Honoring those who have chosen an occupation in the military is an important part of our national holiday Memorial Day. Every branch of the service is integral in defense.
Honoring those who have chosen an occupation in the military is an important part of our national holiday Memorial Day. Every branch of the service is integral in defense.
The Atlanta Falcons football team surprised me losing to the New England Patriots in the super bowl. We witnessed one of the best comebacks in football history. Maybe the lesson to be learned is we should never say a “patriot” will lose.
World War II has been written about at length. However, when I started this series earlier in the year, I knew this slant would be very different than any written before. I was given permission to share the love stories of the German war bride.
This excerpt was taken from January 19, 1942 in Potsdam. You can begin to catch a glimpse of some alarming events as the war bride moved to be near family as she was about to give birth to her second child.
(Historical facts about this time frame in the war was that the Germans were starting to deport Jews to concentration camps. Extermination of the captured was to follow rapidly. Also the first American forces were beginning to arrive in Europe on the Northern Ireland shores).
“My dearest Willy! Saturday I received your letter #4, that was my greatest Sunday pleasure. In your last letter you had several wishes….partly already taken care of. I have been able to get the soap holder with cover and for your shaving soap. A can opener and pocket calendar is yet to be found, but I think I can get a calendar tomorrow or day after. I cannot get Rosodont at all, we have not been able to get toothpaste for a long time. Knitted gloves I was able to find, but I cannot send any packages right now. Everything is blocked again, nothing goes through…”
In another section of this letter, “… . But since two days ago the trains were all blocked again. But maybe that only affects transport trains. Willy, listen, we have already used 51 P. from your small card. For 1 nightgown,30, and 21 for Opa’s pullover. If you need more later, we can use Opa’s allotment card for purchases. His P’s are usable only after February. Your allotment was 80, total. You bought boots? That is very important, it would be unthinkable if your feet would freeze…..”
In a final section we read, “….. Last night was Terror attack in Frankfurt. It was awesome outside, everything was lit up like daylight. But nothing happened here….I hope that times will change for the better soon and that you can come home to your family….”
Letters of a German bride-excerpt one:
February 20th, 1944 ( historical fact we know is that American and Russian forces were advancing on Germany.)
“My beloved Willy – our sweet, dear Vati! The days are passing here in anxious anticipation of what the future will bring. Whatever it is, my love, we must accept it. We cannot change the course of this mighty occurrence in this troubled time. We feel that something big will happen, feel that all this will come to an end soon. In my heart I hope that it will end well. It would be hard to understand that our great Germany will fall. This great nation, so strong – no I can’t and won’t believe that. I wish, and this is egotistical of me, that we will survive this war, that it will have a good ending for us, Willy, that I can again wrap my arms around you, be happy with you and my children, and be safe. Do you think this is too much to ask for? My heart is so homesick for you and I long to let you be strong for me again, protect me and spoil me. I need you so much – you are missed everywhere!”
Today’s 4th installment is made possible by the research and interviews obtained from Rebel Kreklow and Elaine Wagner while researching my family tree for genealogy purposes.
The best stories to me are about the ordinary. It is refreshing to see and take note of my typical family members living in the context of extraordinary times. Painting a truthful picture without the jargon is ultimately the writer’s goal. Yet at times its easy to be taken away in your imagination wondering and indulging a bit about what it must have been like living during a certain time frame.
Rebel’s dad was Edwin Kreklow from German ancestry. In the picture provided , Edwin’s dad was the second man standing on the right. This man was Albert Kreklow. Our family line is Louis Kreklow, Albert’s older brother, who is the second man standing on the left. They were all farmers like the elder Wilhelm Kreklow seated to the left. Consequently, Edwin grew up on a Wisconsin farm and was especially fond of taking care of the animals.
In 1936, Edwin left Fort Atkinson, WI for a life in the Navy. Sea life was probably a good fit for Edwin as he was shy and being a way from port was just that much easier as he was not much of a talker. Edwin kept to himself and did his job to the best of his ability.
Edwin was stationed on the U. S. S. Tennessee. The Tennessee was one of the ships in Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked. Edwin experienced first hand the attack. It would forever change him according to his son. Edwin saw so much devastation. The U.S.S. Virginia right next to him sunk. It was the smoke from the Arizona blowing up that probably saved the Tennessee from much damage. Below is part of an account that Edwin made of his experience:
“When I came up on the topside, I couldn’t believe my eyes! Our ship, which was always real clean..was a mess! Water standing all over in our living quarters, fire hoses all over the place, which had leaked or blown out under pressure…..After the fires went out on the Arizona, I was on a working party that went aboard the Arizona to remove the remains of the dead on the topside. Just a terrible sight! No way to tell who was who, because we had no “dog tags” at that time. However, we all got them in a few days. We could not go below decks on the Arizona, because everything was filled with water……”
Its unimaginable in my mind what Edwin went through. A young man who was a farmer to being in what will go down in infamy as one of the pivotal war stories of our country-the day Pearl Harbor got attacked.
