Challenge – William Althauser (1846-1922)

Genealogy comes with many challenges, doesn’t it? There are research challenges like burned courthouse, ancestors dying intestate, reading particularly bad handwriting, and financing research trips, just to name of few. Then there are challenges that our ancestors faced like immigration, deaths of spouses and children, and war.

Another challenge that comes with the territory is reconciling family stories, newspaper reports, and other second hand information with historic documents like baptisms, immigration records, and death certificates. I came across this situation a couple of years ago when I first began to seriously research my German Althauser ancestors. I know that I have mentioned in other posts how much I love researching my German ancestry, particularly the Althausers, for a variety of reasons. At first, I think I was so drawn to them because they were such a mystery, and unlike most of my other ancestors, they immigrated in the 19th century (the majority of the others came in the 17th and 18th centuries).

This post covers multiple challenges: reconciling facts, researching in another country, and deciphering records in a foreign language. It also highlights the challenges faced by immigrants, especially since the immigrants highlighted here were a single mother and young children, none of whom spoke English.

Goodspeed’s History of Tennessee Article on William Althauser

When I began researching William, the only record I had was a short article written about William in Goodspeed’s History of Tennessee in the section on Robertson County. Goodspeed’s included a who’s who of each Tennessee County, so I was very fortunate to find William there. Here is the article:

William Althauser, foreman and book-keeper of a registered distillery, was born in 1847, in Baden, Germany, and is one of a family of five children born to Jacob and Anna (Krieg) Althauser. The father and mother were natives of Baden, Germany.

The father was a cooper by trade, and in connection did farming. He died about 1850. The mother was born in 1807, and came to North Carolina in 1852, locating in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she died in 1880.

The subject of this sketch was reared without a father’s care or training, being only three years old at his father’s death. He received his education in the schools of Cincinnati, Ohio. At the age of nineteen he commenced keeping books for S. N. Fowler, a distiller at Cincinnati, but after two years he engaged himself to Mr. Charles Nelson as book-keeper, and has proved so trusty and efficient that to compensate him for this he has been made foreman of the entire establishment, it being the largest distillery in the county.

September 25, 1873, he was married to Mary F. Swift, a native of Tennessee, born in 1847, and the daughter of Richard and Mary F. Swift. To Mr. and Mrs. Althauser have been born five children: Nathaniel L., Robert P., Anna M., William E. and James A. Garfield.

Mr. Althauser has control of the entire business, and looks carefully after the interests of his employer, and nothing is done unless under and by his personal supervision. He is a member of the German Lutheran Church, and his wife a member of the Baptist Church. In politics Mr. Althauser is a stanch Republican.

What a great starting point! At least I had some information about his background, parents names, and nativity as well as dates. What I was going to learn was that second hand information, especially when you don’t know where the information originated, is sometimes helpful but it can also be quite wrong.

1900 Census

I then turned to the census records. I knew to begin with the 1900 census because a.) he was alive and b.) that census year gives specific information about immigration. The 1900 census which listed William Althauser, his wife Mary, and their children William and James living in Robertson County, Tennessee. My family knew that he worked as the foreman for a large distillery in Robertson County, so in this case, the family story and his occupation on the census record aligned. In the census, William reported that he was born in Jan 1846 in Germany, both of his parents were born in Germany, and that he immigrated in 1851.

1900 census
1900 census

Goodspeed’s Article vs. 1900 Census Record

There are some major differences between the census and the article. When I first looked at these records, I assumed that William gave the information for both sources; now, I do not think this is correct.

Birth date: The article says 1847, and the census says January 1846. Not a very big difference, but a difference nonetheless.

Birth place: This wasn’t necessarily a difference, but the article narrowed the search to (what was at the time) the Grand Duchy of Baden rather than Germany as a whole.

Immigration: The census record gives his immigration year as 1851, but the article says his mother immigrated in 1852. I believe the article implies that William immigrated with his mother, but it is not very clear.

