Family connects with German ancestors through movie

Posted November 20, 2013 at 2:06 pm

frisian tea 1-color.jpg


Beth Hunter speaks with the audience at Wayne Zion Lutheran Church Nov. 17 before showing the film, “Frisian Tea,” about the Freese family history. (Photos by Pete Temple)

frisian tea 2-color.jpg


Lillian Freese Rittmanic addresses the audience at the “Frisian Tea” event. Lillian, grandmother of Beth Hunter and a descendent of the Freese family in Germany, grew up in Monticello.


By Pete Temple, Express Sports Editor

Calling it “the coolest way to travel,” Beth Hunter recounted her ancestry trip to Germany by showing “Frisian Tea,” a film produced by Beth and her husband Jake Hunter.

The film was shown Sunday, Nov. 17 at Wayne Zion Lutheran Church in rural Monticello. It took the audience on a journey through Ostfriesland, North Germany, as Hunter visited relatives from the Freese family, of which she is part.

Also in attendance was Lillian Freese Rittmanic, Beth’s grandmother, who grew up in Monticello and spoke briefly with the audience before the film began.

“This is us,” Rittmanic said, referring to the connection between the German ancestors and many of those seated in Wayne Zion’s Fellowship Hall. “This is who we are.”

Beth told the story of visiting Germany for the wedding of her sister Hannah and Max Moore, a German native, in July 2012.

“My secret desire was that I would get to meet up with one of these ancestors that I had done so much research on,” Beth said during a portion of the film.

The Hunters, who live in Bakersfield, Calif., went back to Germany in November 2012 and were able to meet with Gerhard Freese. Lillian and Gerhard had grandfathers who were brothers.

“He had spent the last 20 years researching the family line that I had been very interested in,” Beth said of Gerhard.

In the movie, Gerhard graciously takes Beth around to houses where her ancestors once lived, churches they attended, and graveyards where some of them are buried, with Jake doing the filming.

Beth visited a home where three family members lived before migrating to the U.S. One of them, Heinrich Freese, was just 16 years old when he made the journey.

She is also shown meeting Gerhard’s aunt, Tine Freese, who is 93. Tine is the daughter of one of the three siblings who stayed in Germany while their siblings immigrated.

“They were wonderful people with strong characteristics that they gave to us, and we gave to our children,” Lillian said. “And our children are the same as these wonderful, hard-working, righteous people who immigrated to the United States.”

Before showing the movie, Beth read off a list of the names that were connected to that area of Germany, and asked members of the audience to raise their hands if they were part of each particular family line.

Beth also encouraged young people to record stories told by their grandparents and other relatives.

“Our stories are the most important thing. Because of stories, we understand what our predecessors were,” Beth said. “If we can get their stories, we can capture things that will make our lives better.”

Interviewed later, Beth gave credit to Sharon Kromminga and Lena Dirks of Monticello, whose Freese Family History book provided information and was the inspiration for the movie project. Pauline Antons orchestrated the event and served as moderator.

The film was also shown at Pennington Square Assisted Living Nov. 18. It will be shown at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church Saturday, Nov. 23 at 10 a.m.