Saturday, November 28, 2015

I Do Not Know if Anyone Remembers Katherine Reimer

I do not  know if anyone remembers Katherine Reimer. I have only known about her for a month, but her story has stayed in my heart. Her mystery started years ago and I need to write about a small part of her life.

I had suspicions about Katherine, yet I did not have a clue about her the first time I saw the passenger arrival list of the Astoria, which departed in 1900 from Glasgow on May 28 and arrived at Ellis Island on June 9 of that year.

I discovered the Astoria passenger list in 2004 when I searched for the Reimers entry to the United States at Ellis Island.  Despite the text annotating my maternal great grandfather’s name as Phelep instead of Phillip, I found my great grandmother Anna and my grandmother Sophie listed beneath his name.  Sophie’s two sisters, Marie/Mary and Elizabeth, are also shown.  Philip’s occupation was recorded as a farmer.  Their ages matched my other records, their nationality was German and their last residence was Libau, Russia, one of the major ports of Russia at that time. How they traveled to Libau is likely another story unto itself.  Their destination?  Sheboygan, Wisconsin, of course.  Everything matched the oral history passed down by my family.

Since I found this passenger list, I have tracked Philip and Anna’s births to the 1850 and 1857 Reinwald Census among many other discoveries.

During the last few years, I sensed a strong need to go back, retrace, re-organize and cite all of my sources on the family history I have accumulated.  Over the years, my enthusiasm, computer and laptop changes, and destroyed external hard drives have left my research scattered and undocumented. Beginning with my conversation with my paternal Grandma Clementine Bauer in the 1960s to the last AHSGR convention, I have a broad and extensive period of documenting sources awaiting me in my near future.

One of the first documents I re-visited was the Reimer Passenger list. This time I noticed the total number in the Reimer party was six, not five.  Why was it so easy to miss this obvious count accentuated with a bracket when I first looked at this record?  I believe in my excitement to verify what I already knew, I missed an opportunity to learn more.

Line 26 shows the name of a 3 year old girl with the Reimer family.  The name looked like Kathe to me, however my daughter thought it was Ruth.  It’s definitely hard to decipher. Could my grandmother have had another sister of whom I never heard? Anything is possible, but why would no one have talked about her? I asked my mother about the extra passenger, but she did not know who it was.  It’s one of those mysteries that got tougher to solve as the years passed.

So, I continued on with other research, connecting with other experts, visiting fellow Germans from Russia in Leader, Saskatchewan, Bismarck, North Dakota and Billings, Montana. I learned about more and more research I needed to explore.

During a visit to my hometown last August, I asked my cousin, Charlotte Lamb, if she had any idea if our grandmother may have had another sister.  She was not aware of anyone else beyond ourfive known Reimers coming to America. Mystery unsolved.

About two months later I was accepted into the facebook Sheboygan Area Volga German group. One of the creators of the group was a fellow North High School student, Scott Lewandoske.  Scott has collected Volga German articles from the Sheboygan newspapers for years and is one of its most active historians.

On October 28, Scott posted the following article from the Sheboygan Telegram.

My heart leapt when I saw the surname Reimer, but I did not want to jump to conclusions. The article lists the family’s location as North 11th St and Ontario Ave.  I knew my great grandparents lived on Erie Ave., two blocks north of Ontario.  I consulted with my cousin, Mary Dotz, as we are both descendants of the Reimers. She thought the article tied to my family but also shared, "On second thought, my great grandparents lived at 1017 Ontario Avenue. I was not aware of this until Scott Lewandoske posted this.  The Reimer family were member of Trinity and the children attended Trinity."

I thought about this article for a few days and I could not come to terms with the loss of such a young girl. I knew this young Russia girl had to be a relative, but I wondered how close she was to Mary and me and exactly who her immediate family was.

I contacted the Wisconsin Department of Vital Records to request an uncertified death certificate. I included a copy of the Sheboygan Telegram article and all of the information I knew, which was not much.

On Thursday, November 19, I received my answer. As I held the self-addressed return envelope in my hands, I delayed opening, as I knew I would have an answer. Would it e the answer to the mystery I so wanted to solve? The anticipation was great and I didn't know what I would find inside.

I used my mother's favorite letter opener, pulled out the single sheet of paper, and slowly unfolded it. On the certificate, her name was spelled as Katherine Reimer. The next thing I saw was her parent;s names: Philip Reimer and Anna Kerber. Besides the names, the address on the death certificate matched the home where Phillip and Anna lived on 10th and Erie Ave. The paper fluttered out of my hands. To finally have the connection was overwhelming.

