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Focus on a Career Engineer

chapter one
My Parents

My story begins in the small south-German university town of Tubingen, where Wilhelm P. and Josephine Herold gave birth in 1869 to the first of their four children, named Carl Frederick, who was to become my father. Carl F. was educated in the Tubingen school system, ending at the “Gymnasium” (the equivalent of the U.S. high school). Carl F. was a more enterprising boy than most, with a quick temper which often led to precipitous decisions based on events which, to someone more placid, would have seemed trivial. Perhaps this is what happened when, at age 17, he decided to set out on his own by going to the United States. My father-to-be arrived in Philadelphia about 1886 where he had an uncle with a moderately prosperous jewelry shop. His split from his German family and from his German heritage as well was complete. He never did return even for a visit and I was never aware of very much correspondence. My paternal grandparents stayed in Germany and died there; I never saw them, nor was there much talk of them in our family.

Settling in Philadelphia, Carl F. quickly adopted English as his language. All traces of accent disappeared and he soon became a citizen. Because of some of the books he gave me, I know that he had studied logarithms and trigonometry, but I suspect his occupation during the first decade in his adopted country was in what we call today the blue-collar class (my birth certificate of 1907 lists him as “machinist”).

The other half of my parentage resulted from the marriage of Andreas Wollersheim to Marie Jansen, both of Mulheim, Germany, a small town on the Rhine near Koln (Cologne). My mother, their first and only child, was born in Cologne on February 11, 1881. When their daughter was three years old, the Wollersheims emigrated to the United (p. 1) States, specifically to Philadelphia where Andreas had a brother. Although my mother was also named Marie, in the U.S. she was given the name “Mamie,” and this is the name she used for the rest of her life. My mother went to school in Philadelphia, finishing high school about in the year 1899. She played the piano passably and developed the other cultural attainments typical of middle-class families of the time. My father was 12 years older than she, and I don’t know how they met. I was told that my father was something of a dandy, with an extensive social life as a bachelor, and was considered a suitable match.

According to the documents which my father left me, it would appear that a marriage license was obtained in Philadelphia but the wedding itself took place on September 19, 1903, at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hoboken, New Jersey. They lived in Hoboken for a while but, before I was born, had moved to New York City to 189 St. Nicholas Avenue in Manhattan.

So far as I am aware, the only descendants of my father’s family in the United States still bearing the name Herold are my brother, Carl Alfred, his two children, Jill K. and James C. and me. At the time of this writing (1982), neither Jim nor Jill has shown any enthusiasm for marriage. My father’s uncle, mentioned above, had but one son who did not marry. So, as far as our lineage goes, the name Herold is not likely to survive. Similarly, my mother’s family tree no longer has anyone in the U.S. bearing the name Wollersheim. My mother was an only child and her one male cousin, Andrew (now deceased), did not marry.

In summary, if I confront the name Herold or Wollersheim here in the United States, I am reasonably certain that there’s no close relationship. Neither name is common in the U.S. (p. 2)

For example, in the 1965 Manhattan telephone book, out of the nearly one million names, there were only 17 Herolds and no Wollersheims. In contrast, in Germany, every directory lists many, many Herolds; it is so common there that, in my 1953 trip, I gave up any hope of tracing survivors of my father’s family. I did not explore the name Wollersheim in Germany. (p. 3)

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