Michelle Ann Kratts

Archive for January, 2013|Monthly archive page

When There is a Nazi in Your Family Tree

In Off to War, The Germans on January 31, 2013 at 3:11 am
Image

My first cousin, two times removed, Hans Knuppel, and Rolf.
Berlin, 1940

My grandmother introduced me to genealogy at a very young age.  Just looking at her face I knew there was a string of people just like me–and that this string of people was endless.  I decided that I wanted to find each and every one of them.

My grandmother, Johanna Knuppel

My grandmother, Johanna Knuppel

The very last time I saw her she showed me scrapbooks filled with pictures of our family.  One photograph fascinated me more than the others. It was of a young man in a uniform.  I asked her about him and she explained that he was our cousin, Hans, from Germany.  He was wearing a German World War II era uniform.  I asked her if he was a Nazi.  She told me that, yes, our cousin was a Nazi.

It was a disturbing thing to encounter but I have learned since that time that the genealogist must follow one rule first:  do not judge.  It is inevitable that we will find all sorts of scoundrels in our family tree.    Our families are the history of the world.

My grandmother was a little upset by my anxiety over his picture.  But my trepidation was understandable.  I knew way too much about the Nazis and their work.  I had lived in Germany.  I had visited Dachau as a little girl.  I had seen the ovens.  But she was hurt that I had reacted this way.  To her, he was our cousin.  He was one of us.   And that was that.

I put all that away for some time until this Christmas.  My aunt gave me the picture of Hans.  So here he was, this Nazi officer, in my house.  What to do?  I thought.  I decided that I would put my emotions aside and be a good genealogist.  I would find out more about him.

But I hardly know anything at all about Hans. He is a complete stranger.  There is so much work to do.  And where to begin?

Luckily, there are some things that I do know.     His grandparents, Johann and Augusta Knuppel,  are my great great grandparents.  So forever backwards in that line of our family, we are the same.  Our family was from the Mecklenburg-VorPommern region of Germany.  This is the northernmost eastern section of Germany and part of what was known as Prussia.    I also know that Hans’s father was my great grandfather’s older brother, Albert Knuppel.  I wonder if he was named for his grandfather?   My great grandfather had been named for the same man, his father.

Augusta and Johann Knuppel

Augusta and Johann Knuppel, my great great grandparents

My great grandfather, also Hans Knuppel

My great grandfather, also Hans Knuppel

A most interesting breakthrough came to me only recently when my aunt Elaine found  a letter dated March 14, 1948, from my Uncle Albert to my grandmother, Johanna.   My friend, Nancy Deering, was kind enough to interpret it for me.  It brought me to tears.  So beautifully written, it was an attempt by my uncle to reestablish ties to his American family after a horrible and devastating war.  He had not seen my great grandfather, his brother (also Hans), since before 1914–because of another world war.  My great grandfather, a sailor on the Norddeutscher Lloyd lines, had found himself stranded in New Jersey when the First World War broke out.  He jumped ship and was never able to return to his homeland.  It had been a long time. But here, in this letter, my uncle sought to reestablish the family ties from across an ocean.

In beautiful German he wrote of how he so deeply missed his younger brother and how he wanted nothing more than to send his love to all of his American kin. 

“I send you all from the old home of your father the sincerest greetings and wishes for your well being…”

In one of the most interesting lines he goes on to tell of the tragedy of the war and its effect on his family.

“Because of the unfortunate and disastrous war, we lost our house and home and unfortunately also our dear son…”

Letter from Albert Knuppel to Johanna Knuppel Barthel, 1948

Letter from Albert Knuppel to Johanna Knuppel Barthel, 1948

Their dear son was Hans, the man in the photograph.  I can’t help but wonder what the circumstances of his death may have been.  In my opinion it looks like he is in the uniform of the Luftwaffe, or the German Air Force.  Did he die over the skies somewhere?  I have no idea at this point.    I also found from a photograph that Hans had a wife and a daughter named, Klara.      According to the letter, my uncle Albert and aunt Ella made sure that they kept close to their son’s widow and their granddaughter, after his death.    Times were very difficult in March of 1948.  They resided in Berlin Steglitz, or West Berlin.

