Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Family Kolberg/Colberg...Part Nine


Following the successful discovery of the family of Johann Colberg, after many, many years of research, cousin, Gerhard Kolberg and myself had now successfully traced the descendants of 6 of the 7 Colberg brothers...August, Heinrich, Johann, Otto, Paul and Ferdinand. We were pleased with our success and pleased with the shared connection between ourselves.

The question remained, however? What happened to any descendants of the eldest sibling of the 6 Colberg brothers? Where had these descendants ended up? How would we begin to learn anything new about this family?

Gerhard and I compared our records and pooled our information. What we knew was the following:

(1) Friedrich-Wilhelm Colberg, Jr. had been the second son of Friedrich-Wilhelm, Sr. & Henriette Amalie Colberg. He was, though, the first son to survive to adulthood.

(2) We had the following photo of Friedrich-Wilhelm, Jr. and his wife:

Henriette Amalie (Kautz) & Friedrich-Wilhelm Colberg (sitting)
Friedrich-Wilhelm, Jr. & Hermine (Melchert) Colberg (standing)
ca 1899
Bütow, Pommern

(3) Friedrich-Wilhelm, Jr. had been born September 28, 1852 in Klein Tuchen, Bütow, Pommern and he was christened at the Evangelical church in Groß Tuchen on October 3, 1852.

(4) He and his wife supposedly had had at least 6 children, whose names were unknown.

(5) He was to have stayed on the family farm in Klein Tuchen when brother, Johann, relocated to Berlin and his other 5 brothers immigrated to the US.

(5) He died in 1918.

This was the extent of our shared information and was not much to go on.

Over the course of the next several years we both did some research in the LDS microfilms both here in Michigan and in Berlin. With this research, we did discover some further data:

Friedrich-Wilhelm, Jr.'s wife was named Hermine Melchert. Together they had at least 6 children that we discovered, namely:

(1) Martha Maria Franziska Colberg, born May 28, 1882 in Klein Tuchen.
(2) Paul Willi Colberg born December 25, 1883 in Klein Tuchen.

Then the family must have relocated to the nearby village of Zemmen in Kreis Bütow because the next 4 children were born there:

(3) Fritz Wilhelm Colberg, born May 27, 1885 and died April 21, 1886, both in Zemmen.
(4) Erich Ernst Franz Colberg, born November 12, 1886 and died January 24, 1887 in Zemmen.
(5) Ernst Friedrich Paul Colberg, born January 17, 1888 and died February 11, 1888 in Zemmen
(6) Max Friedrich Adam Colberg, born November 1, 1889 and died November 20, 1889 in Zemmen.

This information opened up new possibilities for us:

(1) With 4 of their 6 children dying in infancy, was it possible that the oldest two died as well before having any children of their own? We could find no records of that happening.

(2) If the 2 oldest children DID marry and have children, is it possible they died during WWI or even WWII when many German people were killed while fleeing from what became Poland?

(3) Was it even possible that there were NO descendants remaining from the family of Friedrich-Wilhelm, Jr. & Hermine?

It became evident that we had reached a brick wall. However, I have learned more times than not that one should "never say never". There is always hope of learning something new.

A few years ago something fell in my lap that I hope proves to be a connection to any descendants still remaining today from the family of Friedrich-Wilhelm, Jr. & Hermine Colberg. A cousin here in Berrien County contacted me and explained that she was a granddaughter of younger brother, Ferdinand Kolberg. She and her husband were involved in genealogy as well and wanted to meet with me. They came to my home for some discussions and to my surprise brought with them the German photo album of her grandfather, Ferdinand. They explained that when Ferdinand Kolberg and his family came to the US in 1910 that Ferdinand had carried with him this old photo album. Growing up she had seen this album many times and the family here always referred to it as "Grandpa's German album of his Kolberg family".

There were 21 photos contained in this album. All were professional cabinet photos and were in mint condition. They were all taken in Germany, some listed the photographer's name and location, some were taken in Bütow, some in Stolp (a neighboring county), some in Berlin and other areas as well. They allowed me to borrow the album and I scanned all 21 photos into my computer and then returned the album to them.

There were no identifications on any of these 21 photos. I e-mailed the 21 photos to Gerhard Kolberg in Berlin and he immediately responded that 4 of the photos were from the family of his grandfather, Johann Colberg. There was a photo of Johann in his military uniform, another photo of the wedding of Gerhard's parents and two other photos of daughters of Johann Colberg. The other 17 photos were unknown to Gerhard as well as the other Johann Colberg cousins he shared them with.

This led us to wonder - IF some of the photos were from the family of Johann Colberg, was it possible that the rest were from the family of Friedrich-Wilhelm, Jr.? Is it possible that the two first born children of Friedrich-Wilhelm & Hermine DID marry, have children, grandchildren, etc and that they had shared their photos with "Uncle" Ferdinand? We don't know but there was no other explanation we could think of for the identity of these 21 photos given the album was always known as Ferdinand's German family album.

The 17 photos follow. It is my hope that by posting these photos here, that perhaps someone will recognize one and we can move closer to learning more about brother, Friedrich-Wilhelm Colberg, Jr.


And, the search continues!

Above photos personal collection of Cheryl Schulte

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Family Kolberg/Colberg...Part Eight


I was one excited researcher as I waited to hear from this woman contact in Berlin as to whether she indeed was from the family of my elusive Johann Colberg. It only took her a surprising two weeks to respond to me. When I saw the letter in my mailbox, postmarked Berlin, I eagerly opened the envelope and out spilled some photos with a letter.

There for me to see was the photo of a very distinguished white haired gentleman with the indication on the back that he was Johann Colberg of Berlin!

Johann Colberg
Berlin, Germany
ca 1930

This lady indicated that her husband had been a grandson of Johann Colberg and that she indeed knew the Gerhard Kolberg that I was searching for. She told me she had telephoned to the daughter of Gerhard who would stop by her apartment and pick up my letter to deliver to Gerhard. She commented also that she was sure that Gerhard would respond to me as "he is retired and has much time to spend on his research".

