William the Great, Great, Great

We went on a mission recently. It was six generations in the making. Three generations have passed leaving three to accomplish the mission. It wasn't my mission but I like an adventure, so I went along too.

Since I like to count trains and buses, it took one bus, four trains, and a taxi ride. Each way. Unlike Rome, the taxi ride was not the best part. Partly because several taxis drove right by and one just refused to take a child.

Passed many brilliant fields of gold. Quite certain they weren't the ones Sting sings of. Still pretty though. Turns out they are rapeseed. Canola oil and bio diesel fuels can be made from it. Must be a lucrative crop; there were many of them.

Bremerhaven was the final destination. Way up there. Close to Denmark. Sunset was about 9:15. Days were chilly and windy. Bremerhaven was all but destroyed in WW2. Not much of anything original is left. And what was built afterwards is devoid of charm. But it is on the North Sea and has a huge harbor (why the bombing I suppose- important harbor for German submarines).

Walking around the harbor it reminded me of Baltimore, a city I really like but unlike Baltimore, there isn't much beyond the harbor shops. Two outstanding museums though. One was all about the path the 7 million emigrants took when leaving Bremerhaven.

Caroline waiting with her "family" to board the ship.

The other, all about climate change (it's predicted Switzerland won't have any glaciers left in 100 years!)  and what lies on the 8th degree longitude globally. Sadly, we missed seeing the main body of the museum ENTIRELY.  Have no idea how that happened really...

Afterwards, I found out Baltimore and Bremerhaven seem to have a sister city thing going on. It seems that Bremerhaven may be modeling itself after Baltimore. Hope it gets there. It has potential.

What it doesn't have is any records pre-WW2. They were destroyed apparently. The genealogical trail went cold. A few bits were discovered but nothing significant. The pub the kids' great, great, great grandfather owned was long since gone. No idea where it might have been.

Like father, like daughter. Like Great, great, great grandfather?

Pearl and Ruth found Bussestrasse (though Ruth almost got clipped getting to it). But at least they've seen where their family originated from.

Personally, I think the story only gets more interesting once they emigrated. We think Great, Great, Great (William) emigrated when he was a single man. He kept an apartment in NYC which he visited when he was in port. He worked as a cook on a ship. Newly emigrated and a young man, he fought in the Civil War and was given the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Later he returned to Germany, married, and had two children- both boys. The family decided to return to the US where they had three more children; two girls and a boy.

In 1899, his wife, Catherina, was boiling water to wash clothes (we think), it spilled and she died as a result of the burns.  For reasons unknown, William was unable to care for the children and the three youngest children were sent on an Orphan Train out west. 

Before the US had foster care, there were two organizations that "re-homed" the nearly 250,000 homeless, abandoned, or orphaned kids found in the nation's bigger cities. The Children's Aid Society was the original. The New York Foundling hospital came along later. Seems this program wasn't without its critics.  Children often lived as little more than indentured servants. Some found loving homes.

The two oldest children were old enough to fend for themselves.  The three youngest; two girls and a boy, were gone.  Put in a train car (only the babies rode coach) and adopted by families.  Somewhere out west

When the second oldest boy had the means, he went out west and didn't stop searching until he found them- all three of them. I wonder if my kids would do that for each other. I hope so. We know he found them and the family was reconnected but are uncertain if any returned to the New York area. Incidentally, at least two governors were Orphan Train riders, as was Billy the Kid.

By the way, the best part of the trip from a transportation point of view?  The ride back.  I sat near a handball team from Germany (handball sounds fierce; no gear, kind of like rugby, big contact sport).  The team was bored and tired. When they got sick of playing Angry Birds on the communal iPad, they drew smiley faces on their sleeping team-mates faces. 

A highlight for Pearl and Ruth was the new friend they made on the train.  A police officer who investigates cyber crime, she knew a family of the same name from Bremerhaven. She offered to make the contact.

Maybe the story doesn't end yet. 


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