I just received an email from my friend Ernst-Dieter from Bassum.  He just checked the Sudwalde church records and was unable to find Friedrich Rathkamp, b 1834.  He searched a year before and a year after this date and still came up dry.

Herr Wessels recently sent me some lists of Rathkamps from Diepholz which mentions a Fr Rathkamp in Albringhausen in 1855.  This is a possibility, especially since this is where his wife Dorothee was from.

I’m disappointed, but hopeful of finding something.  I KNOW he’s in the area.

Rathkamp Wappen


This is WAY cool!  Today I was sending emails back and forth to my friend Ernst-Dieter in Bassum.  Ernst-Dieter sent this picture of the house built by Johann Heinrich Rathkamp in Neubruchhausen in 1822.

I’m still not sure what my connection is to Johann Heinrich.  It’s possible he’s my GGG Grandfather, but I have to wait until Ernst-Dieter has a chance to view the church records.

Either way, this picture is significant for a couple reasons.  The first is the brick work on the house.  The Rathkamps of Neubruchhausen were known as Master Masons and then later as architects.  I’m no mason, but the craftsmanship does look very impressive.

The second, and more obvious, is the Rathkamp Wappen or family crest.

The shield is divided into three sections.  The upper left shows what appears to be a pick axe and possibly a shovel laid over a pyramid shape.  The lower left, a wagon wheel.  On the right is a tree, possibly behind a brick wall.

It’s going to take a little bit of digging before I can figure out what it all means.  I have some ideas, but it’s too early to tell for sure.  This also brings up the question as to the significance of the crest itself.  How long was it in the family?  Was it passed on from generation to generation?  What is the significance of the helmet?

For every stone turned over, 100 more questions present themselves.

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.”


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.