I could only hope. It was only another 10 days or so when my first letter from Gerhard Kolberg arrived. He expressed pleasure and surprise that I had found him from his 7 year old letter to the "O" family and more surprised that I was able to find him after he and his wife had moved to a new apartment. He had extensively traced his grandfather's family and he eagerly shared the data with me. The fact that he had been a graphic artist in his career certainly did not hurt and his charts and graphs were beautifully presented. I, in turn, shared the data from the 5 Colberg/ Kolberg brothers who had immigrated to the US. After just a few letters back and forth, with Gerhard writing in German and my needing to have the letters translated, he switched to using English which was just as proficient as his graphic design skills.

In the course of our correspondence, Gerhard explained that the surname was originally Colberg and that most of the cousins still in Germany used that spelling. He told me an interesting tidbit that there had been two Otto Colberg men in Berlin, both dentists (Gerhard's father was a dentist) so Gerhard's father, Otto, changed HIS surname spelling to the Kolberg which is the spelling that Gerhard uses. However, all the other cousins in Berlin, descended from Johann Colberg, continue to use the Colberg spelling.

We now had SIX Colberg/Kolberg brothers' families traced to the present generation. It had only taken me 23 years to accomplish this but it wasn't until the Internet was popular that this connection was actually made.

Over the years since our 1999 discovery of each other began, Gerhard and his two adult grandsons have visited my mother and I here in St. Joseph for our 2000 Kolberg family reunion.

Humorous pose at Kolberg Family Reunion 2000
Oliver Beyer, Gerhard Kolberg, Kai Beyer
St. Joseph, MI

They stayed in our home and spent 3 weeks with us here in the US. He obtained the Internet and E-mail and our correspondence travels quickly through cyberspace.

Both my niece and nephew have visited Gerhard and his family in Berlin on several occasions while studying in Spain and Italy respectively.

My niece, Diane, (left side in black shirt) in Berlin, Germany
with Gerhard Kolberg family
(Gerhard not shown-taking photo)

My nephew, Jay, (back row, far right side) in Berlin, Germany
with Gerhard Kolberg Family
(Gerhard in back row far left side)

In October, 2008, I visited Gerhard and his family in Berlin for two weeks where I met his daughter and son-in-law and met the new wives of both of the grandsons who had visited us in 2000.

Gerhard Kolberg, Harald & Uschi Beyer, Cheryl Schulte
Berlin, Germany
October, 2008

In addition, Gerhard arranged a mini Colberg/Kolberg family reunion in Berlin where I was able to meet other Colberg cousins.

To further prove the connection with Johann Colberg and his five brothers who immigrated to America, Gerhard had the written verification, in Johann Colberg's diary in his own hand:

Johann Colberg Diary

Entry for Vater Colberg
Friedrich-Wilhelm Colberg, Sr.
Born 1821/Died 1900

Entry for Mutter Colberg
Henriette Amalie Colberg
Born 1831/Died 1908

Entry for Bruder, Friedrich Colberg (Jr.)
born 1852/died 1918

Entry for Bruder, August Colberg
Born 1854
To America

Entry for Bruder, Heinrich Colberg
Born 1857
To America

Entry for "self" Johann Colberg
Born 1859

Entries for Bruder, Otto Colberg
Born 1867
To America
Bruder, Ferdinand Colberg
Born 1872
To America

Entry for Bruder, Paul Colberg
Born 1869
To America

What have I learned from these years of research and what hints have I come away with from my extensive efforts in tracing this family?

(1) All things come in time. If I had connected with Gerhard in 1979 when I began my research, perhaps it would not have been as important to him at that time, he was still working, he was raising his family. Only in retirement did he develop his passion for his family history.

(2) Snail mail is still a good option. While e-mail has overtaken the world and researchers alike, sometimes success is found with writing letters to small villages, churches, archives.

(3) Cemetery searching and vital records searching are still vital tools for research. Not every cemetery is computerized. Not every archive has their records on the Internet. Much can be found in stomping through cemeteries, reading gravestones, visiting vital records repositories to search out records.

(4) Family assistance is of the utmost importance. I could never have even begun my research without the assistance of Kolberg cousins Grace (Gaul), Ruby (Berndt) and Edna Kolberg. They started me on the path and encouraged me along the way and we remained close the rest of their lives.

(5) Memories of other family members adds to the knowledge. If not for cousin, Oliver Kolberg, I would never have made the connection that took me across the ocean to the family of Johann Colberg. Oliver was a source of inspiration and encouragement. His death in January, 2006 was a true loss and his memory lives on.

Oliver Kolberg

While I sincerely appreciate all the help that I have received over the years, and truly believe I could never have achieved what I did without this help, if it were not for my very special cousin, Bernice Gaul Schoenfelder, I would never have had the enormous success that I did with this research.

Bernice Gaul Schoenfelder

Bernice was a researcher's dream and her help and excitement over every step of this research was inspiring. She passed away unexpectedly in June, 2007 and will never be forgotten. Following her death, her children surprised me by presenting me with all of her genealogical documents, photos, albums and other information which they knew would be preserved and appreciated by myself.

To be successful in genealogical research is not a solitary venture. It is only with the help and assistance of many, many people that success is truly just that...success.

Coming next...Addendum...What About Friedrich-Wilhelm Colberg, Jr.?

Above documents/photos personal collection of Cheryl Schulte

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Family Kolberg/Colberg, Part Seven


In the over 20 years that I had been researching my Kolberg family, I had had many successes:

(1) I had been able to ascertain the name of the village in Pommern where my Kolberg ancestors had originated.

(2) I had received a few documents and old letters from local cousins which verified the data that I had.

(3) I had researched heavily the 5 Kolberg brothers who had immigrated to America.

(4) I had produced a 400+ page book on our Kolberg family which many cousins were interested in obtaining.

(5) I had "crossed the ocean" in my research and made a connection with a distant cousin in Hanover who shared her research and knowledge with me and visited with her and her family in 1983.

