Sunday, September 30, 2012

Richard Lindemann, German enemy alien 1917

Sometimes, when I have nothing better to do (and even sometimes when I DO have stuff I actually need to be doing but I feel like procrastinating), I like to visit FultonHistory.com and just plug in random family members' names, just to see what newspaper stories come up. Not just people I'm looking for, but addresses associated with them, businesses associated with them, friends and family associated with them - you never know what keyword is going to find you new and/or important information.

Two people I've had a difficult time fleshing out are my third great grandparents, Caspar and Margaret Lindemann. I've found them in the census, I've found their death certificates, I've even found Margaret's obituary, but there are no probate records for them in Brooklyn, no passenger list manifests (even though they are two of my most recent ancestors to come over to America, sometime in the 1880s or 1890s), no immigration records, and Caspar especially has been elusive. Considering how high-profile their son-in-law (my great-great-grandfather), Rudolph Stutzmann, was in Brooklyn/Queens circles, I'm surprised I haven't been able to find more on them. I guess I'm looking for specifics like birth dates, an actual date of immigration, or a place name of origin in Germany - anything that could help me find them on the other side of the pond since they were both older with grown children when they came over, so they would've spent a large chunk of their lives in Germany.

Wow, I'm really digressing here, because while my search was for Caspar and Margaret, I was using their grandson, Richard Lindemann, as my keyword in my search. Richard is a mystery to me. According to Schlegel's, his mother was Caspar and Margaret's daughter Caroline, married name Werner, and yet he uses her maiden name. I have no records of her - she supposedly died young, and since Richard is always listed in the census records with his grandparents (and later with his aunt, Augusta Stutzmann), I assume they raised him. Anyway, he was born in Germany and came over as a child. I get positive newspaper search results for him, usually as an adult placing ads for his services as a limo driver (I believe he was also employed by Rudolph Stutzmann in his funeral home business as a hearse driver), but I found one newspaper record from December 8, 1917, that showed him listed as a "German Enemy Alien." I had never heard of such a list, but the page was full of names and the addresses where these men lived, and a note at the end basically said this was only a partial list, with more names to come.

So I Googled it. According to the German Genealogy Group's website, "on April 6, 1917 President Woodrow Wilson took the first steps to minimize the threat from German aliens residing in the United States by issuing twelve regulations for 'alien enemies,' persons of enemy birth who had not completed the naturalization process. ... The names and addresses of all German males from New York City who were not citizens were printed in a series of articles in 'The Herald.' The list was published between December 4, 1917 and December 9, 1917." Obviously, this was around the time World War I was going on, but the list of regulations is insane, paranoid, and frightening. Among the regulations are some that make sense in that the government was worried about spies or attacks from within, but others say the "enemy aliens" could not change their residence or travel freely, they weren't allowed to fly, they weren't allowed at all in Washington D.C., they were not allowed near U.S. waterways except on public ferries, and they were not allowed to own a firearm. The whole list can be found here. And any "enemy alien" found to be in non-compliance was allowed to be interned.

I realize the United States has a history of going overboard with people they see as internal threats (re: Japanese-Americans during World War II) during times of war, but I think of my great-uncle Richard, who, yes, was born in Germany, and no, had not become a citizen, but who had basically grown up in and lived his whole life in Brooklyn. For all intents and purposes, he was a New Yorker. It's a little sad and a little scary in general, but even moreso when it hits so close to home, in that your own relative was so blatantly targeted. I'm sure the men listed on those pages of The Herald were shunned and discriminated against by more than a few of their paranoid neighbors.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting, from both a family standpoint and an historical one, a little piece of national and family history I never knew about.




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