ALBERT LEA, Minn. – It’s a tale of persistence and perseverance. Nearly 50 years ago, a local woman set out to uncover an old family mystery.
Pat Mulso spends her days surrounded by the past.
“My interest in history started just before my 12th birthday,” Muslo said.
As Executive Director of the Freeborn County Historical Museum, she’s an expert on the area. But it’s an unanswered question from her own history that’s sparked an insatiable curiosity. The mystery dates back to 1850, when her mother’s family immigrated from Germany.
“When they arrived in America, their youngest child was sick. His name was Gerhard. After ten days, they were given permission to leave the child in the care of a priest because they were Catholic, and travel on to their destination to get settled. Then the father was to come back after the child,” Muslo explained.
The family planted their roots in Ohio. But when the father went to get Gerhard, he was gone.
“They said that the priest had gotten called away .Not knowing how to reach them, or if something had happened to the family. He took the child with him. Period, end, no more story,” Mulso said.
That is until Mulso made it her mission to find Gerhard. And so began a search that spans nearly half a century.
“To do my research, I always looked for Gerhard Hartings. It’s not a real common name, so I thought maybe somehow I’d come across him in a census or in a church record or something,” said Mulso.
After decades of digging, still, no luck tracking down the elusive Gerhard. Until one day when Mulso came across a listing for a Gerhard Harting in the St. Louis area in 1880. More research was done, phone calls were made to living relatives, and after a couple of DNA tests, a match was found. It was the missing piece of a very complex puzzle.
“After 164 years, we have found our lost Gerhard,” Mulso said.
Solving this mystery of the past has given Mulso hope for the future.
“When I got the results, and I actually saw that we were a match, my heart just dropped. It was just before Mother’s Day, and I thought, what a Mother’s Day present it would be for that mother to know that we found her baby. Somehow I think she knows. She’s probably looking down over this family trying to piece all the pieces together. What a relief, and a wonderful feeling for our family,” Mulso said.
Earlier this summer Mulso got a chance to go out to the St. Louis area to meet Gerhard’s relatives at a family reunion.