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.
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.
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