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)
Friedrich-Wilhelm Colberg, Jr. & wife (standing)
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
Coming next...Part Two...Finding Klein Tuchen and educating myself on the history of Pommern.
Above photos personal collection of Cheryl Schulte