Sunday, March 16, 2014

#52Ancestors (11) Otto Carl Dork, My First American Dork

From the title of this post, perhaps you think I'm mocking someone. That could not be further from the truth. Otto Carl DORK is my great-great-grandfather and he was the first male Dork in my line to emigrate from West Prussia to America.

Having a unique surname in genealogy makes searching for ancestors infinitely more easy. I'm pretty sure Dork falls into that category. I suspect that the name was pronounced 'Derk' but spelled with German vowels often as 'Dork' or 'Doerk.' I have come across several different spellings, but they mostly are of the vowel variety:

  • Dork
  • Doerk
  • Dirk
  • Durk
  • Derk
  • Derke

For the most part though, searching databases was pretty easy. Using the internet was hard. Try googling 'dork' and see where that takes you. 

Back to Otto.

Otto Carl DORK was born in the village of Charlottenwerder, Kreis Rosenberg, West Prussia on 23 November 1869. His parents were Carl DORK and Caroline PAPKE. Charlottenwerder is today known as Redaki, Poland. He emigrated to America with his mother, grandmother, and several siblings on the ship Braunschweig, landing in New York on 22 April 1882. The family settled immediately in Lansing, Ingham, Michigan, among a group of Evangelical Lutheran families.

Otto's birth record, third from top

On 18 May 1893 in Lansing, Otto married Wilhelmina KOPKAU, another Prussian immigrant who was born only four miles away in the village of Peterkau, now Piotrkowo, Poland.

Otto, circa 1895

They had five children: Carl (1893), Louise (1895), Eva (1897), Ferdinand (1900) and Edward (1905). Carl was born in November so the math gives us, hmm, a late marriage. I found several of these Prussian families having children not quite nine months later. My grandmother told me that the families wanted to make they could reproduce before marrying. Hey, that's the family story.

None of their sons had male children, so my immediate line of Dork's has died out. Otto had nieces and nephews who also lived in America, but I have not yet found modern descendants. At some point I would love to connect with other descendants, whether still in Poland or of emigrants to other countries.

Otto worked as a laborer. His wife, Wilhelmina, died of heart disease in 1915. He never remarried and raised his children with the help of close immigrant family and neighbors. He died in 1949 and is buried with Wilhelmina in Mount Hope Cemetery in Lansing.

Microfilm snip: FamilySearch microfilm reel #208194: Kirchenbuch 1736-1944, Evangelische Kirche Langenau (Kr. Rosenberg)

(c) 2014 Sally Knudsen