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

The Swede in the Weeds…Such a Hassell

If I am the trunk of my genealogical tree, Olive Hassell is the closest branch with the most mystery surrounding it.  Olive is my paternal great grandmother, married to William J. Rathkamp.  I know almost nothing specific about her other than her date of death.  I know she was born in Sweden (my only non-German ancestor) in or about 1886.  I know that when her family came to the United States, they lived in Michigan.  I’m fairly certain, based on the 1900 US Census and the 1905 Wisconsin census, that her father was Charles Hassell and that they lived in Iron[singlepic id=6 w=320 h=240 float=left] Mountain.  After all, how many “Olive Hassells” could there be in Michigan?  There is nothing else I know of tying Olive to Charles.  Charles’ first wife (Olive’s mother?) died in about 1890.

I’m pretty sure she married William Rathkamp sometime between 1906, the year his first wife Sophie Hartmann died, and 1909, the year my grandfather was born.  That’s about it.

The lack of information seems to bring on a lot of questions.  Who were her parents?  When specifically did they arrive in America?  I haven’t found any arrival information.  Were she and William married in Wisconsin or Michigan?  I searched the marriage index for Milwaukee County at the Golda Meier Library at UWM and found nothing.  How and where did they meet?  Did she move to Milwaukee alone or possibly with a sibling?  What were the circumstances surrounding her early death at age 40?

One last note…

Many genealogists talk about the missing 1890 census. The lack of an 1890 census hasn’t really been that big of a deal for me, except in the case of Olive. With that census, I probably could confirm or deny her relationship to Charles and I would probably also know the identity of her mother. Bummer.

If anybody has any ideas or information, I’d appreciate hearing from you.