Casper. I want an hour with Casper.
It seems as if I've known him my entire life. Actually, I should probably say "known of him." However, I only discovered him 2 1/2 years ago. When I first entered his name in our tree, I had no idea how fascinated and "captured" I would become by him.
In the beginning of my genealogy obsession, I only knew him to be Anthony Kerkhoff's father and my great, great grandfather. I felt no other connection to him. Reading through the Cincinnati City directories, immigration records, and US Census forms, I knew that he was a hütmacher, laborer, and finisher while he lived in Cincinnati. I already knew that the family came from Haselünne (Dad told me this information), and the Old St. Joe cemetery records confirmed that. I liked knowing where he was buried, but I felt no "special" connection to him. Not yet anyway. :)
A couple of things changed all that. A website that I stumbled across and the St. Vincent Catholic church records.
As I mentioned in a previous post, Googling has become a wonderful friend. And using my friend, I came across the name and e-mail address of the Catholic church archivist for the Osnabrück diocese who was in charge of the Haselünne church records. I fired away an e-mail and waited for a response. I also found a wonderful website when I googled "Casper Kerkhoff Haselünne."
Edited to Note (23 Sep 2014--Apparently, these links no longer work).
I screamed. I mean I literally screamed when I found this. Once I spent a few minutes figuring out exactly what I was looking at, it seemed too good to be true. Was I actually looking at the EXACT house number my Kerkhoffs lived in? The EXACT date my Kerkhoffs left Haselünne? Yes, I was. I was also looking at what I believed to be the name of my great, great, great grandfather, Heinrich Golz. A few weeks before this, I had found the obituaries for these Germans in one of the German Cincinnati newspapers. And that's how I discovered that my great, great grandmother's maiden name was Golz. I was assuming that the Heinrich Golz listed on the website was her dad.
I still get a bit emotional when I think about this discovery. It was the first piece of information that made these people "real" to me. I found out that their house (and most of the town) burned down in 1849. I knew that my great grandfather was born in 1850. I realized that they were "homeless" when she gave birth to him. I'm sure they had someone (family or friends) to stay with while their house was being rebuilt, but all of their possessions were gone. They literally only had each other and the clothes on their backs after the fire.
As I researched, I had come to the conclusion that Casper was around 40 years old when he married my great, great grandmother (I knew his date of birth, her date of birth, my great grandfather's date of birth so I made some assumptions). One of the requests I asked of Herr Cloppenburg was to look for an earlier marriage for Casper. I was wondering if (and hoping) we had some Kerkhoff family still in Germany.
After sending the e-mail, I took my daughter to NYC for a long weekend. Of course, I showed her the spot where our Kerkhoffs arrived on 28 Oct 1864. She seemed a bit annoyed at the interruption of her American Girl doll weekend, but she finally agreed to pose for a photograph where Castle Garden used to be.
I checked my e-mail very early one morning during our trip and was thrilled to find a message from Herr Cloppenburg, and it had an attachment! Attachments are always good in a message from the Catholic church archivist.
Since I only had my iPod Touch with me, reading the document wasn't the easiest thing in the world. But it was well worth the effort. Scrolling through the beginning of the document, I found out the full name of my great grandfather (Casper Hermann Anton Kerkhoff) and the names of his godparents.
And then .........Casper. The first couple of standard lines gave no hint of the spectacular info I was about to uncover. Grandpa's full name was Joan Caspar Kerkhoff. His godparents were Caspar Ankum and Joanna Bürgmeyer. Nothing particularly interesting.
In the next paragraph, my hunch was confirmed. CHURCH MARRIAGE (1)! He had been married before. He was married at age 27 to a woman named Maria Anna Schwarte. I quickly wondered if they had had children. Is there a possibility that we have Kerkhoff family still in Germany?
And then I kept scrolling on my iPod Touch. And I started to do some math. I found out that Maria Anna was born in 1795. Um, so that meant that Grandpa, when he was 27, married a 40 year old woman! I stopped scrolling and tried to wrap my head around this. From this document, I also found out that they were married for 10 years and had no children. WHY did he marry a much older woman?
Was it a bit scandalous? Did town people talk behind their backs? Was it love? Was it business? Casper was quickly becoming a huge personality for me. Little did I know the surprise that was waiting for me on the next page.
I kept reading the document and just after the revelation of Casper's first marriage, I read about his marriage to my great, great grandmother. Again, I learned her full name--Maria Euphemia (as she was listed on another website) Elisabeth (Lisette) Golz, and she was 23 years old when they got married (2 years after his first wife died).
And then their children were listed. We had always thought that Anthony was their eldest. I found out that he wasn't. Their eldest was a daughter, their only daughter. Bernadina Antonetta Lisette. Saying it, it sounds almost lyrical. I love her name. And she and my great grandfather shared a birthday. They were both born 02 March, two years apart. She arrived about 10 1/2 months after her mommy and daddy were married. This meant that during the fire of 1849, not only was my great, great grandmother pregnant with my great grandfather, but she and Casper also had a 17 month old daughter they had to keep safe. My love and admiration for both of them deepened considerably.
