A cousin found… and lost

Research in a foreign land and in a foreign language is almost always an exercise in frustration — for The Legal Genealogist as much as anyone.

And never more when you stumble across a cousin and can consider her found…

And lost.

All at the same time.

My father’s German family has been a source of amazement, joy and frustration, often simultaneously, since I started researching that side in earnest some years ago. And, more often than not, the frustration has won out. German privacy laws are strict, the records I can access often written in a German Gothic script that I can’t read.

All too often this leads me to put that research aside — again — until the next time something comes up that makes me look at it again.

Many times, the impetus to look at it again is this blog, and the schedule I set for myself to try to write something about my family every week on Saturday. Sometimes the specific topic is chosen because it’s time to renew a membership in a research society. Sometimes it’s about someone whose birth or marriage or death date is around the date of the blog post. And sometimes it’s because of both… like this post today.

Because just recently I renewed my membership in Die Maus — die Gesellschaft für Familienforschung e. V. Bremen — the Bremen Genealogical Society. And today would have been the 120th birthday of the man who married my father’s maternal aunt.

I’d discovered, in prior research, that Heinrich Diedrich Thoms was born 28 April 1898 in Bremen — 120 years ago today.1 He married my father’s aunt, Gesche Adelheid Nuckel, called Adelheid, in Bremen in 1920.2

That earlier research also showed that Heinrich died 12 April 1939, at the age of 40 years, 11 months and 16 days, at the St. Joseph-Stift Hospital in Bremen, and he was buried 17 April 1939 at Walle Cemetery in grave site 562b. His burial record described him simply as a “Kaufmann” — businessman.3

The records for his wife, my father’s Aunt Adelheid, show that she was born 28 October 1898, and died 13 February 1958, at the age of 59 years and three months. She was buried 21 February 1958, at Walle Cemetery, next to or near her husband, in grave site 562b.4

Henni ThomsBut that earlier research had brickwalled with the one child I knew about: the little girl identified specifically as Henni Thoms in a family photo labeled so neatly in my father’s handwriting as his mother’s family in 1932.

Henni Thoms. His first cousin. My first cousin once removed.

There are so few cousins on my German side that I know anything about. No first cousins at all. And only a handful of others. It seems that my German relatives had few children (or at least few who survived) and they in turn had few children. And all of them posing enormous research challenges because of German privacy laws: birth records there are sealed for 110 years, marriage records for 80 years and death records for 30 years.5

Now figuring that Henni would likely have been born no earlier than 1920, her birth record won’t be available before 2030. If she was even as old as 20 when she married — and German women tended to be a bit older than that on average — the marriage record won’t be available until 2020 at the earliest. And without a married name, I can’t even ask for a death record that I might legally be able to access.

So Henni has always been one research target I’ve kept putting aside.

Until last night.

When I was looking at the Thoms entries at Die Maus thinking maybe I’d find out something more about Heinrich for his 120th birthday.

And finding instead the burial record for Henriette Adelheid (Thoms) Thielmann, from the record the wife of Karl Hermann Thielmann. That record says she was born on the 6th of December 1920, and was just 42 years and five months old when she died on the 29th of May 1963 at Karlshafener Str. 2 in Bremen.6

Oh… that record does say one thing more.

It says she was buried at Walle Cemetery in Bremen.7

In grave site 562b.8

Hello, cousin Henni… My first cousin once removed found… and lost… all in one record.

Please tell me you left me some second cousins to chase…


SOURCES

  1. “Die Leichenbücher der Stadtgemeinde Bremen von 1875-1939” (Funerary Records 1875-1939), entry for Heinrich Diedrich Thoms, citing Bremen Standesamt 1939, Seite (page) 332, Nr. 1532, Die Maus – Family History and Genealogical Society of Bremen (http://www.die-maus-bremen.de : accessed 27 Apr 2018).
  2. Ibid., Bremen Standesamt (City Register) 1920, Nr. 693, Bd. 2, Heiratsregistereintrag (Marriage Register entry) Nuckel-Thoms; “Standesamtsregister,” (City Register).
  3. Ibid., “Die Leichenbücher der Stadtgemeinde Bremen von 1875-1939” (Funerary Records 1875-1939), entry for Heinrich Diedrich Thoms, citing Bremen Standesamt 1939, Seite (page) 332, Nr. 1532.
  4. Ibid., entry for Gesche Adelheid (Nuckel) Thoms, citing Bremen Standesamt (City Register) 1958, Seite (page) 234, Nr. 717.
  5. FamilySearch Research Wiki (https://www.familysearch.org/learn/wiki/), “Germany Civil Registration,” rev. 27 Apr 2018.
  6. “Die Leichenbücher der Stadtgemeinde Bremen von 1875-1939” (Funerary Records 1875-1939), entry for Heinrich Diedrich Thoms, citing Bremen Standesamt 1939, Seite (page) 332, Nr. 1532, Die Maus – Family History and Genealogical Society of Bremen.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
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