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Archive for the ‘Noffke family’ Category

This postcard belonged to the Mulder family. As you can see from the reverse side, it was addressed to a Mulder, but which one? What is that bizarre looking letter in front of the surname? Is it C for Charles? For Clara? Is it CC for Charles and Clara? My great-grandparents were Charles and Clara Mulder. Or is it a weird M for Mister? N. Boltwood Street, City. But what city? If I could read that postmark, I would know, but I can’t.

When I look at the 1910 census, I can see that Charles and Clara Mulder lived on Boltwood Street in Hastings, Michigan! They boarded with another young couple, Otto and Mildred Jahnke. Great-grandpa was a machinist at the time–not yet a farmer with his own farm.

It almost looks like a self-addressed card. But not necessarily. If it is, I can take a guess at who the new arrival was: my grandmother! Lucille Edna Mulder was born April 17, 1912. It is also possible that a friend had a baby that same year, and that this was their birth announcement, but I like the idea of it being my grandmother’s.

It was amusing to see that the stork brought the baby through the roof. I’ve never noticed that idea before, figuring that Santa had the roof market to himself. But it makes sense. Storks, with their nests on the roofs of the buildings, are part of the folklore of the Netherlands. That said, the card was printed in Germany, and the family of Grandma’s mother Clara was German, whereas the Mulders were Dutch. So I looked up storks in Germany and, while they do have storks in Germany, they are more common in Holland, Sweden, Switzerland, and Belgium.

Note: this postcard uses the same way of addressing that the one last week did: using “city” instead of the name of the city itself. The assumption is that it’s used for intra-city correspondence.

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From being in touch with some Noffke cousins, I now have a lovely copy of one of the Noffke families.

 

My great-grandmother’s brother was Charles Noffke (who married Louisa Rutkowski). If you recall, this was the woman whose death was public and unexplained. I wrote about her death in How to Explain This Death.

They had a son, Herman (1871-1944). This is Herman with his wife Mary Morganer Finkbeiner (1881-1971). These are some of their children.

BACK ROW: Floyd is on the left. He was 1906-1959. On the right was George, born 1901 (died 1990). He was the oldest child.

MIDDLE ROW: Wilbur is the boy in the middle with glasses (1903-1986).

Alfred is the handsome young man on the right (1905-1963).

Roy is the boy on the left (1911-1991).

Carl, as I mentioned, is the little boy (1917-1970).

It has been wonderful to meet Waldeck and Noffke cousins, but they are all wondering the same thing I have been: where in Europe did these people come from? To be clear: both lines apparently came from the same place in Europe. On one death certificate, I do have a town name. But I can’t find this town any place, and I have asked in genealogy Facebook groups to no avail.

Any ideas on this location of origin?

But I guess I have made strides. After all, we used to think the family name was Neffka . . . .

 

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My 3rd great uncle, Charles Noffke, married Louisa Rutkofski. This event must have occurred back in the “old country.” Just where the old country was has not yet been determined. All I know is that the Noffkes (and the Waldecks) were some sort of “German.” They might have been from Pomerania, but maybe not. The Waldecks-Noffkes had regular family reunions for years, decades actually, and yet their origins are more murky than my other branches. It would make sense if these people came from an area that is now Poland because I do have Polish DNA, but also it might fit Louisa’s maiden name (which can be German or Polish, according to trusty Google).

Anyway, I am writing about the disturbing story of Louisa’s death. Charles, who was born in 1843, passed away on 26 May 1897 in Caledonia, Michigan, where the family had settled. Louisa, born 24 April 1845, never married again and passed away on 6 July 1920. So she lived alone, presumably, for many of those 23 years. The couple had two children, a son Herman, born 1871 and a daughter, Clara, born 1875. Herman was married in 1900 and Clara may have married soon after.

I had never heard of Louisa until I began to do family history research, particularly on Ancestry.com. That’s when the Noffkes began to populate my family tree. She threatened to remain an enigma because I had little information and, after all, she is not such a very close relative.

But when I plugged the name Noffke into the newspaper database on Genealogy Bank, I was startled to learn the circumstances of Louisa’s death.

 

Clothing torn from her body? Some articles of clothing missing? Trampled weeds along the lakeshore? Scratches and bruises on the body?

DEATH FROM INDIGESTION?

