A Lost Ancestor
For many years I had heard stories of my great gandmother Emma. It had been told to us that she was from France, Germany or possibly Switzerland. It was never related in the stories that how she arrived to the United States or when. To this day this history is tenuous and cloudy at best.
My grandmother and my father had looked and searched for years not uncovering much, save a letter my great great grandfather had received from Switzerland around the turn of the 19th century. One of the greatest mysteries surrounding my great grandmother was what had happened to her mother. There was always speculation which went from abandonment of the family to an unfortunate early death. What we did not know was her name. My great great grandfather never remarried and died a widow in 1919. My great grandmother went to her maker never relating her name or if she did no one remembered.
In the past year I have become completly obsessed with my ancestors and genealogy. Although much work had been done by grandparents and parents, many gaps existed. I have been blessed with ancestors that were reasonably interested in their pasts to save documents, photos, etc., but there is always more work to do. So I set my sights on filling in the blanks and elaborating on information that has been collected.
One of those gaps was the Brandenburgs; the grandparents of my paternal grandfather. In particular, my great great grandmother. In my search I began to pursue whether they were French, German, Prussian or Swiss. It was not know when they emigrated to the United States. I first found the Brandenburgs on the 1880 census in Sherman, Texas. My great great grandmother was not there. There was my great greatfather and four children.
I began to search deeper by exploring ship passenger lists from the mid eighteenth century. By cross referencing my great grandmother Emma Brandenberg’s name I got a hit! In September of 1873, a family named Brandenberger left Hamburg for the New York. That family consisted of a mother, two sons and a daughter. All were listed as Swiss. To my amazement all the children’s names and ages matched. Not completely convinced I continued my search. Since I knew that the in the 1880 census there was no mother, but another son this continued my skepticism.
What I did glean from this passenger list was a woman named Adelheid traveled alone with three small children named Henry, Otto and Emma, that they were Swiss and they were lsted as Brandenberger not Brandenburg.
Mid decade censuses are wonderful things. In my search I came across the 1875 Kansas census. In that census I found a family match in Marysville. The family was together! My great great grandfather and grandmother, the three children. The family had dropped the (er) and now I knew for sure that my great great grandmother was indeed Adelheid. To appear less immigrant, she had adopted Adeline as her given name. What had been a deadend has now been solved. Our great great grandmother was Adelheid Brandenberger from Switzerland!
It now appears that Adeline died giving brith to Frank Carl who was concieved sometime after the family was united in the United States. My great great grandfather, Henry left Switzerland in 1872 and had the family come soon after. Somewhere between Marysville, Kansas and Sherman, Texas Adeline died. This so devastated the family that it was barely ever spoken of again. My great grandmother Emma assumed the role of matriarch caring for the boys until she married my great grandfather at eighteen in 1888.
The devotion of Henry Brandenberg to Adeline was so great that he lived forty-four more years making a point to call himself widow in every census thereafter. Henry spent his final days in Pawhuska, Oklahoma continuing his profession as a stone mason working in the city cemetary there. Coincidently, Pawhuska, Oklahoma is on the way from Marysville, Kansas to Sherman, Texas. Although we have no gravesite, I now believe that Adeline died somewhere in Osage county, Oklahoma.
There is more work to do. I still don’t know what brought the family to the United States. Was it the Franco-Prussian War? Were they escaping war-torn Strassborg? Were they Swiss whose families did not grace their marriage? Or was it a combination of this and other reasons.
True is stranger than fiction. Find your roots! They will amaze you…