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Redwood Falls Gazette
  • Finding family: German clan traces lineage to local cemetery

  • A family from near Hamburg, Germany found closure when they visited the Redwood Falls city cemetery this month....
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  • After Marlis Kolmsee’s mother-in-law passed away, the family discovered a collection of documents that helped to tell the story of her family, both in Germany and Poland, as well as those who left Europe and came to America. Reading through some of the letters, Kolmsee, felt a personal connection, and that led to increased interest in finding out more about her in-laws and the family of her husband Eberhard. That research resulted in a trip to Minnesota and the Redwood Falls cemetery.
    Carolyn Laufenburger, who works for the Redwood Cemetery Association, met the visitors, which also included Marlis Kolmsee’s brother Peter Niendorf, and she was able to point them right to the gravestones they were looking for. Names, such as Schoening, Hammer and Schumacher, are part of the family tree. Kolmsee said she was excited to actually see their grave markers. “Carolyn has been such a big help for us,” said Kolmsee, adding she has had a lot of luck finding ancestral connections in the United States. That is not the case in Germany. “In Germany you buy a lot in a cemetery for 25 years,” she said. “After that if you want to renew it you pay more.” Those who do not pay run the risk of that lot being used by someone else. Many people choose not to be buried in a cemetery, said Kolmsee. Rather they opt to be cremated and in the area where they live near Hamburg, Germany, have their ashes spread in the Baltic Sea. “In Germany you have to take care of the grave yourself,” she said, adding, however, that does mean flowers can stay up throughout the year. Kolmsee said the Internet was a big help, and people she has been in contact with at all levels have been very helpful. She also said when looking for relatives in the Buffalo Lake area, she just started calling people in the White Pages with the last name she was searching, and eventually she made contact. The trio were in town long enough to stop by for a visit, and were in the U.S. for just a couple of days. They do, however, plan to make a return visit when there is more time. Kolmsee said the letters indicate family in the United States was very supportive as they would sponsor those who were coming over to make a new life for themselves. She also said letters indicate after World War II family in the United States sent support to their family in Germany as it suffered through the aftermath of losing the war. “There have been a lot of helping hands in providing information for us,” Kolmsee said. “It is great to know there are so many people who are willing to help.” Kolmsee said she got information from the Minnesota Historical Society, adding that combined with what documents they already had and the connections they were able to make locally really helped put the entire history of the family together. “We’re just stopping now for a short time,” said Kolmsee, adding even being there for a few hours definitely made the trip to Minnesota worthwhile.

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