Death Certificate vs. Census vs. Article

My next step was to locate William Althauser’s death certificate. The Tennessee State Library and Archives has a list of early death certificates on the website, and not knowing exactly when William died, I checked each year until I found him in 1922. I then scrolled through the microfilm at the Archives until I found his death certificate. His son, Nathaniel, was the informant.

William Althauser’s death certificate

The death certificate gave me new information that I now had to compare with everything else I knew:

Birth date: Given as 25 January 1846, which matches the census record. So, here, the article in Goodspeed’s was likely incorrect.

Birth place: Given as Baden, Germany, which matched the Goodspeed’s article and was consistent with the census record.

Father: Nathaniel apparently did not know or could not remember the name of William’s father. According to the article, the father died in Germany when William was very small, so perhaps William did not speak very much about his father. Or perhaps Nathaniel wasn’t paying attention. The only name I had was Jacob from the article.

Mother: Nathaniel named Mary Krieg as William’s mother. This is different from the article, which states his mother was Anna Krieg. Luckily, the surnames matched, so I hoped that the surname was correct.

Passenger Lists vs. Death Certificate, Census, and Article

My next challenge was to find the immigration record. I was very worried about finding the passenger list because the earlier the passage, the harder it can be to find.

I knew that William came from Germany, he arrived in 1851 or 1852, he was likely traveling with his mother and some of his siblings, and that his mother was either Mary or Anna. The article stated she entered the country through North Carolina, which sounded odd to me, but I checked all passenger lists coming into New York, New Orleans, Massachusetts, Baltimore, and Philadelphia.

Finally, I found a passenger group that seemed to best match my William and Mary/Anna.

Althauser family on the Helvetia manifest.

Immigration date: Ship Helvetia arrived in New York City harbor on 28 November 1853. 1853 is different than both 1851 and 1852, but it is close.

Immigration place: New York City, not North Carolina as stated in the article.

Place of origin: Baden, Germany, which is consistent with the census, article, and death certificate.

Mother: William’s mother’s first name is Anna, not Mary.

Mother’s age: Given as 44, which meant she was born about 1809. This is two years difference from the birth year given in the article.

William’s name and age: His name is actually Wilhelm in German, which is never referred to in documents created in America. He is 7 years old, which is consistent with the 1846 birth year.

Siblings: Here was another challenge. I couldn’t read several of William’s siblings’ names! I could read Anna, Pauline, and Wilhelm, but I struggled with his brothers’ names for a while. I later determined that the captain had written their names as Andre, Jacob, and Johann. However, their were five people who looked like they were Anna’s children, which was consistent with the article.

Naturalization Documents

For several years, I was stuck at this place. I knew when William immigrated, his mother’s name, his siblings’ names, and I found him living in Cincinnati in 1860 and 1870, before he moved to Tennessee. However, I was no closer to finding out more about William’s early life and his ancestry. It makes it quite difficult when you don’t know the hometown of the immigrant.

But, after some research, I finally located William’s naturalization documents! I was beside myself with happiness because not only did they tell me where William was born, but it included his personal statement. William stated that he believed he was naturalized because he entered the U.S. as a small child. I was incredibly fortunate that William was under the impression that he was naturalized because if he had realized his mistake earlier, the documents might not have been as detailed.

William Althauser naturalization application

Birth date: Given as 25 January 1846. Consistent with the death certificate, census record, and passenger list. At this point, I assumed the birth date was correct.

Birth place: Given as Opfingen, a small town in the Grand Duchy of Baden. This little bit of information sent my research in a very specific direction. Baden was also consistent with the passenger list, death certificate, article, and census record. This was also the piece of information I was most hoping to find!

Father: No name given, but he stated that his father died when he was three or four years old in Germany. His death in the Goodspeed’s article was given as 1850, and if William was three or four when his father died, this would be consistent.

Mother: No name given, but he stated that she, himself, and his siblings immigrated in 1853 and arrived in New York City. This is all consistent with the passenger list and the Goodspeed’s article.

