Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum

Ethnicity results from DNA testing.  Fascinating.  Intriguing.  Frustrating.  Exciting.  Fun. Challenging.  Mysterious.  Enlightening.  And sometimes wrong.  These descriptions all fit.  Welcome to your personal conundrum!  The riddle of you!  If you’d like to understand why your ethnicity results might not have been what you expected, read on!

Today, about 50% of the people taking autosomal DNA tests purchase them for the ethnicity results. Ironically, that’s the least reliable aspect of DNA testing – but apparently somebody’s ad campaigns have been very effective.  After all, humans are curious creatures and inquiring minds want to know.  Who am I anyway?

I think a lot of people who aren’t necessarily interested in genealogy per se are interested in discovering their ethnic mix – and maybe for some it will be a doorway to more traditional genealogy because it will fan the flame of curiosity.

Given the increase in testing for ethnicity alone, I’m seeing a huge increase in people who are both confused by and disappointed in their results. And of course, there are a few who are thrilled, trading their lederhosen for a kilt because of their new discovery.  To put it gently, they might be a little premature in their celebration.

A lot of whether you’re happy or unhappy has to do with why you tested, your experience level and your expectations.

So, for all of you who could write an e-mail similar to this one that I received – this article is for you:

“I received my ethnicity results and I’m surprised and confused. I’m half German yet my ethnicity shows I’m from the British Isles and Scandinavia.  Then I tested my parents and their results don’t even resemble mine, nor are they accurate.  I should be roughly half of what they are, and based on the ethnicity report, it looks like I’m totally unrelated.  I realize my ethnicity is not just a matter of dividing my parents results by half, but we’re not even in the same countries.  How can I be from where they aren’t? How can I have significantly more, almost double, the Scandinavian DNA that they do combined?  And yes, I match them autosomally as a child so there is no question of paternity.”

Do not, and I repeat, DO NOT, trade in your lederhosen for a kilt just yet.

lederhosen kilt

Lederhosen – By The original uploader was Aquajazz at German Wikipedia – Transferred from de.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY-SA 2.0 de, Kilt – By Jongleur100 – Own work, Public Domain,

This technology is not really ripe yet for that level of confidence except perhaps at the continent level and for people with Jewish heritage.

  1. In determining majority ethnicity at the continent level, these tests are quite accurate, but then you can determine the same thing by looking in the mirror.  I’m primarily of European heritage.  I can see that easily and don’t need a DNA test for that information.
  2. When comparing between continental ethnicity, meaning sorting African from European from Asian from Native American, these tests are relatively accurate, meaning there is sometimes a little bit of overlap, but not much.  I’m between 4 and 5% Native American and African – which I can’t see in the mirror – but some of these tests can.
  3. When dealing with intra-continent ethnicity – meaning Europe in particular, comparing one country or region to another, these tests are not reliable and in some cases, appear to be outright wrong. The exception here is Ashkenazi Jewish results which are generally quite accurate, especially at higher levels.

There are times when you seem to have too much of a particular ethnicity, and times when you seem to have too little.

Aside from the obvious adoption, misattributed parent or the oral history simply being wrong, the next question is why.

Ok, Why?

So glad you asked!

Part of why has to do with actual population mixing. Think about the history of Europe.  In fact, let’s just look at Germany.  Wiki provides a nice summary timeline.  Take a look, because you’ll see that the overarching theme is warfare and instability.  The borders changed, the rulers changed, invasions happened, and most importantly, the population changed.

Let’s just look at one event. The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) devastated the population, wiped out large portions of the countryside entirely, to the point that after its conclusion, parts of Germany were entirely depopulated for years.  The rulers invited people from other parts of Europe to come, settle and farm.  And they did just that.  Hear those words, other parts of Europe.

My ancestors found in the later 1600s along the Rhine near Speyer and Mannheim were some of those settlers, from Switzerland. Where were they from before Switzerland, before records?  We don’t know and we wouldn’t even know that much were it not for the early church records.

So, who are the Germans?

Who or where is the reference population that you would use to represent Germans?

