Saturday, July 25, 2009

Summertime for My German Ancestors

[This post is part of the 21st Edition of the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy hosted here at Destination: Austin Family]

The theme for this edition of the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy is summertime - how your ancestors spent their summers both here and back home in the Old Country. While I don't have much information about how my Henneberg and Pressner ancestors spent their summers in the Sachsen (Saxony) area of what is now present day Germany, I do know how the summers were spent in the Bronx, New York where they settled.

My research indicates that when the Hennebergs and Pressners arrived in New York in the late 1860s and 1870s, The Bronx was a very different place. In fact The Bronx was more of a suburb with cows and pastures than it is today. But with the immigrant population explosion which began in the 1880s, New York added more people. These immigrants tended to live within their own ethnic communities and The Bronx had a very large German-American population.

As the population grew there was less and less room for trees and parks. I am certain that the humidity levels increased over the years, and that all the cement sidewalks and brick buildings made neighborhoods feel like absolute ovens during the summer.

In the photo above, left to right, are Ethel Henneberg, unknown family friend, Richard Henneberg. This photo was taken in front of their apartment building at 405 E. 162nd Street, the Bronx, around 1927. The kids grew up about 10 blocks from Yankee stadium!

And while where I grew up (in the Catskill Mountain/Hudson Valley region) about 100 miles north of New York City would become a summer get-away for families looking to cool off, this was not yet the case in the 1920s. It wasn't until the late 1930s when improvements had been made to the automobile and the highway system that families like mine - with limited economic resoures - could afford to spend a weekend, a week or even the whole summer in The Country.

[Photo: The Henneberg Family, abt. 1927, Bronx, NY. Digital photograph. Courtesy of Ray Henneberg.]

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