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Posts Tagged ‘Kent County history’

I found this photo in my mom’s childhood photo album. She’s holding a very large doll. So I asked her about it, and she told me that somebody from Grandpa’s side of the family gave her that doll. She remembers the doll very well, but some of the details surrounding the doll were a little hazy, as with most memories from long ago.

Mom’s guess was that maybe it was Aunt Tena’s doll. Aunt Tena was married to Grandpa’s Uncle Joe DeKorn, and they lived in Grand Rapids. Their sons, Grandpa’s cousins, were Philip and Richard. So I examined the background in the photo. The rock garden is probably the most distinctive feature.

Phil DeKorn’s album that Sue sent me has several photos of the outside of their house in Grand Rapids. But was there a rock garden? Every photo is from a little different angle and cuts off the sides at different places. Some of the photos led me to believe Mom’s photo was taken at the DeKorn home. Then I found this one with the rock garden, and I was sure. It’s Phil just before enlisting in 1943.

It might even have been Uncle Joe’s camera that took both photos. I’m guessing Mom’s photo was taken a few years earlier, perhaps 1939.

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In my story about Grandma’s sister Dorothy and her husband, Conrad Plott, dated February 17, we left off with this photo of my mother with Aunt Dorothy and Aunt Vena.

Today I am writing about Aunt Vena (to mom’s right–our left–in the photo) and her husband, Uncle Al.

Vena’s full name was Alvena Nell Mulder at birth. She was named after her grandmother, a Prussian immigrant, Alwine Noffke Waldeck. Although the names are spelled differently in German and American versions, they are pronounced similarly. I never heard Aunt Vena called anything but Vena, so I think she generally went by her nickname.

Vena was the third girl (Dorothy, then Grandma, then Vena) and third child of Charles and Clara Mulder of Caledonia, Michigan, and she was born 20 October 1913, probably in Caledonia at the house. Although I have no birth records for any of the siblings, it’s likely that Dorothy was born in Hastings, and then Grandma and the rest were born in Caledonia, after great-grandpa bought the farm.

You can see that Vena was a very pretty girl.

Much of my information about Vena and her husband Al comes from Uncle Don and their middle daughter, mom’s cousin Elaine.

Vena attended Caledonia High School just as her older sisters had done. She was a year and a half younger than Grandma, so the question is, was she “on track” for her age for graduation or did she graduate early as Grandma did? Did she graduate in 1930, 1931, or 1932? The school records I’ve found only go through 1925.

Vena followed her older sister, Edna (Grandma), to what was then called Western State Teachers’ College (now Western Michigan University). I don’t know how Aunt Vena met Uncle Al (although I remember hearing the story years ago and thought it involved horses), but he also attended Western.

Al was born Alton William Stimson in Middleville, Michigan on 20 January 1911. Middleville is a little village near Grand Rapids, and Uncle Don says Al grew up on a farm, and this is corroborated by the 1930 census.

Uncle Don gave me some information about Vena and Al. He said that they were close in age to his parents (Grandma and Grandpa) and that the two families were close. Al actually lived with Grandpa for a time while Al and the two sisters were attending WMU. Al washed the dishes once a month or when they ran out of dishes. Grandpa liked to tell that story.

This is Uncle Al’s 1934 Western yearbook photo. Next to his name is his degree earned: an AB.

I don’t know if Aunt Vena boarded with someone while she went to college, as my grandmother did (with the Schensul family).

Al and Vena married 1 June 1935 in Caledonia by Edward August Waldeck, pastor of the Portland Baptist Church, Vena’s first cousin. I wrote about his bike accident (as a teen) quite some time ago. Here is a 1912 newspaper article about the accident: CLICK HERE

Al graduated from WMU as an Industrial Engineer. He might have first worked as a teacher and then for Atlas Press, before he was hired by the Upjohn Company. He was a a time and motion analyst—time-study. He stayed with Upjohn until he retired at the end of his career.

At the beginning of their marriage, Vena and Al lived on Balch Street in that same area where my grandfather and then my mother grew up. The address was 317 Balch Street, according to the 1940 census.

But then they built a new house on a beautiful lot on Kilgore at the border of Kalamazoo and Portage. Their house and yard were characterized by an excellent sense of design and a lot of hard work. Elaine said that their lovely yard was designed by a friend of theirs so that there were flowers blooming year round when weather permitted. They both liked to garden. Al also kept a small vegetable garden alongside the house. As a kid, I was so impressed by the flowers and the birds that Vena and Al attracted to the yard. The inside of their house was also beautiful with a living room that looked out upon that backyard and a fish tank that mesmerized me. At least three generations of family had many wonderful family gatherings at their home.

Vena left school to start their family, and beginning in 1937, they had three girls in this order: Joan(ne), Elaine, and MaryAnn. The three girls attended State High up at Western’s old campus which was a state training school for teachers and was reputed to be one of the top schools in the state.

Al registered for the WWII draft, but he was not called to service. I do not know if it was because of needing to support his children or because he was color blind.

