Hiltrud Gaerdes Amsler was a naturalized American citizen. Originally from the North Sea coastal community of Esenshammer Reep, she had moved to Ollen (Oldenburg) at a young age and, later Bremerhaven to pursue employment to support her four younger siblings, including her crippled sister Hedwig.
Hiltrud had faithfully served the Niedermann family of Bremen; this was the famous family that owned the largest and most celebrated cigar company – as well as a bank and other business interests- in Havana, Cuba. The infirm elderly gentleman she cared for was the son of Maria Lucie (geb. Niedermann) Koch; the Niedermann daughter was, by all accounts, a difficult woman, and had married into a wealthy political family with a small fortune of its own. Not surprisingly, Maria’s sons had all gone on to become statesmen or businessmen primarily engaged in the import and export of tobacco products. The youngest son, Albert Koch, had helped run Niedermann import operations in Bremerhaven. Although vital in his youth, he became disabled in his later years, requiring full time assistance in the form of a private nurse. This is how Trudy came into the family fold; recommended highly for her work as a governess, she proved a loyal and loving nurse to the senior Herr Koch, who left her a grubstake in his will, much to her surprise. She and he had discussed traveling the globe; he had done much of it, she none. So it was that she came into a small amount of money to explore the New World. In 1892, she booked passage on The North German Lloyd steamer The Spree.