Let My Son Go: He’s Too Small and Weak for the Army and Needs to Emigrate With Friends

There is always a little more to the story.

In an earlier post, “Focke Returns to Germany in 1879,” discussion focused on two passenger manifest entries for Focke Goldenstein and his March 1879 naturalization in Galesburg, Knox County, Illinois, around which those naturalizations were sandwiched:

  • 3 November 1873, arrival in New York City on the Weser
  • 31 March 1879, Focke naturalized in Knox County, Illinois, despite living in Adams County, Illinois–likely because his uncle Jurgen Ehmen was a Knox County resident.
  • 17 October 1879, arrival in New York City on the Oder

That chronology has not changed.

Focke Goldenstein’s file in the Auswanderungskonsenses (1842-1919) from Ostfriesland, Germany, (available on Family History Library microfilm) contains a letter from his father which references his desired to emigrate:

Wriße September 23, 1873

Johann Lürken Goldenstein, innkeeper in Wriße, requests a discharge certificate for his sixteen and a half year old son, Focke Janssen Goldenstein, so that he can emigrate to America.

Reasons for this most obedient request are:
*) My daughter, Wilhelmine Janssen, lives in a America and is married. Focke will be able to stay with her until he is established and should be able to find work.
*) It would be advantageous to my son and to myself if he could immediately emigrate to America in order to find work there.
*) My son is too young for military service as he is only sixteen. Additionally he is much too small and weak and is not likely to be qualified for military service.

*) My son has the opportunity to emigrate in about 3 weeks with an individual he knows. I obediently ask you superiors to speed things up as much as possible.

Based upon the time frame, Focke must have immigrated fairly quickly after the letter was written by his father. The letter is dated 23 September and Focke arrived on 3 November.

The request of release from military service makes Focke’s naturalization as a United States citizen before his return visit in 1879 seem even more necessary. His status as a United States citizen would have helped to keep Focke as a man in his early twenties from being subjected to military service on his return trip to Germany.

Focke is listed in a group of six Germans on the 1873 manifest all of whom are between 16 and 25 years of age. There are other Germans listed on that manifest. Habben Agena, a fellow 16-year old, is known to have lived near Goldenstein in the 1890-era. Research had focused on him because his age was the same as Goldenstein. The names on the manifest should be analyzed in more detail than they have.

Focke has been researched by me for years. Before I located the letter, I had mentally put him in that “done being researched” category. That was a mistake.

There’s always something more to learn and it’s those small, seemingly innocuous facts that provides the biggest history lessons of all.



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