Motivation

With the help of several wonderful collaborators, we discovered recently that my grandfather Wilhelm Schmidt had an aunt named Friedericke Winkelmann who married a Wilhelm Prielipp in the town of Karolina in Posen, Prussia on 14 Feb 1864.  The marriage record was sent to me last week by Lukasz Bielcki of the Poznan Project.  We also know that that Wilhelm Prielipp and Friedericke had at least one child who was born in Gornitz in 1883 named Wilhelm Adolf Prielipp.  I have Wilhelm Adolf’s birth record from Posen also, which was sent to me by Marlena Krzeminska, who lives in Pila.

Last week I discovered that this same Wilhelm Prielipp went to America without his wife in August of 1864, only six months after his marriage.  He left from Hamburg, Germany on August 13th aboard the “Harlequin” and arrived in New York on August 30th.  It’s not known how long he stayed, or why he returned, but we do know he returned to Karolina, then moved to nearby Gornitz and fathered subsequent children in Posen with the same Friedericke Winkelmann, as I said.  On the passenger list he is listed as “Landmann”, or farmer, the same trade listed in his marriage record.  The ages and town of residence were also the same, so I’m pretty confident that it’s the same Wilhelm Prielipp.

1864 was rather early for Prussian immigration, at least to Wisconsin.  The main wave of Prussian immigrants came between 1875 and 1890.  The Zierke family (also from Posen) came to Harris, Wisconsin in 1865.  The Kruegers came to Wausau from Pommern in 1882 and 1883, then Wilhelm Schmidt came from Posen to Harris in 1885 and his sisters and mother arrived in Wausau in 1892.

Karolina and Gornitz were very small villages, and I imagine someone who had been to America would have been quite the subject of interest there. Wilhelm Prielipp went to the US, then came back.  It seems certain he would have told the Schmidt and Winkelmann families about America.  Perhaps that was the reason my grandfather Wilhelm Schmidt decided to go there in 1885?  He would have been only two years old in 1864 when his Uncle left, so perhaps he grew up hearing the stories from his Uncle Wilhelm Prielipp about America?  We’ve never known why our grandfather and his family decided to come to the US.  This might be the reason.

Years later, in 1922 and 1923, I believe another son of Wilhelm and Friedericke, named Hermann Prielipp, must have written to his first cousin Wilhelm Schmidt and asked for his help bringing his two boys to America.  We know our grandfather paid for the ticket for Emil Prielipp to come to the US in 1923.  I suspect he probably also paid for Emil’s brother Otto to come to the US in 1922.  On the passenger lists for both Emil and Otto their father is listed as “Hermann Prielipp of Gornitz, Prussia”.  That is the same town we know my Schmidt family lived between 1880 and 1892 prior to their immigration to the US.

Emil and Otto settled on Grand Avenue in Rothschild near the Schmidt family.  They got jobs as mechanics working in the “beater room” of the paper mill.  The foreman of the beater room was my great-grandfather Edwin Schmidt.  The children of the Prielipp family were friends with my cousins Gloria and Kay Johnson.  At the time it must have seemed like a coincidence, but now with this additional information its true nature can be known.  The seeds that would become that friendship were likely planted in 1864 half-way around the world!

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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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