Saalman Family Website by todd saalman
Saalman Hollow by Richard Baumer

Saalman Hollow. Photo by Richard Baumer.

On the Genealogy Trail

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 recent years.

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.

Transcript of Mansfield Frakes interview, 1994

- top -