When searching for immigrant ancestors who came through New York, I have found that checking The Evening Post for ships lists sometimes gives additional information about the ship, its progress, and its passengers. The marine lists in later papers tend to be more detailed, but that doesn’t mean earlier ones should be forgotten!
My 5th great grandparents, Martin Krieg and Barbara Mörch, left their home in Opfingen, Baden to begin a new life outside of Cincinnati, Ohio in 1837. Martin and Barbara sold their house, land, and moveable property to pay for the passage of themselves, 5 of their children – Barbara, Johann Georg, Salome, Johann, Johann Jakob – and their 2 grandchildren – Eva and Johann Martin. The family made the journey from Opfingen to the French port, Le Havre, where they boarded the ship Magestic in late June and early July.
Below is the Marine List printed in The Evening Post on 14 August 1837.
This small article reports what ships left and arrived from the Post of New York on that day. The ship that concerns my research is in the section “arrived since our last.” It reads:
Ship Majestic, Purrington, of Bath, from Havre, 2d July, in ballast to C & J Barstow. 33,000 francs to T & G Patton of Bath. Left, ships Equator, Bisson, of Boston, for New York in 5 days: Havre, McKown, for Baltimore or New York the 10th, and others before reported. 150 passengers.
This article tells us a few things. The Majestic carried 150 passengers, of which the Krieg group was a part. However, if you read the entire passenger manifest, there are actually 156 people recorded.
The ship was originally from Bath, England. As the ship was traveling “in ballast,” it likely means that the only passengers were on board and no cargo. Ballast, or heavy material like stones, brick, slate, or flagstones, was used to weigh the ship down and keep it balanced. So, when the ship Majestic reached its destination, it dropped the passengers in New York, and the ship’s master, Joseph H. Purrington, traded their weight and the ballast for actual cargo that would be then transported back across the Atlantic.
The article also gives the departure date – 2 July. It took about 6.5 weeks for the Majestic to reach New York. This is a very long time for a family to be stuck on board with 148 other passengers plus crew. Fortunately for the passengers on this ship, no deaths were reported and all of the Kriegs arrived in New York safely.
Below is another article that appeared in The Evening Post on 15 August. It gives some information about the prices of certain goods sold in Le Havre, including cotton, coffee from Havana, Indigo, and copper from Peru. Products like cotton could have been collected in New York to be sold in France on ships like the Majestic.
Before the passengers could disembark, the master of the ship, Purrington, had to record the name, age, gender, occupation, former place of residence, and destination of each passenger. Sometimes the master wrote down incorrect or vague information rather than obtaining details from the passengers that genealogists would deem very important. Everyone is listed as a laborer, from Baden, and going to Ohio. Here is a partial list showing the Krieg family:
Listed are: Martin and his wife Barbara, daughter Salome, Jean, Jean, Jean, Eva, Martin, and Barbara. Jean of course is the French version of Johann, the three boys being Johann Georg, Johann, and Johann Jakob. After disembarking, the family left New York and made their way to Cincinnati and Martin and Barbara’s oldest son, Martin, who was already living in the U.S.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Matilda Apple Cassetty is one of my ancestors with whom I am quite fascinated, and yet I can’t really say why that is. Possibly, it is because I know so little about her, despite the fact that I know an overwhelming amount about her husband and her son-in-law (both are also my ancestors). One of the few things that I know about her falls into the “nice” category, and that event I will of course expound upon in this post. But I also want to use this post as an opportunity to lay out what I know about her, what I wish I knew, and my theories as to her parentage.
Ancestry and Parentage
Matilda Apple was born about 1823 in either Jackson or Smith County, Tennessee. Jackson County suffered several courthouse fires, which is also incredibly frustrating for a genealogist, but much of Smith County’s records are in tact. This is what makes determining Matilda’s parents so difficult. I do know that she was married by the 1840 census to Thomas D. Cassetty, and they began their married life in Jackson County. The first census shows that Matilda is the young woman between 14 and 19 living in the household with T. D., who is between the ages of 20 and 29. Matilda must have married by the age of 17, if not slightly younger. No children were recorded in the house, indicating that they were likely newly married.