Mrs. Hans Knuppel and Klara

Mrs. Hans Knuppel and Klara

I don’t know anything more at this point.  I am at the beginning of an interesting journey back in time.  My hope is to rebuild my family, one story at a time.  We all have stories and we all have circumstances.  My great grandfather’s sons (twins), my uncles John Albert and Hans Delbert (yes, yet another generation of Hans Knuppels), were also veterans of the Second World War.  They fought under the American flag.  And both of my grandfathers also served with the Allies–one with the RAF and one with the 8th Air Force in England.  War is war and people are people.  I hope that one day I will be able to tell the complete story of my cousin, Hans Knuppel.

Michelle Kratts

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Destination: Amerika

In Coming to America on January 30, 2013 at 5:39 pm

bidak

Millions of immigrants probably carried a little pouch very similar to this on their way to America.  This particular one belonged to Filip Bidak.

Filip Bidak embarked on the journey of a lifetime in May of 1900.  Leaving from Bremen, Germany, on the Barabarossa, he entered the United States at Ellis Island.  He was just about thirty years old and this little brown pouch contained all the most important documents that he would need in his new country.    This information linked him back to his birthplace in Dunajow, Galicia.  It is now a part of the Ukraine.

Filip Bidak resided in Manhatten for the rest of his life.  He died in May of 1913 and is buried in Calvalry Cemetery.

Bidak Family

The Bidak Family
Janek (John), Filip, Constantia and Josephine Bidak

Special thanks to Beverly Bidak for sharing. 

Other Rolls of Microfilm Available at the Lewiston Public Library

In Microfilm on January 23, 2013 at 4:08 pm

We also have the following rolls of microfilm on permanent loan at the Lewiston Public Library.  You may view these records free of charge.

Please call the library (754-4720) or email Michelle at lewgen@nioga.org for details concerning setting up a time to view these records.

You may also go to www.familysearch.org to make an account and to order your own records which may be sent to our library for viewing.

As we are now an official affiliate of FamilySearch, it is possible to order any of the microfilm available through FamilySearch.  There is a mininal shipping fee

of $7.50 for rentals which will include a three month viewing period, or $18.75 for a permanent (extended) loan.  The library always appreciates donations, as well.

These records will stay in the library.

The library will continue to add new rolls of microfilm to our permanent collection.  The library always appreciates donations, as well.

Stay tuned!

On permanent loan:

St. Peter’s Roman Catholic (Lewiston)

Microfilm of original records at Saint Peter Rectory, Lewiston, New York.

Some of text in Latin.

Some volumes include index.

Contains baptisms 1851-1905, 1851-1917, confirmations 1874-1917, marriages 1851-1917, deaths 1885-1903.

Includes Niagara University baptisms 1862-1917.

Donated by Michelle Kratts. 

Riverdale Cemetery  (Lewiston)

Microfilm of original records at Riverdale Cemetery, Lewiston Village, Town of Lewiston, Niagara County, New York.

Contents: items 1-2. Alphabetical lot index — items 3-11. Lot records for sections 1-2, 4-5, 7-8, 10-11. The sections not included on this film are in Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Town of Lewiston, New York. The records of Gate of Heaven Cemetery are cataloged under: Gate of Heaven Cemetery records (Lewiston, New York) 1865-1983.

Donated by Beverly Bidak.

Gate of Heaven (Lewiston)

Microfilm copy of original records at Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Town of Lewiston, Niagara County, New York.

Includes diagrams of lots.

Contains cemetery register for sections 2-3, 6, 9, 12, 14, 15, 18. The register for sections 1, 4-5, 7-8, 10-11, 13, 16-17 is at the Riverdale Cemetery, Lewiston, New York. Records for Riverdale Cemetery are cataloged under: Riverdale Cemetery Association (Lewiston, New York).

Donated by Beverly Bidak.

New Microfilm Available: Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Niagara Falls Branch

In Microfilm on January 23, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Corner of Willow and Seventeenth Street, 1909

Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Corner of Willow and Seventeenth Street, 1909

Membership records 1892-1919 Children blessed 1908-1918 Marriages 1907-1918

View these records at the Library in the Local History Room on our new microfilm reader.

