Saturday, December 29, 2012

Surname Saturday - Dork and Kopkau

My great-great-grandparents were Otto Carl Dork and Wilhelmina "Minnie" Kopkau. They were both born in West Prussia and came to America in the 1870's and 1880's. They, and many other Evangelical Lutherans from the area, settled in Lansing, Ingham County, Michigan.

The spelling variations are numerous:

  • Dork
  • Doerk
  • Derk
  • Durk
  • Dirk
  • Duerk
  • Durke
  • Kopkau
  • Kopkaw
  • Kopka
  • Cupkaw
  • Cupke

The Kopkau's were listed as Hopkau on their passenger list, so finding them was a challenge!

Here are links to their villages of Charlottenwerder and Peterkau in present-day Poland.

Have a connection? Let me know!

© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Friday, December 28, 2012

Get With It!

New Year's Eve is fast approaching and with it the time-honored tradition of making resolutions.


But seriously, it is a good idea to formulate some ideas and improvements for 2013. This is especially important for me and my genealogy.

I tried writing down some goals and ideas last year [see post] and it worked...a little. I didn't really refer back to the post so much as carried it around in my brain labeled "for future use". I'm still not sure when that future is...

I have been slowly working on my webpages [see here...if you dare!]. I'd like to get those synced up and tweaked in a way I can be happy with.

I did pretty well with this blog and content last year. I created 108 posts, being most faithful to "Tombstone Tuesday". I sure hope you like gravestones, because I've still got a whole lotta photos to post! I'd like to have a little more focus on my blog content. Maybe mini-biographies of ancestors and their locations? How about my kids' running photos? No? I digress.

I acquired some more technology in 2012 that I need to put to better use in 2013. My fancy new PDF scanner has only been used a couple times. THAT has to be remedied!

My filing pile is a little bit smaller, so that's good. My workspace situation has not changed, but there's not a whole lot I can do about that, short of winning the lottery and building a dedicated genealogy room.

I will never be one to write a list and check it every month. Just putting pen to paper, er, fingers to keyboard will at least keep my ideas outside my brain.

For now, I will just keep plugging along, and get distracted by a surname or a new database and run off to check it out, and...enjoy 2013! I hope you do, too.

© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - Scotland to Braidwood

Oakwood Cemetery in Braidwood, Will County, Illinois, is the burial place of many Scottish immigrants who came to work in the local mines. Several gravestones are engraved with the country and even town of birth. My own Kerr family came to Braidwood from Kilbirnie, Ayr, Scotland, as did their in-laws, the Allen's. I often wonder if these families knew each other in the mining communities of Scotland before they came to the US.

© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Surname Saturday - Dork

One of my maternal lines is Dork - really. My great grandmother Lucy who, as a kid, I always thought was Lucille but is really Louise, was born Louise Wilhelmina Dork in Lansing, Ingham, Michigan in 1895. She is of full German descent, and more specifically, from a tiny village in Kreis Rosenberg in the eastern edge of West Prussia. It took me a long, long time to pinpoint her family, but it became a wonderful case study in my personal genealogy lessons.

Lucy's father, Otto Carl Dork, came to Michigan as a child in 1882 with his mother, grandmother, and siblings on the ship Braunschweig (see, really German!). They settled immediately in central Lansing, among many other Prussian families.

The surname itself has many iterations, which I suspect vary due to spelling and pronunciation differences from the German language. I've seen:
  • Dork
  • Doerk
  • Dorke
  • Derk
  • Durk
I tend to stick with "Doerk" in my database, only because that seems to be the most encompassing spelling. My intuition is that it was spelled D-o-e-r-k and pronounced "Derk" but in America with the "o" first, just became "Dork".

Of course "Dork" has an unlikable connotation in today's society. My own children are at least vaguely familiar with their backgrounds and know that there is a Dork lineage. I tell them that if anyone ever calls you a dork, you can reply, "Yes I am"!

reprinted from 9 June 2012
© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - Scenes of Oakwood

Oakwood Cemetery in Custer Township, outside the city of Braidwood, Will County, Illinois, is a scenic country cemetery. It is the home of many Scottish and English immigrants who came to work in the coal mines of 1870's Illinois.

 grave of original miner James Braidwood

many lots still have concrete borders intact


oaks, sand and scrub cactus all in Illinois
beautiful scroll knot atop gravestone


© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Friday, December 7, 2012

"Field" Trip

One of my most favorite places in the whole (well, my limited view of the) world is the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois. This is really history! I recently spent a leisurely afternoon at the Field and brought along my camera. Come along as I share some of my favorite things at the Field.

Thank you, Chicago!

© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - Carrie Derk

I have written a series of posts about my Dork / Doerk / Derk family in Lansing, Michigan. [Older posts here] The mother of the large sibling group I am researching is Caroline Papke Doerk. Here is her gravestone photo from Mount Hope Cemetery in Lansing, Ingham, Michigan. She is buried in the "singles" section, or the individual graves, rather than in a family lot.

Carrie Derk
Mar. 15, 1900
61 Years
Our Mother

There are several good clues here. First, she clearly made it to America with her children. Second, it is engraved "Our Mother" so I know she had more than one child. Finally, burial in the singles section makes me think she was widowed or even that her husband never came to America. She was probably the first of the family to die, before a family lot may have been purchased.

© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Monday, December 3, 2012

Dorks Across The Pond

I am pretty lucky to have an ancestral name like Dork.

Recently, I wrote several posts about my success trying to locate and piece together the various siblings of my great-great-grandfather, Otto Carl Dork in Lansing, Michigan. [Old posts here]

Otto's marriage record stated his parent's name were Carl Doerk and Carrie A. Popka. Otto was the last of his siblings to marry, and as luck would have it, older records didn't ask for parents names. But this record is a great start:

My next step was to search for immigration records. It took some creative searching due to name variations. I found the following family members on the ship Braunschweig that landed in New York on 22 April 1882.

page 16
Caroline Dork, 42, Prussia
Johanne Dork, 16, Prussia

page 21
Wilhelmine Derk, 19, Prussia
Maria Derk, 11, Prussia
Otto Derk, 8, Prussia
Rudolf Derk, 4, Prussia
Otto Derk, 5 months, Prussia
Auguste Papke, 64, Prussia

Ooh! These are clearly the right children. And their assumed mother, Caroline Dork, is the adult/parent of the group. Notably, there is no male parent and no older son Herman. Did one or both come ahead of the rest of the family? I have no idea who the baby Otto is. And who is Auguste Papke? Papke sure seems similar to Popka. A grandmother, perhaps? There are answers from the passenger lists, and now I have even more questions.  

To be continued...

© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Sunday, December 2, 2012

I'm Back!

Did you miss me?

I took a short break, knowing I wouldn't have the time needed this fall to dedicate to my blog and genealogy.  Honestly, I was having withdrawals!

My break was due to my kids making their own family history.  I previously posted briefly about my sons and their running exploits. My younger son, an eight-grader, helped his team qualify for the Illinois Elementary School Association state cross country finals for middle school. His team placed third and he finished as a medalist in 21st place. He is the most dedicated runner I know and was brought to tears realizing he won a state finals medal.

My older son, a senior in high school, had lots of talent but many physical setbacks.   He and his team also qualified for the Illinois State High School Cross Country championships. The team finished 16th of the big schools and my son finished in 74th place with a 19-second personal best time over his Sectionals race time - that's 15:13 for 3 miles! He also was invited to and participated in a senior all-star meet in Dayton, Ohio. Let the college recruiting begin!

I am so proud of them and their teams. Cross country is such a great sport, and is extremely competitive, especially in Illinois.  And don't worry, I have lots and lots and lots of photographic documentation :)

© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Short Break

The fall always becomes a crazy time of year for our family, and unfortunately, my genealogy has to take a back seat for a few weeks.

You see, my sons are busy creating some family history of their own. They are both talented cross country runners, one in middle school and one in high school. Every Saturday we are at a meet somewhere in Illinois. And every week, they collect some mementos to add to our family history.

Wish us luck!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - The Unknowns

Seward Mound Cemetery is a small farming community cemetery in rural Kendall County, Illinois. Some of the burials date back to the 1850's. There are several lots that no longer have markers, and some of the markers that do remain are broken or weathered beyond legibility. These are some of those gravestone remnants.


Mattie or Hattie D. 


unknown, died 1872

© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - Catharine in White

This broken white gravestone marks the area where Catharine Heilman lies. The stone has a traditional weeping willow carving. The top is engraved with:


I didn't want to disturb the broken pieces of the stone to locate ages and dates. A little online detective work reveals that Catharine was born about 1813 in Pennsylvania, had at least three children in Indiana with her husband Jacob, and eventually settled in the farming community of Aux Sable Township, Kendall County, Illinois. She last appears on a census in 1880 as a widow, living with neighbors. Catharine is buried next to Jacob in Seward Mound Cemetery, Kendall County, Illinois.

Rest in peace, Catharine.
© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - Amsy in the Field

This gravestone is in memory of Amsy, about who little is known. The small obelisk stands about three feet tall. The name is still legible but the dates and other information has nearly weathered away. It is located on the very edge of the oldest portion of Seward Mound Cemetery. Only a simple barbed-wire-and-post fence separates it from the neighboring farm.