If you match against a “German” population today, what does that mean, exactly? Who are you really matching?

Now think about who settled the British Isles.

Where did those people come from and who were they?

Well, the Anglo-Saxon people were comprised of Germanic tribes, the Angles and the Saxons.  Is it any wonder that if your heritage is German you’re going to be matching some people from the British Isles and vice versa?

Anglo-Saxons weren’t the only people who settled in the British Isles. There were Vikings from Scandinavia and the Normans from France who were themselves “Norsemen” aka from the same stock as the Vikings.

See the swirl and the admixture? Is there any wonder that European intracontinental admixture is so confusing and perplexing today?

Reference Populations

The second challenge is obtaining valid and adequate reference populations.

Each company that offers ethnicity tests assembles a group of reference populations against which they compare your results to put you into a bucket or buckets.

Except, it’s not quite that easy.

When comparing highly disparate populations, meaning those whose common ancestor was tens of thousands of years ago, you can find significant differences in their DNA. Think the four major continental areas here – Africa, Europe, Asia, the Americas.

Major, unquestionable differences are much easier to discern and interpret.

However, within population groups, think Europe here, it is much more difficult.

To begin with, we don’t have much (if any) ancient DNA to compare to. So we don’t know what the Germanic, French, Norwegian, Scottish or Italian populations looked like in, let’s say, the year 1000.

We don’t know what they looked like in the year 500, or 2000BC either and based on what we do know about warfare and the movement of people within Europe, those populations in the same location could genetically look entirely different at different points in history. Think before and after The 30 Years War.

population admixture

By User:MapMaster – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5,

As an example, consider the population of Hungary and the Slavic portion of Germany before and after the Mongol invasion of Europe in the 13th century and Hun invasions that occurred between the 1st and 5th centuries.  The invaders DNA didn’t go away, it became part of the local population and we find it in descendants today.  But how do we know it’s Hunnic and not “German,” whatever German used to be, or Hungarian, or Norse?

That’s what we do know.

Now, think about how much we don’t know. There is no reason to believe the admixture and intermixing of populations on any other continent that was inhabited was any different.  People will be people.  They have wars, they migrate, they fight with each other and they produce offspring.

We are one big mixing bowl.


A third challenge faced in determining ethnicity is how to calculate and interpret matching.

Population based matching is what is known as “best fit.”  This means that with few exceptions, such as some D9S919 values (Native American), the Duffy Null Allele (African) and Neanderthal not being found in African populations, all of the DNA sequences used for ethnicity matching are found in almost all populations worldwide, just at differing frequencies.

So assigning a specific “ethnicity” to you is a matter of finding the best fit – in other words which population you match at the highest frequency for the combined segments being measured.

Let’s say that the company you’re using has 50 people from each “grouping” that they are using for buckets.

A bucket is something you’ll be assigned to. Buckets sometimes resemble modern-day countries, but most often the testing companies try to be less boundary aligned and more population group aligned – like British Isles, or Eastern European, for example.

Ethnic regions

How does one decide which “country” goes where? That’s up to the company involved.  As a consumer, you need to read what the company publishes about their reference populations and their bucket assignment methodology.

ethnic country

For example, one company groups the Czech Republic and Poland in with Western Europe and another groups them primarily with Eastern Europe but partly in Western Europe and a third puts Poland in Eastern Europe and doesn’t say where they group The Czech Republic. None of these are inherently right are wrong – just understand that they are different and you’re not necessarily comparing apples to apples.

Two Strands of DNA

In the past, we’ve discussed the fact that you have two strands of DNA and they don’t come with a Mom side, a Dad side, no zipper and no instructions that tell you which is Mom’s and which is Dad’s.  Not fair – but it’s what we have to work with.

When you match someone because your DNA is zigzagging back and forth between Mom’s and Dad’s DNA sides, that’s called identical by chance.

It’s certainly possible that the same thing can happen in population genetics – where two strands when combined “look like” and match to a population reference sample, by chance.

pop ref 3

In the example above, you can see that you received all As from Mom and all Cs from Dad, and the reference population matches the As and Cs by zigzagging back and forth between your parents.  In this case, your DNA would match that particular reference population, but your parents would not.  The matching is technically accurate, it’s just that the results aren’t relevant because you match by chance and not because you have an ancestor from that reference population.

