Thursday, August 16, 2012

And the strength continues......

I think that a normal question for an obsessed family genealogist is "How will my generation be viewed by future generations?"  When my great, great grandchildren go hunting for me and start finding information, what will they think of me?  Will they smile?  Laugh?  I hope so.

And that question leads me to the realization that I want future generations to know and understand just how fabulous this generation is.  I want them to know how their Grandpa Ed's blue eyes sparkled.  How Grandma Peach had an uncanny knack of knowing each of her children and seemed to just know what we needed in some situations.  How much Grandma Peach and Grandpa Ed adored each other.  That when Grandpa would have had one too many, he became an adorable intoxicated person.  He would get very nostalgic and talk about how lucky he was to have found Mom.  How lucky we are to have her as our mother, and how lucky they are to have us as their children.  And Mom would just look at him, pat his leg and smile.

I don't want those details lost for those who come after us.

All this thinking then leads me to some incredible people in our family today.  This is harder to write than I thought it would be.  It's still raw, still not quite believable.  But I think it's important for our descendants to know the strength they come from.

Brandon Gromada.  Just his name brings a smile to my face.  The party didn't get started until Brandon showed up.  Joyous.  Fun.  Always up for a good time.  And a good man.

The photo below was taken at my niece Christa's wedding.  Brandon was famous for his "Worm" dance move, but I had never seen it.  I told him that he had to do it at Christa's wedding for me.  And he did.  But he didn't tell me he was performing it, so I didn't see it!  Being the good aunt I was, I told him he had to do it again.  And his chin was the result of that.  I shouldn't be smiling in that photo, should I? But it still makes me laugh every time I look at it.

What I didn't suspect was just how STRONG Brandon was.  He had a few things in life that tested him before his final battle.  Perhaps those trials prepared him for the big one.

He battled an aggressive form of head and neck cancer for over 2 years, and it eventually was in his liver, lungs and brain.  And throughout it all, he was strong.  I never heard him utter a "woe is me" comment.  If you wanted to ask him about it or ask him how he was doing, he'd tell you.  But he didn't sit next to you at the family Christmas party and complain.  He was still joyous.  Would still grab a beer and sit down and talk to you about whatever was going on with you.

At his sister's wedding in late October, there was Brandon on the dance floor with a beer in his hand, naturally being the center of the party.

His Facebook posts were amazing.  He'd post photos of himself preparing for his radiation treatment or in the "chemo lounge."  He allowed us to somehow be a part of this journey of his.  Sometimes he'd post that he wasn't feeling great or was tired, but it was usually a lighthearted comment.  He took a photo of his handicapped parking tag and posted that finally something good came out of all of this.  He now could get "rockstar parking."  That was Brandon.  Trying to make others feel better by making us laugh.

In the midst of his battle, he became a daddy.  Morgan was born in early December, and the first time I saw her was at our family Christmas party.  Two things struck me right away.  She was easy going and was a daddy's girl.

Of course, we all wanted to hold her, and she was being passed around from Kerkhoff to Kerkhoff.  She went along with it, no problems, no fuss.  And that's how Brandon was as a kid, easy going.

At some point during the party, Morgan heard Brandon's voice from the kitchen.  I think Nick was holding her at the time in the living room, but as soon as she heard her daddy's voice, she turned her head toward him and kept looking for him until he came over to get her.  She KNEW her daddy.  She was just a few weeks old at the time, and she was already a daddy's girl.

My son Nick holding Morgan (with Kasey looking on)

I don't think that I ever admitted to myself that Brandon may not physically survive this battle.  It just didn't seem possible.  It still doesn't.

Brandon's last day here was one of the most incredible experiences I've ever witnessed.  He was surrounded by love and laughter, silence and tears.  His beautiful and incredible wife, Christina, never left his side.  His parents, my sister and brother-in-law, stayed with their boy.  Holding his hand, talking to him, rubbing his feet and hands.  All of his siblings were there, too, telling great stories about him and always talking to him.

Someday, I hope to be able to tell Morgan about that day and what it was like from my perspective.  How incredibly blessed I felt to be allowed to be there.  Because Christina, Karen, and Joe didn't have to allow us to have those last moments with him.  I don't think any of us would have thought twice if they had wanted him all to themselves that last day.  But they welcomed us into his room.  Let us have time with him.

Morgan, your daddy's strength is stuff legends are made of.  But so is your mommy's and your grandparents'.  You will have trials in your life, but I want you to always remember who you come from.  In those moments when you don't know how you're going to be able to get through it, think of your daddy.  Think of your mom.  And think of all of your grandparents, great grandparents, etc. who were strong, too.  Their blood runs through your veins.

An incredible video created by my brother and Brandon's uncle, Eric

Update:  I want to add links to my sister's blog, A SorrowFull Mother.  Karen wrote an entry featuring this blog post about Brandon, Family History.  I am constantly amazed at my sister's strength and fierceness.

Brandon C. Gromada Head & Neck Cancer Foundation

15 July 2013--Here's the incredible thing about Brandon.  When you think you've written what you can and you think it's done, you realize that it's not.  You find out that he was even stronger and more amazing than you ever thought he was.  Brandon's darling wife framed this note and gave it to my sister Karen on Mother's Day, 2013.  Brandon wrote this about 11 months before his physical death.

7/14 (2011)

Gotta Stay Strong!
Can't Give In!
This is ridiculous.  The negative thoughts
just keep trying to creep in.  Can't let them
take over.  Must fight them back.
Sick of all the sympathy.

And then a few days after he wrote that note, he wrote this:

*What can I do as a cancer patient that
   I don't/others-people don't think I can do?
*How can I raise $$ for the ca cause?
*Cancer Can't Stop Me
*Inspire other young adults that they can
  still live their lives
*If I can help someone get out of the house,
  do anything they say you can't or don't need to
*LIFE with Chemo!  It's On!
*Help others going through chemo to fulfill a dream.
*Keep Living!
*You don't need to just sit around on a couch.

More Words From Brandon--A Sorrowfull Mother

I'm going to end this blog post with the words my sister wrote the day after Brandon died.

"Just want all to know that Brandon did not lose his battle with cancer - not even a tie. Yes, it claimed my beautiful boy's body but he totally beat it emotionally. Another 'spot' somewhere, he'd take a few days to regroup and then it was 'Chemo? Radiation? Uncomfortable tests or procedures? Bring 'em on and let's get 'er done!' He quietly dealt with side effects that affected what and how this gourmet cook and foodie could eat, but he adapted with comment but no complaint. It robbed him of energy, which affected this athlete's ability to run, kayak, rock climb, camp, etc but he adapted - kept doing as much as he could until with on/off low-grade fevers he just couldn't. He showed cancer it could take his body, but it couldn't take his spirit. He showed this f'n disease that it could NOT have his dignity, his humor, his vitality - it NEVER beat the authentic Brandon. And I do NOT want him to rest in peace - he's too active for 'peace' - but I do want him to move forward in Love..." 

Strength Through the Generations--Part 1

This is one blog entry I can't figure out how to write.  I know what I want to say, but I don't know how to get it down on paper (or the internet, as the case may be).  

One of the reasons I became completely infatuated with my people is because I found out how strong they were.  I discovered some of their sorrows, their struggles, their heartaches, and their joys.  And at so many points in my genealogy journey, I found myself marveling at their strength.  Not just one or two ancestors but almost all of them.

One of the first questions I asked my dad was about his grandmas.  What were they like?  Dad told me that Grandma Millie (Amelia Heger Meyer) was a wonderful grandma.  The poor woman couldn't take a decent picture (from my perspective, she always looked "hard"), but Dad said she was great.  Then he described Grandma Kerkhoff.  First I had asked him what he called her....Grandma Johanna or Grandma Anna.  Oh, no.  It was Grandma Kerkhoff.  Then he described her to me, "Well......, she wasn't warm."  Gees, that was quite a description.  I quickly formed some opinions about these 2 women.  And then I got to know them.

I need to say that at this point in my search, I truly feel as if I know these people.  They're not just names on a page to me or dates or even photos.  At some point, they became "real" to me.  And I fell in love with them.

Grandma Kerkhoff's first name was Johanna, but she went by Anna or Annie.  For some reason, her nickname "softens" her in my heart.  And I love knowing the nicknames of my ancestors.  I would never want my descendants to think I was called "Martha."  I hate that name.  I want them to know that everyone called me "Marti."

I can fully picture my great grandfather falling in love with his Anna.

This photo was probably taken around the time of my great grandparents' marriage in 1883.

