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


Joan said...

Cheryl, What a great story of success and family. My only sadness is that Google/blogger issues are preventing me from seeing all of your photos and images. Hopefully that will resolve soon. Thanks again for a great success story.

Cheryl said...

Thanks, Joan. I appreciate your comments.