Tag Archives: Family History

Fascinating stuff! Long-lost siblings of my great grandpa — in Germany.


Great grandpa Albert had a sister I didn’t know about. Her name was Friederike Caroline Auguste Fromke. In English this translates as Fredericka. She was born on February 4, 1859. She married a man named Friedrich Johann Ferdinand Kowalke on April 11, 1882 in a place called Borntuchen in Germany. I haven’t been able to track down what happened to them.



Einwohner? Notes on German society in 1883, using my great grandpa as a case study.


Hmm. The only record that I’ve found of my great grandfather in Germany, which is a compliation of many sources I believe, lists his occupation in 1883. The German word is Einwohner.

Upon reading the word, I immediately began probling the tubes that make up the Internet to translate it, using everything from Google Translate to a hashtag on Twitter.

Not satisfied, I tried a mailing list on genealogy, geographic-specific, hosted by Yahoo and recvieved this wonderfully descriptive answer from Piotr Mankowski, resident of Nowogard, Poland, which was Naugard, Germany until World War II.

“Einwohner was a status and meant a person who rented or leased a flat or house in the village or town. In some cases, the person had to pay for the roof over his head by, for example, working for a day for the owner, especially if residing in the farmer’s house.”

Heniz Radde, who was born in a place called Gross Tuchen, which isn’t far from where my ancestors lived, and now lives in Switzerland, wrote a concise explanation.

“Today Einwohner means inhabitant and nothing else. But in the past, the word was in use for day laborer and very small farmer as well. Sometimes it was written Einlieger for the same.”


The Missing Fromke Brothers | Friedrich Wilhelm, Carl August & Emil Gustav

In my pursuit of learning more about the family history, I discovered the names of three siblings — three brothers — of my great grandfather, a farmer born in Prussia who settled in South Dakota named Albert Fromke, which for some reason had been lost and not been passed down.

On this chart, Albert continues to be listed as the first born, a detail which I’ve always ignored for some reason.

The second born, another male, is new to me. His name was Friedrich Wilhelm Fromke. He was born in 1861 Borntuchen, Kreis Bütow, Pommern, Prussia. He died two years later, in 1863.

The next child unknown to me was Carl August Fromke, born in 1866 in Borntuchen. That’s all the information recorded.

The last brother, new to me, was Emil Gustav Fromke, born in Borntuchen in 1875.

Oddly, another brother who also immigrated to America, August Ludwig Fromke, isn’t included on this family tree. He was born on 1873 and died in South Dakota in 1909. He relocated to California for a while, but did not like life there and returned to South Dakota.


Lightning has been an occasional recurring theme in the family tree


I have been tying branches of my grandmother’s family together and in so doing came upon this account of lightning striking a house.

The house of Rev. Israel Hay, on Mechanic street, Fredericksburg, on Sunday afternoon was struck by lightning. The bolt struck the east gable end and for some distance tore up the ——–, and then descended down to the kitchen, playing sad havoc with the glass and chinaware.”

Israel, perhaps the son of David Hay and Nancy Miller, was pastor at the Church of God in Fredericksburg in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania.

Lightning has been a recurring occasional theme in the family tree. One of my ancestors was struck by it, making for a brief peculiar historical highlight.


A Life of Purpose

Everyone should learn about their ancestors. Start asking questions.
Everyone should learn about their ancestors. Start asking questions.

I think there is more to life than this. But it’s a good place to start.

Remembering those who came before us is important, particularly in this age of constant distraction.

I don’t understand those who overlook history. I never have. The past makes up who we are today.

Of course, it takes a certain amount of devotion and perseverance. But, in the end, learning about the people in your family tee and their lives is well worth the effort. So often genealogists compile a list of names and dates and places, neglecting to discover the essence of the people and their times.

What major events did they witness? How did these moments in history affect their lives? What was life like for them?

That’s what I want to learn. I want to get to know them. I want to retell these stories, to record these men and women for posterity. What can we learn from them?

Go ahead. Start asking questions of the older generations. Plunge into it, before they are gone forever, and the stories with them.


Grandma Conner, Pocket Watches, Baseball & Rattlesnakes

One night when I was visiting family in Oregon my parents, older brother and uncle who was visiting from New Hampshire went out to dinner at Marco Polo, a place with very good food. I had the teriyaki chicken, which was delicious.

We got to talking about the family, the rattlesnakes on the old family farm and how a lot of the Hill boys — my grandfather and his brothers — played baseball, on church and competitive teams in Iowa and South Dakota.

The museum in Maxwell apparently houses at least some photos of the family. One is of my great uncle Clark Hill, a World War II vet who served with Patton I think, dressed in his baseball uniform. I am sure there’s a lot of gems in this place. I have never been inside. The last time I was in Iowa I think the place was closed. It has very limited hours. I think it is only open one day a week.

During this same visit to Iowa I met my grandfather’s older sister, Grace Weeks. She guided us to the old family farm near East Peru. The site is now a wildlife preserve.

I have been trying to find it using Google Maps and satellite photos to no avail. No one could remember precisely where it is. Thankfully my dad think cousin Maurice, son of Max and Evelyn, probably knows where it is located.

Grandma Conner had such poor eyesight that one cold morning after opening the front door she noticed something laying on the front porch. Thinking it was a broom, she bent down and picked it up, soon learning that it was no broom handle.

