Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Virginia is for lovers - of Genealogy!

I love the Library of Virginia. Now I have never been to the library personally, but thanks to the Internet and the library’s terrific website, I have been able to do quite a bit of research on my Virginia ancestors without having to leave Ohio.

Having two sets of ggg grandparents who came from Virginia and one set of gggg grandparents born in that state, I have a significant interest in Virginia’s history and its genealogical treasures.

Below is a sampling of services that you can take advantage of if you too have Virginia roots.

1. Images and Indexes Online

This list of catalogues was my first “find” on the LVA website. It’s always the first place I go when I find a new twist on the Virginia part of my family tree. Some of the indexes include:

Death Records Indexing Project (1853 to 1896)Index to War of 1812 Payrolls and Muster RollsIndex to Virginia Confederate Rosters Obituary Index for Richmond Enquirer/Richmond Visitor Petersburg Public Library Newspaper Index

Below is a list of some of the databases that have online images attached. It was a real treat to see a small outlined map for my sixth great grandfather’s land in what was then Frederick County of Virginia.

Virginia Land Office Patents and Grants/Northern Neck Grants and SurveysWPA Life Histories Collection Confederate Disability Applications and ReceiptsConfederate Pension Applications Robert E. Lee Camp Confederate Soldiers’ Home ApplicationsWorld War I History Commission Questionnaires
Revolutionary Bounty Warrants

2. Chancery Court Records Index

Chancery Court cases are those involving two parties who are in dispute over conflicting claims. A judge listens to both parties and then renders impartial justice based on legal precedent, when there is precedent, or uses judicial discretion when there is not.

Types of cases found in Chancery Court would include estate division cases, settlements of dissolved business partnerships and resolution of land disputes.

This is an ongoing project for the Library of Virginia. You can use the index to search for parties involved in chancery cases for a particular county. Entries show the last names of defendants and plaintiffs, LVA’s index number and also the original case number.

Some of the cases have been microfilmed, some are still found only in the original papers, but some have been scanned and put online in a PDF format. Shenandoah County, for instances, falls in the latter category. I was able to find and VIEW a court case involving my ggg grandfather Joseph Good – which by the way, didn’t make him look very honorable.

For a list of what is currently available click here.

You will want to check back periodically, because as mentioned, this is an ongoing project.

3. Microfilmed County and City Records

LVA maintains a robust microfilm collection for each of the counties of Virginia and some of the major cities. Most of these are eligible for the library’s inter-library loan program. LVA does not charge for this service, however, my library, Birchard Library, does charge for the postage insurance to send the films back to Virginia. Last time I ordered three films, the total charge came to $2.45, which netted me some, land deeds, some marriage records, and a peek at the index to a particular county’s wills.

The Library of Virginia allows you to order up to five films, which you may keep for 28 days. You can renew these for another 28 days if for some reason you haven’t finished with them in the allotted time.

It’s hard to believe, but it’s easier for me to research various counties in Virginia than it is for me to research Ohio counties. Paul Heinegg, who has researched free African Americans pre Civil War, has said that he used this same inter-library tool to research Virginia records for his book, “Free African Americans of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and Delaware.”

Check to make sure your local library participates in the inter-library loan program. If it does, you are all set to do some great long distance searching – close to home.

Until Next Time – Happy Ancestral Digging!

Wordless Wednesday - Driving Along in My Automobile

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Al and Terry Search for the Covered Bridges of Vinton County

At the risk of making you want to stick your finger down your throat as I continue to rhapsodize over my brand new love for all things Vinton County, I’m posting the remaining pictures of the county’s covered bridges

While I was feverishly working my arm and back muscles, hefting around those large probate ledgers, my spouse was becoming buds with the very nice lady at the Vinton County Convention and Visitors Bureau. I swear I could drop that man in the middle of the Gobi Desert and he would come out with a newfound friend and directions to nearest watering hole!

We had made a half hearted stab at trying to locate the Ponn Bridge the day before with less than stellar results.

Me: “I think we should turn around.”

Hubby: “What was your first clue – the dirt road or the sounds of Deliverance?”

My Kentucky friend Linda, had given us superb directions to Curry Cemetery (Linda, we would still be driving in circles without those directions – THANK YOU), and at the bottom of the map she had included the covered bridge.

