Lives and Memories of our Ancestors

Genealogy is certainly more than just names, dates, and places. However, the farther back in time, the fewer the stories and memories.  So I was delighted to come across this article sent to me by Marge. O.

The following was written by Diedrich Swart (a/k/a Zwart), a first cousin three times removed. He was born in Germany, came to the USA and served for many years as a minister in Kansas. In this excerpt he is describing his grandfather, Geerd Heits Bronlewe (1793-1875), who is also my third-great grandfather.

“I was born January 1, 1862 in Mark, Ostfriesland, Province of Hanover, Germany.  I came to America with my parents in 1872.  A sister, Hembina, and a brother, Heit Thomas, died enroute on the Atlantic Ocean and were buried at sea.  A brother, Martin,  died after we landed in New York.  We arrived in Manhattan, Kansas in October 1872.  On April 13, 1873 we settled on a homestead three miles northeast of Leonardville, Riley County, Kansas.

My mother’s father, Geerd Heits Bronlewe (also father of Upkea (Katie) Bronleewe Groeneveld and Antje Bronleewe Groeneveld),  [Note: Antje is my great-great grandmother]was a butter and cheese buyer He had a certain territory in which he purchased butter in kegs, holding approximately ten gallons.  Living by the navigable river Ems, the people from whom he bought the produce brought it to the landing places at the river.  At those places, he loaded the produce on the boat and when he had accumulated enough for a boatload, he would transport it down the river to the city of Leer, from which place it was transported to foreign markets, mostly England.

At regular times Grandfather Bronlewe would make the rounds to pay his patrons.  This was done afoot.  He carried the cash in a rather large red handkerchief, mostly in silver and gold.  I made the trip with him once and at each place, I would receive a slice of bread and butter and cheese and cookies.  I was full up to my neck all the day.  Grandfather Bronlewe was a man of kind disposition, highly respected.  Grandmother, I remember as cheery and kind, a lover of children.  They were in comfortable circumstances.”

There is one other observation: perhaps history does repeat itself in that my own father, Tom Schwans, was for some years also a buyer of eggs and cream from farmers.  But I don’t think he paid his customers in gold and silver!

Posted in German Ancestry, Groeneveld, Groeneveld Genealogy, Ostfriesen Ancestry and Culture | 3 Comments

A Stone for Caroline

Caroline’s stone in St. Stephen’s Cemetery,
Bridgewater, South Dakota
A young Caroline Nipp

Caroline Nipp, my great-grandmother was born Christmas Day, 1858, in Guttenberg, Iowa, the daughter of immigrants from Liechtenstein.  She married William J. Naescher on 27 January 1880 in Guttenberg. They homesteaded in Hutchinson County, Dakota Territory. She faced many struggles in her life, one of which was being widowed at the age of 28 with three young children.

She did remarry in 1888 to John Schaefers,  a widower with two children. She and John had three children and she passed away 26 January 1893 a month after giving birth to my grandfather.  She is buried at St. Stephen’s Catholic Cemetery, Bridgewater, South Dakota.

The graves of her two husbands are marked, but for an unknown reason, her grave did not have a tombstone.   About a year ago my husband Jim suggested we remedy that situation. We looked and ordered a simple stone to commemorate her life.  It was expected to be placed by Memorial Day 2019. We had decided to have a family reunion of some of Caroline’s descendants to celebrate the occasion with the reunion starting at Caroline newly-installed tombstone.  You know the family reunion was planned by a genealogist when a reunion originates in a cemetery! But Mother Nature had other plans and extremely wet weather delayed the installation. And, despite plans to gather at the cemetery anyway, two weeks prior to the planned reunion, the road to the cemetery was closed for repair, making access impossible.  (A great demonstration of Murphy’s Laws.)

Instead, we gathered at the parish hall of St. Stephen’s Catholic Church and cousins who had not seen each other in nearly forty-years reconnected.  Relatives also came from across the country and Canada! About fifty people attended. It was also the first time my five siblings were together in a number of years.

And the stone for Caroline?  It was finally able to be placed in early August 2019 (pictured below), “only” 126 years after her death.  Rest in peace, Caroline Nipp Naescher Schaefers!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

“Trees To Tame the Wind”

This film, with a running time of about eleven minutes, describes the shelter belt and trees planted by Ed Casey in the 1930s as part of a project to protect the soil from erosion.

Ed Casey was the second husband of my grandmother Leona (Ernster) Schaefers.  Each had lost their previous spouse in about 1960.  They were married 2 January 1963.

(If the image is not clear, try viewing it in full-screen mode.)

Trees To Tame The Wind

Posted in Schaefers Genealogy, South Dakota, Uncategorized | Tagged | 3 Comments

Wasserburg Plate

Readers may remember the blog post from June 16, 2016, about the Wasserburg Plate which suffered a cruel fate on the way back to the USA and was cracked.  Another post dated January 26, 2017 described images of a commemorative metal that Klaus Erdmann sent to me.

Now Mr. Erdmann has graciously sent me two images of  plates which he created.  Thank you, again!

Plate on the left has an image of the Wasserburg in Anstel.  On the right is an image of St. Martinus Catholic Church in Nettesheim.

This helps ease the pain of my broken Wasserburg plate.

