Merck Family - Random Notes

Joseph John Merck, with his wife, Katherine Cecilia Eberle, brought his family from the Ukraine to the United States in 1912. This site will contain some random notes and comments about the family background, their experiences, the places they lived, and other subjects related to that topic. No particular organization of comments or articles should be expected.

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Location: Jacksonville, Arkansas, United States

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Spelling of Surnames

When doing research on family history, one quickly learns that the family name, or surname, is not always spelled the same throughout generations.  It was not until the last hundred years or so when the spelling of a surname became standardized.  Before the 19th century, when many people were illiterate, the names on records were written by clerks and priests the way they heard the name pronounced.  This lead to different spellings for the same name.  Spelling continued to change and evolve until the beginning of the 20th century.  But as siblings sometimes carried forward differently spelled versions of their surname, one finds family branches today with variations of the family name.  While Merck is the predominant spelling of our family name, variants include Merk, Murk, Mack, etc., all on the same family tree.



Thursday, April 17, 2014

Will Someone Younger Carry Forward the Merck Story?


THE STORY TELLERS

 

 We are the chosen.

 

 My feelings are in each family there is one who seems called to find

 the ancestors.  To put flesh on their bones and make them live again,

 to tell the family story and to feel that somehow they know and approve.

 

 To me, doing genealogy is not a cold gathering of facts but, instead,

 breathing life into all who have gone before.  We are the story tellers

 of the tribe.  All tribes have one.  We have been called as it were by

 our genes.

 

 Those who have gone before cry out to us:  Tell our story.  So, we do.

 In finding them, we somehow find ourselves.  How many graves have I

 stood before now and cried?  I have lost count.  How many times have I

 told the ancestors you have a wonderful family you would be proud of

 us?  How many times have I walked up to a grave and felt somehow there

 was love there for me?  I cannot say.

 

 It goes beyond just documenting facts.  It goes to who am I and why do

 I do the things I do.  It goes to seeing a cemetery about to be lost

 forever to weeds and indifference and saying I can't let this happen.

 The bones here are bones of my bones and flesh of my flesh.  It goes to

 doing something about it.

 

 It goes to pride in what our ancestors were able to accomplish.  How

 they contributed to what we are today.  It goes to respecting their

 hardships and losses, their never giving in or giving up, their

 resoluteness to go on and build a life for their family.

 

 It goes to deep pride that they fought to make and keep us a Nation.

 It goes to a deep and immense understanding that they were doing it for us.

 That we might be born who we are.  That we might remember them.  So we do.

 With love and caring and scribing each fact of their existence,

 because we are them and they are us.

 

 So, as a scribe called, I tell the story of my family.  It is up to

 that one called in the next generation to answer the call and take

 their place in the long line of family storytellers.

 

 That, is why I do my family genealogy, and that is what calls those

 young and old to step up and put flesh on the bones.

 

 author unknown

 

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Anthony J. Merck's First Communion

Iglesia e Guatrache
 
Anthony J. Merck's First Communion was at Iglesia de Guatrache, Argentina on November 29, 1910.  The community of Guatrache had apparently been settled only four years earlier.  The Merck family arrived in early 1910.  An article discovered recently about the church's celebration of its Centennial in 2010 noted that the church was opened on November 6, 1910, only days before the First Communion event.  Obviously, he was in the first class at Iglesia de Guatrache.  His certificate was signed by the first Pastor of that church.

An article about the church (translated from the original Spanish):

"A little history.

 The San Francisco Javier Church was opened on November 6, 1910, although the 2nd of that month had appointed Bishop Teodoro Priest Chaplain Kraemer as first Vicar of Guatraché and must reside in that locality having jurisdiction in the southern half of the section 111 and the north half of Section IV.

Over the years he founded the Salesian College, are built of adobe and bedroom pieces. School staff was composed by Father Vaira, director and chaplain, Father Lúskar, in charge of Russian-German colonies, Mr. Manuel Bermejo worked as teacher and musician and Mr. Jose Malero as a teacher.

From 1910 to 1960, the church had already betrothed to 2462 13,204 marriages and baptisms performed.

Pallottines Parents are responsible for the organization of a shelter for years allowed to accommodate children of settlers who were in primary and secondary education, from there to this day passed through the parish among others, Father Luis Lütticke, Bernardo Kolberg, Jorge Gisler, Norberto Phol, Alfonso Linke, John Bohn, Jose Barbero, Claudio Fernandez, Father Eugene, Sergio Soria and Juan Jose Cueto currently."

 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Lot of Bad Luck

Life was not easy for Joseph Merck (1858-1939).  He was born in Elsass, South Russia, of poor parents who died when he was six years old.  Joseph then had to live with strangers and work hard for paltry pay until he was 21 years old.  He served the Russian czar in the military when he was drafted at age 24.  After his discharge in 1886, he married Katherine Eberle and began work as a baker.  They sold everything they had in 1892 to emigrate to America, but when they were ready to leave no one was permitted to travel because of a cholera epidemic. 

He worked as a farmer until 1908 when he moved his family to the "promised land" of Brazil.  But, as so many of his countrymen had found out, the climate was not good and neither was the land.  He left for Argentina after only two months, and arrived with his wife, eight children and $50 in his pocket.  He worked hard once again for strangers and saved money to make the trip to North America.  Three years later, the family made the voyage to North Dakota by way of Vera Cruz, Mexico and a long train ride over land. 