Proving that Al and I would be the nice, always get along couple that you either hate to love or love to hate on the Amazing Race, we nonetheless failed our map-reading test. Al was trying to explain to the nice lady at the VCC&VB about our unsuccessful attempt when she too made, I kid you not, her own reference to “Deliverance.” Isn’t Ohio humor great?

So when my husband met up with me in the lobby of Vinton County’s courthouse, he was loaded down with all kinds of goodies to help us navigate the back roads of Vinton County. With all those maps and guidebooks, not to mention a pamphlet entitled, “Covered Bridges of Vinton County,” we decided to go for it and spend the afternoon looking not just for Ponn Bridge, but all five covered bridges in the county.

Understand that the county apparently does not think it sporting to put up any signs indicating that you are in the vicinity of a covered bridge. Nor are they big on little conveniences like road signs – so while they might tell you in their pamphlet to turn onto Cox Road, you have no idea if the road you turned onto is indeed, Cox Road. Oh and Road 43 B intersects Route 32, three (maybe four) times and should not be confused with Road 43 A or 43C. (I know you think I’m exaggerating but trust me, I’m not.)

In any case, Al and I found all five of the bridges and we actually had a great time doing it. The hunt took us all over the county, led us to some beautiful sights, and was just difficult enough to make us feel like we had accomplished something each time we found one of the bridges.

Only one of the bridges, the oldest, Arbaugh Bridge, is open to traffic. Built in 1871 it was closed to traffic for 30 years before money was obtained through a federal grant to allow needed improvements. I don’t know what the price tag was for the improvements but it was worth every penny. It was so nice, we went through it twice!

If covered bridge hunting sounds like the kind of “sport” you might be interested in trying yourself, ODOT maintains a webpage with a map and directions to Ohio’s historic covered bridges that you can check out yourself.

Going on a trip or live in another state? No problem. A website entitled “Ohio Barns” has covered bridge listings for 42 states as well as directions for unique barns such as Mail Pouch Barns, Ohio’s Bicentennial Barns, Quilt Barns, Round Barns and just about any kind of special barn you can think of to enjoy.

Proving that once you start looking for covered bridges you just gravitate to them, we found, by accident, Byers Covered Bridge in Jackson County, and Helmick Bridge in Coshocton County.

Until Next Time!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Walking on Humpback Bridge

Last week, my husband and I traveled to Southern Ohio. My father’s paternal lines, former Virginians and Pennsylvanians, for a time made their homes in Ohio’s Appalachian region during the nineteenth century. Within that region lies the least populated of Ohio’s 88 counties, Vinton County.

Vinton County is made up of forests, rolling hills, country roads, and small villages. In the spring it is a beautiful place to visit.

Its southern most township is Wilkesville, which is home to a small village of the same name. It is here, in this township and village of the same name, that my Smathers, Cope, Thacker and Marcum families made the connections needed that would eventually produce me.

The township is also the location of an unexpected treasure, a covered bridge. Vinton County boasts five covered bridges within its borders. One of these, nestled on a forgotten stretch of township road in Wilkesville Township is the Ponn Bridge.

The bridge, which crosses Raccoon Creek, was built in 1874 by Martin E. McGrath and Lyman Wells. It has three spans, and is a combination of Burr Arch, King Post and Whipple truss designs. It is believed to be the only bridge of this kind still in existence in North America.

The Ponn Bridge, or the Humpback Bridge as it is also known, replaced another bridge that had been built in 1870. The older bridge, The Barnes Mill Bridge, caught fire a month after it had been completed. The Humpback was not completed until four years later at a cost of $1898.

The bridge, no longer open to local traffic, is unfortunately a magnet for graffiti artists, as you can see clearly in the photos below.

I tell you, there is something magical about walking through an old covered bridge that you know your great grandparents, as well as their parents and their grandparents would have also walked upon. I know – totally sentimental and sappy. But I loved every step taken, and my trip was all the more rewarding because of it.

Until Next Time – Happy Ancestral Digging!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ancestry Offering Military Databases Free – For a Limited Time

Just in time for the long Memorial Day Weekend – Juliana at 24/7 Family History Circle is reporting that Ancestry is offering free access to its military database until May 31. If you don’t subscribe to Ancestry but are in the mood to do a little research from home, here’s your chance. Click on this link and get started!

Maybe my mind is a little fried but I don’t remember seeing Michigan databases available on the FamilySearch Labs website, so if you already are aware of this – just excuse my tardiness on reporting this item. Below is a list of Michigan databases currently offered:

Michigan Births 1867 – 1902

Michigan Deaths 1867- 1897

Michigan Marriages 1868 – 1897

These databases have linked images – no relying on another’s abstracting abilities. You can see the pages for yourself!

