Saturday, June 02, 2007

Pivotal Moment

Since my return from Sheboygan, Wisconsin in April, German Russian research has dominated my free time. Genealogy is much like a mystery which individual researchers attempt to solve one clue at a time. Now book research has flowed into oral research since my mother returned a week ago from California. I was delighted when she finally opened her Mother's day gift of three photos of her mother and grandparents. These were the photos I received from my cousin, Charlotte, and my mother never knew these photos existed. The framed memories inspired more talk about our family. Our conversation continued where it left off three months ago regarding many of the unanswered questions we have, in particular, the Herzog and Reimer family stories. As the youngest daughter of Sophie and Fred Herzog, my mother is the last link to their legacy and to my grandmother Dina Herrmann Thalheimer Bauer. So, conversation now outweighs written historical research.

In Wisconsin, I learned how Oshkosh played an important role in many German Russian voyages to America. The Paine Lumber company offered immigrants free housing when they worked in the lumber mill. The lumber mill needed willing workers to replace strikers in the 1890's. Research on passenger lists for my grandparents Johannes and Klimentina Thalheimer indicate their final destination as Oshkosh, Wisconsin where Johannes's brother Nicol Thalheimer lived on High Street. I believe my grandparents arrived in Oshkosh, but we also know that one son was born in Maywood, Illinois, another in Racine, Wisconsin and they also worked on farms in California. Despite searching Oshkosh City Directory lists from 1910 through 1918, I could not find a match for Nicol Thalheimer on High Street or any other Oshkosh address.

Yet, in our basic every day routines we encounter the most fascinating and pivotal moments. The moment erupts into our lives and slowly we understand its impact. While reading my email, I discovered the subject line "Thalheimer Family." My curiosity was peaked. I opened the email despite not recognizing the email address. After years of trying to figure out what happened to Johannes and his family in Marienthal, this email changed everything.

The woman who sent this email wrote, "My grandparents are Nicolas and Pauline Thalheimer from Marienthal. Is there any possibility that we are related?"

I immediately replied and in subsequent emails, I have uncovered that her great-grandparents' names match the my great-grandparents' names. Her mother was born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Unless records prove otherwise, I believe I have found a cousin.
Our schedules are busy this week, however next week we will completely compare our genealogies.

Does this potential second cousin know anything about my grandfather's disappearance over 80 years ago? Did my grandfather return to Russia or move in with his brother somewhere in America? A pertetual mystery may well be resolved in the next few weeks.

No comments: