Remembering Our
Danube Swabian Ancestors

Donauschwaben Villages

"Helping Hands"

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world.
In fact, it is the only thing that ever has." ~Margaret Mead


Michael P."Mike"

Virginia, USA

Generously provided the
"DVHH Project"
internet presence




"Slow in, fast out"

Mover & Shaker
Interview by Rose Mary Keller Hughes
Published at 22 Oct 2005 by Jody McKim Pharr

Our latest Mover and Shaker is someone who has really given enormous help in the creation of the DVHH site. Jody has often spoken about his generous help and his computer expertise. So, let me introduce you to Mike O’Brien . . a Donauschwaben with an Irish name... faith, begorrah & goulash!

Hi Mike, the listers are all interested in learning more about you.  So, why don't you tell us something about yourself... where you were born, your school, your family, and anything else that you’d want to share... 

I was born in the early 60’s in New Jersey, but grew up in Carroll County, Maryland. My father was one of the early Data Processing professionals who worked with computers from the early 60s. I knew at the age of six that I wanted to work with computers when I grew up. My first computer was a Sinclair ZX-80, a predecessor to the IBM PC that helped spawn the whole home computer revolution. 

Today I live in northern Virginia with my wife and the four youngest of my five children (my oldest son is 23 & on his own).  I have a 14-year-old daughter, Megan, and sons Garrett (10), Colin (5), and Aidan (3). (I insisted we choose Irish first names for all our kids). Garrett is in Cub Scout Pack 962, where I am the Committee Chair and Assistant Webelos Den Leader. I also have a rare 1996 Mystic Cobra that Garrett, Colin, and I like to take to local car shows and cruises. 

What got you started in doing genealogical research? 

My grandmother often said that if I came across a Milleker anywhere that we were related. I made a few false starts over the years at doing genealogical research, but only really got traction in June of 2000, when I found that a wealth of genealogical information was available on the Internet. Of my four grandparents (Milleker, Schuman, Maraggia, and O'Brien) I decided to research the Millekers first.

Have you been successful in your research?  Have you hit brick walls? 

My biggest challenge was that no one living had any idea where we were from or how we got here. For some reason this was not passed down to my great-grandparent's children. However, my mother had her aunt's passenger document from the trip to America. From it we learned that she sailed aboard the S.S. Ultonia (later sunk by a German U-boat during WWII) in August of 1910. A very faint "T. Kutas" appeared on the form showing where she came from. It took several hours and lots of web searches to figure out that "T. Kutas" was Temes Kutas, or Kudritz. That was a major breakthrough. 

In the following months I learned a lot about our ancestry. The first surprise was that we were not Hungarian, nor were we "from near Budapest," as my grandmother understood. Through contacts I met via the Internet and using new tools such as the Ellis Island database I was able to find when and how my great-grandparents arrived in America and trace their ancestry back to the late 17th century (Millekers settled in Kudritz with the first wave of German settlers and remained there through WWII). I was also able to find a number of Millekers worldwide and determine how I was related to them. My "strays" list has only a few names on of living Millekers whom I have not tracked down. I found Millekers in five countries and know how I'm related to each and every one. 

Do you use software for recording your family-if so, which one?

I use The Master Genealogist to manage my genealogical data. I found it scales better and has more features and flexibility than Family Tree Maker (though it is also far more complex). 

All of us who have done family research come away with a feeling of awe over what our forefathers experienced.  Who of all your ancestors has made the biggest impression on you? 

My Milleker great-grandparents have made the biggest impression on me. Although all of my ancestors were poor immigrants when they arrived, I have the best sense of who Johann and Katarina Milleker were. They had three of their 10 children (three died shortly after birth) in Kudritz.  John was a barber, and so (I assume) not well off.  And yet with three young children, John left Kudritz in 1907, by himself, to make a home in America for his young family. After Katharine and the three oldest children joined John in 1910, they settled in Baltimore.  John worked for a local hotel as a barber until Katherine had a barbershop built in the front of their small house as a surprise gift to him some years later. During the summers they would travel to Maryland's Eastern Shore, where Katherine would work in the canneries while the oldest child took care of the other kids. These were hard-working poor people who left their ancestral home behind in a bid to make a better life for themselves and their children. 

John and Katherine died two days apart in September 1941.  John had been hospitalized for a heart problem. Katherine died at the hospital while visiting him. He followed shortly after. To this day the children (now in their 70s and 80s) who were there, vividly recall the double funeral. 

