Danube Swabian Community
ďNever 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

Villages Helping Hands

Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors


 Mover & Shaker

Beth Tolfree

by Rose Mary Keller Hughes, DVHH Correspondent, 02 Jan 2008.
Published 09 Feb 2008 at DVHH.org by Jody McKim Pharr.


Dobro Jutro or "good morning!"  (Be sure to pronounce the 'j' as a 'y').  That is how we were greeted when Beth Tolfree returned from her trip to Croatia, Montenegro, Albania and Greece.  She told us about seeing beautiful countries and archeological sites, meeting some locals, eating some good food, experiencing drastic weather changes, and learning some political lessons as well.  It wasnít a surprise to see her trip report posted to the DVHH list, for she is a sharer.  Beth serves us in a variety of ways:  she is the Secretary of the DVHH Board of Directors, is on the Volunteer Support Committee, shares coordinating duties with Ron Gretz for the village of Abthausen/Apatin, and does lookups.  She is always willing to help a newbie and has a lot of interesting things to share with all of us.  So, meet Beth Tolfree . . . it was enjoyable doing the interview . . . you are sure to like her even more when you read her responses . . . 

Tell us about yourself, where you were born, your schooling, work, family.

I was born in Saginaw, Michigan, which is where my grandparents settled when they came to America.  I actually grew up in Beloit, Wisconsin and later moved to California.  Iíve had two years of college and have worked as an Administrative Assistant, but Iíve been a hausfrau for quite a while now. 

Chuck and I met when we both worked in a downtown Los Angeles bank and we have one daughter, Laura who is married to Larry.  They have two daughters and four grandchildren who are a delight.  We also have Angelo, our wire fox terrier.  Angelo has some grandchildren, too. 

Do you have any hobbies, Beth?

My primary hobby is genealogy, which has pushed everything else into the background; my other interests are travel, miniatures, reading, stitchery, oil painting, classical guitar, and collecting. 
(See Beth's miniatures)

It doesnít seem possible, what with your DVHH participation and your hobbies, but do you do any volunteer work?

Iíve also done a bit of volunteer work with nonprofit organizations such as the Arthritis Association of Kern County and the Child Guidance Guild, where I served several terms on their Executive Board; Iím also very active in my church. 

What got you started in doing genealogical research?

After years and years of wondering about family, I actively began asking questions of older relatives whenever I could.  My big break came when my Aunt Helen shared her childhood memories.  She also told me what she knew about her parents. 

Have you been successful in your research?

Yes, far more than I ever dreamed I would be. Armed with the village name Apatin, I searched for my grandparents in the Apatin church records at the local FHC and found my great-grandparents, too.  

Who or what has been most helpful in your research?

The DVHH without a doubt!  Finding the DVHH was the beginning of my education, not only about my family, but about the Donauschwaben a word Iíd never heard before then.  DVHH volunteer Ron Gretz did a lookup on my family and the floodgates were opened. I can never adequately express my gratitude to the DVHH and Ron or to Josef P. Schwend.  Some of what Iíve found about my family can be seen on the DVHH Apatin Village website where Iím coordinator, thanks to Jody McKimís very persuasive abilities! 

Have you hit any brick walls?

Yes, a high one!  While my grandfather Podolskiís family shows up in Apatin records in 1817,  I believe they were there earlier, but I canít find their pre-Apatin origins.  One suggestion has been Silesia.  However, I simply donít have enough information to begin a search.   

Do you use software for recording your family history? 

Yes, I use FamilyTreeMaker. 

Tell us a little bit about the villages you have researched for your family history?

Most of my DS ancestors have deep Apatin roots; however, some early branches of my family had ties to the villages of Bacs Brestowatz and Filipowa. 

If you were to create a family crest, what would be in it?

Humorously:  a bowl of Goulash and a plate of Mushkazone!

Seriously: the Danube, a fishing boat and fish representing the profession shared by my grandfather, as well as his father and grandfather.  I would add a cross because of their deep religious faith. 

Interviewer:  howís this for your crest?

Have you been able to visit your ancestral village?

In 2004 we were able to visit Apatin.  And thanks to Hans Illik, the then-President of the Apatin HOG, and Boris Masic, President of the Apatin German Community, we packed a lot into our short visit.  A further description and pictures can be seen at www.dvhh.org/abthausen

Who of all your ancestors has made the biggest impression on you?  Why?

Perhaps my grandfather who had many difficulties in his life, including physical disabilities, but he worked very hard to provide for his family and still was able to bring joy to everyone with his music.  

What is your most remarkable find in your roots research?

That would be verifying a family story that an aunt and cousin had died in Titoís camps after WWII. That really brings it home! 

Has your world opened in that you have found living relatives you didnít know existed?

Well, Iíve certainly found some cousins I didnít know I had.  And whatís more Iíve met many wonderful DS descendants through the DVHH and through my village page.  Itís fun to be in active correspondence with fellow researchers in Germany, Hungary, Serbia and all across the U.S. and Canada. 

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

Talk to older family members, listen to their stories and make notes.  Ask questions! 

Do you have a motto about genealogical research? 

Genealogy is addictive.  Itís a bit like putting together a big jigsaw puzzle where you are looking for just the right piece to fit into and help complete the whole picture. 

Thank you so much, Beth!  Thank you as well for your active participation in the DVHHóitís people like you who make DVHH.org one of the very best research sites on the Internet.  We are proud to call you our DS cousin!

Crest design by Rose Mary Keller Hughes.

Beth & the DVHH ...

Beth is the DVHH Secretary, serves on the Volunteer Support Committee and is the Apatin Village Coordinator.  Beth initiated the first contact with Tom Thornton, which led up to our participation in the Landesverband der Donauschwaben, USA Tag der Donauschwaben USA & Kanada 2007, hosted by The Mansfield Liederkranz. Beth was a very good advocate for the DVHH and for our Donauschwaben heritage at the event.  Fortunately, she brought with her a large notebook filled with information about Apatin; and thankfully so, as she met many people who actually immigrated from that town.  She stayed on her toes during the entire two day event. Thank you Beth for all your hard work in making the debut of the DVHH a special event for us all to remember.

Thank you Beth for your contributions to the DS community and the DVHH Project!


Last Updated: 02 Mar 2019

Last Updated: 11 Feb 2020

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