Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Chain migration at its finest: the Daft and Jahnke families

gottfried daft pauline kading oconto falls lena michael gottlieb
The Daft family in 1935.
I've always wondered why my immigrant ancestors came to the United States, and my thoughts have usually focused on my paternal line, the Dafts. With my great-grandmother and great-great-grandparents arriving in 1912, they are the most recent immigrants in my direct family. Having recently solved part of the puzzle, it turns out that the Dafts were only the last link in a much longer chain that involves family, family of family, and family of family of family.

There may be more out there to discover, but for now, the chain begins with Gustave and Edward Witzke. The Witzke brothers were born in what is now Poland, Gustave in 1874 and Edward on 05 May 1880. I don't know when or why Gustave and Edward decided to move to the United States, but the important thing is that they did. On 11 Jul 1899, Gustave Witzke was living in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, when he sponsored his mother Wilhelmine (Selert) and stepfather Karl Ludwig Jahnke to join him. Karl and Wilhelmine didn't stay in Cleveland for long, moving to Roberts, Ford County, Illinois, by 1907. They also took more Americanized names - in the 1910 census, Karl became Charley and Wilhelmine became Minnie.

Fall 1907 was a busy time for our chain. On 17 Oct 1907, Karl paid for his brother Albert Friedrich Jahnke to join him in Roberts, followed on 26 Nov 1907 by Albert's wife Emilie (Schmidt) Jahnke and four of their children, Augusta, Albert, Anna, and Ida. And less than a week later, on 01 Dec 1907, Karl, Albert, and their families were joined in America by Gottfried Daft, the stepson of their sister Carolina Wilhelmine (Jahnke) Daft.
caroline jahnke daft cycow oconto falls
Caroline (Jahnke) Daft was an
important link in the chain.

Gottfried - my great-grandfather - having had his passage paid for by his stepuncle, went right to work saving up money to bring over the rest of his family. He hit his first goal when, on 23 Mar 1909, his brother Gottlieb Michael Daft landed in New York and joined him in Roberts. Though the Jahnkes remained in the area around Roberts, Illinois, where their descendants still live, the two Daft brothers went on the move. In the 1910 census, Gottlieb was enumerated at a lumber camp in Lakewood, Oconto County, Wisconsin (I have not been able to find Gottfried in that census). The area around Oconto Falls was heavily populated by ethnic Germans coming from the same region that the Dafts and Jahnkes had come from - what then was Russia, but is now eastern Poland.

While the Daft brothers prepared to move their family to the United States, their sister, brother, parents, and other relatives continued their lives in Russia. Pauline Kading, the woman Gottfried had promised to marry, did not wait for him, and married a man named Grams, with whom she had a daughter, Emma. Mr. Grams (first name unknown to me) died soon after the wedding, leaving Pauline and her daughter to stay with the Daft family, who had not lost their attachment to the woman who had broken off her engagement with their son.

gottfried daft pauline kading keding cycow grams
The marriage record of Gottfried
Daft and Pauline (Kading) Grams.
In 1912, Gottfried was ready for the next step. He returned to his ancestral home in the town of Cycow to bring his parents to a new life. Only one thing stood in his way. His stepmother Caroline had raised Gottfried and his siblings since their mother died when they were very young. And Caroline refused to go without Pauline. So in late April or early May of 1912, Gottfried and Pauline were married in Chełm, and only weeks later, the family - Gottfried, his bride, his one year old stepdaughter, his father Michael, and his stepmother - was boarding the S.S. Neckar in Bremen, Germany, bound for Philadelphia. They arrived on 28 May 1912, seventy-five years to the day before I was born.

After they had all settled in the area around Oconto Falls, there was still one last link to forge in the Jahnke-Daft migration chain. In 1913, Gottfried sponsored his sister, Anna Christine (Daft) Kardoskee, her husband Julius, and their young children Ida and Emil. The Kardoskees arrived in Baltimore, Maryland on 06 Jun 1913 and settled in Oconto Falls soon after.

And in all these travels, the family connections were not broken. My grandfather - Gottfried's son - Henry William "Hank" Daft had a friend named Alfred "Al" Fuoss who lived in Illinois. It is only recently that I realized Al Fuoss was not only a friend, he was family. Al's grandfather was Albert Jahnke, my great-grandfather's stepuncle, making Al and Hank second cousins.

All told, 20 members of the Jahnke and Daft families were able to immigrate to America, and their descendants in this country number in the hundreds. All because of Gustave and Edward Witzke, the first links in the chain.

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