I was surprised to find some of my Bettsville family members listed in the marriage index. It actually created one of those “ah ha moments” when I found my great grandmother’s brother, Ross Feasel, marrying his former wife. There had been a huge gap between their first child and their remaining children – now I know why.

The databases do not indicate how complete they are, which leads me to suspect that FamilySearch is merely at the beginning stages of adding to these databases, so you will want to keep that possibility in mind.

Seriously, if you have not checked out the FamilySearch Labs website lately, you may be pleasantly surprised at the number of databases that have been added.

Until Next Time – Have a Safe Weekend!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

What's better than a carnival coming to town - two carnivals!

The Carnival of Genealogy has been posted by Jasia at Creative Gene . This edition's topic was, "Mom, how'd you get so smart?" A pretty fitting topic considering last week's special holiday. Jasia, bless her heart (does using that phrase make me an honorary Southerner?), let people know that I now have an RSS feed. Thanks, lady!

A carnival that posted last week on Mother's Day was my friend Footnote Maven's Smile For The Camera - A Carnival of Images on her new blog, Shades of the Departed. The blog was inspired by FM's own collection of vintage photographs. For those of us who love old photograph's this blog is a special treat. Mosey on over, and check it out!

Until Next Time - Happy Ancestral Digging!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Because I Can

So, I'm writing this at 1:00 AM Saturday morning, mostly because I CAN. Not only can I write this post, but I can actually post it - to the Web - on my blog - on the weekend.

Now, that might not seem like much to you, but since I started blogging online for the News-Messenger, I've had to wait patiently (okay, not so patiently) for the editor to have the time to post to my blog. This was a definite buzzkill, especially when I had three or four posts stacked up, circling out there in email land, waiting to land on my blog.

However, the system did have its pluses, like attitude-drenched missives from a certain editor and the fact that I'm pretty sure he knew how to spell the word, "gardener" whereas, obviously, I do not. (Okay, I finally saw the error, but something like 24 hours later. I'm now using my Merriam-Webster to check the spelling of about every third word. But the good news - I can edit my own blog and fix the sucker.)

I also now have RSS Feed. For those of you who don't know what RSS Feed is, don't worry, neither do I, or at least I don't understand what it is when it comes to the technology behind it. But what it means is that people, like you, can subscribe to any blog and if you have a reader, like say the Google Reader, anytime a new post is added to that blog, it will be shown in your reader.

Right now, this very instant, I subscribe to 49 different sites - most of them blogs. It sounds like a lot. Well, it is a lot, but the reader helps keep me on top of things. It's kind of like the secretary I've always wanted, but I don't have to buy it a Christmas present or give it a yearly bonus.

If you already have a Google account for Blogger or Gmail, you already have access to the Google Reader, it's just a matter of setting it up.

If you don't have a Google account, and want to set one up along with the Google Reader, I have found a blog that covers the topic in a step-by-step manner with pictures! Just click on the hyperlink found on the phrase "a blog" and it will take you straight to the website where Meg of "Dipping Into The Blogpond" lays out all the details.

Meg's an Aussie, but I don't think you'll mind crossing this international line. My suggestion, print out the blog post so you can follow it step-by-step.

I subscribe to The News-Messenger's local news which is a handy, quick way for me to keep abreast of what's going on locally. I can easily pick and choose which articles interest me at a glance.

Until Next Time ...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Thank You, Ninja Gardener

Back in the cold wintry days of January, I fantasized about the warm, flower filled days of May. Every year I eagerly await May with all the sunshine, the budding trees, and the fresh cut grass it brings – until it gets here. Then I’m like all “atchoo,” what was I thinking?

I suffer from allergies. Each year the doctor asks me what I’m allergic to, and each year I tell him, “I don’t know – everything?” This year my big mistake came in April, on an unusually warm day when a birthday party met outdoor cookout and a high pollen count met me.

My sinus cavities swelled up, leaving my eyes like little slits – all very attractive, I can assure you. This led to a raging sinus infection, which led to three doctor visits, the last of which was caused by a mysterious, non-itching rash that we think ( I say we meaning my buddy doc and I) may have been the result of antibiotics.

This in turn led to teeth problems, because my teeth were all like – “quit worrying about your sinuses – we’re here, we promise we’ll keep you busy worrying!”

