Langdon Long Ago

Stremick Spelling

Last week’s column included Stremich descendants looking for possible relatives in Langdon or Walhalla where the name is currently spelled Stremick.  More information came by email along with questions on why the spelling of the name had changed.  There could be many answers and all might possibly be right and possibly wrong, but here are a few to think about.  Both the immigrants themselves and the people they dealt with as immigration officials or court ouse clerks tended to write down names as they sounded.  Sometimes this shortened the name or changed it entirely.  Sometimes brothers would choose a different spelling to avoid getting mail mixed up.  Every case of name changes could be different. The Stremich family immigrated with other families from an area that had been Austria, Poland, Prussia and sometimes claimed by Russia and other neighboring countries.  As a result, they might have spoken Polish, one of several German dialects, Russian or even Ukranian.

Some of the settlers coming to our area spoke a mixture of those languages but rarely spoke or read English.  If asked to fill out paperwork, they would find someone who had been in this country awhile who would go in with them and interpret, if necessary.  If the town or village they came from had generally used a German dialect, they had to deal with the German alphabet which had had sound-alike letters:  f and v, b and p, s and z, and sometimes i, y and j were used interchangeably;  “ch” and “ck” sounded alike then and still do today.  Double vowel sounds could be indicated by an umlaut over the center vowel—a situation difficult to illustrate when using an American keyboard.  Just over the line into Russian territory a different alphabet was used.

New citizens who understood a signature was needed would write their name using the characters or alphabet of their native land.  Some learned English as a second language and in doing so changed their surname—Villeneuve became Newton (short for new town).  Many original documents are signed with an “X”, and when you study that document you will find a second signature by someone else, maybe a relative or neighbor, who signs that the one writing the X is the person they claim to be.

When a new person asks for help in locating information about ancestors who settled here, I usually suggest they might want to order naturalization papers available from the State Historical Society of North Dakota ($5 per name if that archive has their paperwork in their archives).  That was the first suggestion to the Stremich researcher and told her to not give up if Adam Stremich did not appear as he might have used another surname spelling and listed the ones that appeared in last week’s column. Her response indicated that might be too difficult, so I typed in the coordinates for that information and in the space of about two minutes had found 11 naturalization listings for people named Stremich, none for the Stremick spelling, and none for other variations of the name.  At the top of the list was her grandfather, farther down two of his brothers and all the others appear to be Stremich settlers who today are buried in Calvary Cemetery at Langdon. All eleven listings for that surname were for men who would be considered the head of the household.  Wives and children were covered under his citizenship unless they wished to file for a homestead of their own. Paperwork filed before 1906 often included only relinquishing citizenship under the ruler of the country where they had been born. After 1906 more information is included such as: the name of their parents, where they had been born, name of wife and children, ship they sailed on or name of the rail line, who met them at the border, and even sometimes height and color of eyes.  All of this is vital information of interest to descendants.

Another mention in her note was that she had a cousin who knew of genealogy going back to the 1700s on her family.  She did not give the name of that genealogy, and today it is probably available (at a price) on or maybe the World Family Tree.  However, a document which Doug Stremick in Iowa had received from Poland arrived to my computer in late 2003 from Andrzej Delwo in Poland.  It was many pages long, and the family names included were familiar, but some descendants were not interested.  Local people told me their computers did not have enough memory for a large file, and they would not be able to read Polish.  The file is in English, and while the computer is long gone, I am sure paper copies do exist in Cavalier County.  The file name is Ludwig Delwo family, and it contains research done by Margaret Kertz in Langdon, Richardiena Delvo in Canada, Andrzej Delwo in Poland and possibly others Doug had worked with 20 or more years ago.  Family names included with North Dakota ties are Delvo, Mann, Stremich, Stromich, Howitz, Kram, Kramer, Regner, Liebersback, Gellner, Lorenz, Realling, Wilhelmi, Wohn/Wahn, and many others including some names with so many end of the alphabet letters I could never pronounce or spell them.  The format may be the standard Family Tree software used by various genealogy websites.  About nine generations are identified, and the pages are a work in progress.  It is not complete, and there are some spelling variations such as listing older residents as living at Eastby, USA or giving towns that may be in Europe or Canada but not easily recognizable.  Yes, several current residents of Cavalier County might find their names in the pages.

