On Jan. 23, 1943, my uncle, Frank Ebner Gartz, (photo in uniform, above) reported to the draft board in Chicago to start his training for WWII. So began the correspondence between him and family & friends, comprising almost 300 letters going both ways. I’m posting many of these World War II letters, each on or near the 70th anniversary of its writing. To start with his induction, click HERE.

This blog began in Nov., 2010, when I posted a century-old love note from Josef Gärtz, my paternal grandfather, to Lisi (Elisabetha) Ebner, my paternal grandmother, and follows their bold decision to strike out for America.

My mom and dad were writers too, recording their lives in diaries and letters from the 1920s-the 1990s. Historical, sweet, joyful, and sad, all that life promises-- and takes away--are recorded here as it happened. It's an ongoing saga of the 20th century. To start at the very beginning, please click HERE.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

From Ship to American Soil

The Atlantic crossing from Bremerhaven to New York on her ship, Kaiser Wilhelm II, took Lisi a week. Early on, she learned the genre of the types of seafaring craft in which she traveled, and recorded it thus:

The big ship is called a Stimer [German phonetic for "steamer"]. The little boat which brings people to the big ships is called a sailboat. [I don't know whether that was what the boat  actually was called in English, but that's how her word, Segel, translates.

Before making its way to the open ocean, the Kaiser Wilhelm II  picked up additional passengers, including a little bird, as Lisi noted:

10:00 a.m. Isle of Wight. A swallow travels with us
11:00 a.m  Arrive Southampton
12:30 p.m. Depart Southampton

Every day she documented what she ate, which included such delectables as roasted (sometimes stewed) meats and fowl: beef, turkey, goose, and duck. She was served salads, soups, apples and oranges. Desserts like chocolate cream, pastries, vanilla cream custard,  compote, a type of bundt cake, or ice cream might conclude the meals.

Lisi  found a perfect souvenir to remind her of these savory repasts. On September 21, 1911, she wrote:

I paid 10 Pfennig for a postcard of the lunch menu to send to my sister.

She bought a couple copies of the 9/21/1911 breakfast menu for herself as well. Written in German and English, it was formatted to be addressed, stamped, and mailed--or, in the case of this one, saved--for 100 years. See below.

Check out the death scene at the top -- two wolves or wild dogs bringing down a terrified buck. Nature’s violence is something we twenty-first century sophisticates would rather not have to contemplate--especially at meal time.

Breakfast (Frühstück) Menu (Speisekarte) for 9/21/1911 the top (with photo)
 folded over the bottom and could be addressed and mailed as a postcard.
The same date as the menu postcard, 9/21, she made the only note in the whole diary about being seasick:

I threw up a little and didn’t feel well, so I wasn’t hungry. 

Besides the postcard menu, she bought other souvenirs on the boat as well:

On September 23, I bought a small teaspoon for 4 marks [German money].
7 cents for 2 postcards for me and one for J.G.  of New York. 

(See 7/19 post, Lisi's Moveable Feast to view Bremen/Bremerhaven postcards, which may be the ones she bought for herself).

The postcard for J.G. [clearly Josef Gartz] must be this one. It's a scene in New York and addressed to Josef with a postmark of "September," and content that tells him she’s landed safely. Before deciphering and translating her diary, I had assumed she bought the postcard in New York. Now I know its true provenance--from the ship. [Details coming up in a future post].

Lisi's postcard of her ship,
Kaiser Wilhelm II
Welcome to America!

At some time in her life (not clear when), Lisi recorded the details of her arrival in New York on the back of this postcard of the Kaiser Wilhelm II, bought either on the ship or in Bremen.

She wrote on the left side: Landing in N.Y. Disembarked from the ship at 7:00 p.m. on  26/9 (Sept. 26th) Elise Ebner, now Gärtz. (The "now Gärtz" tells me she made this note after her wedding. Another indication is that in her diary she noted the arrival time was 8:00 pm, meaning perhaps she misremembered the time by the time she made these notes. But close enough!). 
On the right she wrote: This is my ship that brought me to America in the year 1911.
Lisi's documentation of her arrival on the back of the
Kaiser Wilhelm II postcard, shown above left. 

On the next post, Lisi arrives at Ellis Island in New York where the ship's manifest (passenger list) documents the details of the next destination on her journey. It wasn't directly to Josef. To find out where she went first, check back next week.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lisi's "Moveable Feast"

Bremen Postcard from 1911
Bremen, Germany, was the gateway for millions of emigrants from Central and Eastern Europe to American. So it was for my grandparents. Josef had already left for America on New Year's Eve, 1910,  and now was waiting for his sweetheart, Lisi, to join him in Chicago.