What made me share with you about Edwin? Edwin just came alive to me. He left the military and eventually moved to Seattle, WA which is my home town also. He like me came from another area of the country and settled down in Seattle. I especially had my interest sparked when I heard Edwin was the bear keeper in our zoo called The Woodland Park Zoo! Edwin explains that he was especially qualified since he grew up with the animals on the farm. He passed a zookeeper exam with flying colors! He was especially fond of a Himalayan Sun Bear that he named Jughead. Edwin was in this job during the late 1940s. I could not help to think of all the children of Seattle enjoying those animals and Edwin taking care of the animals in the background quietly away from the fray of the public..The children of Seattle were the benefactors of a Pearl Harbor vet and an ordinary farmer from Wisconsin.
Recently I was sharing with a friend about my ancestry work and having lunch at Third Place Bookstore ( www.thirdplacebooks.com ) which is one of my favorite places in Seattle to hang out when I have a spare moment. On this particular day, I noticed a sweet elderly Japanese couple walking into the bookstore with the aid of a cane and holding on to each other. Immediately behind them was a woman I recognized. It was my son’s nurse from his doctor’s office. I decided to say hello and inquire if the couple was her parents. They were. We talked for a few moments and within that time period I was able to find out from her that her parents were once in an internment camp during World War II. They were Japanese-Americans that were forced to Idaho after Pearl Harbor was attacked.
As I observed her parents, I wondered of their lives when they were allowed back to Seattle. Ironically, I had just completed a novel about that time period entitled Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. It is a fictional account of relationships and repentance during the Japanese internment and the aftermath of the consequences of Pearl Harbor. I could not believe I would have the extraordinary luck to see a couple that lived in one of those internment camps.
It was not unusual to enjoy a day at the zoo and this Japanese couple with their daughter was like any other family in Seattle that would go to one of the best zoos in America. I can imagine a beautiful summer day in the late 1940′s that I could see this couple with their daughter walking toward a cute Himalayan Sun Bear named Jughead. Oh how small our world really is…… It is also easy to imagine Edwin, the bear keeper, in the background quietly tending to the animals…..
Today’s installment will begin with an update. If you have been following along , you know that my stepdad Roy requested me to find his family. It was a huge success. I am now committed as a faciltator in bringing them together after an an amazing 78 year lapse. I have communicated personally with Roy’s half brother and sister and also cousins that are now interested in a reunion. They have never met each other. All of this was made possible by my research from the 1940 census and www.findagrave.com . As you can imagine they are very interested in meeting yet there are jitters in regards to finally coming face to face with relatives you have never met. Communication is much different for their generation than ours. As my 90 year old step dad Roy would say, “We are not used to things so fast like the current generation.” So for now as of this writing a first meeting is set up for October. What’s a couple of months? Right? I will just say I am chomping at the bit!
Below is a picture of their grandfather Will Fulmer from Alabama who died in 1901:
Here also is a link to Roy and his siblings’ father who died in 1967 with additional pictures that I posted on his memorial–http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=93761880.
My second update is on my Dunbar line from Kentucky. This particular family line is from my father’s maternal side. My cousin Sandra who lives in Kentucky and myself have been conducting a thorough study of our Dunbar ancestors. We have run into road blocks along the way, but recently discovered a primary source document from our cousin Linda. Primary source documents are papers that were created at the time of the event. Linda volunteers her time in studying her ancestors as well as helping others. In some loose papers that originated in what we believe to be the Caldwell county courthouse in Princeton, Ky where my ancestors were from some of their naturalization paperwork was found. We are still working to corroborate the information but it indeed looks like citizenship paperwork for our great great great grandfather and his father. I know the Dunbars came from Ireland, but this is the first time we have been made aware of their port of entry. It appears that the Dunbars actually came through Buffalo, New York in 1830! In researching this incredible find, its possible the actual ship that they were on may have come through a port in Canada. They would have then had to walk to America by way of Niagara Falls across a bridge. In the 1830’s there were no “borders” where you would have your passport checked. YOU just walked until you got where you wanted to go.
As you read the following document be aware that Ireland was under Great Britian’s rule and my ancestors had to renounce any obligations to the monarchy at that time who just so happened to be Queen Victoria:
As I read through this important document many more questions popped into my head. I have a ways to go to fully understand my Dunbar line and some of these thoughts came up and I believe if you are a family researcher yourself you might find this to be helpful:
1. After obtaining such documents as above-make notes and evaluate the results of this new information.
2. Ask yourself does this new information answer original questions for you or does it conflict with what you may all ready have or know?
