Jan 30, 2013

Grandma's House --

We (EDC) never had a "grandma's house," the way some people do:

One of our grandmas (Berneburg) lived with us, so her "house" was the bedroom next to Deb's and mine, and the other grandma (Ortman) lived far away, at 19 Cox Place in Brooklyn, New York:

 Here's a Google satellite view

 This is a view from a property website.  I did the best I could to erase their watermark.

Grandma Mae (and Grandpa William John and their son, Grandpa Bill) lived in this railroad apartment on a short, dead-end street. What's a railroad apartment, you ask?

Well, that's another photo I can't find, one that showed that at Grandma's house, you could stand in the living room doorway and look all the way to the other end of the house and out the kitchen window.  All the rooms were lined up:  Living room, bedroom, bedroom, kitchen (with bath) like they were railroad cars, and there was no hallway -- in order to get to the kitchen, you had to walk through both bedrooms, one after the other, and in my memory, the bedrooms didn't have doors (could that be really true??).  It was kind of like this:

 Klicken Sie, bitte! to see it larger (bad, out-of-proportion drawing)

Even though it wasn't an over-the-river-and-through-the-woods type of Grandma's house, I loved Grandma's apartment.  Several things about this apartment were very fascinating to me.  

1.  I had never been in any kind of apartment before (well, except when I was born and Mom and Dad lived in an apartment, but I was less than 2 years old when they got a house), so this alone was exciting.  Mail boxes down by the front door!  You had to be buzzed in!  So cool!  (Note:  I had been in the apartment before, but after we moved to Minnesota, when I was 3, I lost my memories of it, until I came back, at 5 or so.)

2.  You could see all the way through to the back of the apartment!  You had to actually walk through all of the bedrooms in order to get to the kitchen or bathroom!  If I am remembering correctly, Grandma's bedroom was in the front, and Dad's (Grandpa Bill's) bedroom was next to the kitchen.   When I was old enough to have this thought, I wondered what it was like for Bill as a young man to come home from a date and tiptoe through his parents' room to get to his own.  Strange, huh?

3.  There were no closets!  On one side of each bedroom, there were wall-to-wall cupboards and drawers, but no actual closets.  No closets at all!

4.  This one is so great -- the toilet and the bathtub/sink were in separate rooms -- how strange, and to flush the toilet, you had to pull a chain, because the tank was up high on the wall!  Woohoo!  I think I used the bathroom at Grandma's house more than anywhere else, because I loved pulling that chain.

5.  This one I'm pretty sure about:  There was a fire escape out the back!  Stairs going down to the back yard!  But I may not be remembering correctly on this one.

6.  The whole place smelled like mothballs.  Since then, I have always loved that smell.  It smells like Grandma's house.

When we lived in New Jersey, where DD was born, of course we would go to visit Grandma, much more than we were able to after we moved to Minnesota.  I was very little, maybe 18 months old or two, when Grandma would line up little pieces of cheese on the edge of the kitchen table, and I would be a mousie and go up and steal the pieces, one by one.  

Grandma also had a dear friend, Mrs. Barton, who lived upstairs.  I actually do remember being in Mrs. Barton's apartment, but I think that memory is much later than this memory:  I so very sweetly would say "Bah . . . coogie?" and Mrs. Barton would give me a cookie.  They thought it was so cute, they would make me say it a lot.  That's probably what started off my lifelong craving for sweets -- all those "coogies" from Mrs. Barton.

 Rootie Kazootie

Last thing for today -- there was a little store at the end of Grandma and Grandpa's block, and they served egg creams (yum!) and I think a round kind of ice cream sandwich.  Grandpa would save up the funny papers from the Sunday paper for a couple of weeks, then he would send them to us.  (They were sooo much better than the Minnesota ones!  And they smelled like cigars!)

Well, that's about all the time I have for tripping down memory lane today -- anyone who remembers have anything else to add?

See you next time . . .   

Jan 28, 2013

An even briefer update --

I wanted to get even a little something written today, but I was going about 100 mph all day, trying to get my classes done for the first day of school tomorrow.  It's 10:30 PM, and I have everything packed up and ready to go.  This will be the big test of my "Sleep Phones," the headband with speakers that has been making a *huge* difference for me in the past few weeks.  We'll see if it keeps me from tossing and turning all night.

