Zierke Origins

On May 15th, 1865 Friedrich Zierke Sr., his wife Dorothea and their children Anna Rosina and Friedrich Zierke Jr. boarded the ship “Neckar” in Hamburg and set sail for America.  The trip lasted a full month – four long weeks packed onboard a ship with 411 passengers; 11 Danes, 120 Swedes and 280 Germans (per the notation by the Captain).  The ship sailed to Québec, Canada, arriving on June 24th, 1865 where the four weary Zierkes finally set foot on the American continent.  One of the things that made their voyage remarkable was that Friedrich the elder was 59 years old.  His wife Dorothea was 50.  Friedrich the younger and Anna Rosina were 28 and 20, respectively.  59 and 50 years old are fairly advanced ages to decide to leave everything and everyone you know behind to start over in America.  It is interesting to me that they decided to do it and begs the question of “Why?”.

After their arrival in Quebec, we have no record of what happened to Friedrich Sr., nor his wife Dorothea, until 1900 when Dorothea shows up in Harrisville, Wisconsin, widowed and living alone for the last year of her life before dying in 1901.  If we could find an obituary it might tell us where she was born and/or where she and Fred went after they arrived in the US, but I’m not aware of local Marquette County papers which might have carried such an obituary.

Her death record says that Dorothea’s father’s name was “Hardow”, that she was born 7 July 1814, and died on 2 Mar 1901 at the age of 86 in Harris, Wisconsin.  There is a good chance her name was actually Hadow.  There is a Hadow family that came from Wilhelmshöhe, Kreis Kolmar, Posen, Prussia and also settled in Harris.  She was buried in a “private cemetery”, likely the Putzbach Cemetery which is within walking distance of the Zierke farm in Harris.

According to parish records, Friederich Jr’s wife, Anna Wilhelmine “Minnie” Schulz was born, baptized, and confirmed in the town of Podstolitz in Kreis Kolmar, Posen, Prussia, as was her brother Martin Schulz.  This town is only a couple of miles away from Siebenschlößchen, where another family of Zierkes came from who later settled in Princeton, Wisconsin near Harris.

Friedrich and Wilhelmine Zierke

Friedrich Zierke Jr. was born in 1835.  Friedrich Schmidt was born in 1832.  The Schmidts were from Posen, Prussia.  It is possible that the Schmidts and the Zierkes knew each other in Prussia because when Wilhelm Schmidt immigrated from Posen to America in 1885 he went to Marquette County in Wisconsin where he met and married Ottelia Zierke.  It could be that he went there knowing there would be people from home.  If that was the reason, it would be evidence that the Zierkes may have been from Posen or somewhere reasonably near it.

The strongest piece of evidence we have at this point is the German passenger list for the Zierke family’s trip from Hamburg to New York [Hamburg Passenger Lists ->1860-1869 > Direkt Band 019 (7 Jan 1865 - 23 Dez 1865) > p143].  

There’s a town listed there, and Klaus Kolb, and expert on historical German documents said this about it:

“I believe I am deciphering the word Jastrowie. In an atlas I found a village in today’s Poland near the convergence of the rivers Gwda and Pitawa. the location is about 138 km NNW of Poznan (Posen) 120 km west of Bydgoscz and 172 km ENE of Szczecin (Stettin).   However, Jastrowie is today’s polish name. Like other villages and towns in the area it could have had a German or germanized name at the time. It is for this reason that I am not absolutely sure this being the village mentioned in the document.”

The modern town of Jastrowie in Poland is a town that used to be called “Jastrow” by the Germans.   It actually belonged to the county Deutsch Krone, administrative district Marienwerder in the Prussian province of West Prussia at that time.   Jastrowie is located about 12 miles North of the border of the Province of Posen.  “Schneidemühl” (Polish name Pila, south of Jastrow) was the border town.  

To me it makes sense that the locals would use the Polish name for the town (hence “Jastrowie” on the passenger list rather than the German name “Jastrow”).  That part of Prussia changed hands several times between Poland and Germany, so the locals probably used the local, Polish name.

Another translation of the document is “Jablonowo”, another Polish name.

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About cthomas1967

Seeking to bring my ancestors out of the shadows of history and into the light. I have always been interested in history, and at a few different times I tried to do a family tree, but wasn't able to do it with the technology that was available then. On a business trip I visited the World War I Museum in Kansas City, MO and it was a very impressive establishment. While I was there I remember thinking, "Didn't my great-grandfather father fight in World War I? And wasn't his brother killed alongside him in some famous battle? I wonder if I can find out where he died." That's what started it all. View all posts by cthomas1967

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