The Life of Sam Hillinger as told by Maggie Hillinger

Sam Hillinger was born January 5, 1922, in Frankfurt/am Main, Germany, to Elias (Alex) and Dora Hillinger. His brother Ben was two years older, his twin sister was Minna, and his younger sisters were Helene, Peppi and Selma. The father supported the family very well with various enterprises such as movie theatres and restaurants but was in the end forced out of business and the country in 1933 by the Nazis.

With the help of the International Jewish Relief agency, the family moved to Paris for a year or so. Sam was fond of saying he sold newspapers on the streets of Paris, but school was unbearable because of bullying by French schoolmates.

The family was finally able to emigrate to the U.S. about 1933-34. A relative (ed: Dora’s brother, apparently) who was supposed to meet them in New York to vouch for them apparently did not show up on time and they were saved by a former Frankfurt neighbor who was meeting someone else and apparently sponsored the family.

They settled in Memphis, Tenn, where the tardy uncle lived and where Sam’s father suffered a stroke, rendering him disabled. A year or so later the family moved to Hot Springs, Ark, where mother Dora supported them by working in a hospital as a cook. Sam graduated from the High School there (ed: picture of Sam’s highschool yearbook) (Where Pres. Clinton subsequently graduated) and went on to work for a while in ElDorado, Texas, for an oilfield-related business.

When the family moved to Chicago he followed along, taking a job as a billing clerk for a railroad company until he was drafted about 1943. Shortly he was assigned to a Signal Corps school at Camp Crowder, MO, where he was naturalized along with about 200-300 other aliens!

From there he was sent to England for a time and then was sent to France a few weeks after D-Day in June 1944 as a replacement. I believe he was assigned to 12th Army Group (let by General Mark Clark) as a clerk-typist/interpreter since he spoke German and some French. He was never in combat but moved about with the headquarters company in France and Germany, ending in Wiesbaden, Germany. Here he was assigned to the Inspector General’s office where his court reporting and language skills were most useful. Eventually he was assigned to Frankfurt, Germany, to the same work for the American Army of Occupation. Some of his work involved auditing non-appropriated funds which undoubtedly led him to eventually becoming a CPA.

By this time thousands of GIs were clamoring to get home but having to wait in line for space on troopships. Sam figured he could get home for leave very quickly by signing up to take the same job for Civil Service when he came back from his leave.

In February 1947 he took a train out of Frankfurt for a week’s leave to St. Moritz, Switzerland, with several housemates from the quarters where he lived. In the same train compartment was Maggie Hansen, an Air Force 1st Lt, and for the next week with this same tour group they learned to ski and eat Swiss pastries and enjoy Swiss scenery and hospitality.

Maggie was assigned to Wiesbaden, headquarters for U.S. Air Force in Europe, about 45 minutes from Frankfurt, and Sam was able to get the use of a Jeep so that the romance continued apace. Sam and Maggie were married June 12, 1948, and settled into an apartment in Frankfurt. Same was able to show the places he lived as a boy, now hopelessly bombed to ruins; 20 years later Frankfurt was almost completely rebuilt. First-born Ellis Dane came into the world at the 97th General Hospital in Frankfurt on July 5, 1949.

The following year Sam brought his family back to the U.S. where we visited his family in Chicago and Maggie’s family in Cleveland. Sam’s father died while we were in Germany, so he never met Maggie, or [the grandson] who was named after him.

A quick trip to Columbus, Ohio, resulted in Sam’s acceptance at Ohio State University on the G.I. Bill (paid tuition, books and a small stipend). Sam graduated magna cum laude in accounting in 1952 after which he drove his family across country to a new home in Seattle, Washington. His first job was with Touch, Niven, Bailey & Smart, one of the big 8 accounting firms at the time. He passed the Washington State CPA exam in one sitting and got his liscense. He subsequently worked for the Sunny Jim Company (jams, jellies and peanut butter) and then for Modern Home Builders (land development).