A rattlesnake had crept up the front steps to lay in the sun, trying to get warm. I’m sure this gave her quite a shock. No reports on what happened next, whether or not it sank its nasty little fangs into her. I am guessing somehow Grandma Conner avoided this.

I recall my great aunt, Grace Weeks, telling about how once someone overturned a mattress that had been sitting outside, discovering a group of snakes underneath.

Then I changed the subject. I brought up the pocketwatch my uncle has.

“Are there any photos of it?”

Sadly there aren’t. I’ve always wanted to take a look at it.

George Hay, my great grandfather, was the original owner. Given that my uncle has George for a middle name, it was given to him upon my great grandmother’s death. It is gold-colored, but I am not sure if it is actually gold-plated.

Then, my uncle said there was another family pocketwatch, another heirloom, one that’d I’d never heard mentioned before.

From what I can remember of the conversation, Grandpa Darling, George’s father-in-law, had a silver pocketwatch. Wayne Rasmussen who was christened with his name, Jerome, for his middle name, like my uncle and the name George, has it. He lived in New Jersey for years and now lives in North Carolina.

Once when my uncle visited Wayne he brought the watch along and the two heirlooms sat briefly side-by-side. Neither have any children so what will happen to the two pocketwatches is anyone’s guess. I am hoping the duo remain within the family.


The Elusive Mr. Hill

Hugh Hill Tidd (1813-1878) Was he named after his grandfather?
Hugh Hill Tidd (1813-1878) Was he named after his grandfather?

For years, ever since becoming interested in genealogy in 1989 and discovering I was descended from a man named James Hill, I have been hunting for his father.

Sure, I have been looking for his mother, too, but somehow I thought searching for the dad would be easier. Well, it hasn’t been. Neither of them have been easy to find.

I thought I had something when I read that Mrs. Hill, mother of James, had died in 1825 or 1826 in Ohio and was buried on the family farm.1 But there’s only one source for that, the book The History of Hardin County, Ohio, and there is contradictory information throughout it, so nailing down the facts hasn’t been simple. It may be true, but there isn’t another source confirming the story, at least I haven’t found one yet, and she is not named, further complicating matters.

Today I was poking around on a family tree database called WorldConnect. I came upon a theory that James’ sister, named either Rebecca or Barbara Hill, used her father’s name for one of her sons.1 She had married Samuel Tidd, a brother of Sarah (who went by Sallie) and son of Martin Tidd. Sarah had married James Hill.

Samuel Tidd’s son was named Hugh Hill Tidd. And researcher Darren Bagley thinks this may very well be the name of their father: Hugh Hill.

So I will have to see what I can find to prove or disprove this.


1. The site where an online version of the book was available for many years for free has changed to a subscription site, and I haven’t found the actual text anywhere yet, which I wanted to include here.

2. The name of James Hill’s sister has been convoluted by the book The History of Hardin County, Ohio, which has her as both Rebecca and Barbara. Thankfully her gravestone still exists, and it clearly has the name Rebecca on it. Where the name Barbara originated is unknown, although it is likely just a mistake by the gentlemen who compiled the Hardin County book.

From the Ashes


Years back, while working to find the parents of my ancestor Morgan Reynolds, I came across the name John Walker. He was listed simply as a relative, nothing more. I found this reference at FamilySearch.org.

Then I discovered his parents were Daniel Reynolds and Olive Walker. Eventually this led me to a long-established family in Rhode Island, the Walkers. In fact, one of the oldest buildings in that state is a house built by Olive’s ancestor Philip Walker, son of a woman only known as the Widow Walker.

The Walkers were from Weymouth, Dorset, in southwest England. Philip, about age 15, and his mother arrived in Plymouth Colony, perhaps in 1636 or 1640. They were part of a church group from Weymouth led by Rev. Samuel Newman.

The house, commonly known as the Philip Walker House, was burned to the ground during King Philip’s War in 1676, before rebuilding began shortly thereafter, recycling what could be salvaged, which included using the same foundation. The war was named after Metacomet, a chief of the Wampanoag people dubbed ‘King Philip’ by the Brits.

The original house was built in the early settlement of Rehoboth, the original name of East Providence, in 1643. Some of the charred timbers are still in the walls of the present kitchen. It is located at 432 Massasoit Avenue in East Providence.

Philip was a deacon in the Congregational Church and an amateur poet. He was one of the wealthiest men in Rehoboth. Walker’s house was unfinished at the time of his death in 1679, but completed by his heirs.

Descendants of the Walker family gave the house to the group Preserve Rhode Island. Most of the antiques were auctioned, but the East Providence Historical Society did acquire some, which are currently on display in the Philip Walker Room of the Hunt House Museum.

Students with the Historic Preservation Program at Roger Williams University, in cooperation with Preserve Rhode Island, have been working on aspects of the house, including restoration of the horsehair plaster. In 1991, students in a group project as a part of one of Philip Marshall’s classes compiled a documentation report of the house for the Heritage Trust of Rhode Island, predecessor of Preserve Rhode Island, and, in 2004, an expert in historic plaster led a Horsehair Plaster Conservation Workshop at the house.

An 1861 book on the Walker family, Memorial of the Walkers of the Old Plymouth Colony, is available at many sites online, including Ancestry and Google Books. It has been reprinted multiple times by various companies, and is available on microfiche. A short biography, with extensive research notes, on ‘Deacon’ Philip Walker is posted as part of the Plymouth Colony Archive Project at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Olive Walker is the namesake of her granddaughter Olive Jane Reynolds, who married George Martin Hill.