So this past Monday I had oral surgery, and at a point when I was in never never land, you know the place where all those wonderful pain meds have worn off and it’s about an hour before you can safely take the next batch,, my husband turns and says to me, “Terry, have you been pulling weeds?”

Pulling weeds, indeed!

And then, a few minutes later he says, “I think somebody planted flowers.” We both look at each other, and the same name popped out of our mouths.

A very nice somebody, whom we shall call, Ninja Gardener, had paid a discreet visit to our house while we were away and had planted three perennials and several annual flowers for my benefit.

This was made all the sweeter because Ninja Gardener had sometime ago been blown by a very harsh, cold wind into what I will describe as a deep crevice in the cliff of life. He had managed, sometimes with the aid of others, and sometimes just through his own grit and determination to finally, finally, climb his way out and stand on solid ground.

So, on a crappy day, in what was becoming a crappy month, my Ninja Gardner friend not only managed to bring beautiful sunlight into my day, he also managed to let me know that not only was he walking on solid ground, but that he found the ground to have it’s own beauty and charm. .By planting those flowers, those plants he had shared this found beauty with me.

Thank you, Ninja Gardener, I am both humbled and honored by you gift.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Desktop GenealogistCivil War Pension Index - Free! Free! Free!-

Just a quick note. I saw this reported by Kimberly Powell at her About.genealogy. She reported that you no longer have to register to have access to Family Search Labs. One of the new databases - Civil War Pension Index. I checked, the index is said to be 90% complete. Right now this is a free and open website, so go on over and check out all the lovely goodies this site has to offer. You will be pleasantly surprised!

Great heads up Kimberly!

Until Next Time!

Note: This post first appeared on Desktop Genealogist May 14, 2008.

Look What the Newspaper Fairy Left

Like an excited kid on Christmas, I wake up, rub my eyes and look to see what the Newspaper Fairy has left under the tree for me. Today, as you may know, is the BIG DAY! The new website is going LIVE!

I get online and hmm, The News-Messenger website looks the same. I click on the link to the Beta website, and yup, there’s the new version, but no NEW news as of yet.

There I am at the bottom of the page, a little smack talk beside my picture, and I think, NOW WHAT?

I believe the plan is for me to add my piece about why I love The Library of Virginia, but woman's prerogative, I’m putting this post out there first – loving LVA can wait.

As I understand it, I get to type my own posts now directly into the site. The editor, Vince, then looks it over with a “jaundiced eye” – his words, not mine. (Note, I’m not sure what a jaundiced eye is but I think it probably relates to his misspent youth, maybe some liquor, and other things too scary to contemplate.)

If it meets with Vince’s approval, he then presses a button, and presto I am posted. I bet Vince is snickering to himself and thinking, “now let’s see how little Miss Desktop likes all those links she is so fond of adding!”

The thing that has me scared silly is that anybody and everybody can have their own blogs now on the News-Messenger. I keep thinking about all those potential rebuttal blogs. You know, my husband, for example could post a blog called “Terry’s Husband Strikes Back,” or my mom could go with, “Ham This, Kiddo!”

Then there is my dad, my bosses, siblings, nephews, children, friends, strangers, and a whole slew of people who may have some unfair axe to grind with me. I tell you it gives me the shakes just thinking about it.

But the good news is that you, the reader, can have your own blog. All you need to do is create your own account (you have to create one anyway to comment), open up the blog tab, fill in a couple blanks and you too can be on your way to the fun filled world of blogging.

From what I can tell it works similar to Blogger, with of course the added difference of Vince having to press a button before it will post. (I’m sure he will look at your blog with his “good” eye – he still likes you.) Vince is an all right guy, who pretty much believes in freedom of speech, within reason. That you are reading this post is proof of that. (See Vince, I had a reason for poking you in the eye with a stick.)

If you do set up your own blog, drop me a link in the comment section, so I can come on over and leave my own little snarky comment on your blog. (Would you expect anything less from me?)

We all say we want change, but most of the time we sit around and complain about change when it happens. Here’s your chance to embrace something new – I know I am. Besides, I love the fact that Vince has posted his picture online. I needed a new center for my dartboard.

Until Next Time ….

