#52 ancestors 2015 – No.1 The Fresh Start

The 52 ancestors challenge which Amy Crow over at “No story too small” started last year keeps going in 2015.


The challenge is still to portrait 52 ancestors in 52 weeks. I shamefully admit that I didn’t keep up last year. But even if I didn’t write 52 posts for this challenge,it made me digging deeper in my research. And I found some fantastic facts.

This year the challenge is a bit different. Amy is also providing us with weekly themes. I love the idea since I hope it will keep me going,  helping me with finding my “ancestor of the week”.

The theme of the first week (Jan 1 – Jan 7): Fresh Start

I’ve blogged about my first ancestor of the week already last year, but when I read this week’s theme, hers was the first name coming to my mind. Not only because she started over (at least) twice in her life, but also because I started my research about her with the following note in my family tree: “according to Eva Koppetsch (Else’s daughter) she married a British army officer following the death of her husband Hans Matthis and moved to Liverpool”

That was it. That was all I had about my greataunt Eva Louise NICOLAUS.

Eva und Else Nicolaus

Eva und Else Nicolaus

One thing to clarify: Else was Eva’s sister.

And today? I know so much more about her. Thanks to this blog and a lot of help from genealogists worldwide.

While researching her sister I found Eva’s married last name and her location in Else’s obituary: PHILIPPS in Australia

I posted this very general information in various google+ communities for research in the UK and Australia. And bit by bit I could paint the following picture.

Eva was born on April 11, 1902 and married her second husband John Percival PHILIPPS on May 6, 1949 in Haverfordwest, Pembroke, Wales (he was the British Army Officer). Eva was working as a housekeeper on Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire, Wales. I already have it on my to-do-list to go there for a visit during my stay in London. Since her family lived in Königsberg, East Prussia, Germany during the time of her birth, I guess that she was born there, but I don’t have a valid source for that yet.

I don’t really know why she left Germany and moved to the UK. I couldn’t clarify yet, if her first husband Hans MATTHIS really died or if they got divorced. And when and where did she meet John Percival? Why did she go to Wales? No idea yet.

Eva left the UK with the direction of Australia on August 23, 1955 from London on board the GEORGIC. In the meantime she moved to Liverpool, she is stated as an office worker living in 55 Ampthill Road on the passenger lists which I found in the National Archive of the UK in Kew, UK. Since she left the UK by her own, I guess that John died between 1949 and 1955 and that she moved to Australia to live with her older sister Lilo Berger (married Lynch). Unfortunately, I had to take a picture of the screen at the National Archive since I forgot my USB stick to download the records. That’s why it is very blurry. Eva’s entry is the second last.


Eva arrived in Sydney on September 29, 1955.

Kerryn Taylor, a very helpful genealogist from Australia (find her blog here: Ancestorchaser) found her in two Electoral Roles:

  • 1958 – working as a typist, living in Curl Curl, New South Wales, Australia
  • 1963 – working as a typiste-clerk, living in Mascot, New South Wales, Australia

And she also found the information of her death entry. Eva died on January 19, 1977 in Castle Hill,  New South Wales, Australia.

And just yesterday, I received the following two obituaries from her.

obituary Sydney Morning Herald Jan 21, 1977 page 24






obituary 2 Sydney Morning Herald Jan 21, 1977 page 24






And that was the reason for taking Eva as my blog post for the “Fresh Start”.




My trip to the National Archive UK

Well, I can tell you one thing: What an odysee!!

Some weeks ago, I moved from Germany to London, UK til the end of the year. And since I found out a short while ago that my greataunt Eva Louise NICOLAUS married 1949 in Wales and emigrated on the MV GEORGIC in 1955 to Australia, of course I had a visit at the National Archive planned for my stay over here.

An overview of all my previous blogs on Eva Nicolaus can be found here: Summary Eva Louise Nicolaus

So I planned the trip for last weekend. But when I checked online on how to get there, I saw this huge warning sign that there were some construction works on my route. So I postponed.

Well, I should have done that yesterday, too ;)

Because a journey which is actually very simple turned out to quite something. Let’s take a look at the tube map:


From the middle to right and a bit to the bottom, you can find “Tower Hill Station” (where the green and the yellow line depart), that is mine. And normally I enter there, take the green “District Line”, go clockwise and exit at “Kew Gardens”. The National Archive UK is in Kew, in the west of London. That would take roughly 40 minutes.

But when I arrived at Tower Hill Station, the doors were locked and there were some nice helpful people from the tube telling the people how they would get now where they wanted. When I told the lady, I wanted to go to Kew Gardens I just got a “oh gosh”. Well, not really motivating..