I will never forget going to Old St. Joe's cemetery in Price Hill and standing at the grave of Anthony and Anna's baby boy, George.

I wondered if he had been ill for a long time or if he had been killed in an accident.  And then I found his "death card" from the city of Cincinnati.

Spinal Meningitis.  I can't even begin to imagine the pain my great grandparents went through as they watched their little boy die.  Was he running around and laughing one morning and sick by that night?  Was she holding him as he passed away, stroking his hair?  Rocking him back and forth and softly singing to him?

What I also know about Anna is that her husband, my great grandfather, died at age 55 (Christmas Day, 1905) and left her a widow with a couple of young kids (their other 2 were 21 and 19).  My Grandpa Joe was only 8 1/2 when his daddy died, the baby of the family and was the youngest by 6 years.

How, as a mother, do you tell your little boy that his daddy has died?  I can't begin to imagine trying to figure out that conversation.  Yet, she had to do it, in the midst of her own grief.  She had to raise this boy without his father. I guess she did a great job since, from all accounts, Grandpa was a wonderful man.

I had also learned that Anna gave birth to her eldest child, Frank, on Day 2 of the 1884 Cincinnati riots.  The Kerkhoff home was only about 5 1/2 blocks from where the rioters burned down the courthouse.  Imagine this woman going through labor, delivering her first baby, and nursing him while mayhem is outside the door.

I also recently discovered that there was a gas explosion on Baum Street in Mt. Adams (just 4 houses away from where my Kerkhoff family was living at the time) when Anna was 9 months pregnant or had just given birth to Uncle George.

And then there's Aunt Inez's twin brother, Edward.  My father had never heard about his Uncle Edward, and I haven't been able to find any documentation about his birth or death.  No cemetery records and no birth or death cards from Cincinnati.  But that doesn't necessarily mean anything.  Uncle Frank didn't have a birth card issued for him.  Neither did Uncle George.  And I've found one great, great, great grandfather and a set of great, great grandparents in cemeteries that have no records of their burials.

Aunt Inez always told her children and grandchildren that she was a twin and her twin brother's name was Edward, and that he died at birth (perhaps he was stillborn?).  And they were born on July 24, 1891.  Well, my dad's name is Edward Kerkhoff, and he was born on July 24.  Was he named after his uncle?  A brother my Grandpa Joe never met but was told about?  I do know that Aunt Inez was delivered by a doctor even though her other siblings were all delivered by midwives (at least those I've found birth cards for).  Perhaps that's an indication that it was a "high risk" or "complicated" pregnancy?  I'm not sure, but I hope to find out.

After George's death, did Anna and Anthony suffer another son's death just 2 years later?  As I wonder about this, I flash back to how Dad described Anna to me, "not warm."  Well hell, would I be "warm" if I had suffered this type of loss?

Then Dad and I visited his first cousin, Bob Perkins (Aunt Inez's son).  I asked Bob about Grandma Kerkhoff and what she was like.  His family lived very close to her and saw her all the time vs. the Kerkhoff kids who lived in northern Kentucky and only saw her once or twice a month.

I asked Bob to tell me about Grandma Kerkhoff.  He told me what a great story teller she was.  And Dad kind of yelled, "GRANDMA????"  Bob told us the story that she told them about a funeral that she went to as a child.  They were in the house or church with the open casket, and then she saw the dead woman walk into the home!  Obviously, the children were scared and probably screamed.  No one knew that the deceased was an identical twin!  And Dad yelled again, "GRANDMA TOLD YOU THIS???"  I couldn't help but laugh at Dad's reaction.

Bob also told us that Grandma Kerkhoff used to babysit them all the time.  I asked him if she was stern.  He told me that they didn't get away with much, but she wasn't mean.  Did she discipline them when they acted up?  Nope, their mother was the one who did that when she got home, if it was necessary.  Once again, Dad piped in, "GRANDMA???"

It was as if these 2 grandsons of Anna's had completely different ideas of her.  Bob knew a grandma he saw all the time.  Dad knew a grandma that he only saw once or twice a month for Sunday lunch.

I've told Dad what Anna and Anthony suffered through.  And perhaps those events made Anna form a protective barrier.  I think I would have.  How much pain can you go through before you try and protect yourself?

