June 22, 2009

We visited Peter Freking and his family in Esterwegen yesterday, and we believe he is a cousin. Marilyn had written to 10 or more Frekings, hoping to get a response. Peter was the only one who replied. He didn’t respond to her second inquiry, and she had wondered about that. But when she called him upon our arrival, he was quite pleased to hear from her.

Laura said at the end of the day that he is a cousin whether the records confirm the relationship or not!  They were so warm and gracious to us, welcoming us into their home and hearts and family, it hardly matters whether the grandfathers were in fact brothers.

The Ancestry Detail

We do believe, however, that Peter’s great-grandfather Heinrich Clemens was our great-grandfather’s, Heinrich Arnold’s (Carl), brother. We knew about Ferdinand Freking, the Ferdinand that was Peter’s grandfather. It was Peter’s grandfather’s plot that we saw at the cemetery in Steinfeld. I showed Peter the photos I took, as he was wondering whether the grave planting was in decent condition. Through the magic of digital photography, I could show him that the grave looks wonderful.

Peter remembered his great aunt Elizabeth, and we had record of our great-great uncle having a sister named Elizabeth.  The Ferdinand we have was actually named Franz Ferdinand and we have the last name of his wife-Klopphaken. That last name was quite familiar to Peter and his family, as it is the name of the farm they all visit.  So, we think we have the right family!

Peter is adopted, as are his twin siblings. Thus it isn’t blood that ties us together, but family ties are strong, we think. We took notes of family dates – birth, marriages, spouses’ names.  Not the kind of detail you would normally share with strangers visiting from a foreign land, but by then our strange quest had become almost reasonable.

Our Visit

Peter’s daughter Carmen was visiting for the weekend, and she speaks fluent English, so she was able to help us with thorough communication. We told them the story of meeting the family on Freking Weg in Damme, and Peter decided that we are very brave.  He compared us to the usual travelers, with 60 or more folks all piled on a bus, going from place to place in safety, not worrying about following directions from Googlemaps into totally unknown territory. He likened us to the pioneers!

Carmen’s 2 1/2 year old daughter Jordan was there, too, and what a cutie! We were charmed, of course, and delighted to be in a real German household. (Not that the house where we are staying isn’t real, but it is so historic and gorgeous that it doesn’t seem exactly normal.)

As we talked, we shared mimosas, to celebrate our visit. (We had driven for many hours – first on Saturday and then again on Sunday – so we felt we had a lot to celebrate!) Then we sat down for coffee and cake. The town had been celebrating that day, so Annette had picked up an array of fancy cake for our visit. The tray of choices was quite amazing.

They invited us to join them for a dinner out, but we were facing a long drive home and didn’t want to try it in the dark, so we regretfully declined. After printing out a new set of driving directions (not wanting to rely on reading the ones we had backwards), we left.  Hugs all around and “Visit us in the wine country” and “Come to Washington D.C.”

And then…

I backed out the driveway and right into the tree in the middle of the road! Actually, I didn’t hit the tree but the sign in front of the tree. And I was going so slowly that there was no damage at all to the car, and the sign was just bent over.  It did more damage to my confidence than anything else.  Who puts a tree in the middle of the road!?  Peter said it is very useful for slowing down the young drivers.  It slowed me down.

We took only 90 minutes to return home, miraculously, after taking 3 hours to drive up to Peter and Annette’s house.  Why?  We don’t know.


2 Responses to “Found?”

  1. Catherine said

    Your great grandfather’s name is Franz Ferdinand? Because that just happens to also be the name of a current rock band:

    • jaugieatlarge said

      No, it’s not our great grandfather who has that name. It is Peter Freking’s great grandfather. Maybe Peter is reading this and he’ll get an idea of a new CD to buy.

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