Womens History Month -- Week 4

March 21 — Describe a tender moment one of your female ancestors shared with you or another family member.

My paternal grandmother, Maggie, was very excited when my twin cousins were born, because they were the first grandchildren by one of her daughters, and she'd always felt unwilling to interfere in the mother-daughter bond with her daughter-in-laws, so she spent several days with my aunt and uncle after the twins came home, and visited frequently thereafter until they were feeling more steady about having two babies in the house.

March 22 — If a famous director wanted to make a movie about one of your female ancestors who would it be? What actress would you cast in the role and why?

None of the stories particularly stand out at first. All have something interesting, but none are super-spectacular stories.

But I think, if I were to choose, it would probably be Oline's story. Act one--losing her father at such a young age, and the family's struggle to make do without a head of house and her jobs as a girl and young woman. Act two would focus on her coming to America, meeting her grandfather (whole story there, though I'm not sure if they ever actually met, let alone how much she knew about her mother's story), then going to work in Chicago. Act three would be meeting Holger, World War I, and marriage. And the final act would be her children, the twenties, and her death in 1929 of pneumonia at the age of 42.

Not sure who I'd get to direct it, though. Someone with a good, subtle hand, who knows how to do turn-of-the-century drama well, and has at least some familiarity with Danish history. Although, I could see someone like Ang Lee doing it. He's got an amazing and subtle touch when it comes to his movies.

As for who would play her? Julia Ormand, I think. Or possibly Stania Katic from Castle. Both have the quiet dignity I think of when I think of my great grandmother.

March 23 — Create a timeline for a female ancestor using your favorite software program or an online timeline generator such as OurTimelines. Post an image of it or link.

A Timeline of Maggie Hillinger's Life

March 24 — Do you share any physical resemblance or personality trait with one of your female ancestors? Who? What is it?

I've always been told I look like my mother, who looks very much like her mother, who looks like her mother, but as I grow older, I think I look more and more like my dad's father's mother, Dora, because I definitely have some of the Germanic features.

March 25 — Tell how a female ancestor interacted with her children. Was she loving or supportive? A disciplinarian? A bit of both?

My great-grandmother Oline didn't have long with her children, but I do know that she was a very self-sufficient woman who not only kept the house very competently, but even knew how to drive, and was constantly on the go, busy and raising three young children. My grandmother had very fond memories of the nine years she had with her mother.

March 26 — What education did your mother receive? Your grandmothers? Great-grandmothers? Note any advanced degrees or special achievements.

After speaking to my mother, it seems she did get her degree, though I'm still uncertain about her mother. I do know that Maggie never got a degree. It wasn't generally done in her circles in those days.

Womens History Month -- Week 3

March 13 — Moment of Strength: share a story where a female ancestor showed courage or strength in a difficult situation.

After my great-grandparents Alex and Dora came to the US, Alex's health declined. He suffered a stroke, and could not work, so Dora went to work to support the family. All of their children were under age at the time, and none of them spoke much English at first, but she found herself a job as a cook in a hospital, and until her sons finished their schooling, she was pretty much the sole support for the family.

March 14
— Newsmakers? Did you have a female ancestor who made the news? Why? Was she famous or notorious? Did she appear in the social column?

Not exactly, though my grandmother Maggie was a WAC in World War II, which was a newsworthy event. Other than that, all I'm sure of is the notices for births, marriages, and deaths. I suppose there might be one, but at the moment, nothing comes to mind.

March 15 — Write a six-word memoir tribute to one of your female ancestors.

For my great-gandmother Oline: Hard-working woman. Lost too soon.

March 16
— If you could have lunch with any female family member (living or dead) or any famous female who would it be and why? Where would you go? What would you eat?

I think the one I'd most like to have lunch with right now is Dora. I'd love to know more about her. She lived through some pretty horrible times, and raise six kids, and immigrated twice…I'd love to know more about who she was, particularly before she met my great grandfather, and particularly her early life and her hometown in Galicia.

I think I'd take her to the waterfront. Show her the beauty of Seattle, and show her why her son chose here to live, instead of staying close to her, even though he loved her.

March 17
— Social Butterfly? What social organizations or groups did your mother or grandmother belong to? Sewing circle, church group, fraternal benefit society or lodge? Describe her role in the group.

Both of my grandmothers kept pretty busy. My maternal grandmother in the church and in Masonic-related activities with her husband. My paternal grandmother with a group of ladies she met through her children's schooling. She helped found a group with them that started up fundraising activities and gave those funds to the Rhyther Child Center. Eventually, they focused their fundraising energies on a used goods shop in Ballard that they named the R Shoppe, and passed those funds on to the Rhyther Foundation. They all took turns being in charge of the business, and I know she hosted several garage sales for the group over the years. I believe that shop still does business today.