Bernadina Antonetta Lisette Kerkhoff died at 3:30 am on 11 Oct 1862 when she was 14 years old. I can't imagine Casper and Lisette's pain. Had Bernadina been ill? Was it an accident? I have no idea. But my heart also ached for my great grandfather. He and his sister shared a birthday. I imagine they were close. And for the rest of his life, I'm sure he couldn't help but remember his sister every year on their special day. All of his future birthdays must have been very bittersweet.
I also found out that Uncle Henry's real name wasn't even Heinrich. Why was I not surprised? No, his "real" name was Marcus Johannes. In another document, I found out that he was called Heinrich. Just another layer to our family's "fun bachelor uncle." :)
And then I continued to scroll. I discovered the name of Casper's father and mother. She had been married before she married Heinrich Kerkhoff, and Casper had 4 half siblings and 3 "full" siblings. He was the baby of the family. Why did that make sense to me? :) But his dad died when he was only 2 years old, and one of his brothers died when Casper was 15. They were all hutmachers, the same profession Casper would someday take up.
I kept scrolling and next found the family information for my great, great grandma. My previous hunch was confirmed when I read that Lisette's father's name was Franz Heinrich Golz, a hutmacher. So the home that the Kerkhoffs lived in at Hasestraße 4 had also been owned by Lisette's dad and was where she grew up.
Lisette's mother's (my great, great, great grandmother) name was Maria Antonetta Schulte, and she died when her daughter was only 3 1/2 years old. I can't even imagine.
Heinrich Golz remarried about 9 months later and had 2 more daughters with his new wife, Maria Anna Schwarte.
WAIT! What was this second wife's name? I've seen it before. Oh dear Lord! I started furiously scrolling back in the document to hopefully not confirm what I knew to be true.
There was no way around it. My Casper Kerkhoff was, at one time, his second wife's stepfather. He had married Lisette's stepmother after Lisette's father had died. So, he married his future father-in-law's second wife. Are you with me on this? Because it took me a long time to connect all the creepy dots.
I give the old man a bad time about this, but it actually cracks me up. Through the church records, I found Schwarte family members as godparents to a couple of the Kerkhoff kids. So I assume the families stayed close.
Perhaps Casper married Maria Anna Schwarte Golz in order to help her raise her 2 children with Heinrich Golz. It was explained to me by a member of the Haselünne Heimatverein that hutmachers would have been members of a guild. It would have been expected that a member of that guild would've married the widow in order to take care of her and her family. How a 27 year old young man was chosen for this task is beyond me, however. Perhaps the carrot that was dangled in front of him was that he would get the Golz hutmacher business. Was Casper that cunning? I kind of hope so. :)
Casper and Lisette packed up their boys and left Haselünne on 15 Sep 1864. They trekked to the port of Bremerhaven where they boarded the ship, "The Adler," and arrived into Castle Garden, NYC, on 28 Oct 1864. Imagine their faces as they spotted this huge city for the first time. The boys probably couldn't contain their excitement, and I imagine that Lisette had 1,000 different thoughts and emotions running through her. Personally, I can't imagine doing what they did. I would've chickened out.
The family is listed in the 1865 Cincinnati City Directory and every year after that. Casper and Lisette lived downtown for the rest of their lives. He took whatever work he could in order to support his family, but about 6 or 7 years after they immigrated, he was listed as a hatmaker. I love that he never gave that up. He kept making hats and was finally able to support his family again doing that. Doing what his father did.
And just when I thought I couldn't love him more, I found out that he became an American citizen at age 64. For some reason, it never occurred to me that he would take this step. So I never searched for a naturalization record for him. I stumbled across it as I was trying to find Uncle John and Uncle George's naturalization information (I knew they were naturalized from info on US Census forms).
And then, there it was. The spelling was wrong (which Uncle John had corrected in 1912, 18 years after Casper's death), but this was my Casper. He swore allegiance to the United States of America on 14 June 1872. It gets me teary eyed. This man must have been quite a personality.
Casper finally became a grandpa for the first time when he was 76 years old. I would imagine that both Casper and Lisette had started bugging their sons years before to hurry up and get married and start having some babies! But I'm glad that Grandpa Anthony waited for his Anna. :)
Casper died of "Apoplexy" on 04 Sep 1894, two years after Lisette died of a stomach tumor. The old man lived to be 86 years old. Unfortunately, my Grandpa Joe never knew him, but I hope he was told some fantastic stories about him. And how I wish those stories had been passed down through the generations. I am a little upset with my Germans that they never had a photo taken which was kept safe someplace. Do you have any idea what I'd do to find a photo of Casper and/or Lisette??!! :)