Plan B: walk back one station to Aldgate, taking the yellow circle line, go counter clockwise all the way to Hammersmith (that’s three quarter around) and change for the green District Line to Kew Gardens. Worked quite well, till I came to Hammersmith. Guess what.. no tube service into my direction. Only Busses.. so I had my first trip in one of those London Doubledeckers and after two hours in total (in words: TWO) I arrived in Kew at the National Archive.

And I have to say, a really welcoming sight, surrounded by a little park with artifical lakes.. not the most beautiful building though ;)

IMG_1618 IMG_1616 IMG_1606

Directly at the entrance in the lobby you find an information desk, where really nice people are helping “newbies” like me.



First way is over to the lockers. Whatever you don’t need for your research gets locked in there.


Everything you do need gets placed in a transparent bag which you carry around in the archives. And like everywhere: no food and no drinks in the research areas – and please, pencils only – no ink.

Next way is upstairs to the “How to start” counter. There I told the nice person helping out the visitors why I was there and what I expected to find:

My greataunt Eva Louise Matthis née NICOLAUS born either 1898 or 1902 married 1949 John Percival PHILIPS in Wales and emigrated to Australia via the MV GEORGIC in 1955. So I was hoping for imigrating or emigrating records, anything.

And of course I told him that I was a total newbie when it comes to research on the “island” and that this would be my first trip to the National Archive. He was very nice and took the time to sit down with my at one of the many PCs to show me what I could find being already digitalized.

The National Archive is actually working together with Find My Past. So from the National Archive entry screen you search the FMP documents. As I said I was hoping for incoming and outgoing records. There was nothing imigration records for the time period I was looking for, but I found her on the passenger lists from 1955. I already had found her on the Australian incoming lists on the website of the Australian National Archive, but only as a transcribed record. Here I found the image of the english passenger lists which provided me with a very essential piece of information I didn’t have yet. Her birthdate!

Eva was born on April 11, 1902 (and not 1898 as I thought so far).

And then I did the dumbest newbie mistake – I had forgotten my USB stick to download images. So I took out my smartphone, took pictures from the screen and did it the oldfashioned way – transcribe Barbara, transcribe! ;)


This record gave me one more piece of information. When emigrating, Eva presented an UK passport. Which means, I will be back soon to read through the “Naturalisation certificates” to find her application records. I can actually order those online in advance, get a reader ticket at the Archive and get going. – I will let you know how it works out.

Eva und Else Nicolaus

Eva und Else Nicolaus

So, unfortunately it is true what I feared. On this photo I always identified Eva as the older sister. But with Else being born 1900 and Eva now given with 1902, she is actually the baby sister.

And a nice coincidence, right now the National Archive is hosting the Family Research Centre London from the Mormons. I was hoping for some church records from Pembroke where Eva married. But everything they had was about 100 years too old ;)

Shortly before 5 pm (when the Archive closes) I packed my stuff and spent the last minutes in the bookstore.


Could I please have a “genealogy / family research” section as big as this one in a German archive? It actually goes on on the left wall outside of this picture.

Shortly before 7 pm I arrived back home safely.

My summary: I am really impressed. They cannot be blamed for the trouble of getting there. No fees for using the Archive, no fees for using the lockers (not even change needed), opening hours at the saturday from 9am til 5pm, very spacy, very light, nice friendly staff, very well equipped when it comes to research area and screens.

I will definetly be back!

Maybe a hint on my Nicolaus family?

I have two main family lines: Schmidt is my fathers name, Nicolaus my mothers.

Since my Moms family is from East Prussia which is in today’s Poland and quite difficult to research I mostly focussed on my Dads family.

But every once in a while I take a look at those Nicolaus. And some of the best records I have is about them. You might remember Albert Karl Julius Nicolaus, my greatgrandfather. Or Else Nicolaus, my greataunt.

I already told you once about Eva Nicolaus, her sister. Here a short summary of what I “knew” or hear about her:

  • born abt. 1898 in Königsberg, East Prussia
  • married to a Hans (or Wilhelm) Matthis
  • divorced or widowed during WWII
  • remarried a british officer and moved to Liverpool

And then I had a success in my research for Else. Barbara Schenk, another genealogy blogger helped me out and via her I got 2 obituaries for Else.

obituary Elsie Nicolaus

obituary Elsie Nicolaus

There it is mentioned that she is survived by two sisters:

  • Mrs. Eva Phillips and
  • Mrs. Lilo Lynch, both in Australia

Now I had at least the married family names for her sisters. Although I still have to figure out the real relationship with Lilo Lynch née Berger, from my understanding she was a stepsister of Eva and Else. If not, I have a wrong information on the mother of the two ;)

My next step was to turn to the various google+ genealogy groups I am a member of. Since both were mentioned to live in Australia I started with the Genealogy & Family History Australia & New Zealand and this was my post:

in the obituary of my great grand aunt who died in New Jersey, USA in 1969 it is mentioned that she is survived by her sister Eva Phillips in Australia. The only thing I know about her is the following (all family history, nothing proven yet): born as Eva Nicolaus abt. 1898 in Koenigsberg, East Prussia, Germany she was married to a Hans (or Wilhelm) Matthis, they got seperated at WWII and she supposedly married a british Army officer, they moved to Liverpool and went on to Australia. I have no idea when and how. Any ideas, where to start in Australia?

