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Another sibling for a grandmother

It’s a sad sad sad day when a genealogist has a question — and there’s no one left to ask.

And sometimes there’s never been anyone to ask.

Case in point: this photograph.

Nuckel family 1930

Now, The Legal Genealogist has no doubt when the photograph was taken.

The one and only time the boy in the front was back in Germany after emigrating to the United States with his parents in early 1925 was in the summer of 1930.

That boy was my father, Hugo Hermann Geissler, born in 1921. And that one summer he spent with his German relatives. From the photographic evidence, it was with his mother’s family in and around Bremen.

We don’t know exactly when they left the United States that year. We do know they got an American passport issued on 29 May 29 1930, and arrived back in the United States on the S.S. Bremen on 4 September 1930.1

And somewhere in between, this photo was taken.

Besides my then-nine-year-old father, I can only identify a handful of the people in the picture for certain. I’m 100% sure that the older man with glasses in the dark suit on the far right is my great grandfather Carsten Hinrich Wilhelm Nuckel, 1860-1940. My grandparents are in that same row: my grandfather Hugo Ernst Geissler, 1891-1945, with the dark tie and clasped hands, and my grandmother Marie Margarethe (Nuckel) Geissler, 1891-1947, mostly not visible behind him and the woman in the white dress.

The girls sitting with my father should be his cousins Erna Lauterbach, Wilma Nuckel and Henni Thoms. And I think the couples on the left side are Marie’s sisters and brothers-in-law: the man with the cane and the woman just to his front and the right in the picture are Heinrich and Adelheid (Nuckel) Thoms, and the man at the back left and the woman in front of him Amko and Gretel (Nuckel) Lauterbach.

I’m not certain of those, but I’ve got some reasons for thinking I could be right.

The mystery has always been the other couple. The woman in the white dress and the very stern looking man with what look like knee pants and hiking socks in the front right.

And there’s never been anyone to ask. Both of my German grandparents were dead before I was born; my father rarely spoke of his family and never of the family back in Germany; I never saw this photo until after he died.

But now… maybe… just maybe… maybe I now can give them names.

I’ve written before about Die Maus – Gesellschaft für Familienforschung e. V. Bremen, otherwise known as the Family History and Genealogical Society of Bremen, starting as far back as 20122 and running all the way up to just a couple of weeks ago.3

Because more and more records are coming online all the time, I check that website every so often for all my family surnames to see if there’s anything new — or anything I’ve missed.

And the last time I looked for information on members of the Nuckel family, up popped a name I hadn’t seen before.

In the index of birth records of the Bremen Standesamt — the Civil Registrar’s Office — looking at every single Nuckel born between the marriage of my great grandparents Carsten and Juliane (Smidt) Nuckel in 18844 and Juliane’s death in 1907,5 I came across an entry for one Nuckel child, Catharine Henriette Wilhelmine, born in 1887, and with a mother’s maiden name of Smidt.6

Not so fast.

You see Carsten had a cousin named Gerd who married a woman name Meike Antonie Schmit, and they were producing a whole bunch of kids at exactly the same time, so I wasn’t taking bets on there not being a spelling issue in the records.

So I asked Die Maus to get me a copy of this 1887 birth record. In truth, I expected it to read that the parents were Gerd and Meike.

The record arrived this past week.

And those are not the parents named.

The parents named in Catharine Henriette Wilhelmine’s birth registration: Carsten Hinrich Wilhelm Nuckel and Juliane Margarethe (Smidt) Nuckel.7

Another sister for my grandmother?

Not so fast…

You see, child mortality was extraordinarily high in my Bremen family. I already knew of and had documented the deaths of Marie’s brother Carsten Hinrich Wilhelm at two years and nine months,8 another brother born just after that first Carsten’s death and given the same name of Carsten Hinrich Wilhelm at just a few days past his first birthday,9 a sister Henrietta at age five months,10 a brother Johann Friedrich Wilhelm at 11 months.11 The last child was a daughter stillborn in 1904,12 and her oldest brother Johann died in 1906 at age 21.13

In truth, I expected to find another life cut short.

And that’s not what happened.

Catharine Henriette Wilhelmine Nuckel married Gustav Paul Köhler on 1 January 1920 in Bremen.14 Gustav Paul Köhler died in 1943,15 and Catharine Henriette Wilhelmine?

Catharine Henriette Wilhelmine (Nuckel) Köhler lived until 1969.16

Another sister for my grandmother!

And maybe… just maybe… names for that couple in the photo, taken the summer of 1930.

Maybe the woman in the white dress is Catharine Henriette Wilhelmine (Nuckel) Köhler. And the very stern looking man with what look like knee pants and hiking socks Gustav Paul Köhler.

And maybe… just maybe… with this much information now… maybe I’ll be able to find someone to ask.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Another one!?! ,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 20 Mar 2021).


  1. List of United States Citizens, S.S. Bremen, 4 Sep 1930, p. 138 (stamped), lines 1-3, Geissler family; “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” digital images, ( : accessed 19 Mar 2021); citing National Archive microfilm publication T715, roll 4817.
  2. See Judy G. Russell, “Bremen’s Maus,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 14 July 2012 ( : accessed 19 Mar 2021).
  3. See ibid.,“So bad… and not so bad…,” posted 27 Feb 2021.
  4. Bremen Standesamt, Zivilstandsregister, Heiraten (Bremen city registry office, civil status registers, marriages), 1884 Nr. 713, Nuckel-Smidt, 25 Oct 1884.
  5. Ibid., Todten (deaths), 1907 Nr. 346 (27 Jan 1907).
  6. Datenbank, Standesamtsregister (index, registry books of the Civil Registrar), Die Maus — Gesellschaft für Familienforschung e. V. Bremen (Family History and Genealogical Society of Bremen ( : accessed 19 Mar 2021)
  7. Bremen Standesamt, Zivilstandsregister, Geburten (Bremen city registry office, civil status registers, births), 1887 nr. 1878 (7 July 1887).
  8. Ibid., Todten (deaths), 1892 nr. 218 (24 Jan 1892).
  9. Ibid., Todten, 1893 nr. 1726 (19 Aug 1893).
  10. Ibid., Todten, 1896 nr. 452 (1 Mar 1896).
  11. Ibid., Todten, 1898 nr. 904 (22 Apr 1898).
  12. Ibid., 1904 nr. 3081 (10 Dec 1904).
  13. Bremen Ersatzkommission, 1874-1914, Alphabetische Liste des Aushebungsbezirks Bremen – Geburtsjahr 1885, Bd. 03 L-R, entry for Johann Nuckel, citing Staatsarchiv Bremen.
  14. Bremen Standesamt, Zivilstandsregister, Heiraten, 1920 Nr. 29, Köhler-Nuckel (1 Jan 1920).
  15. Die Leichenbücher der Stadtgemeinde Bremen von 1875 – 1975” (The Funerary Records of the City of Bremen, 1875-1975), book 1943, page 1393; online database, Die Maus – Family History and Genealogical Society of Bremen ( : accessed 19 Mar 2021).
  16. Ibid., book 1969, page 1414.
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