30    Apr 20149 comments

Our Stories: Sailing ships, a printing empire and mysteries!

MyHeritage has some of the most fascinating members. We were delighted when we received the story of Anneliese Horst, 81, who was born in Chile and now lives in the US.

She has a law degree, a foreign language teaching certification, and teaches Spanish at Queens University (Charlotte, North Carolina, USA).

I was born in Santiago de Chile into a very large family; my parents were Mario Horst and Erna Pretzer. We spoke Spanish and German at home and went to school in Valdivia, Chile, a beautiful city in Chile’s Lake Region.

Mario, Anneliese & Erna Horst (born Pretzer) - 1935

I studied law in Santiago and, in 1961, spent a year in Bonn, Germany studying criminal law. In 1962, I married Ernst J. Foerster, moved to Lima, Perú, where our son Hans was born. In 1969, we moved to Mexico City, and a year later to St. Croix, US Virgin Islands where our daughter Andrea, was born.

The couple divorced in 1988 and a year later, she moved to North Carolina.

Anneliese has been interested in family research since childhood.

In 1929, Hans von der Au and Alexander Horst published a book about the Horst – Range Family in Germany. About 25 years ago, I started to expand the data from the book with stories, pictures, etc. Since the beginning of 2013, I've been using MyHeritage.com.

Horst Family home since 1680 - Borken in Hessen

She’s been to several Horst reunions in Germany, Chile and the US. In 1992, she did extensive research on her mother’s side, adding hundreds of names to her site and attended a Pretzer reunion in Ueckermünde, Pommern, Germany. Today, she has more than 3,000 names in her tree, hundreds of photos, stories, biographies, and small publications about my family - in three languages. And she spends many hours every week on the computer looking for more information about her ancestors.

There are so many fascinating things she has discovered about her ancestors, especially her paternal and maternal great-grandparents.

With the help of MyHeritage, I found the illegitimate descendants of Wilhelm Helfmann, who had 17 children with my great-grandmother Minna Reimers and then three children with their housekeeper Sara Silva.

Wilhelm Helfmann

Almost 100 years have passed since these children were born, the old-fashioned taboos are gone, we can now talk about it and I have taken the initiative to introduce them to the rest of the family. One of our younger family members (Omar Helfmann in Chile) has created a Facebook group called Familias Reimers y Helfmann, which has helped to add stories, pictures, etc.


Anneliese joined MyHeritage during Rootstech 2013 in Salt Lake City, Utah. She visited our booth several times, listened to the morning session and found it to be solid, clear and informative.

I like the fact that you can search and find other family members and accept Smart Matches from other MyHeritage members. Thanks to the site, I found Wilhelm (Guillermo) Helfmann’s other children and grandchildren.

She tells us that many younger family members are actively involved in researching their heritage.

We asked her if MyHeritage changed her relationships and communication with family members. She said that she has a strong relationship with the Horst, Pretzer, Nitsche, Liedtke, Helfmann family members and hopes to use the site to expand even more.

Today, there are more than 3,000 people on her tree, who live in Chile, Germany, USA, Peru, Mexico, China and Canada.

Has she had many Smart Matches?

Yes, many, from Germany, Chile and the USA! Andreas Sander, my ex-husband’s nephew, has been very interested in my family members, I have invited him to participate, there are also Horst and many Pretzers who have accepted my data.


Anneliese shared that she has discovered previously unknown family.

Yes, the descendants of my great grandfather Wilhelm (Guillermo) Helfmann with Sara Silva.

Yes, I talk on Skype with Enrique Soriano in Puerto Rico, and I communicate via Facebook with those who reside in Chile and Spain. It is still unreal for me that Enrique looks so much like my father!

Has her life changed after these discoveries?

It has been gratifying for me to bring people together. According to the “new” relatives I am the official family historian and they feel validated and excited about so much family!

In early March, I visited Santiago and met several of my great-grandfather's grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We had a small family reunion at Ernesto and Ana Karina Silva's home. It was lovely.

Enrique Soriano, Ernesto Silva, Omar Helfmann

Anneliese also shared some of the stories of her discoveries.

She says that there is a great fascination in learning about relatives who may have lived as far back as two or three centuries. She is fortunate, she says, that she speaks and reads German, Spanish, English and French, which allows her easy access to old documents.

All this makes family research so much easier for me. I will just refer to a few stories hoping they will be read by other MyHeritage members, helping me to unravel some real mysteries.

Additionally, in first grade, she began to read and write old German gothic script, which is notoriously difficult for most people who encounter it as adults!

Here are some of her discoveries:

Her great-grandfather Joseph Nitsche was an important beer brewer in Stettin, Germany (now Szczecin, Poland).

He is buried in the cemetery, which is among the most famous ones in Europe. Thanks to Google, I made contact with a man who collects beer memorabilia; he sent me many pictures, including the house where my great-grandparents lived. It is still there, I saw it on Google maps, and it looks exactly the same as the 1921 picture. I am still looking for the family of his daughter Emmi Nitsche who married Walter Wanninger.

