#1 Gustav Holle– The man who started it all (my genealogical search that is)


I stumbled upon a cool idea online (aren’t there so many!!) that challenged genealogy enthusiasts to blog about an ancestor each week for the year.  So, 52 ancestors will have a chance to have their story told for the world to discover.  How cool!  I decided I had to jump on board this fun adventure and see where it takes me in my research.

I’ve been working on my family tree, as well as my husbands for about 2-3 years now and have discovered so many fun facts about where we come from.  I’m excited to share these stories here along with photos or other documents I’ve acquired over time.  I’m hoping to make some more connections online to distant relatives, and also to tie together all the tidbits I have on my ancestors, in the hopes of fleshing them out some and making their stories come alive.

I thought the best person to start this project with was my great-great grandfather Gustav Holle.  After all, he is really the reason I became so interested in genealogy.

Quite a few years ago my dad gave me the following photo of himself as a baby, his mom, and his great-grandfather.  I believe it was shortly after I got married that he gave this to me.  It sat on our dresser for years, until I began to be interested in digital scrapbooking (see my scrapbooking blog here).  I thought it would be fun to scrapbook some of the old photos we had and asked my dad for more information about this photo so I could include it on the scrapbook page.  He didn’t know much.  He knew his mom’s name of course- Dorthea Reighel, but couldn’t remember his great-grandfather’s name or really anything at all about him.  I was disappointed but still excited about scrapping the page.  I took the photo out to scan it and discovered a treasure trove of documents that would propel me down a path of discovery about my family.  I was immediately hooked on genealogy!

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My dad with his mom Dorthea Reighel and his great grandfather Gustav Holle

Behind this photo I found a letter and another photo:

The first document was a two sided letter which indicated that this photo was an Easter gift to his great grandfather, on the back was listed the birth dates of my dad, his mom, her mom, and her grandfather as well as their names.  I was ecstatic!
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Anna Dorthea Reighel and her mom Elsa Reighel in 1919

The other item behind the photo was a photo of my dad’s mom as a little girl with her mom, Elsa.

And now the story of Gustav Holle:

Gustav was born the 25th of April, 1855 in Hamburg, Germany (according to his passport which I found on Ancestry.com).  As an adult he was employed as an optician.

According to the 1910 census, Gustav immigrated to the US in 1884.  I’m not sure where or when he met his wife Thekla Burgarth.  I do know that she came to the US in May of 1884 (according to a passenter list from ancestry) but on the list she is listed as still single.  She was born around 1857 and was also from Hamburg.  Whether they knew each other in Germany, or chanced to meet in the US after moving here, I’m not sure.

On April 25, 1886 they gave birth to their daughter Elsa, my dad’s grandmother, in Philadelphia, PA.

On March 22, 1889 Thekla gave birth to a son who must have either died in child birth or was a still born.  Thekla died the next day from hemorrhage due to labor (according to her death certificate which I found on ancestry.)  She is buried in Fernwood Cemetery.

According to the 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940 census, Gustav continued to reside in Pennsylvania.  I did find that a Gustav Holle married a woman named Anna Eliza Walsh in Pennsylvania in 1894 in a marriage licence index on familysearch.com.  I’m not 100% sure if this is my Gustav or not as there is no record of her on any of the census records I have.

Gustav’s daughter lived with gustav during the 1910 census, was married in 1914 to a man named Frederick Reighel (according to the Pennsylvania marriage licence index).  They had a daughter named Anna Dorthea Reighel on November 23, 1914 (must have been a shotgun wedding!)  I do think it is interesting that she was possibly named after Gustav’s second wife.  Elsa would have been only 3 when her mother Thekla died, and she would have been 8 when her father Gustav remarried, so my guess is that her step mom Anna must have been an important part of her life.  I have so far been unable to find out any more about this potential second wife.  She definitely doesn’t seem to be in the picture by 1910, at least as far as the census records show.  I finally found a death date for Elise in the strangest place, on Gustav’s Passport application!  It states the following:

Before the (unknown word) a Notary Public for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, reciding in the City of Philadelphia personally appeared Chas N. J. Oberman who being duly sworn according to law doth (unknown word) and say that he has known Frederick Reighel and his wife Else Reighel nee Holle the parents of Anna Dorthea Reighel, since they were married, that he was(?) in constant contact with them and that he therefore positively knows, that the mother of the child Else REighel nee Holle died in Harristown, PA on October 17th 1920 and that the father of the child, Rederick Reighel is in contempt of Court and has not been seen or heard of for over 5 years and that the grandfather Gustav Holle, widower, has taken care of the girl since the death of her mother.

dated 6th day of May 1921
(passport shown below)

I have found that Gustav made several trips back to Germany, including a trip in July 1889, and again in 1925-where he was accompanied by his granddaughter, Dorthea- I have found a copy of his passport on ancestry, which also includes a small photo of my grandmother, Dorthea.  She is listed on the 1920 census as living with her grandfather, Gustav, and her mother Elsa (which  means Elsa must have died shortly after the census was taken.  No mention is made of her father Fredrick Rieghel.  The only information I have discovered about Frederick is that he came through Ellis Island, aboard the ship St. Paul, on September 3, 1910.  He is listed as Fredrico Von Reighel.  The ship manifest states that his ethnicity is German, and that he was born in Austria.
 photo gustavehollepassport.jpg

Gustav shows up in the 1940 census where it states that he was residing in the James Sutton Home for Aged Men, in Wilkes-Barre, PA (which apparently is now a dorm for a King’s College!).  I do know that Gustav was still alive in 1944, when the photo of him with my dad was taken.

Finally I found his obituary from Feb. 5, 1945 in the Long Island Daily Press:

I was very interested to learn that he traveled around the country performing. I would love to find old programs that show his name. I wonder if his wife also traveled and played with him as well as it mentions that she was a pianist.

And finally, here is that digital scrapbook page I made using the photo that started it all:
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4 thoughts on “#1 Gustav Holle– The man who started it all (my genealogical search that is)

  1. I’ve just recently started a similar blog to capture my ancestors’ stories. I really like your layout and the use of pictures. I feel like there’s so much to learn about wordpress and blogging. How long did it take to get comfortable with it and feel like you knew what you were doing? Any advice for a newbie like me?

    • mvillhauer

      I felt that it wasn’t too difficult, although I am very comfortable with this type of thing. I’ve also been blogging on a separate for the past few years that I do quite a bit on. I guess my best advice is just to do it until it feels comfortable. If I’m not sure how to do something I always just google it and there are tons of people out there with step by step tips to do pretty much anything you are looking for help on. I do a lot with photoshop which is how I made my header and background image. That took some tinkering to get everything to look right behind the text field on the blog. For the most part if you are comfortable using Microsoft Word, WordPress isn’t too much different. It uses different font types and sizes as well as colors in a way very similar to word. I use Photobucket to host my photos and then copy the html code into my text here. You can host your photos through wordpress but eventually your space will be filled and they won’t let you add any more photos. I got really close to that with my other blog which is why I switched to photobucket for my photos. Please let me know if you have any other questions! 🙂

  2. Pingback: 52 Ancestors: Week 3 Recap | No Story Too Small

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