Surname Saturday :: Schulte & the Mystery of Wally

03Apr10

Many times I’ve started to post about the amazing and huge strides I’ve made in my research these last couple months…but life gets in the way.  So I suppose a Surname Saturday post about my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Schulte (who I’ve mentioned here before) would be the easiest way to squeeze all that in.

In short, I’ve found family.  Lots of family.  Family that has sprung up from little buds on my tree into huge branches (just in time for Spring!).  My first breakthrough came a few months back.  My grandfather Ben had two TRUE siblings, Frank and Walter Kramer, and from what I knew when I started, they both lived in Chicago.  Dad remembered that somehow they were involved with grocery stores so I began to look there.  I found the Kramer Foods store, still located in Chicago (or rather, the suburb of Hinsdale) and contacted the current owners.  I think I’ve mentioned it before but that gave me a lead on Frank’s daughters.  I’ve spoken to some family of Wally’s before but both his children were adopted and have now passed on so that lead was all but dead.  It seemed that locating Frank’s daughters would be my best bet.  Seeing as how the girls would surely be around my dad’s age, I figured it was pointless to search for them as I didn’t have the married names I thought they should have.  Just goes to show that making assumptions in genealogy just about the easiest way to create a brick wall for yourself — I found both girls and with their Kramer names intact!  After three days of searching the deep web, so to speak, I locating one of Frank’s daughters and her insight was amazing!  She knew very little about Ben but was able to tell me tons of information about Ben’s family and their lives as youngsters.  It was amazing to find this woman — after 6 years of diligent daily searching I had found REAL family!  My dad was beyond excited, something that never happens when it comes to my genealogy work.  He had a cousin and she was great.  They spoke on the phone and I’m so glad that through this research I was able to make that happen.  We’re hoping to visit her soon and my dad can’t wait to get headed out on that trip…

Still though, there were so many questions still unanswered.  Not just that but Frank’s daughter opened other questions — I had always been stumped by my great-grandpa’s second immigration record.  This record states that he left the US, returned in just a few months, and with him was his wife Elisabeth and a son, Walter.  Except Walter was already two years old.  How had my grandfather, Bernhard, fathered a child in Germany when he was residing in Codington, South Dakota?  It turns out that Bernhard wasn’t actually Frank’s dad, something that was never mentioned to me by Wally’s family and something I still don’t think they know.  Here’s what I now know:  Elisabeth was born 8 Aug 1890 in Wellingholzhausen, Germany.  When she was a teenager, about 18 years or so, she was working as a housemaid for a wealthy family in the area.  There was a romance between she and one of the son’s of this wealthy family and she became pregnant.  In the early 1900s this was apparently not the best way to get in the good graces of the family and townspeople — proving that I could not have lived in that time 🙂 — and she was disowned by her own family and her employers.  Wally’s father’s name is not known.  SOMEHOW, Elisabeth and Bernhard came together and he left America in 1912 to return to his homeland with a new child he’d agreed to raise as his own and a new wife that had been shunned by her community.  The most odd thing about all this is that Bernhard and Elisabeth were from two completely different communities that sat hundreds of miles apart.  How had they been hooked up?  Had someone written Bernhard here and asked for his help?  Were they ever legally married?

I’ve since been in contact with a distant cousin in Germany who is absolutely amazing.  She has searched the archives and provided me with tons of information that I never would have been able to get on my own regarding Elisabeth’s family.  Elisabeth’s mother’s name was Catherina Elisabeth Raude and her father Frederich Schulte.  For quite some time the family has lived in the area of Wellingholzhausen and there’s still family there today in the small community of Borgloh.  This is the sort of genealogy find that makes me giddy!

Unfortunately, there is no record within the churches of the area for the birth of my great-uncle Wally.  There is a record for an unmarried Schulte but the dates and name don’t match so I’m out of luck.  But that doesn’t mean there isn’t more to the story or that someday I’ll figure it all out.

**

A while back I was bothering my dad with yet more questions I knew he couldn’t answer about his family and a simple correction he made of my assumptions opened a HUGE door.  In the mid-1920s my great-grandmother Elisabeth divorced and remarried.  The man she married, Fred Wonderlin, had a son Henry.  Henry was, in my mind, Ben’s step-brother and it never occurred to me to look at it any other way.  He jumped in and declared that Ben NEVER called Henry his step-brother and only ever referred to him as ‘brother’.  I decided that tracking down the family of a man who I didn’t consider really related might help me.  I spent countless days searching for the family of Henry until there was a breakthrough.  A search of the Chicago Tribune historical archives by a kind soul on the Ancestry message boards led me to one of Henry’s children.  I tracked her for days before locating her and she was so incredibly pleasant.  It seems that her Wonderlin family knows more about my Kramer family than we do!  Henry and Ben were indeed close and she was able to fill in many blanks, especially concerning Ben’s first son, my dad’s half-brother he never knew, Robert.

And now, after 6 long, hard years of searching I have pictures to put to names.  I started this journey with scant speculation — my great-grandparents were German and they lived in Chicago.  My great-grandfather was a butcher at the stockyards.  That’s all I knew — not a name, not a birthdate.  Now there are family photos and family stories, things I would have never known had I not decided to obsess over something that just didn’t seem to want to be figured out.  I have found family, both American and German.  I’ve still got many mysteries to solve — Wally’s real father, Bernhard’s death, Ben’s war service and that of his brothers — but this means so much.  My dad knows what his grandmother looked like and I feel like I know her now…

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