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Genealogy Hulsemann Rathkamp

Did They Come Alone?

[singlepic id=17 w=320 h=240 float=left]It’s hard to imagine the conditions our ancestors faced in Europe and even harder to imagine what finally happened in their lives to ultimately get them to commit to leaving their homes and families.  I’m sure there had to be the promise of opportunity, but this was a much heavier decision than “Applebees, Red Lobster or Olive Garden”. When they finally did make the commitment, did the whole family come? Individuals? Extended families? How did they decide who stayed? Was it a lack of funds that forced some to stay?

I’ve known for a couple years that my 2nd great grandparents, Fritz & Dora Rathkamp arrived in the US in 1868.  Tonight I finally found the passenger list. They arrived in New York on the ship New York on August 17, 1868. They, along with their daughter Johanna, were three of 637 passengers. The Statue of Liberty wouldn’t be commissioned for another 18 years.

Two years ago, I would have looked at the passenger list and only recognized them.  Today though I recognize some other names as well as some other towns near their village of Oeftinghausen in Germany.  The villages of Wesenstedt and  Schwaforden are also represented.  Other surnames include Wetenkamp, Hulsemann, Meyer, Halbemeyer, Finke and Windhorst.  Wetenkamp is a name I’ve seen repeatedly.  In fact, Christian Wetenkamp eventually married Johanna Rathkamp.  That’s a story for another post (hint: juicy story).

There are a couple things that interest me about this list.  First, the oldest traveler in their group is 35.  Second, it seems everybody on this list ended up farming in Minnesota except for Fritz Rathkamp.  He remained in Milwaukee his entire life.  My theory is that there was a lot of opportunity for a carpenter in the rapidly growing town of Milwaukee.  Was this the plan all along?  I see the attraction from both perspectives.  Fritz was trained as a carpenter in Germany, but his occupation was listed as “Heurling” or hired farm hand.  The last thing he probably wanted to do was work on another farm.  For the others, the thought of going to Minnesota and homesteading 160 acres was  probably also attractive.


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Hulsemann Rathkamp Uncategorized

When the Levee Breaks

My friend Herr Wessels from Bassum, Germany has been a great source of information over the last couple months.  He’s also taken the time to teach me a lot about the region, naming practices, and has given me a glimpse into the society my ancestors lived.[singlepic id=4 w=320 h=240 float=left]

Originally, his thought was that my GG Grandfather, Friedrich Rathkamp was born in Neubruchhausen, but after some more digging, he really hit a home run.  It turns out Friedrich’s birth name was Hinrich Friedrich Rathkamp, who was born in the very small town of Oeftinghausen, about 25 miles south of Bremen.  Herr Wessels has sent me pages of the local history book which show my ancestors have lived in this town since before 1600.

It’s pretty amazing to have this flood of information all at once, especially since I was stuck at their emigration for years.  All of a sudden I know exactly where they came from, and I also have a slew of other ancestors to process.

I took German for a couple years in high school.  It’s pretty obvious I should have paid more attention, because I have to read through his emails and documents a few times before I get a good feel for what they say.  There are a lot of documents he’s forwarded, and I’m always afraid I’ll miss an important detail.

Showing that the human element of genealogy always trumps names and dates, Herr Wessels actually met Walter Rathkamp in Oeftinghausen.  From what I can tell, Walter is my third cousin.  The picture below is taken from Walter’s front yard, and shows the Rathkamp farm and blacksmith shop.

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Genealogy Hassell Hulsemann Rathkamp

Tapping into a New Source

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been spending some time at the Golda Meir Library on the campus of The University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.  For whatever reason, the library was chosen to archive all or most of Milwaukee’s vital records.  Some of these records can be found on Ancestry.com, but are very incomplete.   From what I’ve seen, the records at UWM seem to be very comprehensive.  The collection also includes Probate records which I have never seen before.

One of the things I like is that these records are held in a corner of the library’s basement.  It’s pretty rare to even see another person and it really allows me to focus on what I’m doing.