3. If new information conflicts with existing information, you will have to decide which, if either, piece of information is more likely to be accurate. Is one from a primary source and the other from a secondary source? Is one from a more authoritative or believable source? The more time you spend doing genealogical research, the more skillful you will become in deciding these difficult questions.
A third update comes all the way from Belguim. My husband’s family members have all shown interest in the studys I have conducted on their ancestors in particular two cousins of my husbands. They emailed me that they were going on a business trip to Europe and indicated to me that they may look for their grandpa’s home. Their gramp DeSomer emigrated at the age of four with his family from Belgium to Ellis Island in 1913. We found primary source emigration documents that revealed an address in Antwerp, Belguim that could lead to a 100 year mystery of where my husband’s grandfather’s family lived. It was all a long shot for sure. Here are the documents that our cousins had in their possession:
You will see on line 27 our grandpa Alexander DeSomer who was four years old and if you look straight across above to line 20 where Alex’s dad’s name is which is Alfred, you will see his fatherinlaw’s address written. It was quite a surprise to me that this was on the document, but there it was to my delight. In followup with my husband’s cousins they were able to make it to Belguim but ran out of time to really conduct a thorough research of this area. In my mind though it is just such a success that they made it to Belguim to see the countryside that they originated from…What enjoyment and deep satisfaction there is in walking on the soil of where some of your ancestors came from. I appreciate the fact they contacted me and had a heart to make the attempt to follow through. I do want to make a shout out to them on here: Adam and Bob you made my day in just contacting me on your expressed desires to find your ancestors. Bob is the editor of Arizona Highways if anyone of you readers enjoy great photos and stories follow along with him at http://www.arizonahighways.com/ .
Here are a few pictures of the ship that gramp DeSomer came on called the U. S. S. Finland:
Here is a second shot of the U. S. S. Finland after it was utilized in WWI and damaged:
As I love the storys of emigration and the great ships that our families came on I also would like to share with you a great family adventure you could have if you live near an area that does this. The Navy is known for showing off its ships in different areas of the country..Here is a link to check this out and if you live in Seattle or Milwaukee you definitely want to look at the dates for this: http://www.ourflagwasstillthere.org/
As I close out today’s blog entry I want again to thank you for following along and reading. I hope you have also enjoyed the actual documents and pictures I have shared with you . Until next time here are a few more ships our ancestors came on:
I want to thank my resources that are my genealogical buddies throughout the country,my family, and the armed forces, and you my readers who follow along with me on my journey. Until next time..
Its July 5th! In Seattle, WA where I have made my home for the last 20 years, its significant. Many of us consider this the first day of summer. Today the sky is blue and its a wonderful temperature of 60 degrees this am with promises of reaching 72! Oh this is heaven. Yesterday, I watched the fireworks up on Queen Anne Hill with my friend Pam. Its a good way to remember what the United States stands for and those that have died before us.
Today is my 6th installment of my blog and I hope it finds all of you doing well and enjoying yourselves this summer. This past month has been filled with exciting discoveries in the genealogy world for me. After spending several months on a journey of looking for my father in law’s oldest german ancestor we finally came across him. It was an adventure I will never forget. Emanual Weiss is buried in a cemtery in Indiana. He emigrated to America during a time when many Germans were leaving their home country for opportunity in the 1800’s. In his case, he was joining his sons after his wife had passed away. He lived his last years with our direct line- Henry Weiss. With the detective help of a volunteer, we discovered his stone. The interesting thing was it could not be read so we did a little trick called tin foiling to make sure it was him. I knew he had lived to be 71 years old but the volunteer thought he lived only to be 21. Below you will see the evidence that finally she uncovered after tinfoiling on her second trip to the cemetery:
After my new buddy Deb tin foiled the grave stone she sent me this email:
Alesia, I just couldn’t stand the suspense any longer, I told my secretary I was going to the bank and I did, by way of the cemetery, (which is at least 18 miles out of the way) AND YOU WERE ABSOLUTELY 100% CORRECT it is Emanuel age 71 years not 21 as we originally thought. That makes date of birth Feb. 1, 1800 Deb
Needless to say we both were full of excitement for the discovery. In many ways it makes me so happy I have something tangible to grasp onto for the sake of memory. There are many that have not found their loved ones. However there are those also that will be surprised as I was about the fact that in some places these stones and memories could be lost in a matter of a few seconds. Recently while discussing these findings with my mother who also was born in Germany, I found out about the unusual cemetery customs in her own home country. She stated that there are many stones taken away from cemeteries and that the bones or ashes are also removed because the living family did not pay the rent of the space that they were buried in. This came as a huge shock to me. How could anyone take away one’s loved ones? I had to go and discover if this was true so I did a little research.