Dad's eyes light up, though, when he talks about his Grandma Millie.  He told me that she was a "Grandma's Grandma."  I assume that means that she was the best of the best.  One of his memories is of the orange bread she'd bake and bring over on Wednesdays (I think that's the day of the week he told me she'd visit).  I asked him about the bread...did it have orange rind in it?  Orange juice?  Orange icing?  Nope. Orange slices.  Orange slices?  HUH?  Orange candy slices!  The woman baked candy bread!

She sounded marvelous.  I admire her even more knowing what she suffered.  I'm going to have to give the Cliff Notes version since she had more than her "fair" share of trauma.  Grandma Mille and Grandpa Frederick were married in 1893 and had 3 surviving children by 1899.

According to the 1900 US Census, she and my great grandfather suffered through the death of one child (I haven't found any documentation yet for this baby).  And then in 1901, their 5 week old baby girl died of pneumonia.  This news brought me to my knees.  My Joe had pneumonia at 6 weeks of age.  We took him to Children's Hospital, they gave him antibiotics, and he was fine after a few days.  And as I read the death certificate for Ester Helen Elizabeth Meyer, I thought that could've been my child.  I can't imagine not having Joseph in my life, not having the chance to even know him.  But their infant was gone.  How do you function after that?

My great grandfather died in 1903 after falling 30 feet off a train in Chicago.  He lived for 6 weeks, in great pain, with 2 broken legs and head injuries.  Millie was up in a city that she didn't know, with 4 small children, and with some weird in-laws (that's another blog entry).  And she watched the father of her children slowly die.

As if that weren't enough, her darling 12 year old son, Walter, died of appendicitis in 1911.  Honestly, how much can one woman take?

I love this photo of the 3 oldest Meyer kids (probably taken around 1901).  Does it get any cuter than these 3 (my Grandma Ada is in the center)?

And then, Uncle Al.  Many wonderful stories have been told about him.  He seemed very dashing and quite a bit of fun.  He was the family photographer (thank God we have his photos) and an illustrator.  He and Grandma were very close and adored each other (he's on the left in the above photo of the kids).  And he was the best man at Grandma and Grandpa's wedding in 1919 (below).

Uncle Al is on the left.  Do you see his "tidal wave" hair?  Now we know where my dad got it from.

He married in 1926 (at age 31), and his only child was born almost 2 years later.  And then he got sick, terminally ill.  He died of myocarditis when his little girl was only 14 months old.

Grandma Millie buried 4 of her 6 children.  I can't even begin to imagine.  How could she even get out of bed after those heartaches?  But she did.  Dad said that he never remembered her complaining or being bitter.  She was just what a grandma was supposed to be.  And she baked candy bread for her grandbabies.

Anna and Millie are just 2 of the examples of the people I come from.  Lisette and Casper lost their only daughter when she was just 14 years old.  Maria Susanna Schmitz Geisen lost her husband (my great, great grandfather Gerhard Heinrich) when she was 36 years old, and then a few weeks later, their 3 month old baby boy died, too. Gerhard and Maggie (Pistner) Geisen's 4 year old daughter died of heat stroke in 1890.  Their youngest child was stillborn.  Grandpa Joe and Grandma Ada's first daughter, Lorraine, died when she was 5 days old in 1924.

But they all kept going.  They didn't hide.  They didn't stop.  Their strength is an example and encouragement to me.  They got through things much worse than anything I've gone through.  Make them proud, Marti.  Make them proud.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

I danced on their graves....

Is that wrong?

I have to admit that I kind of forgot about this blog after I got back from my northwestern German adventure.  I created it in order to keep my family and friends updated on my visit to the hometowns of my ancestors.  And what friend of mine wouldn't want to be bombarded with facts about people they have no connection to?

Since I haven't written in this blog for almost 11 months, I guess there's quite a bit to catch up on.  I did make a HUGE discovery a couple of days after I got back from Haselünne.  I had horrible jet lag, and I mean HORRIBLE!  I wanted to go to sleep around 6 pm and would be up and darling at 2 am.  Instead of sitting around watching Christie Brinkley try to sell me some workout machine, I decided to start looking for stuff on Ancestry.

Here's an important tip for anyone who starts down the road of genealogy obsession:  Do not ignore extended relatives in your family tree.  You never know where the next clue is going to come from.  Just because you can't imagine how the eldest sister of your great grandmother may help you, don't ignore her!  She may just have a trick up her sleeve.