Requesting Records from Germany

Here was a brand new challenge for me: ordering records from Germany. Doing some initial research, I learned that in some German states, including Baden, citizens who wished to immigrate had to apply for permission. I hoped that the Althausers applied and that the documents had survived. The local archives is the Landesarchiv Baden-Wurttemburg, and the website included some of the larger record groups for each small community. To my surprise, the permission to immigrate records were listed by each individual. It is actually quite fascinating. You can see all of the families who wanted to immigrate from that community during the 19th century. Here is the entry for the Althauser family:

It reads: Immigration of the widow of Jacob Althauser, Anna Althauser, born Krieg, with her children to North America to her siblings.

Names: Jacob and Anna Althauser. The names match the ones in the Goodspeed’s article as well as the name of the mother on the passenger list. Anna is called a widow and her birth name is Krieg, both of which are consistent with the article.

Immigration application year: 1853. This is consistent with the passenger list and William’s statement in his naturalization application.

I contacted the Archives and asked if they could supply me with copies of the permission to immigrate papers. They very graciously replied yes, and after I sent the fees, they sent me digitized copies of the records. I was very proud of myself for emailing them in German and deciphering the records request forms. I had no idea that the records would be so detailed and informative.

Translating the Documents

I now had the documents! But I couldn’t read anything. Although I have a minor in German, I can only read German written in modern day lettering. In the 19th century, German was written in Kurrent, and old style of lettering. Below is an example of the alphabet written in Kurrent.

As you can see, it is quite difficult to read, especially when the letters are written close together. Some letters are quite difficult to tell apart, particularly e, c, m, and n. My other issue was the fact that spelling could be a bit different in the 19th century, so it was very difficult for me to not only transcribe the letters but also translate them. I am not ashamed at all to admit that I contacted someone who specializes in translating German records to transcribe the records into modern day German. What I found out caused me to have conflicting emotions. Reading the words was so heartbreaking and sad, just to think what Anna and her children went through prior to immigration. I was also so excited because I was learning new information that no one in our family knew about.

The documents revealed that Jacob and Anna Althauser were quite poor, and she and the children were relying on money from the almshouse for support. Reasons for their poverty have been discussed in other posts, so I will not rehash that here. Jacob died on 9 July 1852 at the age of 44 and was buried two days later. Anna reported that her siblings wanted her to come to the United States (they had already immigrated), and they helped pay for her passage. At the end, both Anna and her daughter Pauline signed the document. (I was so surprised that they could both write! I later discovered that they both attended school.)

The last page was one of the most important in the whole packet. It was a transcription of the church records that gave the births, death, marriage, occupation, and parents names of both Jacob and Anna as well as the births of all of their children!! I couldn’t believe my good fortune.

Anna’s children and their birth dates.

You can see Wilhelm at the bottom of the page. It reads Wilhelm was born on 11 January 1846.

Permission to Immigrate vs. Other Records

William’s birth date: January 11? William reported that his birth date was 25 January on his naturalization petition, and his son Nathaniel gave the same date on the death certificate. The church records, and the permission to immigrate papers, clearly state that he was born on January 11. Church records also show that he was baptized on 7 February. I am inclined to believe that the church records would be the most accurate, as it was not uncommon for people to report different dates for their birth date. But it seems strange that both William and Nathaniel would agree on the wrong date.

William’s parents: Finally, the mysteries surrounding William’s parents were solved. William’s parents were Jacob Althauser and Anna Krieg which aligns with the Goodspeed’s article. Jacob died in 1852, not in 1850 as the article alleged. Interestingly, the article reported that the family immigrated in 1852, and that was the year of Jacob’s death. Whoever gave the information had the essence of the story correct, but not all of the facts correct.

Parents’ birth dates: The permission documents also give the birth dates of Jacob and Anna. Jacob was born on 11 October 1807, and Anna was born on 8 February 1808. The article reported that Anna was born in 1807, which was close to her birthday, but Jacob was in fact born in 1807. Again, the article was very close, but not quite accurate.

Conclusions

Researching William Althauser was challenging for many reasons, which include:

1. Reconciling facts from a second or third hand account to facts from other records.

2. Searching for the birthplace of an immigrant.

3. Ordering records from a different country and attempting to transcribe/translate them.

This research journey has also exposed the challenges that faced the immigrants themselves, both before they left for the US, during the journey, and after they settled in the US.

