Yesterday was an added fun day. The previous evening my neighbor asked: “Can your genealogical software trace my family back to Germany?” I had to explain that I didn’t have any magical software that could do that, but I did have some awareness of how to use the internet to find more information about family connections. Unfortunately, in order to trace the family back to Germany I would need to know the town of origin. I did a brief interview with my neighbor to discover what he might remember about his family. He did have a sheet that listed the descendants of his father, William Henry Kropp (3 children, 6 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren. It had full names, birth dates, and (where applicable) death dates. (It did not include locations or the names of spouses – except for William Henry Kropp’s wife Kate.) William Henry was born 27 October 1897.
My neighbor indicated the places that the family had lived (all in the metro New York City area). He also knew the names of his father’s brother and sisters. He indicated that his father had relatives in Allentown, Pennsylvania; he remembered a family reunion in Allentown. When pressed, he thought he was in 8th grade at the time. And that was it… that was all that my neighbor could recall about his family lineage, except that it went back to Germany. I agreed to do some internet searches and see what I could discover.
My first step was to survey the Kropp surname. I discovered that Kropp had a lot of variant spellings – initial “k” or “c;” the middle vowel could be “o” or “a” or “u;” ending with “pp” or “o;” and other variants as well. It had German, Dutch, and French lines.
Next, I did a Google search for: Kropp ~genealogy. There were a few interesting sites, but nothing that seem to offer any promise. So, now for the real research. I turned to FamilySearch to see if there had been any work on William Henry Kropp. There was a single entry for him in Family Tree. His birth was listed as 20 October 1897 in Manhattan, New York. No spouse was listed. Parents were George W. Kropp and Louise Hoorman Kropp. George was born in Pennsylvania; Louise, Germany. This was a probable match: William’s birth date was off by a week; his birth place was correct. This gave me potential names for William’s parents. George was born in Pennsylvania (perhaps in the Allentown area?). Nothing conclusive at this point, but some good clues for further research.
Searches in Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.com for William Henry Kropp and George W. Kropp brought the following results:
- 1940 US Census record for the William & Kate Kropp family. William is a public school custodian. They live on Van Siclen Ave. in Brooklyn. (I did a Google maps search for the address and found a “street view.”)
- 1930 US Census record for the William & Kate Kropp family. William is a superintendant for an apartment building on E. 37th Street, Brooklyn. (Another “street view.”)
- 1920 US Census record for the George W. and Louise S. Kropp family. Son William (age 23, an electrician at the Brooklyn Navy Yard) is listed along with a brother and two sisters (names match those given by my neighbor). George W. (age 52, a policeman) was born in Pennsylvania (as was his mother); his father was born in Germany. Louise S. was was born in Germany (as were both her parents). Louise had borne 5 children, 4 of who were still alive.
- 1918 WWI Draft Registration Card for William Henry Kropp, listing George W. Kropp as nearest relative. Address given for both is the same as the address for the Kropp family in the 1920 US Census. William is medium height and build, with brown eyes and light hair.
- 1915 New York State Census for George W. and Louise S. Kropp. The four children (including William, an apprentice electrician) are listed. There are also three borders.
- 1910 US Census record for the George W. and Louise S. Kropp family. The four Kropp children are all listed with middle initials. One child, Edith E., is apparently the same as Edna in the later census enumerations. Her full name must have been “Edith Edna.”
- 1905 New York State Census record for the Geo W. and Louisa S. Kropp family. Note that George’s wife is “Louisa,” not “Louise” as in later documents. Also, in addition to the 4 children, Augusta Kropp, an 18 year old sister of George is listed.
- 1870 US Census record for the Wm and Maria Krop family, living in Packer Township, Carbon County, Pennsylvania. (Parker Township is about 40 miles from Allentown.) William Krop is age 37 and was born in Germany. Maria is 24 and was born in Pennsylvania. Son George Krop is 2 years old and was born in Pennsylvania. They are living in a hotel.
I was fairly confident that documents 1-7 related to William Henry Kropp’s family. Document 8 seemed to be a possibility, but I could not be sure. So, I gathered up my data and presented it to my neighbor. As I tracked through them one-by-one, from the latest back to the earliest, my neighbor began to recall more information that confirmed my searches. He also learned some new information about his family:
- He did not know that his father had worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, but know that he had been an electrician. In fact, the picture of the Flatland Avenue side of 1930 apartment building elicited a memory of his father’s opening a small store to repair electrical appliances.
- When I showed my neighbor the picture of the entrance to the E. 37th Street apartment where his father was the superintendant, he pointed to the location of his family’s apartment, “This is where I lived.”
- When I wondered whether George W. Kropp’s middle name might have been “William” and mused that my neighbor might have been named after him, my neighbor confirmed that observation.
- My neighbor (and his wife) remembered Aunt Edna (but did not know that she was also an Edith). [One other possibility is that the census enumerator may have made a mistake in listing her name.]
- When I indicated that I was not sure about the 1870 census, my neighbor said “William was a blacksmith and Maria (pronounced Ma-RYE-ah, not Ma-REE-ah) was my grandmother.” He then went on to tell me that he had lived with his grandparents for a while.
- The date for William Henry Kropp’s birth (as recorded on his WWI Draft Registration Card) differed from that which was on the information sheet about the “Descendants of William Henry Kropp.” My neighbor indicated that the sheet was put together from memory (mostly by his sister), so the October 20th date from the WWI card was most likely the correct date.
My neighbor was going to share this information with his brother and sister. Perhaps that will elicit more memories and more clues about family origins in Germany. His brother’s grand-daughter (a Niederhausen) had visited the Niederhausen locale in Germany a few years back. My neighbor will check to see whether there was any attempt to visit the Kropp locale.
I told my neighbor that the easy work had been done – internet searches. The hard work come in looking for birth and death records in county court houses and newspapers, etc. While there is more that I can do (e.g., search for census and other records for great-grandfather William Krop), we would need to learn of his town of origin in Germany before we could do any tracing back in Germany. If we were to find that information, I would be glad to order microfilms from the Family History Library and do some further research for him.
I suggested that he talk with his brother and sister – he is 88 and they are 83 (twins). They could be a blessing to the next couple of generations if they were to write down their recollection so that they would not be lost. I also suggested that the “Descendants of William Henry Kropp” sheet could be expanded to include spouses; as well as correcting the birth date for William Henry Kropp.”
When we were done, my neighbor’s wife began to tell me about her family lines (Todt and Rochewski). I now have another assignment!