Do you have an ancestral hero or heroine?  If so, what has made that person so special?

I'd have to say my great-great grandmother, Isabell (Griffin) O'Brien. She came to Boston from Prince Edward Island in the 1870s to live with her sister and brother-in-law. She met Thomas Joseph O'Brien when he responded to a Boston Herald ad for an apprentice blacksmith in her brother-in-law's shop. They soon married in the Fitzgerald house on Nehoiden St. (still owned by the family). Isabell was a tough lady, and mentally sharp right up until her death at 108 in 1968.  

What has been your most remarkable find in your roots research?

My most remarkable discovery would have to be the history of Kudritz. It's so small that finding information has been a challenge.  

Has your world opened in that you have found living relatives you didn’t know existed?

I've found a large number of relatives I didn't know existed. I'm in touch on a regular basis with distant cousins in Germany, Canada, and the US. I've met my 5th cousin once-removed, whose family moved from Kudritz to Werschetz in the early 19th century, in Washington DC for dinner. He was here for an Economics seminar - he's an analyst for Deutsche Bank. 

Have you had an opportunity to visit your Donauschwaben Village? 

I haven't had the opportunity to visit Kudritz, but hope to some day. 

Do you have a motto you live by? Will you share it with us?

Slow in, fast out. This is a road-racing tenet that you maximize your overall speed through a turn by entering slowly, allowing for a faster exit speed. A cautious (slow) entry enables the driver to maintain a better balance between speed and control, allowing him to choose the fastest line through the turn and get back onto the throttle earlier for a faster exit.  

This parallels many things in life: approach challenges balancing an appropriate amount of caution with determination and action to get you through the challenge and positioned well for the next. In both road racing and life,too little caution can result in an "off-track" adventure;too much caution can result in lost opportunities. 

Are there sites or references that have been helpful and that you feel would be of benefit to the DVHH members?

None that are not already linked. [Be sure to visit Mike's site.] 

If you were confined to only one tip you might give a fellow researcher, what would it be?

Take great care in documenting and verifying sources. The quality of your research is largely dependent on this task. 

How did you get into web design?  Did you learn it all on your own? 

I've been using, building, and programming computers since the late 70s.  Ninety-nine percent of what I know/do was self-taught.  [Interviewer:  Wow!] 

Web development has interested me since my first encounter with the World-Wide Web in 1996 (there were no graphics then!). I recognized the value of the Internet early on, and made a couple of stabs at creating interesting and valuable web sites over the past several years. Genealogy and the Internet gave what I was looking for. Since then I have gone on to create web sites for small businesses and clubs (Cub Scouts, car clubs, etc). 

Thanks Mike! It's been great getting to know you and you've affirmed what we always thought-you're a great guy!

Mike is the Village Coordinator for Kudritz and maintains a hefty family genealogy site - Outside of his large family, career, web design service and the DVHH, Mike is also the Chapter Director & Webmaster for a [SVTOA] The Special Vehicle Team Owners Association... [muscle cars] - I'd say he's like the muscle behind the DVHH.

Mike & the DVHH ...

How did Mike come to be a part of the DVHH?  The project proposal was sent out to about 20 people, one of them forwarded it to Mike. Late one evening he emailed me and volunteered to provide the DVHH web space for the project to have a place on the www. He was a God Send. So Mike has been a part of the dvhh since the beginning. I am sure he had no idea what he was getting into at the time, especially since none of the project associates had web design experience. I was determined to do this and he patiently provided instructions and with his help, it wasn't long before I had the hang of publishing. 

Mike, being a part of the initial core group, was instrumental in the start up of the web site.  I remember him saying "'keep it simple," - "less graphics," etc.  After my many alterations in the site's appearance, I finally came to know what he meant by that, less is more, more or less.  Many times I still consult with Mike on technical issues and he is always available.  I can say without a doubt, I don't know how we would have managed without him. Mike spent endless hours designing the initial DVHH Village Index we formerly utilized.

DVHH Project Web Space was generously provided by Mike from 2003 to late 2007. 

 . . . Jody McKim, 22 Oct 2005

Thank you Mike for your contributions to the DS community and the DVHH Project! family tree site

[Published at 22 Oct 2005]
DVHH-L Announcement:

[Published at 30 Sep 2020 by Jody McKim Pharr]

Last updated: 31 Oct 2020