March 18 — Shining star: Did you have a female ancestor who had a special talent? Artist, singer, actress, athlete, seamstress, or other? Describe.

Several. My maternal grandmother and both of her parents were in their church choirs, and my paternal grandmother's mother, Oline, was an excellent seamstress, and not only made money at it, but made most of her children's clothes.

March 19
— Have you discovered a surprising fact about one of your female ancestors? What was it and how did you learn it? How did you feel when you found out?

I discovered that Oline's mother and her mother were deserted by her grandfather when her mother was quite young, or possibly not even born. I'd discovered her parents' names through Family Search, but I had nothing beyond my great-great grandmother's birthdate and location, and their names.

Then I came across a letter from my great-aunt after her visit with that side of the family. She was asking about something, and the subject came up. Apparently, her grandmother Maren Sofie Olsen had never known her father because he had come here to the states, leaving his wife (at least, I believe they were married, but I may be mistaken) behind. Eventually he sent her a vase or something at one point, but that was it. So Maren grew up in Denmark, never really knowing her father. Though two of her children did eventually seek him out.

It was a bit of a shock to learn, but in a family where we have so few broken families, even from early deaths, it was fascinating to learn a story different from those I tended to hear. I did feel sorry for my 3G grandmother, though. That must have been horrible for her. If I understand right, it sounds as though she sent her daughter off to work as soon as she could, so Maren may not have even known her mother too well, really.

March 20 — Is there a female ancestor who is your brick wall? Why? List possible sources for finding more information.

So so many…

I think the one that I'd most love information on, though, is Mindel Seneft, nee Hilinger, my great-grandfather Alex's mother. It was her name that was passed down the line because the German government didn't recognize her marriage to my great-great grandfather Leon Seneft when my great-grandfather returned to Germany after World War I (I could go on and on about what Alex went through in his life, and I think I know barely the surface of what he had to deal with…).

I'd love to know where she was born (Galicia? Germany? Ukraine? Poland? Austria?). I'd love to know her parents' names, and how many (if any) siblings she had.

I've been looking for her on Jewish Gen, though given her faith, I know the chances of finding her online are slim to nil. I'm hoping to get her son's US records at some point, and that might lead to something more. I know absolutely nothing about her husband aside from his name and the fact that he and his wife were gone by the time my grandfather was born, that he lived in London and apparently Galicia, and was likely a Rabbi. This quarter of my family tree stops right here, for the same reason others of Jewish ancestry do. Memory only goes back so far, and when the memory of the time even before the war is so miserable, it makes people less likely to discuss it.

There is also a possibility of getting a death record from the English government, if I can just find a death date/location from her. I believe she may have died in London, but I simply don't know for sure.

Where We're From – England

Unlike the previous lists, which had at least one birth in the country I was making the list for, none of my family was born in England. It was just a way-station in the lives of my family. The dates I have for these are less confirmed, so they will be my best guesses according to what notes I have.

A map of these locations:

View English Locations for my Family in a larger map

1. Camp Douglas, Isle of Man
Yes, I know this isn't England per se, but it doesn't belong with any of the other lists, so I'm going to put it here, for lack of a better location. I do have some family who came from Northern Ireland, and a quarter of my family that was located in Wales, so I intend to do different lists for those two locations, so this one gets to be part of England, at least for my purposes.

This location is a less positive location to me than the others I have listed so far. My great grandfather, Alex Seneft (later Alex Hillinger), was sent here during the first World War because he was a German Citizen. I'm not sure if he was sent there alone, or if either of his brothers or possibly the whole family were sent there as well. I do know he stayed at the camp through the end of the war, when he was expelled from England. He returned to Germany, though he left at least one sibling, and possibly both of his parents behind in England.

2. London
The Senefts came to England from Galicia when my great-grandfather Alex was young, possibly as young as seven years of age, though all their children were born in the "old country." I believe they settled in London, and that Leon and Mindel, Alex's parents, died in England.

3. Grimsby
The Bordewick Family, Heinrich Bergethon and his wife Leonharde and their three sons, Bjarne (my great-grandfather), Hans, and Harald, settled in Grimsby for a time after leaving Antwerp but before moving to Canada shortly before my great-grandfather would have finished his schooling, sometime about 1910 or 1911.

