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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 Alwine 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. 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, Edward Waldeck, 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 died during the time of WWI.

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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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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Try to keep this in mind as you read: I am having a lot of trouble dating this photograph. Maybe with the dates of the people in the photo, you can help me date it.

Great-Grandpa Charles Mulder was born Karel Pieter Philippus Mulder on 6 March 1885 in Goes, Zeeland, the Netherlands.  He was the son of Pieter Philippus (son of Karel, Karel, Carel, Johannes, in that order).

He emigrated in 1887 from Kloetinge, Zeeland, Netherlands and arrived in New York City on 29 August 1887 . Note that he was 2 years old.

Great-Grandpa was the oldest child of Pieter and Nellie (Neeltje) Gorsse.

Pieter and Nellie Mulder and family

Pieter (1865-1953) and Nellie (1868-1932) are in the middle of the front row.  If you have ever heard about the wonderful furniture that used to be made in Grand Rapids, Michigan, you would be hearing about some of the furniture made by Pieter, a cabinet-maker.

Great-Grandpa, with the curly dark hair, is next to his mother. I will try to identify the others, but I cannot be absolutely certain.

Back row: Peter, Cora, Henry

Peter was the father of Rod Mulder, who I knew when I was younger. He married Alida, and they had at least four boys: Rod, Willis, Richard, and Robert.

Cora married John Gerow and was the mother of Eleanor, a lady I knew when I was a kid.

Henry engraved stone monuments and developed emphysema. His married Mae and raised his family in Hastings, Michigan. According to the 1930 census, they had 4 children: Eloise, James, Mary, and Judith.

In the front row, the girl with the glasses on our left is Nellie. I believe she might have had some sort of disability. Nellie was still living at home with her parents in the 1930 census, when she was 27 or 28 years old.

Then there is Jennie who married Edward Kooistra or Koistra. They had a son, Karl.

Rose (Rosa) is on the other side of Great-Grandpa. She contracted TB. But then so did Great-Grandpa; I remember visiting him in the sanitarium or hospital. Rose was living at home with her parents in the 1920 census; she was 14.

Sadly, I discovered that there were also two children who passed away. Jan was born after Charles–in 1886–and passed away the following year, four months after the family arrived in the United States!  Imagine: a young couple, ages 22 and 19, immigrate to the United States with a 2-year-old and a 1-year-old (two babies). Then in a few months, the younger baby is gone.

Then there was another Rose who was born in 1892, after Cora. She passed away in 1904, two years before her namesake was born.

What year do you think this photo was taken? It’s a little confusing to me. Great-Grandpa got married in 1910, when Rose would have been four years old. She’s clearly older than that here. I wonder if both Charles and Jennie were already married when this photo was taken. My grandmother was born in 1912, so if the photo was taken when Rose was about ten (1916), then Great-Grandpa would ALREADY HAVE FOUR CHILDREN.

Here’s an alternative view: that I was told wrong about which child is which. What if this photograph has the Rose in it that was born in 1892–and if it was that Rose who had TB and in fact died of it? Then the names were assigned wrong. But is there a way that the people here fit the dates if that is the case?

How about the clothes? Any ideas on the date of the photograph from the clothing?

In order the children were:

Charles (1885)

Jan (1886-1887)

Jennie (1887)

Cora (1890)

Rose (1892-1904)

Henry (1897)

Peter (1900)

Nellie (1902)

Rose (1906)

My grandparents told me that Great-Grandpa’s family (this is my grandmother’s father) lived in Goes very near the Zuidwegs (my grandfather’s father’s family). They were printers, engravers, and machinists. However, genealogical research shows that, in the old country, Pieter was a fisherman, a laborer, and a shoe maker. I would guess that when the family came to Grand Rapids, that Pieter learned the furniture trade. After all, he was only 22 when he got to this country.

I do know that the printer and engraver part was true at least for my grandfather’s father, Adriaan Zuijdweg. The Mulders and Zuidwegs were city people, not farmers, so it’s curious that my great-grandfather became a farmer.