As I read the death certificate, I could understand why there were no stories. During the early 1900s, many children did not survive past infancy, much less to age 11. And, her death from bronchial pneumonia was likely an awful struggle for the family. As someone who lives with asthma and has experienced bronchitis, I understand a bit about her illness. I also know I had drugs and cures that were simply not available during Katherine's time.

Katherine died on Christmas Day, December 24, 1908.  Her oldest sister Marie/Mary was 19m, my grandmother Sophie was 18, and Elizabeth was 15. About a month and a half before Katherine died, Sophie gave birth to her son, Fred, on November 6.

I was heartbroken for the family yet so glad I found out who Katherine was. Yes, my grandmother, Sophie Reimer Jurk Herzog Balde Balte, had more than two sisters. She had three. On of whom was never spoken about or included in any family stories.

Phillip, Anna and Sophie were gone years before I was born. What I would give to talk to them and hear their tales.  Their journey to Libau, Russia, then to America, journeys Phillip and Anna traversed at least twice.What other secrets have gone with them?

It is gratifying to find out who Katherine was. It is also gratifying to ave a reasonable understanding of why I had not heard the story.  I will remember Katherine Reimer, especially this upcoming Christmas Day and include her in her rightful spot in my family tree. Finding out about Katherine Reimer is what genealogy is all about for me...uncovering stories and honoring those who went before us. It is about remembering. Yes, that extra name on the passenger list was a family mystery. And, now I can say, "Mystery solved."

©Anna Dalhaimer Bartkowski

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

How to Vacation as a Family Historian

Some people use their vacation time to go to the beach or the big city. As a family historian with a passion for genealogy, those two options do not typically enter my radar.

I am in the middle of the ideal German from Russia family historian vacation.  I flew from Phoenix, to Calgary, Alberta, onto Saskatoon, Saskatchewan where friends drove me to Leader for the "German Russian Cultural Festival." This gathering featured the promised "Renowned German Russian Speakers," and "Guided Bus tour of the local geographic sites."  The festival did not disappoint.

I was honored to be included with Merv Weiss, Norm Fischbuch, Morris Knorr, Elvire Necker-Eberhardt, David Kilwien, and Carolyn Schott as we shared our German Russian research and engaged with an engaged audience.  

I believer everyone walked away inspired to continue their research, enhance the new connections they found,and share their experience with others, especially the next generation.

We can only hope someone will pick up the torch and carry on similar events in Saskatchewan. Many thanks to Tim Geiger for carrying the torch for so long.

Merv Weiss and Tim Geiger

So, how do you top that experience?  I don't know that I can, but my dream vacation continues as I am now in Bismarck, North Dakota for the German Russian Heritage Society convention. Will keep you posted as to what comes into my radar next. 


Thursday, December 04, 2014

Pet Peeves of Writing and Expected Mothers

Grammar may seem like an old-fashioned concept.  It doesn't sound fun, unless like me, you enjoyed diagramming sentences in grade school. It sounds serious and perhaps tedious to some of us. For a generation growing up using acronyms as the key to text communication, it can be downright painful. BrB and r u there are mainstays. However, the lack of grammar is what is truly painful.  It is painful for the eyes to see.

One of the most excruciating examples I have seen is in a church parking lot. The church will remain nameless, to protect the innocent. On three parking spots close to the entrance, clearly painted in capital letters are the words, "EXPECTED MOTHERS."

I have looked at those words since 2002 and cringe every time I see it.  What does it really mean?  I do mental gymnastics trying to justify and determine how it came to be.  Did the painter misunderstand the words?  Did the contractor hear the instructions wrong?  Or, did they all think they were correct? Had someone written it and not seen the error of their ways?  And, just what is an "expected mother?"  Do I qualify because I have children and am expected to go to church?   Or, are they trying to give pregnant women a shorter walk to the service? Why do these questions keep flowing through my brain?
I hope the painting was not terribly expensive, but since it has not been corrected, it likely was.

