Tag Archives: Pomerania

How’s your German? Or Polish? Or Kashubian?


I am trying to figure out just what the heck this document is and translating the information therein, which I am assuming is German. But who knows! Is it Polish? Or Kashubian, a Slavic language spoken and written by few? Do you know? I’d love to hear from you.

A distant cousin who lives in Switzerland posted it to a forum on Yahoo! Groups related to genealogy in a region of Europe known as Pomerania.

It is apparently about my great-great grandmother, Caroline Radde. (The file is named Caroline.R.) But I am having a heck of a time deciphering it.

If you can help, please don’t hesitate contacting me by commenting on this post or writing to me directly via email, hillaj@outlook.com. And thanks in advance for any assistance!



His complete name is Gotthilf David Siegfried Lentz.

Recently I visited a friend, a retired Methodist minister, who has been visiting her daughter in Seattle.

For years she lived and worked in Seattle. The family is from Vermont, and she spent much of her youth in Switzerland, where her father was stationed with the State Department, I think.

While we talking one evening, she mentioned my tweet. She was curious about the name. We figured out the God part, but didn’t get farther than that. So later I decided to use the Google, specifically Google Translate, and after learning the meaning of his name, I sent off a note to her.

Just learned that Gotthilf is ‘God’s help’ in English.”

And she promptly replied, after her return home to Portland via the Bolt Bus.

“That is fantastic…nice name.”

Get thyself on Twitter, Hager-Smith! And then ye may tweet me directly.¹


1. She is, or was, on Twitter, but hasn’t updated her account since 2014.

Ludwig of Gröbenzien


I’m so glad I’ve finally found a record of my great-great grandfather, Ludwig Lentz of Gröbenzien. Gröbenzien was a village in Germany, near the Polish border.

The images are from the Borntuchen church book, known in German as Kirchenbuch. This is the first time I’ve found Ludwig in any historical records. And there’s another unknown, his son Eduard. Most other surviving records from this branch of the family are in other church books.

I’ve included links to the image files of the complete record and the key at the top of the page.



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.


Fantastic! Discovering details on my great-great grandmother.


I wasn’t sure I’d ever find more information than what had been collected before me.

I began asking questions and taking notes on the family history in 1989, my first year of high school.

But the only info my mother had on her father’s grandparents were their names, and one was misspelled.

My maternal grandmother had them recorded as Carl Fromke and Caroline Rabe. Later, I learned that Rabe was incorrect. Her maiden name was Radde.

And now I know when she was born and when she died.


Name: Caroline Fromke
Maiden Name: Radde
Death Age: 49
Event Type: Sterbefall (Death)
Birth Date: 22 Januar 1830
[abt 1830]
Death Date: 27 Jul 1879
Death Place: Borntuchen, Preußen (Germany)
[Polen (Poland)]
Civil Registration Office: Borntuchen, Krs Bütow
Father: Michael Radde
Mother: Eva Radde
Certificate Number: 22

Fromke Family Origins

Years ago I came across some information on the surname Fromke. I had lost my notes if I made any at the time and had a hard time finding the material again, until 2006. I wrote about it back then, thankfully links included, in a message to the Fromke mailing list at RootsWeb.

The name Fromke is recorded on lists of residents and tax surveys in Pomerania in the 17th century. The oldest known document is from the year 1666, the year of the Great Fire of London. The possible variants Fromike and Frömike are listed as well.

Fromike: vor 1666; Frömike: vor 1666; Fromke: 166

In 1966, the lists were published in book form by the Historical Commission for Pomerania, which had been preceded by the Society of Pomeranian History and Classical Studies. The society’s benefactor was King Frederick William IV, then the Prussian Crown Prince.

The society began with the systematic study of the history and archaeology of Pomerania and these two directions dominated through its 120-year existence.

This interest in history led to the creation of the historical commission.

In 2005 I wrote to a relative about the family and what I had found.

I have sent email messages to Fromke “cousins” in Germany. Although I have received friendly replies, I’ve never received any genealogical or historical information. Recently I discovered a sister city partnership between Winona, Minnesota and Bytow, Poland, which is where Albert and Augusta were married. I have also often browsed the web for information on these places. . . .