In 1966 he decided to go into practice for himself and for about 18 months he did so out of a home office. Subsequently he took office space in Ballard and his practice grew until 1987 when he sold it all and retired to his office at home again where he confined himself to doing mostly estate work. This suited him well because of his personal work ethic. He could more easily indulge his passion for downhill skiing as well as traveling frequently. [Three more children were born throughout the course of the 1950's, another son and two daughters.]

The family lived for 42 years [in Crown Hill in] Seattle, Wa, until Sam died unexpectedly in Barcelona, Spain, on November 25, 2000. Sam loved his family devotedly, never stopped studying and learning, was morally strong, and was honored by all who knew him.

Compiled by Maggie Hillinger 10-11-01.
Typed by Mika Bartroff 03-24-10

Brickwall Ancestors

I was reading someone’s blog last night about brick wall ancestors and the best way to deal with them being posting as much as you have about them so that the information is at least out there on the internet.

For those who don’t know what a brick wall ancestor is, that is the furthest-back ancestor you’ve managed to find on a branch of your tree, but have never been able to find more. Often this is because of immigration, or war, or other issues that left records scattered or scarce. The two most obvious forms of this in the last few centuries would be American Slavery and the Nazi purge in Europe during WWII, but most could probably come up with several other examples of such in their own family tree.

I’ve been lucky in the fact that from the beginning of the time I began working on my genealogy, I had my tree traced back on all sides through my great-great grandparents. That is, my grandparents’ grandparents. In all cases I have full (or mostly-full) names, and in many at least a year of birth and/or death. However, in too many cases, that’s almost all I have, aside from children. And in a few cases, barely even that.

Brick Wall I
My grandfather, Sam Hillinger, was born in Frankfurt shortly before the rise of the Nazis. His family were Jewish, and his father was a shopkeeper, which means they were targets of the growing aggression around them. His family emigrated from Germany to the US in the mid-thirties, thankfully, but it has left that part of our family tree rather sparse. Especially since the Nazis systematically destroyed all records of their victims—birth, weddings, any documentation about Jews in Germany were quickly destroyed. Which means all we know about our family came from my grandfather, who was, unsurprisingly, close-mouthed about his family.

But here’s what we do know. Sam’s parents were Alex and Dora (nee Kresh) Hillinger, a couple who met in Frankfurt and decided to raise a family there together.

Alex was born 1883, to Leon Seneft and Mindel Hillinger, though we’re not sure where, precisely. We have no idea if his parents had any other children, or his parent’s birthdates or birth places. Only that they were German citizens when he was born. He was born Alex Seneft, but after World War I, he was ejected from England as a German national. When he arrived in Germany, he was told that his parents’ wedding could not be recognized, since it was a religious (Jewish) rather than civil ceremony. So he had to take on his mother’s maiden name of Hillinger. Alex died in 1948.

Dora was born January 15, 1892, possibly in the border area between Germany and Poland, as my grandfather was listed as Polish on his immigration card despite being born in Frankfurt, Germany. Her parents were Benzion and Feige Golda (nee Reich) Kresch. Again, we have no birthdates or other kids for either of her parents, though I do know that there are siblings on either her side or Alex’s side, as I have recently heard mention of a cousin. Dora died in April of 1969.

Alex and Dora had six kids. Ben (born 7/20/1920), Sam and Mina (born 1/5/1922, Helena (1923), Hilda (1927), and Selma (1931), in that order. I also know that there was a cousin Selma (as mentioned above), but I do not know to whom she was related. I have more information on the kids and their families, but what I truly need is the information about Alex and Dora and their families.

Minna ? (Dora's sister) with Alex and Dora Hillinger

Brick Wall II
My great grandmother, Julie Oline Hansen (known as Oline), died when my grandmother was nine years of age of pneumonia, so my grandmother and her siblings (all younger than her) lost contact with her mother’s family, most of which was still back in Denmark, since my grandmother’s parents had set up their home in Cleveland, Illinois.

