Today’s post is about finding the birth and baptism of Anna Schumann,
my great-grandmother, from Freienwalde, Pomerania, Prussia.
The names, birth and baptism dates of her three siblings, the names of her parents, and more, were also found on the same roll of now digitized microfilm.
Searching for Anna Schumann
Not a lot to go on from a genealogical perspective, but this is what I knew when I started my search:
1. Her name was Anna.
2. Her mother’s name was Augusta.
3. Her family was (supposedly) from Berlin.
4. When she died, she was laid out in the front parlor of my grandmother’s Chicago apartment. My mother, age 9, is displaced by relatives in town for the funeral and had to sleep on the couch in the same room with the body. (File that under Hell No and also under Things We Don’t Ask of Our Children Today.)
5. Anna was divorced from her first husband and became very religious. She was separated from her second husband at the time of her death, possibly because she was fond of getting up at the crack of dawn to listen to Billy Sunday, the snake-oil fundamentalist evangelist, on the radio.
A Clue is Found
A couple of years ago, Ancestry put up the U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 database. I never thought this would be a useful collection for me. My immigrant ancestors (all Burke’s steerage, never Burke’s peerage) arrived in the mid-1880s before passports were required.
Then I read the court records of Anna’s divorce from my great-grandfather Bruno Kirschstein. She vowed to leave him penniless and it looks like she succeeded. (I’m Team Bruno on this one.)
After that bit of information, I thought this database might be worth a look. Sure enough, in 1913 my great-grandmother Anna was doing so well she took a trip back to the old country and needed a passport. Needless to say, Bruno never went back home. He died in the poorhouse hospital in Cook County a few years after Anna went home in triumph.
Anna listed her birthplace as Freienwalde in the application. Google told me there was a town outside Berlin called Bad Freienwalde in Brandenburg. Family stories said she was from Berlin, so I made the leap and put the spa town down for her birthplace.
About a year later, I had my mtDNA tested and the results came back very strongly for Pomerania. I did some reading and began to puzzle over Bad Freienwalde in Brandenburg. I couldn’t find any Schumanns that fit in that town.
And then with a bit more sleuthing at Kartenmeister, I discovered there was a town called Freienwalde in Pomerania, Prussia. Today it’s in Poland and called Chociwel, in the West Pomeranian Voivodeship. (Can I just say here that I remember geographical research before the Internet and it wasn’t pretty – lots of gazetteers and maps and frustration.)
The Family History Library catalog revealed exactly one roll of microfilm for Freienwalde, Pomerania, Prussia, and none for Bad Freienwalde in Brandenburg. Suddenly I knew which town I was rooting for!
I order the film just before the local stake library closes for the month of August. In the meantime, I do some further research on Anna’s siblings. One moved to Minnesota. And I find a tantalizing reference to Anna’s mother’s maiden name, but Linch doesn’t sound very Germanic.
Birth and Baptism of Anna Schumann
Using the birthdate from the passport application, I head straight for 15 July 1861 in the parish register. And there I find my great-grandmother just exactly where she should be. Parents: Friedrich Wilhelm SCHUMANN and Auguste Marie Luise LINDE.
Without my recent success finding Bruno Kirschstein’s birth and baptism, I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to try this. Swedish and Norwegian records don’t scare me as much as German ones for some strange reason.
Reading German Parish Registers
So I was feeling pretty smart. And then I realized that the pastor who kept the parish register spelled out the dates for births and baptisms. And my ability to pick out März and Mai and Juni and Juli suddenly didn’t mean much when I couldn’t figure out the dates that went with those months. So I puzzled along with my German genealogical word list and relied mostly on the kindness of strangers. But at least I have a whole flock of Schumanns now and a lot of Lindes – but that’s a post for another day, like tomorrow.
Update: I now can muddle my way through German parish records. If I can, you can!