And I received some great replies to it. One was from Kerryn Taylor, an Australian Genealogist and she found an Eva L Nicolaus marrying a Phillips in Q2/1949 in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, Wales. She actually found two records for that place in the quarter: One John P Phillips married (surname) Matthew Or Nicolaus and the other Perce J Phillips and Matthes Or Nicolaus.  Two matching spouses Eva L Nicolaus and Eva L Matthes.  Perhaps two records for same marriage?

And because she read through my older blogs she stumbled over Lily or Lilo Lynch née Berger. She also found a marriage in Q2/1947 in Surrey, England for a Lieselotte Berger and Eric S Lynch. Could that be my Lily or Lilo?

She referred me to the site http://www.freebmd.org.uk where I could find the indices for the marriage records. With that information I could go to http://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/ and order those records for Eva and Lily.

And now I keep my fingers crossed that those are really “MY” Eva and Lily.

Wish me luck ;)

#52ancestors No. 11 I have news on Elsie!!

This is part eleven of Amy Crow’s challenge “52 Ancestors”. Take a look at “no story too small” to find all the great bloggers who are taking part!


You might remember my greataunt Else Nicolaus. If you would like to refresh your memory, just take a look here (or here where I introduce you to her husband Paul).

Every once in a while I turn back to her and her family because I am really fascinated by her story.

Here a short re-cap from my original blogpost about her:

  • born October 22, 1900 in Koenigsberg, East Prussia
  • married Paul Hugo Rudolf KOPPETSCH on December 12, 1920 in Koenigsberg, East Prussia
  • followed her husband to the United States on April 26, 1929 (with her three children)
  • found her in the 1930 census
  • declared her intention to become a US citizen in 1937
  • missing in the census of 1940

And I had this card:

Elsie Koppetsch Namensänderung

From some previous help I knew she moved to Paterson, NJ between 1937 and 1949 where she was found as Elsie M. Veaudry in the city directory. I actually have no idea, where this “M” is coming from.

And then I received here via the blog an email from a wonderful genealogist called Barbara Schenk asking if I could help her with a translation of a German record. Of course I could and she asked me if she could be of any help with any US related research.

So I referred her to the two blogs asking for any hint she could find.

She contacted the Paterson library for help and a few days ago I found the announced envelope in my mailbox.

The librarian sent her some obituaries and copies of the city directories.

Here is one example of the obituaries.

obituary Elsie Nicolaus

obituary Elsie Nicolaus

This is great! Now I don’t only know her exact death date, but I also know that she and George moved to Paterson already in 1946. And they had a son together: Robert.

And I always wondered if the namechange of her husband from last name Koppetsch to Kay also held true for the children. At least for William I know now it was true.

And I have a married last name for her daughter Eva (Booth).

And I also told you about Elsie’s sister Eva. And I have a married last name for her now and know that she moved to Australia.

The existence of another sister Lilo is news to me. And it puzzles me a bit since in her passenger list from 1929 a Lilo Berger is named as her closest relative: her mother. But as far as I know Lilo Berger was her stepmother following the divorce of her parents.

I have to dig deeper into this!

But I have to tell you that when I read the lines with the surviving sisters in Australia I found it so sad that her German family hadn’t been mentioned at all. I mean, she had a surviving brother and sister there, too. Half siblings but nevertheless siblings. Too sad that they never really had contact. Only when my grandfather and greataunt had been children.

And here an example of the city directory:

city directory 1962

city directory 1962

It is wonderful to be able to tie some loose ends… well, and get some new ones ;)

  • where is she for the 1940 census
  • when did she get divorced from Paul
  • when did she marry George
  • and when was their son Robert born

I have to thank Barbara Schenk for her tremendous help with this!


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First success story!!

Oh my God!! Take a second and imagine myself just jumping up and down right now. Internally, I do! I am so exited!!

I just checked my emails on my mobile because a friend notified me via SMS that he sent me a file I was waiting for and what do I see instead?? (I didn’t even get to the mail I was waiting for ;))

You remember my Ulmer blog? With some hints I received after publishing the blog and some help from Auntie Google, I found the work email adress of a Wilfried Ulmer, living in down under. Well, with nothing to loose I wrote him an email, explaining who I am, added some information about the Ulmers I am looking for and asked him, if he is the Wilfried Ulmer emigrating with his parents to Australia in 1952.

And guess what? He is!! This is amazing! I cannot wait to get to know him better.

My first ever successfull cousin bait!