In the early 80’s, my grandmother’s sister, set out to find more about that side of their family, and sent a letter to the town where their mother had been listed as being born in the documents she was able to find: Fjenneslev, Denmark. The town mayor was kind enough not only to respond, but to send along detailed information about Oline’s parents and her siblings.

So here’s what we have for certain. Oline’s parents were Rasmus Hansen, born October 20, 1845 in Knudstrup, Denmark, and Maren Sophie Olsen, born June 27, 1855 in Slots-Bjergby, Denmark. Rasmus and Maren had six children: Herman (born June 20, 1882), Maren Hansine Marie (born October 15, 1884), Julie Oline (born December 26, 1886), Hans Kristian (born July 5, 1890), Johanne Kristen (born October 24, 1891), and Ole (born August 7, 1892).

We speculate that Oline came over to the US with her brother Hans and possibly an aunt or uncle’s family, and did not meet her husband Holger until she came back from a visit to Denmark in the nineteen-teens on the same boat he was on when he first came to the states.

We know nothing for certain about Rasmus or Sophie’s families, though one very helpful online friend did help me by looking for them in the census of the area. He was able to find a farming family in the area Rasmus was born with a son named Rasmus who was the right age, so that may be my great-great grandfather. The head of the family was Hans Nielson, and his wife’s name was Maren Rasmussen. They had five children listed on the census: Ole, Niels, Rasmus, Jorgen, and Jens. I’m still looking for any information that will verify that connection, and I have yet to find any information on Sophie’s family.

Rasmus and Sophie Hansen with baby (Hans?) around 1890

Brick Wall III
This is the first branch of my family tree that drew my attention when I started working on my genealogy. And it is the one that has given me the most headaches. As I said in an earlier post, my grandfather’s death in 1991 was the reason I got into researching my family tree in the first place. He was the last of his direct line, and I worried that we would have none of it recorded because he was now gone. It turned out not to be completely true. The Norwegian side of the family, his father’s, is well-traced out. But his mother’s side of the family, we have almost no information.

Mary Dunlop Park was one of seven children born to Robert James and Elizabeth (nee Curran) Park. The two immigrated from Ireland to Philadelphia sometime in the late 1800’s, and most if not all their children, including Mary, were born there. Sometime after that, the family left Philadelphia and, according to the family story, they returned to Ireland, followed sometime after by another move—this time to Canada, eventually settling (I believe) in Vancouver BC.

Their children’s names were Robert, Elizabeth, Mary, Rhoda, Margaret, George and Florence. The only two children whose birthdates I’m certain of are my great-grandmother Mary, who was born January 5, 1891, and her younger sister Margaret, aka Margie, who was born February 7, 1895. Robert’s birthdate I have down as June 1852, and Elizabeth I have listed as February 19, 1861. I also know that she apparently was born in Belfast, and had at least two siblings—Sarah and Rhoda.

Beyond that, we know nothing at all about this branch of the tree, and navigating the maze of the Curran family online is difficult at best. But I keep trying, in hopes that I will eventually find something someday.

Robert and Elizabeth Park and friend

To my family reading this: if you see anything in here that I’ve left out—names, dates, other information you know on these specific areas of our tree, do let me know. I would love to add it.

And to anyone else out there searching for these names…if you have info that looks like it fits, I would love to talk with you about the similarities and differences between our bits of information.

For everyone that read this far, thank you, and good luck in your own research.

About this blog

This blog is maintained by two sisters who have had a life long interest in geneology.
Mika writes here mostly about our family (Hansen, Hillinger, Bordewick, Park, etc), and her search for more information.
Shannon mostly uses this space as a place to make the many stories written about and by her husband's family (Holly, Walker, Walpole, etc) available to the rest of the family, present and future.

Our blog is named Oh Spusch! mostly because Shannon is bad at naming things. The first post I put up includes a story about the time Walker's great grandfather took his whole family out to see a play and the littlest kept saying "Oh! Spusch!" No one ever figured out what she meant by that.