Note: This post first appeared at Desktop Genealogist May 14, 2008

Friday, May 9, 2008

Momma's Smile

If you know my mother, then you know her smile — “the smile.” It's always there warm, welcoming ready to greet friend, family or soon to be former stranger. My siblings and I were often recipient's of “the smile.” It was a great way to grow up — with momma's smile and my dad's own brand of humor — is it any wonder there's always laughter when we all get together?

So here's to you mom, Happy Mother's Day!

Note this post first published online, May 9, 2008, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Year of the Great Bean Soup Dilemma

When you are number seven in a tribe of nine children, there are CONSEQUENCES. Consequences like big brothers who think it's funny to tell their little sister in graphic detail exactly where ham comes from - from a pig, from a pig's, well, butt to be exact. And when you are six, and a teensy bit headstrong and definitely repulsed by the image of ham coming from — well, a pig's butt, then you do what any reasonable child would do under the circumstances — you refuse to eat ham, ever. No exceptions.

Now normally, this ban on ham eating would not be a problem, unless of course, you happen to be going to a rural school in Arkansas in the late 1930's, and they happen to serve a lot of bean soup with ham for lunch. They served the soup so often that it was noticed that the little Ohio transplant wouldn't touch the stuff.

Cajoling wouldn't change her stance, nor reasoning (the beans and soup TOUCHED the ham — you just can't reason something like that away!) and finally, when all else failed, threats were made.

And not just any threats, they made the big threat — “We're going to write a note home to your mother!” And when the little girl still refused to eat the soup, the school followed through and sent a note home detailing the child's refusal to eat.

To say that her mother was unhappy about receiving the missive from school is to understate the response by a couple of miles. As my mother put it, she caught holy heck from her mother.

But even this didn't change my mother's mind on eating the soup. Finally, everybody just gave up trying to get her to eat it. Curious, I asked her, what did you eat instead? Mom said she didn't know what she ate on those days when bean soup was on the menu, but she knew what she didn't eat — bean soup with ham.

So in a little country school in Arkansas, where some of the children went to school barefoot, and where all the first-, second- and third-graders were taught in the same one-room building, my mother learned a couple of lessons.

She learned that listening to the big third graders reading out of their more advanced readers made her a better reader, which turned out to be a huge advantage when she went back to Ohio to finish her education.

She learned at the ripe old age of six, when it was important, she had the power to say no and to make the no stick.

And she learned that a person could live a full life without eating bean soup with ham.

And that my friends is the answer to the Carnival of Genealogy's question, “Mom, how'd you get so smart?”

Until Next Time!

Disclaimer: No pigs were harmed in the writing of this post. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the writer's own thoughts on the subject of pork and or ham. In fact, they no longer reflect the author's mother's feelings on the subject of pork and or ham. In do course, and as a cognizant request, please do not send any brochures from the “Council on Pork,” nor from the “Save the Pigs” foundation. Really, we are just a normal everyday family - normal, normal, normal.

Note this post first published online, May 8, 2008, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Berlin Connection

Last week I spoke about the homeland of my Great Grandparents. I spoke in generalities. Today I indulge in some specifics.

As a child, my sister and I would be play a game we made up called, “Berlin Wall.” I was eight when the wall between East and West Berlin was built. Television shows, quick to see the compelling drama that stories centered on this subject would have, proved to be ample fodder for our young minds.

It never occurred to me or my younger sister that for some of our relatives, this was not make-believe drama, bur rather a fact of every day life. At the time, we didn't know that our grandmother had aunts, uncles and cousins she had never met living in Berlin and East Germany.

In a November post, I wrote about a box that my younger sister had “inherited” that contained precious clues to our German relatives.

“The box went from my great-grandparents' house to their eldest son, William. Upon William's death, his widow, Louise, gave the box to my parents. Because the papers in the box were all in German, my parents gave the box to my sister, who had taken two years of high school German. My sister dutifully stored the box of German papers on a shelf in the closet. And there the box sat half-forgotten gathering dust.”

Among the items in the box was a letter written from Leo's sister Minna. The letter, written in 1907 has not been translated, but the address is easy to read — the letter came from Berlin. It was signed Paul und Minna, and the reason I know she was Leo's sister is because of another item that was also in the box.

Only two things in the box were place there after World War II. One was a German bible that my great grandmother Emma had carried with her every week as she walked to Sunday church service at St. Paul's in Clyde. The bible was added to the box after her death in 1952.