As we saw in the last post, Lisi spent three nights in Bremen before heading to the port and the ship that would take her to America. She wrote nothing of her feelings about this momentous occasion, only the schedule details:

Arrival in Bremen Saturday, 9/16/11
9/19/11 8:00 a.m. Depart [Bremen]

Like Josef did nine months earlier, she was taking a train from the city of Bremen to the Bremen Port, Bremerhaven, about thirty miles south. These two postcards, mementoes in our archives which I assume she purchased during her stay a century ago, are the only clues I have of what she saw in those two days and three nights.

Port of Bremen- Bremenhafen
One depicts Bahnhofstrasse (literally, “Train Station Street”) in the heart of Bremen. The other is of Bremen Port. There she must have seen seagulls for the first time, and writes that “Seagulls look like doves, only bigger.” It’s the only comment she makes about her surroundings or the life-changing voyage she is about to embark upon.

While it doesn’t surprise me that my grandmother, Lisi, didn’t write much of her emotions, (I remember her as an exceedingly practical person), I was struck by the contrast between her diary and that of my grandfather. Grandpa's diary has given me an entirely new view of him. We always saw his joking, teasing, funny side, but through his letters and diary, I have discovered he was also romantic and  in touch with his feelings.

As his ship, Friedrich der Grosse, pulled away from shore nine months earlier, on December 31, 1910, he wrote from his heart:

I was moved by sadness, joy, and fear as the mighty colossus pulled us far out over the waves of the great sea. Everyone on land waved after us with their handkerchiefs as they wanted to share with us a last and friendly farewell. They know such a trip deals with life and death, and we’re never certain if we’ll see each other again. (See Out to Sea).

Lisi must have observed a similar scene when she boarded her ship, Kaiser Wilhelm II, but wrote nothing about it. However, she did save this wonderful postcard of KWII, noting details of her arrival on the back (more on that coming up). In the upper left is written: "Norddeutscher Lloyd Dampfer "Kaiser Wilhelm II." Norddeutscher Lloyd (North German Lloyd) was the shipping company that owned the ship. Dampfer means steamer.

Kaiser Wilhelm II - the ship that brought Elisabetha (Lisi) Ebner,
my grandmother, to America, departing Bremenhafen 9/19/1911
Once she was on the ship, Lisi again made no commentary on her experiences: whom she met, what the weather was like, what her fears or hopes were. Instead her diary is dominated by what she eats! As prosaic as that sounds, what these entries do reveal is what I believe is Lisi's amazement at the incredible quantity and variety of food she can choose from. It also shows that her ocean voyage was clearly at a higher class than that of my grandfather, Josef. He had traveled steerage (the cheapest ticket, in the bowels of the ship. No food included).

In his diary he had written:

Another problem on the ship was eating. As long as I had mother’s bread and wurst, it was ok, but when I had eaten all that, I just stood there and didn’t know how to get something to eat because the cost [of food] is miserable on the ship. (See Out to Sea)

In contrast, Lisi’s trip is marked by a bounty of food. The first day she boards the ship on September 19th, 1911,  she devotes her entire entry to the menu choices:

  asparagus [or]

Main courses:

  Fish baked with lemon and Potato salad
  Steamed beef with horse radish or gravy and roasted potatoes and steamed/stewed cabbage [or]
  Baked duck with apple compote and salad

  Ice cream
  vanilla cream (like custard)
  apples, oranges [or]

Evening meal:
  Veal liver or
  Chopped schnitzel (minced meat -- maybe like hamburger meat) and roasted onions

Every day, Lisi compulsively recorded the food, drinks, and snacks she consumed. But she also noted several purchases, as she kept track of expenditures. Her desire to record and save details of her and her family's life, even if mundane, has been a boon to my ability to puzzle out my family's history.

On the next post: the records Lisi did keep -- and the clues they provide to piecing together to the provenance of several century-old artifacts and documents.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Train Journey-Part II - To Catch a Ship

A century ago this summer, my grandmother, Elisabetha (Lisi) Ebner, was heading to America to meet and marry my grandfather, Josef Gartz. Her diary of the trip is often confusing because she intermixes train schedules, recipes, addresses, and meals. (See The Train Journey-Part I), but the important thing to me is that she actually recorded enough details,  that I can follow along on her journey.

Here's an overview map of the route she took, all noted in her diary: through the Austro-Hungarian towns of Budapest, Galanta, Trencin, Cadca; into Oderberg and Ratibor, the border town between Poland and Germany. She chugs along, noting the German towns of Breslau, Berlin, Hannover and finally to Bremen.

Lisi's approximate route from Hermannstadt/Sibiu in today's Romania
to Bremen. From there she'll take a train to the port.
Handwritten note from  Mrs. Jickeli's  on the back of her
 business card. See date at the end: 14/9 1911-
 Sept. 14, 1911, a clue Lisi had this note when she left.
Lisi jots down the times she arrives and departs many of the cities as she wends her way to the port of Bremen. The dates she lists indicate that she personally left on the train several weeks after dropping off her luggage on August 22nd. (See that first entry at Farewell, My Homeland).