(6) I had connected with the Catholic priest in the home village of Tuchomie who shared vital records from the German Evangelical church books with me.

(7) I visited the areas of Groß Tuchen and Klein Tuchen in 1993 and met with many current residents there.

(8) I had computerized all my Kolberg records into my Family Tree Maker program.

(9) I was working on organizing a 1999 Kolberg family reunion.

It was truly a 20+ year labor of love with extraordinary results. I was very pleased.

When I moved with my mother back to St. Joseph in 1997 I knew that I would have a greater connection with the hundreds of Kolberg cousins still living in the area. I was hoping that with these connections I would still be able to find some clues as to the descendants of the two remaining Colberg brothers who remained in Germany, namely Friedrich-Wilhelm and Johann.

One of the most helpful cousins to me in my research had been the daughter of Grace Kolberg Gaul, Bernice Gaul Schoenfelder. Bernice and I had had a long correspondence over the past 20 years and her mother, Grace, had been instrumental in starting me on the path of my Kolberg research. Bernice had inherited her mother's love of family as well as all her mother's documents, journals, photos and most importantly, knowledge. Thus, when I moved to St. Joseph in 1997, Bernice was the first person I contacted.

We met frequently and she always surprised me with more old photos or documents which she let me borrow to scan into my computer. She possessed enormous knowledge on the areas in Berrien County where our ancestors had settled, she took me around to all the 'old' farms of the original Kolberg brothers, told me stories and shared documents with me. Through Bernice I made many closer contacts with area cousins. There was not a person around, relative or not, who did not know Bernice and respect her.

The first two years I was back in St. Joseph we batted around the problem of the descendants of Johann and Friedrich-Wilhelm Colberg. Despite the numerous records Bernice had from her mother, she could not come up with anything that would give me a clue as to these elusive Colberg brothers.

In 1998, one of her close cousins, Oliver Kolberg and his wife, Anne, came to visit from Arizona. Also interested in the family history, they came to my home to view all my records and information. When they returned to Arizona, Oliver and I began an e-mail communication. In one of his e-mails in early 1999, he mentioned the following and I quote from his e-mail to me:

"I was thinking about your quest to find German relatives from the two brothers of my grandfather, Otto, who remained in Germany. You know, Cheryl, I remember something. When I was a young boy in the 1930's I can remember an older German lady coming to visit each summer. If I remember correctly, she came from Germany to Chicago where her son was living and they would all come out to Grandpa's farm in Baroda and we would all pick berries. I think she must have been a Kolberg relative because she was always calling Grandpa "Uncle Otto". I remember her coming year after year and I remember hearing that after I was grown she returned to the US again, became ill in Chicago and died there around 1946 before she was able to return to Germany. I think her name was Greta but I am not sure. But I can tell you for sure that Bernice would certainly know."

My first clue. Armed with that information, I gave Bernice a call, repeated Oliver's e-mail and asked Bernice if she remembered someone visiting her gradfather's farm in the 1930's and 1940's from Germany named Greta. She immediately responded "YES" and stated that her name was Greta "O" and she did indeed come each year from Berlin to visit her son and family in Chicago. Bernice seemed to remember that Greta's son was named Hans with a wife Julie and two small children at the time. They all enjoyed playing on Otto Kolberg's farm and picking berries. Bernice said that she even remembered specifically when Greta passed away because it was while Bernice was pregnant with her first child and she remembered driving to Chicago for the Fall of 1946. She even thought she might have the funeral card in her home and she would search for me. Bernice said that she didn't know why she had never thought of Greta before when we were talking about any German cousins.

Of course, this did not prove that this Greta was indeed from the family of Johann or Friedrich-Wilhelm Colberg but there were a few clues that led me in that direction, namely (1) she came from Berlin where Johann was to have settled and (2) she called Otto Kolberg 'Uncle".

Now what was I going to do to expand on these clues? It was a good 53 years since Greta had passed away in Chicago and what would be the chance that her son or wife, Hans and Julie "O", would even still be living?

To the Internet I went which would be my first attempt at using this tool in my Kolberg research. I first looked for a listing in Illinois of a Hans "O". Up came one listing in a suburb of Chicago with the names Hans & Julie "O". Okay, this was good. Now what?

I drafted a letter to Hans & Julie "O" in which I explained who I was and asked them if they were from the family of Greta "O" who had previously visited the US and Uncle Otto Kolberg's family in Baroda, Michigan in the 1930's and 1940's. I mentioned cousin, Bernice's name because everyone knew Bernice and that was a good opening. I included some dates that I had and asked them if perhaps Greta "O" could have been a daughter of Johann Colberg of Berlin. I included my phone number and address and off went the letter on a Thursday. I admit that I even kissed the envelope for good luck because this was the closest I had come to any clues on this elusive family in over 20 years of searching.

Three days later, on Sunday afternoon, I had a phone call. The caller identified herself as the daughter of Hans & Julie "O" and stated that they had received my letter. She affirmed that her grandmother was indeed Greta (Colberg) "O" and that she was indeed a daughter of Johann Colberg of Berlin. She herself could remember visiting Baroda, MI in the 1930's and 1940's and definitely remembered Bernice. She said that her father, Hans "O", was deceased but her mother, Julie "O", was in her 90's and still sharp. She said that she believed there were more family members in Germany but over the years they had lost touch with them.

This caller then told me something very intriguing. She said that her mother had received a letter in 1992 (7 years earlier) from a German cousin who was researching their Johann Colberg family. She said they had the letter "right here" but had never answered it. She agreed to mail the letter to me.

Talk about exciting. Now I was sure I was getting somewhere.

About 10 long, long, long days later the letter came to me from the "O" family in Chicago. This letter had been sent to them in 1992 from a cousin, Gerhard Kolberg, of Berlin. I quickly sent the letter for translation and it indicated that this Gerhard Kolberg was a cousin of Hans "O" and that Gerhard's father, Otto Kolberg (another Otto Kolberg) of Berlin, and Greta Kolberg "O" had been brother and sister. Gerhard was doing a Colberg/Kolberg family history on the family of grandfather, Johann, and he was asking the "O" family for information on their branch.

