 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, at age 88. After the death of my grandfather three months earlier, she was ill and living at a nursing home for round the clock care. The real round the clock care came from my aunt who slept in a chair in Grandma’s room. She was with her most of the time. What my aunt did is wonderful because Grandma hated being in an institutional place. She was like me about that, and it must have been horrible for her there. Thank goodness, she had her daughter with her.

Grandma on our left

I didn’t have her death certificate, so I had to order it from Kalamazoo County. It arrived without a hitch. I see that the cause of death was congestive heart failure. The documentation gives no evidence of all she went through with the cancers that she had. The congestive heart failure might be explained by science in one way, but my explanation is that she died of a broken heart after losing my grandfather.

My paternal grandmother, Marie Klein (Kline) Wakefield, passed away on 25 April, 1974, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She had been living in the Upjohn Nursing Home, which at the time was the premier nursing home in Kalamazoo. Her ex-neighbor and friend, Shirley Kulp, was the head nurse so there was always someone to watch over Grandma. Grandma was 82.

The above photo is my grandmother, Marie. In case you’re wondering about the difference in styles between the one of my grandmother, Edna, Marie was fully 20 years older than Edna.

I didn’t have Marie’s death certificate either, so I had to order it from Kalamazoo County.

Are you noticing the pattern here? [Knocking head against wall]

Luckily, it came in the mail with my other grandmother’s certificate.

Grandma passed away from uremia. I did remember that cause of death, although I had heard of it as a diagnosis while she was still alive, but dying in the hospital. This grandmother is who I inherited my congenital primary lymphedema from.

Then there are my four great-grandmothers.

Margarethe Wendel Klein died 24 May 1932 in Elmhurst, Illinois. I have her death certificate (woohoo!). I also have a corrected certificate. The only thing corrected is her birth date, and guess what? Both documents are wrong! According to the Catholic church books in Budesheim, Margarethe was born on June 25, 1869, NOT May 30, 1869 as it says on the death certificate and NOT June 24, 1870 as it says on the corrected copy.

She died of a diabetic coma and also had nephritis and myocarditis. Her health had obviously been poor, although she was only 62–the age I am now. She had also already lost two of her five children, so she had been through a lot. When Margarethe died, her body lay in a casket in their house in Elmhurst. My father told me that there was a thunderstorm during the time it was there, and that the grandchildren were terrified at the combination of events and hid under the huge picnic table style dining room table. She was buried on May 27, but it looks like (from historical rainfall records) the storm most likely occurred the day after her death, on May 25.

Francoise Schirmer (Schermer) Scholler died 22 October 1914 in Duluth, Minnesota.


Cause of death at age 71: chronic nephritis and arterioschlerosis.

Cora DeKorn Zuidweg died at age 57 on 16 September 1932 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I have posted about this one in the past.

Cause of death: Exhaustion – debility from gen – metastatic sarcoma spindle cell – primary in left thigh, followed injury was removed 9-16-29 – had existed there 5 years.

Clara Waldeck Mulder died on 6 September 1953 in Kent County, Michigan, at age 69. I did not have her death certificate and ordered it from Kent County.  I knew that she died of cancer, but I had eagerly awaited the actual cause of death on the certificate. When I received the document, I saw that cause of death was carcinoma of the uterus. That is what I had been told.

Don’t tell me it doesn’t unnerve you a little when you see that your ancestors died too young, even if they were older people. Since my grandmothers were 82 and 88, I figured that was a normal lifetime. But when I add in the great-grandmothers’ ages at death the average goes way down. The average of the age at death of all six ladies is 71.5. The average age for the 4 greats is 64.75. I feel blessed that they were all old enough when they died to see their children grow up. Every woman doesn’t have that opportunity, obviously. And look at the pattern. All four greats died much younger than my grandmothers, so things are improving, probably from better healthcare.

Of six grandmothers, I had three death certificates and was able to order the other three. Can I take it back another generation to the 2x greats? There will be eight women. How many certificates will I produce? A future post, peeps!

 

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Today kicks off Women’s History Month, which is celebrated throughout the month of March. Nobody can work on their family history and genealogy and not be confronted with the imbalance between the history of men and the history of women. The mere fact that women are so difficult to find because of the historic practice of taking on their husband’s surnames is enough, but there are other factors, as well. For instance, I only have to examine the history of my own ancestors to see that European and American women, until fairly recently, worked at outside jobs but their occupations rarely resulted in careers.  Sometimes they worked outside the home for decades, but often, once women married, they quit their jobs and began to have children.

When I wrote the poems and short stories in my chapbook Kin Types I consciously tried to bring the lives of these “invisible” women to life. Here is a 53 second video my daughter made of the book last summer.

 

As you probably realize, the research and the writing itself was a labor of love. The book is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Finishing Line Press. If you click through the next image, it leads to the Amazon site.

There are other wonderful poems about women and history. Here is a favorite poem by the late great Adrienne Rich. I am only posting the beginning and then you have to follow the link for the rest because WordPress does not allow for the specific formatting that some poems need.

This poem investigates the life of Caroline Herschel, the younger sister of astronomer William Herschel. Although she had to do a lot of her brother’s bidding during her life, she eventually learned to love astronomy and became an esteemed astronomer after discovering several comets.  There are an unknown number of women like this throughout history because most of them were not rewarded during their lifetimes as Caroline Herschel was. For instance, how much did Vivian Eliot help her husband T. S. Eliot with his writing? Einstein’s first wife Mileva Maric was also a physicist and might have co-authored the Theory of Relativity with Einstein, but she got no credit.

Planetarium

BY ADRIENNE RICH

Thinking of Caroline Herschel (1750—1848)
astronomer, sister of William; and others.

A woman in the shape of a monster

a monster in the shape of a woman

the skies are full of them

 

a woman      ‘in the snow

among the Clocks and instruments

or measuring the ground with poles’

 

in her 98 years to discover

8 comets

Continue here: Planetarium

This woman is taking a much-needed break next week. See you the week after!

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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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