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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.

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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.