The marriage records for both Jackson and Smith County begin late, so as far as I know, no record of marriage for T.D. and Matilda exists. However, I know that they were married from other sources like newspaper articles. Three of Matilda and T. D.’s children’s deaths were recorded by death certificates, and all three children give Matilda’s maiden name as Apple, as does a Who’s Who article about their son William Martin Cassetty. He was most likely the supplier of the information, and it is reasonable that he knew his mother’s maiden name.
So I know Matilda’s maiden name, approximate birth year and place of birth, but who are her parents? There were several Apple families living in the Jackson/Smith/Putnam County region of Tennessee during the 1830s-1850s, and all of them could trace their lineage back to Daniel Apple and Barbara Spoon. Several of their sons, including David Apple, George Washington Apple, and Daniel Apple Jr., migrated to Jackson and Smith County, Tennessee. All three brothers can be seen on the 1830 census in Tennessee:
Males: 2 under 5, 1 5-9, 2 10-14, 2 15-19, 2 40-49 (one must be David)
Females: 1 under 5, 2 5-9, 2 10-14, 1 15-19, 1 20-29 (2nd wife Mary Thackson)
Females: 2 under 5, 1 5-9, 1 10-14, 1 30-39 (wife Mary McDonald)
Daniel Apple Jr.
Males: 1 under 5, 3 5-9, 1 10-14, 1 30-39 (Daniel Apple Jr.)
Females: 3 15-19, 1 40-49
In 1830, Matilda was 7 years old and would be noted in the Females 5-9 column. Of the three brothers, only David and George have daughters between the age of 5-9. I can therefore eliminated Daniel Jr. as Matilda’s father.
George Washington Apple’s two daughters under 5 are undoubtedly Celina (born 1828) and Barbara (born 1830) who are recorded with their parents in the 1850 census in Jackson County. I don’t know for a fact that the other two females aren’t Matilda, but it seems likely they are not based on information from other family members. The older daughter is likely Elizabeth Apple who married a Holford, and the other is Eliza Jane who married George Ridley Holleman. It seems all the females in this household have been accounted for.
That leaves the household of David Apple. David had three sons with his first wife: Milton (born 1805), Anthony (born 1808), and Madison (born 1815) and at least two unknown daughters who were under 10 in the 1820 census. He married for a second time to Mary Thackson after the 1820 census, with whom he had at least 6 children 1830 and after, as well as one son, Jackson Carroll Apple (a Tennessee Senator whose parents are named in the Biographical Dictionary) born in 1825. This leaves several sons and at least 6 daughters in the 1830 census unaccounted for (the other children appear in the 1850 census). The two oldest are likely the two daughters found in the 1820 census. One of the unknown daughters of David and his second wife was a daughter between the ages of 5 and 9, the correct age for Matilda.
There are two other documents that I have found that support the idea that Matilda was a very close relative of David Apple and likely of Anthony Apple, David’s middle son by his first wife: 2 deeds between them and Matilda’s husband, T.D. Cassetty.
On 15 December 1842, Anthony Apple sold to T. D. Cassetty of Jackson County 50 acres of land in Smith County that also touched Anthony’s land. It would make sense that a young T.D. might purchase land from one of his wife’s relatives, especially early in the marriage.
The second document was a deed of trust written on 30 September 1843 and was made between Thomas D. Cassetty and David Apple. It reads:
I have this day bargained sold and by these presents do convey unto David Apple of the County of Putnam the following property to wit three feather beds steads & furniture one Beauro one press one folding leaf table one dressing table two trunks one clock house hold & kitchen furniture one shot gun two cows & calves one yoke of oxen one horse one mares saddle also one tract of land in district No 16 in Smith County lying on both sides of the Walton Road …to have and to hold to the agoresaid David Apple and his heirs forever Now this deed is made to secure tohe said Apple in the payment of two debts for which he is security for the undersigned one to the Bank of Tennessee for seventy two dollars one to the Academy at Gainsboro for two hundrend and seven dollars. Now if the undersigned shall well and truly pay said sums of money to the said Apple on or before the first day October 1844 then this deed shall be void and of no effect or otherwise the same shall remain in full force and virtue….