To my translator went a letter to have prepared in German and off it went to the address on Gerhard Kolberg's letter to the "O" family. I knew his address was 7 years old but was hopeful it was still an accurate location. However, three weeks later the letter came BACK to me marked "no such person at this address, moved, no forwarding address". Talk about a roadblock. Now what?

I thought about this for a few days and went back to the letter that Gerhard had sent the "O" family in 1992. He had indicated the names of a few other family members still living in Berlin so back to the Internet I went to search for addresses for any of these names. One name was found, whether it was the correct person I did not know, but I sent off a letter to this address, including the original letter I sent to Gerhard. I asked the lady I wrote to whether she was from the family of Johann Colberg of Berlin and, if so, if she knew Gerhard Kolberg of Berlin.

Now the wait began, again!

Coming next...Part Eight...The Johann Colberg Family Is Found!

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Family Kolberg/Colberg, Part Six


The year was now 1983. In the near 10 years that I had been researching my Kolberg family, I had learned much and made some great discoveries. The biggest discovery was the connection I made with a distant cousin in Hanover. In numerous letters back and forth, we both shared data with each other and I am sure I was the lucky one in receiving far more data than what I was able to share. In genealogy, though, that doesn't matter as I believe this cousin was just as excited to have made a connection in the US.

It was at this time that my Hanover cousin suggested I try my hand at writing to the Priest at the Catholic Church in Tuchomie where she knew the Evangelical church books of Groß Tuchen were housed. I decided I would give this a whirl and see where it would lead me.

I first had to search for a Polish translator and found one through the German translator that I used. I then drafted a letter to this Priest, had it translated into Polish and sent it off to Tuchomie. I had decided to start small and asked only for the birth records of my great-grandparents, August Colberg and Bertha Kramp, their marriage record and the birth record of their first born child, my great-aunt Hedwig Kolberg. I had all the appropriate dates and felt that would make the search by the Priest much easier.

Within 6 weeks of mailing the letter, I received what would be the first correspondence between myself and Father Josef Kornaus with our correspondence lasting 11 years. In this letter, Father Kornaus sent me three records - the birth record of August Colberg, the marriage record of August and Bertha (nee Kramp) Colberg and the birth record of my great-aunt Hedwig. He apologized for not finding the birth record of Bertha Kramp who had been born in the neighboring village of Born Tuchen. He explained that Born Tuchen was not a part of the diocese that Groß Tuchen was and, thus, there were no records from Born Tuchen at his church. In any case, I was thrilled with the letter from Father Kornaus and the three records. While the data on the records did not provide me with any more information from what I already had, they were further proof that my information was accurate.

Over the next 11 years, I had a steady stream of correspondence with Father Kornaus and his secretary including Christmas cards and continuous records that they extracted and sent me. Yes, I did send small donations, which they had never requested but which they thanked me for, and they even went so far as to ask, each time, what further help they could be to me. With the information they sent, I was able to fill in more family lines of my 3rd, 4th and 5th great-grandparents including the addition of many children and extended family members. While some genealogists will scoff at researching all collateral lines in a family, I am here to say that this additional knowledge has aided in many connections that I would not otherwise have made.

I was very pleased with this correspondence, and while I did have to use a Polish translator for the letters we exchanged, I was able to decipher the records. It was just amazing to me to see these Evangelical German records come to me translated into Polish (or Latin) and with the stamp of the Catholic Church of Tuchomie. Father Kornaus was evidently fluent in both German and Polish as he could take the German church books and translate the entries into Polish. I was also pleased to see that all the records I received were exact matches to the entries that my Hanover cousin had sent me. This was further proof that Father Kornaus took his task seriously.

In 1993 I made a trip to Germany to visit my brother and his family. My brother was stationed in Germany and we had determined that we would make a genealogical research trip and visit the 16 villages of our ancestors that I had discovered. This would take us through the former East Germany, into Poland and on to what had been Pommern.

I arranged for a guide to meet me in Gdansk, Poland and he drove me to the villages of Groß Tuchen and Klein Tuchen where I met several Polish individuals who invited us into their homes and talked about the times at the end of WWII when the German inhabitants had been forced out of their land. Many years had passed since my Kolberg ancestors had lived there and nobody knew of any former Kolberg residents. This was to be expected.

Groß Tuchen, Bütow, Pommern - 1993
(now Tuchomie, Poland)

I was pleased that we were able to visit the former Evangelical church in Groß Tuchen where we walked inside to see the structure in renovation. I was told that this renovation had been going on since the end of WWII and was still in progress. It was inspiring to actually stand in the church where my ancestors had worshiped and where, perhaps, my great aunt (who I had known) had been baptized.

Former German Evangelical Church of Groß Tuchen, Bütow, Pommern - 1993
(now in renovation)

We also visited nearby Klein Tuchen and were invited into people's homes where they were more than eager to show their hospitality and talk to the American visitor. It was a wonderful experience and very emotional for me.

Village road in Klein Tuchen, Bütow, Pommern - 1993
(now Tuchomko, Poland)

The only disappointment I had on that trip was that Father Kornaus had just been transferred out of the Catholic parish there and I was unable to meet him. When I returned home, I wrote him a letter at the address that I had been given in Tuchomie, expressed my appreciation for all of his help and told him that I was sorry I had missed him during my recent visit. I received an answer immediately. He expressed his disappointment over not being able to meet me but stated that the Catholic diocese had decided it was time for him to be reassigned. My correspondence with Father Kornaus was now at an end but I truly appreciated all the help he had given me with information that would have been difficult to ever find elsewhere.

As an interesting sideline, residents in Tuchomie had informed me that their new Priest was totally uninterested in helping researchers and this has proved true as letters I sent to the church after this were never answered. In any event, I believe that I received an enormous amount of help and information from Father Kornaus and I am truly pleased with that.