In North Dakota, Joseph worked for others on the farm for three years and began farming for himself on the fourth year.  His fields of grain were superb and just before harvest a hailstorm hit and destroyed the crops.  A severe winter followed.  His  son, Joseph,  had to undergo a double operation in a Fargo hospital that winter.  Then in March, his wife,  Katherine, also had to have an operation with a lengthy recovery period.  When war broke out in Europe that year, he was happy to be in this country.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Christian's Journey

Christian S. Merk was about six years older than my Dad, his second cousin. They both came from the same village, Elsass. At age 18 he left with a couple of friends to come to America. He tells about his journey in a letter written shortly after he arrived in North Dakota:

"I started my trip with Dominik Job and Nikolai Rodinow from our home village. We drove for two days and two nights by train and then for two more days and nights of driving and walking, we finally were only ten verst (about 6.62 miles) from the Russian boarder. Why did we travel this way? Well, we did not have passports. As we approached the boarder, we were soon surrounded by Russian soldiers who looked at us as though we were murderers. With the help of copious amounts of schnapps, we were able to finally able to get away from the soldiers. At the boarder we had to cross a river which had a torrential current. I thought that would be the end for me but we did arrive at the opposite bank. Once there, we faced rocky hills with peaks so high we could barely see them. We also saw a forest which seemed to extend for miles. We did not know whether to go right or left. However, we had to push forward into the dark forest. It took until morning that we came to a field with nice grain growing on it. I really wanted to rest but my buddies were afraid of the Russian soldiers so we pushed on. We continued to march on at random, putting our trust into God’s hands. Finally we reached a road which we followed. After a long march, we bumped into the Austrian Military. We had reached the Austrian boarder! The soldiers examined us but we were not taken into custody and we were later allowed to continue on foot. We later hired a driver and after twelve hours, we finally reached a train station. Now the hardship was behind us. The train took us to the harbor where we boarded a ship bound for America. It was an arduous, perilous trip until we reached the harbor."

He also talks about his arrival in North Dakota: "I have been visiting many relatives but I was most overjoyed by visiting my Uncle Christian. When he heard that I was coming, he drove to Berwick to pick me up. However, by the time he got there, I was on my way to Blumenfeld with Johannes Volk. My uncle later found me there. It has been eleven long years since we last saw one another. The readers can imagine the joy of the reunion. From Blumenfeld he drove me to his home in Karlsruhe. It was already night when we arrived there. Throughout the night, we discussed and simply could not finish talking."

What makes his story more interesting is that fact that after his arrival in 1910 he again returned to South Russia. I don't know when he left on that trip, so I don't know just how long he was there. But he was married there in early 1913 and returned with his wife to Saskatchewan in October 1913. Their first daughter was born at sea on that voyage. Unless he went specifically to obtain a wife, I can't image what would motivate him to go back after having such difficulty leaving in the first place.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Cousins Meet at the Cracker Barrel


The final day of the 2010 Germans From Russia Heritage Society convention in Bismarck ND, July 25th, was an ideal occasion for a brunch meeting of Merck cousins at the Cracker Barrel restaurant. Pictured above are Marilyn Bruya, Missoula MT, Bill Merck, Minot ND and Ed Merck, Jacksonville AR in the back row. Seated in the Cracker Barrel's famous rocking chairs are Alex Merck, Minot ND, Mary Jo Merck (wife of Bill), and Jo Merck (wife of Ed). This photo was taken by a friendly passerby with Marilyn's camera.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

1909 Emigration to Brazil

Much history is contained in letters written by the Germans from Russia to der Staats Anzeiger, a German language newspaper published in North Dakota in the early 1900s. This newspaper, distributed in South Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and the United States, was useful for communicating between family and friends who had emigrated and those who remained behind. That has been mentioned in earlier items published here.

Several writers commented on the emigration from the Kutschurgan Valley to Brazil in 1909. Ludwig Stroh wrote from Russia on 2 Jan 1909 that many wanted to emigrate to Brazil because the fare was very much cheaper than to America. Editor Brandt added comments to caution readers about the unscrupulous land speculators in Brazil who offered travel assistance because they wanted the land settled and about the undesirable conditions there (1). In another letter he wrote that the Brazilian government announced they no longer had funds to provide assistance for those moving (2). Martin Stroh wrote a 27 Jan 1909 letter in which he stated it was deplorable that emigrants make the move without educating themselves about what they will find (3). On 24 Apr 1909 he wrote that he had heard from two who had emigrated and had been swindled, so they spent their last funds to move to Argentina hoping for something better. They urged that no one should be convinced to make that move (4).

It was apparently known in the Kutschurgan Valley that emigrating to Brazil was not a wise thing to do. So I wondered why my grandfather and others later left their homes in South Russia to make that move. The Merck family left Russia 13 December 1909 and arrived in Brazil 45 days later. Their trip was several months after those letters were written. They moved on to Argentina before April 1910 (9).

Reading other letters written to der Staats Anzeiger at that time revealed they had reasons to hope for something better. They had endured two floods, drought, and crop-destroying 'bugs' (5, 6). This all happened after two straight years of crop failures (7). They may have had other options, but their lack of wealth restricted their choices. I'm not happy they suffered these difficult circumstances, but I am thankful they had the strength and perseverance to survive them and eventually bring their families to this land of opportunity in 1912 (9).

(1) Ludwig Stroh ltr, 2 Jan 1909
(2) Ludwig Stroh ltr, 8 Mar 1909
(3) Martin Stroh ltr, 27 Jan 1909
(4) Martin Stroh ltr, 24 Apr 1909
(5) Martin Stroh ltr, 8 Mar 1909
(6) Ludwig Stroh ltr, 12 May 1909
(7) Georg Usselmann ltr, Jul 1909
(8) Joseph Merk ltr, 30 Mar 1911
(9) Joseph Merk ltr, 15 Jun 1912