Sep 18, 2013

Signing off for a short while (I hope) --

Well, dear readers, I'm off to the hospital tomorrow for knee replacement surgery. I'll probably be in the hospital for three days or so (until Sunday), but then I hope to be back and posting soon, because there's lots to tell you about.  Here are a couple of teasers:

1)  I heard from the webmaster of the Erkeln website!  He wrote me a long email with lots of interesting information and other people to contact.  Seems there are still a few Ortmanns connected to Erkeln and to us, no doubt.  I'll give all the details in a few days, I hope.

2)  We have a kind of Y-DNA mystery, maybe, that could be very significant.  It involves a possible "non-paternal event," and I'll leave you with the job of figuring out what that is, until I'm able to post again.

3)  I've gotten farther back in the Ortmann line; though it's not documented yet, we are into the 1600's!  

4)  I've heard from a cousin in Erkeln!  Her name is Magdalena (last name not Ortmann), and as far as I can tell, her great-grandfather Stephen Hermann (known as Hermann), was our Joseph's older brother!  Magdalena is interested in genealogy too and we will be having more contact as soon as I'm up for it.

I also found a very nice document:  the program from the 1100-year anniversary of the town of Erkeln, held in 1956.  At the very end of the program, there is a beautiful statement about how we feel about our home towns, in this case, Erkeln (which appears to be our home town to, now going back to the 1600's), but it could be any of our home towns -- Brooklyn or Queens, Newark, Minneapolis, Cincinnati.  I want to share it here, first the statement and then my rough translation:

"Dies ist, Erkeln, heute dein Ruhm, der Tag deiner Ehre. Sieh, deine Söhne und Töchter, sie kommen von überal l her heut. Alle sie drängt es, dich, du schönes Dorf an der Nethe, wiederzusehen, dich im Glanz deiner Wälder und Fluren. Alle sie suchen der Kindheit Stätte, den Spielplatz der Jugend. Froh stehn sie dort und bewegt, wo als Mann und als Frauen, glücklich die ahnten die Schönheit des Lebens in heiliger Schöpfung. Hier stand die Wiege. Die Mutter ging hier. Es schuf hier der Vater. Froh rief, Erkelner, hier dich die Glocke zu heiligen Dienste. Hier nur bist du zu Haus. Hier wurzelt tief deine Seele. Alles an dir, der Leib, deine Seele, dein Sein und dein Können, Du, wie du bist, alles entstand hier im Tal an der Nethe. Dank es der Heimat. Rühme dich ihrer, die Zeit deines Lebens. Nimm es als heiliges Vermächtnis mit von dem Tag deiner Ehre: 1100 Jahre bestanden im wechselnden Gang der Geschichte. 1100 Jahre Treue zur Heimat. Heimat, du ewig - schöne du Erkeln, dir schwör ich - Liebe."

"This is, Erkeln, the day of your fame, the day of your honor. Behold, your sons and daughters come from everywhere today. They all rush here, you beautiful village on the Nethe River, to see you again, shining in your woods and meadows. They are all looking for the place of their childhood, the playground of their youth. They gladly stand there and are moved, where as man and woman they felt the beauty of life in sacred creation. Here was the cradle. Your mother walked here. Your father built his life here. The bells gladly rang out the holy services for you here.  Here only, you are at home. Your soul is deeply rooted here.  Everything you are, your body, your soul, your being and your competence, you, as you are, everything, came into existence here in the valley of the Nethe. Thank your home place. Be proud of the time of your life. Take it as a sacred legacy from the day of your glory: 1100 years passed in the changing course of history. 1100 years loyalty to your homeland. Home, you forever-beautiful Erkeln, I swear to you - love."

Isn't that lovely?  I'd like to know who wrote that.  

So I'm off for a while.  I'm packing the nice tote bag they gave me at the pre-op class I had to go to at the hospital.  I'll take my Kindle and so may be able to post with that, don't know yet.  I spent last night making a nice playlist for my iPod, one of contemporary songs and one pretty much exclusively of Bach, whom I have always loved.  It's the music of my childhood, my family, my church, my history.  I will find that very relaxing and comforting, if they let me listen right up until going into surgery. 

Hugo is all groomed and ready to be my constant companion, over the next few weeks.  I'll leave you with a sweet picture of his little face, and see you all soon! 

Sep 14, 2013

Further thoughts on Joseph, Erkeln, Brakel, etc.

I woke up at 6AM today, "too exthited to thleep," as the little boy in the Disneyland commercial says, and of course I was thinking about Joseph Ortmann and Erkeln and Brakel and so on.  One thing I was contemplating was the names -- in looking for Joseph in various locations, I was paying attention to the first names I was seeing, because often children were named for grandparents or other relatives and so on.  Interestingly, though Joseph's father's name was Conrad (and he was named for his father, Conrad), none of Joseph's sons has Conrad as a first or middle name.  His first son was Augustus J. (J = Joseph, I assume), but I see no Augustus anywhere in the family trees.  The second was Joseph Bernard, and Bernard comes from both sides of the family -- Joseph had an uncle named Bernard, and Annie's father was Bernard.  His third son was Herman Henry -- don't know where the "Herman" came from, but Joseph had a brother named Heinrich (Henry) and that was Annie's father's middle name as well.   His fourth son picks up the "Henry" again, his name being Henry Anthony.  And his fifth son, EDC's grandfather, was named William John (his actual birth certificate says "Willy," which is kind of sweet).  As far as the girls were concerned, Mary Theresa was named for Joseph's mother (Theresia) and one of his half-sisters (Maria Theresia), and Anna was named for her mother.  For the others, Adelaide and Catherine, I don't see any connection.