I did promise a recipe, though, and I'm keeping my word on that.  Yesterday I showed you a picture of the Christmas Market in Hannover.  The markets always have something called "Gluehwein" (pronounced, yes, "glue wine").   It's a nice warm drink, and if you live somewhere where the weather is still cold (we don't), you might want to try it.  There are many, many recipes, but this one looks good:

Gluehwein / Gluhwein
Servings: 6

3/4 cup water (or orange juice)
3/4 cup white sugar (or less to taste)
1 cinnamon stick
1 orange
10 whole cloves
1 (750 ml) bottle red wine


1.      In a saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer. 

2 .     Cut the orange in half, and squeeze the juice into the simmering water. Push the cloves into the outside of the orange peel, and place peel in the simmering water. Continue simmering for 30 minutes, until thick and syrupy. 

3.      Pour in the wine, and heat until steaming but not simmering. Remove the clove-studded orange halves. 

4.     Serve hot in mugs or glasses that have been preheated in warm water (cold glasses will break.).

You can order it "mit oder ohne" -- with or without -- a "Schuss" of brandy or some other nice hard liquor.

My American friend Harriett is living and working in Germany right now, and before Christmas she was posting a "24 Days of Gluehwein," a kind of festive Advent calendar of cheer.  Each day she would go to a new place to try the Gluehwein and would share her thoughts on it.  It was fun to read each day.

Harriett has also graciously agreed to translate a letter that Grandpa Berneburg sent to Grandma Sophie on the occasion of little Walli's first birthday.  I believe it's some kind of love letter, but it's written in the old-style handwriting and I just can't make it out.  She won't be able to get to it for a month or so, but I'm excited about finding out what it says.

Okay, I'm off to Dreamland, setting two alarms so that I'm sure to wake up.   Wish me luck tomorrow!  I haven't taught since last May, so I hope I haven't forgotten everything I know!  :)

See you next time --   

Jan 27, 2013

Hey, we're pedigreed!

Just a quick post today --

Ancestry.com offers two views of your ancestors -- one is the standard family tree view, and the other is called the "pedigree" view, maybe the way you see a dog's pedigree? (Bentley's mom/dad, is this correct?)  So here's what we see when we look at the Siegler/Hug portion of the tree:

 Klicken Sie, bitte!

I'm able to go back 6 generations from me (on the left), all the way to 1742, when EDC's great-great-great-great grandfather, Antonius Bernauer was born (or the 6th GGF of 3ZW).  Kind of neat, right?  This is just a small portion of the family tree -- I have 497 people recorded at this point!  (Not all are Ortman/Berneburgs; some are Wormuths or Earthmans.  The Earthman family tree at this point goes back to the time of the Mayflower -- an Earthman ancestor arrived in Virginia just a couple years after the Mayflower landed in Plymouth.)

Let's look at another part.  This is a smaller part of the pedigree above. 

As I was looking closely at this part this morning so I could get the dates (see below), I noticed something odd -- two little branches went back to the same father, Antonius Bernauer.  He had two daughters, Salome (great name, right?) and Anna, sisters, obviously.  Their children, Landolin (another great name) and Maria, were first cousins.  Each of them had a child that married the other's child -- Benedict and Maria -- so here we have 2nd cousins who married!  Though cousin marriage has a long history in Europe (and many other places), during the 1800's they were not more than 3.63% of all unions in Europe (fact from Wikipedia).  Interesting, right?

So this morning, I discovered a kind of registry called Rootsweb, where you can enter your family names and (hopefully) hook up with other people who are researching those names.  This is what I came up with, so far:

It was pretty complicated -- in addition to putting down the earliest and latest dates the name has in your tree, you have to put where the people came from and where they went.  I'll enter more names (when I have the energy) -- we'll see if anyone links up with me!

I'll leave you with a picture of the Christmas Market in Hannover, where the Berneburgs were centered.  It's like a farmer's market except with anything related to Christmas -- ornaments, toys, glassware, u.s.w. (in German, und so weiter means "and so on.").  I like to imagine Grandpa Berneburg as a small boy going with his family (father Andreas, mother Hermine, brothers Willi and Fritz, and sister Sophie) to look at all the treasures . . . can you imagine it?

Oh, and with a baby picture of Bentley, who really does have a pedigree (I think):

See you next time! 

Jan 26, 2013

A Mysterious Picture --

 Well, I found one of the pictures:

Klicken Sie, bitte!
You need to help me figure out this mystery.  So here is obviously a big family gathering, I'm guessing around 1902.    Can you recognize anyone in this picture?  Click on it to see it bigger.  Look carefully.

It's Grandma Sophie!

I'm guessing she's 16, maybe 18.  What do you think?

