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.

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