So why are none of Joseph's sons given the name Conrad?  Could there have been conflict between Conrad and his second son that caused him to leave home and go to America?  We don't know.  

Here are a few more interesting pictures from Erkeln/Brakel:

Cool looking old house, right?  Ghosts inside, maybe?

Maybe this was their barn?

It looks like a beautiful place to be from.   

Sep 13, 2013

And one brick wall comes DOWN!!!

Well, the Joseph Ortmann story has suddenly broken wide open, everyone!  If you remember, I recently discovered the date and place of his death (June 10, 1911, in Union, New Jersey).  Having joined the Hudson County, New Jersey, Historical Society, I was advised by my new fellow researchers there to send away for his death certificate, in the hope that it would list his birthplace.  So I did, and it came today.

I was so nervous as I opened it!  I forced myself to read it slowly, bit by bit, taking in the information.  We see that his birthdate is recorded as July 27, 1848, but if we look at the other evidence, for example, his enlistment in the Navy during the Civil War, this can't be right.  If he was born in 1848, then his enlistment papers should have said he was 16 years old, but the papers actually say he was 20.  In 1864, he was much closer to his birth age than he was in later years, so believing he was correct in stating his age as 20 at that time makes sense.  I think it's hard for those of us in the 20th-21st Centuries to understand that someone would have not known their actual birth year or age, or would have misstated it or misrepresented it, for various reasons, but evidently that was fairly common.

    Joseph's death certificate

Next I noticed that the cause of death was chronic interstitial nephritis (kidney failure), along with cerebral apoplexy (stroke).  The doctor who signed the certificate, Albert Leming, M.D., had cared for Joseph since October 15th, 1910, and last saw him alive on the day of his death, so he was under a doctor's care at the time.

Finally I looked at his birthplace, and it said . . . . . Germany.  Damn, I already knew that!!  But, the real treasure was right below that, because it listed his father's and mother's names:  Conrad and Theresa.  And this rang a huge bell!!!

When I had searched on, and, I had seen a Joseph Ortmann who was born in Erkeln, Germany, to Conrad and Theresia Ortmann, but I had rejected that because the date was wrong -- on U.S. censuses, Joseph repeatedly said that he was born in 1848, as I said above, and the Joseph who was the son of Conrad and Theresia was born in 1845.  On the positive side, if he was born in Erkeln, and he married Annie in the U.S., who was born in Nienborg, less than 150 miles away, that would make sense, because people who emigrated from a particular area tended to stick together and intermarry.  But that date was wrong, as far as I knew.

Learning that Conrad and Theresia were his parents opened everything up -- surely Annie, his wife, would have known and correctly stated the names of his parents.   If we accept he was born in 1845 (which squares better with his Civil War records), then we know he was born in Erkeln, a tiny village (pop. 640) in Westfalen, Germany, not far from Muenster, where I spent a summer when I was in high school.

Erkeln, marked on the map.  Nienborg is near Ahaus, in the upper left.

This is huge, because the Ortmann family is extremely well documented in this area, unlike some of the other areas I was searching in.  There's even a database of families from the Brakel/Erkeln area, and we are related to every single person on this list:

I've highlighted Joseph, his father, and his grandfather, both named Conrad.  Everyone else is siblings or one kind of cousin or another.  Both Conrads in the database are listed as "Ackermann," or farmers.  Joseph's father, Conrad Jr., was born on August 6, 1810, and Conrad's father, Conrad Sr., was born on 12.10.1777, and here we are in the 1700's!   I'm so thrilled, I cannot tell you.

So, what is it like in Erkeln or Brakel?  I found a few pictures that will give us some idea.

This is the church in Brakel where Conrad and his father, Conrad, would have been baptized.

 This is the town square in Brakel, with the Rathaus, or courthouse, on the right.

Erkeln, by Oliver Wulff

This is a view of Erkeln from outside the village -- beautiful farming country, right?  Here are a few other nice pictures of Erkeln.

Nice old -- ancient -- wall with sheep, by MoritzP.

Old Erkeln farmhouse, by MoritzP

Maybe the Ortmanns had a farmhouse something like this!

So, maybe you can tell I'm excited about this.  We have a place, and a time, and  that leads us further to other information.  It's a huge step forward, and maybe now we can connect with other people researching the Ortmann name.  I found a "guestbook" on the website of Erkeln, and I left a long message wondering if there were any descendants who might want to contact me.  We'll see.  In the meantime, I found an article from Erkeln about an Ortmann who is undoubtedly a relative:  "Erkeln trauert um Ortmann" (Erkeln mourns Ortmann)  His name was Karl-Heinz Ortmann of Erkeln,  who passed away last year, suddenly, at a very early age.  His soccer club team wrote a very heartfelt tribute to him, noting that he'd served them in all kinds of capacities for 20 years and saying that they will miss him very much.   I got a few tears in my eyes, thinking that this was surely some kind of cousin whom we never got to know. 

We'll see if anyone responds to my guestbook post -- maybe they would like to know their Minnesota or California or Ohio relatives, right?  We're pretty cool, right?  I'm really excited tonight, can you tell? 

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