Saturday, October 30, 2010

Back to Germany

Over the years, I have corresponded with a genealogist, Werner Honkomp, who specializes in German emigrants from the former Duchy of Oldenburg in Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen). You can click on his website Click on "Genealogy" and then click on the "Collection in English" found in the left-hand menu.

You can learn so much about the living conditions when the Vonderheides chose to come to the United States by exploring this site.

In the 1800s the area around Holdorf, Germany was organized in small "farming communities". Typically, our ancestors married people who lived close by. Our Vonderheide/Kamphake family last lived in the town of Holdorf. By an accident of history, the Duchy of Oldenburg was one of the few "counties" in northwest Germany that were Roman Catholic instead of Lutheran.

I was under the impression that the Vonderheides were relatively "well-off" when they left Germany. Werner burst my bubble by saying, "Get it straight. They were poor." They were "heurleute" -- basically peasants who did not own land and owed much of what they had to a landlord. Werner told me that within a period of about 50 years, 80% of the residents of Holdorf and the surrounding towns left Germany and resettled in the United States. Many settled in Cincinnati and Iowa. Many who wanted to continue farming started a new community in the Minster area of Ohio, a couple of hours north (by car) of Cincinnati.

In Germany the law required that farms be inherited by the first-born son. Thus, younger siblings had little opportunity other than farming the land of an older brother. Plots of available land became smaller with each succeeding generation. In addition, all boys were required to enlist in the army for three years of mandatory service. This combination was more than most parents could bare -- and so they left.

Werner has always told me that the Germans assumed it would take three generations in America for the emigrants to become successful. Imagine my pride when I realized just how successful my g-grandfather, August, was in such a relatively short period of time.

Friday, October 29, 2010

More Vonderheide Pictures

After my initial posts on August Henry Vonderheide and his wife, Anna Moser, I was contacted by Val and Cindy Vonderheide of Wichita, Kansas. They read of my interest in the house in Wyoming that had been torn down and replaced with the Board of Education. They dug through their family pictures and sent me several priceless pictures, including a picture of the house.

416 Springfield Pike, Wyoming, Ohio

They also had several pictures of a young August and his wife, Anna -- some copied from very old tin-type pictures. In the second picture, August is in the middle. We are unsure of the identity of the other two.

In an earlier post, I had mentioned a newspaper article on the occasion of August's 80th birthday that said that August was the first clerk in the first Kroger store started by B.H. Kroger. Val and Cindy had a picture -- August is on the right, and we believe that it is Barney Kroger on the left.

They also had an additional picture of the Valley Shoe Store that appeared to be taken earlier than other pictures I have.

A long-time former mayor of Elmwood found this picture of August in his shoestore and sent it to me.

Here is a picture of Anna and August as a young married couple.

Thanks to Val and Cindy, I have enough pictures to perhaps put together a photoshow at a later date. For now, let me end this post with a picture of the entire family: Anna, August, Virginia and Val.

Note: Should you want copies of any of these pictures for your own library, you should be able to "right-click" on the image and save it to your computer.

Writer's Block

It's been two months since I've added anything to this blog. It's not from a lack of material -- it's from too much material! For sixteen days in September, Bill and I traveled to Ireland and Scotland including a visit to the Ryan ancestral home of Pallas Green, County Limerick. I could post pictures and write forever about our trip!

Shortly before we left, I ordered four Civil War Pension Records from the National Archives. I've discovered that we have six ancestors in our direct line that served on the Union side in the Civil War. I already knew about Britton Wainright, my gg-grandfather on the Jones side. You can read about him in earlier posts. Two of his brother-in-laws in the Darby family also served.

On the Ryan/von der Heide side of the family, Fred Wocker, Victor Becker and Charles Gross all served. I found out that a display in the James A. Ramage Civil War Museum in Ft. Wright, KY and the Waldschmidt Museum in Remington, OH both have displays that include listings with Fred Wocker listed on them. Mike Ryan met us at the Ramage Museum and brought a sword that had belonged to Victor Becker. Victor was the uncle of Rose Gross Ryan and is a gg-uncle to my generation. Charles Gross, a gg-grandfather, became quite ill during his service in the Civil War and was discharged due to his illness. He later was committed to Longview and died a young man. He is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery.

I found two cousins through -- Betty Arnett and Barbara Pharo. Both are cousins on the Jones side of the family. Betty had priceless pictures and copies from her mother's family bible that confirmed much of what I had written earlier. Included was a picture of Britton Wainright's widow and three children. (I recently submitted an article to the Ohio Civil War Genealogy Journal about Britton's story and got it published -- including Betty's priceless picture).

Barbara and I share the same gg-grandfather, Thomas Probert. We shared research on our Mt. Sterling family. Earlier this week we visited Mt. Sterling and stayed in a wonderful, historic B&B, the Patten Everett House, that is worth the visit in itself. I've discovered some real gems about Lucy Probert Cronin, mother of Norine.

So that's my list -- each one worth a post. It's hard to keep track of all of our beloved ancestors who have proved to have such great stories. I've got to make a choice.

My plan is to write what I know about the von der Heides, taking us back to our ancestral home in Germany. From there -- we'll see . . .