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We have searched for information about my Great Grandfather William Conrad Glaum (1850-1929) several times over the last 25 years or so.  My parents started the search when they bought one of the first Apple computers and started playing with a family tree program that came with the computer.  Each time I tried to track down W. C. Glaum’s origins I hit a brick wall and could gain no further information.  All we knew was that everyone thought that he was from Berlin.  Compounding the hurdles of the passage of time and the difficulty of finding and procuring information from the city of Chicago, we soon found that my Grandfather had had some sort of falling out with the rest of his family effectively isolating us from the rest of family.

After a 25th anniversary trip to Ireland my wife and I decided to try again.  Over these last 25 years we have become fairly computer literate so I bought my wife a family history program for her birthday and set to adding all the information we had gathered.

We made many trips to the local LDS Family History Library and made some wonderful breakthroughs in searching for my wife’s Irish side as well as the German side of her family.  We also started searching the Internet for everything we could find.  As our search progressed it became increasingly clear that, if we were going to get much further in our search, we would have to publish our family tree on the internet and hope to attract a distant or lost relative that could provide some further information along the way.

We decided to post our tree to Ancestry.com thinking that a free search service would generate more “hits” and might provide more useable leads.  We posted the tree and then waited … and waited.  Happily, since posting the tree, we have been contacted by many people and found some leads for the other sides of the family but unfortunately nothing about W. C. Glaum for a long time.

I contented myself with the knowledge that we were making headway on the tree in general and I kept myself busy tracking ever person with the name Glaum I found on this side of the globe as unrelated individuals in the tree.  Thankfully it is not a common name so there were not too many dead ends to content with.  This has become somewhat of an addiction with me and has now grown to include Glaum families in England, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.  You will find the fruits of my labors displayed on the other pages of this website.   Tracking these other lines became invaluable in ascertaining the origins of the name and pinpointing the area in Germany most likely to be the homeland or “Heimat” of the far-flung Glaum family.

In the middle of the summer of 2002 my luck changed drastically.  I received an email from a young lady who turned out to be one of my second cousins from a side of the Glaum family from which my grandfather had severed all ties.  As luck would have it, her Aunt was coming for a visit in a few weeks and she arranged a meeting.  I was amazed to find that this Aunt was actually a first cousin I never knew existed.  Again luck was with us because my cousin is the family historian from her side of the clan.  She even brought old letters and documents with her that were directly connected to W. C. Glaum and, as it turned out, his immediate family.

Over the next couple of days I sat in stunned disbelief and tried to understand every bit of information contained in this treasure trove of old documents.  We had always been told that W. C. had a brother, John W. Glaum, and that this brother was the father of Louise Glaum the silent movie actress.  This was a nice story to hear as a child but there was never any concrete proof other than the fact that my parents visited Louise on a trip to California early in their marriage and that Louise Glaum the actress once visited Chicago and gave Mary Louise Glaum, my aunt, a doll dressed in an outfit fashioned after a costume from one of her films.  One piece of information provided by my newfound cousin intrigued me above all others.  It was an 1893 telegram from one Lizzie Glaum addressed to Conrad Glaum telling him “they would arrive at Union Station”.  The telegram had been sent from Indiana.  Could there also be a sister or more family members as well?

Through out our search we have run into oddities that we have filed away as possible hits and things to research further at a later date.  One of these oddities was an 1880 Census record gleaned from an Ancestry.com subscription from Maryland for a John and Elizabeth Gloom living with a George Ruland and his wife Christina.  My last name has always been butchered when it comes to spelling as well as pronunciation, consequently I have always searched on many different spellings.  Among my new treasures was a letter written to my grandfather from his “Uncle John Glaum”.  This letter was post marked from the same town in Maryland from which I found the Census record for John and Elizabeth Gloom.  We spent the rest of the year tracking down the other leads and firming up the information we already knew.  But still there was no mention of a birthplace in Germany.    

Through my searches into the other branches of the Glaum family I have discovered that the last name of Glaum originates in the area of Germany called Hessen in an area just north of the large city of Frankfurt am Main.  With this new information on W.C.’s immediate family, we renewed our search of German birth records.  Armed with maps of the area we looked over LDS micro films from every Hessen town we could find.  Oddly enough there seemed to be a hole in the information available.  There was a small area around the present city of Butzbach for which there was no information available on microfilm from the LDS library.  Our only option was to call the LDS library in Salt Lake City and see if anyone could provide further information.  We called on a Saturday and connected with a very helpful young man who found out that the churches in that area would not allow microfilming of their archives.  Another brick wall        

There was nothing left to do but go back to the internet and start searching for links to the towns near Frankfurt and hope for another breakthrough.  Just before Easter 2003 luck paid us another amazing visit.  A man in Ebersgöns, Germany had just posted a personal website that covered among other things his town’s history and his love for a vary large breed of dog.  There on the town’s history page were multiple references to the Glaum name.  After my wife pulled me off the ceiling I emailed the gentleman and prayed for a reply.