Great-Grandpa died on 27 April 1967, when I was 11 years old. I used to imagine that the family line began with him at his farm in Caledonia, not realizing that he was brought up in Grand Rapids or that his father made furniture or what hardships his parents must have gone through.

 

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My grandmother, Lucille Edna Mulder (Zuidweg), was born April 17, 1912. If she hadn’t passed away in 2000, she would be 102 today. I miss her every day.

Grandma holding me

Grandma holding me 1955

Last year I posted about Grandma’s high school graduation scrapbook. Here is the link. There are a lot of photos in that book; in most of them Grandma is hanging out with her friends and classmates.

Below, Grandma is in all but the lower right photo. One of the girls is her best friend, Blanche Stauffer. Grandma and Blanche are in the upper right photo together–that’s Grandma in front. Blanche has the straight dark bangs. In the lower left Grandma is with another friend.

 

The scrapbook has an autograph page, and the words from Blanche are front and center:

Grandma and I have a lot in common. One thing is that a best friend was very important to us growing up. I looked up Blanche on Ancestry, and I was amazed to learn that she, like my grandmother, was the second child in the family. Blanche’s older sister was one year older. That was the same with Grandma: her older sister Dorothy was one year older.

Blanche was class valedictorian, Dorothy was salutatorian, and Grandma–with the 3rd highest GPA–was class historian. I read a list of Grandma’s classmates, and Blanche’s older sister was not in their class. At least Blanche didn’t have the sisterly competition that Grandma had to put up with ;).

Writing is another commonality between Grandma and me. When she was elderly and had just gotten sprung from a very negative experience with a rehabilitation nursing center, she made me promise I would never give up writing. I promised her, and I have kept my word. I remember Grandma submitting funny stories and occasionally getting them published when I was very young.

Recently, my mother told me an anecdote that made me realize that Grandma and I share another interest. When I was little and my mother worked full-time, Grandma babysat me. We sang Ethel Merman songs like “Anything You Can Do.”  I could always manage to sing louder and higher than Grandma.

Any note you can reach
I can go higher.
I can sing anything
Higher than you.
No, you can’t. (High)
Yes, I can. (Higher) No, you can’t. (Higher)
Yes, I CAN! (Highest)

What I didn’t realize is that when my mother and her siblings were little, my grandmother (who was always with my grandfather, to my memory) went to New York City with her sister Dorothy. They saw Ethel Merman in Annie Get Your Gun.  She actually saw this song performed live by Merman. My mother says it was one of the highlights of her life, and I believe it because I remember this music around Grandma often when it was “just us.”  I still love musicals and so does my daughter, who performs in professional productions.

Grandma and I shared other songs, too. She used to hold me on her lap while we sang “She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain” and “This Old Man (Knick Knack Paddy Whack).” My memories of my grandmother are treasured heirlooms.

Happy birthday, Grandma.

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First things first:  Happy Birthday, Mom!!! xoxo

Some time ago I wrote about Mom’s grandmother, Clara Waldeck Mulder, and her family in “I Uncovered a Stunning Clue in My Search.” I explained that I had had difficulty discovering any information about Clara’s mother. Her name was Alvena, and I had a photo with her in it, but her last name seemed to lead to a dead-end–as they say in specific genealogy jargon, I’d hit a brick wall.  Heh.

My mitochondrial DNA comes to me from her: Alvena to Clara to my grandmother Edna to my mother (who turns XX years old today) to me.

Alvena married Gottfried (Godfrey) Waldeck, and they had perhaps ten children. Clara was the youngest. Eventually I found that Alvena’s maiden name was Noffke, and I discovered on Ancestry that there are lots of descendents of Alvena and Godfrey throughout southern Michigan.

I have made contact with two people who share this ancestry. The female relative and I have DNA hits on both Ancestry and 23andme. She is from this Waldeck/Noffke branch. I also “met” a man with the last name Noffke and we are actually related in the same way, except that his dad was adopted so when he takes the DNA test, his results won’t help us narrow in on anything.