Even though my initial quest when I began my research was to search for descendants of the two remaining Colberg brothers..Friedrich-Wilhlem, Jr. and Johann, I had still not achieved that. However, it was amazing to me just what I WAS able to uncover in 15 years of research and I could not have been more pleased.

From 1994 until 1999, my research on my Kolberg family languished due to the illness and death of my father, my move across the state to St. Joseph with my mother, starting a new career, buying a home, etc. During these years I did manage to finally computerize all my Kolberg data into my Family Tree program (which took over a year of steady computerizing) but I made no progress in uncovering any information on the descendants of the elusive Friedrich-Wilhelm and Johann Colberg.

But, 1999 would prove to be a successful year in more ways than I could ever have imagined!

Coming next...Part Seven...Success with the Internet.

Above photos/documents personal collection of Cheryl Schulte

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Family Kolberg/Colberg, Part Five


What could be more exciting than making a connection with a distant cousin in the homeland of my ancestors? It would be the enormous amount of records and information that were garnered through the relationship with the cousin from Hanover that I discussed in Part Four of this series. This cousin had spent a great number of years tracing our mutual Colberg family and had made trips to the ancestral homeland of Groß Tuchen and Klein Tuchen long before travel to the former "East" was commonplace. She had come away from those visits with numerous records that she had meticulously copied from the church books there.

Now, years later in 1982, she made the connection with me and graciously shared this data as well. Our correspondence was on a magic track as I would write a letter to her in Hanover and she would counter with a response immediately upon receiving my letter. Our letters flowed back and forth consistently and I could depend on receiving a letter from her every 2 weeks. Each packet that would arrive contained not only a letter but copies of numerous records and much information. I contributed with data on the 5 Kolberg brothers who had immigrated to America and we were both pleased with the shared information.

From the information that I received from this cousin I was able to extend my knowledge on my Kolberg family back 3 more generations from what I had discovered on this side of the ocean. My ancestry is as follows:

Jakob Colberg, born ca 1737, married to Dorothea Schlutt who was born ca 1737. Jakob died ca 1807 while Dorothea died ca 1808 in Pyaschen (Franzwalde), Bütow, Pommern. They were my 5th great-grandparents. Their son...

Martin Colberg, born ca 1757 in Pyaschen (Franzwalde), Bütow, Pommern. He married on November 12, 1777 in Pyaschen to Catharina Schlutt who had been born ca 1757. Martin died on July 28, 1820 and Catharina died on April 11, 1818 in Pyaschen. They were my 4th great-grandparents. Their son...

Johann Jakob Colberg, born March 30, 1779 in Pyaschen. He married on November 28, 1814 in Groß Tuchen to Katharina Pliske who had been born on December 10, 1792 in Klein Tuchen. Johann Jakob died on May 22, 1862 in Klein Tuchen and was buried on May 25, 1862 also in Klein Tuchen. Katharina had died on March 29, 1854 in Klein Tuchen and was buried on April 1, 1854 in Klein Tuchen. They were my 3rd great-grandparents. Their son...

Friedrich Wilhelm Colberg, born August 18, 1821 in Klein Tuchen. He married on April 5, 1850 in Groß Tuchen to Henriette Amalie Kautz who had been born on December 25, 1832 in Klein Tuchen. Friedrich Wilhelm died on April 15, 1900 in Klein Tuchen and Henriette Amalie died on June 21, 1908 in Klein Tuchen. They were my 2nd great-grandparents. Their son...

August Gottlieb Kolberg, born November 24, 1854 in Klein Tuchen. He married on October 4, 1878, in Groß Tuchen to Bertha Kramp who had been born on July 26, 1860 in Born Tuchen. August died on April 24, 1920 in Lincoln Township, Michigan and was buried in City Cemetery, St. Joseph, Michigan. Bertha died on February 26, 1915 in Kalamazoo, Michigan and was buried as well in City Cemetery, St. Joseph, Michigan. They were my great-grandparents.

I was very excited to receive this data, along with copies of documents from the church (now) in Poland that my cousin shared with me. From the beginning of my research, and with only the knowledge of my great-grandparents' names, I had now gone back 4 more generations on my Kolberg family. I had also learned parentage on the female lines of these 4 generations as well and had added several more surnames to my list of ancestors.

In addition to the above data, this cousin from Hanover offered me the mailing address of the Catholic Church in Tuchomie where the church books from the former Groß Tuchen were housed. What had once been Evangelical German communities known as Groß Tuchen and Klein Tuchen were now Catholic Polish communities with new names as well which were Tuchomie and Tuchomko. My cousin suggested that I should try writing to the priest in Tuchomie to see what information I could obtain. She was aware that the priests assigned to that small parish changed frequently and she was hoping that a new priest was now in charge and would share more data than what she had personally been able to obtain.

Coming next...Part Six...Connecting with Groß Tuchen.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Family Kolberg/Colberg, Part Four


Following the completion of my book on my Kolberg family, and the complimentary response from many of my cousins, my quest to further my research intensified. I was fairly satisfied with the information I had gathered on the 5 Kolberg brothers who had immigrated to America. I had their families, including children and grandchildren, nearly 100% documented. There would always be gaps to fill in, new marriages to add, new children to add, etc, but with the assistance and cooperation of so many of my cousins, I had documented these lines up to the present generation with vital statistics, photos, census images and vital records.

Now my attention turned to tracing the descendants of the remaining two Kolberg brothers who had remained in Germany. This would be challenging since knowledge on "this side of the ocean" was pretty sketchy. The most I knew was that the two remaining brothers were Johann Kolberg, who was to have moved to Berlin, and Friedrich-Wilhelm Kolberg, Jr., who was to have remained on the family farm in Klein Tuchen. From cousins here I was told that both brothers had at least 6 children each. I had a photo of Friedrich-Wilhelm Kolberg, Jr. and his wife but no photo or other information on Johann Kolberg.