And so it was with Eva Maria Pistner, my great grandma's eldest sister.  It's always the oldest sister, isn't it, who comes out of nowhere with something fabulous? :)

Anyway, during my jet lagged induced insomnia, I started looking through the Pistner family again.  My mom had asked me to start concentrating on her side of the tree since I had been obsessing on Dad's side for close to a year.  I figured that was a fair request, so I went out to tackle the mystery of Caroline "Lena" Charlotte Brand Pistner, my great great grandmother.  First of all, I had never heard this woman's name until I started my search.  Did Grandma Elsie ever, at any point, tell any of us (including her own children) about her grandma?  NO!  Did Grandma Elsie ever tell any of us why she chose to name her eldest son Brant?  NO!  Would I like to have a quick little word with Grandma and tell her what I think of her non existent communication skills?  YES!  But I have a feeling she'd just say, "Kid, you never asked." :)

Grandma Elsie being dramatic in her backyard on Holman St. in Covington.  She was perhaps 12 or 13 years old in this photo.

Grandma Elsie as I remember her.  I will guarantee you that her whiskey and water is sitting on a table near her. :)

One of the fabulous things about is that it shows you if someone else has your family member in their family tree, too.  I noticed that someone did have the Pistners in his tree, so I sent him a message.  And he told me that Charlotte was his grandmother, too!  He was descended from Charlotte and Adam Pistner's eldest son (and only surviving son), and I'm from one of their youngest daughters.

After exchanging a few messages, he told me the story that has been handed down in the family about Charlotte.  She was a Union Spy!!!!  Granted, none of this can be proven in a court of law, but the story is so fabulous that we're going with it.

The Pistner family moved from Cincinnati to the Covington area in the early 1860's.  The story is that the Pistners moved to Sandfordtown (it's kind of where Ft. Mitchell and 275 are today) and owned a house with a bit of land.  Confederate soldiers camped out on their land or right next to it, and Charlotte (being a sneaky German--LOL!) baked bread for these men and gave it to them.  But what she was also doing was listening to them talk.  I bet she only spoke German in their presence so they had no idea that this German mother spoke English.  And when she'd learn some information that was valuable, she'd get that info to Union commanders.  And apparently, the Confederates learned that there was a Union spy amongst them.  But they never suspected the German!  How fabulous is that??!!!  John, if I'm wrong on any of the details, will you correct me?

Back to Charlotte and Adam.  I knew when Adam died because he had a State of Kentucky death certificate.  But no one knew when Charlotte passed away.  She was on the 1880 census, and Adam was listed as a widower on his death certificate in 1888, so we knew she died sometime between then.  At some point, I went to the Kenton Co. (Covington) library and decided to try to find that woman.  May I take a moment and tell you how fabulous the diocese of Covington is in releasing all their archived sacramental records to the library?  I don't know who made that decision, but I'd like to buy him or her a beer.  Those resources are invaluable as you search for your Catholic people.

I went to the library and put my thinking cap on.  I don't use it often, so it takes me a while to get used to it.  There was no civil record of her death, but I knew there would be a church record.  I just had to actually locate it.  The first obvious question was which German Catholic church?  In order to logically find that, I needed to know where the family lived during the time she died.  Since I didn't know the year, I located the family's address (using the Covington city directory) for 1880.  It stayed the same for a few years, so I went with that.  I google mapped it and then located what would have been the 2 closest Catholic churches to them--St. Joseph and the cathedral.  I really didn't want to go through the cathedral records if I didn't have to (LOTS of them), so I started with St. Joe's.  I also knew that the youngest Pistner child was baptized at that church, and my great grandparents were married there.

If you haven't looked through microfilm since you were in the 7th grade, let me just say that it's as horrible as you remember it.  Tedious.  Headache inducing.  Boring.  You get the idea.  But every so often, you hit pay dirt.  And I did.  As I was scrolling through funeral records for St. Joe's and getting bleary eyed, I saw it.  Charlotta Pistner, died December 23, 1882, buried December 26, 1882.  And the tears flowed.  By this point, I had gotten used to crying over people I had never met or even knew existed until a year or two before, so I wasn't shocked by my reaction.  The people sitting on either side of me may have been, though.

When I put the dates together of my family's history, I get emotional.  Now knowing the date of Charlotte's death, I knew that my great grandmother had only been 20 years old and had just had her first baby, Aunt Mayme, when her mother died at Christmas time.  I can't imagine Grandma Maggie's sorrow.  Thinking about all the things that wouldn't be.  All the things she wouldn't be able to share with her mama.

