Later, upon reading Marion's straight-to-the-point letter, and subsequent learning
about the deep connection to family roots possessed by the Indiana Saalmans, we
felt like Prodigal Sons coming home, reversing our contrary-wise, former world view.
It became apparent to us that our branch of the family, descendants of Joseph Christian
Saalman -- the Chicago Saalmans, as it were -- were an offshoot of the main bunch
in Indiana of our particular Saalmann clan.
As for the Chicago Saalmans, it seemed that I was the only one with much interest
in our family history. When a teenager, I received a baptismal bible, which had
in the center, a fold-out genealogy tree chart. I asked both my grandmothers to
write in all the names of their ancestors, aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings that
they could remember. Both grandmothers remembered back to their grandparents' time;
not a great amount of detail, but a start. I still have that bible and recall even
then feeling a little disappointed with the lack of detail I was able to acquire
while my grandparents were still alive.
Later in my life, my mother's father, Grandpa Erie Roberts, told me about his cousin
who had compiled a great deal of his Roberts family genealogy dating to the early
days of the Massachusetts colony and even to 16th century England. Grandpa obtained
copies of her work for me. She had done this research to join the Daughters of the
American Revolution organization and had to prove 'lineal descent from a patriot
of the American Revolution'.
On the other genome, I had nothing but those few obscure names of Saalmans written
by Grandma Saalman in that old bible, Saalmans all born here, Saalmans who had to
have come from somewhere.
But Marion's family possessed not only details of the American Saalmans since the
days of their immigration, but also key ingredients for further Saalman genealogy
research: the names of our immigrant ancestors, the name of their village in the
Old Country, the date of their migration to the New World and where they finally
settled in the United States; namely, Branchville, Indiana, past which Dad unknowingly
drove on the way to Marion's house that fateful day in 1992.
After dad passed on this information to me, I contacted Marion, who shared much
of his, that is, our, well-documented family history with me by phone and post.
In short time, I proposed that Dad and I visit Marion together to further our acquaintance
with him and his family and to see the countryside where our ancestors and relatives
planted their roots and crops.
We did so in 1994 and met with both a considerable hospitality and a number of cousins
whom we had not known and who were as delighted to meet us as we them. Besides stuffing
ourselves with home-cooked country food made by Antoinette, Marion's wife, and later
listening to a recording of a great Blue Grass band composed of some terrific Saalman
musicians, Marion proudly showed us around the house he'd built with his own hands,
and as icing on the cake, many of the beautiful fiddles he'd crafted by hand in
We drove to Branchville and visited the ancestral family farm and met its current
Saalman residents who charmed us playing fiddle and flute. Afterward, Marion, Dad
and I walked along the small creek between the sandstone cliffs of Saalman Hollow.
We walked through Branchville's Walker Cemetery, recording the conversation of Marion
and cousin Roseanna Gibson who talked about each of the Saalmans there interred.
We also met and recorded an interview with Mansfield Frakes, great-grandson of the
Hiram Esarey who married the long-surviving
Dorothea Christiana Rühling Saalman
our immigrant ancestress, and widow of
Reinhart Gottfried Christian Saalmann, who brought our Saalmann clan to the New World. Frakes had remarkable
recall of the Saalman family doings in the 19th and 20th centuries, and was himself
delivered at birth by Dorothea, his step, great-grandmother, as midwife.Next »
Transcript of Mansfield Frakes interview, 1994