My great-great grandmother, Carolina “Lena” Frohmberg was a hard woman, my grandfather (her grandson) said. He called her “unapproachable” and told me that she did not really ever learn any English. He said “her heart and soul was still in Germany.”

Lena, son Paul, and Ignatz in an undated photo; probably between 1916-1918.
Lena, son Paul, and Ignatz in an undated photo; probably before 1918.

The only pictures I have of her are when she was older, posed with family and friends. I would give my eye-teeth (as my grandfather would say) to see what she looked like as a young woman.

Undated photo: Friend, Ignatz, Friend, Carolina, Paul, Cousin from Detroit, unknown children, circa 1920?
Undated photo: Friend, Ignatz, Friend, Carolina, Paul, Cousin from Detroit, unknown children, circa 1920?

Grandpa knew German as a child and spent copious amounts of time at his grandparents home, and yet, I do not believe that he really had much of a relationship with her. He constantly referred to her as “Old World” and even blamed her (or at least her “old world methods”) for the death of aunt he never knew (later identified as Margaretha after my Ancestry.com search in 2015).

Nellie, Lena, Ignatz, Richard (my grandfather), and Clifford, circa 1925.
Nellie, Lena, Ignatz, Richard (my grandfather), and Clifford, circa 1925.

I can imagine what made her so hard, and I’m sure much of it had to do with leave her home and family, giving birth to three children: one who died tragically young, one who was institutionalized for the majority of his live, and one who did marry and have children, but also was not quite as stable as he “should” be.

Grandpa said he often saw his grandparents reading German papers and letters from home, especially prior to 1939. He said he remembers seeing them weep over letters; I can only assume it was sorrow over the state of their homeland and their inability to help family who remained.

Ignatz and Lena's Marriage Document, 1887.
Ignatz and Lena’s Marriage Document, Berlin, Germany 1887.

According to their marriage document (translated in full below), Ignatz, her husband, was from Vollenborn, Germany, a small village in central German, about three hours southwest of Berlin. He was a Stone Mason Journeyman and a baptized Catholic. Lena was from Sommerau, almost four and a half hours southwest of Vollenborn (almost to the border of France and Luxembourg). She was an “Ironer” and a baptized Evangelical. She and Ignatz married in Berlin in 1887.

No one has passed on their “love story;” what little I do know of them, they seemed very different from each other, but this knowledge came through the lens of those who did not know them in Germany or before 1920.

The Kraut Friends of Ignatz and Lena Frohmberg, buried near them at Knollwood Cemetery and Mausoleum, Cleveland.
The Kraut Friends, buried near the Frohmbergs at Knollwood Cemetery and Mausoleum, Cleveland.

When Grandpa and I visited Cleveland fifteen years ago, he remembered more of his childhood as we drove through the old neighborhoods. He mentioned the Messmers and the Boehms, called them “the Kraut friends.”

On my return trip in 2015, I found their final resting places in Knollwood, right around the corner from the Frohmbergs.

Finding out more about these families would be fascinating!

At some point, Lena acquired a yellow “Dream Book.” Grandpa said he saw it in 1933 when he had to live with his grandparents while his brother was getting over Scarlet Fever. He said it was well-read, “dog-eared.” To pass the time, he played pinochle with them; one time, he caught her cheating and she was furious. When he was telling me about it almost seventy years later, he still could not understand why she had cheated and why she was so angry at him for catching her!

My understanding is that these dream interpretation books were quite common in the mid to late 19th century; I’m not sure if they were common globally or just in Germany. I’ve only heard vague stories about it, but I’m stuck with the impression that Lena treasured this book. It sounds as if she was probably superstitious and never really acclimated to live in America. I wonder what she dreamed about and how her book interpreted it?

Everyone I’ve talked to who knew about the Dream Book, remembers it and have memories of long after she was gone, but no one recalls what happened to it.

Lena died of breast cancer in 1934, when my grandfather was fourteen. I’m hoping that the more I dig, the more I can discover about this tough and enigmatic woman.


Ignatz and Lena Frohmberg’s Marriage Document
Translated by Richard P. Frohmberg

No. 150

BERLIN on the twelfth of March one thousand eight hundred eighty seven.

The undersigned came this day in the presence on the city clerk for the purpose of matrimony:

1. Philip Ignatz Frohmberg a Mason Journeyman Bricklayer and by baptismal records was acknowledged as being of Catholic Religion and was born in the year one thousand eight hundred sixty two in Vollenborn in the district of Worbis, residing in Berlin, Fruchtstrasse 45.
He is the Son of Engelhard Frohmberg, a Merchant from Vollenborn, now deceased and his wife Margaretha nee Hanft living in Vollenborn.

2. Carolina Wilhelmina Scheffler an Ironer and by Baptismal Records was acknowledged as being of the Evangelic Religion and was born in the year one thousand eight hundred sixty one is Sommerau in the district of Rosenberg in West Prussen, residing in Berlin at Kleine Markustrasse 6. She is the Daughter of Frederich Scheffler a Cottange owner now deceased and his wife Ernestine nee Nickel living in Sommerau.

The following witnesses were present:

Franz Bauer a collector and by his marriage license it was acknowledged that he is 34 years old and resides in Berlin at Kleine Markustrasse 6.

Valentine Luszak a laborer and by his marriage license it was acknowledged that he is 38 years old and resides in Berlin Fruchstrasse 45.

In the presence of the witnesses the City Clerk asked the engaged couple the following questions:

Were they willing to enter matrimony together?
The engaged couple answered yes to that question and according to law were pronounced married.

The Marriage Document was read and acknowledged by the undersigned:
Ignatz Frohmberg, Carolina Frohmberg nee Scheffler, Franz Bauer, Valentine Luszak

50 pf was paid (STAMPED)

 

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