Quite a lot of time has passed since I last took the time to write here, but I have been still working on a variety of things.
I recently undertook the monumental task of trying to track down records in Germany for all of my German ancestors. This hasn't been easy, because for many of my ancestors I still do not know a town name of origination. That means finding records is next to impossible. For others, I have pretty good information so I have been able to make some contacts and find out a little more information.
One such is the family of Lawrence Grass. I knew his daughter Adelheid Grass Diebold had been born in "Kerpen bei Koeln" i.e. the town of Kerpen near Cologne. Kerpen has an archive located in their town and a very helpful archivist there has been able to help me find the birth records of Adelheid and Lorenz, as well as the marriage record of Lorenz Grass to Anna Maria Lapper. From these documents I found a new generation: Lorenz Grass's parents were Aegidius Grass (! what a name) and Maria Catherina Ahrens. Anna Maria Lapper's mother was listed on the marriage record as "Maria Anna Lapper" and no father was listed.
They were also able to find a registry for the marriage of Maria Ahrens and Aegidius Grass, as well as a listing of all of their children baptized.
I also contacted a variety of places in central Bavaria, to try to track down exactly where the Brandmueller and Hoenninger/Hönninger/Heninger families were from. I had received information from Baltimore church records that the Brandmueller family came from Steudach, Bavaria, while the Hönningers came from Buechenbach. An archive in Bamberg was able to locate Hönninger records for me, in Mittelfranken, but the unfortunate part of the story is that it costs 60 euro per HOUR for research to be conducted at the archives. That has put my search there on hold as I cannot afford that at all.
I am still hoping to track down more German records as time and money allows.
Closer to home, I have been able to figure out a couple of mysteries lately and I am really quite pleased if these fully pan out as I hope they will. The first was that of the Christoffersons, my uncle's family. For a while I have been stuck on Carl Christofferson's parents. He was born at an awkward time just before the 1880 census, but then was old enough that by the 1900 census he was living on his own and therefore not connected to any parents. I could not for the life of me figure out where he was on the 1880 census although I knew it had to be in Blooming Grove. Multiple records indicated he was born in Blooming Grove, and he was born, as I said, not long before the 1880 census.
Well I decided to plug in the information I knew into ancestry.com again (thanks to my cousin who shares her account with me from time to time!!), because I'm a sucker for staring at the same information over and over that doesn't belong to my family. Haha. Kidding. This time I did a specific search for 1880 in Blooming Grove (instead of Wisconsin as a whole) and came up with a Charles Christofferson b. ca. 1875, living with parents Hans Peter Christofferson and Kari Endresdatter. Of course, Carl and Charles are pretty damn similar, and this is THE only Christofferson family I could find in Blooming Grove in 1880.
This family also listed an Andrew Christofferson as this Charles's brother. Mattie Hanson, sister of Tena Hanson (who married Carl Christofferson) had married an Andrew Christofferson. I thought this was a little too much of a coincidence.
I then looked at the public family trees on ancestry, which I don't think I had done for this family, and all of the trees confirmed what that census told me, with exact dates for the siblings. One tree even had a picture of all five siblings and I'm fairly certain the man labeled Carl in the photo resembles my uncle and his relatives. This was extremely pleasing because I was able to find Hans and Kari's death certificates and marriage records which indicated birth and death dates of course as well as parents' names. Hans Christofferson is the son of Christian Amundson and Barbara Hansdatter. Kari Andresdatter is the daughter of Andrew (Endre) Knudson and Barbra Halversdatter. I'm pretty excited because this just gave me a big step forward by finding the immigrant ancestors for my uncle Eric!
My next mystery solved was Simon Walter, my own immigrant ancestor on my grandpa's biological father's side. I had been able to find him in the census from 1855 to 1880 in Wisconsin but had not found him after that, nor in any immigration records. From all I could find, he was born around 1806-1810 and I didn't know when he died. One unique finding was the 1880 census had a column where the enumerator could list diseases or illnesses the person was suffering. I've never seen anything listed there before. But for Simon Walter, it said he was suffering from "Bilious Fever." I don't know much of what that means in today's terms but I assumed it was relatively serious, especially for a man around 70 years old.
The other day I was scanning find-a-grave to see if I could find anything new on a variety of lines. I searched for the surname "Walter" in Milwaukee County. The first hit that caught my eye was a memorial for a John Walter, b. Sep 28 1853. This was very interesting to me as this was the son of Simon Walter, and the brother of my ancestor Fred Walter. Then I looked at who else was in the cemetery, the "Independent Cemetery" in Oak Creek: a Katherina Walter and a SIMON WALTER. Almost lost my mind with excitement. Checked into it a little more, the dates for Katherine also fit with what I had for John's first wife (Katherina Baum). And, the Simon Walter was listed as born 12 Apr 1810 and died 7 Nov 1880. Death in 1880, not long after that 1880 census that stated he was ill with something that sounded nasty? Hmm.
My next step was figuring out what this whole "Independent Cemetery" business was about - it didn't seem to have anything online about it or any religious affiliations. So I asked someone (Nancy Honadel) at the Oak Creek Historical Society that I had gotten help from previously on some Catholic ancestors in the area who was able to help me track down that this was a combination of a cemetery for something called the Independent Cemetery, and then for St. John's Lutheran Church. She had a list of burials for St. John's which included not only John, Katherine, and Simon, but also a "Lena" died 1878 and a Margaretha died 1892.
I'm VERY interested in these as Simon had at least one wife named Magdalena/Margaretha. All of the children's birth records submitted in the 1860s state that their mother was a Margaretha Kuernlein (never really figured out how to read that name). However, half of the death recs I have found have listed their mother as a M. Strasser. Kind of very different from Kuernlein or any variation of THAT name. My latest idea on that front is that there were two different women that Simon married, and one may be responsible for some of children, and the other the rest. Needless to say I am chomping at the bit to solve that mystery.
Lucky me, I got in touch with a Pastor at this church, still standing, next door to the cemetery, and he is allowing me to come search the church documents in person this Friday. Am I excited? Yes. The only qualms I have were he mentioned sticking me in the basement with all the records. Sounds quite daunting. So we'll see what comes of that. I am very much looking forward to the opportunity to look into these records firsthand.
I'll try to update this a little more frequently!