The first date she lists of the actual train trip is September 15th, departing from Budapest at 6:50 pm.

It's about 267 miles from her home town to Budapest. I believe she started her trip on September 14th,  because she brought along with her a business card from her boss, Mrs. Jickeli, dated September 14, 1911.  (see photo) That date jives with the length of time it would have taken her to get to  Budapest.  I'll reveal what I discovered on that card in a future post,

On the right, the border town between Germany and
Poland is large and clearly written:  Ratibor
9/15, Friday: 6:50 pm depart from Budapest

9/16 Saturday: 1:00 a.m. arrive Cadca

9/16 Saturday: 2 a.m. arrive Oderberg; 2:30 a.m. 
Change trains to a “fast train” on the
Preussische Staatsbahn (The German State Train)

9/16 Saturday 4 a.m. Depart Oderberg (track #3)

9/16 [Saturday] 11:20 am arrive Berlin (at the Friedrich Street Train Station, where the porter takes her to the “Cashier” to exchange her Kroner (Austro-Hungarian money) for German Marks

[9/16 Saturday] 11:52 a.m. onward [from Berlin]

[9/16 Saturday] 5:55 pm arrive Bremen

9/16-9/19 [Sat. - Tues.] overnight in Bremen

Before changing trains in the “German area” (perhaps Oderberg), she writes:

Our tickets are checked and we each receive a little piece of paper, giving us our seat number [on the next train].

Of course Lisi must keep track of expenditures, so she records payments:

-Her tips to every porter at each train station.
-a cup of coffee cost 25 Pfennig (like “pennies”)
-the cost of her room and the money she pays each worker at the "B and B" where she overnights in Bremen.

The room: 15 Taler [coins-of indeterminate worth today]
Waiter 4 taler
Valet 6 taler
Chambermaid 2 taler
Total cost: 27 taler and 15 Pfennig

In Bremen, she records both what she eats and at what time:

1:00 pm -- a coffee
5:00 pm -- 1 soup and 1 schnitzel, 1 compote, 2 glasses of water, and 2 rolls
9:00 am -- 2 coffees, 3 rolls with butter 3 cups of coffee

September 16th - 18th were the last three days she would ever again spend in Europe.

9/19 Tuesday depart from Bremen at 8:00 am

This is it! The final leg of her train journey that will take her from the city of Bremen to the port--and to the ship that will carry her to America.

At some time in these last few days, she learns of the ship on which she'll cross the Atlantic. She enters its name and her cabin number--on the facing page of her diary’s first entry, which she had created on August 22, 1911. It's too important to be buried within.

Her ship name and cabin number, noted left - added to
the facing page, blank when she made her first entry,
the "22nd of August" right.

Elise Ebner
Cabin 731
Kaiser Wilhelm II

Coming up: Lisi starts a second diary--of her voyage across the Atlantic to America--closer to  Josef’s waiting arms.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Train Journey-Part I

Train image from a Budapest Post Card Josef sent to Lisi in
December, 1910, when he traveled toward Bremen.
 Lisi's train probably looked similar

It’s a mixed up world in Lisi’s diary. She knew her trip to America would be the a journey of a lifetime, and she wanted to keep track of as much as possible. She wandered freely about her little black book, entering what she could -- often intermixing train schedules, recipes, addresses, and expenses. Nevertheless, with dates and details, the flow of her trip emerges.

As seen in the last post, she dropped off her luggage at the Grosspold train station on August 22, 1911, probably to be shipped ahead to Bremen. She had made a list on that first page, of what she had packed in perhaps that one suitcase--mostly linens, photos, and maps. But that’s not all she brought. She includes the following on other pages, maybe just as it came to her mind:

Bed linens (a gift from her former employer, Berta Jickeli)
2 woolen smocks
1 cotton smock
Rustic clothing, probably meaning traditional costumes
Kitchen dishes
Sewing notions
Lisi's cake recipe

Recipe ingredients were included:

For a cake:
sugar to taste
baking powder
2 "coffee" spoons vanilla
2 beaten eggwhites

A tomato sauce:

sugar (to taste, she notes)

Addresses crop up throughout the book:

Mrs.Jickeli’s (her former employer) summer address in Bad Salzburg. (Here “Bad” means “baths” and Salz means “salt”-- a place near Sibiu/Hermannstadt, where one could enjoy mineral baths.)
(See Mrs. Jickeli's employment recommendation for Lisi at the post:  The Highest Recommendation).

Among her hometown contacts I recognize the names of friends who later wrote her letters, which I have in my collection.

