#52ancestors 2015 No. 3 – which one of the tough women to choose?

52ancestors-2015This year Amy Crow from “No story too small” changed her 52 ancestors challenge slightly. In the beginning of every month she provides a theme for the upcoming four weeks.

The year kicked off with a “fresh start” and moved over to a “King” and this week the theme is “a tough woman”.

It wasn’t really easy to choose one, since I wrote about some of my tough female ancestors already – in some cases even excessively :)

I told you about my greataunts Else and Eva as well as about my greatgrandmother Hedwig whose husband just disappeared from one day to the other.

And although I would love to tell you about my mom, I know she would kill me if I would spread the story of her life into the worldwide web :)

So, when I screened my family tree for another tough woman, one name strucked me: Waltraut Veronika TILINSKI. My maternal grandmother. Unfortunately, I was just four years old, when she died in 1977 and I have no memory of her at all. But who would be better to give me some information about her than my mom? So, I spent the last hour and a half with her on the phone. I could sense that she felt a bit uncomfortable in the beginning to tell me her mom’s story – for me to tell it to the world. But she got more and more relaxed during the call :)

My grandmother Waltraut Veronika TILINSKI was born on December 13, 1921 in Korschen, East Prussia, Germany in the Bahnhofstrasse 4. Korschen is today’s Korsze in Poland. Her parents were Albert TILINSKI and a woman of whom I only know the last name: PETZ

She was the only sister of five brothers. If that is not reason enough for becoming a tough woman than I don’t know :)

Her oldest brother Otto-Horst was her half-brother. At least according to the wedding date of Waltraut’s parents. Otto-Horst was born March 3 either 1912 or 1913 and her parents married October 22, 1917.

Waltraut’s mom died when she was six years old in 1927. Since Waltraut’s youngest brother Egon was born in 1927 my assumption is that she either died giving birth to Egon or following his birth. But that is just an assumption. Waltraut’s father married again March 3, 1930. The second wife is just known as “Mama Johanna”.

Summer 1942 (Waltraut on the right)

Summer 1942 (Waltraut on the right)

Waltraut and her brothers grew up in a working family. My greatgrandfather Albert worked for the Reichsbahn (railway). My mom said that her mother didn’t really speak a lot about her childhood and how she grew up. But she would remember her mother speaking about the tons of snow they had when she was little. Another thing she remembered was that my greatgrandfather didn’t think a lot about girls going to school. He would always say that girls wouldn’t need this – they will marry anyway, so why bother. My grandmother didn’t finish school. But when she was bout 15 or 16 she went to Rastenburg, today’s Kętrzyn, Poland to work for a dentist – boys would go to the Wehrmacht, girls made something called a “social year”.

wedding picture Tilinski - Nicolaus

My grandmother was already 23 years old, when she married my grandfather Wolfgang Albert NICOLAUS on May 27, 1944 in Korschen. On the left is their wedding picture. I have to admit, she looks a lot older than 23 (sorry, Grandma!)

Shortly after their marriage, they packed their stuff and headed west. Away from the Eastern Front and the Soviet Army. Their first daughter was born in Kamenz, Saxony, Germany in January 1945. The second daughter, my mom, was born 1946 in Leipzig, Saxony, Germany. My grandfather worked as an actor at the theatre in Leipzig that time.

Back in Korschen, the TILINSKI family agreed that they would meet in Lübeck at the Baltic Coast when they would get seperated as refugees. My grandparents packed their stuff again in 1947 and moved north in the direction of Lübeck. The third and fourth daughter were born there 1947 and 1949.

The family moved into one of the refugee camps in the Lübeck area, the “Gothmundlager”. During WW II it was one of the camps for forced labourers. When Germany was liberated with the end of WW II, those camps would be used for the thousands and thousands of refugees from the far eastern parts of Germany.