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Serendipity Genealogy Finds

I’ve taken on a large project of going through my many genealogy files to clean up and downsize all the papers and extra “stuff.”  Among the minds was this transcribed “Auction Sale Bill of Okke Sievers.”  Okke (1882-1871) and his wife Dirtze janssen Huismann (1833-1869) came to the USA in 1869.  Due to sickness on the ship, Dirtze died in Grundy County, Iowa, a short time after their arrival.  Okke died two years later.  They are buried in German Township Cemetery in Grundy County, Iowa.  (They left several minor children children and that whole saga ended in a court battle–a subject for another blog article.)

This appear to be quite a list, and I wonder why the family emigrated since it appears they were not desperate.  Was it a desire for freedom?  A sense of adventure?  A sense of wanting a better opportunity?

     “Landowner Okke Sievers of Neermoor, who wants to immigrate to American has contracted with me to auction off his farm near Neermoor which consists of his house, building, and garden, 4 acres of farm land, grassland, various pieces of peoperty, 1 piece of low lying ground, peat land, 2 pews in the Church of Neermoor, also property rights to the burial plots in the Cemetery, other lands will be auctioned March 19, Saturday at 2:00 at the Tavern of Van Lingden in Leer.–Buttjer Auctioneer”

Posted in German Ancestry, Ostfriesen Ancestry and Culture, Schwans Genealogy | 1 Comment

Letters from Germany (1881-1919)

Letters From Germany

When you’ve been researching your family ancestry for many years, the big discoveries don’t seem to come quite so fast as you continue the search. But recently I experienced one of the “golden events” that was, to me, monumental.

Shortly after our visit to Germany a few years ago, we learned about some letters written by my great-grandfather Johann Schwans (1848-1936) to Eilert Eilers in Bokel (now called Vreschen-Bokel.) The letters spanned the years 1881-1919 and had only recently been donated to a museum in Cloppenburg.

Jens Delger, a great friend and genealogist who grew up in the parish of Apen (of which Vreschen-Bokel is part), was able to obtain a copy of the letters and papers. Recently, Jens and his wife Jane visited us and brought the papers. What a treasure!

Jens was able to read the handwriting and, with Jane’s assistance, translated the letters for me. Can I say it was thrilling to know the content and see a copy of my great-grandfather’s writing? Truly a “golden event!”

A little background: Johann Schwaans/John Schwans came to the USA in 1881 and lived for about three years in Grundy County, Iowa. He had owned a piece of land in Vreschen Bokel, Germany and leased it an Eilert Eilers. We have not discovered a relationship between the two families. John homesteaded in Aurora County, Dakota Territory, near White Lake. He lived there until the late 1880s and then moved to rural Bridgewater, South Dakota.

The content of the letters revealed some of the day-to-day events of his life:

  • In 1881 John bought three cows and 10 pigs and will rent machinery.  He also plans to buy horses.
  • In 1883 John went to the White Lake area of Dakota territory to look at available land and commented “it looks like Ostfriesland.” Probably he meant the land was very flat.
  • In 1883 John wrote to Eilert Eilers to send money (probably rent money) because he needs it to buy machinery to plow
  • In 1883 John mentions owning some land in Grundy County, Iowa. (I intend to research land records at the courthouse to see if I can identify the land.)
  • in 1884/85 John mentions losing 55 chickens in the winter but no cattle were lost
  • in 1885 he comments he is glad not to have to borrow money from a bank in Dakota Territory. (I think he did not personally like the banker.)
  • John Schwans sold the land in Germany in 1885 to Eilert Eilers.

Included in the packet of papers is a form showing that John Schwans’ step-daughter gave up her inheritance rights to the farm in Germany. She passed these “rights” to John Schwans.

Most of the content of the letters is business related. We surmised that Eilert Eilers bought the land and paid for it over a period of years, similar to buying land on a contract.
John doesn’t say anything about his family except in one letter he states the weights of his children:
Lena weights a 150 pounds, Fred 125 pounds, and John 105 pounds. Did he do this to show his children were strong and healthy?
He also states there are wonderful opportunities in American if a person is willing to “work hard.”

One letter written in 1890 includes more details and we think was written by Johanna (Schwans) Huisman since she states how many children her two sisters, Anna (Schwans) Gossel and Lena (Schwans) Snyder have. She says she has three girls, the oldest six and the youngest six months. By the process of elimination based on census records, we’ve identified the writer as Johanna.

There was a bit more material on the Schwans family in the letters but that is a topic for another post!


Posted in German Ancestry, Germany, Iowa, Schwans Genealogy, South Dakota | 2 Comments

Images of Logan Township, Clark County, South Dakota

The photo on the left is Logan Dam, a WPA project of the 1930s.  The concept was that “water attracts water” so this dam was built to combat drought conditions.   Logan Dam served as a fishing, swimming, and boating area for families in Logan Township, Clark County, South Dakota.  These photos were taken in the early 1980s.

The photo on the right shows some of the early fall colors.  This area included the main pasture across the road from the farm buildings.  The dark line in the distance is the earthen dam graded to trap water for the cattle.

These images are from the farm area where my husband Jim was raised, about five miles southwest of Raymond, South Dakota.




Posted in Lohr family | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment