Through my extensive research, I have found that my ethnicity primarily consists of four different cultures. I am Scottish, Irish, Dutch, but mainly German. My great aunt Diane, on my dads side, has been researching our ancestry for many years. She lived in Germany from 1972 to 1973. Her first husband was in the Air Force and they lived in a small town Neiderefenberg. They later moved to Oberlauken where she worked at the Army base in Frankfurt, Germany. Through her research she has found that most of our ancestors originate from Stettin, Germany. Stettin, which is now called Szczecin, was the capital of a small country called Pomerania, which is located on the northeast side of Germany. The Germans call it Pommern and the Poles call it Pomerania. “It had a land area of 11, 654 square miles, roughly the size of Delaware and Maryland combined. The Oder River divided the country into two parts, Hither Pomerania (Vorpommern), the area west of the Oder and Farther Pomerania (Hinterpommern), the area to the east.” (http://www.genemaas.net/Pommern.htm, Pg. 1). My great-aunt Diane visited Pomerania, she said that it is one of the most beautiful places in Poland. She went on a tour of Stettin and said that the east side of the Oder River is very flat and that the fields seem to go on forever and that it is nice but the west side had much more to offer. She said the west side of the Oder is a large tourist area, this is where she spent most of her time. She said that there cities were full of life but you didn't have to go far to get out of the city, and outside of the cities there was a lot of land that was covered in vegetation and small to very large rolling hills that were in some places covered in dense forests. She said that the white sandy beaches of the Baltic Sea were absolutely gorgeous. She kept going on and on about how there were so many lakes, and how clear and pristine they were. Stettin is bordered by the Baltic Sea and is located on the main river in Pomerania, the Oder River. The Oder flows in to the Baltic Sea making Stettin a main port for importing and exporting goods. Because of the importance of the Oder River, Stettin was in constant conflict with their neighboring cities of Garz, Greifenhagen and Stargard. According to Myron Gruenwald, the author of “Pomeranians, The Persistent Pioneers” these conflicts were mainly do to the monopoly on grain and herring exports, which were Stettin's main goods at the time. In this book she also talked about how In 1630, Sweden took over Stettin and shut down all of their main ports. This left Stettin in an economic downfall until the mid 1700's when Stettin became a Prussian province of Pomerania under the ruler King Frederick William I who was better known as “the soldier-king.” J, Ellis Barker, the author of “The Foundations of Germany” published in 1918, mentioned that King Frederick was a ruler that incorporated education, finance, industry, agriculture, and judicial policies under a Democratic and Authoritative view. Through my research I found Frederick William I to be an interesting man. He was a man that was mostly for the people, but at the same time he was all about building up his military, even though he only used it once against Austria. It was said that he had the biggest military in Germany, and by the biggest I mean the men were very large. Frederick William I did whatever he could to better the lives of the people in Pomerania as well as improve the stability of the Prussian province. His ways were proven to be successful, and helped the people of Pomerania for many years. Frederick allowed Stettin to open their ports back up and to become the main area of trade once again. This only grew larger when steam transport began in the 1830's, which allowed larger quantities of goods to be shipped. By this time Stettin was at an economic high and started to become very populated. “The population increased from 6000 in 1720 to 21'000 in 1816, and 58'000 in 1861.”
(http://www.knowledgerush.com/kr/encyclopedia/Stettin/, Pg. 1). By the 1900's Stettin‘s culture had began to change along with their economic up rise. “In 1938 Stettin was the third largest German port with a sale of goods of 8.3 million tons. The dockyards were able to do all kinds of ship repairs. Goods were transported mainly to the Nordic and Baltic state, as well as England and Spain.” (http://www.genealoger.com/german/pommern/kreis/stettin.htm, Pg.1). The success of Stettin and its culture would soon be torn apart by the effects that the second world war had caused. “During World War II Stettin was a main centre of weapons industry, and there were several slave workers camps in the city. 65% of Stettin's buildings and almost all of the city centre, seaport, and industry was destroyed during the Allied air raids in 1944, and heavy fighting's between the German population and the Soviet Army (26 April 1945).” (http://www.knowledgerush.com/kr/encyclopedia/Stettin/, Pg. 1). Stettin was now in economic, political, and social turmoil. Poland took full advantage of Stettin's despair in 1945, after WWII, by taking East Pomerania over. Germans in this area either left on their own will or were forcefully expelled. Poland referred to this as a complete “Germanization” of the land. After Poland completely ridded the land of all Germans, they then changed the name of the former Prussian province of Stettin to what it is now known as Szczecin. Szczecin is still, to this day, a part of Poland.
According to my great aunt Diane, I have ancestry in Stettin, Germany dating back to the 1600's. The earliest well known ancestors were, Frederick and Caroline Schroeder. they lived in Stettin, Germany in the late 1700‘s. I know they were married but I don't know when. I do know that they had three sons when they came to the US, Herman, Julius, and Ferdinand. Pomerania was ran by an authoritarian government with a socialist economy where King Frederick William I ruled the majority of the time that Frederick and Caroline lived in Pomerania. Since King Frederick William I was a ruler that influenced agricultural and distribution growth, my ancestors were able to own their own home with a decent plot of land. They relied on their agricultural and pastoral skills that had been passed on from their Mothers and Fathers. I don't know what they grew for sure, but the main products of that time were potatoes, rye, and oats. They raised cattle, pigs, and had a few horses. The cattle were mainly used for their meat and for irrigating the fields. I don't know what they used the pigs and horses for but I'm sure the pigs were used for food, and the horses were probably used as a means of transportation as well as for farming purposes. They were able to grow and make enough supplies to support their personal needs and distribute goods as well. At that time, German farmers were forced to work from sun up till sundown in order to maintain and keep their land, but Frederick William I only allowed peasant farmers to work six days a week, Sundays were a day for worship or other social events. Back then, if you had land it was usually owned through direct lineage to the original land owner, or of royalty which were usually princes. There would be negative reciprocity between the farmers and the land owners. The land owners were given food, horses, and at times a place to stay. I don't know for sure that this was the case for my ancestors, but farmers in east Germany in the 1700's were considered peasants and most, if not all, had landlords or land owners.
I don't know how the division of labor was divided between Frederick or Caroline, but “local custom usually mandated a three-field crop rotation, which meant that a third of the village fields were always unproductive. Most peasant-farmer households kept vegetable and herb gardens, and sometimes cultivated a few fruit trees. Farming in these peasant households was for subsistence; whatever was grown and harvested over the course of the season was consumed by the household. Surplus produce paid in-kind taxes and dues.” (http://www.frontiermuseum.org/Germany.html, Pg.1) Women in Germany were said to be very social with other women that were within their village. Some women, usually the peasants of smaller villages, would have social gatherings by spinning flax. Flax is a small slender plant that was said to be imported from areas around the Mediterranean part of Europe. By spinning the flax they could make thread which they would then use to make linen. Another social interaction that was very important to the German culture was cooking and eating meals as a family or as a village, since the villages were usually quite small. According to the Frontier Culture Museum, which is located in Virginia and its main focus is of the European cultures of the 1700's, meals were prepared in the Küche or the kitchen as we call it. A common meal in Germany would consist of “Porridge with animal fat or drippings added, with vegetables from the garden and bread from the village bake oven. Salted and shredded cabbage was packed into tubs or crocks, and left to ferment in brine to make Sauerkraut. Plums were cooked in large kettles to make plum butter, which was stored for future use in stoneware crocks.” (http://www.frontiermuseum.org/Germany.html,Pg.1) They also said that these recipes were usually passed on from generation to generation, and were rarely changed. Another important secondary institutions of the German culture was the religion.
My great-aunt has a book that is from her mothers cousin that said that they were Protestant and that our earlier ancestors were Protestant as well. This book didn't say that Frederick and Caroline were Protestant, but according to all of the historical documents that I have come across, almost all of Pomerania was Protestant and the rest were Roman Catholic or reformed Catholic. I knew that Jews weren't really allowed in most of Germany, which was the case for many years. But what I found interesting is that in Stettin, if you were Jewish you would have had to get special permits that were rarely given out, which would grant them one or two days in Stettin. These permits were for trading purposes only since Stettin was one of the most powerful ports and trade centers in Germany for many years.
Pomerania's culture and language, in the 1600's, consisted primarily of German, with little to no minorities. By the 1700's King Frederick William I had allowed immigration in to the capital in order to increase agricultural and military production. This opened up the ports which allowed Dutch, French, Sweden, Poland and other cultures to enter Pomerania. This helped the economy, but it also caused individual farmers to lose large portions of land because the land owners had forced them to share portions of their land which had decreased their individual production. I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing that my ancestors probably lost land during this time and this, along with variables, further convinced them that they had to leave Germany.
Stettin received a back breaking attack by the French, under the ruler Napoleon in 1808. I believe that this was what ultimately caused Frederick and Caroline to immigrate to the US. According to J, Ellis Barker, the author of “The Foundations of Germany” which was published in 1918, Napoleon had complete control over the Prussian province, and it was said that he had over 200,000 men there. He also talked about how the people of Pomerania were forced to feed, lodge, clothe, and supply horses for these French soldiers. On May 9, 1809 Napoleon said, “ I have drawn out of Prussia 1,000,000,000 francs.” (The Foundations of Germany, J. Ellis Barker, pg 344) Francs were their currency at the time. J. Ellis Barker also wrote that when Napoleon and his men left, they left Prussia with a debt that was estimated to be in the billions. I am not completely sure this is why Frederick and Caroline left their homeland of Germany, but I can believe that Napoleons destructive stay in Prussia had something to do with their emigration to the United States.
My ancestors left Stettin, Germany in the 1800's. They, like most of the German population, gathered very little of what they owned and took ships from Stettin, Germany to Ellis Island, New York. The journey the to US was not simple. German farmers had to receive permission by their land owners in order to leave their land. They also needed to buy a ticket for the boat, which could get expensive. I can only imagine what kind of culture shock they had to go through. Most Germans that came to the US spoke only German, so the language barrier would have been very difficult and frustrating, along with the other social, cultural, and political differences.
Most Germans that came to the US were in search of fertile land and a new beginning, and the west was usually where they went. Since farming was what my ancestors knew best, they decided that it would be best to travel west in search of fertile land and new opportunities. Frederick and Caroline Schroeder settled in Reed City, Michigan, where they incorporated their European styles of farming with the started their own farm and raised their family. They are buried in Woodland cemetery in Reed City, Michigan. Ferdinand, the oldest of their sons, decided to settle in Pennsylvania. “At that time Germans accounted for 33 percent of the population in Pennsylvania.” (http://usa.usembassy.de/etexts/ga1-chronology.htm, Pg.1) Ferdinand married Mary Koehn in 1889, and worked on the Pennsylvania rail road for many years. They later traveled further west and settled in Reed City, Michigan where most of my ancestors settled. They had five children, William in 1890, Ernest in 1891, Herbert in 1897, Clara in 1900 and Erwin in 1907. William was my Great-great grandfather. He grew up in Reed City working on his father's farm. He also worked at a flooring mill and later drove a delivery truck for an elevator company.
Along my journey of researching my ethnicity I have come across many interesting facts and information regarding Stettin, Germany. One interesting fact that I came across was something that I did not know. According to U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Germany and Information Resource Centers in “1821The Germanic custom of having a specially decorated tree at Christmas time was introduced to America by Pennsylvania Dutch in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Later in the century, the Pennsylvania Dutch version of St. Nicholas, Sinterklaas, evolved into America's Santa Claus, popularized by a German immigrant and influential political cartoonist, Thomas Nast. The Easter bunny and Easter eggs were also brought to this country by German immigrants.” (http://usa.usembassy.de/etexts/ga1-chronology.htm, Pg.1) I found this quite interesting because I have always thought that these objects that represent such big holidays in the US did not originate in the US. While I was interviewing my great-aunt Diane I was telling her about how much Stettin has changed as history went on she replied by talking about how you wouldn't even know that there was so much conflict over the land because the people and the cultures there are so diverse now. She also told me some fun little facts that I found quite interesting like when riding in a car it is legal for the passenger to drink alcohol. It is also very common for people to have an alcoholic drink with almost every meal. She said that it is the social norm to drink.
I asked her about the sports in Szczecin, she told me that football, or soccer as we call it in the US, is extremely popular. She told me that they actually are very serious about their football, and that it is much more popular than American football in the US. She went on telling me that people have actually been killed because of disputes between opposing fans. Aunt Diane also told me that they have an American football league as well. I found this hard to believe for some reason because I always thought that Europeans mocked us about American football, by saying things like it is a form of rugby but Americans wear pads. I find it really interesting that different sports have integrated themselves into other cultures.
This assignment has been interesting and exciting. I really enjoy finding out about my early ancestors and how they lived and how life was back then. I have learned a lot from writing this paper. I don't plan on stopping my research though. I feel that someone could research their ethnicity for their whole life and still not know everything about it. That is why I find this assignment so interesting, because I have the ability to really search deep within my ethnic roots and truly find out about all parts of my Ethnicity.