It sure sounds as if she was murdered.

Clearly this shows that an investigation was opened into her death.

THEN SILENCE. Nothing else appears in the newspaper except information about probate of her estate.

What do you think happened to her?

For a link to a beautiful image of the lake go here.

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Adding Louisa’s death certificate, thanks to Su Leslie’s comment. Notice that the cause of death is even stranger: that she died by drowning in the lake while ill with acute indigestion. HUH? And notice that there is no DOB, although they seem to know her age in days. There are no parents listed, although her only son gave the information. I can’t tell who signed the certificate because of the spot on the paper.

One more thing. Her daughter Clara died eight years later, at age 53, in bed–dead from the gas from a coal stove.

 

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Right now I am corresponding with several new people from the Noffke branch of the family, as well as from my dad’s family. The Noffkes are connected with the Waldecks and Kuschs and possibly immigrated from East Prussia. I’ve also got a really busy two months ahead of me, so I can’t share all the information or move very quickly on any of the leads I have.

I’ve met another roadblock, though, in learning the name of the town these people actually came from. I tried to get the death certificates of all the Waldeck kids. By kids I mean my great-grandmother and her siblings. I found Godfrey’s. He is the only one I actually knew. His certificate says he was born in Germany. No help there.

I really wanted to find Fred’s because he is the one who was catastrophically injured in a streetcar and wagon accident and had to live out his life at the State Hospital in Kalamazoo. At first, I thought his certificate was lost, but then I found it under the name Walback, rather than Waldeck. Sadly, it gives the time he lived at the psychiatric hospital. 53 years, 11 months, 1 day. They don’t even know his last name, but they knew how long he was there to a day. Since he died on January 22, 1953. That would mean that he was injured before February 21, 1899. Imagine living in that institution for almost 54 years!

Of course, Fred’s death certificate also says he was born in Germany. No other origin info. For “citizen of what country?” they typed in “Unknown.”

 

On the 1900 census, his wife Caroline was found living with a farm couple out in the country, working as their servant. Their son Edward (the boy who was hit by the car when he was a young teen) would have been a toddler and probably was living in Grand Rapids with his maternal grandmother while his mother sent money to them. What a tragedy for that young family.

Several Waldeck siblings died while still in Europe, apparently as babies or children. But that leaves my great-grandmother Clara, her sisters Ada and Annie, and brother August. I haven’t been able to find any of their death certificates yet! A lot of the databases only go until 1952 in Kent County, and Clara died in 1953, the same year as Fred. August died during WWI, but I can find no information about him. If I can find these death certificates, maybe, just maybe, somebody will have something more definitive on there for origin than “Germany.”

Apparently, the State Hospital (Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital) had several buildings on their campus. Maybe Fred lived in this building, called Edwards, which housed male residents. This photo belongs to the Kalamazoo Public Library and can be found with others on their site. Click through the photo to enter.

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Two and a half years ago I wrote a post explaining how I didn’t know anything about the Waldeck branch of my family. I’ll quote the post here and then give you an update, such as I have at this point.

Waldeck is a fairly common name.  There are two Castle Waldecks. Lots of places share the name Waldeck.  There are many Waldecks listed on Wikipedia, including the first Waldeck, who was a count, and some Waldeck princesses.  I bet there are a lot of paupers named Waldeck, too.

But so far I can’t find the town or region in Germany where my Waldeck family came from.

Look at the sorry state of the family tree:

Godfrey Waldeck family treeeGodfrey (Gottfried) and his wife Alvena (Alvina) immigrated to the United States with their family and then had more children. I don’t even know if all those children listed on this tree are theirs! Clara is.

And so is Godfrey (junior) because I remember him when I was young. He managed a grain elevator or something like that, but he also farmed his own land. He was blind from glaucoma when I met him, and he still walked down the road each day and drove his tractor in the fields. As an aside, glaucoma runs rampant in their family.

I know that Grandma used to like to go to the Waldeck family reunions, and I went to at least one myself, at a lake (of course).

Look at Alvina Waldeck above. The tree lists her as Alvina Neffka, as if that is her maiden name. But is it? I’ve also seen it listed as Noffke and on her death certificate her father was listed as Louis Koffler. Her mother was listed as Dora Couch.

Noffke is a German name, and so is Koffler.  Neffka is not German.  Neither is Couch.