Here below is of a German singer named Gertrud Bindernagel who will never be found again because she was RECYCLED. Yes you heard me right. She was recycled. She died young because she was murdered and then after World War II the lease on her grave at Berlin’s Waldfriedhof Heerstrasse was allowed to expire, and the site was recycled according to German custom.
It stands to reason that some may find this “environmentally” a good thing to do. It does not to me. Lets call it for what it really is. Its a way for the cemetery owners to make money. This is the bottom line. The relentless logic of contradiction moved into Germany’s thinking many years ago by putting an unending price tag on your burial. If we are not careful in America, we may move more and more into not being a market economy but a market society. This cause should unite us here in America to watch our missteps and utilize all creative and constructive ways in our community, church, and government to be very careful to not misstep in our free market lives upon our free family values. We are beginning to have some of these problems unearthed (no pun intended) by Cooper Anderson recently on a 60 minutes episode:
You may ask why I write of this? I think because knowledge is paramount and it is what helps us understand the world better. I share my opinion with you on the need to keep cemeteries sacred and for the most part I believe most cemeteries in America are well taken care of. But we must be careful to learn of other countries’ lack in this area… You might be OK with recycling. I am usually with trash, but people aren’t trash. It is good to remember our loved ones and any effort ( a burial place) to do this is paramount in my mind. I wish to remember and as we do this very thing we are still tinged with the sense of irretrievable loss of our loved one’s death. It is what it is isn’t it? We miss our loved ones and for goodness sake-I for one at least am glad I can go see my father’s gravestone and know it is not going anywhere.
In a recent visit to New York, my girlfriend and I were riding a bus in lower eastside Manhattan back to our hotel. We met two elderly women that voluntarily discussed the history of New York with us. Without constraint, they seemed to be in a dueling match for our attention. It was without a doubt the best 30 minutes I had ever spent on a bus ride. We were in attendance of a Joe Frazier/Muhammad Ali–esque moment characterized by two passionate and knowledgeable women talking about their beloved city.
It was a whimsical time with these two elderly women. My friend and I made subtle glances to each other enjoying the ladies trying to out do the other on their vast knowledge of New York. We benefited immensely from the experience. At one point we passed a university that one of the women excitably said, “thats Cooper Union!” I immediately gazed at the building in uninformed wonderment.
Cooper Union was established in 1859 by Peter Cooper. Mr. Cooper made sure if you were a student at his college, you attended free. He went one step further and opened it to women and people of color. He was a stong opponent of slavery and also had a great love for native American Indians. In fact , Cooper Union University played a pivotal role in Abraham Lincoln’s quest to become president. The Great Hall in the basement of Cooper Union was where President Lincoln laid down the ground work for his view against slavery. It was also the place where Senator Stephen Douglas spoke that states should have the right to govern themselves in respect to slavery.
As we all ponder the studies of this time period we all learned as students in school about many unnamed young men who volunteered 150 years ago for the civil war. Most people today don’t know personally of a family member that fought in that war unless you have studied your roots. In my genealogy research, one of my biggest breakthroughs came when I found a great great uncle of my father in laws that fought in this war.
This gentleman was First SGT Cornelius Vandorsten who was in Company E of the 120th Ohio Volunteer infantry. Cornelius lost his life in Louisiana killed in action on August 10, 1864. This army was one of many volunteer armies that President Lincoln called for to bring about the end of the war.
It was through finding and saving SGT Vandorsten’s legacy that I was empowered. It was then I was able to unleash my resources to find my connections in our family. You see Cornelius was the link between finding his brother our great , great grandfather and then their father. We were lost in our study of family and had not had a breakthrough if we had never found SGT Vandorsten. The records of the civil war made it possible. It was through his volunteerism and his loss of life, we found many other family members.
All of this goes to say how important volunteerism is on many levels. The genesis of my blog began with two women sharing their stories freely about New York, then to finding out about free education in New York at an amazing university. This then led to discovering our ancestor Cornlius Vandorsten who fought freely in the civil war. The story does not end their because when we found our civil war veteran, we found many other family members from his time period. May we never forget how to give freely of ourselves as so many before us have done so that we can live the life we lead today.
Here are the links that document our ancestory SGT Cornelius. Why don’t you go now to read about him and discover a part of history that has come alive for me:
then the following link is more documentation of saving SGT Vandorsten’s legacy where he is buried at:
This ends my third installment. May we all remember our fallen heros – our soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice….
I also want to give special recognition to my friend and expert genealogist , Janice Smarr, who has helped me with a majority of my research. She has taught me so much and I consider a privilege to call her my friend.