I also learned a valuable lesson: continue to question records, especially if they were made in an unofficial capacity, like the Goodspeed’s article. Obviously, someone who knew William well supplied the information, but I don’t know if that person was in fact William. It is curious to me that William would state that his birth year was 1847 when he clearly reports it as 1846 in other records, that he immigrated in 1852 when he reported 1853 on his naturalization paperwork, that the family entered the US through North Carolina rather than New York City, and that his mother died in 1880 when she died in 1877. William, from what I could tell, was a very careful person, and I don’t believe he would give all of this incorrect information in the 1880s but report everything correctly (or most of it) in the 1910s.

This made me wonder if his wife, Mary, gave the information to Goodspeed’s. All the information about the present – name of his wife, their marriage date, her parents’ names, their children’s names, and their church attendance – was all correct. If Mary did supply the information, it would be reasonable that she knew the basic story but the exact dates and some locations were incorrect. These inconsistencies only helped fuel my search for the truth, and the end result was very exciting and satisfying.

I believe that the most challenging cases can turn out to be the most rewarding and even the most interesting.

Work – A Family in the Distillery Business

I always enjoy getting a chance to explore my German ancestors, and this week’s post is a perfect opportunity! My family, the Kriegs and Althausers, came over in two waves. Martin and Barbara Krieg immigrated in 1837 with most of their children. They landed in New York City and traveled west to Cincinnati where many other German families had already settled. One of their daughters, Anna (and my ancestor) had already married, and she and her husband chose to remain in Germany. In an earlier post, I explained the tensions and problems that existed between Anna, her husband Jacob Althauser, and her parents, so there is no need to retell that whole story. However, there are some points that are essential to make about Jacob’s trade and Anna’s land that shed some light on the employment chosen by their sons in America.

Jacob Althauser was the only child of Jacob Simon Althauser and Anna Sutter. His father was a baker, but it is likely that they also owned some farm land near town. Jacob trained as a cooper, or barrel maker, and as an adult, also farmed. Being a cooper was an important trade in southwest Germany because the area was wine country, and many barrels were needed for production. When his wife’s family left for America, the Kriegs signed over land where grapes were grown to Anna and Jacob. It wasn’t a large amount of land, so they probably made wine for the family and sold extra along with other produce from the farm. When Jacob died in 1852, he left Anna and their five children destitute. A little over a year after Jacob’s death, Anna and her children – Pauline, Andreas, Jakob Friedrich, Johann Jacob, and Wilhelm – immigrated to America. They also settled in Cincinnati near Anna’s siblings. The older children attended school in both Germany and America, and the boys probably began learning a trade.

Althauser family on the Helvetia manifest.

In the 1860 census, the first in which the family was enumerated, Andreas and Friedrich were both listed as laborers, Johann as a carpenter apprentice, and no occupation was listed for Wilhelm. Carpentry is somewhat similar to being a cooper, though of course there are some major differences. Through the years, Johann worked as a carpenter and sold dry goods in Cincinnati.

The other three sons and their brother-in-law became involved in the distillery business in Cincinnati, Louisville, Kentucky, and Robertson County, Tennessee. Germany produced beer and wine, but whiskey was an important staple in American households, and Germans and others in Cincinnati took advantage of the opportunities its production furnished. In 1865, the city directories listed Andreas and his brother Friedrich as distillers working for the White Mill Distillery near Western Avenue, close to where they were living with their families. Both Andreas and Friedrich worked in distilleries for the rest of their lives.

Andreas – In 1870, Andreas was working in the vinegar factory in Cincinnati, which still required a form of alcohol distillation. By 1880, he was again working in a distillery at an unspecified job. In the 1890s, he served as the night watchman, which meant he stood guard over the warehouse to prevent break-ins. In the 1910 census, he was widowed and living with his niece. He died shortly after it was taken on 9 December 1910 and was buried in Spring Grove Cemetery.