One person I’ve spoken with has wondered if the family was more Polish than German, but I have no proof of that either.

I need some help with this and hope that somebody reads this blog and gives me some clues about the family!

 

I am going to take a stab at identifying the people in the photo.

Back row:  Fred (according to a rumor, he was in a terrible accident), Ada Steeby (who had a daughter Ruth), Anna (did she marry a Stewart or Christianson or both), August (died in WWI, a bachelor)

Front row: Gottfried, Clara (my great-grandmother), Alvina, Godfrey

Looking at this photo and the names, can we write off Adolph, Rudolph, Max, Herman? Are they not part of our family?  Or were they older, born in Germany, and already living their own adult lives when this photo was taken?  And why isn’t Fred even on the family tree?!

Here is what I’ve learned. The family names from this branch are WALDECK, NOFFKE, and KUSCH. I believe that Couch was written by a non-German speaker on a document, and that the name is Kusch. I believe this because there are Noffke families and Kusch families in one particular area of what was (sort of) Germany: Pomerania in East Prussia. My ancestors in this branch were most likely ethnic Germans living in East Prussia, a place that would become northern Poland, a change in borders that would result in their exile at the end of WWII in 1945. Because nothing can be tied up neatly in genealogy, Waldecks do not live in the same region as Noffkes and Kuschs.

I did find a Dorothea Kusch from East Prussia who travelled to the United States from Pomerania in the 1880s, but on further analysis believe that she is a different Dorothea Kusch from Dora Kusch Noffke. This info gave me the idea that “Dora’s” name probably was Dorothea because my great-grandmother named her 3 daughters after the Noffke family. She would have named her oldest daughter Dorothea (Dorothy) after her own grandmother, as she named her second daughter Lucille after her own grandfather, Ludwig/Louis.  Her third daughter was named Alvena, after her own mother Alvina Noffke Waldeck.

Fred (born Friedrich and later Frederick), the man above who was in a terrible accident, I found just where my grandmother had warned: the State Hospital in Kalamazoo. He was in a streetcar and wagon accident and was confined to the psychiatric hospital after that. I assume he had brain damage. His wife and young son Edward moved in with her mother in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Fred died at the State Hospital, so that is how I found his death certificate.

 

While Fred was gone from home at the hospital, his 14-year-old son, perhaps while he was working or traveling to school, was hit by a car. I found an article in the paper dated July 6, 1912 about how the driver left the boy and didn’t take him to the hospital. He was lucky to survive after being left alone. Read the description of his injuries in the article and see if you think the driver should have left him!

I have also discovered that Adolph, Rudolph, and Herman passed away while the family still lived in Germany, but I have not found death records for them. Max passed away shortly after the family moved to Michigan. August did die during the time of WWI, but he was in his 50s, and I haven’t been able to find a record that his death was related to the war.  But I will keep searching.

One more thing. Late last night I got an Ancestry “hint” on Aunt Vena and Uncle Al’s wedding–that is Clara Waldeck Mulder’s daughter Alvena. Their marriage license was now available online. I noticed that they were married in the Portland Baptist Church by Pastor E. A. Waldeck. How odd that the name was Waldeck! And E.A. Like Edward? Could he be the right age? And was the A correct? Yes, it was. Edward Waldeck, son of Fred, and Aunt Vena and Grandma’s first cousin. The boy hit by the car had married a young lady named Cora. In the 1930 census, he was an accountant for an auto shop and she was a music teacher. But in the 1940 census, he was now a minister with the Baptist church! Another click of a puzzle piece snapping into place!

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Looking through my computer files (such a mess!), I found an old Word document I thought I’d share with you.

When my daughter was 10 she wanted to be a paperdoll centerfold for American Girl magazine. One of the requirements was to interview female living relatives about their childhoods. Her oldest female relative that we knew of (my daughter was adopted) was her great-grandmother, Lucille Edna Mulder (Zuidweg), who was born April 17, 1912. She passed away in 2000, just two years after my daughter interviewed her.

Here are the interview results.

Edna Mulder never wanted to be called Lucille, especially by her older sister, Dorothy, or her younger sister, Alvena.  They were called Dot and Vena, so she wanted to be called Edna.   Edna also had two younger brothers, Peter and Charles.  Her parents owned a farm in Caledonia, Michigan.  Her father came from a Dutch-American family and her mother from a German-American family.