Finding The Right Bucket

Our DNA, as humans, is more than 99.% the same.  The differences are where mutations have occurred that allow population groups and individuals to look different from one another and other minor differences.  Understanding the degree of similarity makes the concept of “race” a bit outdated.

For genetic genealogy, it’s those differences we seek, both on a population level for ethnicity testing and on a personal level for identifying our ancestors based on who else our autosomal DNA matches who also has those same ancestors.

Let’s look at those differences that have occurred within population groups.

Let’s say that one particular sequence of your DNA is found in the following “bucket” groups in the following percentages:

  • Germany – 50%
  • British Isles – 25%
  • Scandinavian – 10%

What do you do with that? It’s the same DNA segment found in all of the populations.  As a company, do you assume German because it’s where the largest reference population is found?

And who are the Germans anyway?

Does all German DNA look alike? We already know the answer to that.

Are multiple ancestors contributing German ancestry from long ago, or are they German today or just a generation or two back in time?

And do you put this person in just the German bucket, or in the other buckets too, just at lower frequencies.  After all, buckets are cumulative in terms of figuring out your ethnicity.

If there isn’t a reference population, then the software of course can’t match to that population and moves to find the “next best fit.”  Keep in mind too that some of these reference populations are very small and may not represent the range of genetic diversity found within the entire region they represent.

If your ancestors are Hungarian today, they may find themselves in a bucket entirely unrelated to Hungary if a Hungarian reference population isn’t available AND/OR if a reference population is available but it’s not relevant to your ancestry from your part of Hungary.

If you’d like a contemporary example to equate to this, just think of a major American city today and the ethnic neighborhoods. In Detroit, if someone went to the ethnic Polish neighborhood and took 50 samples, would that be reflective of all of Detroit?  How about the Italian neighborhood?  The German neighborhood?  You get the drift.  None of those are reflective of Detroit, or of Michigan or even of the US.  And if you don’t KNOW that you have a biased sample, the only “matches” you’ll receive are Polish matches and you’ll have no way to understand the results in context.

Furthermore, that ethnic neighborhood 50 or 100 years earlier or later in time might not be comprised of that ethnic group at all.

Based on this example, you might be trading in your lederhosen for a pierogi or a Paczki, which are both wonderful, but entirely irrelevant to you.


Real Life Examples

Probably the best example I can think of to illustrate this phenomenon is that at least a portion of the Germanic population and the Native American population both originated in a common population in central northern Asia.  That Asiatic population migrated both to Europe to the west and eventually, to the Americas via an eastern route through Beringia.  Today, as a result of that common population foundation, some Germanic people show trace amounts of “Native American” DNA.  Is it actually from a Native American?  Clearly not, based on the fact that these people nor their ancestors have ever set foot in the Americas nor are they coastal.  However, the common genetic “signature” remains today and is occasionally detected in Germanic and eastern European people.

If you’re saying, “no, not possible,” remember for a minute that everyone in Europe carries some Neanderthal DNA from a population believed to be “extinct” now for between 25,000 and 40,000 years, depending on whose estimates you use and how you measure “extinct.”  Neanderthal aren’t extinct, they have evolved into us.  They assimilated, whether by choice or force is unknown, but the fact remains that they did because they are a forever part of Europeans, most Asians and yes, Native Americans today.

Back to You

So how can you judge the relevance or accuracy of this information aside from looking in the mirror?

Because I have been a genealogist for decades now, I have an extensive pedigree chart that I can use to judge the ethnicity predictions relatively accurately. I created an “expected” set of percentages here and then compared them to my real results from the testing companies.  This paper details the process I used.  You can easily do the same thing.

Part of how happy or unhappy you will be is based on your goals and expectations for ethnicity testing. If you want a definitive black and white, 100% accurate answer, you’re probably going to be unhappy, or you’ll be happy only because you don’t know enough about the topic to know you should be unhappy.  If you test with only one company, accept their results as gospel and go merrily on your way, you’ll never know that had you tested elsewhere, you’d probably have received a somewhat different answer.

If you’re scratching your head, wondering which one is right, join the party.  Perhaps, except for obvious outliers, they are all right.

If you know your pedigree pretty well and you’re testing for general interest, then you’ll be fine because you have a measuring stick against which to evaluate the results.

I found it fun to test with all 4 vendors, meaning Family Tree DNA, 23andMe and Ancestry along with the Genographic project and compare their results.

In my case, I was specifically interesting in ascertaining minority admixture and determining which line or lines it descended from. This means both Native American and African.

You can do this too and then download your results to and utilize their admixture utilities.

GedMatch admix menu

At GedMatch, there are several versions of various contributed admixture/ethnicity tools for you to use. The authors of these tools have in essence done the same thing the testing companies have done – compiled reference populations of their choosing and compare your results in a specific manner as determined by the software written by that author.  They all vary.  They are free.  Your mileage can and will vary too!

By comparing the results, you can clearly see the effects of including or omitting specific populations. You’ll come away wondering how they could all be measuring the same you, but it’s an incredibly eye-opening experience.

The Exceptions and Minority Ancestry

You know, there is always an exception to every rule and this is no exception to the exception rule. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

By and large, the majority continental ancestry will be the most accurate, but it’s the minority ancestry many testers are seeking.  That which we cannot see in the mirror and may be obscured in written records as well, if any records existed at all.

Let me say very clearly that when you are looking for minority ancestry, the lack of that ancestry appearing in these tests does NOT prove that it doesn’t exist. You can’t prove a negative.  It may mean that it’s just too far back in time to show, or that the DNA in that bucket has “washed out” of your line, or that we just don’t recognize enough of that kind of DNA today because we need a larger reference population.  These tests will improve with time and all 3 major vendors update the results of those who tested with them when they have new releases of their ethnicity software.

Think about it – who is 100% Native American today that we can use as a reference population?  Are Native people from North and South American the same genetically?  And let’s not forget the tribes in the US do not view DNA testing favorably.  To say we have challenges understanding the genetic makeup and migrations of the Native population is an understatement – yet those are the answers so many people seek.

Aside from obtaining more reference samples, what are the challenges?

There are two factors at play.

Recombination – the “Washing Out” Factor

First, your DNA is divided in half with every generation, meaning that you will, on the average, inherit roughly half of the DNA of your ancestors.  Now in reality, half is an average and it doesn’t always work that way.  You may inherit an entire segment of an ancestor’s DNA, or none at all, instead of half.

I’ve graphed the “washing out factor” below and you can see that within a few generations, if you have only one Native or African ancestor, their DNA is found in such small percentages, assuming a 50% inheritance or recombination rate, that it won’t be found above 1% which is the threshold used by most testing companies.

Wash out factor 2

Therefore, the ethnicity of any ancestor born 7 generations ago, or before about 1780 may not be detectable.  This is why the testing companies say these tests are effective to about the rough threshold of 5 or 6 generations.  In reality, there is no line in the sand.  If you have received more than 50% of that ancestor’s DNA, or a particularly large segment, it may be detectable at further distances.  If you received less, it may be undetectable at closer distances.  It’s the roll of the DNA dice in every generation between them and you.  This is also why it’s important to test parents and other family members – they may well have received DNA that you didn’t that helps to illuminate your ancestry.

Recombination – Population Admixture – the “Keeping In” Factor

The second factor at play here is population admixture which works exactly the opposite of the “washing out” factor. It’s the “keeping in” factor.  While recombination, the “washing out” factor, removes DNA in every generation, the population admixture “keeping in” factor makes sure that ancestral DNA stays in the mix. So yes, those two natural factors are kind of working at cross purposes and you can rest assured that both are at play in your DNA at some level.  Kind of a mean trick of nature isn’t it!

The population admixture factor, known as IBP, or identical by population, happens when identical DNA is found in an entire or a large population segment – which is exactly what ethnicity software is looking for – but the problem is that when you’re measuring the expected amount of DNA in your pedigree chart, you have no idea how to allow for endogamy and population based admixture from the past.

