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My Grandfather Disappeared 110 Years Ago. I Found Him Thanks to a Smart Match™ on MyHeritage

All Sally Jeffery, 72, from Bristol, knew about her maternal grandfather Hermann Hartmann was that he was German, and that at some point, just before World War I, he went to Germany and never came back. Thanks to a Smart Match™ on MyHeritage, she found a second cousin who was able to send her a photo of her grandfather, and she’s been able to reconnect with her German roots. Here is her story:

My grandfather was German, and just before World War I he went back to Germany and never returned. He left my grandmother with two young children (one being my mother) while she was also pregnant with their third. My grandmother Charlotte Helen (Nellie) Hartmann bravely took her family and from London, moved to Southampton, en route ditching everything German — including the name, which she changed from Hartmann to Harman, and from then on he was never spoken of!

In the 1911 Census of England and Wales, there’s a record of Hermann, at 31, living in a boarding house in London. It says he had been married for 5 years, worked as a ‘Traveller in fancy goods,’ was married to Nellie, 27, and had a son Werner (Verna), 4, who was born in Hannover, Germany.

Record of my grandfather from the 1911 England & Wales census

A record of my grandfather from the 1911 England & Wales census

At that time my grandmother was pregnant, as my mother Paula was born in July 1911. Then they had another son born in March 1913.

Hermann’s coming to England or how he met Nellie will remain a mystery, I’m afraid, although we do believe my grandmother traveled. Their marriage certificate or divorce papers have never been found.

My darling grandmother Charlotte Helen (Nellie), I called her Dandy. She was such a lovely lady. Photo improved by MyHeritage.

My darling grandmother Charlotte Helen (Nellie), I called her Dandy. She was such a lovely lady. Photo improved by MyHeritage.

My darling grandmother Charlotte Helen (Nellie), I called her Dandy. She was such a lovely lady. Photo improved by MyHeritage.

Later, my grandmother went on to marry Hubert H. Robinson. She had two more children and all 5 were a great team and were all very handsome.

Verna Harman, Gerard “Hitch” Harman, John Victor Robinson, Paula Harman (my mother) and Molly Robinson. Photo enhanced and colorized by MyHeritage.

Verna Harman, Gerard “Hitch” Harman, John Victor Robinson, Paula Harman (my mother) and Molly Robinson. Photo enhanced and colorized by MyHeritage.

Verna Harman, Gerard “Hitch” Harman, John Victor Robinson, Paula Harman (my mother) and Molly Robinson. Photo enhanced and colorized by MyHeritage.

We don’t really know anything about Hermann; he was never really mentioned as we were growing up. We did know of his existence, but we didn’t know what happened to him. My cousin Malcolm was told he was interned and died from dysentery! I was told he went to Germany for business and never came back, and as far as we know my grandparents never contacted each other ever again. Very sad.

Me with my cousins. From left to right: Malcolm Harman (Verna’s son), me, Christopher Hukins and Jane Morris (Molly’s children) and John Harman (Gerard “Hitch”’s son).

Me with my cousins. From left to right: Malcolm Harman (Verna’s son), me, Christopher Hukins and Jane Morris (Molly’s children) and John Harman (Gerard “Hitch”’s son).

Finding Grandpa Hermann

The family history research was started by my nephew’s wife, who was doing her own family, and it gave me the push to try to find Hermann. She did discover he was born in Rinteln, but nothing else.

As I got older I got curious, so I joined MyHeritage and began to search. Other family members tried their own ways. We had his name and an idea of where he was from. My search went on for a long time. Eventually a Smart Match™ came up with a user from Germany, Matthias Hartmann, who had my grandfather’s name on his family tree. I contacted him through the MyHeritage inbox. We realized that his great-grandfather Franz Hartmann was my grandfather’s brother.

Matthias Hartmann

Matthias Hartmann

The family in Germany knew that he had an English wife before World War I and believed they had two children, but nothing more. Matthias and the rest of the family in Germany were very excited to reconnect.

A photo of my grandfather — and great-grandparents

He sent me the photo of my great-grandparents’ 25th wedding anniversary, taken on April 10, 1902. My grandfather Hermann is 22, he is at the back on the right next to the man in the hat. To date there have been no other photos of him, sadly.

Silver anniversary of my great-grandparents, April 10, 1902. Photo improved by MyHeritage.

Silver anniversary of my great-grandparents, April 10, 1902. Photo improved by MyHeritage.

Silver anniversary of my great-grandparents, April 10, 1902. Photo improved by MyHeritage.
Enhanced and colorized close-up of my grandfather Hermann Hartmann

Enhanced and colorized close-up of my grandfather Hermann Hartmann

Enhanced and colorized close-up of my grandfather Hermann Hartmann

Hermann was born February 2, 1880 in Rinteln, Lower Saxony, Germany and died June 25, 1956 in Bad Munstereifel, Germany. Hermann was the second of 4 brothers. His parents — my great-grandparents — were Hermann Theodor Hartmann (1849–1933) and Johanna Dorothea Gronwaldt (1852–1905). They married on April 10, 1877.

My great-grandfather worked at the Chancery and accounting council in Gottingen.

It turned out that my grandfather Hermann did remarry, but had no other children. In Germany, he was a bankbeamter (bank officer).

My great-grandfather Hermann Hartmann (left) and great-uncle Franz Hartmann, Hermann’s older brother, circa 1915. Photo improved by MyHeritage.

My great-grandfather Hermann Hartmann (left) and great-uncle Franz Hartmann, Hermann’s older brother, circa 1915. Photo improved by MyHeritage.

My great-grandfather Hermann Hartmann (left) and great-uncle Franz Hartmann, Hermann’s older brother, circa 1915. Photo improved by MyHeritage.

Connecting to my German roots

Tragically, during World War II, my grandmother lost both her son John Victor Robinson and her second husband Hubert. John Victor was a flight engineer in the RAF Bomber Command. He was 23 years old when he was killed in action on August 28, 1942. His bomber was shot down over the Netherlands while coming back from a raid on Kassel in Germany. Hubert, a Merchant Navy, also died on service, in February 1945.

My father was also in the RAF. He was a spitfire pilot. In August 1943, he was shot down over France and with severe injuries, was sent to a Stalag in Germany. He didn’t like Germans! How my parents ever got together is a mystery!

John Thomson, my father, was a pilot in the RAF during World War II. Photo improved by MyHeritage.

John Thomson, my father, was a pilot in the RAF during World War II. Photo improved by MyHeritage.

John Thomson, my father, was a pilot in the RAF during World War II. Photo improved by MyHeritage.

In the past my German roots have always been a bit awkward, but now I would love to feel a special connection.

I still have many unanswered questions, but just looking at him makes me feel so happy now, I can pass on his memory to my family. Can I just say how proud I am to show my 9 grandchildren their great-great-grandfather and 3rd-great-grandparents?!

I’m getting very excited for this. You have no idea what it actually means to have at last found him, my grandfather Hermann Hartmann, thanks to MyHeritage.

Many thanks to Sally for sharing her lovely story with us. If you have also made an incredible discovery with MyHeritage, we’d love to hear about it. Share it with us via this form or email us at stories@myheritage.com.

The post My Grandfather Disappeared 110 Years Ago. I Found Him Thanks to a Smart Match™ on MyHeritage appeared first on MyHeritage Blog.

Source: My Heritage

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