Linking the Netzbruch and Borki Kelms

As much as I am thankful for the family tree work of other family historians, I am often wary of copying without checking sources. One of my fears, for example, is that I will record incorrect information and have that replicated in other Ancestry family trees. I’m not implying that others’ work is usually incorrect; I’m just a proponent of verifying information with records.

In my search of where the Kelms of Borki originated, I’ve taken information from public family trees and user-contributed information in databases like GEDBAS and FamilySearch (Family Tree) that indicate that their forefathers lived in Netzbruch (Przynotecko), Friedeberg, Brandenburg, Prussia. However, I can’t find records that confirm this information. Because of this, my Direct Ancestors page separates Andreas Kelm and Anna Krystyna Jess, my known great-great-great-great-grandparents–the Borki patriarch and matriarch–from the Kelms of Netzbruch. The Netzbruch Kelms’ genealogies are well-documented from 1645, but, as far as I know, there is no link… yet. If Kelm genealogists have discovered this link, I would be very excited to see it.

I am revisiting what information I have collected about the first generation of Kelms in Borki (the children of Andreas Kelm and Anna Krystyna Jess) and reviewing databases like Geneteka and Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe to both verify relationships and double-check for the overlooked details, or the details that don’t usually make it into searchable indexes. An indexed marriage record, for example, usually includes names, parents’ names, place names, and dates. But what else can we find in the record itself?

Searching for indexed “Kelm” records in SGGEE; results with Andreas Kelm and Anna Christine Jesse or Gesse as parents

Searching for indexed “Kielma” records in Geneteka (Grabow parish); results with Andreas Kelm and Anna Krystyna Jesse (or Polish variants of surname) as parents

According to the above results, as well as additional marriage records, Andreas and Anna Krystyna had eight known children1:

  1. Anna Luisa (Ludwika) Kelm (b. 1797 in Wrzesnia, Posen, Prussia; d. 25 Aug 1854 in Borki, Lodzkie, Poland)
  2. Andreas Kelm (b. 21 Aug 1801 in Borki, Lodzkie, Poland)
  3. Anna Rosina Kelm (b. 19 Mar 1803 in Borki, Lodzkie, Poland)
  4. Christoph Kelm (b. 28 Mar 1805 in Borki, Lodzkie, Poland; d. 08 Dec 1874 in Pokrzywnica, Lodzkie, Poland)
  5. Anna Marianna Kelm (b. 12 Jan 1807 in Borki, Lodzkie, Poland)
  6. Daniel Kelm (b. 1808 in Dabie, Wielkopolskie, Poland; d. 29 Jan 1858 in Kadzidlowa, Lodzkie, Poland)
  7. Bogumil (Gottlieb) Kelm (b. 24 Dec 1810 in Borki, Lodzkie, Poland)
  8. Deogratus Kelm (b. 24 Dec 1810 in Borki, Lodzkie, Poland)

1 Some family trees list Peter Kelm, but I have been unable to confirm

Daniel Kelm, my direct ancestor, appears to have been born just over the border from Lodzkie in Wielkopolskie. I have his 1833 marriage record and, having not asked for help translating it, can only see Sobotka (Kolo County), the place of marriage, and Borki Colony, the place where he lives and where his parents lived.

The marriage record of Daniel’s oldest sibling, Anna Luisa Kelm (also spelled Anna Lowisa or Ludwika) provides an interesting clue.

[“Ludwika Kielm and Bogumil Krygier marriage record, 1815”] from Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej w Grabowie, accessed through Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne (Polish Genealogical Society) on 31 Oct 2020.

Monica Kucal helped me extract the following information:

The bride name is written Ludowika, Lovis in brackets, and then Ludwika. She was a daughter of late Andrzej Kielm2 and still alive Krystyna Jessowna [may come from Jess surname], age 18, based on the birth certificate from Wrzesnia church [that means that she was born there], living with her mother in Borki.

2 According to this record, Andreas Kelm died before 1815. His youngest sons, Bogumil (Gottlieb) and Deogratus, were born December 1810, which gives us a narrower death date estimate of between 1810 and 1815.