When the girls were “well along” in school, according to Uncle Don, Aunt Vena went back to college and graduated with Honors in 1962, the same year their youngest daughter graduated high school. This reminds me of my mother who did the same thing. I hadn’t realized when my mother graduated a year ahead of me from college that her aunt had been a groundbreaker in the family.

The Portage Public School System hired Aunt Vena as a kindergarten teacher, which she remained (1st and 2nd a bit, as well) until she retired. I’m sure she was a favorite with the kids and their parents because she had a gentle and elegant manner.

Aunt Vena and Uncle Al were members of the First United Methodist Church in downtown Kalamazoo for over sixty years. This is the same church that my grandparents belonged to and where my mother is still a member. I remember Uncle Al was an usher and my grandfather worked in what I thought of as the “money office.”

Aunt Vena and Uncle Al enjoyed their retirement years golfing, bowling, being members of Club 75, and the Cloverleaf Square Dancing Clubs.

Al kept busy with many craft hobbies. He made Christmas presents of shop gadgets and jewelry that he had made. He made jewelry out of plastic, drilling the flowers into the plastic. He made pins, necklaces, cufflinks, and so on. Some pieces he colored in with nail polish.

When I was a little girl, Uncle Al taught me to say what sounded like oskeewawa every time I saw a white horse. I thought it was a Native American word. When I tried to look it up, I couldn’t find anything until I discovered the University of Illinois school song:

Oskee-Wow-Wow
Old Princeton yells her Tiger,
Wisconsin, her Varsity
And they give the same old Rah, Rah, Rah,
At each University,
But the yell that always thrills me
And fills my heart with joy,
Is the good old Oskee-Wow-Wow,
That they yell at Illinois.

Uncle Don has fond memories of going on many camping trips with the family. He felt a bit like Uncle Al’s substitute son for these adventures. After all, Uncle Al lived in a house with four women/girls ;).

In the next photo, it is Grandpa and Grandma’s 40th wedding anniversary, and they are standing with Vena and Al on my parents’ front porch. The image is blurry, but I like that the two couples are photographed together.

 

In the Christmas photo above, I see Uncle Al and Aunt Vena from the era I knew them best. In fact, we used to go first to Grandma and Grandpa’s house on Christmas Eve, and then to Vena and Al’s–at some point my parents’ house was added as one of the houses visited for the Progressive Dinner.

Uncle Al suffered from Parkinson’s and passed away on 11 January 1996 in Kalamazoo.

Aunt Vena moved into what was then the new, state of the art retirement community in Kalamazoo. She died on 9 June 2000, which is the same year that my grandparents died.

They are buried at Mount Ever-Rest Memorial Park South in Kalamazoo.

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Last maternal great-grandparent: Charles Mulder of Caledonia, Michigan. He was the only great-grandparent I knew–and I adored him.

Luanne and her great-grandfather Charles Mulder

Charles was born Karel Pieter Phillipus Mulder on 6 March 1885 in Goes, Zeeland, Netherlands. On my Ancestry page for Charles, I had posted a link to his birth record, but had not downloaded it. I now downloaded it, added it to his Ancestry page, and put it into a folder for all of his documents.

Amberly is helping me with his naturalization info. I do have a ship record (the Zandaam), so I know two-year-old Charles arrived in the U.S. with his parents and his brother Jan, a baby of one. Jan died very soon after the family immigrated.

In fact, I made the Charles folder because I had not yet done so. To that folder, I added his marriage record, death record, and all the census records that feature Charles: 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940. I also downloaded and added his military registrations for both WWI and WWII.

I was surprised to see that Charles had a social security number. For the sake of dotting all the Is and all that, I ordered  his application.

Charles and his wife Clara share a headstone, and I have that photograph. I added it to Ancestry and to the new folder.

I found that I had a copy of Charles’ obituary, so I added it to Ancestry and to the folder on my computer.

Reading over my great-grandfather’s obituary I was shocked to see he only lived to be 82 years old. I was about 12 when he passed away, and I remember feeling frustrated that I was not allowed to attend his funeral since I adored him. But I thought he was about  a zillion years old. No, he was elderly, but only 82. That doesn’t even seem old to me today.

Once again, I had sponsored my great-grandfather’s page on Findagrave, but am not managing it. I have submitted a request to transfer management to me, but I suspect as with the others I have mentioned before, that I have asked in the past and been ignored. We will see what happens.

 

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I’ll be taking a little blog break for a couple of weeks. Hope all is well with you and yours. I also hope that when I begin the search for gaps in my great-greats I don’t get too discouraged!

 

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At the end of this post, I wrote an update.

Instead of griping about not having time to do genealogy research, I’ve decided to change my attitude. I am so blessed with so many old family photos, that my time is best spent right now trying to identify the photos!

Today’s photo is labelled, but it still presents a few problems. The date is 1951. I don’t know the location, but believe that the location is probably in southwest Michigan. The names are Cora, Fred, Godfrey, Anna.

