Categories
Milwaukee Rathkamp

Rathkamp Brothers Dominate Samson

For as long as I can remember, family get-togethers on the Rathkamp side of my family have been gut-busting experiences.  Every time we get together, somebody reminds me of the time one of the dogs crapped on my brand new white tennis shoes.  My dad, Bill, and my Uncle Dave are both really funny guys on their own, but together it’s almost like being on the set with Abbott & Costello.  Easters in our family are spent at my cousin Tim and his wife Gloria’s house.  This past Easter Bill & Dave were in a story telling mood and held court for us.

I think the best story is the last audio clip, where they reminisce about their hooliganism at the Washington Park Zoo in Milwaukee.  For a little background, Samson was a Lowland Gorilla who came to the Milwaukee Zoo, then in Washington Park, in 1950.  Every kindergartener in Milwaukee from the 1950’s until 1981 when Samson died took field trips to the zoo.  The only thing we wanted to see though was Samson.  At his peak weight Samson tipped the scales at 652lbs.  He was both feared and loved so hearing this story was akin to hearing that your dad and uncle once had a squirt gun fight with General George Patton.

Beatniks

Coal or Ice

Crankbusters

Bob and Bummy’s Piggybank

Zoro

The Rathkamp Hooligans Meet Samson

Categories
Milwaukee Rathkamp

Circuses and Beer Wagons

I found this gem last night searching through the Google News Archives.  The “young lad” is my grandfather, my dad’s dad.  The article is from June 15, 1915.  While it states my grandfather’s age is 10, he was actually soon to turn 6.


You can almost imagine Dr. Farrell telling his parents, “Ahhh, just rub some dirt on his face and give the lad a beer!  And while you’re at it, get ‘im a haircut.  He looks like a damn girl!”

Categories
Hassell Milwaukee Rathkamp Uncategorized

Willy & Olive, What’s Your Story?

You have not been telling the truth and I’m calling you out.  You’ve also been holding out on me, and I want information.  Now.

My last post about Esther Rathkamp got me thinking about all the discrepancies and mysteries surrounding her parents William & Olive Rathkamp, my great grandparents.  Genealogists are used to dealing with inconsistencies, usually attributed to misspellings of surnames.  But Willy & Olive are off the charts.

How and why did Olive move from Iron Mountain, Michigan/ Florence, Wisconsin to Milwaukee?  At some point, her sister Albina also moved to Milwaukee, marrying Albert Klatt.

Where and when did they get married? Willy’s first wife, Sophie, died in early 1906.  Willy & Olives first daughter, Esther was born March 12, 1908, this leaves a window of about 18 months for them to get married, provided they were married before conception.  I’ve searched online records from Wisconsin and Michigan, and visited the Milwaukee County Courthouse and have found nothing.

My grandfather’s birth certificate. William Rathkamp, my grandfather, was born in 1909.  His last name is shown as “Redcamp”.  There are all kinds of cases where surnames are incorrectly documented (phonetically), usually because the person verbally giving the last name is a recent immigrant.  Neither Willy or Olive was a recent immigrant and it’s doubtful either had an accent.  Willy was born in Milwaukee in 1878 and Olive more than likely was born in Sweden around 1886, and moved to Michigan when she was a baby.  Even if they did speak with an accent, you’d think the person filling out the birth certificate would ask for the correct spelling of the last name.  1909 is well before WWI when many Germans anglicized their last names.  In 1973, my grandfather had this “mistake” corrected.

Olive’s last name is also misspelled as “Hessell” instead of Hassell.

1910 US Census. Olive states her place of birth is Michigan, and that the birthplace of her parents is Norway.  I believe her place of birth is Sweden, and I’m 99.999% sure her parents were also born in Sweden.

1930 US Census. William states that his parents were born in Hamburg, Germany.  They were actually born south of Bremen, in what was then Hanover.

William’s WWI Registration Card states that he is paralyzed on his left side.