The Chart of Elements

It is relatively easy to forget high school happenings when a lot of years have passed, and the memory of certain events was not exactly a high point of your education.  Chemistry class was one of the less interesting aspects of my own 12 years in the Langdon Public School.  I suspect I was assigned to that class because you needed a certain amount of science credits to graduate.  The classroom was large to accommodate about 50 or more of my classmates and located on the second floor of the old high school on the west side of the building.  On the south side of the building was the large Assembly Room and at its westernmost edge (across from the chemistry classroom) was a long, fairly narrow room called “The Lab”.  I saw it only once.

Books, if any, were rented from the school so there is no memory of any lessons we may have covered.  There was a lab fee, and once or twice a week the students were to work in the lab.  We were assigned a lab partner ,and the first day of work in the lab we had a little lamp like burner and a dish to put chemicals in to heat them.  My lab partner lit the little stove, put whatever we had been given into the dish, and set it on top.  There was a very bad odor, quite a lot of commotion, and my partner was said to have been taken to the hospital.  Yes, he recovered but he and I were told we were barred from setting foot in the chemistry lab again.  When our classmates went to the lab we were to sit in the large classroom and memorize a big chart on the south wall of that room.  I read novels, and my lab partner took naps.  There is no memory that we ever had a test on the chart, but there was not much else to look at in the room, so we looked at it from time to time and in later years both of us had reason to remember some of the words on that chart.  I went to work for the Bureau of Reclamation and was, at times, assigned to the Geology Department where the reports were written in the same code as the chart.  My lab partner would spend many years in the oil fields, and fifty years later conversations on fracking, sideways drilling and so on sounded like they came from that same code.

The United Nations has proclaimed the year 2019 as the 150th celebration of a standard chart of elements said to hang in the front of every Chemistry classroom in the United States, Canada, Europe and, I expect, around the world.  Science channels either have, or shortly will produce, documentaries on this chart, its origin and the people who brought it into existence.  Last week the CBC station from Winnipeg aired one of these documentaries with trivia, facts and music.  If you did not hear or see it, I am sure it will be on again and again.  Or maybe you will be treated to another version of a story which apparently comes in a variety of versions.

This is, of course, the Periodic Chart of the Elements that make up our world and possibly the universe.  Some of the elements have been known for many centuries: gold, silver, iron and others.  I have a vague memory that there may have been 92 elements when we were given this assignment.  Depending on the source you consult today you may find 114, 115 or even more listed.  Down through the years scientists around the world have made many contributions to discover the elements.

The CBC production, which might have originated in England, begins with the work of Dmitri Mendeleev, a Russian chemist who designed the first chart in 1869.  His work was very similar to that done by a German scientist who had published a book on the topic the year before, but they had not worked together.  The book explained the elements, and the chart organized them in a way they could be studied.  Mendeleev used their chemical weight for his organization of the elements.  The lightest was hydrogen and assigned the number 1.  Uranium was the heaviest.  As they worked with the known elements, it appeared each had a tone, and each tone was different.  Some were located that worked well with others such as Hydrogen and Oxygen which combined to make water.  Others worked in threes, and they called these triads.  The three tones from the same family appeared to sound like a chord on the piano.  There were groups of eight that were called octaves (also like the piano).

When Mendeleev went to align the elements his chart had spaces much like a tone missing or a note that could not be found for the chord or octave.  Over the years new elements have been found that fit in those spots.  Marie Curie and her husband worked with the elements, and there is one named for them.  Number 101 is named for Mendeleev, and others are for earlier scientists who contributed to their discovery.  The element names are now found in most states as the names of towns where deposits were located.  In Colorado we had Leadville, Marble, Golden, Silver City, and places associated with Bauxite, Uranium, Molybdenum and others.

Modern charts are not necessarily the one page of yellow, gray or blue squares with a one or two letter name identification.  Some are in 3-D format, some in a spiral and others circular like maps of the solar system.  If you get a chance watch or listen to the musical documentary – it’s a fun way to do chemistry.