Borntuchen is now Borzytuchom, Poland and Grabenzien (or Grobenzin) is now Rabacino, Poland. These little villages are not far from Bytow. Bytow is home to a Teutonic knight castle, designed by the same architect who built the more famous one at Malbork. This area, known to history as Pomerania, was on the German frontier and had been shifted between Poland and Prussia
for centuries. I’m not sure when the Fromkes moved there or from where. The first reference in surviving documents to the name and spelling Fromke is in 1666.

At the time I still hadn’t asked my uncle if he’d submit his DNA for testing, so I didn’t know that the Fromke male line was among the R1a1 haplogroup, indicating a high probability of Viking ancestry.

Since then, I am of the opinion, based on the genetics and the genealogy, that the Fromke family had been in Pomerania for some time. From the historical evidence, we know that they’ve been in the region for more than 350 years. The genetics provides some evidence that the male line goes back to Viking activity in some earlier age, perhaps originating in Sweden, which dominated portions of Pomerania for long periods.

Previously I’d found some background on how the name came to be.

In Lower Germany in old documents Vrome, Vromeke is translated as “a competent or valiant person” and honorable, trustworthy man. The root of this name is Fromm or Fromme. In Middle High German it developed into Frommel and in lower German became Frommke and Fröhmke. Another patronymic variation in Lower German is Frömming. In Middle High German it expanded to “vrumman”: which is Frommann or “honorable man, steadfast man”.

The ending on the name, the k and e, is of note. There are competing theories.

The ending “-ke” is typical of many surnames in German regions east of the river Elbe. Some say it has no meaning; others say, it’s origin might come from changing the Slavic ending “-kow” (pronounced “koh”) to a more German sounding ending “-ke”.

One newsletter argues that it may have a Saxon origin.1

Recent surveys have shown that the -ke German name endings, like in Radtke, far outnumber other German name endings like -ow and -itz. This is not surprising since the -ke name ending is an ancient name ending used by the Saxons from North Germany, around the Hamburg and Bremen area. As these Plattdeutsch speaking Germans moved east through Mecklenburg, Pomerania, and East Prussia, they took their names with them. Since the Baltic Sea area of Pomerania was heavily settled by Saxons, the -ke ending was common in that area. As the Pomeranians later settled in Wisconsin and other states, these states also have many German names ending in -ke.”


1. From the December 1994 issue of Pommerscher Verein Freistadt
, a newsletter published by the Pommerscher Verein Freistadt, P.O. Box 204, Germantown, WI 53022.

Western Pomerania

Yesterday I discovered a site dedicated to promoting Berlin to visitors. Included was an article on western Pomerania, the only part of that region still within Germany.

For hundreds of years, thousands of Germans would descend on the area for summer vacation. With its beautiful Baltic beaches and small forested lakes, it was popular to beat the heat and humidity of continental Europe by visiting Pomerania.


Kristallnacht in Bütow

Front page of The New York Times on November 11, 1938
Front page of The New York Times on November 11, 1938

In November of 1938, Nazis tried destroying the Jewish cemetery in Bütow (Bytów), the town where my great grandparents were married. It’s known as the Night of Broken Glass, or Kristallnacht. Recently, during restoration work in Bytów, matzevot (the Hebrew word for monument, but often translated as gravestone) lost during the violence and destruction of Kristallnacht have been rediscovered.

After seventy-three years, matzevot from the Jewish cemetery in Bytów, liquidated in 1938 by Nazi authorities, have been found. The fragments of Jewish tombstones had been placed under Bernarda Wery Street to fortify the road. The restored matzevot trace back to the 18th and 19th centuries and will be displayed at a special exhibition at the Muzeum Zachodniokaszubskie museum, which will present a history of the Bytów Jewish community. Museum workers hope that other matzevot and more remnants of the existence of Bytów Jews, who formed a big integrated community and made ca. 10 percent of the 19th-century Bytow population, are yet to be discovered.

Today, there is a playground at the site of the former Jewish cemetery in Bytow. Unfortunately, there is no information about the fact that it had been a Jewish cemetery prior to 1938.