Is it possible Andreas, Anna Krystyna, and little Anna Luisa (she was four years old when her brother, Andreas, was born in Borki) came to Borki from Wresnia (around 130 km west of Borki)? We are equipped with another clue in figuring out the gap between the Borki Kelms and, if the speculation proves correct, the Netzbruch Kelms.

From west to east: Netzbruch > Wresnia > Borki

Finally, having done the Ancestry DNA test and checking their ThruLines feature (which, I should note, relies on users’ family trees being accurate), I can say that I may have found a link (see below) to Christian Kelm and Louise Kuehl of Netzbruch, the speculated parents of Andreas Kelm. Their son, Michael Kelm, was born in Exin, West Prussia, which is Kcynia, Wielkopolskie, Poland, today. Kcynia is around 80 km north of Wresnia. Our search continues.

Anna Krystyna Jess Death Record, 1831

Happy Friday, everybody. Thank you to Hendrik Wendland for sharing the following death record in his Ancestry family tree and to Teresa Eckford and Valerie Baginski for help extracting names and confirming information.

My great-great-great-great-grandmother (whew), Anna Krystyna Jess, was married to Andreas (Andrzej) Kelm. Variants of her surname that I have found include Jusciowna, Jeskowna, Jesse, Jeske, Gesse, and Guz. I am trying to link Andreas and Anna Krystyna, who lived in Borki, Lodzkie, Poland, in the eighteenth century, to recorded Kelms who lived in Netzbruch (Przynotecko), Brandenburg, Prussia, in the seventeenth century. I asked for help with this record with the hope there was information about her family and origins as I believe Andreas and Anna Krystyna were the first generation to live in Borki, Leczyca, Poland, area. Fun fact: “Borki” seems to mean “residence or farm,” according to Meyers Gazetteer.

[“Anna Krystyna Kielm death record, 1831”] from Archiwum Państwowe w Poznaniu (Poznan State Archives), accessed through on 22 Oct 2020.

Date of record: Dabie, 19 March 1831, 10 a.m.
Witnesses: Krysztof Kielm, farmer, age 26, son of the deceased, and Michał Kriger, farmer, age 41, both residing in the colony of Borek [Borki]
Deceased: there on the 18th of March this year at 3 a.m. Anna Krystyna Kielm nee Jess died, age 56

Although there doesn’t appear to be new information, I am always excited to confirm information by looking at the records themselves–and thankful that archives and volunteers index, translate, digitize, and make these records accessible.

Stories from the Past: Martha Kirsch (Part 3)

My great-grandmother, Martha Kirsch, was born in April 1881 in Lutsk, Volhynia, Russia, to Samuel Kirsch (Wisniewski in Polish) and Karolina Wurfel. As all of the Kirsch children born between 1877 and 1897 were born in Ludwischin (village), Lutsk (district), Volhynia (region), Russia, it is possible Martha was also born there.

Note: The following stories were written by a Kelm family member who was close to Julius and Martha. They were both interviewed and their stories retold revealing insights into their personal lives, marriages, births, and deaths. The stories were transcribed by Phyllis Kelm Reakes with permission to share from the original author.

Stories from the Past: Martha Kirsch (Part 3)

Martha came from a very poor family of 19 children. She recalls her father, [Samuel], as an old man with a beard, who married three or four times. Martha’s siblings Julia, Carl and Daniel all immigrated to Canada, too.

Martha said that there were so many children that at night her parents had to make a roll call to see that all the children were accounted for and none were missing. One evening one of the children was missing. The parents and the older children started to search for him. They found him sleeping in the outside oven. It was warm in the oven and he had crawled inside and fell asleep there.

The Kirsch farm was situated next to a school but the Kirsch children did not go to school as they were too poor and had to work. Martha’s job was herding cows. She would go outside all day in the field watching the cows and would hear the children singing in the school house when the windows of the school house were open. She sang along with them and soon she knew all the songs. At night she said she would sit on her father’s lap and sing the songs to him. He was amazed and asked her how she had learned the songs. She told him she had heard the children singing in the school house and learned the songs. This made her father very happy. Martha was very intelligent. She had an excellent memory. She never went to school but at age 30 while living in Camper, Manitoba she learned to read and write German from the minister that used to visit. She then taught all her children to read and write in the German language.