Olive died in 1926 at the age of 40, leaving 3 kids, including 10 year old Ann to her husband to care for.  Family lore has it that she was a member of the Church of Christ, Scientist who eschewed medical care which ultimately led to her death at a young age.  How and why would she have gravitated to such a radical religion?

William died in 1930 at the age of 53, leaving 3 kids, including a 14 year old Ann orphans.  William’s death will be the topic for a future post.

No pictures. Of of my 8 great grandparents, William and Olive are the only ones for whom I have no pictures.

Categories
Genealogy Hassell Rathkamp

Esther Just Before Easter

Last week, my cousin Paul asked via FaceBook if I’ve dug up any “Dead Rathkamps” lately.  The answer was a simple “no”.  I’ve been so busy with other stuff that I haven’t really been working on any genealogy projects lately.  One of my favorite nightly rituals is to log on to Google Reader and peruse a bunch of articles.  Most of the feeds I subscribe to are either Tech feeds, genealogy, or history.  Randy Seaver has an excellent blog whose articles occasionally catch my attention.  In this particular post, Randy mentioned the addition of several Wisconsin probate and death records to FamilySearch.

I followed the link to FamilySearch and plugged in the name Rathkamp.  I’ve been doing this for so many years that it’s pretty rare for me to see a name I’ve never seen before. Tonight was an exception. Right there, front and center was Esther Rathkamp.  I read down a little and noticed her parents were Wm. Rathkamp and Olive Hessel.  These are my great grandparents!

Genealogy can be a real SOB.  You run around (hopefully with some direction) trying to either solve problems or look for clues.  My experience has been that often times, you end up solving one problem, and in the process create 5 more unanswered questions.  Case in point:

Problem solved:  This find acknowledges and confirms the 1910 US Census where Olive states she has given birth to two children, one living.

Problems created:

  • Why is Olive’s name spelled “Hessel” instead of Hassell or Hassel?
  • Why does it show “Mother’s place of birth” as Germany?  She was (I am almost certain) born in Sweden.
  • Are Wm. and Olive married at this point?  I have NOT been able to find a marriage record for them.  Wm.’s first wife, Sophie Hartmann, died 11 Jan., 1906.  That’s a small, but not impossible window.
  • Esther died on 15 July, 1909.  My grandfather, also William, was born 10 days later.  I can’t imagine a mother taking that kind of pain into childbirth.

Categories
Brockhaus Niesl Rathkamp Waege Wesenberg

What Do You Think the Poor People are Doing Tonight?

Last night, my wife made her soon-to-be-famous Breakfast Cookies- a hearty cookie which includes whole wheat flour, rolled oats, milled flax seed, pecans, applesauce, and about 47 other ingredients which elude me.  She’s scoured the internet and has combined some ingredients from this recipe with some ingredients from that recipe.  This is the third or fourth time she’s made them and each time they seem to get better and better.  After she finished baking last night, she commented that she thought she had finally gotten the recipe “dialed in” and proceeded to write it down.

While she tends to prefer the consistency of a proven recipe, I prefer to develop my recipes by feel.  Lately, I’ve been concentrating on trying to emulate some of the principles that guided my grandparents and other ancestors, namely that expensive ingredients do not necessarily equate to good food and that inexpensive ingredients can often equate to excellent food.  I’m starting to feel pretty confident about being able to make really good bread, pasta/ noodles/ dumplings, Swedish Pancakes, soups, pesto, and lately home-made pita bread or naan.  All of these are very inexpensive to make.  This fall I really want to start making sausage.

[singlepic id=48 w=300 h=220 float=right]There are several dishes that my grandparents on both sides were famous for and many of these recipes, I’m sure, were passed down from generation to generation.  On my mom’s side, my Grandma Emma was known for being an exceptional cook.  She had the ability, imagination, and patience to be able to turn an inexpensive piece of shoe leather into an incredible roast.  Some of her recipes, Sauerbraten and Knoedl for example, were “influenced” by her Bavarian husband, my Grandpa Dodge and his family.  Knoedl are dumplings made from the stale bread my grandmother collected during the week.  Nothing went to waste.