That's all I have for England at this time, though I do have a huge batch of Wales coming soon. And at least one location in Ireland. I'll be curious to see if any others for the United Kingdom/British Isles turn up.

Again, if any of my family reading this knows more, I'd love to hear it.

Next up: Denmark!

Womens History Month -- Week 2

March 6 — Describe an heirloom you may have inherited from a female ancestor (wedding ring or other jewelry, china, clothing, etc.) If you don’t have any, then write about a specific object you remember from your mother or grandmother, or aunt (a scarf, a hat, cooking utensil, furniture, etc.)
For my 21st birthday, my grandmother gave me a necklace her mother got from her parents when she turned 21. She wanted me to have a bit of the great-grandmother I remembered so well. It's a gold sunburst dotted with seed pearls, and the backing is a pin, so it can also be worn that way. The only time I actually wore it was at my wedding, though, hidden under the sash of my dress as my something old.

March 7 — Share a favorite recipe from your mother or grandmother’s kitchen. Why is this dish your favorite? If you don’t have one that’s been passed down, describe a favorite holiday or other meal you shared with your family.
There are a few recipes I could choose. My mother is actually a very good cook, and I've always loved her spaghetti, and there are other recipes that mean "family" to us, but there's one that stands out overall that we do every year for Christmas in some form or other. Shortbread. My grandmother said once that she thought she got it from a church cookbook, or church friend. Easiest recipe in the world.

1 lb butter
1 c brown sugar (firmly packed)
4 c flour (sifted)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cream butter and gradually add sugar. Once the two have been combined, add in the flour slowly, using your hands to knead it as the dough thickens. Once all three have been combined, turn it out onto a slightly floured board and knead slightly, then roll to ¼ inch thickness. Cut to desired shapes and decorate to suit, or cut into finger lengths ½ inch wide and prick with a fork 3-5 times per piece. Bake at 300 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

I hate getting messy, so any recipe that calls for hand-mixing is generally right out, but this is one I actually love doing, because the ingredients are so simple. Also, yes, that is a LOT of butter, but the recipe makes something like five or six dozen. Perfect for gifts for people who stop by or who you are going to see last minute. My mom and sister have tried a few different variations of this—mom even made a chocolate version last year that was quite delicious with cocoa powder.

March 8 — Did one of your female ancestors leave a diary, journal, or collection of letters? Share an entry or excerpt.
The only one I'm sure of is my paternal grandmother, Nana. We have a huge stack of letters between her and her sister (and a few other relations) over the years. I've loved reading them. We're especially lucky to have them because my aunt and uncle had a fire, and these were some of the things she managed to save, though they're a bit sooty and singed.

An Excerpt:
"Dear Marilyn,

Aunt Helga & Al were prompt in arriving but I was a little late. However, Helga is so adept at picking up where you left off the last time you saw her that we didn't waste a minute. They looked so good & were so cheerful! I was hung up in the airport parking lot which is being torn up for garages—the whole airport is being re-modeled—and the whole place at noon was as busy and crowded as I've ever seen the LA airport. It was the first time I've been there since [Marilyn's daughter] went home last summer. We'll be prepared when Helga & Al come back."

Al was my grandmother's father's brother, and she and her siblings had stayed with he and his wife Helga after their mother's death when they were just children. I love seeing how the connection stayed down through the years, and that she and my aunt stayed in such close touch with each other, despite living in Washington (my grandmother) and California (my aunt).

March 9 — Take a family document (baptismal certificate, passenger list, naturalization petition, etc.) and write a brief narrative using the information.

One of the most elusive documents in my family search was the Philadelphia Census on which my mother's father's mother's family appears. She was born there before the turn of the century, but we weren't sure when they moved there, or whether all her siblings had been born in the US or not. We knew they had lived in the states for a number of years, but had been told that the census document with their names had been burned in a fire where the records had been stored. So I despaired of ever finding it. Then, this past year, while looking through Family Search.org, I found a copy, and the wealth of information on the document has been a godsend.

When I found the 1900 Census last year, I was elated. Not only does it list the names of my great-grandmother and her living siblings at the time, but it told me that her mother had had two other children—the document asks how many children a woman has had, and how many are still living. We actually already had record of the other children before this, but having this document confirms how many, which is wonderful to have.

I also learned that my great-great grandparents had arrived about seventeen years before, according to the document, and that they were both naturalized in 1883, so the year they arrived, or shortly thereafter.

I do know that within another ten years, shortly after their final child's birth, the family all returned to Ireland. Work became too difficult for my great-great grandfather, and he hoped that returning to their former home would help him find better opportunities.

