Friday, September 16, 2011

From Germany to New York; my Maternal Grandfather's Family

This is one of the only pictures I have of my Grandpa CHARLES SAUER. I never knew him, as he died exactly one month after I was born.  It kind of epitomizes this side of the family.  While I have extensive information on my father's side, my mother's side of the family is much more scarce.  I count myself lucky in what I do have and welcome the challenge of discovering more.

If you read my bio, you know that much of the information I have on my mom's side of the family came from oral history;  Grandma KATHERINE WAGNER (Charles' wife) playing her version of 60's game shows in a futile effort to keep a rather rambunctious child from driving her crazy.  It wasn't too long after our "game" that she would encourage me to go outside and play and get "air in my lungs"...her prescription for a healthy childhood (and her peace of mind).

Just before the angst that caused such heartache with my research, I made a somewhat major discovery on a rather obscure website that I stumbled upon while doing research on my husband's line in upstate New York.  The name of the site is "Old Fulton New York Postcards" and, like I am known to do, I began to go down the rabbit hole.  Only this time, I hit the jackpot discovering old New York Newspapers online.  I had no dates of death on either of Charles' parents nor knew much about them.

From that oral history, I knew that my great-grandfather, WILLIAM SAUER had come to this country from Germany when he was 5 years old.  I had been lucky enough to find him in some census records and I had even found his Petition for Naturalization, but nothing really told me too much.  He lists Hamburg as his place of birth, however, his father's place of birth was "overwritten" on the 1920 census with the abbreviation "ger".  I have often wondered if that was a backlash to World War I, or if the census recorder should have listed it as Germany in the first place.  In any event, I have yet to discover when William sailed, aboard what ship, or find his Declaration of Intent to become a citizen.  What bothered me most, though, was I did not know when he died.  I knew nothing of the man, except that he was a glass-mould maker.  By finding his obituary, I learned more about him as well as my great aunts and uncles, including where he is buried.

Although I have continued to search through the site, I have been unable to find my great-grandmother's obituary.  Part of the problem with her is the variations on her name.  Although Grandma Katherine always said "HOFFER", I have seen if as "HOFER" (as listed on her father's Petition for Naturalization), "HOFFHERR", "HOFHER", "HOFHERR", "HOOFER", "HOFHEN", AND "HOEFER" (the "e" to take the place of the German umlaut?) just to name a few. Josephine was born in the United States shortly after her mother and father came from Germany in 1854, according to the census.  However, like with the SAUER family, I cannot seem to find when, where, or how.

Both of Josephine's parents, Charles and Johanna, disappear before the 1910 census, and like their daughter, I do not know when they died or where they are interred.  Although I have the names of Josephine's brothers and her only sister, my information on them is also sorely lacking.  Cousins yet to be discovered and family that I may never reach.

All this means, I suppose, is that I must have the willingness to persevere and continue to dig a little deeper...and when I become frustrated, I can bounce over to another branch of the family, or to my husband's family.  After all, it is out of that frustration that I struck gold...the genealogy gods smiling upon me.

©2011, copyright Penny Sexton Brennan


  1. Welcome, Penny ~ I look forward to reading your blog and hearing all about your family history . . . and especially of your German kinfolk! Our surnames are Haf, Saule, and Kaiser and many more going back to the 1500's. One of my goals . . . to learn German so I can read some of the very old and wonderful documents I have inherited.

  2. Is he sneaking a bit off that yummy turkey?
    There is a mischievious look about him. :-)
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)

  3. Well, Theresa, there is a story about him and turkeys that was told at every Thanksgiving. He used to raise them...I'll leave it there for now. It scarred my older sister for life, I think.

  4. Gini, I took 3 years of German in HS many years ago, I think because I knew that I had German ancestors...most, unfortunately, is forgotten. :(