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Archive for the ‘Noffke family’ Category

This is the fifth week that the beautiful creative nonfiction journal Broad Street magazine has published one of the pieces from my chapbook Kin Types along with documents and photographs that helped me piece together these old family stories.

This week is about Louise Noffke’s death and the family history (including domestic violence) that surrounded that tragic event. Read it at Family Laundry: “Half-Naked Woman Found Dead,” by Luanne Castle

Louise was buried with her husband Charles Noffke, my great-grandmother’s brother. The “together forever” headstone is a bit ironic considering one of the newspaper articles that I uncovered.

This next is the headstone of the daughter of Louise and Charles. She is also mentioned in the Broad Street article.

 

The first feature article is “Family Laundry: “An Account of a Poor Oil Stove Bought off Dutch Pete,” by Luanne Castle

The second feature article is Family Laundry 2: “What Came Between A Woman and Her Duties” by Luanne Castle

The third feature article is: Family Laundry: “More Burials” by Luanne Castle

The fourth is: Family Laundry: “The Weight of Smoke” by Luanne Castle

An introduction to the series can be found here.  SERIES INTRODUCTION

 

 

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Those of you who have been reading The Family Kalamazoo for a time know that I published a chapbook this past year based on my research findings, my imagination, and some historical knowledge. Kin Types is a collection of lyric poems, prose poems, and flash nonfiction.

On Monday I woke up to discover that Kin Types was a finalist for the prestigious Eric Hoffer Award. It’s in stellar company.. This recognition validates the work I did on the book and on this blog. Best of all, the book gets a gold foil sticker for the cover ;).

It will kind of look like this when the sticker is put on the book (only not such a large sticker).

If you click through the link to the Amazon page, the book can be ordered for a real deal right now; check it out. To order through Barnes & Noble, try this link.

 

 

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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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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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This story is very tragic, and I hope family members don’t mind me sharing it because we need all types of stories to do justice to our history. Having read family history stories for years now, I know that every family had events like this occur. This post is about the Noffke branch.

A year and a half ago, I wrote about Louisa/Louiza/Louise Rutkoski, who had married my 3rd great uncle, Charles Noffke, back in Prussia–before immigrating to the United States. When they arrived here, they had a son, Herman, and after settling in Kent County, Louise gave birth to a daughter, Clara. The reason I wrote about Louise was that I had discovered through old newspaper articles that on 7 July 1920 she had drowned in Emmons Lake while suffering an acute attack of “indigestion.”

At the time, I didn’t mention a much earlier article I found about Louise, Charles, and Herman. However, coupled with the story of Louise’s death, that earlier article did inspire a poem, called “Half-Naked Woman Found Dead,” that I included in Kin Types. 

This is the article I found quite some time ago, published in the Grand Rapids Press in 1893.

At the time I read this article, I was saddened for the whole family, but I saw it as a terror for Louise and Herman.

The other day, I was organizing my files on this family and made a little stop at Genealogy Bank to recheck the articles. They have changed the site, and I’m not familiar with it yet. It seems to me that some articles are no longer easy to find, but one I had never seen before popped up.

It’s not only a tragic story in its own right, but it happened a year and a half before Herman put a stop to Charles’ violence. I can’t help but wonder if the event sparked a worsening state in Charles, his emotions, and brought about or increased his drinking.

My great-great-grandmother, Alwine Noffke Waldeck had only two siblings (that I know of), brothers Charles and August. What could have happened in 1891 to send Charles into a state where his violent actions were recorded in the local newspaper?

This is what I found about brother August in the 22 May 1891 issue of the Grand Rapids newspaper, The Evening Leader.

Look at that sensational headling: SHOT THROUGH THE BRAIN. Then the subtitle: August H. Noffke Commits Suicide After Threatening His Wife. So when Charles came home and “proceeded to make things lively,” endangering his wife, son, and the brindle cat, his only brother had somewhat recently been extremely intoxicated and killed himself.

If you read the whole article, you will see that there are two sides to this story–or maybe three. Was Mary Mueller/Miller Noffke mentally ill, cruel, and a nag, causing an unemployed depressed man to finally take his own life? Or was August abusing her and she was trying to put a stop to it through the courts when he got drunk and violent? Did he truly kill himself or did she shoot him? What really happened in that family–and what happened that day?

