Friday, July 5, 2013


These are my mother's parents. Their granddaughter can be
seen in reflection, taking a picture of the pictures.
I knew I had first cousins once removed here in the United States, but I didn’t know I had second cousins in Germany. One of them, my mother and his mother were cousins, has been collecting the history of our great-grandparents family. My grandfather, my mother’s father, was the youngest of ten, so there are quite a lot of branches on the family tree. 
Knowing there was a branch of the family here because care packages were sent after World War II, our family archivist had been searching for us for years. In his travels here he’d look up the name in the various phone books, but in some places there were so many he didn’t know where to begin. Finally in 2009 he found just one name in the St. Petersburg, Florida, phone book, and she proved to be the connection he needed.  This past May I got a wonderful gift in the mail from Germany: a book about our family published by our archivist. One thing had led to another and he got my name and address from one of my cousins. I’ve kept in touch with only one or two of my many cousins – my grandparents had 35 grandchildren! – so it was a delight to see pictures of so many more of them, and sad to know that a few of them had passed away.
Our archivist had very little information about my mother’s small branch of the family, and I’ve been delighted to fill in some of the blanks and provide some family photos. I’ve even been able to make some additions and corrections here and there. My German cousin is keeping the whole history on a nicely
updateable PDF.

My Great-grandmother and Great Aunt

I have a wonderful photo, taken around 1923, of our great-grandmother, a very stern looking woman, and great aunt. I do remember Tante Fini from my childhood. I’d assumed the photo was taken in Ruhrort, the town where the family lived – and where some of them still do – but that isn’t where it is. Now the search is on to find out where that picture was taken. It is a delightful mystery.

My mother is sitting on her older sister's lap.
(I'm so glad I didn't have to iron all those clothes!)

My mother was a font of family information, and it was because of her that I knew where her father had been born. It turns out that I am the only one from the American branch of the family who has visited there. In 1996 my husband and I were traveling with our daughter-in-law who was in Europe on business. We had to get back to Belgium early that evening and had only a day to make a quick trip to Ruhrort. Once there, we went to the local police station and they were very helpful, given the language barrier. I’d brought along photos of the pictures I had from my mother, and the gentlemen there were delighted to direct us to the churches in the picture. With not much time on our hands, we strolled around town and had a wonderful lunch at the Schifferbörse, the former Marine Exchange, and had to head back to Malmedy. Had I realized I had family there I’d have made arrangements to stay a few days. I’m fairly certain that I won’t get back there, but I am having a wonderful time with all the reminiscing and recollections started by the family search. I’m reminded of the many stories my mother told us over the years, so I’m now in the process of writing down some of them for the family history.

St. Maximilianus Church in Ruhrort
where my grandfather was baptized.
This is my picture from 1996

1 comment:

  1. I think I see a resemblance between you and your mother....the eyes, perhaps??? Family stories are so interesting!