So I'm trying to figure out the rest of the picture. Who are all these people, anyway?

Klicken sie bitte, to see the large picture

 The ones circled in aqua, over to the left, I'm thinking are Grandma Sophie and her two sisters, Hanni and Lina.  They are both younger than Grandma, by four (Hanni) and seven years (Lina).

So who else might be in this picture?  Look at the lady in black in the middle:

Doesn't she look like the matriarch?  She's clearly the oldest person in the picture.  Is that Sophie, Hanni, and Lina's mother?  Honestly, I don't think so.  She's way older than the girls to the left and is probably their grandmother.

My guess is that she's the mother of the three ladies in front of her:

They really look older than the Langer girls to the left, don't they?  Are they old enough to possibly be Sophie, Hanni, and Lina's mother?  If so, which one is Wilhelmine?  The one on the left, sitting closest to the girls?

And here are the men in the photo that are potentially the husbands of the three ladies:

One of these might be the great-grandfather we're looking for:  Max Langer.  Do you have a guess?  I think the gentleman on the right is old enough to be the older lady's husband, so our candidates for Max might be on the left.  Since I have no idea, I choose the guy at the top, who kind of looks like he's smiling.

So,  here we might have a picture of the Schulze clan, I'm thinking.  Do you think I'm on to something, or have I veered  off in a wrong direction?  How will I ever figure out who's who?

See you next time --

P.S.  Upon reflection, I'm thinking this has to be later than 1902 -- If Grandma was 18, then Hanni would have been 14 and Lina 11.  The one I'm thinking is Lina looks way older than 11, right?  Hmmm.  I think Grandma S. got married in 1909, so maybe this picture is closer to that time?  Mysteries upon mysteries -- 

Thanks, Buttercup!

Here's my research assistant, the lovely Buttercup Wormuth, helping me with my photo search:

Thank you, Buttercup -- you've helped me enough!

She likes to get in the box and help me by scratching at all the pictures.

Stay tuned for a "Which Baby Am I?" contest, coming up!  As I was going through the photo boxes, I kept finding baby pictures of family members.  I don't have everyone, I'm sure, but I'm going to go through again and get as many as I can.  Then you can look through all the pictures and figure out which one you are!  I'm thinking of a good prize . . .

See you next time!

Jan 25, 2013

I'm so mad at myself . . .

Let me give you all a little tip:  When you take something out of a drawer or closet, put it back where you found it!!  A couple of years ago, I took some old, old photos out of my storage box, scanned them, and then did not put them back where they belonged.  I have been searching high and low all day, everywhere I can think of, but have come up with nothing.  Nada.  Niente.  Nichts.  And the hard drive the scans were on has long since had a total meltdown.  Any language you can say it in -- I'm an idiot.

Why is it so important?  Missing are pictures of Grandma Sophie's family when she was a young woman, Grandpa Berneburg as a sailing man, and most important of all, a picture of Grandma Sophie with her sisters, Lina and Hanni, standing in front of the church where they were all confirmed.  If I could find that, I could send it to the FamNord list, and someone would be able to recognize it, I'm sure, and then I would know where to write for information . . . Would anyone else have that picture?  (I'm looking at you, ML . . . )

However, I did find one bit of treasure, Grandma's birth certificate, which has at least more complete names of Max Langer and Wilhelmina Schulze -- they are:

Maximilian Joseph Langer
Christiane Wilhelmina Luisa Schulze

See what the problem is?  All this time I've been looking for Wilhelmina when I should have been looking for Christiane!  And it says Grandma was born in Geestendorf, not Geestemuende, although they're right next door.  Sigh.

Klicken Sie, bitte!  (Soon you will know a little bit of German)

This is a postcard I just ordered from Germany -- it's a picture of the harbor at Bremerhaven where Grandpa Gustav Berneburg used to sail on steamships like the big one on the right.  3Z's and W:  Would you like to sail on a big ship like that?

Jan 24, 2013

Digging through the past -- I need a bloodhound!

Hey everyone -- while digging through the past is fun (and a great sinkhole of time), it can also be mighty frustrating.  I'll give you an example.