At this time, 1980, I was an avid reader of the Genealogical Helper magazine. I happened to see an advertisement where a person could send to Germany for a listing of people with a specific surname with addresses from a specific telephone directory. So, off went some of my money (I don't remember now how much) and a request for a listing of ALL Kolberg names in Berlin. I was convinced that someone had to be remaining from the family of Johann Kolberg and I was hopeful that this might be a way to connect with those descendants.

The list came to me with 110 names of Kolberg individuals in Berlin. I then drafted a simple request letter and had it translated into German. Basically, it stated that I was searching my family history and that my great-great grandparents were Friedrich-Wilhelm Kolberg, Sr. and Amalie Kautz of Klein Tuchen, Bütow, Pommern. I further stated that I was searching for any descendants of their son, Johann Kolberg, who lived in Berlin from approximately 1890-1930 and who was to have had at least 6 children. I included the specific dates that I had already gathered, made 110 copies of this letter and mailed them off to each of the names on my list along with an International postal coupon to cover their cost for return postage.

Amazingly, over the next 18 months I did receive 87 responses to my letter which was very gratifying and exciting. But, unfortunately there were no connections. People were very gracious and willing to share their own personal line of ancestry with me but nobody was even remotely connected with my Kolberg line. I was beginning to think that Kolberg was as common of a surname in Germany as Smith, Jones or Miller are in the US.

At the same time I also placed a similarly worded advertisement in two different Berlin newspapers that offered a listing free of charge. But, again, two years went by with no response to those ads. Success with genealogy research, in those years, was a long, long process before the use of personal computers, the Internet, Google, e-mail and instant responses.

So, wait I did - but not patiently I might add. During that period of time, I continued to tweak the data that I did have on the 5 branches of my Kolberg line and kept questioning cousins as to any memories they might have of the German branches.

It was, therefore, in November, 1982 that I was totally surprised by a letter that I received. Letters with German postmarks and fancy stamps were a sight to behold and excitement reigned whenever such a letter appeared in my mailbox. This letter was to be the start of a correspondence that would last only a few years but would give me my first direct German connection. While it was NOT a connection with either of the families of Johann or Friedrich-Wilhelm Kolberg, Jr., it was actually a connection taking me back more generations.

This letter came to me from Hemmingen, a village near Hanover, and was written by a woman who informed me that, while she had not personally seen my advertisement in the Berlin newspapers, a friend of hers had and he shared my ad with her. She explained that from my data in the advertisement, she could inform me that HER great-grandmother and my mother's great-grandfather were indeed Colberg brother and sister (emphasizing to me the correct spelling of the surname was Colberg).

Here is a copy of this first letter that I received, complete with my English translation:

To say that I was excited with this connection is an understatement. Of course, initial pleasure was tempered by the fact that the letter had to be sent off for translation. During these years, I was fortunate to have a wonderful woman in California who did all my translations for me and translated my English into German and then translated the German responses back into English. I wish now that I had kept a tally of just how much money I spent on this Kolberg research but, perhaps, it is best that I don't know. However, without these expenditures, I would never have gathered the information that I did.

Our correspondence spanned a short period from 1982 until her death in 1989. During those 7 short years, we had twice/month correspondence and I even made a trip in 1983 to visit her and meet other members of her family. After only about 2 months of correspondence, her letters changed from German into English and she explained that she hated to see me spending my gelt (money) on translators so she would attempt to use her English skills from her school days. Actually her English was near perfect and there was never any difficulty with communication.

It is amazing to me, even now, to go back and re-read all the materials, data, maps, newspaper clippings and vital records that she shared with me. She told me that on two different occasions she had personally driven in her own car into Poland to visit Gross Tuchen and view the Evangelical church books that were still housed there in the Catholic church. This was in the 1960's and 1970's and was long before the Berlin wall came down. She stressed that these trips were dangerous but she was determined to obtain all the information she could. She was a very forceful woman and it was obvious, when I visited her in Hanover, that she meant business and I am sure any travel difficulties into old East Germany and into Poland were difficulties that she handled easily.

When I look back and remember the 110 letters that I sent off to Berlin and the two advertisements that I placed in Berlin newspapers with such high hopes of a match, it is obvious that a genealogist never knows what connection is going to appear. I did learn from this cousin that my chances of connection were probably hindered by the fact that our family Kolberg was actually spelled Colberg originally and I missed a whole contingent of listings in the Berlin telephone book under Colberg. Also, she explained that I would have done better to extend my search into East Berlin as well. These suggestions would prove to be correct and would actually help in my journey to finally make one of the connections I so desperately sought.

But, that is another subject for another chapter in this series and would take another 17 long years to come to fruition.

Coming next...Part Five...Extending the Generations.

Above documents personal collection of Cheryl Schulte

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Family Kolberg/Colberg, Part Three


My research was moving along well. I had received photos, documents and information from 4 of my grandmother's cousins and based on this information had learned that my Kolberg ancestors had been from Klein Tuchen in Bütow, Pommern. Now I was ready to move on with the research.

I had decided that I didn't want to just trace my direct line back but wanted to expand my research to encompass as many descendants of the 5 Kolberg brothers as I could. In the back of my mind was to also, one day, try to find information on the remaining 2 brothers who had remained in Germany. But that was a dream at this time.

To begin expanding my research, I checked out all the telephone books in Berrien County for names and addresses for everyone with the surname Kolberg. Along with the family members I already knew, I amassed quite a list of names.

I then created a form letter, along with a self-created family history sheet, and began a mammoth letter writing project. At the time I had an IBM Selectric typewriter and spent much time typing individually addressed letters to each of the names on my list. In the letter, I explained that I was the granddaughter of Ella Kolberg Kijak and that I was researching our mutual Kolberg family and would appreciate their completing the enclosed form. My grandmother had been well known in the community and within the large Kolberg family and I knew that most of these people would have been familiar with her.

I was not disappointed. Over the course of the next 2 years I had responses from probably 85% of the names that I had written. Some went so far as to send me more addresses and my list on the Kolberg family grew. As these forms came in as well, I typed the data into my LDS family history sheets, placed the sheets in a huge binder divided by family groups and my information expanded.

