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Posts Tagged ‘Caledonia’

Although I started this blog five years ago next month, and that sounds like a long time, I’ve been working (on and off–mainly off while raising my kids and teaching) on family history, family photos, and genealogy since I was just out of college and beginning a master’s in history (which I did not complete and ultimately switched to English and creative writing).

I was blessed with many antique and vintage photographs and a grandfather with a great memory and a talent for storytelling.

But it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I got the idea of putting my research and knowledge of our family history together with my creative writing. Then I began to write lyric poems, prose poems, and a few pieces in a genre that was new to me–flash nonfiction, which is a form of very short prose–based on individuals from my family’s past.

Ultimately, I pulled these pieces together into a chapbook (44 pages) which has been published by Finishing Line Press and is now available, not only on their website, but also on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites.

Kin Types looks at what the lives of my ancestors were like. The locales are mainly Kalamazoo (and other towns in southwestern Michigan), Elmhurst (Illinois), and the Netherlands. Using the fruits of my research, which included studying newspaper articles, documents, and the details of antique photos, I tried to “inhabit” the lives of some of the people who have come before me.

If you click through the link to the Amazon page, the book can be ordered for $14.99. To order through Barnes & Noble, try this link.

Here is a sample poem from the collection:

Genealogy

 

Tigers die and leave their skins;

people die and leave their names.  ~Japanese Proverb

 

The more relatives I unearthed,

the more Franks rose to the surface

like deer bones after a storm.

On the trails I could follow,

I found seven named Frank,

three Franz, three Francis.

Frans, Francois, and Franciscus.

Frances and Francisca,

the women peeking out

from under their fathers’ names.

The name passed forward

like a cross polished by many hands.

The verb frank means to allow free passage

for man or post. But these Franks

and Franciskas paid with their labor

and their babes buried along the way.

If you read this blog, some of the characters of the book might be familiar to you. And because the project is quite unique I think people passionate about family history, genealogy, history, and local history will probably be particularly interested. Some of the pieces have been published in literary magazines. Combined together, they tell a story of the history of “forgotten” women.

So what are you waiting for? 😉 Go to one of the links and place your order!  And thank you very much.

 

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I’ve written several posts about my grandmother, Lucille Edna Mulder (married name Zuidweg), who was born April 17, 1912, and her high school graduation scrapbook. She graduated from Caledonia High School (Michigan) in 1929.

In those posts, I mentioned that Grandma’s best friend Blanche was class valedictorian, Grandma’s older sister Dorothy was salutatorian, and Grandma–with the 3rd highest GPA–was class historian.

Visiting Mom, I recently found this photograph of Grandma and Dorothy. It’s a tinted photo, and it appears to be the right age to have been taken around the time they graduated high school. It shows the girls with movie star hairstyles.

You can see from the list below (from the scrapbook) who else graduated from CHS in 1929. Look at the proportion of girls to boys! Why was that? Were the boys working the farms and no longer attending school? If so, that’s a shame. What else could account for so few boys graduating? I trust the list because Grandma was, after all, class historian and quite meticulous about recording information.

Maybe this list will help out someone else researching their own family. Good luck!

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https://thefamilykalamazoo.com/2013/01/08/who-put-the-ring-stain-on-the-scrapbook/

https://thefamilykalamazoo.com/2017/04/17/april-17-always-reminds-me-of-grandma/

https://thefamilykalamazoo.com/2015/08/05/grandmas-school-work-late-1920s/

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My grandmother, (Lucille) Edna Mulder Zuidweg, was born 105 years ago today. This is a page from her 1929 high school graduation scrapbook. There is a photo of Grandma–maybe her senior pic–and one of Grandma (the Class Historian), Blanche Stauffer (Valedictorian), and Grandma’s sister Dorothy Mulder Plott (Salutatorian). In the 3rd photo, five girls are in dresses decorated with ribbon or twine.

You can read more about the graduation of these young ladies in Who Put the Ring Stain on the Scrapbook? and in Scrapbook Treats.

What do you think about the dresses on those girls? I don’t know why this photo is on the same page with the others or the meaning of it. Any ideas?

I can’t let an April 17 go by without thinking a lot about Grandma. She was a wonderful grandmother and inspirational to me in many ways.

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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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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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As a high school student at Caledonia High School in Michigan in the 1920s, my grandmother, Lucille Edna Mulder, was a good student. As I have written about before, she was Class Historian at graduation–and kept a beautiful graduation scrapbook.

She also kept a meticulous notebook for botany class. Here is a slideshow of the entire book. I will post a few still images below the slideshow.

Did you ever record precise information like this for a homework assignment? If so, do you think you learned from it?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

These dried flowers look like nature prints! I wish I had been required or encouraged to keep a notebook like this.

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