The other was a copy of a funeral notice for Minna von Malottki, who died May 31, 1958. Among other things we learn from the notice is that she outlived her husband by a year and a half, her survivors include a daughter Kathe Corsten and her husband Dr. Walter Corsten. Also surviving are Kathe's two children, Manfred and Wolfgang Corsten, a daughter-in-law Charlotte von Malottki and presumably Charlotte's two children, Victoria and Sylvia von Malottki. No son is mentioned, but Charlotte is listed with a maiden of Karl indicating that there was probably a son who predeceased Minna.

Part of the opening lines “unsere über alles geliebte Mutter, Schwiegermutter, Oma, Schwester und Schwägerin,“ refer to Minna as being a mother, a mother-in-law, grandmother, sister and sister-in-law . This leads to speculation that perhaps some of those siblings who remained in Germany were still alive.

Leo, my great grandfather, came to the United States in 1906. Another sister, Hulda Kollat, emigrated in 1904 along with her husband Carl and her children. Carl Kollat acted as a sponsor for Leo and Emma.

It is known that another brother, Franz, had died before my great grandfather was born, but two sisters, Ida and Emma, are unaccounted for as well as two brothers Carl and Paul. I suspect that either Ida or Emma was married to a Tuschy because in 1910 a letter arrived from Budow. The letterhead read, “Albert Tuschy, Gastwirt.” Gastwirt means innkeeper. The greeting in the letter is “Lieber Onkel und Tante!” or Dear Uncle and Aunt. I have not found any more information on Albert or the Tuschy connection to the Schröder family.

Minna's funeral notice gives the place for the burial service as the chapel at Wilmendorfer Cemetery. Wilmendorfer was in the British Sector of Berlin. It is quite likely that Minna was living in the British Sector. Of course, she died before the Berlin Wall was erected in 1961, but she would have been living in Berlin in 1948 when the Soviets decided they wanted the Allied Forces out of Berlin.

As I wrote last week, after the war, Berlin was divided into four occupied zones. The Eastern section of the city was under Soviet occupation, while the western portions of the city were under either France, American or British rule. The problem was that Berlin itself was situated in what was to become the German Democratic Republic, more commonly known as East Germany, which was entirely under the control of the Soviet Union.

The Soviets decided the best way to get rid of the Allied Forces was to impose a blockade so that no Allied trucks could go into or out of Berlin. The effect of this blockade would be to keep food and fuel getting to the American, French and British troops in Berlin. It would also keep 2 million Berliners from getting these same items.

Because Berlin's two airports were in the British and American sectors, and because in 1945 a 20-mile wide strip of free air corridor had been agreed upon by all parties INCLUDING the Soviets, the British and American forces launched the Berlin Airlift to supply the troops and the people of Berlin. It seemed at first an almost impossible task, but with ingenuity and the help of the West Berliners themselves, the operation was a success. The Airlift lasted from June 1948 until September 1949. Approximately 2.3 million tons of goods were delivered in that time.

A very interesting account of the Berlin Airlift is here Be sure to read the paragraph labeled, “OPERATION LITTLE VITTLES” which tells the story of one Air Force Pilot's efforts to go the extra mile for the children of Berlin.

Minna's funeral notice was sent to Hulda's family and someone from the family copied the notice and sent it to Leo. It is the only tangible proof we have that a member of Leo's family survived the war. The upside of being a genea-blogger is that I can put my unsolved riddles out here on the Internet. You never know — someone out there may Google the Tuschy or von Malottki name and find this post. Stranger things have happened.

Until Next Time! s

Note this post first published online, May 6, 2008, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Part II: Pomerania - War and Consequences

Note: In my previous post, I talked briefly about the County Stolp in the province of Pomerania. This is where my Germanic roots lie. Today I conclude with the end of the war and its aftermath.

The people of Pomerania knew that the Russian Army was rapidly advancing on them. Hitler had made sure that everyone heard of the horrors that had happened in Nemmendorf when the Russians had overtaken that village in the fall of 1944. Women crucified on barn doors, children murdered, old women shot as they sat in their homes. Anxiously the people of Stolp waited for the required permission to evacuate to the coast — some would be taken in ships to Mecklenburg and others to Denmark.

Finally, at the beginning of March the word came to evacuate the villages in the Southwestern point of Stolp. Budow, Muttrin and Klein Gansen were ordered to evacuate on March 6. Klein Nossin, Nippolglense, Gross Gansen and Gaffert were ordered to leave the following day. But had the evacuation orders come too late?

