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In scanning the beautiful antique album this fall, I came across this tintype that kind of haunts me. Maybe it’s because the tintypes are so rare in the family collection. Maybe it’s because of her eyes.

Just ignore the strange corners. I tried to clean it up a bit at the corners (just for this post), and it didn’t turn out as I expected!

So how do I go about narrowing in on who might be in the image?

Because all the photos so far in the antique album seem to be related to the 5 Paak siblings and their familys, I feel that it is likely that she is related to the Paaks somehow.

I have such a desire to find a photo of Janna Kakebeeke Remine, the mother of Dick, grandmother of Therese, Genevieve, and Harold, who immigrated to Kalamazoo and passed away in 1910. She was the mother-in-law of Mary, one of the Paak sisters. But Janna was born in 1827. I was thinking 1880s for this dress, and this woman is not 60. In fact, as usual, I have no idea how old she is, what year her dress was, or what year her hairstyle was. It can’t be Dick’s mother-in-law Jacoba Bassa Paak either. She died in 1865 in the Netherlands!

What I have to get used to is the fact that the photographs I own are never of those earlier individuals, so they are images of more “recent” generations. I posted this one on a Facebook group for dating photographs.  Very consistently, readers thought the tintype is around 1880. They based this on two main aspects: the fact that it is a tintype and not a photograph and the woman’s outfit. Tintypes were most frequent a bit earlier than the ’80s, but they can be found in the 1880s and even later.

I thought that the silhouette of her dress and the finishings looked like the 1880s. One thing I can file away in my brain for later is the dress appears to black, a mourning dress, so someone close to the woman had died within perhaps the previous year. Of course, that is very subjective–I mean, it seems as if they would have always been in mourning dress! I’m not very happy with books or websites about women’s clothing styles. They tend to focus on the clothing of the wealthy, the fashionista, and those in evening wear. My relatives were not fashionistas, they were not wealthy (although often not poor either), and sometimes they were governed by a religious conservatism. They didn’t get their photographs taken in evening wear, if they even had any.

For further consideration, I’ll use the date of 1880, knowing it could be 10 years difference either way.

The only way I can now find the woman in the tintype is by comparing her with photographs of known Paak women and women who have married into the family AND using the data on my family tree for birth and death dates.

Do you think this woman is about 25? or younger or older? Let’s say she’s 25, for the sake of trying to figure out who she is. If so, she was born around 1855. That would make her a contemporary of Alice Paak DeKorn (born 1852) and her siblings.

 

Aaltje (Alice) Paak DeKorn

Anna Catherina (Annie) was born 1855

 

Maaike (Mary) Paak Remine born 1859

 

Cornelia (Carrie) Paak Waruf born in 1862

So. There are four* Paak sisters, and I don’t see this woman as one of them, although she could be a contemporary–or a bit older.

* There actually were five Paak sisters, but Willempje, who was born in 1856, did not immigrate with the girls, their father, and their brother. Although I have not been able to find a death or marriage record, I suspect she died as a child. The brother, George, married Lucy Kliphouse, who is not the woman in the tintype.

Lucy Kliphouse Paake

Alice had two SILs–Jennie DeKorn Culver and Mary DeKorn DeSmit.

Jenny DeKorn Culver

 

Mary DeKorn DeSmit

Is she one of them? (I don’t think so).

Mary Paak Remine had two SILs that I know of.

 

Adrianna (Jennie) Remine Meijer was born in 1860

Jennie was the sister-in-law of Mary Paak Remine. Another sister-in-law of Mary was Johanna Remine Bosman, born in 1855.

None of these look right to me. And these last two are sisters, but don’t look like it.

Carrie Paak Waruf’s husband Henry (Hank) does not appear to have had any sisters. He immigrated as a child with his parents from the Netherlands to Kalamazoo, and I don’t see a record of any siblings in the census records I have been able to find.

That leaves Annie, the least known of any of the sisters. Annie was married to Jacob Salomon Verhulst (whose grandmother, by the way, was a Flipse–see Flipse posts, if you’re curious). The only photo I have that I know is Annie is the full-length photo I posted above. I never heard anybody talk about her, except when Grandpa identified the photograph.

I don’t know if Annie and Jacob had any children. I have found no record of any children. They married in 1890.

Jacob did have two sisters, that I can find. One was Cornelia who died as a child in Holland. The other was Pieternella, was born 1843 in Kortgene and died 18 days later.

