At Worship – Hebron Lutheran Church

I am going to cheat a little for this post and talk about one of my husband’s ancestors, Hans Michael Hold, Sr., and his involvement with the Hebron Lutheran Church. The Hebron Lutheran Church is located in Madison, Virginia, the original building built in 1740 is still standing, and the church itself is the oldest Lutheran church still in use in America.  hebronchurch

Hans Michael Hold is the 8th great grandfather of my husband, and I have just recently researched this line and am proud to say that I have complete documentation in place from my husband to Hans Michael. This is often hard to accomplish when living far from the states where the records exist, but I have managed it this time!

Hans Michael has a very compelling story, and we are fortunate that 1) the American records are readily available 2) the church records in Germany are in tact and 3) there is a whole society dedicated to the research and preservation of the settlement where Hans Michael lived after newly arriving from Germany.

Hans Michael was baptized on 30 Dec 1696 in Stetten am Heuchelberg in Baden, Germany, the youngest child of Martin Hold and his second wife, Anna Maria Brückmann. Martin Hold died in 1710, and 7 years later, his widow, her new husband, and son Hans Michael attempted to immigrate to Pennsylvania with other Germans with the same religious convictions. However, their ship captain sold the passengers on board as indentured servants to Alexander Spottswood (a governor of Virginia) to clear his debts. Not speaking any English, the Germans, including Hans Michael and his family, were trapped.

They served out their terms of seven years at the Germanna settlement in Virginia where Spottswood ran an iron works. An amazing part of this story is that the site has been preserved and can be visited! (Put that on my list of genealogy relate sites to visit.)

Understandably, after Hans Michael finished his servitude, he moved his family to the Robinson Valley in present day Madison, Virginia. While there, Hans Michael joined the other German families in a new Lutheran congregation called Hebron. The congregation needed funds to build a church large enough to house the 274 worshipers, so in 1734, Hans Michael and two other members, Reverend Johann Caspar Stoever and Michael Smith, traveled to London, Germany, and Holland, to raise the funds. They raised the money, but Hans Michael and Stoever had an argument during the trip and Stoever died on the return journey to Virginia.  The church was built in 1740 and originally measured 50 ft by 26 ft but several additions have been made to the structure over the years.

This beautiful church my husband’s ancestors helped build and where they worshiped is still an active place of worship. We are both hoping to visit the church and the area in the future. It’s always such a treat to be able to step into a place where ancestors lived and breathed; it somehow provides a special connection to them that isn’t attainable when looking at records. I think this is particularly true for this church and Hans Michael. His Lutheran faith was obviously so important to him and his family that he left Germany for it and later willing returned to Germany and London (where his future as an indentured servant was sealed) in order to provide a house for his religious community. A meaningful place to him will be a meaningful place to us.

 

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Favorite Name

St. Cunigunde

Researching my German heritage has been a priority for me over the past two years, and one branch in particular has been particularly fascinating. My third great grandfather, William Althauser (born Wilhelm) emigrated from Baden in the 1850s with his mother, Anna Krieg Althauser, and his siblings. They settled in Cincinnati, Ohio, near some of Anna’s siblings who had emigrated in the 1830s. Both the Althausers and Kriegs used traditional names like Anna, Maria, and Katharina, but they also used names that I have not seen in other branches of my family like Verena and Ursula. However, my very favorite name is the quite unusual Kunigunde!

My Kunigunde is William Althauser’s 3rd great grandmother on his father’s side, which makes her my 8th great grandmother. Kunigunde was born Kunigunde Gerwig in Maugenhard, Baden, Germany. Maugenhard is a small town located on the edge of the Black Forest in southwest Germany, about 10.5 miles north Basel, Switzerland, about 33 miles south of Freiburg, Germany, and 20 miles east of Mulhouse, France. Kunigunde was born to Paul Gerwig and Verena Jakob in 1676 and was baptized in Maugenhard on 3 April 1676.

When she was 25 years old, Kunigunde married Andreas König on 21 February 1702 in Opfingen, another small Black Forest town just outside of Freiburg. After examining Opfingen parish records, I found that Kunigunde’s parents do not make an appearance, indicating that they possibly remained in Maugenhard. How Kunigunde met Andreas is not known, and I am also not sure why they were married in Opfingen if Maugenahard was Kunigunde’s home parish. However, there are other possibilities for this. Perhaps Kunigunde’s parents died before her marriage, and she moved to Opfingen to live with other relatives. Maybe her family did move to Opfingen but her parents died elsewhere. I will need to continue researching Maugenhard parish records to answer some of these questions.

Kunigunde’s husband, Andreas, was born in Opfingen to Johann König and Barbara Frei and baptized on 25 November 1682. Andreas was 6 years younger than his new bride, being only 19 when they married. Kunigunde gave birth to 9 children who were baptized in the German Lutheran Church: Barbara, an unnamed daughter, Johann (probably named for Johann König), Andreas (probably named for his father), Verena (probably named for Verena Jakob Gerwig), Anna Maria (who died in 1716 at the age of 5), an unnamed son, Anna (who died in 1715 at 14 months old), and Anna (born in 1716).

The youngest daughter and my 7th great grandmother, Anna, married a local man, Michael Schumacher, on 9 November 1745 when she was 29 years old. Only two years later, her mother Kunigunde died on 24 January 1747 in Opfingen. Kunigunde was 70 years old. Kunigunde’s husband Andreas lived another 15 years, dying in 1762.

But what is the history of the name Kunigunde? It is Germanic in origin, “kuni” meaning “clan” and “gund” meaning “war.” This name was popular in the Middle Ages and early Renaissance periods. Well-known women named Kunigunde or a variant of the name included: Queen Cunigunde of Swabia, Holy Roman Empress St. Cunigunde of Luxembourg, Queen Kunigunde of Bohemia, and St. Kinga of Poland. The most famous woman with this name was St. Cunigunde, who married the Holy Roman Emperor Henry II. She was very involved in charitable works and founded a Benedictine monastery where she retired after the death of her husband. She was later canonized by Pope Innocent III on 29 March 1200.

After learning about St. Cunigunde, I wondered why Paul and Verena chose to name their daughter Kunigunde. St. Cunigunde’s feast day is March 3, so it is possible that Kunigunde was born that day (she was baptized 3 April). Perhaps her parents admired this saint’s devotion to charity, even though they were not Catholic themselves. Maybe she was named for another family member or friend of the family. Whatever the reason, my ancestress was given the name of a strong woman who had genuine concern for those less fortunate than her. And although this name has largely fallen out of use, I think it is quite beautiful!