Endogamy IBP

This example shows that both Mom and Dad have the exact same DNA, because at these locations, that’s what this endogamous population carries.  Therefore the child carries this DNA too, because there isn’t any other DNA to inherit.  The ethnicity software looks for this matching string and equates it to this particular population.

Like Neanderthal DNA, population based admixture doesn’t really divide or wash out, because it’s found in the majority of that particular population and as long as that population is marrying within itself, those segments are preserved forever and just get passed around and around – because it’s the same DNA segment and most of the population carries it.

This is why Ashkenazi Jewish people have so many autosomal matches – they all descend from a common founding population and did not marry outside of the Jewish community.  This is also why a few contemporary living people with Native American heritage match the ancient Anzick Child at levels we would expect to see in genealogically related people within a few generations.

Small amounts of admixture, especially unexpected admixture, should be taken with a grain of salt. It could be noise or in the case of someone with both Native American and Germanic or Eastern European heritage, “Native American” could actually be Germanic in terms of who you inherited that segment from.

Have unexpected small percentages of Middle Eastern ethnic results?  Remember, the Mesolithic and Neolithic farmer expansion arrived in Europe from the Middle East some 7,000 – 12,000 years ago.  If Europeans and Asians can carry Neanderthal DNA from 25,000-45,000 years ago, there is no reason why you couldn’t match a Middle Eastern population in small amounts from 3,000, 7,000 or 12,000 years ago for the same historic reasons.

The Middle East is the supreme continental mixing bowl as well, the only location worldwide where historically we see Asian, European and African DNA intermixed in the same location.

Best stated, we just don’t know why you might carry small amounts of unexplained regional ethnic DNA.  There are several possibilities that include an inadequate population reference base, an inadequate understanding of population migration, quirks in matching software, identical segments by chance, noise, or real ancient or more modern DNA from a population group of your ancestors.

Using Minority Admixture to Your Advantage

Having said that, in my case and in the cases of others who have been willing to do the work, you can sometimes track specific admixture to specific ancestors using a combination of ethnicity testing and triangulation.

You cannot do this at Ancestry because they don’t give you ANY segment information.

Family Tree DNA and 23andMe both provide you with segment information, but not for ethnicity ranges without utilizing additional tools.

The easiest approach, by far, is to download your autosomal results to GedMatch and utilize their tools to determine the segment ranges of your minority admixture segments, then utilize that information to see which of your matches on that segment also have the same minority admixture on that same chromosome segment.

I wrote a several-part series detailing how I did this, called The Autosomal Me.

Let me sum the process up thus. I expected my largest Native segments to be on my father’s side.  They weren’t.  In fact, they were from my mother’s Acadian lines, probably because endogamy maintained (“kept in”) those Native segments in that population group for generations.  Thank you endogamy, aka, IBP, identical by population.

I made this discovery by discerning that my specifically identified Native segments matched my mother’s segments, also identified as Native, in exactly the same location, so I had obviously received those Native segments from her. Continuing to compare those segments and looking at GedMatch to see which of our cousins also had a match (to us) in that region pointed me to which ancestral line the Native segment had descended from.  Mitochondrial and Y DNA testing of those Acadian lines confirmed the Native ancestors.

That’s A Lot of Work!!!

Yes, it was, but well, well worth it.

This would be a good time to mention that I couldn’t have proven those connections without the cooperation of several cousins who agreed to test along with cousins I found because they tested, combined with the Mothers of Acadia and the AmerIndian Ancestry out of Acadia projects hosted by Family Tree DNA and the tools at GedMatch.  I am forever grateful to all those people because without the sharing and cooperation that occurs, we couldn’t do genetic genealogy at all.

If you want to be amused and perhaps trade your lederhosen for a kilt, then you can just take ethnicity results at face value.  If you’re reading this article, I’m guessing you’re already questioning “face value” or have noticed “discrepancies.”