In Germany, the Remples were neighbours of the Kirsch family. They felt sorry for Martha and took her in. She worked for them as a domestic and they were very good to her. The Remples decided to come to Canada with their 12-year-old son, August. They asked Martha to come with them and she decided to immigrate with them to Canada.

About this same time Martha fell in love with a young man. They wanted to marry but he had to serve a year in the army first. She said that she could not wait for him as arrangements had been made for her to go to Canada with the Remples. The young man was very heartbroken. He told her that she would never be happy because she did not marry him, a man who truly loved her. Later, Martha learned that this young man had been killed in the army. She often told this story and over the years the words of her young man came back to haunt her. She did not have a happy marriage to Julius Kelm and although she loved her children she often wondered how her life could have been different if she had remained in Volhynia and had married her young soldier.

Mr. and Mrs. Remple, August Remple and Martha went to live at 868 Ballantine [Bannatyne] Avenue, Winnipeg. It is not certain if Martha’s sister, Julia, was already living in Winnipeg or whether she immigrated along with the Remples. Julia And August did not know each other in Germany [note: August and Julia Remple immigrated to Canada in 1890 and appear in the 1891 Census of Canada]. August Remple and Julia Kirsch eventually married each other. Also living in the house about this time was Martha and Julia’s brothers, Carl and Daniel, who worked for the CPR.

Mr. and Mrs. Remple were already fairly elderly. They had purchased a small farm at Oak Bank, which was not far from Winnipeg. Later, when Mrs. Remple was dying she only wanted Martha to look after her. Martha left her husband, Julius, and children to care for Mrs. Remple who died within a week. The house at 808 Ballantine [Bannatyne] was a large two or three story home that was located close to the General Hospital [Winnipeg General Hospital, now Health Sciences Centre]. August Remple was a sewer contractor and had people working for him digging sewer lines for the City of Winnipeg. The Remples also had rooms rented out to boarders, most of whom worked at the hospital which was located nearby. Martha got a job working in the laundry room of the hospital. She would wash the hospital sheets on washboards and folded the clean laundry. She described herself as being quite happy. She had a real job for the first time in her life and was making her own money. She was quite content and had no interest in getting married.

Stories from the Past: The Move to Canada (Part 2)

This installment of “Stories from the Past” is a more personal version of the blog post I wrote from records and secondary sources. We can learn so much more from the people themselves.

Stories from the Past: The Move to Canada (Part 2)

Note: The following stories were written by a Kelm family member who was close to Julius and Martha. They were both interviewed and their stories retold revealing insights into their personal lives, marriages, births, and deaths. The stories were transcribed by Phyllis Kelm Reakes with permission to share from the original author.

Canada wanted immigrants and was aggressively advertising for people to come and settle in Canada. The Lutheran and Baptist church had ministers that acted as immigration agents. It  was through the auspices of the Lutheran Church that Julius Kelm and others from Volhynia immigrated to Canada. Martha Kirsch and others from Volhynia came under the auspices of  the Baptist Church. In each case they sold whatever they had to pay their fare to Canada and  arrived with very little. 

Julius and Serafina had one child that died in Russia [unconfirmed]. They came to Canada with the two remaining children, Olga and Gustav. They arrived in Quebec City in May 1904. Julius later would say that he came to Canada with nothing but 10 fingers [note: the ship manifest notes the Kelm family arrived with $5.00]. Julius said that when they arrived in Quebec City everything was in bloom. He and his family we glad to be in  Canada. Those who they were travelling with told them that it was more beautiful in Winnipeg. He wanted to stay in Quebec City but was unable to do so as their designation was Winnipeg. They boarded the train along with the other immigrants they had come with and  traveled to Winnipeg. Julius said that when they arrived in Winnipeg there was snow on the  ground and the weather was very cold.