 

Edna, Clara (holding Pete), Vena, Charles, and Dot

The farmhouse had a big dining room in the middle of the first floor.  The kitchen was out in back and had a coal-burning stove/oven.  The front room was tiny, with barely enough room for the big wood-burning stove and her father’s rocking chair.  He sat and smoked his pipes and cigars in the evening.  He played cribbage with a friend with a small chair pulled up to the fire.  All the downstairs had linoleum laid on it after Edna grew up and moved away from home; while she was home, it was a wooden floor.  The upstairs was two rooms:  a bedroom for her parents and one big bedroom for the five children.  They slept five to one bed, with the boys sleeping across the width at the girls’ feet.  It was COLD up there in the Michigan winters–with no heat.  Edna’s father had built the house; most of the furniture was handmade, too, some of it quite old.

Edna’s farm had a big family of cats, but they weren’t house pets.  They were kept to kill the mice in the barn.  Edna’s job was to put food and water out on the back porch for them.  The farm had lots of corn fields, cows, pigs, and an apple orchard.  It even had a small stream for fishing, but you had to drive the wagon down there, it was so far away.

But Edna and her siblings were used to long walks.  The three girls walked three miles to school everyday and three miles back home.  They kept each other warm by cuddling together as they walked.  Once in a great while, during the worst weather, Edna’s mother drove all the children to school in a tiny black Amish buggy.

Sometimes the girls were naughty.  For instance, they knew their parents had a store charge at the grocery store in Caledonia.  A couple of times the girls couldn’t resist and charged a giant candy bar or a banana.  (Fruit was a big treat; Edna only saw oranges at Christmastime).  When their parents found out later, they would “get bawled out.”

Edna’s family didn’t have much money, except for owning the farm, but her father collected a few hundred books.  He had several series of books for children which offered moral and religious instruction, as well as some adventure books.  Edna had plenty to read while she was growing up.  But she didn’t have a lot of time to read because she always had a lot of chores.  Farms need a lot of care!  Edna learned to cook basic meat, potato, and vegetable dishes while she lived at home with her family.  She also became a good baker, making delicious cookies, pies, and cakes.  She wanted to be a teacher or a writer when she grew up, but she also wanted to have a home and a family and to take good care of them.

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I’ve posted photos of the farm where Edna grew up before:

Final note: This turned out to be a great project for my daughter and for me because it was about our shared knowledge–some of what my grandmother taught my mother was taught to me and taught, in turn, to my daughter–and we both learned about history through the life of an ordinary girl. And, yes, my daughter did get to be an American Girl paperdoll. You can read the story and see the photos here: An American Girl’s Family Tree

 

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I’ve written before about my great-grandfather, Charles Mulder, of Caledonia, Michigan. He was born in 1885 in the Netherlands, but moved with his parents and younger brother to Grand Rapids, Michigan, when he was only two.  His baby brother Jan passed away within a few months.

Although Great-Grandpa was raised by his parents in Grand Rapids, where his father built furniture, he ended up starting his own adult life in Caledonia–as a farmer. He came from town folk. They weren’t farmers. What would have made him decide to become a farmer? And how did he purchase his farm?  These are good questions, I know, and I wonder if there is anybody who can answer them. Maybe his daughter, my grandmother, didn’t even know the answers.

I used to love to visit GG and his 2nd wife Margaret on the farm. My great-grandmother had passed away a couple of years before I, the oldest great-grandchild, was born. So I grew up knowing Margaret, a very nice lady, as my GG.

I’m guessing that in this photograph, I am with Great-Grandpa at his farm. He’s very comfortable in his undershirt and suspenders, and I see the hint of a dark colored (red?) outbuilding behind him. I remember the barn, the corncrib, and the henhouse. And let’s not forget the outhouse!

This photograph, as you can see, was taken in July 1957, which means that I was just turning two.

Message to my family: if anybody has any photos of the farm, please scan and send to me!

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Here are links to other posts about Charles Mulder of Caledonia, my great-grandfather (the 1st two are my favorites):

The Blog Will Now Come to Order

I Raided Great-Grandpa’s Library

Great-Grandpa’s Family: The Mulders of Grand Rapids

The Mulders Pre-1917

Pieter the Orphan

 

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