1952  my grandmother filed for divorce from my grandfather. Imagine living in the 50s as a divorced mother of four. And although I don’t remember my grandmother, even I know – from knowing my grandfather – that those two people weren’t a match. From the stories I have heard about my grandmother, she was a down-to-eart woman. Hard working and hard to herself as well as to others. My grandfather titled himself as an “artist”. He was an actor and musician.. oh, and a womanizer. He had more than one affair while they were married. One of his affairs are even responsible for me being named Barbara. Actually my grandma wanted to name her youngest daughter Barbara, but at that time my grandfather had something going on with a Barbara – no way that my grandma would use that name. So, when my mother was pregnant with me, her mother said, if I would be a girl, she would love me being named Barbara. She didn’t say why, though. Thanks Grandma, I really love the name!!

Waltraut worked as a sales person for AEG, a huge appliances company at that time. She would go from door to door selling washing machines and other household appliances. As my mother put it, her hobby was her other job: she was working behind the bar at a carnivals’s society (check the net for German Carnival) where her oldest brother was a board member.

grandma around some of the grandchildren

grandma around some of the grandchildren

Actually, my dad’s father was a board member there, too. This is how the families met. But my grandma never really liked the “SCHMIDT”.. too bad, my mom would end up with one of them ;)

1972 Waltraut was diagnosed with uterine cancer. During a surgery they removed a tumor of the size of a baby’s head. She never fully beat the cancer and never fully recovered. In December 1976 she had to return to the hospital, but she wanted to die at home. So, my mom picked her up and spent every night with her – til the day she died on May 18, 1977.

My mom told me more and  more and more.. way too much to put it all in a blog. Thanks Mom!



March 12 – Georg Aloysius Tilinski

The Coca-Cola Company of Asa Griggs Chandler sells Coca-Cola for the first times in bottles on March 12, 1894 in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

March 12, 1913 is Canberra Day. The future capital of Australia is officially named Canberra.

Today 15 years ago my great uncle Georg Aloysius TILINSKI died in Lübeck, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.

I remember this day quite well. My great uncle had been in the hospital for days, his death didn’t come unexpectedly. I was home (well, visiting my parents) alone, my mom was still at work, my Dad was driving my sister to work at the theatre when my great aunt called. I only heard a sobbing and instantly knew what happened. I just said “we are on our way”.

So, I called the theatre.. my Dad had already dropped my sister off and I only got her boss on the line. I told him that my Dad would pick her up immediately again. When my Dad got home I told him to turn around, pick up my sister and we would meet at the hospital. I would wait for my mom..

She came just a couple of minutes later and the four of us reached the parking lot almost at the same time.

Since Uncle Georg and my great aunt Ilse Meta Anna née GATZEMANN didn’t have own children, the two have been the honorary grandparents for all of us children (my mom’s and of her three sisters) so there was no doubt we would bid our farewell to him. Actually he was the first dead body I had seen. It wasn’t as scary as I thought, I have to admit. I expected it to be more surreal.

Georg was born on July 29, 1923 in Korschen, East Prussia, Germany (today’s Korsze, Poland).




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March 5 – Horst Walter Tylinski

With signing the Treaty of Ribe on March 5, 1460, the danish king Christian I. also becomes ruler of Schleswig and Holstein.

On March 5, 1853 Heinrich Steinweg founds the piano manufacturer “Steinway & Sons” in New York. Today the company has production sites in New York and Hamburg.

And on my family tree?

It will be a short blogpost today. I just have one event. And it is a sad one, I might add.

My first cousin once removed Horst Walter  TYLINSKI died on March 5, 1938 in Korschen, East Prussia, Germany (today’s Korsze in Poland) being not even one year old.

He was born on March 10, 1938 in Korschen, East Prussia into the marriage of Otto Horst TYLINSKI and his wife Lieselotte née ECKARDT.

This is my mom’s cousin and from her I know that Otto Horst has three additional children, but she couldn’t confirm, if Lieselotte was the mother. Therefore I added them with an unknown mother into my database. From at least two of these children I know they are still alive – I won’t mention their names and dates here.