March 10 — What role did religion play in your family? How did your female ancestors practice their faith? If they did not, why didn’t they? Did you have any female ancestors who served their churches in some capacity?
Both sides of the family are so very different.
Dad was raised in a very non-religious household because his father was non-practicing Jewish after the war, and his mother stopped attending the Lutheran church after her mother's death in 1929. She did attend church while in school, because it was a requirement, but she said she picked a church (Methodist, if I recall correctly) at the time based on how simple it was to just sit and listen to the sermon.
My mother's side of the family was much more religious. I believe they were Methodist. I remember attending church with my grandparents when I stayed with them quite often. I do know that my grandmother and her mother and father all participated in choir as part of their regular church activities.

March 11 — Did you have any female ancestors who died young or from tragic or unexpected circumstances? Describe and how did this affect the family?
As I mentioned above twice, my paternal grandmother lost her mother when she was quite young. Oline Hansen was 42 when she died. She caught a respiratory illness which became pneumonia, and soon after, she died. My great-grandfather was devastated. His maternal aunt came to Cleveland for a few days to help, but after she returned to her home in New York, he moved his children in with his brother and sister-in-law, and set about building them a new home, not wanting to live in the house where she had died.

March 12 — Working girl: Did your mother or grandmother work outside the home? What did she do? Describe her occupation.
My paternal grandmother worked for my grandfather after he started his CPA office in the 60s. She worked as his secretary.
My mother has worked in a few different offices. Her longest stint was at Mutual Travel, which used to be a branch of Washington Mutual (I'm not sure if they survived the bank's collapse). She worked in their accounting department for many years before changing jobs.

Womens History Month -- Week 1

In honor of National Women’s History Month, Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist presents Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month, and I'm going to play with her prompts weekly, just to keep myself sane, as I don't think I could manage daily.

March 1 — Do you have a favorite female ancestor? One you are drawn to or want to learn more about? Write down some key facts you have already learned or what you would... like to learn and outline your goals and potential sources you plan to check.

This one's hard for me, but I think if I were to answer without thinking on it too hard, I'd have to say Dora Hillinger nee Kresch, my paternal grandfather's mother. I know quite a bit about her later life, but almost nothing about her life before she came to Frankfurt in the late nineteen-teens. I have a guess at a town, but I have yet to find anything that has made the name of the town definite for me yet. I know her parent's names (Benzion, possibly Benno, and Feige Golde (Reich) Kresch), and that she had at least one sibling, whom she named her first daughter for. Unfortunately, with her, I have my work cut out for me, but my plans are to write to/talk to two of my grandfather's sisters (soon) and see what they know about their mother, particularly when she was young.

March 2 — Post a photo of one of your female ancestors. Who is in the photo? When was it taken? Why did you select this photo?

This is a picture of my great-grandfather's grandmother Ivare Larsen nee Christensen and her sister Katrine. We've got a number of similar shots, and I love them all—focusing on a pair of sisters, but this one is a special favorite of mine for a few reasons. Because it's a new shot I'd not seen before this past year, and also because it's so old. Ivare lived until 1932, but even so, having a photograph of someone six generations removed from me is just incredibly special to me, and I treasure every one of them I do have.

March 3 — Do you share a first name with one of your female ancestors? Perhaps you were named for your great-grandmother, or your name follows a particular naming pattern. If not, then list the most unique or unusual female first name you’ve come across in your family tree.

I don't. I have a very unique first name, but it's not a family name. We do have a number of odd/unique names in my family, depending on your point of view. The Welsh and Irish sides are all fairly common names, but the Norwegian, Dutch, and Jewish sides all have some interesting names, if more common within those communities.

I think I'll go with my great-grandmother, Oline, pronounced Ol-ee-nah. I'd never so much heard the name before starting to research her. It was actually her middle name, but it was the name she used every day. Looking up the name, I don't find an exact match, but it seems to be a form of the name Olin, which means "ancestor's heir," which I find even more interesting.

March 4 — Do you have marriage records for your grandparents or great-grandparents? Write a post about where they were married and when. Any family stories about the wedding day? Post a photo too if you have one.

I know where both my grandparents and all four sets of great-grandparents were married, and when, and I have wedding photos for all but two pairs, though I do have a shot of the wedding invitation for one of them:

Alex Hillinger and Dora Kresch were married in Frankfurt, Germany on October 31, 1919. Unfortunately, I don't know much about Alex and Dora, given what they went through with the Nazi rise and leaving the country to escape what would eventually happen there. (the invitation translates roughly to: "We hereby have the honor to announce, on Friday 31 October, at 1 O'clock, The Wedding of our children Dora and Alex. We respectfully invite you. Mrs Kresch, Leon Seneft, Frankfurt a.M. in October 1919." and location and contact information.)