Chicago addresses are thrown in throughout -- with phonetic spellings of street names and phone numbers. The latter were back in the day when an operator asked “Number, plee-uhs,” to connect a call. The caller gave her an “exchange” along with only four digits! Like “Kedzie 2500.” Lisi writes it “Ketzi,” as it sounds to her German language ear.

Phonetically she notes “Sirogs Robak” -- perhaps for work in Chicago--or where another immigrant works? My guess is--it's “Sears Roebuck.”

Gärtz Josef,  1550 Orchart (Orchard) St. Chicago Ill
Nord (North) America
Of course, Josef Gartz's address is listed on Orchard Street in Chicago, where she had written to him that she was coming. (See: Are We Going There to Stay? Again the placement of street, state, address in America is totally strange to her.

The train takes her on a journey like she’s never experienced. On the next post, I'll share with you Lisi's route, as she recorded it -- and some of the ways she spent her money.

I welcome your comments. Just click on the word "comments" below. If you're having trouble, please send me an email at lindagartz@gmail.com to let me know.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Seasons of Genealogy

Welcome to another Carnival of Genealogy (CoG). It’s an opportunity for the genealogy blogosphere aficionados to strut their stuff on a specific topic. July’s topic is “The Seasons of Genealogy.” I’m approaching it metaphorically. See how my garden of "Family History Discoveries" has bloomed.

Assuming spring represents a “beginning,” here’s how I’d lay out the seasons of my family history research:

The Spring of my Family History Discoveries

The crocuses of family archives are just beginning to poke their heads out of the earth.

Early March of my genealogy research, is, sadly, directly related to three deaths: of my grandparents and, later, their eldest son, who had lived with them his entire life.
Uncle Bill died on January 1, 1990, and that’s when my brothers and I emptied out my grandparents’ house, and gave just a cursory look to what we discovered in their basement: plastic bags of letters, miscellaneous notebooks and scraps of paper; photo albums; needlework. We had no time to look at it closely, so we just hauled it all pretty much as we found it to my parents’ attic.

Late March/Early April of Family History Discoveries

Out of the coldness and sorrow of death, my family history came alive. My mother died in August, 1994. That’s when my brothers and I first realized the true extent of the family archives that had lain untouched for two decades and longer in my parents’ attic. We grouped what we found by categories into twenty-five bankers’ boxes, labeled each, loaded the van, and drove them off to storage. The daffodils of family history awareness were emerging.

Mid-April of Family History Discoveries

In 2000 I persuaded my brothers to come to Chicago to spend a week cataloging in greater detail what existed in our massive collection. As brother Bill and I pulled an artifact out of each box, my older brother, Paul, entered it into an Excel spread sheet. Now we had quick access for research. The boxes went into the second story of my heated garage. If each artifact were a daffodil, thousands were in glorious bloom, begging me to look at them.

Early May of Family History Discoveries

For two years those boxes nagged at me. In 2002 I took the plunge and began reading the 250+ WWII letters as well as my parents’ oldest diaries. So began my journey into the past. I spent the next several years, as time allowed, reading and annotating the diaries, and writing chapters of family history. The tulips bloomed in my Family Research Garden.

Late May of Family History Discoveries

Fall of 2007, my brothers and I traveled to Romania (Austro-Hungary when my grandparents lived there). In their hometowns we discovered that the Gartz side of the family had originally come from Alsace, visited the original homes of both Dad’s parents, met relatives--as well as Professor Uli Wien -- who was researching a book about the Siebenbürgen Germans.  Showy peonies brightened the family history trail.
Some links: Spilling SecretsSearching for Home.

June of Family History Discoveries

Of course I “knew” I’d never be able to read the scores of letters written in old German script -- until Uli, the professor, wrote to ask if I had letters he could use for research. He agreed to help me decipher some. I realized I had letters between my grandparents dating as far back as 1910 and 1911. I looked more closely at lots of artifacts in Boxes 1 & 14 and later found Meta, a 90-year-old woman in Germany, who helped me decipher what turned out to be love letters between my grandparents, diaries they each kept, and letters from their homeland revealing the six decades of ties they kept with family and friends. My genealogy research is bursting into full summer bloom! (Read some excerpts of what I found: Terror atop the Train.  If you love me.... (my grandfather, Josef's, desperate letter to get my grandmother, Lisi, to join him in America)

It will take a while to move into the fall of my research, but I hope to do so as this year’s summer actually gives way to autumn. I’ve learned nothing can be overlooked, The most obscure business card can hold a treasure of information on the back, hiding its secrets in a scrawl of old German writing -- until I get it to Meta to decipher. The spreadsheet was a good beginning -- but details lurk within or behind every album, wallet, framed photo, and scrap of paper.

Winter will be here when I donate all to a wonderful research library for all the world to access this historical trove.