I'm trying to find information on Grandma Sophie's parents, Max Langer and Wilhelmina Schulze.  In order to do this, I begin with searching on ancestry.com, where you can all look at the family tree (if I haven't sent you a guest invitation, let me know). So when you put Max Langer into the search box, here's what you get:

As always, click to see the whole picture

We get three Max Langers, none of whom could be our Max Langer, because all of those sources are based in the United States (NY passenger lists, 1900 US census), and Great-grandpa Max never came to the United States.  Notice that up at the top of the picture, there's a line that says, "Matches 1-20 of 48,363"  Yikes!!  Do I have to go through all that??  Same thing happens with Wilhelmina Schulze, except that there's one possibility, something in the Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Germany, Census, 1867 (in German).  I click on that with great excitement and . . . they won't let me see it unless I upgrade to a worldwide membership, for a lot more $$$.  Bummer.  

Here's the thing about researching ancestors in Germany -- despite how orderly they always seem to be, records were not kept nationally, because Germany wasn't really a nation until 1871, when all the states were unified into one country. 

Prior to that, it was a whole mess of independent states that all kept their own records . . . but usually, they were kept in a church, not in a government office, which again makes things more complicated.  If you don't know where your ancestor went to church . . .

Here's a map of Germany before 1871.  Every color is its own little country.

Klicken Sie, bitte!

So you can see, so far our ancestors come from a number of different states;  Joseph Ortmann is off to the side, because all I can get on his birthplace is "Pommern," which is the whole  pink area, and I don't have an idea of whether it's East or West.  So there isn't one database I can go to -- it's probably 6 or 8 different databases I'd have to go through to find him.

So where to next on either Max or Wilhelmina?  Well, I've joined several email lists of amateur genealogists -- Germany has many "hobby genealogists," and they come together on these email lists to ask for advice and get help.  I joined the FamNord list, for ancestors in the northern part of Germany, a while ago, frustrated because I couldn't find any trace of records of Grandma's/Aunt Walli's birth, even though I know the exact building and which floor she was born on.  A very nice elderly gentleman offered to help me, and a week or so later he said he would go to the local archives and look up family members for me.  He did, and the next day sent me a file with all kinds of info about family members . . . and it was the wrong kind of Family Tree Maker file!  I couldn't open it!  I gently asked him whether he could save the file in a different format, and he said he would, but then I never heard back from him, and I worried that being so old, he might be sick or something like that.  I sent out a plea on the Family Tree Maker forum and lo and behold, someone gave me instructions on how to do it myself.  Finally I could open it, and here's what I found:

Yup, this is our Max -- see where it says his occupation was "Chimney Sweep"?  That's what he did for work.  (Mighty sooty, that kind of work!)  So now we have his birth date as "Abt. 1855" and a death date -- "Before 11 September, 1909."  Why "before"?  Probably, the old gentleman was looking at census information that showed Max, but then on the 1909 one, he wasn't there any more.  But look -- we have a city!  He died at Goettingen.  Hmmm.  Where's that?

Now there's another mystery -- if he was living in Bremerhaven with Wilhelmine, and she didn't pass away until 1918, then why would he go to Goettingen before 1909 to die?  Could that be where he's from originally??  I have to look into this some more.

At the same time, another list member sent me this little snippet from a Geestemuende city directory from the year 1869:

 See that line after the dash?  Up at the top it says Langer, J., who is a pharmacist evidently, and then after the dash it says "Max, working man, Leher Chaussee 92."  The Leher Chaussee part is his address, but unfortunately, I can't find that street on a modern map of Geestemuende.  I'll have to look for a historical map.

Another person on the list said that the fact that Max was listed as an "Arbeitsman" means that he couldn't have been a "Schornsteinfager" (chimney sweep), because a chimney sweep had to be licensed and have papers and so on, and he would never have called himself "Arbeitsman" if he had been a skilled tradesman. (He would have been insulting himself.)  But look at the date:  if we accept 1855 as Max's birthday, then in 1869 he would have only been 14 years old!  Would he have been listed by himself at that age?  Is that really our Max, or some other pretender, trying to confound us?

Well, I'm going to stop here, but I just wanted to give you a taste of what it's like to do this research.  Sometimes I feel like there's smoke coming out of my ears, because I'm concentrating and thinking so hard.  But in the end, it's really fun.  Here's a picture of the grave of the famous mathematician Karl Friedrich Gauss in Goettingen.  Maybe if we went there together we could find our great/great-great/ great-great-great grandfather's tombstone!  I'd like to try --

Jan 23, 2013

The old churchbell rings . . .

The Ortmans and Berneburgs have a long history with Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ozone Park, Queens, New York.  Here's a map on which I've marked a bunch of family history:
 Click to see everything!

Here's the church as it first was, in 1880.  This is where in 1895 Grandma Ortman was baptized with the name Maria Siegler (though she was also known as Mary, Marie, and Mae, which makes things confusing!), parents George Siegler and Mathilde Hug Siegler.  Probably the Sieglers were the only family members going to church here until the late 1920's, when the formerly Catholic William John Ortman and the Berneburgs get into the picture.

