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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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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.