Holger and Oline Hansen were married September 14, 1918, in Cleveland, Ohio. The two settled there together and raised three children together before my great-grandmother's death in 1929.

Bjarne Bordewick and Mary (May) Park (pictured here with his brother and her sister on the left of the photo) married on June 14, 1917, in Vancouver, BC, Canada. The two had both been born outside of Canada, and only fate had brought them both to the West-coast city, where they met, married, and raised two boys.

Daniel Jones and Eliza (Bessie) Howells were married on May 23, 1911 in Vancouver, BC, Canada. They met there, despite having both been born in Wales, only because my great-grandfather tossed a coin and decided to come west.

George Bordewick and Merle Jones, my maternal grandparents, were married November 10, 1939, in Vancouver, BC, Canada, right before my grandfather was sent to the east coast to finish his training before being sent to the war. The two met as teenagers, and aside from the war, spent the rest of their lives together until my grandfather's death in 1991.

Sam Hillinger and Margaret (Maggie) Hansen, my paternal grandparents, married in Frankfurt, Germany on June 12, 1948.

March 5 — How did they meet? You’ve documented marriages, now, go back a bit. Do you know the story of how your parents met? Your grandparents?

My parents met at the University of Washington in an English class, and began to talk. They fell in love and ended up marrying March 29, 1969 in Bellevue, Washington.

As I said, my grandparents, George and Merle, met as teenagers when my grandfather joined a youth group that my grandmother was already part of. The two began to date, and never dated anyone else, marrying in 1939.

Sam and Maggie met when they both decided to take the USO up on a trip to Switzerland. The two met on the train there, and spent most of the trip together, where they learned to ski, a love which followed them through their married life together until Sam's death in 2000.

Where We're From – Germany

Like Canada, this list will be relatively short, if in slightly a different way. Once I looked into it, it turned out longer than I expected. I considered putting Galicia on this list, but I think I will give it its own list, as it was a separate state, and passed from country to country, even if the original state was more German than not.

A map of these locations:

View My German Roots in a larger map

1. Frankfurt
My father, like my mother, was born out of the country. Unlike my mother, he was actually born a US citizen, as he was born on a military base while his parents were still stationed there. He did not live there long before the family moved back to the US.

My father's father was also born in Frankfurt, or more precisely, Frankfurt am Main, in the Jewish area of the city. He and all of his siblings were born there before things began to get bad for the Jews in Germany, and shortly after his youngest sister was born, the family escaped to France before immigrating to the US, sometime in the early 1930s.

My grandfather's parents moved to Frankfurt shortly after the first world war. My great-grandfather Alex moved there after being expelled from England for being a German national. My great-grandmother, Dora, moved there with her sister from their small town in hopes of finding a better life in the big city. The couple met there and married in 1919, raising their six children there before leaving in the early thirties.

2. Lübeck, Gelting, Schleswig
The Linkhausen family also originates from Germany, though I have only recently discovered this. Leonharde, my great-great grandfather's first wife, was born in Norway, but her father Ditlev was born in Lübeck, Germany, and most of his family seems to have lived in that general area for many generations before Ditlev moved to Norway.

3. Bardowick (Lynesburg), Holstein
My several-greats grandfather, Hans Heinrich Bordevick, was born 1769 in a suburb of Lynesburg, known as Bardowick, and this is where our family name comes from on this side of the family. As a young man, he left Germany and moved to Norway, becoming a citizen there and marrying.

4. Brunswik, Kiel, Holstein
Ditlev's mother Anna Margaretha died here in 1812.

5. Gelting, Schleswig
Ditlev's mother Anna Margaretha was born here in 1754, his father Detelf Anton died here in 1809, and his grandmother, Anna Johansen died here in 1765.

6. Niesgrau, Schleswig
Detlef Anton Linkhusen was born here in 1738, and his mother, Anna Johansen Grot was born here in about 1697.

And currently, that's all I know for both sides of the family. There is a branch of the Hansen tree that may trace back to Germany, but as of yet, I haven't firmed up that connection, so I left it out. As I said, Galicia is still to come as its own entry, even if it will be quite short. I am hoping someday to learn more about my family in that country, so for now I want to keep it separate, even though Galicia was basically a German state. As always, if my family reading this knows more, I'd love to hear it.

Coming Next: England

ETA: More locations in the Schleswig/Holstein area of Northern Germany.

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.