Saturday, December 31, 2011

From Here to There and Back Again!

Another installment of the "boomerang letters" from Philadelphia to Drackenstein and back.

These two are from my great-great grandfather Joseph Enz to his family in Germany, written in 1921.

Philadelphia Feb 2, 1921
Dear sister-in-law and brother,
I received your nice letter today and I am writing to you right away. We are all in good health, thank God. My family is small now; I only have a girl of 14 years at home, Florenze. The others are all married. One [daughter] died, Josephine, 23 years old. Business is not going well; millions are out of work and everything is very expensive. We, too, have to be frugal; I am the sole breadwinner now. I was making 35 dollars per week before, as of now only 25 dollars.  
Dear sister-in-law, I was looking for dresses. I should have known it earlier. Every week somebody is coming by and collecting clothes, shoes anything that you can spare for the big cities, orphanages and for people hurt in the war - everything for Germany. I myself do not have much anymore. But now I received some [clothes] from our niece Rose Schneider, formerly Herbster; a daughter of my deceased sister, Wilhelmine, from Wiesensteig. Sebastian Kener probably still knows her. She is [from] Vineland, N.J., 50 miles from Philadelphia. They have a big steam bakery; they are rich people but good people.  Dear sister-in-law, this week a box with still very good clothes has been sent
to your address, you will see what is in there, it is paid for until your house, in case you have to pay anything it is not my fault. It should not happen, though. I do have a favor to ask you, my niece Mary Höhl, your stepdaughter, shall receive one third of the items since she is related to us. Dear sister-in-law, sometime later there will be another box arriving with shoes and miscellaneous stuff, you will put it to good use, I suppose. Please do not forget what I wrote you here, be nice and immediately write as soon as you receive this letter. This letter will arrive before the box in any case, because the cargo takes a long time.
Last year I sent something to my wife’s relatives; it took 3 months until they got it. Hopefully you will receive everything and nothing will be stolen like it has happened often. I do not want to send anything for those blackguards. Dear sister-in-law, please say hello the minister and I would like to [greet] his nuns and [illegible]. I have something to finish for him. It should not be to his detriment. Dear sister-in-law, my wife is offended by the fact that you are writing only Brother-in-law and not Sister-in-law, too. She was wondering whether she upset you when she was visiting. She told me she was very content with you. I will finish now, greetings to all, cordially Joseph Enz and family.
Sentence from page 2: Greetings to Bastian and wife.     
Sentence from page 4: Gertrud and Christine are in good health, but you never know.

This one is an April follow-up.

Philadelphia Apr. 7, 1921
Dear sister-in-law and children,
We received your last letter and we saw that you received the clothes, which made me very happy. However, you are not writing whether everything arrived, how can we know here whether you got everything or whether half of it was stolen? I believe because writing is not your pleasure: you have children, could not one of them write? Dear sister-in-law, I send you an envelope with the address of our relatives so that you only have to put the letter in there and send it. It is only fair that you and your children say thank you. I did not receive a response from Mary either. She, too, does not seem to like writing.
Dear Georg, I want to address you, too now I want to write to you, too. You want to come to America on secret paths - consider yourself. That does not work anymore, though it did in the past. You wanted to go via Switzerland to Canada or via Mexico; this would cost you a bunch of money, 30.000 to 40.000 Marks, which you probably do not have. And you have to have a very good head. In New York, thousands arrive with false passports and everyone is sent back. It is very strict. I am not sure why you want to go away; your mother does not have anybody else than you two children. When I was your age there was not enough space anymore, therefore I had to go into the wide world to make space for your deceased father. And you have to work very hard here to make it.   
Dear Georg, stay there where you are for the time being. We will see how things go when America made peace. Then it will be better for Germans again. They are looking for girls for kitchen and house work. They earn a good wage, 12 to 15 Dollars a week. There are almost 90.000 men unemployed in Philadelphia. The husbands of my daughters do not have much to do, either. The machine business is slow, too. I am still working and I do not have difficulties (electric lights factory). Dear sister-in-law, many greetings from Rose Kneer to Baste and Kunigunde; she says she can neither write nor see well, her corns hurt badly. She visited us last Sunday. You do not write any news; it would be nice to know who is still alive or deceased of the old friends. I probably will not know many anymore since I have been gone for 37 years.                     
Sisters Gertrud and Christine send many greetings to as well as to Baste and Kunigunde. They could write something, too. They do not have the time, I guess. I wrote to the pastor, too, but I did not get an answer yet. Maybe he is not happy with what I had to tell. Maybe he did not even receive my writing? I will close now with cordial greetings from us all: your brother-in-law, sister-in-law and children. I hope that it (my writing) finds you as well as it leaves us.
Joseph Enz and family
I am sending a small picture of us; we took it ourselves in the garden behind our house.
Side: Please let Georg and Elise know that they ought to write to John Schneider in Vineland

Fascinating stuff about the economy and immigration. Here is an analysis of cost-of-living for that year: READ

Thanks again to my Enz cousins for the letters and Nora Grosser for translating! It has been a great year for my family history :-)

Only 4 months til the 1940 Census! 