Seward Mound is a small (less then 1,000 burials) township cemetery. It is a rectangle property marked by pine trees at the corners and lying within farmland. It is in rural Kendall County, Illinois.

Photographically, I find this picture interestingly composed. The gravestone is pictured correctly up and down, but it is actually tilting. The background of the farm field has the illusion of sloping down to the left. It almost makes me dizzy looking at it!
© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Family Milestone

Happy 50th Anniversary

to my lovely parents, Jack and Jo Ann!

Their actual anniversary and celebration was yesterday, August 25th. My sister-in-law coordinated a lovely open house for family, friends and neighbors. We chatted a lot, ate a lot, and took lots of pictures! 
© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - On A Ledge(r)

These traditional ledger stones or slabs cover the graves of a branch of the Gooding family of Lockport  and Homer Township, Will County, Illinois. The progenitor, William Gooding, came to Homer about 1834 and was famous for being the Chief Engineer of the I & M Canal.

One of William's sons was William Augustus Gooding. These ledger stones mark the graves of William Augustus Gooding, his first wife, Delia Louisa Rumsey, and their young son, William Rumsey Gooding. They lie side by side in Lockport City Cemetery.

© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Saturday, August 18, 2012

How Many Ancestors?

I read with interest the current genealogy meme on various blogs: learning, for better or worse, how many actual documented ancestors a person has located. It is a sobering way to either celebrate who you have found, or wallow in pity about who you haven't!

So here is my ancestor analysis:

I have been searching, both pre-internet and with internet, for about 20 years. My total for 10 generations is just about 16%. That's pretty good by my calculations!

For a little fun, I tossed in a column showing how many photos of ancestors I have. Three percent is not bad, especially considering photography only reaches back to the early-to-mid 1800's.

Like most Americans, I have a very blended ancestry. My biggest portions are German (Prussian, Polish, and German) and Irish (some who migrated to Scotland and England), and there's a nice string of French-Canadian. The biggest problems are those New Englanders - finding pre-Revolution sources has caused me much grief.

By analyzing the raw numbers, I am amazed by the amount of data I have for my European roots. At the 9th generation point, also known as great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents, I have documentation for 29 of my possible 256 ancestors. These are primarily people born the early 1700's.

  • 12 ancestors are French-Canadian
  • 3 ancestors are from a Massachusetts family
  • 2 ancestors are from a New York family
  • 6 ancestors are German
  • 6 ancestors are West Prussian / Polish

Clearly, the wealth of records kept by churches and communities in Europe have given me a great insight into my overall ancestral picture. The best part is I know there is more data out there, but I have just not had the time to look...yet.

And you New Englanders, watch out because some day I WILL find you!
© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Friday, August 17, 2012

Gardening DNA

I keep a small vegetable garden in my exurban backyard. I have had some sort of garden almost every year of my adult life. I'm not sure why I started. Some years, it's harder to get started than others. Weather is always an issue. The past two summers have been extremely hot, so I found some vegetables loved the heat and others wilted. If a plant grows, great! If not, I'll try something else.

I appreciate being able to run out to the garden, pick a few tomatoes, peppers, or cucumbers and eat them with dinner. I've also learned to pickle my banana peppers, make refrigerator dill pickles, and whip up a pretty mean salsa! But we are by no means dependent upon the garden.

Last weekend after a big harvest, I spent time pickling and salsa-ing. And I thought, this is enjoyable but I sure couldn't do this all the time.

So I'd like to take a moment to send a big "thank you" to all my ancestors that DID have to work the land and gardens and fruit trees to feed their families. The farm wives had to pick and plant and harvest and churn and salt and store and do all the other tasks necessary to keep their family fed.

Thank you for the work you did then. And thank you for sending a little gardening DNA along to me.
© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - Woodmen of the World

I had heard about "Woodmen of the World" gravestone symbols, but had never seen one in person...until this summer. This simple marker bears the Woodmen engraving.

Frank Shaw worked as a carpenter, according to the 1900 census of Channahon Township, Will County, Illinois. He was only 44 when he died at a Chicago hospital. He is buried in Willard Grove Cemetery near Channahon.
© 2012 Sally Knudsen

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Will County Poor Farm

newly-dedicated mosaic depicting the Will County Poor Farm
Joliet, Will County, Illinois

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - Worthy in Wood

This tombstone is full of mystery. I photographed it one sunny day while wandering through Willard Grove Cemetery in western Will County, Illinois. My initial reaction was, "it's brown". On closer inspection, I believe it is also wood. And painted many times. And over 100 years old. Is that possible?

It has a nice rolling scroll carved on each side. It is set on a stone base. But no other marker around it looks the same.

born July 6, 1875
died July 16, 1876

It certainly seems like wood to me. What do you think? 
© 2012 Sally Knudsen