*****SPECIAL THANKS TO THE FRIENDS OF THE LEWISTON PUBLIC LIBRARY FOR PURCHASING THESE RECORDS FOR THE LIBRARY*****

New Microfilm Available: Church of the Epiphany, Niagara Falls

In Microfilm on January 23, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Microfilm of original records at Church of the Epiphany Episcopal Church Rectory, Niagara Falls, New York.

Contains baptisms 1858-1896, confirmations 1865-1895, marriages 1858- 1891, deaths 1858-1896, marriages 1895-1896, baptisms 1896-1926, confirmations 1896-1928, marriages 1896-1919, deaths 1896-1926.

The issue of women's suffrage discussed in 1915 at the Church of the Epiphany

The issue of women’s suffrage discussed in 1915 at the Church of the Epiphany

View these records at the Library in the Local History Room on our new microfilm reader.

*****SPECIAL THANKS TO THE FRIENDS OF THE LEWISTON PUBLIC LIBRARY FOR PURCHASING THESE RECORDS FOR THE LIBRARY*****

New Microfilm Available: St. Peter’s Episcopal, Niagara Falls

In Microfilm on January 23, 2013 at 3:30 pm
Elizabeth Porter

Elizabeth Porter, one of the founding members of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Niagara Falls

Stained glass window in St. Peter's

Stained glass window in St. Peter’s

Microfilm of original records at Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church Rectory, Niagara Falls, New York.

Some volumes include index.

Contains baptisms 1831-1929, confirmations 1829-1921, marriages 1847-1921, deaths 1846-1921.

View these records at the Library in the Local History Room on our new microfilm reader.

*****SPECIAL THANKS TO THE FRIENDS OF THE LEWISTON PUBLIC LIBRARY FOR PURCHASING THESE RECORDS FOR THE LIBRARY*****

New Microfilm Available: Sacred Heart Church

In Microfilm on January 23, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Now available at the Lewiston Public Library: records from Sacred Heart Church.

Microfilm of original records at Sacred Heart Parish, Niagara Falls, New York.

Most of text in Latin.

Most volumes include index.

Contains baptisms 1865-1909, confirmations 1897-1916, marriages 1859-1918, deaths 1897-1921.

sacred heart

 

View these records at the Library in the Local History Room on our new microfilm reader.

*****SPECIAL THANKS TO THE FRIENDS OF THE LEWISTON PUBLIC LIBRARY FOR PURCHASING THESE RECORDS FOR THE LIBRARY*****

New Microfilm Available: St. Mary of the Cataract Parish

In Microfilm on January 23, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Microfilm of original records at Saint Mary of the Cataract Parish, Niagara Falls, New York.

Most of text in Latin.

Contains baptisms index 1851-1908, baptisms 1851-1908, confirmations 1861-1917, marriages 1851-1908, deaths 1861-1901.

st mary's of the cataract

*****SPECIAL THANKS TO THE FRIENDS OF THE LEWISTON PUBLIC LIBRARY FOR PURCHASING THESE RECORDS FOR THE LIBRARY*****

New Microfilm Available: Deveaux Episcopal School/Church Records

In Microfilm on January 23, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Check out our new microfilm records.  We now have church records from DeVeaux Episcopal School from 1898-1956.

Deveaux School

These records contain the following:

Marriage (1944-1956)

Baptism (1898-1953)

Confirmation (1898-1944)

Marriage (1903-1944)

Death (1912-1947)

Come and check them out!

*****SPECIAL THANKS TO THE FRIENDS OF THE LEWISTON PUBLIC LIBRARY FOR PURCHASING THESE RECORDS FOR THE LIBRARY*****

Niagara Falls, New York, Deaths, 1857

In Niagara Deaths, Niagara Falls, Niagara Falls Gazette Deaths on January 22, 2013 at 11:11 pm

The following link is to deaths printed in the Niagara Falls Gazette during 1857.

Deaths 1857

Please note the definitions for these abbreviated terms as they may be helpful:

Inst.–this means the present month

Ult.–this means the previous month