Thos D. Cassetty
It is very probable that T.D. approached his father-in-law to be a security for his debts, especially if T.D. couldn’t repay the debts, all of his possessions would go to the father-in-law who would be inclined to return them. Deeds of trust were often made between close family members who wouldn’t take advantage of the ones who owed money.
To me, this is pretty compelling evidence that Anthony was Matilda’s older half brother and David Apple was Matilda’s father.
Two other small pieces of evidence also indicate that David Apple and Mary Thackson Apple were Matilda’s parents. The oldest child, Sarah (my ancestor), was named for T.D.’s mother Sarah, but the second child, Mary, was likely named for Matilda’s mother. If Mary was indeed her mother’s name, then Mary Thackson Apple is a perfect candidate. Even more telling is the fact that T.D. and Matilda named their oldest son David, indicating that either Matilda’s father was David Apple.
The deeds, census records, deeds, and naming patterns all seem to point to David and Mary Thackson as the parents of Matilda Apple.
As a side note, Matilda’s Apple family was of German extraction. Both Matilda’s grandparents, Daniel Apple and Barbara Loffel (Spoon) were from German families. Daniel Apple’s father was an immigrant from the small town of Usenborn, Wetteraukreis, Hessen, Germany, northeast of Frankfurt. He was naturalized with his father and brother in Alsace Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania in 1761.
Now it is time to tell about the one story I know of Matilda and why it was “nice.”
Matilda and T.D. Cassetty had eight children: Sarah or Sallie, Mary, David, John, William Martin, James Tecumpsah, Sidney, and Olepta. In 1856, T.D. moved the family to Nashville, where he was a successful Justice of the Peace for many years. He was well-known in the city, was often in the newspaper, and was very involved in fraternal societies including the Sons of Temperance (even though that did not dissuade him from occasional public intoxication). The family lived in a very nice house on Spruce Street, employed servants, and allowed Tennessee senators and congressmen to board periodically with them.
In 1869, the oldest daughter, Sallie, married Samuel D. Robinson, a typographer and Civil War veteran who knew her father through the Sons of Temperance. Sallie and Samuel might have also met through another means. In 1870, Edward “Ned” Apple was living with Matilda, T.D., Sallie, and her new husband Samuel in Nashville. Ned was the son of George Washington Apple, Jr., the son of George Washington Apple, Sr., that would make GW Jr. Matilda’s first cousin and Ned her first cousin once removed. Presumably, Ned had been sent to live with his cousins in Nashville so that he could attend the Tennessee School for the Blind, which was run by Samuel Robinson’s sister, Elizabeth Sturdivant, and brother-in-law, John M. Sturdivant. It is not clear how long Ned had been living with the Cassettys. If he had been sent prior to 1870, somehow the Blind School connection might have been how Sallie and Samuel met.
Eventually, Samuel and Sallie moved out of her parents’ home. Sallie gave birth to only one child, a son, Thomas, in 1873. She died of a stomach tumor in 1886.
Thomas’s father, Samuel, only lived until 1891, when he suddenly died of pneumonia. Thomas was only 18 years old, no longer a child, but as he had just finished high school, it would have benefited him greatly if his father had lived longer to help him with work. To make matters more difficult, Samuel never purchased property in Nashville. Instead, he, Sallie, and Thomas moved frequently and rented apartments. So when he died, Thomas had no income and no ability to pay rent.
This is when his widowed grandmother, Matilda, swept in and took care of him. She offered for him to live with her at her home on Line Street, and his uncle William offered him a job as a clerk at the Cassetty Oil Company. Matilda, who had lost her husband a couple of years earlier, was probably glad to have her grandson live with her. Her kindness probably made a big impression on Thomas.
Sadly, Matilda did not live long after Samuel’s death. She died of a heart attack on 13 October 1893 and was buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Nashville next to T.D. and several of her children.
Though I know very little about her personal life, Matilda must have had a kind heart, particularly when it came to her relatives. She brought her blind cousin into her home so that he could attend a prestigious school for the blind in Tennessee. She also took in her grandson who had lost both parents and the only grandfather he ever knew (T.D.) within the space of five years. I truly believe that without help from his grandmother and uncle, Thomas would have had a very different, and certainly more difficult, life.
