Bailey Weeding, 25, from Roy, Utah, was devastated by the passing of her German-born grandmother Ilse in March 2022. Ilse grew up in a foster family, and Bailey was curious about her grandmother’s origins, so she started searching for more information — and thanks to a family tree profile she found on MyHeritage, she was able to connect with her grandmother’s biological family and learn more about her roots.
Here is Bailey’s story:
My maternal grandmother, Ilse Wolf Siegfried, was our everything. I lived with her my whole life. She was my best friend. I know she had a rough life before coming to America. I had a lot of time and questions on my hands after she passed, about her life in Germany, so I started searching.
A German grandmother
She was born out of wedlock in August 1932 in Wiesbaden, Hesse, Germany. She was raised by a foster family in Bärstadt, Schlangenbad. Eventually, around the age of 8, she learned they weren’t her biological family. She loved them, but wanted to know where she came from.
My grandma met her birth mom later in life, but unfortunately she wasn’t a nice person. She only told her that her father died at war. I’m not sure how she knew that, and we weren’t even sure it was true.
At that time, my grandmother, who was then married and had a daughter — my mother Heike — divorced and left for the United States for a better life in the late 1960s. However, she came back to Germany every summer to visit her foster family and give my mom a chance to spend time with her father.
My grandma’s foster family — who was like her real family — sent me a record that had her dad’s name on it. I had someone translate it and it gave me her father’s name: Johann Ludwig Dreisbach.
Finding Ilse’s father in a family tree
With that information, in April 2022, I signed up for an account on MyHeritage. I searched for Johann and found him in someone’s family tree. So I messaged Ingo Leufgen, the owner of the family tree. My grandma’s biological dad was his wife’s grandpa — and he told me that this man died in combat. So the pieces were falling into place.
So I got his email and sent him the documents and from what they know about him it lines up with where he lived. We did a video call with Ingo and his wife Andrea and my grandmother’s half-brother Helmut. He was so excited to have more family. He wishes he could have met her. They want us to go visit them in Germany. We will see if we can make that possible.
My grandma’s birth dad married later in life, in around 1940, and had two sons, Hans-Dieter and Helmut. His wife and kids didn’t know he had had another child before. He died at war in July 1943 when his wife was pregnant with their second son, Helmut. Afterwards, as a widow, she moved back to her home town to raise the two boys on her own. She never remarried and had a hard life raising them but she made it work. She passed away a couple years ago. She must have been a wonderful lady because her sons are awesome and their family is full of so much love, just like ours.
We took a MyHeritage DNA test and so did they and even her other half-brother, Hans-Dieter, took one after finding out this news because he was very interested and excited. I guess before he never wanted to do one. The results confirmed our relationship.
We all think it’s really amazing and can’t wait to meet in person.
We lost my grandmother this year, but it feels like we still have a new piece of her. It’s only my mom and me now, and it’s a true blessing that we found a piece of family we never knew we had. Thank you so much.
Thank you to Bailey for sharing her story with us! If you also made an amazing discovery through MyHeritage, we’d love to hear about it. Please send it to us via this form or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Source: My Heritage