Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Who Were the Relatives of Nellie (Bernitt) Kolm in Hayward, California?

Nellie (Bernitt) Kolm (1883-1869) told her grandson, Rich Kolm, that in 1894 she had travelled with her family by ship from Coos Bay, Oregon to San Francisco, to visit the Midwinter Exposition. At that time, she recalled that they had visited relatives living in the East Bay city of Hayward, in Alameda County.

The question: who were the Bernitt relatives living in Hayward in 1894?

Not to hold the reader in suspense: I haven't been able to find any such relative.

The town of Hayward is in Eden Township in Alameda County (it also includes San Lorenzo and Castro Valley). The 1900 census listed 522 individuals born in Germany (99 in Hayward) and none born in Prussia or Holstein. There were also 237 residents born in Denmark (which "owned" Holstein at one time).

Unfortunately, none of the Germans carry one of the names we know were associated with Nellie's family: Bernitt, Hilmer(s), Frehse, Voelters, Klahn. It's hard to know if they were cousins with a surname we haven't found as yet, or if they moved away from the Hayward are before 1900.

I'm hoping that someone will read this and come up with a clue (or at least a suggestion of where else to look for information). Comments would be appreiciated!

History of Hayward
About Eden Township (1877) and 1878 Map of Alameda County
Articles about the California Midwinter Exposition
California Midwinter International Exposition photos
Alameda County, CA, 1900 Census. Eden Township is covered by ED 327-331. (note that I used the searchable version at

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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Major Update: Postcard Photos of Coos County

I have made a much needed update of the Coos County Postals site. The site was originally set up to document the postcard correspondence of Will Kolm and Nellie Bernitt, focusing on the period from 1909-1914.

In addition to a colorful new style (compare to ugly 1999 version), I've expanded on the story of Will and Nellie, and added transcriptions of all of their existing postcard correspondence (not only those postcards shown on the site).

Any comments, corrections, or questions would be appreciated (you can email me, or reply to this post).

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Thursday, September 15, 2005

Friedrich Bernitt, sailmaker in Neustadt

Neustadt in Ostholstein (East Holstein), Germany is a port city on the Ostsee (Lübecker Bucht) and the home of our Bernitt ancestors. According to family stories, Friedrich Bernitt worked there as a sail maker (Segelmacher) "in a large building or loft".

Sailmaking was an important occupation in an era when ships were driven by the power of the wind, rather than a motor. A sail making business (Segelmacherei) often used a loft to work on the sails, beacause they were so large. The shape of the sail would be made on the floor, and the sail cloth laid out, cut, and sewn to specification.

Again acording to family stories, the Bernitts lived on a small farm. They may have lived outside the city of Neustadt, causing Friedrich to "commute" to his sail loft, which would have necessarily been near the harbor.

We don't really know any more about the Bernitt family when they lived in Holstein. I am hoping more information about their life there can be found.

• Learn about sailmakers and their tools from HMS Richmond living history site (about English methods, but it is likely that similar methods were used in Holstein).

• Photo of sailmaker's building with loft at Mystic seaport. (photos from Schifffahrtsmuseum in Brake/Unterweser)

Official Neustadt in Holstein site (in German), photo gallery (click on "Fotogalerie") and Harbor Webcams.

• Some articles about sailmaking from the Maritime History Virtual Archives.

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