The way the article ends does try to slant the story against Mary with her cavalier attitude toward August’s death and funeral.

Of course, I’ve only found three (not four!) Noffke children: Maria, Otto, and Emma. I have no idea what happened to any of them except that Otto got married when he was twenty in Montana where he was living at the time and Maria (called Anna) married a man named Benson and ended up living in Illinois (but her body was returned to Michigan for burial). After such a dysfunctional upbringing and the suicide of their father, I’m a little worried about what happened to August’s four children.

One last thing. When I was researching Maria Anna Noffke, I found her death record–and on it was the only mention I’ve ever found of a birth place in Europe for the Noffkes–the birthplace of her father, August. I had already been told by a professional German genealogist that the Noffke surname could be found in Pomerania, so I hoped I would eventually find them there. And that’s what has happened. It lists a place called Schwitzkow. I couldn’t find this place anywhere. But then a man on the Prussian Genealogy group on Facebook identified it: http://gemeinde.schwetzkow.kreis-stolp.de/.  This was in Pomerania. I don’t know how big it was when the Noffkes immigrated from there in the 19th century, but in 1925, there were about 300 people and about 56 residences! TINY! And everyone was Protestant–no Catholics or Jews at all. Schwetzkow lies 57 miles west of Gdansk (Danzig), and I have seen that name mentioned somewhere in my years of searching my Prussian branch. But do you think I can now remember where I saw it? No . . . .

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Yeah, a lot of work. I have so many branches shaking their leaves for attention right now–and, no, I don’t mean on Ancestry.

On top of that, my husband’s relatives are calling from their graves, too. My husband has shown increasing interest in his own family history, and I keep trying to encourage him into it as a personal hobby, even if it means he ties up the computer.

But, no. He doesn’t want to do it alone. He wants to do it with me. Sigh. And his relatives are a lot of work. His Ukrainian ancestors don’t have a WieWasWie website that is translatable to English and with all the Dutch Ukrainian documents available online! No, instead I am being passed on from one person to another in an attempt to find someone who is an expert on Tiraspol, the city my husband’s grandfather and his family came from. Tiraspol is the 2nd largest city in Moldova, which is a country that is in political turmoil today. But in the late 1800s, Tiraspol was sort of a satellite of Odessa, which is in Ukraine, not Moldova. Pretty confusing! The two cities are 65 miles apart. And hubby’s grandmother might have been from Odessa. Or maybe she was really from Tiraspol, too!

Oddly, we found a listing of possible birth records for the grandfather, Isidore Scheshko, and his siblings in Odessa, not Tiraspol. Maybe it has something to do with the way the government functioned in those days. Eastern European Jewish records are hard to find. I’ll keep you posted on what I find out when I have discovered enough to create a story of sorts.

I’ve also been trying to find the Prussian town or towns the Waldecks and Noffkes and Kuschs came from. I’ve found two estates/castles where Gottfried Waldeck worked before immigrating to the U.S. The last one, Finckenstein Palace, was quite well known.

That’s what it looked like when Gottfried worked there, probably as a farm laborer. This is what it looked like after WWII.

Kind of heart-breaking to see, although maybe it was no picnic to work there . . . .

Prussian towns and records are super hard to find. Many of them were destroyed after WWII. The areas of what are now Poland that were once the homes of ethnic Germans are now completely emptied of Germans. And nobody can agree on what Prussia even was. The boundaries were constantly changing. There was East Prussia and West Prussia, and they are used so oddly and sometimes even interchangeably that every article I read confuses me even more (sometimes places in West Prussia are farther east than East Prussia!). Although my Prussian branch was my maternal grandmother’s mother’s family, I saw the other day that my paternal grandmother had a Prussian ancestor. That area of Prussia was very close to the German area around Bingen (on the Rhine) where her other branches lived. So when my grandmother told me as a little girl hearing “the Prussians are coming” was very scary, I don’t have a clue what she was talking about!

Now I hope you’re as confused as I am!

Gottfried and Alwine (Noffke) Waldeck

and family

 

 

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