This week, our topic has us fantasizing about which of our ancestors we’d like to meet. For me, it’s a relative that has intrigued me for most of my life.
I learned when I was a child that my great-grandfather or his father (I was never quite clear on that) came to America from Germany when he was three years old. I remember being told that my German ancestor had relatives back in Germany, and these “maiden aunts” had their property taken by the Nazis. In high school, I took a couple of years of German, because of my German heritage. When I asked the name of this mysterious ancestor, I was told that he was called “Grandpa Loper.” So, of course, when I started looking around on the internet, I would search for Loper Hahn who came to the United States at age 3.
It turns out that most of what I knew about my ancestor was wrong.
His name was William Fredrick Hahn. He died many years before my grandfather Charlie Hahn was born. His youngest son, Theodore, is my great-grandfather. He was 21 when William died, and I know that in 1900, Theodore was living with his maternal uncle, William Loper (Grandpa Loper) and his wife. Maybe he didn’t know much about his father to pass on. Some of the information I was told may simply have been misremembered. Some of the other stories may have been created for entertainment purposes.
Here’s what I know now.
William was born around 1846 in Germany. His obituary says he was a native of Berlin. If he had any siblings, they were long gone before the Nazis came to power. According to a naturalization document, he arrived in the United States around 1859, when he was 13 years old. He tended to work around the waterfront, as a baymen or laborer. He is named on two patents – one for a domino case with scoring system, and one for a slate with a sliding ruler for drawing lines. William died in 1907, when he was about 61 years old.
I have so many questions for William.
֍ Were you born in Berlin, the capital, or Berlin, the little town in Schleswig-Holstein?
֍ Were you baptized, and if so, do you know the name of the church?
֍ What are your parents’ names?
֍ Did you travel to the United States with your family?
֍ Do you still have family in Germany?
֍ Tell me about your work – what was your first job? How did you train?
֍ How did you meet your wife, Ary Loper?
֍ How did you come up with your inventions?
I’m sure if I could have this conversation with him, I would think of many more follow up questions.
If you’re interested in writing more about your ancestors, visit Amy Johnson Crow’s website and sign up to receive a weekly prompt like this one.