Stories from the Past: Ludwig Kelm (Part 1)

My apologies for the long absence. I am making it up to you by posting part 1 of a very exciting document recently found in the Kelm Archives: a document containing stories compiled from interviews with my great-grandparents, Julius and Martha Kelm. I will post these in installments, which I will list together later for easy finding. Credit for the meticulous transcription goes to my Aunt Phyllis Kelm Reakes.

The following is about Julius’ father, Ludwig Kelm (born 1838 in Kadzidlowa, Leczyca, Lodzkie, Poland; migrated with his family to Volhynia in the late nineteenth century), who is named Frederick in the original document. I don’t know if the misnomer resulted from a misunderstanding by the interviewer or if Frederick was a middle or preferred name. Nonetheless, I have replaced all instances of Frederick with Ludwig.

Stories from the Past: Ludwig Kelm (Part 1)

Note: The following stories were written by a Kelm family member who was close to Julius and Martha. They were both interviewed and their stories retold revealing insights into their personal lives, marriages, births, and deaths. The stories were transcribed by Phyllis Kelm Reakes with permission to share from the original author.

There is no known photograph of Ludwig Kelm but by all accounts Julius said he was a very handsome man. He had black, curly hair and a tall, muscular build. Julius said that his grandson, Edward Kelm, looked a lot like him. Although Ludwig was handsome, he had a mean, abrasive manner and he spoke in a loud, gruff voice. He was not well liked and his son, Julius, despised him. Julius remembers that his father, was quite a wealthy landlord by the standards of the day. He had a large farm with grains, cattle, chickens and other farm animals. Mention was made several times that Ludwig had many bees and beehives and these bees produced honey which increased his wealth.

According to Julius, Ludwig was married several times which was not unusual for these times given the high mortality among women giving birth. There were many children born to the first wife. Not much is known as this wife other than she died giving birth to Julius [Note: Julius was born in 1878 and his mother, Wilhelmina Langner, died in 1880]. Ludwig then remarried a beautiful woman who was much younger than himself. There were no children born to this union and the wife did not live very long. She died suddenly and the cause of death was unknown. Julius said that she was bewitched. The other women were jealous of her beauty so they put a hex on her and this resulted in her premature death. It is not known when the second wife died but Julius certainly remembered her as being his stepmother during his tender years. Ludwig then remarried a third time and there were about seven more children born into this union. Julius recalled this stepmother with much warmth and kindness.

Julius recalls that Ludwig, in addition to being very mean spirited, was very selfish. Julius was the oldest son and did not have to serve in the military. He wanted a dowry to be able to have his own place and get married. Ludwig refused to offer him any kind of help and Julius hated him for that. The stepmother decided to try and help Julius but was afraid of her husband and what he would do. Knowing Julius was planning to marry she began to sell, secretly, some of the cream and milk from the farm to others in the area who used the cream to make cheese. Soon she had saved enough money to buy Julius two shirts and material for a suit and gave these articles to him as a wedding gift. Julius was very grateful to this stepmother for having done this act of kindness for him. Julius did marry a woman named Serafina and settled on some land in the Volhynia area. Julius said that he worked very hard and soon had his own horse and buggy. He decided to hitch the horse to the buggy and drove to his father’s farm with his wife and baby beside him. He said that he went only to show his father that he was able to be successful without his help.

Finding Serafina Kelm

Note: As always, I will update this blog entry with more information and sources as I find it. If you have more information about Serafina, or Seraphine, Kelm, feel free to comment or email me at

In my previous blog post, I talked about Julius’ and Serafina’s immigrating to Manitoba. Serafina was Julius’ first wife. The first record I have that mentions her is the birth record for her daughter, Olga Kelm, entered in a Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe database. Olga was born in Neudorf, Novograd Volynsk [Volhynia], Russia, on July 12, 1903, making her almost three years old when she arrived in Manitoba in May 1906. In the birth record, Serafina is recorded as “Seraphine Albert,” which makes me wonder if one of the boarders, H. Albert, (a single thirty-year-old Polish man) mentioned as living at 677 Ross Street with the Kelms in the 1906 Census of Canada is a relative.