So there you have it. Those are the Paak women and their sisters-in-law. My next guess would be a cousin of the Paaks–or like Annigje Haag, the fiancee or wife of a cousin.  So I will keep searching in that “outer layer” of family members.

That said, if you see any flaws in what I’ve determined so far, please let me know, and I will expand my search even more.

Now that it’s a new year, I want to keep my genealogy goals focused.

  1. Continue scanning of all photographs
  2. Organize the physical photos, documents, and heirlooms.
  3. Create a list of provenance for all heirlooms
  4. Bring my Ancestry tree up to date with all info I have
  5. Find and work on software for a tree that is just for my tree
  6. Continue trying to identify photographs
  7. Research gaps and brick walls

Pretty ambitious, I know. Some of my blog posts will just be updates on how I am doing on items 1-5, rather than the results of actual research. Be patient. You know how helpful you all are to me, and I appreciate it more than you will ever know. Thank you!!!

 

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These photos have been a mystery to me since the 1970s. On the back of the woman’s photo it says “Mother’s aunt.”

 

Notice that the photo says the photographer was in the city of Groningen. This is the largest city in the north of Netherlands, and a very old city. But it’s not where my family came from. And here is another photo that was right next to the lady’s photo.

 

These are the only photos I have from Groningen, to my knowledge. The people don’t show any familial resemblance, but that–as we know–doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

What is more confusing is whose aunt she is. I have to assume that “Mother” means Cora DeKorn Zuidweg, Grandpa’s mother. It couldn’t be Grandma’s mother. Not only are most of our photos from Grandpa’s family, Grandma’s mother wasn’t Dutch, but Prussian.

So Cora. Or Cora’s mother? Or Grandpa’s father’s mother?

First, I looked at Cora’s aunts. Her aunts all came to the United States. They were the Paak sisters–none of whom look ANYTHING like the woman in this photo. And then on her father’s side, Mary DeKorn DeSmit and Jennie DeKorn Culver were her aunts. NOT these ladies.

Second, I went back a generation. Alice Paak’s aunts were the Bassas–no Groningen there–and the Paaks–no Groningen there either.

What about Richard DeKorn’s aunts? His mother had a lot of brothers, but only one sister–and she remained in Kapelle her entire life. His father had one half-sister (and a lot of half-brothers and one brother), Pieternella DeKorn. That family is still a bit of a mystery. She might have been born in Kruiningen, but I don’t know where she lived or when she died.

So how can the lady in the photo be “Mother’s aunt”??? The only other possibility that I can think of would be Jennie Zuidweg (Jennegien Bomhof), Grandpa’s grandmother. Let’s say his mother Cora wrote “Mother’s aunt” and meant her mother-in-law’s aunt. Is that possible? Jennie is from the only branch that was completely outside of Zeeland (until she came to Goes and married Johannes Zuidweg). She was born in Zwolle, Overjissel. That is 66 miles from Groningen, whereas Goes is 205 miles away.

BUT!!! Before we get too excited, what years did Reinier Uges have a photography studio? 1889-1914!!  How can that be the aunt of a lady (Jennie Zuidweg) who was born in 1838 (and died in the U.S. in 1924). This lady would have to be a generation younger than Jennie, wouldn’t she?

All in all, I’m pretty sure that “Mother’s aunt” meant Grandpa’s mother’s aunt, thus an aunt of Cora DeKorn Zuidweg.

But that is impossible.

You see how frustrating this is?!

Any ideas about the age of the woman and the age of the man would be helpful!!

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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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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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In the collection of images derived from Joseph DeKorn’s glass negatives, there are photos of children. Unfortunately, children are hard to identify, and I don’t know who most of them are. In this beautiful photograph, Grandpa’s first cousin, Alice Leeuwenhoek, is shown with three friends, neighbors, or relatives. The girls and their clothing remind me of the book and movie Pollyanna. The novel was written in 1913, and Alice was born in 1897, so this is close! Alice is the tall girl in the double-breasted coat.

Alice was married at age 26 to Clarence Moerdyk. They never had any children. Alice was a successful seamstress. Sadly, she passed away at age 66, leaving behind her husband and her mother, Jennie Leeuwenhoek. She was buried at Riverside Cemetery in Kalamazoo.

 

As usual, if anybody has any ideas about the identities of the other girls, please let me know!

I hope you have someone or someones to spend a happy Thanksgiving with! This year it’s just my husband and me, and I accidentally bought a 24-pound turkey (don’t ask). Any ideas on dishes I can make with the turkey and then freeze? Besides soup, of course.

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