In terms of genealogy research, my family is very lucky in the fact that our relatives in Germany compiled a rather thick book of our family history, dating all the way back to 1664. Many Americans want to know when their relatives came over from the old country, and our “big green book” always provided the answers (albeit in German, so it took a few years of studying before I could read it!). It all started with a man named Fritz.
My great-great-grandfather Fritz Mueller was born near Düsseldorf, Germany in 1866 as the tenth child of Wilhelm Daniel and Adolphine Mueller. After studying theology in Austria and subsequently working as a pastor, Fritz decided that the religious life was not for him. In 1887, Fritz and his brother Max emigrated to America in search of more opportunity, eventually finding it in St. Louis, Missouri. While Fritz found work as a tailor of suits and shirts, Max supported himself by buying, selling and delivering coal in the winter and blocks of ice in the summer. After working with a horse and carriage for a number of years, Max eventually bought two automobiles to use for his business. He would deliver his goods to homes around the different neighborhoods; housewives would leave signs in the windows with the amounts of coal or ice they required. Max and Fritz remained in close contact in St. Louis, often meeting to play cards on Sunday evenings. A relative describes his grandfather Fritz below:
“Fritz was a cheerful man who was always part of the fun. With a mustache, goatee and bowler hat, he loved to stand on a beer crate in a bar, reciting poetry in German, Latin or Greek, occasionally in French as well, sometimes for hours at a time. Grandfather came to our house on Saturday evenings. He was a passionate reader and also interested in Spanish. He was especially happy when he won chess games. I am certain that he was very strict with his children. Fritz loved life!”
Fritz (center) with his wife and three of his children. Fred, on the very right, is my great-grandfather.
Although immigration was quite common in the 19th century, it can’t have been easy for the mothers back home in Germany. Fritz’s mother Adolphine was no exception. Here, she sends a photograph of herself with Fritz’s brother and writes her son a birthday message on the back (1923):
My dear Fritz,
Here comes your little old mother with Erick and his family to wish you a happy birthday! May you, my dear Fritz, always spend this day in health with your loved ones and may God’s blessings be with you, dear boy, in this new year of life! I thought it would make you all happy if my 80-year-old self came to you “in person”! Warmest greetings to you and all my love, your mother and grand- and great-grandmother!