Her great-great-grandfather Heinrich Reimers, was born in Flensburg, Germany and owned a three-masted sailing ship. He and his wife Dorothea Bode, born in Hamburg, sailed back and forth from Hamburg to Valparaíso, Chile, via Cape Horn, transporting cargo.

They had five daughters, the eldest was my great-grandmother Minna Reimers, born in Hamburg; the other children were born at sea! I admire Dorothea very much, and I am sure she has given me the stamina and determination to live a full and healthy life. Unfortunately I have not been able to find a picture of the ship, or more information about their travels. Every time I go to Chile, I visit her grave in Valparaíso! It sits high upon a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Heinrich and Dorothea rest in the Cementerio Disidentes, together with ocean travelers from England and Germany, who according to the laws of their time, could not be buried in a Catholic cemetery because they were Protestants.

Her great-grandfather Wilhelm Helfmann married Minna Reimers. He was born in Mariampol, Lithuania, moved to Koenigsberg, left Europe and settled in Valparaíso, Chile.

He was the founder of the largest printing company in South America. Together with his sons and grandsons, he built a printing and publishing empire. After bearing 17 children, his wife left him when he fathered three more children with the housekeeper!

Wilhelm’s background has many mysteries: Was his mother really Marie Wachoswky? Rumors are that his biological father was not a Helfmann, but Emmanuel Tartakower, born in Brody, Poland, who became his mentor and sent him to learn the printing trade in Koenigsberg, Germany. Wilhelm’s two oldest children, Guillermo and Minina Helfmann, did spend a year with the Tartakowers to “learn the simple life in a German household.” Unfortunately it has been most difficult to obtain any information about this family member in Lithuania or Poland.

The next puzzle is Carlos Helfmann, another son. According to family stories, he never married but had a sweetheart, whom we only knew as Marta O. Five years ago, I found his grave and, in 2010, another inscription for Marta Tupper Olivares. I found her name in MyHeritage, but still do not know why she is buried with my grand-uncle even though she married another man.

Anneliese shares these tips for beginning researchers:

  • Do not wait until your grandparents and parents are too old to remember or are gone from this earth to find out about their lives.
  • Show interest in finding out the meaning of your last name, which may reveal your origin. Look up the places where family members were born. You will discover not only something about your family, but about the places and historical times in which they lived.
  • Events like natural disasters, wars, famine and political turmoil may have been the reason for moving or settling somewhere else. I always try to imagine what happened to my family members when Napoleon invaded most of Europe, or people died from cholera or other horrible diseases. Why did your ancestors survive? What makes you strong?
  • Do share your family story. Genealogy is a never-ending process. You will continuously add new names and pictures and discover the richness of your family history.
  • Be cautious and hide stories that may hurt living family members. Keep things confidential, do not mistake family history research for a gossip column!

Did you enjoy Anneliese’s story? Let us know in the comments below.

Do you have your own story to share? Send it to stories@myheritage.com.

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Comments (9) Trackbacks (1)
  1. These is by now a life-long endevour by Anneliese, whom I had the privilege of meeting. She picked up where her father Mario left-off so the depth of her research is just overwhelming and a jewel for us who intend to keep adding to the legacy of her work.

    In 2012, along with two other relatives interested in family history, Macarena Rojas Gómez-Lobo and Miguel Feuereisen, Anneliese took us to the ancient cemetery where my great-great grandparents are buried in Valparaiso. Since then, many other relatives have joined in our effort of enriching our family history, helping us trace the routes set by our intrepid and adventurous ancestors.

    Cheers for Anneliese!
  2. Great story! You never know what you will discover but it is always fascinating.
  3. My last name is Horst...also from the Swiss German area...would like to see this family tree.
  4. Thank you to share your story, very interesting!

    I'll follow your advice because I just found out who was my father!
    I was born in 1944 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and was given up for adoption in 1945!

    I did a DNA test with Family Tree, that's how I found out the name of my father! His name was James Edward Madden from Toronto, Canada but who was born in Pennsylvania!
    I also have half sisters, half brothers, etc... I will meet them soon!
    I haven't found yet who was my mother but according to my matches that I received she must have been German, Polish, British ??? 'I'm not sure!
  5. What a great story....Good onya Anneliese....Then we have Heritage to make things happen.
  6. i loved it thanks fir thus
  7. Dear Anne Horst,
    Thanks for your comment. Our family does not come from the Swiss German area, but from Hesse. I know about the many Horst family members descendants from Barbara Horst. Keep in touch.
    Anneliese
  8. What a wonderful LEGACY you are leaving to all
    Thank you for your tireless work in bringing families together along with visuals and stories
  9. I really did enjoy reading New Letter News And My Heritage Thanks for sharing with me

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