Many family members also sent me photos to add to my research and I xeroxed these (not as good as today's scanning) and returned the originals to their owners. I wrote to the various states for copies of death and marriage certificates and made many trips back to St. Joe to obtain data in the County records as well as researching the 1900 Berrien County, MI census. I visited the local cemeteries, took photos of the gravestones and joined the local genealogical society. I was moving along gathering a sizeable amount of information on my family.

I was pleased that many relatives also expressed an interest in knowing whether I would be preparing a book on the family. I had given that some thought and didn't really know where to begin but after seeing the magnitude of responses I had to my letters, I decided to give it a shot.

How did I go about doing that?

This was 1979, and after much thought, I decided to xerox all the family group sheets, add photos in the appropriate sequence, add in some basic family documents such as census records and death certificates and compile an index of all the names.

I decided to divide the book into 7 sections with 1 section for each of the 7 Kolberg brothers, have an Acknowledgment and Prelude and end with the Index. I assembled the original as I wanted the finished product to be and numbered all the pages. It was then time for the assembly line production.

I will say that the xeroxing of the mammoth amount of material took more hours, days and weeks than I had anticipated. My employer at the time graciously allowed me to do the xeroxing (on my own time, of course) using the company Xerox machine as long as I supplied my own paper. I decided to make 100 sets of this book as I had estimated that I had perhaps 70 relatives that had already requested such a book IF and WHEN I ever compiled one. I thought that once these books was out to these cousins that more would be interested. I was most definitely NOT disappointed.

Once I had all the 100 sets prepared, it was time for the collating. What a project! Picture piles of paper that are 100 deep spread across counters, tables, furniture, appliances in the basement of my home and continual walking back and forth to collate what became a 401 page book. I had to punch holes in these volumes and had purchased Acco hard stock covers with a clamp inside to use to hold the finished product.

BUT, wait! Before this project could be completed, the indexing needed to be done. I now laugh when I think about this, what with the advent of computers and software programs which will index for a person automatically, but readers let me tell you that I indexed this mammoth book on 3 x 5 index cards, all spread across the basement floor. Each name in the book was placed on an index card with the appropriate page number on it and then the cards were divided by the letters of the alphabet and 26 piles were made from which I had to alphabetize each pile by name. This then became a 10 page index of double columns to end the book.

Here are some samples from the book as I completed it in early 1980.

Following the completion of my book I sent letters out to all the Kolberg cousins whose addresses I had. Not only did the expected 70 copies sell but more as well. I did donate one copy to the "LDS Library Acquisitions Area" in Salt Lake City as well as a copy to the "Berrien County Genealogical Society". I had maintained a copy for myself but all 100 copies were sold and I ended up selling my own copy and for years did not even have a copy to maintain for my records.

Through the 25+ years following the publication of my book I was able to expand my data, cross the ocean to Germany, take the family back four more generations, update data that I had received via word of mouth or from old letters with additional, and sometimes corrected, information based on records I received from the churches and archives in Germany and Poland and even expanded my knowledge of the two brothers who had remained in Germany.

My information is now in my Family Tree Maker program, backed up on two separate external hard drives and the search continues.

The cost for my book in 1980 was $15 per copy. We could certainly not produce a quality family history book now for that price!!

Coming next...Part Four...First efforts at research in German archives.

Above documents personal collection of Cheryl Schulte

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Family Kolberg/Colberg, Part Two


I now knew the birthplace of my Kolberg ancestors and set off on a mission to find these villages on maps. I was really naive about Pommern and its significance and location in German history but I was determined to learn all I could about this area. I had a few German maps but they were too modern and didn't even indicate where the area of Pommern had been. I had a set of encyclopedias that were from 1904 that had belonged to my great-grandfather Schulte, but they were very basic and contained general maps of Germany without any detail.

I had only been back a short time from my research trip to St. Joseph when I had a letter from cousin, Grace Kolberg Gaul, telling me that she had another cousin in the area who might be able to help me further. She explained that while her father, Otto, and his brothers August, Heinrich & Paul had come to the US in the 1880's, her other uncle, Ferdinand Kolberg, had actually not arrived until 1910, after he had married and his children had been born-all while living in Pommern. She thought that his one son, Walter and his wife Iva, would be perfect to visit with as Walter remembered living in Germany and would be happy to share further information with me.

Back to St. Joe I went where I was invited to the home of Walter and Iva Kolberg. Again, I found these cousins of my grandmother to be delightful and welcome hosts and Walter was a wealth of information on our Kolberg ancestors. He confirmed the birthplace of his father's family as indeed being Klein Tuchen, near Gross Tuchen in Bütow, Pommern as I had already been told. He added that his father had moved from the family farm in Klein Tuchen and settled in the neighboring county of Rummelsburg, Pommern where he (Walter) and his five siblings were born. He stated that he could remember the journey to America, leaving Rummelsburg, traveling to Berlin first and visiting with Uncle Johann and his family and then traveling on to New York and from there to Stevensville, MI where the family of Heinrich Kolberg met the arriving family and took them to the Heinrich Kolberg farm until they were able to establish their own farm in the area. He had a wealth of stories to share including memories of his grandmother, Henriette Amalie Colberg. As an interesting aside, he said that whenever his grandmother visited the Ferdinand Kolberg family, he (Walter) was her bed partner and he could remember walking to her funeral when she passed away in 1908 when he was only 8 1/2 years old.

Iva & Walter Kolberg
ca 1970

In addition to sharing photos with me, Walter had a map of Pommern which showed me the location of Bütow and Rummelsburg and the location of Pommern within Germany. This was a wonderful boost to my research and I did visit the St. Joseph Public library where atlases were available containing other maps of that area.

Over the years I did learn much about the history of Pommern with this website an excellent source for information on Pomerania including maps of the area from over the centuries.

