Lost Langholzes

Yesterday was Father’s Day so, naturally, I gave my dad a call. Yesterday was one of the few days of the year when the following does not happen: I call, my mom answers the phone, I ask for Dad, and he answers with “what’s wrong?” Usually it’s about my car. Or I can’t figure out how to use a drill. Or I need to borrow something like sawhorses, or an electric sander, or his handheld saw. But yesterday was one of those days where it is just about talking to Dad. About wishing him a happy day and letting him know that I appreciate him.

However Father’s Day also has me thinking of all of my fathers – my grandfathers, my great-grandfathers, my great-great grandfathers and so on, those whose lives inevitably led to me. Since a significant percentage of those men have had the last name “Langholz”, it has also made me think about my male line and my last name even more. And that topic, that of the Langholzes, has been a frustrating one for me in my genealogy research.

I know that my dad, Tom, is the son of Merle, who was the son of Karl, who was the son of August, who was the son of… someone. While I can trace other lines of my family back hundreds of years with many, many greats before the word “grandfather”, with the Langholzes I get stuck with August, my great-great grandfather. And even August is a bit of a mystery as I have no actual information pertaining to his life, just documents relating to his sons. What I do know is that my 21 year old great-grandfather, Karl, left Germany in 1923 and came to the United States. From what I understand, he left behind his parents and brother. I know that there was communication between the separated family but I do not have very many details and therefore a lot of information has been lost to me.

An undated photo of my great-grandfather, Karl (Carl) Langholz.

What I know about us and where we came from is now derived only from the small details. My last name literally translates to “long wood”… so there’s that. On the 1923 passenger list, Karl’s hometown is listed as Schönewalde while Schönewalde am Bungsburg is the home of a war memorial in which Karl’s brother’s name is inscribed. Then, about 60 miles northwest of this town, on the shore of the Baltic Sea, sits the small town of Langholz. Did we live there?

In the end, this posts is about everything that I do not know. So I suppose that my next steps are to keep learning German, sew myself a dirndl, and participate in Oktoberfest annually. I’ll do these things in the hopes that when I arrive on German soil, with the determination to learn more, I do not stick out too much.

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Legacy and the Law

Last Monday, my editor (also known as my mother) had the brilliant idea that I should write about Arnold Borson. It is National Police Week, she had pointed out, so the thought of him as my weekly blog subject very much went hand in hand. It seemed like an easy idea, writing about this town marshal, but it turned out that the execution of this post was difficult so I apologize for it being a week too late.

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The Need for News

Several years ago, one of my friends was severely injured at another friend’s house. It was a chaotic situation as we worked to help and comfort him until the police, firefighters, and paramedics arrived. But what made a horrific situation even worse, was the media attention that we had received. Due to the nature of and circumstances around the injury, nearly every media source in the Twin Cities covered the incident. Even after surgery, when we knew that our friend would be okay, media trucks staked out the neighborhood, cameras were pointed into the yard, and reporters knocked on the neighbors’ doors, all in an effort to get the most sensationalized story. That’s when I began to see these ambulance-chasing news stories in a different light. What right do we, as a society, have to dig into the lives of people who are going through these tragedies? How much information do we really deserve? Not a lot, I had decided.

But as a family historian, that’s hypocritical of me.

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Family Gatherings

Last Saturday, six women converged in a one bedroom apartment in the outskirts of Monticello, MN with the goal of discussing one thing: Family. Five of these six women were the daughters of three sisters; Mabel, Gladys, and Deloris. As for the sixth, that was me, a granddaughter of Deloris. We each came armed for discussion either with photos or documents or stories. The conversation flowed easily as everyone contributed what they knew.

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Cemeteries: Digging Up Ancestral Dirt

On a two lane highway, between my hometown and the next, there is a small family cemetery set on a hill, overlooking the road. During the course of my life, I have probably passed this cemetery thousands of times, noticing it but not really seeing it. The graves are old, to be sure, that can be seen from the road. I always thought that it was interesting but that was where my curiosity of it ended.

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Grandma Borson

Grandma’s Yearbook Photo – The Argyll of 1947 – Glencoe, MN

When I first began to research my family history, I focused on the facts. The names, the dates, and the places. I had one biological grandma still living and I grilled her for clues in order to find the next piece of data. But, about a year into my genealogy research, I came to the realization that these names, these dates, and these places do not mean much without the stories. So I started listening, really listening, to my grandma’s tales. And that’s how Grandma Borson became more than just a grandmother in my eyes. I began to appreciate her for the life she had lived.

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War at the Front Door

This past weekend, I attended the Minnesota Civil War Symposium at the Historic Fort Snelling in St. Paul. For many Minnesotans, especially Southwestern Minnesotans like me, thoughts of the Civil War are directly linked to the Dakota War of 1862. The symposium followed along this connection as two of the six presentations related to the battles that made up this Minnesota war as well as the aftermath. However, I’ve recently seen this conflict, its meaning, and its impact in a new light. I’ve always thought that this was interesting and important history but now I think about it as my history. In the past year, I’ve come across the obituary of my second great-grandmother, Helena, who was six years old when the Dakota War occurred. Her obituary provides insight has to how she and her parents survived.

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High Jinks and History

What do you think about when you see the stoic faces of the people in early photographs? For me, with many of my ancestors becoming immigrant farmers in Minnesota, I think of hardship, tenacity, and determination. For the personalities of these people, I would assume a seriousness that goes along with those attributes and that lifestyle. What I never thought to see, even hiding under the surface, was perhaps goofiness, trouble making, or even ill will. But it appears that at least one of these characteristics occurred in the second announcement below.

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