The Russian Army moved quickly and some of the refugees were overtaken by the army and were forced to retreat back to their homes. Others, not overtaken, found themselves behind enemy lines, making it perilous to continue. On March 8-9, the county of Stolp was the site of fierce fighting and the danger to those who journeyed to the coast was increased even more. The net effect of all this was that most of those who set out to leave were still in their villages when the Russian Army took control. Yet, some managed to make it to safety and boarded refugee ships.

An interesting collection of letters and recollections of the events of March 1945 were edited and published by Heino Kebschull in 2002. Called, “Klein Nossin, Flight and Expulsions Recollections,” and translated by Leslie and Martha Riggle, you can read a more detailed account of the experiences of those who lived in Klein Nossin during those fateful days at There are also recollections about what was to happen next.

The redrawing of borders was finalized at the Potsdam Conference in July and August of that year. Germany and Austria were divided into four occupied zones, as were their respective capital cities, Berlin and Vienna. The land that Hitler had “annexed” would no longer be a part of Germany. Russia added to its territory by taking a chunk of what had been East Prussia and by grabbing 70,000 square miles of Poland along what was known as the Curzon line.

The Poles who had lived in the area east of the line were to be expelled, but would be given land elsewhere in compensation. “Elsewhere” turned out to be German lands east of the Oder and Neisse Rivers. Two-thirds of Pomerania was east of this line. A plan of “humane” expulsion of the Hinterpommern, West Prussia, Silesia and the remaining portion of East Prussia took place between 1945 and 1949. They were joined by ethnic Germans who had lived in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia, Hungary, and Romania. Depending on whose numbers you believe, up to 12 million Germans were expelled from their homes, an estimated 10 percent died or went missing as a result of their flight from the Russians or the expulsions.

In a world weary of war, and in the wake of uncovered atrocities of the Germans, no one raised a syllable of protest when the Polish citizens were expelled from the new Russian territory, nor did they protest the followed expulsions of the Germans.

Those in the Hinterpommern were allowed to take one suitcase — sometimes not even the suitcase arrived at their new destination. And the destination — a war-ravaged Germany that had little room for them.

Karl-Heinz Pagel, in his book, “The District Stolp in Pomerania,” gives the following statistics. He reports how many wanted to live in the occupied zones controlled by the British, American and French forces. This area was commonly known as West Germany. The fourth zone was under Soviet control and was commonly called East Germany.

Budow - 310 to West Germany, 122 to East Germany, 31 killed in war, 20 civilians dead, 41 missing

Gross Gansen - 193 West Germany, 186 East Germany, 23 killed in war, 22 civilians dead, 63 missing

Klein Gansen - 244 West Germany, 98 East Germany, 21 killed in war, 26 civilians dead, 44 missing

Klein Nossin - 129 West Germany, 54 East Germany, 17 killed in war, 11 civilians dead, 41 missing

Muttin - 465 West Germany, 126 East Germany, 26 killed in war, 36 civilians dead, 75 missing

Nippoglense - 150 West Germany, 125 East Germany, 15 killed in war, 9 civilians dead, 25 missing

Gaffert - 153 West Germany, 59 East Germany, 7 killed in war, 9 civilians dead, 42 missing

The Soviet controlled German Democratic Republic or East Germany had closed borders, restricting travel between the “two” Germanys. While West Germans were permitted limited access into East Germany, most East Germans were not allowed to cross over into West Germany. In 1990, the two halves of Germany were reunited. One of the conditions of reunification was that they agreed to make permanent the Polish Border at the Oder-Neisse Line, thus officially ending any German claims to the Hinterpommern.

Should I choose to visit the former homeland of my great grandparents, the Baltic Sea would still be there, as would the deep green forests, and the gentle countryside, but the signs would not be written in the language of my ancestors, nor would the faces searched be those of any distant relative.

But as I looked for information about the village of Budow, now known as Budowo, I found a journal entry mentioning an old church there. I remembered seeing a picture someone had taken of the church on Google Earth. It was labeled, Budowo Ko_ció_ zabytkowy z XIV w, which roughly translated means “antique church in Budow.” Could it be the same church where my great-grandparents and their two oldest boys had been baptized?

Anxiously, I looked for the picture again, this time comparing it to an old picture I had found online a few years ago. It was the SAME church — it still stands, and the thought that it still stands there, surviving both time and war, seems somehow right.

Until Next Time!

Note this post first published online, May 2, 2008, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online