On June 24, 1906, just two days before the census takers arrived at 677 Ross Street, Serafina gave birth to a baby boy who soon died. Another son, William Kelm, was born the following year, on May 24, 1907. Serafina is recorded as “Josephine Herman” in the Manitoba Vital Statistics Agency genealogy database, but “Josephine” may be a transcription error. Herman is a surname mentioned in the 1906 Census (see previous blog post); a boarder and possible relative, Christian [Herman], was living with the Kelm family in 1906. I would need look at William’s birth record, which I don’t have at the moment, to see if I can glean more information.

“[Unnamed Kelm death record].” Manitoba Vital Statistics Agency. Retrieved 21 Jun 2012. Courtesy of Phyllis Kelm Reakes.

Serafina (recorded as Seraphine Kalm) died February 20, 1910, at the age of twenty-six at the St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg. Her death record (see below) states that she died of “organic heart failure” and that she had been sick for three months. The Brookside Cemetery Burial Search indicates that she was buried two months later, on April 16, probably because the ground was too frozen. At the time of her death, the Kelms were living at 261 Dorothy Street.1

Winnipeg Evening Tribune, 22 Feb 1910. Retrieved 14 Jan 2020 from

“[Seraphine Kelm death record]” Manitoba Vital Statistics Agency. Retrieved 21 Jun 2012. Courtesy of Phyllis Kelm Reakes.

1 Looking at the 1911 Census of Canada (see Census transcriptions at the Manitoba Historical Society website) reveals that 261 Dorothy Street, located next to the Canadian Pacific Railway station, was home to many tenants—at least 41 in 1911⁠—though there are no Kelms living there according to the 1911 Census (and I have been unable to find them elsewhere).

Journey to Canada

Note: This blog entry will expand as I verify more information.

According to this Canada Passenger Lists, 1881-1922 ship manifest (scroll down to view the relevant section), my great-grandfather, Julius Kelm (recorded here as “Julius Kelin”), made the journey from Volhynia, Russia (present-day Ukraine), to Canada in 1906. Julius; his wife, Serafin[a] (age 22); son, Gustav (age 3); and daughter, Olga (age 2), arrived in Quebec City, Quebec, in May 1906. They arrived by ship, the passenger cargo steamship SS Mount Temple, their final destination Winnipeg, Manitoba. Julius is described as a farm labourer and the family is recorded as German.

Canada Passenger Lists, 1881-1922. Retrieved 12 Jan 2020 from FamilySearch,

One thing that I noticed while writing this blog entry was that all four members of the family have “N.A.T.C. Bonus Allowed” stamped beside their names. According to Library and Archives Canada, NATC stood for the North Atlantic Trading Company, a company contracted to find “suitable immigrants” from 1899 to 1910. I have always wondered why the Kelm family decided to migrate to Manitoba, so this is a good starting point—a future blog post maybe.

Tragedy struck soon after the family arrived in Winnipeg. On May 31, 1906, Julius’ and Serafina’s son, Gustav, died of pneumonia. According to family lore, Julius’ young son fell ill while crossing the Atlantic and died very soon after they arrived in Winnipeg. The following record was found through the Manitoba Vital Statistics Agency, under “Gustav Kahn.” Because his parents are not listed and because of the age discrepancy (he is listed as five years old and not three like in the ship manifest, but the two-year discrepancy also applies to other family members), I cross-checked information to make sure it was the same Gustav. In this record, Gustav’s birthplace is listed as Russia, and the address listed is 677 Ross Street, Winnipeg.

“[Gustav Kahn death record],” Manitoba Vital Statistics Agency. Retrieved 18 Jul 2018.

The address matches what is recorded in the 1906 Canada Northwest Provinces Census, which was recorded June 28. Julius (under “J Calman”), Serafina, Olga, and two boarders (H. Albert and Christian Geaman—possibly German or Herman) are living at 677 Ross Street. Gustav is no longer with them.

“1906 Canada Northwest Provinces Census,” Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 12 Jan 2020 from Ancestry.