Waldeck surname

Godrey has to be Gottfried Waldeck (Jr), born 18 December 1880 somewhere in “Germany”–most likely Prussia. He was married to Anna Christine Ruehs. She was born 2 December 1882 (same birthday as my mom!). My mother knew them as Uncle Godfrey and Aunt Anna. I’ve written about him before–how he drove his tractor down the block to work in his fields when he was blind. How I saw him do just that.

I asked Mom, and she confirmed that the two on our right are definitely Uncle Godfrey and Aunt Anna.

I like the photo without the orange a bit better.

But who are Cora and Fred? Godfrey had a brother, Fred. He’s the one who lived at the state hospital. He had brain damage from a terrible accident that happened when he was young and newly married with a young child. Fred was born in 1869 and died in 1953, so he would have been 81 in 1951. You can read more about him at Waldeck Family Research. This man does look the right age, but would he have been in good shape like this? Dressed up in a nice suit and tie?

Take a look at this photo of one of the old Kalamazoo State Hospital photos. It could be the building behind them.

Here is the family photo that includes Fred as a young man. Fred is back row, left side. Godfrey is front row, right side.

I am hoping that I can get verification that this is, indeed, Fred Waldeck who lived at the State Hospital. In comparing the younger Fred to the older Fred in the photos, I do think it is the same person.

If I could find out who Cora was that would be even more amazing!

UPDATE:

Thanks to Linda Stufflebean from http://www.emptybranchesonthefamilytree.com/ I was able to put together the pieces of who is in the photo and who is probably holding the camera.

All along I have been imagining Fred as abandoned at the “asylum” all those years. After all, his son was still almost a baby when Fred was injured. His wife Caroline Meir had to work for a farmer and leave her son Edward with her mother in Grand Rapids. Eventually she became a nurse and lived with her mother and with Edward. Caroline probably worked very hard her whole life and raised Edward to become a pastor. She passed away in 1946.

This new “find,” the photo identified as Cora, Fred, Godrey, and Anna, 1951, shows that the family visited Fred. Cora is Fred’s daughter-in-law, the wife of Edward who must be taking the photograph. So on this day in 1951, Fred’s son and daughter-in-law, and his only surviving brother, Godfrey, and Godfrey’s wife Anna visited Fred who was dressed up in a suit and tie for the occasion. The only close family members not in the photograph, in fact, are my great-grandparents, Clara and Charles Mulder. Clara was Fred’s only surviving sister by 1951.

Little tidbit of info: Fred was to die less than two years later, in January 1953. Clara died mere months after her brother, on 6 September 1953.

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As I described the last two weeks, Broad Street Magazine is featuring six poems and flash prose pieces from my chapbook Kin Types, along with some of the research and research artifacts I used to create the pieces.

Today the third part of the series was published and can be found here: Family Laundry: “More Burials” by Luanne Castle

This poem was written about the Leeuwenhoek family, specifically a relative by marriage, and the perspective is that of his dead mother. Her children were orphaned and the four youngest went to live in an orphanage.

The photo below is of a boy in Nymegen or Nijmegen, which is the city near the Neerbosch orphanage where the Leeuwenhoek children lived. It is most likely that this is a photograph of Gerrit Leeuwenhoek, the subject of my poem.

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

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

 

 

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As I described last week in Six-Week Family History Series at BROAD STREET MAGAZINE, six poems and flash prose pieces from my chapbook Kin Types are being featured at Broad Street Magazine, along with some of the research and research artifacts I used to create the pieces. The idea was first suggested by editor Susann Cokal. Fabulous idea!

Today the second part of the series was published and can be found here: Family Laundry 2: “What Came Between A Woman and Her Duties” by Luanne Castle

This article is about a poem I wrote about my great-great-grandfather’s sister, Jennie DeKorn Culver. If you recall from past blog posts, she is the woman who left Kalamazoo for Seattle with her two adult daughters, years after a contentious divorce from John Culver.

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

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

 

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The different ways that family history and genealogy intersect with other aspects of the culture is growing. But I think this project might be a first for family history.

Broad Street Magazine, which publishes nonfiction narratives in a variety of genres, has begun a six-week series of feature articles on six poems from my family history poetry and flash prose chapbook Kin Types. Each article publishes one poem and then provides information on the research that went into the poem. Included are family photos, historical records, and old newspaper articles.

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

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

 

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Last spring I posted a photo of my great-grandmother Clara Waldeck Mulder (1884-1953) that I discovered. You can find the post here. It was the first time I saw what she looked like as an older woman. Up to then, I had seen her as a bride and as a young mother.

The other day my mother sent me another old album and loose photos. Guess what? There are TWO new photos of Clara! In one of them, she is young. It’s taken before she was married–or even engaged, I am pretty sure. The photo has a little damage–a white mark across her skirt and a dark spot on her cheek. I did my best to fix the cheek, but left the white mark alone.

How old does she look here? 16-18? If so, the photo would be from around 1900-1902.

And here is another photo, this time from around 1940.

In my post My Great-Grandmother’s Lifetime of Service it’s clear that Clara was very devoted to her service groups. I wonder if this dress has something to do with a ceremony in Eastern Star or Rebekah Lodge. Any other ideas about the dress?

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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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