Sunday, May 13, 2007

Research pays off with Invaluable Information

As part of my family history research, I traveled to my hometown of Sheboygan, Wisconsin in late April. My cousin Charlotte Lamb and I trace our family history to Reinwald, Russia. We visited both the Lutheran Cemetery and the Catholic Calvary Cemetery to pay our respect to our grandparents and great-grandparents. Charlotte is the first grandchild of Philip and Anna Maria Reimer. I am the youngest grandchild. Our age difference spans 25 years. Charlotte remembers our grandparents and I was not born until after their deaths. Spending time with her opened was extremely valuable. She answered many family questions for me. When I asked, “Do you have any pictures of our Philip Reimer?” I was stunned to hear her answer, “Yes.” Three pictures later, and I have copies of my great-grandparents and my grandparents. I had never seen a photo of my grandmother as a young woman and it brought tears to my eyes. I am so grateful to Charlotte for her time and generosity.

I also met with Sheboygan Assistant City Historian, Scott Lewandowske. Scott has conducted research on German Russians from Reinwald who settled in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Scott’s research will culminate in a book on these settlers in the near future. Scott and I attended North High School together. It was a wonderful reunion. Scott has been a valuable contributor to the Sheboygan County Historical Research Center. He has also created detailed maps of the following cemeteries: Oostburg Cemetery in Oostburg, Wisconsin, Union Cemetery in Holland, Wisconsin, the Hartman Cemetery, First Reformed Church Cemetery, and the Presbyterian Cemetery in Cedar Grove, Wisconsin.

During the same visit, I attended two genealogical meetings in Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Genealogical Society’s Biennial Workshop featuring Cyndi Howells of www.cyndislist.com was a huge event at the Serb Hall in Milwaukee. The other meeting was the Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia monthly meeting. President Jim Philbert and his wife Helen were outstanding hosts. Their meeting included a noodle making demonstration and a chapter fund raising auction. I also met Roman Schmalz, author of the newly published book, “My Life in Stalin’s Russia.” Schmalz was an eyewitness to history as he saw his grandfather, father and uncles taken away, never to return. Schmalz says, “Our history does not explain this disaster in full truth and leaves it to the people to find out. My book descries it as it really was. It is kept compact and concise, in order not to dilute the seriousness of the tragedies.” At this point, I have not completed reading the book, but his personal experience provides us with valuable insight.

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