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Posts Tagged ‘Prussian genealogy’

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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Yeah, a lot of work. I have so many branches shaking their leaves for attention right now–and, no, I don’t mean on Ancestry.

On top of that, my husband’s relatives are calling from their graves, too. My husband has shown increasing interest in his own family history, and I keep trying to encourage him into it as a personal hobby, even if it means he ties up the computer.

But, no. He doesn’t want to do it alone. He wants to do it with me. Sigh. And his relatives are a lot of work. His Ukrainian ancestors don’t have a WieWasWie website that is translatable to English and with all the Dutch Ukrainian documents available online! No, instead I am being passed on from one person to another in an attempt to find someone who is an expert on Tiraspol, the city my husband’s grandfather and his family came from. Tiraspol is the 2nd largest city in Moldova, which is a country that is in political turmoil today. But in the late 1800s, Tiraspol was sort of a satellite of Odessa, which is in Ukraine, not Moldova. Pretty confusing! The two cities are 65 miles apart. And hubby’s grandmother might have been from Odessa. Or maybe she was really from Tiraspol, too!

Oddly, we found a listing of possible birth records for the grandfather, Isidore Scheshko, and his siblings in Odessa, not Tiraspol. Maybe it has something to do with the way the government functioned in those days. Eastern European Jewish records are hard to find. I’ll keep you posted on what I find out when I have discovered enough to create a story of sorts.

I’ve also been trying to find the Prussian town or towns the Waldecks and Noffkes and Kuschs came from. I’ve found two estates/castles where Gottfried Waldeck worked before immigrating to the U.S. The last one, Finckenstein Palace, was quite well known.

That’s what it looked like when Gottfried worked there, probably as a farm laborer. This is what it looked like after WWII.

Kind of heart-breaking to see, although maybe it was no picnic to work there . . . .

Prussian towns and records are super hard to find. Many of them were destroyed after WWII. The areas of what are now Poland that were once the homes of ethnic Germans are now completely emptied of Germans. And nobody can agree on what Prussia even was. The boundaries were constantly changing. There was East Prussia and West Prussia, and they are used so oddly and sometimes even interchangeably that every article I read confuses me even more (sometimes places in West Prussia are farther east than East Prussia!). Although my Prussian branch was my maternal grandmother’s mother’s family, I saw the other day that my paternal grandmother had a Prussian ancestor. That area of Prussia was very close to the German area around Bingen (on the Rhine) where her other branches lived. So when my grandmother told me as a little girl hearing “the Prussians are coming” was very scary, I don’t have a clue what she was talking about!

Now I hope you’re as confused as I am!

Gottfried and Alwine (Noffke) Waldeck

and family

 

 

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