This is an older photo of Maggie, Charlotte's daughter.

And I love this photo of my great grandparents.  Look at that freaking dress!

Aunt Mayme on her First Communion Day.

Back to my hunt.  I now had the date of Charlotte's death.  BTW, I did all of this research months before my trip to Haselünne.  However, I had no idea where this couple was buried.  Adam's death certificate stated that he was at St. Mary's.  That didn't make any sense.  St. Mary's in Ft. Mitchell is an Irish Catholic cemetery.  The German Catholic one is St. John's.  And back then, Germans and Irish really didn't mix, you know what I mean? :)  But I went out to St. Mary's anyway and checked their records.  No Pistners listed.  Then I thought that perhaps they were at St. Mary's up in St. Bernard (a German Catholic cemetery).  Nope, not there, either.  Maybe there was some little St. Mary's cemetery somewhere?  There was and is, but they weren't there either.  Now I was getting really frustrated and irritated.  WHERE WERE THEY??

I let that question go during the build up to my trip to Germany.  But now I was back, had insomnia, and had made a promise to Mom.  So I started looking through records for each of the Pistner children. I didn't expect to find anything new, but sometimes you find one detail that you missed before.  Somehow, I discovered that their eldest child remarried after her first husband died.  I can't tell you how I stumbled upon this information.  It's all blurry to me.  The jet lag issue and all.  But by finding this new information, I found her death certificate.  And that stated that she was also buried at St. Mary's!  Well, well, well.  You don't say.  I decided to play my hunch the next day.  I drove to St. Mary's and looked at the burial records for Eva Maria Puthoff (her 2nd husband's name) and found the section and plot she was buried in.  I found the marker and paid my respects to my Grandma Elsie's aunt.  But I was disappointed.  I didn't see a Pistner headstone.  There were some old headstones there, but nothing that jumped out at me.  And before you ask, yes, I always like it when "something" jumps out at me at a cemetery. :)

It was getting close to the time I had to leave to pick up my kids from school, so I started to walk back to my car and dig in my purse for my keys.  I walked to the left of Eva Maria's tombstone and stopped as I was trying to find my keys.  And then I looked down.  And I saw them.

There were my grandma's grandparents.  And I danced on their graves!  And I know my Germans would've and did understand my joy.  I like knowing where my people are.  I like knowing that I can go to this place where some of my ancestors stood.  I like being able to pay my respects.  I like knowing that I am a link in the chain that is my family.  I consider it my responsibility to go and say "Hi" to them every so often.  To let them know that I know that without them I wouldn't have the life I do.

I still have no idea why they're buried in this Irish Catholic cemetery.  I can only assume my Germans got a "2 for 1" deal or something. :)

And the next mystery to be solved for Charlotte Brand Pistner is finding the town in Germany she came from.  I think I'm getting close.  I've found 2 of her sisters, and I discovered that those sisters married men from the same Bavarian town (at least I'm almost positive they were from the same homeown--I need a few more bits of info to be absolutely sure).  And that town is very close to Sommerkahl, the town my great great grandpa, Adam Pistner, was from.  I'm thinking that the Bavarian town the Brand sisters were from is very close to the towns their husbands were from.  So I'm going to send a request to the archdiocese of Cincinnati for baptismal records for the children of Charlotte's 2 sisters.

A little detail for people searching for Catholic records.  Each diocese is different in how they deal with the release of these records.  For example, Covington has released all their records to the libraries and will also communicate with you through e-mail (if you can't get to a library).  Very informal.  The archdiocese of Cincinnati is the opposite.  They have not released any of their records to libraries, and they do not communicate via e-mail.  They also will not allow you to go to them and look through the records (under their supervision).  You must type out a form letter (which is on their website) and request the records.  You may request up to 10 records per form letter.  Cincinnati is by far the most formal of the dioceses I've dealt with (including the German ones).  However, I fully respect each diocese's decision regarding how they release their records.  You just have to figure out how to properly contact each of them.

I'm hoping that I can find other Brand family members in the baptismal records of the Brand sisters' children.  And by finding other names, maybe I can track the Brands to their Bavarian hometown.  And then add another stop on my itinerary for my next trip to Germany.