Once upon a time--in fact it was April of 1989, about two years after I'd discovered the forms called Family Group Sheets and Pedigree Charts which set my fill-in-the-blanks mentality ablaze--I received a letter from a cousin I'd never met. (Odd, since we were just a month apart in age, and both grew up in the suburbs east of Detroit, and her grandfather was my mother's godfather... but I digress.)
You probably already know I'm talking about Cheryl (Two Sides of the Ocean). She'd already done considerable work on the line we had in common, that of Joseph Meyer Schulte, but had hit the brick wall in Germany. We corresponded a bit and shared what we knew, but both had other lines to work on which were more readily traced, so our contact, along with the Schulte research, languished until 2005.
My mother died in April of that year. Cheryl read her obituary and managed to track down my email address and re-establish contact with me. A lot had happened in the world of genealogy in the interim, and if that's not an understatement, I don't know what is. Probably everyone has a story to tell about how the advent of online research opened new doors for them.
In the intervening years, neither of us had learned any more about the German roots of the Schulte family. The only clue we had about their place of origin was something Cheryl found, the Masonic records of Joseph's son Rudolph, which gave his birthplace as Backen, Germany. However, there seemed to be no such place. As we traded emails on the subject, it occurred to Cheryl to ask a German cousin she'd met while researching another of her lines whether he knew anything of Backen.
She emailed Gerhard Kolberg and he soon replied:
I found two little towns near Muenster with names who are alike with [Backen]. These towns are "Borken" and "Beckum". Especially Borken is alike Backen if you write it with the old German letters called Suetterlin. This letters the most people used in the time till 1935.With Gerhard's suggestion, Cheryl went to the Family History Library Catalog online and did a place search for Borkum. She emailed me with what she found:
...there are way too many records for Borken to break down as to where to start. Want to take a look? Let’s see if I can lead you there...In an inspired moment that surprises even me, I thought to try looking up Joseph Meyer Schulte in the IGI to see whether the microfilms Cheryl mentioned might have been indexed. I found this:
...then go to “place name” and type in “Borken” and then in the box below type in “Germany” and see how many records there are. We can try only the sites that say Borken, Westfalen, etc but still that would be reels and reels to order and scan. OK, I am going to take half of them and order them and start in on Monday looking – you can take the other half, ok? Ha!! Seriously, I wish we had a smidgen more information to help us feel comfortable in figuring out if this could be a possibility. What are your thoughts?
It looks like there are also Mormon-microfilmed records on the other similar sounding village of Beckum in Munster, Westphalen.
6. JOSEPH SCHULTE - International Genealogical Index / GEAlthough the father's name in this listing didn't match our expectations (Joseph's death certificate gives his father's name as Julius Schulte), both Cheryl and I were excited to find someone with the right name and birthdate in a place that sounded an awful lot like Backen. We shot emails back and forth that night at an alarming rate! More study of the IGI listings turned up additional Schulte entries and Hagedorn entries too.
Gender: Male Christening: 09 FEB 1843 Sankt Stephan Katholisch, Beckum Stadt, Westfalen, Preussen
Still, we wondered how to be sure this Joseph was our ancestor. I downloaded a GEDCOM of all the listings I thought were relevant, and wrote an email telling Cheryl how to do the same. As a last-minute thought, I added, "Hey, when you're going through the IGI again, notice if there are any Meyers or Myers... I didn't notice any, but I wasn't really looking." Since Joseph and many of his descendants had Meyer as a middle name, I thought if we could find people named Meyer in the same town, we couldn't possibly be on the wrong track.
Soon, Cheryl emailed me back:
WE DID IT!!!!! (I AM 99 99/100% SURE)With the three of us bringing our bits of knowledge and experience to the table, and with the gift of microfilming and indexing done by others, we not only enjoyed an exciting breakthrough in our research, but now had a new question, too:
Your suggestion to look for Meyers or Myers did the trick. I have spent the last hour TRYING to download and my xxxxxxx pop up blocker is preventing me from doing so. I have turned it off and on – oh forget it for now, I am too excited and I printed out the records instead of downloading.
I went back thru the list as you suggested and looked for Meyers and guess what I found…..
4 records of children born to Johann Herman MEIER Schulte and Maria Gertrud Hagedorn – can you believe it. The children have the name MEIER in their surname and in one case hyphenated with Schulte. Now we have 6 children – 5 siblings for OUR Joseph (and, YES) I am more than ever convinced these are OUR family.
- Joseph Schulte born 7 Feb 1843 son of Joh. Herm. Schulte and Maria Gertrud Hagedorn
- Johann Theodor Schulte born 10 Jan 1846 son of Johann Hermann Schulte and Maria Gertrud Hagedorn
- Maria Christina Meier Schulte born 6 Feb 1849 daughter of Johann Hermann Meier Schulte and Maria Gertrud Hagedorn
- Louise Meyer Schulte born 9 Jan 1851 daughter of Johann Hermann Meyer Schulte and Maria Gertrud Hagedorn
- Maria Gertrud Meyer Schulte born 22 Dec 1851 daughter of Johann Hermann Meyer Schulte and Maria Gertud (sp) Hagedorn (two babies in 1 year!)
- Franz Meyer-Schulte (hyphenated) born 11 Dec 1853 son of Johan Hermann Meyer-Schulte and Maria Gertrud Hagedorn
Meyer-Schulte? What's that about?
In Part 2, we'll have a look at the microfilmed records and see what we can find out.
Below: Cheryl's first letter to me, 1989
(click to enlarge)
(click to enlarge)