Wednesday, July 21, 2010

August Henry Vonderheide - The Early Years

August von der Heide (as it is written in German), was the youngest child of Heinrich (Henry) VDH and Catherine Kamphake VDH. He was born in the town of Holdorf, in the former Duchy of Oldenburg, on September 1, 1873. He had older twin brothers and a sister who died as a young child.

There was a lot of turmoil in Germany. By the 1880s, nearly 80% of the town of Holdorf had emigrated, mainly to the United States. As mentioned in an earlier post, it was hard to make a living because of inheritance laws, etc. and most families had nothing to look forward to. They were never going to be landowners and lived in the service of the landowner whose land they farmed.

One historical fact that was very significant was that Germany was not "Germany" until 1871 when all of the German city-states and principalities were unified as one. This process was the result of a series of events that took place between 1848-1871. Here is one source you can check: Scroll down to the section on Otto von Vismarck and the Wars of Unification.

From this same source, I've included a map that shows the unification process over time. Note the location of the Duchy of Oldenburg in northwest Germany.

One of the greatest fears of parents was the mandatory legal service of six years required of all boys when they reached the age of 18. This whole idea of loyalty to "Germany" was a completely new concept. Records of earlier German immigrants always include references to "Oldenburg", "Bavaria", "Pruessen", etc. Even on Census records, immigrants often didn't refer to themselves as coming from Germany.

So off they came to America in hopes of opportunity that did not exist in Germany. August arrived in 1881 when he was only eight years old. New immigrants found comfort in new neighborhoods with other German immigrants who shared their language and their faith.

There were two very large German parishes in northern Kentucky -- Mother of God and St. Aloysius. For reasons I don't understand, the Wockers and Vonderheides were members of St. Aloysius Church, despite living on the same street as Mother of God. I have a copy of August's First Communion Certificate from St. Aloysius. At that time, children did not make their First Communion until the age of 13.

If you could read the printed parts of the certificate, you would recognize that it is in the German language. Obviously, this new family of immigrants had settle in to their new home and church by 1887, when young August made his first Communion.

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