Friday, January 6, 2012

The Family Kolberg/Colberg...Part Ten


When I began my genealogy research in the mid-70's, I seemed to focus on my maternal grandmother's Kolberg line. It wasn't that I chose that line over the other lines but it seemed like I continued to have the most success with that family. This was surprising in that my Kolberg ancestors originated from a small village in what was once Pomerania and what became Poland. The chance of getting records from this small area seemed a bigger challenge than focusing on my West German ancestors. That proved to be untrue.

As the years progressed I had continuing success in my research on this family. My information at the outset was that my 2nd great grandparents, Friedrich-Wilhelm Colberg, Sr. & Henriette Amalie Kautz had 12 children (11 sons and 1 daughter) with 4 of the sons and the 1 daughter dying in infancy or childhood. The seven remaining sons lived to adulthood and my goal was to trace these 7 sons down to the present generation.

Five of the sons immigrated to the United States between 1880-1910 and all settled in Berrien County, Michigan where I live. Over the years I was successful in achieving my research goals with these 5 sons and successfully amassed a database of near 2,400 individuals descended from these 5 Colberg/Kolberg brothers - August, Heinrich, Otto, Paul and Ferdinand.

My research then turned to finding descendants for the other two brothers (Johann and Friedrich-Wilhelm, Jr.) who had remained in Germany. During this research I received the most stupendous gift that any genealogist would love to have - I discovered a German cousin, from the family of brother #6 - Johann Colberg, who lived in Berlin and who not only was happy to hear from me but who also shared my passion for genealogy.

This cousin, Gerhard Kolberg, and I have had 13 wonderful years of collaborative connection. We not only shared our mutual files and managed to each achieve in the process data on 6 of the 7 Colberg/Kolberg brothers but we also visited each other on more than one occasion, met and mingled with family on both sides of the ocean and developed a real kinship. I have come to consider Gerhard a very special Uncle though in reality he is my mother's 3rd cousin. Over these years our e-mails have burned up cyberspace and I have 5 three ring binders full of the correspondence that Gerhard shared with me.

Together we continued to work on attempting to find information on the remaining elusive Kolberg brother, Friedrich-Wilhelm, Jr. but were unsuccessful. Gerhard's health began to decline and our correspondence became mainly familial topics and general interests.

In the last month I have had the remarkable good fortune to make a huge break-through in the search for information on Friedrich-Wilhelm, Jr and his family. I was not able to share this news with Gerhard as his daughter had informed me he was very ill and had been hospitalized through the holidays.

Today I received the sad news that my special cousin, Gerhard Kolberg, had passed away. The e-mail arrived just 30 minutes following his death and I was saddened to read it. I had known he was ill but had held out hope that he could recover. This was not to be.

Even though our relationship only lasted 13 years it was a wonderful connection and one that I will cherish always. Gerhard was a remarkable man with extraordinary talent and drive, loved by his daughter and her family as well as many other family members and numerous friends. He was a graphic designer by career, an author, a poet, an exceptional photographer and creator of family history videos, an avid reader who enjoyed the outdoors and made good use of each minute of every day. He was a devoted husband during his wife's life caring for her during her final years and maintained a sunny and friendly disposition.

I will certainly miss him and our connection. Our relationship was such that I felt I had known him my entire life. This certainly speaks to his character and charm.

I will continue the research on our mutual Kolberg family in memory of Gerhard and to thank him for the part he played in my life. He was one special person and I am honored to have been a small part of his remarkable life.

Gerhard Kolberg & great-granddaughter, Milena
Christmas, 2009
Berlin, Germany

Above photos personal collection of Cheryl Schulte