My Assumptions Were My Problem

I’d been looking for the elusive Tamme Focken Tammen for quite some time.

Born in 1856 in Velde, Ostfriesland, Germany, he was the youngest son of Focke Focken Tammen (1803 Buhren/Remels–1872 Velde) and his third wife Tjede Willms Aden (1815 Velde–1883 Velde).  Tamme’s oldest half-sister was Tjode Anna Focken (Tammen) Goldenstein, born in Buhren in 1824.

I had traced Tamme to Dawson County, Nebraska, in the 1880s where he appeared in local church records, the 1885 state census, and as a witness on a homestead application. It was not really difficult to trace him to Dawson County—and not because of his seemingly unusual name. In fact, his name is not that unusual as he has several cousins also with the same first and last name who also immigrated to the United States.

He was located in Dawson County, Nebraska, because I ran across his name while researching the family of Focke Goldenstein, a nephew of Tamme who was already known to have been in Dawson County.

After the 1880s, Tamme disappears.

I had surmised that he simply died somewhere in the late 19th or early 20th century and that his death was not recorded. He did not appear in the Dawson County records after the 1880s and he did not appear in the areas of Hancock or Adams Counties in Illinois where his nephew Focke took his family after the sold their completed Nebraska homestead in the late 1880s.

He turned up in Pike County, Illinois, where he died in 1895. He wasn’t supposed to be in Pike County. That’s not where Ostfriesens settled and where he had no relatives. His will makes it fairly clear I’ve got the right guy.

My assumption was incorrect that he would live in close proximity to other members of his family and ethnic group. Ostfriesen immigrants in the mid-19th century were extremely clannish. Virtually all of my forty some immigrants from that area settled in close proximity to other immigrants from that same area. Some of them had extended family who also settled in the same areas.

And then there’s Tamme.

There’s always one who seems to break the rules.

Interestingly enough after his death, Tamme’s wife and children apparently returned to one of those Ostfriesen immigrant communities. His son William Tammen married Elske Janssen in the early 20th century and they lived near West Point in Hancock County, Illinois, for much of their married life.

I was aware of William Tammen before I ever knew who his father was. That’s because his wife, Elske (Ella) Janssen had a younger sister, Trientje (Tena) who was my great-grandmother. It ended up that William Tammen who was my uncle because he was married to my great-grandmother’s sister was also a first cousin once removed of my great-grandmother, Tjode Anna (Goldenstein) Habben.

You knew there had to be a double connection because in these families there’s always a double connection.

Tamme’s will is analyzed in significant detail in issue 3-51 of Casefile Clues.



3 thoughts on “My Assumptions Were My Problem

  1. So there IS hope. My ggrandfather seemingly walked out the door one day and into thin air. Greater family historian’s than I have looked for him to no avail. Even the smallest possible clue gets me digging again. I believe I’ve narrowed down his possible life span as, after ‘this’ and before ‘that’. Oral family history states he remarried after leaving, but exploration into that supposition has led nowhere. No divorce record to support the possibility either. Wife listed as widow at appropriate time on census. Of course she could have said ‘widow’ to cover up his desertion. And so it goes…

    Thanks for the encouragement though, Michael

    • I’ve got one I can’t find either. He left his wife and family in Chicago around 1918 and never returned. I don’t think he was in World War I–I’ve looked. Supposedly the family had no contact with him after that.

    • udo janssen says:

      My Name is Udo Janssen My mother s birth name is Hamine Tammen .
      Doaughter from Focke Focken Tammen.
      I am from Germany (Felde) you spelled it Velde.
      My grandfather was Focke Focken Tammen.FROM THE TAMMEN FAMILY. started from Buehren beginning 19th century .
      I went back with the Tammen Family until the 15th century. before that the church in Holtrop burned down and the documentation as well. I am working in Portland for business for some time . Always when I’m in America I trie to google and find some the Family members which left to America.
      please contact me.
      my email is:

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