When I found the female relative, she gave me a copy of the minutes from years of family reunions. This report documents births, deaths, etc. I felt at that time that I was closer to finding out more about the Noffkes and to discovering where the Waldecks and the Noffkes came from.

We’ve always been told they were from Germany, although some documents I’ve read online say “Prussia.”

Germany at the time that Alvena's parents were born

Germany at the time that Alvena’s parents were born

But what now?

The concept of “Germany” could mean different things to different people in the 19th century, when the family emigrated. My 23andme report shows that I have at least one Polish gene. Could it be from that branch of the family?

How can I locate the area of Europe, even the town or village, that my ancestors came from?

I do have the names of Alvena’s parents. They are Ludwig (Louis) and Dora Couch. Couch doesn’t sound like a German name to me. It seems to be an English name. But where could that come from?

Brick walls are crazy-making.

Any ideas on where to go from here?

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I wrote about my great-grandmother Clara Waldeck Mulder in The Lost Bracelet. At the time I posted about her, I didn’t really have a lot of facts about her, other than that I lost her bracelet because the clasp didn’t hold while I was at work.  Ironically, I was selling costume jewelry at Jacobson’s, in downtown Kalamazoo.

Since then my mother gave me some notes about her grandma:

  • She regularly did heavy farm chores, especially after her children were old enough to stay in the house alone. She was a big strong woman.
  • She cooked without recipes, but the food tasted very good.
  • In the evening she served us homemade ice cream that she and Grandpa made.
  • She cared for the chickens, including slaughtering them to cook and eat.
  • Along with family help, she kept a large vegetable garden.
  • She let us go wildflower picking in the “woods” across the road from their farmhouse and barn.
  • She let us play the player piano as much as we wanted. It used the perforated paper rolls.
  • Her family, both sides, seemed to carry a glaucoma gene; many experienced at least some loss of vision.
  • Some of her relatives were farmers.
  • Her family met for a family reunion with extended family every summer–it went on for many years.
  • When she got sick in her sixties and died, I felt a great loss.

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Although I never got to meet my great-grandmother Clara, I did visit her farm and even stayed there for a week once with my great-grandfather and his second wife Margaret.  I remember my grandmother, Clara’s daughter, taking me wildflower picking in the woods across the street from the farmhouse.

By this time you might wonder what the clue could be about the Waldecks.  Well, the information I had been given was that Clara’s father was Godfrey (probably Gottfried) Waldeck and her mother’s maiden name was Alvena Neffka.

I had met a brick wall trying to trace these people back to Germany. I even talked to a German genealogist who has helped me in the past. He said Neffka couldn’t be a German name.  He questioned if that was really the name.

The only clue I’d found was on Alvena’s death certificate which indicated that her father was Louis Koffler and her mother Dora Couch.

So I started picking and probing at the name Neffka (on Ancestry), trying to figure out what else it could be.  That’s when names like Gniffke, Koffler, Knoffka started showing up all over the place.

Then suddenly I started getting hits on Noffke right and left, especially in Caledonia, Michigan, where my great-grandmother was from.  I changed the name to Noffke on my tree and I was showered with little green leaf hints from Ancestry.

For the first time, I found tons of Noffke relatives right in southwestern Michigan, where they ought to be.  I am still going through this treasury of information.

I’m a little closer to breaking through that brick wall.

Also, I had a DNA match at Ancestry with a verifiable relative—we are both 2nd great-granddaughters of Godfrey and Alvena.  She and I inexplicably showed up with eastern European DNA.  That, and some documents which say “Prussia,” seem to indicate that my grandmother’s Noffke family—and probably the Waldecks as well—are actually from Prussia, not Germany proper.

Onward in my search.  Polishing up my Nancy Drew microscope for the Noffke leaves.

Leaving you with a photo of old Caledonia, Michigan:

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