Family research is such an addicting hobby. It’s full of twists and turns that can lead to either a brick wall or genealogy gold! The latter is what my 3rd cousin x1 removed and I struck this weekend. She introduced me to my Great-Great-Grandpa Frädrich‘s two siblings Johanna (Karoline) and Albert (Karl) Frädrich who never emigrated from Prussia. We began this family history hunt earlier this year, and we have finally uncovered most of what we set out to find about the sister, Johanna, and her family. It has been thrilling to obliterate brick walls and piece her family history puzzle together. This was a challenge. This was not as easy as typing in a name on one of the genealogy websites and everything pops up for you. My cousin and I navigated through foreign websites and clicked through hundreds of scans looking for names, dates, and places.
Our starting point for the search was a birth record found in the old church records. A lot of these old records are being scanned and made available to researchers online. My cousin has a few items of interest from this family, too. She has a set of letters Johanna sent to her brother, Ferdinand Frädrich, in America. Ferdinand is whom my cousin is a descendant of. They were dated from 1922 and sent from Treptow, Kreis Greifenberg, Pomerania, Prussia, which has been part of Poland since 1945. She also has a photograph of a family taken in Treptow an der Rega. There are no names nor a date on the picture, but in one of the letters Johanna alludes to a photo that was sent to family in America, so maybe it is of her and her family. We hope to have them identified someday.
The first chip to the brick wall happened when my cousin dug up notes from a record she found online, which was later taken down. It was a church birth record from 1877 from the village Kratzig, kreis Köslin, Pomerania, Prussia, for a Bertha Hackbarth. Her parents are listed as Johanna Frädrich and Heinrich (Ferdinand) Hackbarth. We had a last name–Hackbarth! With that information we were able to find Heinrich’s birth record online.
Later on, I found that document was back online again and discovered a side note to the original entry that the couple had been married in Treptow an der Rega in November 1884 (more on that later). We had the last name and now knew the family moved! The next challenge was finding whether the records survived and where to find them. We are thousands of miles away from the archives that would have these, and we exhausted our resources on sites like Ancestry or FamilySearch. Not all records are on those websites or easily searchable. We are relentless family history sleuths!
Finally, we had a breakthrough! My cousin contacted the folks that run MyPomerania.com, and they revealed a treasure trove of old government documents that have been digitized and available online. Included in the files were civil registry records for Treptow an der Rega. Church records are our main source of information for family members prior to the 1870s. After the formation of the German Empire civil registries were made mandatory in all German provinces to keep government records of births, marriages, and deaths.
Our first discoveries for this family in Treptow were the younger children. We found six additional children born to the couple. We paged through hundreds of birth records from 1880 to 1900 and found the children’s names and birth dates. With that we were able to put pieces together for the children’s families. We used the letters my cousin has to confirm names and ensure we had found the correct people. These were great discoveries, but we still did not have a death record for Heinrich or Johanna.
The search sort of got put on hold for me. This year was a busy year with the addition of a new little one to my family tree. My cousin kept moving along finding documents to be translated and added to the memories section of the Hackbarth family in their profiles on FamilySearch.org. It wasn’t until last week that I got a little time to work on this again–seeing as I am quarantine right now for Covid and can’t go anywhere. I thought I would use this time to start the search again, so I connected with my cousin again and picked up where we left off.
We were still at a brick wall with no death records. The only way to find them would be to just start looking through the hundreds and hundreds of records. Then I thought about city directories for research I’ve done on people here in the United States. It doesn’t give you any information other than where people lived, but that is exactly what we needed to know. If I could find directories it might help us pinpoint when they had died, because they would no longer be listed. Time to do some serious searching!
Somehow I found a German website, navigated through it, and found a 1930 address book for the city of Treptow an der Rega. Finally, I had found Johanna–who went by Karoline. It only listed her and not Heinrich. I narrowed down that he must have died between 1922 (the letters) and 1930. That was a good start. I shared this with my cousin who found on the same website the 1925, 1927, 1928 and 1931 address books that I had missed. She found that Heinrich was listed in 1925 but not 1927, 1928, nor 1931. In fact, Karoline was listed as a widow in the 1931 book. So we knew for sure he had passed away. What was strange was that they listed his youngest daughter, Emma, at his address in 1927 as the widow.
Treptow a. d. Rega Address Books
I began my search in the 1926 and 1927 Treptow civil register death records. I went through over 400 pages, but came up with nothing. Then I thought he may have died in 1925. Another 200 records later and nothing. Where could he be? My cousin suggested that maybe he went to live with another child and passed away in another city. One of his letters mentions he went to Stettin to the hospital for medical treatment on his arm. Could he have gone to Stettin and died there? My cousin began searching through the massive amount of records for that city.
Sometimes the best way to get past an obstacle in your research is to walk away for a minute. I turned my attention back to Johanna. We knew she was in the city in 1931. So I started to search the 1932 death records in hopes she would turn up. I was no more than twelve pages into that year’s death records when I found her! How exciting! I can’t read the old German script well, but I could make out her name and Heinrich’s name. It also helped that the document gives her date and place of birth. We found her! It was one victory!
With Johanna’s information located, it was time to turn back to Heinrich. I had one last idea of when he could have passed away. He was in the 1925 directory, but I thought maybe that directory was compiled a year beforehand. Perhaps he died after it had been completed! So I started searching the 1924 death records–all 200 plus documents. I kid you not, I was within the last dozen documents when I found his death certificate. He passed away on Christmas Day 1924. We had obliterated the brick wall and pieced the puzzle together! I had all of the documents we found translated and uploaded to these family members’ profiles in FamilySearch.org–by the way, FamilySearch is free!!
Just when we thought we had solved the mystery, another emerged. Remember when I said that we figured out the last name of the family from a side note in the birth entry for the oldest daughter, Bertha? She was born out-of-wedlock in 1877, and th note added years after said the couple was married in Treptow an der Rega on November 4, 1884. However, their marriage record was not where it was supposed to be. Great, another mystery to solve! The note in the church record from Kratzig must have been an error. Back to digging.
My first thought was to look at when the other kids were born. The next child that we have linked to them is Otto Hackbarth born in 1883. Sadly, he passed away about a month after being born. Working backward from 1883, I started searching the marriage records. First 1883, then 1882, and with 1881 I struck gold! They were married on November 4, 1881. We finally had it all!
This was one of my first in-depth family history sleuthing using a wide variety of sources. I spent a couple of nights up very, very, very late. I really could not have done this without the help of my cousin, whom I met by chance through FindAGrave. She has done a tremendous amount of research and found some very valuable documents that piece our families together. It has been and continues to be fun working with her and finding new sources for information. I am hoping we get to meet someday soon!
We just have Albert (Karl) Frädrich to find and piece together in our tree for this group of our family. He might be the most elusive member of the family yet! The last place we find him in the documents is in Kratzig in 1880. He will be featured in part 2 of this Frädrich family history quest.
Share a story of a family history quest you were on! Whom were you looking for and what brick wall did you knock over? What was the most important tool you used to find that family member?