Week 17 (April 23-29) – Prosper. Which ancestor has a rags-to-riches story? Which ancestor prospered despite the odds?
George Gerhardt Graf, my 3rd great grandfather, was born in Mannheim, Baden-Wurttemberg, German on September 6, 1834.
On January 2, 1848, he immigrated to the states, landing in New Orleans, Louisiana at age 13. He came with his mother, Elisabetha Nicolai Graf and his brother Conrad Graf. We’re told that other siblings came as well, but I have not yet found any proof. Ernst (b. 1818), Michael, (b. 1829) and maybe Maria (b. 1849) may have come over. I have found a couple of bits of documentation that say the remaining surviving sibling, Hedwig (b.1828) stayed in Germany.
The next record I have of him is the US Federal Census in 1870 where he is 42, married to Catherine, and the father of George, Henry, William, Katie, Anna and Charlie and living in Baltimore, Maryland – working as a wheelwright.
In 1880, he is 53, still married – George Jr. is 23, Henry is 19, William is 15, Kate is 14, Anna 12, Augusta 3 and Lizzie 1 month. In 1880, he is working in a carriage manufacturing business and his sons all have tasks related to such – painting carriages, carriage trimmer and blacksmithing.
Family stories say that the father and sons worked (and ran) the business together until Henry left in 1885 for Ohio. George’s brother, Conrad, also may have worked in the business – in 1880 he is living next door to George and is listed as a ‘carpenter’. I have not found any proof that they had their own business. It is more likely that they worked at August Gross’ business which was nearby as they lived on Orleans Ave at the time.
George died August 12, 1892 in Baltimore of a “lingering illness”.
The house on Orleans St is gone but the brick townhouse they moved to afterwards on Darley Avenue is still there and shows a still faded elegance that must have been lovely in the late 1800’s.
From a young teenaged immigrant to a successful business owner, George is just one story of success in America.