Jacob Friedrich – Friedrich was employed by a distillery in Cincinnati, probably White Mill Distillery. He continued to work there until about 1883/85, when he was recorded in the City Directories of both Cincinnati and Louisville, Kentucky. In Kentucky, he worked for a branch of White Mill, J.B. Wathen & Brothers Distillery, and Marion Distillery Company. Friedrich continued to work until his death in 1907 in Louisville at the age of 67.

1870 Census, shows Friedrich and William working for distilleries.

Joseph Beck – The oldest sibling, Pauline, was 21 years old when she landed in New York. By 1858, she had married Joseph Beck, himself an emigrant from Württemberg. Joseph  worked as a distiller for the White Mill Distillery, like his brothers-in-law. Perhaps that is how he met Pauline, through her brothers.

Wilhelm – The youngest child, Wilhelm, my third great grandfather, was born on 11 January 1846 in Baden, Germany. His father died when he was 6, and as a 7 year old, he made the trip across the Atlantic to a new place. In 1860, he was 14 years old and living with his mother, and his 3 older brothers. No occupation was listed, and he did not attend school that year. However, I do know that he received a good education as he reported in a deposition that he was educated in schools in Cincinnati. When he gave the deposition, he was 72 years, and he stated that he could read and write in German, but not well enough to hold a conversation. This was possibly exaggerated as he was applying for naturalization during WWI when German nationals were vilified in American papers and courts. He likely attended a German school in Cincinnati where the children learned both German and English.  His German may have fallen out of use after he left Cincinnati for Tennessee, especially if he wasn’t speaking it regularly.

Sometime during the 1860s, he was employed by S.N. Fowler, a distillery in Cincinnati, keeping the business records. In the 1870 census, William was recorded twice, once living with his brother Friedrich and his family and working as a “bar keep.” And second with his older sister, Pauline, her family, and his ailing mother, Anna. In either 1870 or 1871, he was hired to keep the books for Charles Nelson who had recently purchased a distillery in Robertson County, Tennessee. Nelson was a fellow German immigrant and by 1871, William had moved to Tennessee and was officially employed by the Green Brier Distillery. William was smart, capable, and trustworthy, so he was made the general superintendent and bookkeeper of the distillery and oversaw the everyday workings.

Employees of the distillery

Distilleries were dangerous places to work, especially large-scale operations like the Green Brier Distillery. Machinery could easily main and kill employees. The Green Brier Distillery became one of the most successful distilleries in Tennessee, producing 380,000 gallons of whiskey a year by 1885. He worked for the distillery for 31 years, and after resigning, began the Althauser-Weaver-Webber Lumber Company. He helped run the company for 11 years until his age induced him to resign. William died in Nashville on 16 January 1922, and his family placed the following death notice in the paper.

None of William’s children followed him into the distillery business, possibly because prohibition was about to destroy whiskey production. It was also possible that his sons were provided different opportunities than their father because he sent them to college. But it is interesting that due to time, place, and circumstances, William, two brothers, and his brother-in-law all worked in the industry for many years.

Travel – Visiting Relatives

Newspapers are such wonderful resources, even more so when they have been digitized. They often contain important glimpses into ancestors’ lives that might not be available in any other resources. In the society sections of The Tennessean, a Nashville newspaper, my 2x great grandparents, Nathaniel L. Althauser and Martha (Sears) Althauser appear fairly regularly between the years of 1906 and 1919. The society columns reported when they were visiting relatives or when relatives were visiting them. I have very little information about the everyday lives of Nathaniel and Martha, so these little glimpses in the newspaper give me some insight into their personalities and relationships with their families.

Nathaniel and Martha traveled quite a bit in that 13 year period according to the newspaper, and they probably traveled more than even was reported. The majority of the traveling was between Martha and Nathaniel’s home in Nashville to Pegram Station and to Greenbrier. Martha Althauser was born Martha Sears to Edward Green Sears and Isabella (Kellam) in Pegram Station in 1879. The Sears owned a large farm in Pegram and a beautiful old home with large windows and a porch.