My luck held and I didn’t have to wait long.  Through my terrible German and his rusty but much better command of English we were able to communicate.  It turns out that this gentleman had collaborated on a book called The “Dorfbuch” or town book detailing the town’s 800 year history.  The Dorfbuch also addressed emigration from the town and surrounding area in the 1800’s.  My new friend sent me electronic copies of every page from his book with a reference to the Glaum name.  Included in this monumental compilation was a page with a picture taken at the Chicago World’s fair of a lovely young woman and a photo, good enough to read, of a letter she sent home to the remaining family in Ebersgöns.  The young lady was listed as Elizabeth Glaum. 

In the letter (sent to the family who owned the Gasthaus pictured above) she describes life in Maryland with her brother John and a trip to Chicago to see her elder brother Conrad and a trip to the Chicago World’s Fair.  The opening year of the Columbian Exposition was 1893, the same year as the telegram .  I am not often struck speechless but I was then and still am when I think about it.  This wonderful gentleman made an appointment with the minister to view and photograph some pages in the Church Book (Kirche Buch) in an effort to find further proof of the birthplace of my Great Grandfather William Conrad Glaum.  Church books are records of births, marriages, and deaths with the church’s family in the small towns as well as cities in Germany before a central government took over that task. 

From here on luck had nothing to do with what followed. W.C. Glaum was born Conrad Glaum the first of four surviving siblings; John W., Catherine Elizabeth, and Catherine. We have discovered much about the family in this journey. Other letters and pictures where sent back from Maryland to Ebersgöns and still exist, I am very happy and proud to say that I now have some of them. We have learned that the family came over to the US in waves. Johannes came first to Baltimore in 1860. We expect he came first to prepare a place for the rest of the family to live. Johannes’ wife Christina Wilhelm Glaum came over next in 1864 after some unusual happenings that still require further research for clear understanding. Next to come over was my Great Grandfather Conrad Glaum in November of 1865 following the end of the Civil War. Finally the remaining three children came over on their own led by the eldest sister Catherine Elizabeth (who was deaf from a childhood illness) in 1869. Somehow the family ended up living and owning land in central Indiana in 1870. Unhappily Johannes died in Indiana a few short years after buying the land and starting to build a house. After Johannes’ death, Christina traveled to Chicago to be with her oldest son, Conrad.  She ultimately married a fellow named Georg Ruland and moved to Maryland with Elizabeth and John in tow. Elizabeth died in 1898 of TB after inheriting the Maryland farm. John returned to Ebersgöns after his father’s death to be confirmed in the town church. He returned to the US and lived for more than two decades in Maryland with the rest of the family. John ultimately ended up in California with his wife and children in the early 1900’s.  His daughter Louise Glaum became a famous silent movie actress.  Catherine, the youngest sister, remained in Indiana.  She converted and became a nun after her father’s death. Among my files I had also saved an obscure 1880 Census reference to Sister “Josopha” Glaum who was teaching in a convent school in southern Indiana. See, never disregard any information you find, you never know when it will provide the clue you need to move forward!

After so many brick walls information continues to present itself. Shortly after these revelations my wife and I visited Ebersgöns and were treated as long lost family by everyone we met. I’ve met distant cousins both in Germany and also some now living here in the United States. Unbelievably, but most welcome, that wonderfully helpful man in Ebersgöns with the personal website turned out to be distant cousin!  I was constantly amazed and heartened by the generosity and warmth of the people of that wonderful town. We were also able to visit Mehren, Germany, the town where my wife’s ancestors came from. Later in that year we visited the Sisters of Providence convent in southern Indiana where my Great Grand Aunt Catherine retired. We were presented with a short autobiography written by Sister Josepha before her death. This short memoir filled in a lot of missing information about my family’s early years in the United States and the reasons for the original immigration.

Most recently I have been contacted by another very distant relative from Germany with information about my Great Grandmother Christine Wilhelm Glaum’s trials and tribulations in Germany after her husband left for the US to prepare for the family’s final immigration. Along with this revelation he also directed me to passenger information for the family on a website that I had never known about before that is a wealth of information for anyone searching for immigrants - Castle Garden - http://www.castlegarden.org.

We started this process looking for Irish ancestors because we love traditional Irish music.  In the process I have gained the knowledge of many generations back in this wonderful little farming town in the heart of Hessen.  We have met so many wonderful people along the way that were more than willing to go out of their way to help find the answers we were seeking.  We have been reconnected with family all over the world and have been able to pass on the information we have gathered to other branches of the various families.  All this has been possible because of the Internet, the wide range of information available, a willingness to try multiple avenues and more than a little bit of luck.