Consider this, besides giving life to my pet peeve and writing this blog, what does bad grammar and poor writing skills cost us?  A recent article in the Huffington Post tells us it is quite expensive. The site merits attention, especially by students who think writing is as easy as texting or talking. Check out the article in full detail at  Basically, the article affirms that bad grammar does cost us.  It costs us money because better writers are paid more, make less mistakes, and perform better at their jobs. And the folks at grammarly know about  grammar and fun.  I became aware of them through their hysterical posts on facebook.  I am certain you will find one that connects with you at

So perhaps diagramming sentences and religiously spelling words correctly is a practice which should continue.. Perhaps  LOL, OMG and IDK could be replaced by reading more classics and creating essays of which we can be proud. Need inpsiration or help to get started?  Visit and they'll review your prose in seconds and make worthy suggestions.  You can prevent grammatical errors! It's radical! Actually, it's just a thought I had before I leave. Now I need to drive to church and grab one of those close parking spots.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Googling the family name....Veteran's Day Delight


Veteran's Day. A day of memory.  A day of reflection. An emotional day for some, a regular day for others.

As I reflected on Veteran's Day, I thought about the three veterans I knew best. After thanking them in a prayer for their service,  I decided to google their names just to see what would appear on my computer screen.

First,  I googled John Dalhaimer and Joseph Dalhaimer. John, the uncle I never knew, died in World War II in Saipan. Often there is new information online for him but I didn't see anything unusual.  Joseph, my dad, has a number of links but the most dominant one was the 'find a grave" site.

Then I searched for Stanley Bartkowski. I don't often google my father-in-law's name because he died in 1985 long before the internet was commonplace, before personal computers were household items, before and before cell phones were common. And, he lived a full life without those things. Stan was a great sports fan, particularly fond of baseball and football.  I can't remember a time when the television was not broadcasting a sport event at his house.

The photograph of him in his Texarkana baseball shown above hangs in my office.  He played minor league baseball and who knows how far he could have gone with his career but for a fateful event on December 7, 1941.

I was intrigued when a number of links actually pertained to the man I knew. The one that intrigued me most was

Perhaps the folks at baseball realized that baseball is a huge element of family history.  Perhaps they knew the stories of men of Stan's generation needed to be remembered. Perhaps they knew the oral history passed down to the next generation needed documentation, Whatever the reason, after a quick glance at their baseballs records, I discovered the information was in depth and fascinating to review. Especially for Stan Bartkowski, Sr.

Baseball reference shows that at 21 years of age, Stan was playing for Lubbock in the West Texas New Mexico league,  He played 128 games with a .266 batting average. Not bad for a kid from Wisconsin.

YearAgeTm        Lg  LevAff  G   PA   AB   R  H2B3BHR
194121LubbockWTNMDCHW128      492
      13128 6  7
But that was the summer of 1941. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, everyone in the United States experienced  change. Fierce patriotism fueled many young men to join the war effort. By 1942 Stan was in the Army in Walnut Creek, California.  His beloved Alice Grayson traveled to meet him there and they were married on November 8 before he left for overseas.

Then we have the gap.  For five years he was away from the minor leagues while he served his country.  Sure, he had a chance to pick up a bat and glove on occasion when in the Army, but the time spent away always begs the question: What if?

His baseball career resumed in 1946 when he played for 3 teams and moved up from C to AA status. From Texarkana to Vicksburg, Shreveport to Kilgore, Lufkin to Paris.  Paris, Texas that is. Where on June 28, 1950, his twin children were born.
YearAge  Tm      Lg     Lev    Aff   G     AB R H2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBA 
1946263 Teams3 LgsC-B-AACHW102    31280  19  1  8                        .256
194626TexarkanaETXL   C    CHW60     18146  11 1   3                         .254
194626Vicksburg  SEAL    B           31    10129     8 0   4                        .287
194626Shreveport  TL    AA   CHW11      30  5     0  0   1                       .167
194727Kilgore       LONE   C           131  499160 29 9  13                      .321
194828Lufkin         LONE   C           139  519156 32 2  12                      .301
194929Paris           ETXL   C            137  5371863512   9                       .346
195030Paris           ETXL   C              62   23181 18  1   9                       .351
195232Pampa       WTNM  C              62   23067   9  0  9                        .291
195434Ponca City    WA    C              23     8017   3  0  1                        .213
Despite strong hitting skills throughout his career, the travel, the time away from his hometown and the responsibility of raising three children helped change his mind about the baseball life. He returned to Milwaukee where he worked at Pabst Brewery, and ultimately spent most of his years at Falk Corporation, a major manufacturer of gears.

Family stories tell this tale, but finding the baseball records to back it up after an unlikely google search on Veteran's Day is a rare treat. Baseball has made the difference by capturing Stan's statistics and posting them online. What a delightful way to memorialize one of our our deserving veterans.