In 1903, Martha married Nathaniel Lyons Althauser in Nashville. Nathaniel was the oldest living son of William Althauser and Mary Frances (Swift) Althauser of Greenbrier, Tennessee. Nathaniel attended Vanderbilt University and by 1906 was the superintendent of the West Station Post Office in Nashville.

Both Nathaniel and Martha were close to their families, so while they lived in Nashville, they often traveled back to Pegram Station and Greenbrier to visit their parents. Sometimes Nathaniel and Martha went together, and sometimes Martha and their daughters Martha and Frances would travel without him. Nathaniel, Martha, and their daughters visited around birthdays and holidays. Other trips were just for pleasure and socializing. Some of these trips lasted just for a day, and sometimes for as long as a month. The Althausers also hosted their relatives at their home in Nashville.

The following excerpts are from the newspaper, giving some details about their travels:

21 April 1906 Miss Willie Sears and Edward Sears, of Pegram Station, are visiting their sister, Mrs. W. D. (N. L. misprint) Althauser on Alabama avenue.

11 May 1906 Mrs N. L. Althauser and little daughter, Martha, have returned from Greenbrier.

25 May 1906 Mrs. N. L. Althauser has returned from Pegram Station.

10 June 1906 Mrs. E. G. Sears, of Pegram Station, is visiting her daughter, Mrs. N. L. Althauser, on Alabama avenue.

13 June 1906 Mrs. E. G. Sears left Tuesday for her home at Pegram Station after a visit to her daughter, Mrs. N. L. Althauser.

1 March 1907 Mrs. N. L. Althauser and little daughter, Martha, are visiting relatves at Pegram Station.

6 March 1907 Mrs. N. L. Althauser and little daughter, Martha, have returned from a visit to Pegram Station.

20 March 1907 Miss Willie Sears has returned to Pegram Station, after visiting her sister, Mrs. N. L. Althauser.

1 May 1907 N. L. Althauser has returned from Sumner County. Edwin Sears, of Pegram Station, was the guest of his sister, Mrs. N. L. Althauser, last week.

24 May 1907 Mrs. Willie Sears is the guest of Mrs. N. L. Althauser.

13 October 1907 Mrs. E. G. Sears, of Pegram Station, is visiting her daughter, Mrs. N. L. Althauser.

23 October 1907 Miss Martha Althauser is visiting relatives at Pegram Station.

11 December 1907 Miss Willie Sears, who has been the guest of Mrs. N. L. Althauser, has returned to Pegram Station. Little Miss Martha Althauser accompanied her home for a visit.

29 December 1907 Mr. and Mrs. N. L. Althauser and little daughter, Martha, went to Greenbrier Saturday to visit relatives.

15 Jan 1908 Miss Lucille Lyles has returned to Pegram Station, after visiting her aunt, Mrs. N. L. Althauser.

29 March 1908 Miss Lucille Lyles has returned to Pegram Station after visiting her aunt, Mrs. N. L. Althauser, in Sylvan Park.

25 October 1908 Miss Martha Althauser has returned from Pegram Station.

16 December 1908 Mr. and Mrs. Althauser and Miss Martha Althauser have returned from a two-weeks’ visit to relatives at Pegram Station.

30 August 1912 Mrs. N. L. Althauser is visiting in Pegram Station.

28 December 1913 Mr. and Mrs. N. L. Althauser and children are spending the week-end at Pegram’s Station.

18 October 1914 Mr. and Mrs. N. L. Althauser and children are spending the week-end with relatives at Pegram’s Station.

29 November 1914 Mr. and Mrs. N. L. Althauser and children spent Thanksgiving with relatives at Pegram’s Station.

30 April 1916 Miss Willie Sears of Pegram is the guest of her sister, Mrs. N. L. Althauser.

21 May 1916 Mrs. N. L. Althauser and children are guests of Mrs. Sears at Pegram for a few days.

4 June 1916 Mrs. N. L. Althauser and children have returned from visiting Mrs. Althauser’s mother, Mrs. Sears.

18 June 1916 Miss Lucile Lyles of Pegram Station is visiting her aunt, Mrs. N. L. Althauser.

20 August 1916 Mrs. N. L. Althauser and Miss Frances and Martha Althauser have returned from Pegram Station where they spent a month with Mr. E. G. Sears.

