Friday, September 14, 2012

Cousins Meet after 80 Years

Newspapers and television broadcasts frequently have human interest stories of family members meeting after many years apart.  Recently I took part in arranging for my 87 year old mother to reconnect with her 85 year old cousin after 80 years apart.

I personally thought it was a slow news day in South Bend but alas nobody in the media appeared to cover this story.  So here is my coverage of this event.

A few years ago I received an e-mail from a person who had come across my blog.  While I frequently receive such e-mails, none have ever had a connection with my mother's paternal grandmother's family - the Rubisz line.  I have previously written about my great-grandmother, Mary Rubisz Kijak, and the very difficult life she had.  My mother knew very little about this grandmother as she had passed away in 1918 long before my mother was born.  My mother did know that her grandparents had a very rocky relationship and had separated around 1900 and that her grandmother had connected with another gentleman, moved to South Bend, Indiana and had 7 more children with him before she passed away in 1918.

That was why this e-mail I received a few years ago surprised and pleased me as the woman writing indicated she had seen my blog, noted the banner on the blog that contained the 4 photos of my great-grandmothers and recognized the name of Mary Rubisz Kijak.  This writer, D, told me that she believed that my great-grandmother was HER husband's great-grandmother as well.

E-mails went back and forth between D and myself.  She indicated that her mother-in-law was the daughter of Mary Rubisz Kijak's oldest child from her relationship with Frank Banner, Sr.  While my mother knew that there were children from her grandmother's relationship with this Mr. Banner she only remembered them from her childhood.  Living in the fruit belt of Southwest Michigan (St. Joseph) it was common for family members from other areas to visit St. Joe during the summer to take the fresh produce home.  Evidently members of the Banner family would frequently do so, coming from nearby South Bend, Indiana (35 miles) and my mother remembered playing with these half cousins when they were children.

D and I exchanged information and I learned that D's mother-in-law Betty was very eager to see my mother again.  My mother as well was eager and did remember Betty as a child though 80 years had gone by.

On August 22nd this year we had our reunion.  My mother and I drove from St. Joe to Mishawaka, Indiana where I knew there was a big mall. We arranged to meet Betty and her daughter-in-law, D, at a restaurant at this mall and there we did.

We had a wonderful lunch in a very nice restaurant.  D and I exchanged genealogical materials and both D and Betty had brought scads of photos with them.  Out came my Flip Pal scanner (love this device) and I was able to scan all the photos right at the table.  After lunch we went to Betty's house, right near Notre Dame, for some further visiting.

 Eloris Kijak & cousin, Betty Linehan,
August 22, 2012
Mishawaka, Indiana

When there are sensitive issues involving ancestors it is often difficult to learn any of the details involved but Betty was very forthcoming with information that was welcomed by myself.  It was information I would have never learned otherwise.  Since then D and I have really been fortunate in being able to learn much more information on the Banner family with the help of Ancestry and other web sites.

We are now planning a return visit with D and Betty coming here to visit us in St. Joe and we are hoping they also bring another cousin that my mother has not seen in ages either.

Never say never - there are always avenues to follow that will open up new information on a family line.

Above photos personal collection of Cheryl Schulte
Copyright (c) 2012, Cheryl J. Schulte

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Six Degrees of Kolberg

As with the trivia game, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, I firmly believe that a case can be made for a "Six Degrees of Kolberg" connection.  In Berrien County, Michigan this could be reduced to "THREE or FOUR Degrees of Kolberg".  Consider this saga:

Last night was the first Ladies Aid meeting of the new season at Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Joseph where I belong.  My mother and I are members and are continuing the tradition started by my maternal grandmother, Ella Kolberg Kijak.  I know my grandmother would be pleased that (1) we have relocated back to St. Joe and (2) that we are active in the Ladies Aid organization.  This organization has declined over the 15 years we have been back in St. Joe and now has 49 members.  Last night's meeting had 19 ladies present with a few guests. 

We sat at a table with several other ladies that we knew well.  One senior lady had a guest with her and she introduced the guest as her niece, Marilyn, who was her chauffeur now that she herself could no longer drive.   Marilyn was a very pleasant woman and she indicated to the group that she was a retired teacher who continues to do some special education teaching.  I inquired as to where she had taught and our conversation went like this:

Me:  Where did you teach, Marilyn?

Marilyn:  At Grace Lutheran Church in St. Joe (a neighboring church to Trinity).

Me:  Do you know Karen Kolberg K from Grace? 

Marilyn:  I do - Karen and I went to school together.

Me:  Karen and I are cousins.  Do you know Mary Kolberg B and her sister Donna Kolberg R?

Marilyn:  I do indeed.  I taught both of Mary B's daughters.

Me:  Mary and Donna are cousins of mine also.

Now Marilyn is intrigued and she asks me:  Just how are you related to Karen, Mary and Donna?

Me:  Through our very large Kolberg family.  My grandmother was a Kolberg - Ella Kolberg Kijak.

Marilyn:  Very intrigued now...Do you know Sharon Kolberg whose father was Alvin Kolberg and whose mother...oh, I can't remember her name now?

Me:  Yes I know who you mean; I never met Sharon but I know who she is.  (I then proceeded to open my purse and extract my Smart Phone which contains my Ancestry app with my whole family tree and I quickly found the above Sharon Kolberg).  I told Marilyn - her mother was Thelma?

Marilyn:  Yes indeed.  Now Marilyn intrigues me when she says:  Sharon's husband, Dave A., is MY brother.  Just what do you have on that cell phone?

I explained that I have my genealogy on Family Tree Maker which syncs to an Ancestry Tree.  Ancestry has an app for a smart phone and I can carry my data with me on the phone.  We proceeded to have a lengthy discussion about Marilyn's brother and sister-in-law, other Kolberg people that Marilyn knew and my genealogy.  Marilyn said she also knew a R. Kolberg and his parents R and E Kolberg (cousin ROY if you are reading this, you will know of whom I am speaking!!)

We had quite a conversation during the evening (yes we did listen to the program as well) and this further convinced me that each and every person in Berrien County is in some way, shape or form related to or knowledgeable of a Kolberg. 

Lesson to me:  When entering a room, any room, any place where 1 person at least is present, loudly declare "Does anyone in here know anyone named Kolberg?"  I'm guessing somebody will.

Copyright (c) 2012, Cheryl J. Schulte