Thursday, June 18, 2009

Germany is Germane to the Situation...

Karl Ruhr.  his wife, Karola Jenke.  Their daughter, Henriette.  Her two husbands, Johan Witt and August Lass.  Her daughter, Emilie.

For years they have mocked my research and resisted any attempts of discovery.  They have rested their graves in Schwenneker Cemetery and kept quiet.

"Grandma?  Where did they come from?"  A one word answer - Germany.

My adoptive mother had gathered quite a bit of information on her ancestors, but this one line stopped with Karl and Karola.  Germany.  Germany was my brick wall and what a wall it was until one day after shelving these people for many years.  I opened a green notebook that my mother complied during the last years of her life.  She had obituaries, deeds, letters.  It was a treasure trove of information.  As I turned the pages, I found bits and pieces that I'd forgotten.

Then, there it was.  Karola's obituary.  I'd never seen it before!  I scanned it for information about this woman that had been such a mystery.  "The place of her birth was Dorf Hartwick, East Prussia, Germany."  No longer was it a one word answer, but a four word mystery.  Where was it?

Next to Karola's was Henriette's obituary.  "In 1883, she was married to August Lass of Grünhagen, Germany, and in 1889 they came to America."  Another place!

I hit the internet at 2 a.m. like a woman possessed.  Dorf Hartwick - no such place.  East Prussia - big place.  Grünhagen - lots of places.  Then I remembered that neither Karola or Henriette learned English.  This would have been translated the way it sounded.  

Back to the internet where i found an East & West Prussia Gazetteer.  Slowly I scrolled through it, picking up what the abbreviations meant.  Suddenly, there is was.  It was about 3 a.m. by this time.  Everyone was asleep except me and one of the cats who insisted it was well past my bedtime.  It was Hartwichs.  In Ostpreußen.  Grünhagen as well.  I quickly went to Google Earth and searched for Grünhagen.  Not Germany any longer.  Sometime between 1889 and the present day, it changed to Zielonka Paslecka in Poland.  Knowing the probable cause of the name change tempered my excitement.  What were the chances any type of record survived?

Within the next few days, I was contacted by a wonderful man who is a professional researcher in Germany.  He offered to research for me and we agreed on terms.  Imagine my surprise when he informed me that the records from that area are now housed in Berlin!

Perhaps Karl and Karola, Henriette and August and Emilie have decided to let their secrets go.

What Infects Someone with the Genealogy Bug...

What causes someone to want to spend hours in a dusty old courthouse pouring through book after book of marriages or court cases? What gets that person to walk through waist-high weeds to find an old fieldstone marker? What causes another person to drive hundreds of miles just to take a photograph?  Genealogy. but what is it that gets us started? What begins that lifelong search for more and more information?

For me, it was three things:

The first was an absolute obsession with anything relating to Daniel Boone.  Fess Parker. Coonskin cap.  That's what started it, but, as things go, I wanted to find more. I went to the library as a little girl and checked out a book on his wife, Rebecca, at least 30 times. Do you remember the old checkout cards in the back of the book? You would sign your name, the librarian would replace that card with a card that had stamped dates to tell you when your book was due back. Yeah, that signature card had my name only on the front and back. I remember telling my adoptive mother that I wanted to go to Boonesboro for my honeymoon the day i found there was a state park there.

The second was a family story. My adoptive mother passed down to me that there was a rumor she was related to the Howland family that came over on the Mayflower. She didn't have any proof, just that story.

The third was being reunited with my birth family at the age of 30. That ignited the fire that had been burning since i was a child.

Through research, I found my adoptive mother's story was true. She wasn't a direct descendant of John Howland, but of his brother, Henry. Boonesboro, Kentucky? It was the center of one branch of my birth family. The rest were just southeast of it. There were ancestors who knew him. and my unexplained lifelong love of the Applachian mountains? I found that's the land of my ancestors. That was "home" for nearly 200 years.

Did they welcome me? Did the old ones guide me back? That's a story for another time.

Dipping My Toes in the Water...

That's what i'm doing.  I'm officially entering the world of blogging with this.  I've done webpages, MySpace, Facebook, etc, but this is the first time I've done this.

I'll be posting more as I rebuild my family's personal and genealogy website.  I've also got a special project in the works, but more on that later.

As for now, hi!  looking forward to meeting new people.