The trip was uneventful except for spotting a large whale. She said the water spouted up like a fountain, but then they were ordered to move to the other side of the ship because the ship was tilting. They also had their own tin cup, plate, spoon, knife and fork that they had to keep and wash for the entire trip. Immigrants Landing at Castle Garden, She didn't know exactly where they were, but she remembered a big, noisy room where they waited, and being pushed along and yelled at.
Some people were crying and were being sent back and I guess the parents too were terrified.
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Then she remembered a crowded dirty train ride for a long time. They were met in St. Louis by their older brother, John [my great grandfather], who had come over when he was about I don't know how long he had been here before he sent them money for the trip [it was about 3 years]. Melba's story about her mother was sent to me in by Roy Held, who is my mother's second cousin and the grandson of Bertha's sister, Adeline.
The previous year, I received an email from Roy, who had seen a photograph of my great grandparents, John and Elisabeth Nelke, on my genealogy website. I gave Roy's papers to my mother who put them in a filing cabinet in her sewing room, which was once my bedroom. I found the papers three years ago while digging around in the sewing room to see what gems I might uncover, or in this case, rediscover, among all the colorful thread and fabric.
Bertha Nelke, c. The Nelke family lived in a small village in West Prussia Germany called Barkenfelde that is now in Poland, where it is known as Barkowo. Barkenfelde did not have a Catholic or Lutheran church at the time the Nelke family lived there, so they attended Catholic church in Schlochau, about 14 km away, and later in Christfelde, a nearby village. Although they were raised Lutheran, the three Nelke girls were baptized Catholic. The surviving church records for Schlochau and Christfelde are in a Catholic diocese archive in Pelplin, Poland. They have not been microfilmed and they are not online.
I have not been able to locate Lutheran records for the area. They may have been lost or destroyed during the turmoil in the region at the time of World War II.
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The small wooden church in Christfelde was destroyed in the war. A new church was later built on the same spot. Looking at my family tree, I see a twelve-year-old girl, exhilarated and scared at the same time, traveling from her tiny home village to Rotterdam, then a ship to New York City, and a crowded train to St. Along the way, she encountered new people and new languages. She worried about her mother, marveled at a whale, whose presence caused the ship to tilt, and then witnessed the unpleasant treatment of immigrants at Castle Garden.
This exciting and strange journey was followed by tragedy as Bertha's father, Johann, died eight months after the family arrived in America when he was He was found in the bottom of a well on the grounds of the urban garden where he worked. The St. Louis deputy coroner ruled his a death a suicide. Apparently the rigors of the trip sparked a nervous breakdown.
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He's buried in an unmarked grave in Calvary Cemetery in St. And then perhaps some calm arrived for the Nelke family as they settled into their new lives in this strange new place. Content: Probate Records may give the decedent's date of death, names of his or her spouse, children, parents, siblings, in-laws, neighbors, associates, relatives, and their place of residence.
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