Ethnicity results do make good cocktail party conversation, especially if you’re wearing either lederhosen or a kilt.  I’m thinking you could even wear lederhosen under your kilt……

If you want to be a bit more of an educated consumer, you can compare your known genealogy to ethnicity results to judge for yourself how close to reality they might be. However, you can never really know the effects of early population movements – except you can pretty well say that if you have 25% Scandinavian – you had better have a Scandinavian grandparent.  3% Scandinavian is another matter entirely.

If you’re saying to yourself, “this is part interpretive art and part science,” you’d be right.

If you want to take a really deep dive, and you carry significantly mixed ethnicity, such that it’s quite distinct from your other ancestry – meaning the four continents once again, you can work a little harder to track your ethnic segments back in time. So, if you have a European grandparent, an Asian grandparent, an African grandparent and a Native American grandparent – not only do you have an amazing and rich genealogy – you are the most lucky genetic genealogist I know, because you’ll pretty well know if your ethnicity results are accurate and your matches will easily fall into the correct family lines!

For some of us, utilizing the results of ethnicity testing for minority admixture combined with other tools is the only prayer we will ever have of finding our non-European ancestors.  If you fall into this group, that is an extremely powerful and compelling statement and represents the holy grail of both genealogy and genetic genealogy.

Let’s Talk About Scandinavia

We’ve talked about minority admixture and cases when we have too little DNA or unexpected small segments of DNA, but sometimes we have what appears to be too much.  Often, that happens in Scandinavia, although far more often with one company than the other two.  However, in my case, we have the perfect example of an unsolvable mystery introduced by ethnicity testing and of course, it involves Scandinavia.

23andMe, Ancestry and Family Tree DNA show me at 8%, 10% and 12% Scandinavian, respectively, which is simply mystifying. That’s a lot to be “just noise.”  That amount is in the great-grandparent or third generation range at 12.5%, but I don’t have anyone that qualifies, anyplace in my pedigree chart, as far back as I can go.  I have all of my ancestors identified and three-quarters (yellow) confirmed via DNA through the 6th generation, shown below.

The unconfirmed groups (uncolored) are genealogically confirmed via church and other records, just not genetically confirmed.  They are Dutch and German, respectively, and people in those countries have not embraced genetic genealogy to the degree Americans have.

Genetically confirmed means that through triangulation, I know that I match other descendants of these ancestors on common segments.  In other words, on the yellow ancestors, here is no possibility of misattributed parentage or an adoption in that line between me and that ancestor.

Six gen both

Barbara Mehlheimer, my mitochondrial line, does have Scandinavian mitochondrial DNA matches, but even if she were 100% Scandinavian, which she isn’t because I have her birth record in Germany, that would only account for approximately 3.12% of my DNA, not 8-12%.

In order for me to carry 8-12% Scandinavian legitimately from an ancestral line, four of these ancestors would need to be 100% Scandinavian to contribute 12.5% to me today assuming a 50% recombination rate, and my mother’s percentage of Scandinavian should be about twice mine, or 24%.

My mother is only in one of the testing company data bases, because she passed away before autosomal DNA testing was widely available.  I was fortunate that her DNA had been archived at Family Tree DNA and was available for a Family Finder upgrade.

Mom’s Scandinavian results are 7%, or 8% if you add in Finland and Northern Siberia.  Clearly not twice mine, in fact, it’s less. If I received half of hers, that would be roughly 4%, leaving 8% of mine unaccounted for.  If I didn’t receive all of my “Scandinavian” from her, then the balance would have had to come from my father whose Estes side of the tree is Appalachian/Colonial American.  Even less likely that he would have carried 16% Scandinavian, assuming again, that I inherited half.  Even if I inherited all 8% of Mom’s, that still leaves me 4% short and means my father would have had approximately 8%, which is still between the great and great-great-grandfather level.  By that time, his ancestors had been in America for generations and none were Scandinavian.  Clearly, something else is going on.  Is there a Scandinavian line in the woodpile someplace?  If so, which lines are the likely candidates?