My German line on my Dad’s side is one of my favorite lines. I really try not to have favorites because I want to give my attention to all of my lines, but sometimes I just can’t help it! I am not sure what it is about them, but I feel more connected to that side, possibly because I look like my grandfather’s clan more than any other part of my family.
The German side placed a lot of value in naming patterns, so it is not unusual to find a mother and daughter or a father and son with the same names. What was especially interesting was finding multiple branches with four generations of people with the same name! And what a fun name it was – Ursula.
My Germans loved to use the name Ursula, even though all I could think of when I saw it for the first time was The Little Mermaid. The root of the name Ursula is the Latin word “ursa,” or “bear.” This was also the name of Saint Ursula, who was allegedly killed by the Huns. Ursula became a popular name during the Middle Ages.
The Four Ursulas
The first of the four Ursulas was my 9th great grandmother Ursula Stäuble. She was the youngest daughter of Johann and Anna Gilgmann born about 1659 in Opfingen, Baden. Very little is known of her early life, except she had at least 3 other siblings. On 28 April 1684, Ursula married Joseph Göltzlin when she was about 25 years old in Opfingen. Ursula gave birth to 6 children: Anna, Johann, Johann, Ursula, Anna Maria, and Johann. All of the children except Ursula the younger died as children. Anna died at age 7, Johann at 7 months, Johann at a few weeks, Anna Maria at age 6, and Johann at age 4.
Joseph and Ursula were part of the middle class in Opfingen. In 1700, their property was valued at 380 florins, they had 2 oxen, and employed 1 maid.
Ursula and Joseph were both living when their only living child, Ursula, was married on 30 January 1714 in Opfingen. Her husband was Paul Pfistner also of Opfingen. Ursula Stäuble was alive for the births of her first two grandchildren, Barbara born in December 1714 and Ursula born on 7 August 1717. In 1717, 3 generations of Ursulas were living in Opfingen: Ursula Stäuble Göltzlin, Ursula Göltzlin Pfistner, and Ursula Pfistner.
Ursula Stäuble Göltzlin died on 21 September 1718. Her husband Joseph died 9 years later in 1727.
Ursula Göltzlin Pfistner was born on 21 January 1692 in Opfingen. She was married to Paul Pfistner when she was 22 years old. Paul was a judge in the local court. Ursula gave birth to 4 children, including Ursula the third. But sadly, Ursula the second died on 17 March 1726. She was only 34 years old. Ursula the third was 8 years old. Her father Paul had two girls to care for (the other two children died before Ursula the second’s death), so he remarried quite quickly. His second marriage took place only 7 months later. Ursula’s father’s second marriage produced 6 children, all half siblings to Ursula. Paul’s second wife died in 1740, and he remarried 8 months later. This marriage produced two more children.
The death of Ursula’s step mother and the second remarriage of her father took place in the same year of her own marriage. Ursula the third was married on 16 Feb 1740 to Martin Fiand when she was 22 years old. Ursula and Paul had 5 children: Johann Martin, Anna Maria, Jakob, Ursula the fourth, and Johann.
Ursula the fourth was born on 21 April 1747. Like her mother and grandmother, Ursula was married at 22 years old on 20 February 1770. Her husband was Andreas Krieg, also of Opfingen. Ursula the fourth and Andreas had 6 children: Andreas, Martin, Andreas, Johann, Ursula, and Anna. In 1779, Andreas and Ursula’s house was valued at 200 florins. Andreas died at the end of 1794, but Ursula lived another 20 years. She was able to witness the marriage of her only living son Martin to Barbara Mörch, and she was able to interact with her first 5 grandchildren. Ursula the fourth died on 1 February 1815 in Opfingen.
My ancestor was Ursula Fiand Krieg’s son Martin (1772-between 1840 and 1850), so my line of Ursulas stops there. However, Ursula the fourth named her daughter Ursula, so technically there are five Ursulas in a row! And when I checked Andreas Krieg’s side, his mother was also named Ursula!
Does this mean that because I found 6 Ursulas, 5 that I am descended from, that I will name my daughter Ursula? Probably not. But I do love how devoted one side of the family was to that name for about 100 years.
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.
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!
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!