Some of my finds include finding the middle names of my great aunt and uncle, finding and copying the death record for my Great Great Grandfather (Friedrich Rathkamp), finding the birth records for the siblings of my Great Grandfather Willliam J. Rathkamp, and finding the probate records (estate settlements) for Friedrich and Dorothea Rathkamp.

I still haven’t found the marriage record for William J. Rathkamp and his wife Olive Hassell.  Olive was born in Michigan, so I suppose it’s possible they were married there.  This is a key record for me, because I still don’t know for sure who her parents were.  William was also married earlier to Sophie Hartmann.  I know she died in 1906, but I couldn’t find her death record.

The probate records were kind of a special find to me.  Over the years, I’ve collected so much information on Fritz and Dora, but have never found anything “personal” from either of them.  There’s been nothing passed on from them to me, I have no pictures, etc.  In these records though, I got to see each of their signatures.

I’m looking forward to spending more time down there.

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Genealogy Hulsemann Rathkamp

The “Holy Grail”…at least for now

I would think that every genealogist, especially the hobbyist with emotional ties to the subject, has a “Holy Grail”- that one person or family who eludes and consumes them.  It’s only fitting then that my first post touches this subject.

A little history first…

I first became interested in genealogy at about 12 or 13 years old.  I also remember being fascinated with the “Old Milwaukee” display at the Milwaukee Public Museum, an exhibit still on display.  An uncle of mine, George Niesl, is a genealogy buff who has and continues to inspire me.  My first solo excursion included a bus ride from the Milwaukee suburbs to the Central Library on Wisconsin Avenue.

There, I started reading through the old Milwaukee City Directory, starting with my “Grandpa Bill” Rathkamp, working my way back in time.  For a variety of reasons, the Rathkamps have not passed family history down from one generation to the next.  Reading these names for the first time, establishing a line from my grandfather to his father, then finally to my great-great grandfather, Friedrich, gave me a huge thrill.  Even reading the advertisements in the directories made the experience a little like being in a time machine.

For whatever reason though, I never wrote down any of the information I read, and soon my genealogy went on hold.  My quest resumed a couple years ago.  This time I started documenting my findings.

Here’s where we start getting into my “Holy Grail”.  There were 4 or 5 different Rathkamp families who emigrated to the US. My family arrived in Milwaukee in 1868. Other Rathkamps settled in New York, Cincinnati, Texas and Iowa. Until last week, I could never trace the origin in Germany of my Rathkamp family.  Over time, thanks to thousands of different internet searches, I started to develop an idea of the general area they could have come from.

In all of the documents that I read, Friedrich Rathkamp only listed as his place of origin as “Hanover”.  Initially, I thought he was from the city of Hanover.  Noting though that a lot of the other Rathkamps who came to the United States came from what is now the county of Diepholz, I began to wonder.  There was also another family tree flying around the internet stating that Friedrich’s wife, Dorothea Hulsemann came from Albringhausen, a small village in near Bassum.

Three weeks ago on a hunch, I sent an email to the Lutheran Church in Bassum asking them if there was a chance they may have any records for either Friedrich or Dorothea.  For two weeks I didn’t hear anything and thought…oh well.  Then the day after Christmas, I received and emailstiftskircheinnenum19001 with the following:

“Ich habe Dorothee Hülsemann gefunden.

Dorothee Hülsemann

geboren am 31.5.1838 in Albringhausen,
getauft am 7.6.1838. Taufpatin in der Stiffts-Kirche zu Bassum war die Schwester des Vaters, Beke Dorothee Hülsemann.”

Bingo!!!

Additionally, the sender told me my great great grandfather was from a neighboring community, Neubruchhausen, and gave me contact information for that church as well.

The mystery has been solved, and now I’m on to others.  As it turns out, my contact from the church in Neubruchhausen also has Rathkamps in HIS family tree.  That most likely makes us distant cousins. It’s going to be interesting to see much much information will be gleaned from my new friends (and possibly relatives) from these churches in Germany.