My great grandparents were born and came to America from Tilsit Oest Prussia according to census records. Grandma Verona Otremba and her brother Anton were born in Danzig from what Grandma told us but something happened and the family lost its fortune and they had to move to the town of Turin?(sp). When Grandma was about 13 years old she was bound out to a rich family who eventually came to America bringing her as the "nanny" with them. Grandma knew her brother Anton Otremba had gone to America and was living in Texas. She ran away from the family and found her way from Philadelphia to Texas where she met up with her brother on a ranch near Austin. Another man working on the ranch was Wilhelm Freidrich Porsch, who eventually became my great grandfather. Wilhelm was from Tilsit. His father was Freidrich Wilhelm Porsch, son of Andreas Porsch. His mother was Dorothea Steppat, of Lithuanian descent. They were married in The Lutheran Church in Tilsit on Dec. 27, 1857. Dorothea was 20 years younger than Freidrich and he probably had another family, from stories told by them, but we don't know any of them. There was an uncle Karl and an uncle Ferdi mentioned in letters. They were apparently well off but wouldn't help the family who had come on bad times. (letters were from before and during WWI & WWII and were in German language so I had some of them interpretted). Grandpa Wilhelm had a sister Martha Maria Porsch who stayed in Germany. She married Carl Heinrich Reinhold Hagedorn and they lived in Berlin. They had one son who was killed in France during WWI. He had married and had two children but I don't know them. They were still living in Berlin about 25 years ago when a cousin of my father went for a visit there. Neither had married.
Grandma told us her parents were Polish and Czech and Grandpa's were Russian & Lithuanian. Both spoke German and Polish. Grandpa refused to speak anything except English after he became an American. Grandma never learned much English and spoke to him in Polish or German but he answered her in English. Must have been a little mis-communication there but they survived. She knew just enough English to be polite to Americans and to ask for what she needed but she spoke German or Polish to her children and anyone who also spoke the languages. The others she would just nod and smile a lot. I never learned to speak either language but I remember her telling me stories about her early life and I understood her. She died when I was 12 years old.
I would like to find out more about them when they were in Germany/Poland but don't know how to go about it. Can anyone help me figure out where Tilsit and Turin?(sp) are on the map and where I might find records etc. or someone to help me locate the families of Porsch & Otremba in these places. I would like for my grandchildren to know their origins.