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January 27 – Harry Tylinski

There are those days for which I don’t have to surf the net for interesting historical events. E.g. November 9 was a day like that.

And today is another one. A combination of “excessive” history classes in school and just plainly being German those events are stored in my mind and not even a formatting of the brain would get rid of it.

Today in 1859 the future King of Prussia and Emperor of Germany Wilhelm II. is born as Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albert von Preussen in Berlin. He belongs to the House of Hohenzollern and is the grandchild of not only of Emperor Wilhelm I. but also of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. If you are interested in his family tree: he was also a first cousin-in-law of Tsar Nicholas II. of Russia.

The second historical event for today happened on January 27, 1945. It is the liberation of the concentration camp Auschwitz by the Russian Red Army.

Auschwitz was a complex of three camps: the main camp as well as Auschwitz-Birkenau and Auschwitz-Monowitz. Within 5 years from 1940 to 1945 Nazi Germany killed at least 1,1 mn Jews, 140.000 Polish, 20.000 Sinti, 20.000 Roma, 10.000 soviet prisoners of war and 10.000 prisoners of war of other nationalities at Auschwitz only. Following World War II Auschwitz became a symbol for the Shoa.

Today the remains of the complex which form a Museum are a UNESCO World Heritage site called “Auschwitz-Birkenau – deutsches nationalsozialistisches Konzentrations- und Vernichtungslager“.

Well, following a topic like this it is hard to move on to my family tree. But I think the best we can do to honour our ancestors is to remember them.

We move to my mother’s side for this one. Parts of her family come from East Prussia, which is part of Poland today.

My Mom’s uncle, my greatuncle Harry TYLINSKI is born on January 27, 1920 in Korschen, East Prussia (today: Korsze in Poland). Harry was the next older brother of my grandma.

Compared to the prologue my “real” family post will be rather short. Because unfortunately he just had a short life.

Like many other young men his age he joined (or had to join, who can tell the difference) the German Navy during WWII.

He is lost at sea in the Strait of Kerch in the Black Sea (today’s Ukraine) on March 14, 1943.

I found his name on the Laboe Naval Memorial in Kiel, Germany. And he is also registered with the “Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e.V“.

That is


a humanitarian organization which is charged by the Federal Republic of taking care of registering the German war dead abroad and to ensuring that it is updated and monitored

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If you search for German ancestors / cousins who fought and got killed in WWII, their page is great. They have a search function for war memorial cemetaries they maintain.

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December 19 – Gatzemann & Tilinski wedding

Charles Dickens publishes “A Christmas Carol” on December 19, 1843

And on December 19, 1936 the faculty of philosophy of the University of Bonn deprived the author Thomas Mann of his honorary doctorate following his deprivation of cititizenship by the German Reich.

On December 19, 1953 my greatuncle Georg Aloysius TILINSKI married Ilse Meta Anna GATZEMANN in Lübeck, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.

Georg was my grandmother’s younger brother, born on July 29, 1923 in Korschen, East Prussia, Germany (today’s Korsze in Poland) as youngest child of Albert Tilinski and his first wife, of whom I only have the last name PETZ.

Ilse was born on April 17, 1925 in Lübeck.

Unfortunately, the two never had children. They were the last one’s of this generation on my mom’s side. So they became the grandparents for all of us children.

We had a great family vacation when I was 15 years old. My mom, her sisters including husbands and all the kids. We rented two houseboats and travelled on the canals of the Netherlands. We had one boat for the kids and one for the adults and he was our honorary captain. You don’t want to know how it looked on our kids boat ;)

My greatuncle came home from WW II with a stiff leg. It is totally not politically correct, but when we were little kids we would use it to ride on it like on a horse. We kind of played gee-gees. And I don’t know who had more fun doing so, he or us.

My greataunt was a lot more reserved than he was, but she too took this honorary grandmothers’s role with a lot of compassion.

Georg died on March 12, 1999 in Lübeck and Ilse followed to the other side in 2005.