Hulda Wach was born in January of either 1868 or 1869 in Bernsdorf, Pommern, Preußen, daughter of Heinrich Wach and Emilie Wietzke. She appears to be the oldest of the four known children of Heinrich and Emilie: Alvina, born about 1873; Carl August, born in October 1874; and Heinrich Emil, born in August 1876. Because Hulda’s mother remarried sometime between 1876 and 1884, it is possible that her father died during the same period. Emilie married “Fred” Schultz and they had one know child, Mildred, born about 1884.
At the age of 15, Hulda left her home, possibly alone, to seek a better life in the US. She departed from Hamburg, Germany aboard Suevia on 12 October 1884 and arrived in New York on 27 October 1884 with her sights set on her final destination of Chicago.
About two years after settling in Chicago, she married Emil Müller on 8 August 1886. Over the next few years, Emil and Hulda built their life together, having three children: Heinrich, born 1 June 1887; Emil, born 9 February 1889; and Ida, born 31 July 1891. In 1890, Hulda’s sister, Alvina immigrated to the US, followed by her mother, brother Heinrich, and half-sister Mildred in 1891, all settling near one another in Chicago.
By March 1895, Emil and Hulda were separated. Hulda filed for divorce in 1900, which was finalized in December of that year. She was now free to marry John Severing, of McHenry County, Illinois, on 19 January 1901 at Chicago. One child, Lillian, was born of this union.
After marrying John, Hulda moved to Dunham, McHenry County, Illinois, about 70 miles northwest of Chicago. The local newspaper shows her visiting Chicago frequently to spend time with family and friends. By June 1912, Hulda was suffering from stomach cancer, which took her life on 15 May 1914.
According to her obituary, her “life was marked by industry, frugality and attentiveness to the affairs of her home and those committed to her care, as well as a life of faithfulness to her Christian duties.”
These are just the facts that I’ve accumulated so far as I continue to piece together Hulda’s life. I’m interested to know what drove her to leave her home and family at the age of 15, and why her family followed her six years later. I’d also like to know how she adapted to big-city life in Chicago.
1905 map of Pommern illustrating the small village of Bernsdorf where Hulda was born.
This post was written as part of my commitment to The Family History Writing Challenge. Since my main goal is to put fingers to keyboard, I was not concerned with citing sources, however, sources are available if you are interested.