Lands of the Kolberg/Colberg family

Pomerania, Germany

Bütow, Pomerania with
Kreis (counties)

As with cousins, Grace, Ruby & Edna Kolberg, I was aided tremendously by Walter & Iva Kolberg in getting a jump-start on my research and their assistance was greatly appreciated. All five of these cousins are now gone but their help was indispensable and their excitement over the fact that I was interested in tracing their family was just the impetus that I needed to continue.

Coming next...Part Three...Contacting the descendants of August, Heinrich, Otto, Paul and Ferdinand Kolberg to build a complete family genealogy on our mutual family.

Above photos personal collection of Cheryl Schulte

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Family Kolberg/Colberg, Part One


Genealogy research has come a long way since I began my adventure in family history. The advent of the home computer, Internet, web sites dedicated to genealogical research have all aided in more and more people being able to learn about their ancestors and has sparked the hobby of tracing one's roots. It was possible, though, to make great strides in research before these tools came into place and my research on my Kolberg/Colberg family is proof of that.

Come along and join me on my journey from a tiny bit of basic information on my Kolberg family to my crossing the Atlantic Ocean and discovering the great rewards of years of research and dedication. While I did end up using the tools of the Internet, I did spend near 25 years researching this family using good old elbow grease and hard work.

When I first developed an interest in genealogy in the mid-1970's, the family I was most interested in expanding my information on was my Kolberg family. I had been extremely close to my maternal grandmother, Ella Kolberg Kijak, and I wanted to honor her memory by learning as much as I could about her family. She had passed away in 1973, and while she had not discussed her family that much with me over the years, I decided to focus my new found love of genealogy on her line.

In Berrien County, Michigan, where my grandmother had been born and where her father, August Kolberg, and 4 of his brothers had settled when they immigrated to America, there were many, many listings of Kolberg in the telephone books. Over the next 30+ years, with intensive research, I would come to learn that each and every person in Berrien County with the name of Kolberg would tie into our family group. A long research project was begun.

Genealogy research hints in magazines gave advice on where to start when attempting to trace one's roots and I followed these tips to the letter.

Tip #1 - Look for information in letters, notes, photos that are/were in the possession of one's immediate family:

To begin my research, I gathered the information that I did have from my grandmother which was minimal. I did know that my great-grandfather and 4 of his brothers had immigrated to the United States between 1880-1910. These brothers were August, Heinrich, Otto, Paul and Ferdinand Kolberg. My grandmother had a few photos of her father which she had previously given me, but there was no indication on these photos, nor on any of her notes, of where these brothers had originated. I did have a letter written by my grandmother's mother, Bertha Kolberg, and I had Bertha's German hymnal but that was the extent of my keepsake items. The only information contained in the hymnal was the notation that "grandmother Kolberg came over from Germany in 1882 and brought this book with her". The handwriting in the book was my mother's and I knew that both August & Bertha Kolberg had passed away before 1925 when my mother was born because my mother never knew either grandparent. This was very basic information and would not take me very far in progressing with my research.

Tip #2 - Talk to senior family members and question them as to their memories and inquire if they have photos, documents, information that would reveal more data on the family:

I decided to make a trip to St. Joseph (I was living in the Detroit suburbs at the time) and seek out some of my grandmother's cousins who I hoped might have further information. Her one cousin, Grace Kolberg Gaul (daughter of Otto Kolberg) was someone I was particularly close to and I visited her at her home. She suggested that we go to the home of cousins, Ruby Kolberg Berndt and Edna Kolberg (sisters who were the daughters of Paul Kolberg) and visit with them. I had never met these two ladies but found them to be delightful and pleased to be able to sit and discuss their memories of their father and the Kolberg family. With the help of Grace, Ruby and Edna I learned more than I could have hoped for. They were willing to pull out their photo albums and I saw photos on the family that I could have only hoped to one day find including a family photo of my great-grandparents, August & Bertha, with their first two children. This is the only photo that I have of my great-grandmother, Bertha. After our visit, I took a trip to the local photography studio to leave these photos to be reproduced (remember this was before computers and scanners) and then returned the originals back to these three cousins. As well as photos, Ruby and Edna pulled out letters that their father had written and from these letters I learned even more exciting data - the parents of my August Kolberg were Friedrich-Wilhelm Colberg and his wife, Henriette Amalie Kautz and they were the parents of 12 children (11 sons and 1 daughter) with 7 of these sons living to adulthood. The names of all 7 sons were listed on Paul Kolberg's notes and showed Friedrich-Wilhelm, Jr., August, Heinrich, Johann, Otto, Paul and Ferdinand. The notes also stated that August, Heinrich, Otto, Paul and Ferdinand had immigrated to the United States between 1880 & 1910. In addition, there was documentation that brother, Johann, had moved with his family to Berlin from the home village and that oldest brother, Friedrich-Wilhelm, Jr., had remained in the home village on the family farm.

The home village....dare I hope...yes, it was indeed listed on Paul Kolberg's notes and I now knew that my Kolberg family had been from the small village of Klein Tuchen, near Gross Tuchen in Bütow, Pommern.

The highlight of the visit was to actually see, as well, a wonderful photo of Friedrich-Wilhelm & Henriette Amalie Colberg and their oldest son, Friedrich-Wilhelm, Jr. & his wife (whose name was not indicated).

Henriette Amalie (Kautz) & Friedrich-Wilhelm Colberg (sitting)
Friedrich-Wilhelm Colberg, Jr. & wife (standing)

ca 1899
Bütow, Pommern

I came away from that trip to St. Joseph so delighted and excited at what I had learned and I continued to share a relationship with Grace, Edna and Ruby for the remainder of their lives. They were delightful and loving cousins of my grandmother and I grew to love them as well and credit them with leading me in the right direction to continue my research. I think they would be pleased to see just how far I have gone with what was no longer just a hobby but had become a full blown passion.

Grace Kolberg Gaul

Ruby Kolberg Berndt
ca 1980

Edna Kolberg
ca 1980

Coming next...Part Two...Finding Klein Tuchen and educating myself on the history of Pommern.

Above photos personal collection of Cheryl Schulte