Same Name – Ursula

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.

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!