Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My Estonian Grandmother--found!

Through the wonders of the Internet and my sister's research through a genealogy service called Geni, we found my grandmother, my father's mother and more information about my family.

My grandmother's name is: Emielie Natalie Kullerkupp, born in Estonia, as was her husband Anton P. Kullerkupp.  My father's name was Albert Allan Kullerkupp and he was born in Moscow in 1902.  There are many, many, Kullerkupps in Estonia and we are finding many relatives through my grandmother's siblings.
Notice how much was not correct, father not Austrian, but Estonian. Names were close, but not accurate, and more.
  This was written on December 7, 2013

Christmas, more than other holidays, brings on so much nostalgia, especially memories of our parents.  My sister and I lost our parents when we were 19, and 26 respectively.  They died within a year and a half of each other.  Although we knew quite a bit about our mother's background, we knew very little about my father's.

I noticed I have a few Estonian readers of this blog and I thought I would write what little I know about my Estonian grandmother.  

When emigres came to the United States, especially in the late 20's, early 30's, many of them wanted to keep their past secret for many reasons: to avoid reprisals, wanting to start fresh, and with new names, after cutting off all ties with regimes that were at the very least, not friendly.

I think my grandmother's name was Mildred or Marina and her last name I heard was Neurman, but I believe she marred again, so this was not my father's last name.  Her last name could have been Kueller.

She was born in Estonia in 1886 and married an Austrian.  They were divorced when my father was five and I think my father went to live with his father who lived in Moscow.  And perhaps he lived part of the time with my grandmother as well.  But I do know he went to school in Moscow, a gymnasium, they were called.  My grandfather had something to do with the Trans-Siberian railway; we have few real facts.  My father changed his name before I was born to Allan French, but his first name was Alexander.

Later, much later, after the Russian Revolution, and a few intervening years spent in Paris, my father came to the United States.  His mother followed later; the 1930 US census, lists her as living in New York with my mother and father.  I do remember that we were told she died of cancer in New York City. It was interesting as he changed my grandmother's name to Millie French.

I know this photograph was taken in Parnu, Estonia, and from the dress, perhaps in 1918 or when dresses were still long, but shoes and hose showed.

I have no photos of my grandfather as his picture was cut out of the few family photos we have.

So, the mystery remains and will probably remain.  I send her picture out in cyberspace in memory of a grandmother my sister and I never knew.


  1. Hi Nat - the wonders of the internet .. but at least you've been able to find out and trace some of their wonderful history ... now you can imagine and put a little more flesh around their story ... How fortunate your father came to the States ... but so interesting to see how far they travelled and moved around .. and now from NYC you're in the west of the States.

    Fascinating to read about .. thanks for sharing your history with us .. cheers Hilary

  2. Thanks, Hilary. From not having a single relative on my father's side, we now have 'cousins twice removed, etc." real people,! I am so excited! and real names, although, I was close. And I love my grandmother's real name "Emielie Natalie Kullerkupp." Oh, found out our name means "Globe Flower." Still do not know about my dad and what his dad did that made my dad so fearful, fearful enough to change his name and not discuss his past. So more research to be done. We have his papers when he entered the US through Mexico and I remember him telling us that he was proud that there was a special act by our Congress that permitted him and others to become citizens.

  3. Interesting what we find out and what was hearsay, or family legend. Like history, we only know what our ancestors want us to know until we start digging for official records. It seems like Paris was a stopover point for many Europeans coming to the US in those days. Good luck in the further tracking.

    My sister and I do have a bit of concrete information re our ancestors from Scotland, saved by a few relatives with forethought (family tree on mother's father's side, medical records on father's side-which was more secretive and didn't write much down.

  4. The whole secretive thing--hard for us to understand these days, but I think there may have been reasons for being quiet. My father loved Paris and when he came to the US he had a French accent and everyone called him "Frenchy" so when he changed his name he became Allan French, French is my maiden name. If I told you this story before, I apologize. Ah, Scotland, a favorite of mine. I received a lovely letter from Alexander McCall Smith, the author who has written many stories about Scotland and Africa. I wrote him a fan letter.

  5. Interesting for me as I am the immigrant, something I have thought about a lot lately, and my family is pretty much known to me. They were for the most part all Swedes and I know where in Sweden they came from. I even took a trip to my great-grandparents place in 2001. And for most Americans, the story is the complete opposite. So many Americans may have no idea where their families came from. In Sweden, we consider the Baltic states our neighbors across the water, so now we are sort of neighbors. Interesting.

  6. Swedish, Finnish and Estonian--such interesting languages and hard to read. My sister and I are first generation and I think I am the only one I know here who is--most are third and fourth or? And in some ways, you always feel a little different.

  7. Hi Natasha. My maternal grandparent's were part of the large number of Jews who came to the UK from Kiev early last century as a teenage bride and groom! As Hilary has said, the Internet has made it possible for people to explore a past that they thought was closed to them.
    Your story is a fascinating one and so typical of many immigrants to the USA and Great Britain.
    CLICK HERE for Bazza’s fabulous Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

  8. Still a mystery surrounding my father. On the Estonian genealogy web site, my grandfather had four siblings, they all have a birth date, no death date, so they disappeared or something happened to them. But it's interesting to see the ships records and there is my mother age 14, her brother age 12 and her sister age 10, who came over all by themselves for two weeks on that ship. My grandparents were already here, having come to NY four or more years before, then the Russian Civil War and Revolution broke out and the kids were stuck there for those years.

    1. Same with Larry's (my husband) parents. Post WWI, his father and uncle, as teenagers, were traveling south from Ukraine. In Romania they were jailed. Luckily, someone rescued them and sent them on their way. Eventually, they came to America on the SS Berengaria, a poster of which I had framed for Larry.

  9. "There" is Russia, then the Soviet Union--children grew up so fast during those years.