[singlepic id=49 w=300 h=220 float=left]On my dad’s side of the family, my Granny Pat and Aunt Grace often made Potato Dumplings.  While this may not sound exciting, just the mention of Granny Pat making Potato Dumplings would send my cousins and me into a lather.  This dish consisted of dumplings made from finely grated potatoes, eggs, and flour which were boiled, drained and then covered with a broth made with sliced onions, bacon, and bacon grease.  My arteries are hardening as I type this.  My Uncle Bob Rathkamp used to say that the best thing to use to squeeze the water out of the grated potatoes was an old t-shirt.  I have no doubt this recipe is Pommeranian, and was most likely a recipe brought over by my Waege, Brockhaus, or Wesenberg ancestors.

Good food, eaten with people you love, has the ability to bring people even closer.  My Grandma Emma and Grandpa Dodge did not come from wealthy families, quite the contrary.  But her culinary abilities made us feel like we were eating like kings.  Always and without fail, my Grandpa Dodge would end a special meal by pushing his plate away, and with a giant grin on his face say, “What do you think the poor people are doing tonight?”

Categories
Rathkamp

Öftinghausen, Please Phone Home!

Over the last week or so, I’ve noticed somebody from Germany using the following search string to find my site: familie rathkamp, Öftinghausen. If you are a relative, please contact me at toddrathkamp@gmail.com

We’d love to visit with you during our trip on August!

Categories
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.


View Ancestral Home in a larger map

Categories
Genealogy Milwaukee Rathkamp

Fun With Google Maps, Part 1

When people visit downtown Milwaukee, a lot of them comment on how many old buildings they see.  Actually, what they see is a fraction of what once was.  Milwaukee has managed to replace its history with parking structures, sports venues, and bland concrete buildings.  I still love my home town, but the remaining buildings only give you a slight feel for what it must have been like in the late 1800’s.

I’ve often tried to imagine what it was really like.  There are some photo collections on the websites of the Milwaukee Public Library and the UWM Library.  There are literally thousands of pictures to look at, but for this post I was only interested in pictures from the 2nd ward, specifically within a 2 or 3 block radius from where my 2nd great grandparents Fritz & Dora Rathkamp lived.  The thing that really caught me off guard were the pictures of the Exposition Building which was built in 1881 and destroyed by fire in 1905.  I had no idea this building was part of Milwaukee’s past.

Shown below is an embedded Google Map. If you click on the blue balloons, you will see pictures of buildings that are long gone positioned over the corresponding locations.  The map is interactive, so go ahead and click on some of the balloons, zoom in and out, and move the map around.  If you click the link below the map, you will be taken to the actual Google Maps page where you can drag the “little man” onto a street to enter into Google’s street view.  Have fun!


View Milwaukee’s 2nd Ward, Late 1800’s in a larger map

Categories
Milwaukee Rathkamp

Fritz & Dora Have Courtside Seats

A few weeks ago I visited the Milwaukee Public Library and found they had a variety of “fire insurance” maps going back to the 1880’s.  These maps were produced by the Sanborn Company in order to provide insurance underwriters detailed information relative to the construction and fire risks of buildings in designated areas.[singlepic id=2 w=320 h=240 float=right]

The maps are too large to makes copies, but I did snap some pictures with my iPhone.  The picture below shows an overlay of my great great grandparent’s block in 1894 on top of the current view taken from Google Earth.  The large building is the Bradley Center, home of the Milwaukee Bucks.  I wonder if Milwaukeeans have a feel for how much their city has changed over time.  I’m not a Luddite, but I’ve seen pictures of Milwaukee’s second ward from the late 1800’s and I don’t know that we’ve improved the city by tearing those buildings down only to replace them with parking structures.

Within a two block radius, the only remaining buildings from their era are Turner Hall and some buildings on Old World 3rd Street.

I wonder what Fritz & Dora would think about seeing the Bucks and Metallica.


View Larger Map

Categories
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.