There's one mysterious thing I don't have much information on.  When ancestry.com gave me hints on Maria Siegler, it connected me with historical documents that said she was married at the age of 21, in 1916, to someone named Frank Schnack and that they had a daughter.  Frank passed away in 1918, and since he had weak lungs that disqualified him from service in WWI, I'm guessing it was the influenza epidemic, but I'm not sure.  (BTW, Grandma Sophie's mother, Wilhelmina Langer, died in Germany in that same influenza epidemic.)  I have no information on this child, who was not a part of the Ortman family, a great-aunt we have no knowledge of.  Very intriguing -- undoubtedly an interesting story in there somewhere!  I assume William John knew when he married her, but I never heard a whiff of anything like this from Grandpa Bill (or Grandma Ortman herself, when she was living).

Here's the church as it was rebuilt in 1917.  It was all ready for the wedding of Maria Siegler and William John Ortman, probably in 1923 or so.  I don't have the exact date and don't know whether they really were married here, but given all the history, it's a pretty good guess.

By the time the church was rebuilt, it had a new pastor:  the Reverend Dr. Hugo E. Meyer, and this is where the Meyers come into the story . . . Dr. Meyer, as everyone (except maybe his wife and son, but I'm not even sure about that) called him, was not only a pastor but also an authority on snakes, and had quite a collection of them, mostly preserved in jars, but some not -- 

That's got to be more than one snake, right?  Eeeek.  I met Mrs. Meyer once when I was maybe 5 or so and saw the snakes -- we went back to New York to visit (I think this was the time I got mumps as we were about to leave, and Grandma Walli said that they had to smuggle me into motels because they didn't want the management to know they were harboring someone with a communicable disease).  Anyway, Dr. Meyer was a very educated and admirable man, and he and his wife had a wonderful son, Ernest A. Meyer, who also became a pastor and took over the church in 1935 AND who married Maria Siegler's sister Dorothy, so you see how it's all tangled up in this church!

 Pastor Ernest Meyer and Dorothy Siegler Meyer

So the next big event was the baptism of William John Ortman Jr., the little baby of William John and Maria, in 1925, followed shortly by the arrival of Gustav, Sophie, Erich and Waltraud Berneburg, in 1928, probably.  That was the year that they emigrated to the U.S.  So here we have little Grandpa Bill and little Grandma Walli, aged 3 and 2, going to the same church!

Grandma Walli said that all her life, she sat in church and listened to Grandpa Bill sing, from the time they were kids until her early 20's, when they finally got together and started going out.  That image really pleases me -- the small girl listening to the lovely voice of her future husband.  Which reminds me of the time we were listening to Dad sing in church one Good Friday, and Chris, 2 or 3 at the time, stood up on the pew, turned around and pointed at the choir loft, and said -- very loudly -- "THAT'S MY DAD!!!"  Everyone in the church laughed.  (P.S. get Dad/Grandpa Chris to tell you some of his other church stories . . . )  Walli and Bill were also confirmed in the church as teenagers.

If we jump ahead to the 29th of April, 1949, we have Bill and Walli's wedding (again, click to see the whole picture):

In the back row:  Hilda Berneburg, Erich Berneburg, Sophie Berneburg, Gustav Berneburg, Mae Ortman, William John Ortman, Dorothy Meyer (Shorty, right?), young Ernest Meyer, Pastor (Uncle Ernest) Meyer, and his mother, Mrs. Meyer (Dr. Meyer's widow).   In the middle row are Walli and Bill and the wedding party, none of whose names I know any more, and in the front are two little ladies whom I won't name but who will recognize themselves when they see this.

Now we come to the very most special important event of all:  the baptism of ME!!!  :)  on October 1st, 1950.  When I was baptized, the inside of the church looked like this:

I loved visiting the church when I was little -- my cousin would take me "backstage" so that I could see all the behind-the-scenes secrets.  I wish that we could all gather there now to celebrate our family's history.  I'm sending contributions to their building fund -- by now, the church is very old and threatened with being closed.  But even if it does close, Christ Lutheran will always be a part of my family.

Oh, and P.S., one more little tidbit:  When Grandma Ortman was a young working woman, she used to ride the bus to work every day with someone who hit it big -- the movie star Mae West (maybe that's why Grandma O liked to be called Mae?)

Sadly, we are not related . . .

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