Oh, and less than 12 months til the end of the world. Get busy!

A Little Follow Up

Another addition to the previous post of the Best Christmas Gift:

The above family photo from Germany features my great-great-grandmother's uncle Michael Knab (center) with his children taken in 1890. Beautiful! Michael was the Mayor of Bollingen. His son Konstantin on the far left also served in that capacity starting in 1913. The soldier on the right died in action in 1918.

I hope to find out more from the relative in Germany that descends from Michael Knab through Konstantin (his grandfather).

Ironically, this week I found another box of files I hadn't seen in years. While sorting through it, I found LDS IGI records for the Knab family, including my great-great-great grandfather's christening and a microfilm order receipt for the church records for that town! All from back in 1991, just about when my research went on the back burner.

Close, but that only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades :-)

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Best Christmas Present EVER!

Krescentia Knab

What is the best gift for a genealogist?? Book? Subscription to a research site? They are great, but the BEST thing is KNOCKING DOWN A BRICK WALL!! 

Yup, that's the Holy Grail of family history...

Thanks to a wonderful man, Hagen Kuhn, in Germany, my oldest brick wall went kablooie yesterday! This mystery was born in 1988 when I started researching my family history. My great-great grandmother, Krescentia Knab Enz, came to Philadelphia in 1883. No one knew from where in Germany.  Her death certificate said her father was Georg Knab and birthplace Germany.

Krescentia had a daughter still living in the 80s and she had no idea either. She told me that Kressie's mother had died when she was young, and she had one sister plus  a couple of half-sisters she was fond of from her stepmother. She also told me that Krescentia had sailed back to Germany in 1916 to visit family, so I sent to NARA for a passport application and crossed my fingers.

After a long wait, it arrived, and there was her place of birth: Bottingen! I ran to the LDS and ordered the church records for there. More waiting, then it came in. I read through it with no luck - I was so bummed! Now what? I tried "Bossingen" in case the writing on her app was misread, but again nada.

I put her photo on my nightstand for a long time, asking her "Where ARE you?!" every night.

Fast forward to a year ago...newly back into genealogy and having been found by a bunch of descendants of Krescentia's husband's sister, and 2 descended from Krescentia too. We put our heads together and decided the Archdiocese was our next step. Although they had no record of their marriage, their childrens' baptism records listed her maiden name and birthplace as "Bollingen." I thought that it must be a transcription error with "ll" instead of "tt." So, my last hope was dashed. Krescentia was going to remain a mystery dammit.

About a month ago, a man from Germany (the wonderful Hagen Kuhn) wrote me about one of my ex-husband's family lines that came to Baltimore in the mid-1800s. I hadn't really dug into them in Germany, but did some looking for descendants here for him. He filled me in on several generations in the old country as well!


I mentioned my mysterious gg-grandmother to him, he asked for info on her and was off to the races!! He found out that there were not one but FOUR towns called Bottingen! Not only that, but one of the Bottingens had an area within it called BOLLINGEN!! Holy crap, what are the chances of THAT!?

He contacted a researcher over there named Karl Knab, but Karl didn't seem to have info on a Krescentia, especially from a father Georg. Well, Hagen kept at it, and again asked Karl to check his records for our girl, forgetting the name Georg.

I got an email yesterday saying "HOORAY HOORAY!" Hagen & Karl had found her! Same birthdate, a note of being married in America, father Johannes married twice with 2 girls from first wife and ten from 2nd wife (wow). Karl is descended from Johannes' brother Michael, so he is a distant cousin to me.

Krescentia's (2) birth record in parish family register

Karl has the family back to Krescentia's great-grandfather Knab, but there is more to explore on the female lines. I hope to find out if any others emigrated to America at some point and find descendants here and there.

BEST PRESENT EVER! Thank you Hagen, I'm indebted to you!

Happy Holidays!