3 September 1916 Mrs. N. L. Althauser and daughters, Frances and Martha, have gone to Greenbrier to visit relatives.

29 July 1917 Mr. and Mrs. N. L. Althauser and two daughters, Martha and Frances, have returned to Nashville, after spending two weeks with Mr. and Mrs. E. G. Sears.

5 January 1918 Mrs. N. L. Aulhouser and two daughters, Martha and Francis, of Nashville, are with Mr. and Mrs. E. G. Sears.

17 March 1918 Miss Francis Althauser of Nashville spent sunday with her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. E. G. Sears.

30 June 1918 Mrs. N. L. Aulhouser and daughters, Martha and Frances, of Nashville, are the guests of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. E. G. Sears.

25 August 1918 Mr. and Mrs. N. L. Althauser and two little daughters of Nashville are the guests of Mr. and Mrs. E. G. Sears.

5 January 1919 Mrs. N. L. Althauser and two daughters, Martha and Francis, of Nashville, are with Mr. and Mrs. E. G. Sears.

After 1919, their travels were no longer recorded in the newspaper as the inclusion of small affairs like these were gradually replaced by more attention grabbing social events. Also, in 1922, Edward G. Sears died followed by Isabella Sears in 1928. By 1918, William Althauser had moved to Nashville to be closer to his children; he died in 1922. The Althausers still visited their Sears relatives in Pegram, especially as Martha inherited part of the farm, though perhaps not as frequently when her parents were alive. William Althauser was the only member of the Althauser family still living in Greenbrier by 1917, so when he moved to Nashville, there was no reason for them to visit that small town.

Very often with ancestors, I have found that I know a lot of details about major events in their lives, but much less about their everyday lives, personal habits, and relationships with each other. I still don’t know many personal details from these traveling habits, but they do seem to suggest that Nathaniel and Martha were close with their parents, and that they encouraged their children to be so as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Language – German

The majority of the ancestors that I have found originated in English speaking countries – America, England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland –  so I don’t often deal with documents in other languages.

However, I have a little German ancestry on both my mother and father’s sides. My 3rd great grandfather, William Althauser, immigrated to the U.S. from Baden in 1853 when he was 7 years old. Over the past two years, I have done quite a bit of research on his German family, during which I first encountered German records. One of my minors in college was German, so I have some basic knowledge of the language, but working with German written in the 19th century and before was a whole new experience!

In the 19th century, German people wrote in the Kurrent script, an alphabet based on a medieval cursive script. This makes reading documents so much more difficult. Not only are the records written in German, but in a completely different alphabet! I worked on translating some of the Althausers’ immigration records, but I finally had to give up and ask the help of a translator. However, church registers are a little easier to decipher because they typically follow a pattern and use the same basic vocabulary for each entry.

Besides working with traditional German records, another resource that I have found particularly helpful for German-speaking ancestors is the Ortsfamilienbuch. An Ortsfamilienbuch (literally translating to place family book) is a book put together by individual towns that trace the genealogies of all the people who have lived in the town using church records, military records, homage lists, and other resources. These books also give short histories of the towns, the demographic makeup, and short overviews of some of the records used.

Entries for the Althauser family.

The length of the books depends on the state of the records in each town. For example, my Althauser family came from Opfingen, and the church records survive from the mid 17th century. So for many of my German families, I can trace them back to the early 17th century just by using the published Ortsfamilienbuch for Opfingen. The Ortsfamilienbuch is written in German (modern German thank goodness!) but it still took me quite a long time to get through the introductory material and tracing the families. Now I need to take what I have found in the book and double check it with the church records. But for that, I need to make a trip to Germany!

This is not the case for every German town. Some towns only have church records going back to the early 20th century, and some back to the Reformation. These books can be purchased, but they are a bit pricey. If you would rather not purchase, some larger libraries (even in the U.S.) have them in their collections. I have found the Ortsfamilienbuch to be an invaluable resource when studying German families, and I hope others find them useful as well!