Thinking Out Loud: The Missing Great-Aunt

Embarrassingly often, this blog is about all the stuff I don’t know, as opposed to what I do.

But hey,  it’s a method. From an early age, I’ve had this tendency to talk and write problems out — apparently I’m a very verbal/auditory learner. I listen well and take fantastic notes; then I talk about it to firm it up. (On the other hand, I seem to have no visual learning sense whatsoever.)

I took a test once about this, a real one, not a Cosmo one. It was a relief to have a validation of the habits that led my normally sweet and tolerant college roommate to flee the premises at exam crunch time, saying: “No, no! Really. You can have the room. I can always study in the library … you, um … you can’t.”

She was right. Then, as now, I would tease out thorny problems or concepts by talking to myself about them. (Miraculously, we are still friends.)

So bear with me while I talk to myself about what is shaping up to be my Big Genealogy Quest for next year: The mystery of my great-aunt Anna Kunigunde Rudroff.

To recap: All my life I just knew that my German-born grandfather, Johann/John Rudroff, had only one other sibling who also emigrated to the U.S.A.: his much older brother Georg/George.

Naturally, this turned out to be wrong, as do so many of the things I just absolutely, positively know about my family. When a German researcher very kindly shared notes on a Rudroff family history compiled on the other side of the pond, I discovered the existence of Anna Kunigunde, sister of Georg and Johann, and another immigrant to the United States. Never heard of her before.

What I know about her so far:

• 1883: Born in Kottweinsdorf, Bavaria, Germany (according to the German genealogy; it would need to be independently confirmed in the Roman Catholic parish records at Oberailsfeld, where Kottweinsdorf families attended church).

• 1907: Emigrated. (Again, according to the German Rudroff genealogy, but also consistent with the 8 June 1907 entry on Ancestry.com’s Hamburg passenger list database  for Kunigunde Rudroff, female, single and age 24, ultimate destination: New York).

• 1910 United States census: Nothing found yet that fits someone of her approximate age. Doesn’t mean she isn’t in there, of course.

• 1914, 31 Oct. Arrived in New York (again), aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam, according to the New York passenger lists database at Ancestry.com.

• She apparently did not re-settle in Kottweinsdorf, according to the German research, which only records her departure in 1907 to the U.S.A. Was the 1914 trip a quick visit back home?

So what do I do now? Here’s what I’m thinking:

• Reach out to some of Georg’s descendants to see if any of their family stories mentioned this great-aunt.

• Take another stab at the United States census for 1910. She should be listed somewhere under her birth name, since in 1914 she was apparently still unmarried.

• Brush up on German records of the period to see where else there might be a record of Anna Kunigunde’s comings and goings.

• Explore what other NARA holdings might be of use.

• Think about ways newspaper database research might help. Maybe a marriage notice somewhere?

It’s strange to think of my grandfather having a sister he never mentioned, at least not to my mother. I know … uh-oh, that word again! All right, I’m reasonably sure that my mother never heard of Anna Kunigunde — I talked at some length with her about family history and there’s nothing in my notes from these conversations (I checked, I checked).

So what else should I be looking at here? Feel free to suggest away, and I promise I’ll talk to myself about it.


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