In mother’s Ferverda/Camstra/deJong/Houtsma line, which is not DNA confirmed, we have several additional generations of records procured by a professional genealogist in the Netherlands from Leeuwarden, so we know where these ancestors originated and lived for generations, and it wasn’t Scandinavia.

The Kirsch/Lemmert line also reaches back in church records several generations in Mutterstadt and Fussgoenheim, Germany.  The Drechsel line reaches back several generations in Wirbenz, Germany and the Mehlheimer line reaches back one more generation in Speichersdorf before ending in an unmarried mother giving birth and not listing the father.  Aha, you say…there he is…that rogue Scandinavian.  And yes, it could be, but in that generation, he would account for only 1.56% of my DNA, not 8-12%.

So, what can we conclude about this conundrum.

  • The Scandinavian results are NOT a function of specific Scandinavian genealogical ancestors – meaning ones in the tree who would individually contribute that level of Scandinavian heritage.  There is no Scandinavian great-grandpa or Scandinavian heritage at all, in any line, tracking back more than 6 generations.  The first “available” spot with an unknown ancestor for a Scandinavian is in the 7th generation where they would contribute 1.56% of my DNA and 3.12% of mothers.
  • The Scandinavian results could be a function of a huge amount of population intermixing in several lines, but 8-12% is an awfully high number to attribute to unknown population admixture from many generations ago.
  • The Scandinavian results could be a function of a problematic reference population being utilized by multiple companies.
  • The Scandinavian results could be identical by chance matching, possibly in addition to population admixture in ancient lines.
  • The Scandinavian results could be a function of something we don’t yet understand.
  • The Scandinavian results could be a combination of several of the above.

It’s a mystery.  It may be unraveled as the tools improve and as an industry, additional population reference samples become available or better understood.  Or, it may never be unraveled.  But one thing is for sure, it is very, very interesting!  However, I’m not trading lederhosen for anything based on this.

The Companies

I wrote a comparison of the testing companies when they introduced their second generation tools.  Not a lot has changed.  Hopefully we will see a third software generation soon.

I do recommend selecting between the main three testing companies plus National Geographic’s Genographic 2.0 products if you’re going to test for ethnicity.  Stay safe.  There are less than ethical people and companies out there looking to take advantage of people’s curiosity to learn about their heritage.

Today, 23andMe is double the price of either Family Tree DNA or Ancestry and they are having other issues as well.  However, they do sometimes pick up the smallest amounts of minority admixture.

Ancestry continues to have “a Scandinavian problem” where many/most of their clients have a significant amount (some as high as the 30% range) of Scandinavian ancestry assigned to them that is not reflected by other testing companies or tools, or the tester’s known heritage – and is apparently incorrect.

However, Ancestry did pick up my minority Ancestry of both Native and African. How much credibility should I give that in light of the known Scandinavian issue?  In other words, if they can’t get 30% right, how could they ever get 4 or 5% right?

Remember what I said about companies doing pretty well on a comparative continental basis but sorting through ethnicity within a continent being much more difficult. This is the perfect example.  Ancestry also is not alone in reporting small amounts of my minority admixture.  The other companies do as well, although their amounts and descriptions don’t match each other exactly.

However, I can download any or all three of these raw data files to GedMatch and utilize their various ethnicity, triangulation and chromosome by chromosome comparison utilities. Both Family Tree DNA and Ancestry test more SNP locations than does 23andMe, and cost half as much, if you’re planning to test in order to upload your raw data file to GedMatch.

If you are considering ordering from either 23andMe or Ancestry, be sure you understand their privacy policy before ordering.

In Summary

I hate to steal Judy Russell’s line, but she’s right – it’s not soup yet if ethnicity testing is the only tool you’re going to use and if you’re expecting answers, not estimates.  View today’s ethnicity results from any of the major testing companies as interesting, because that’s what they are, unless you have a very specific research agenda, know what you are doing and plan to take a deeper dive.

I’m not discouraging anyone from ethnicity testing. I think it’s fun and for me, it was extremely informative.  But at the same time, it’s important to set expectations accurately to avoid disappointment, anxiety, misinformation or over-reliance on the results.

You can’t just discount these results because you don’t like them, and neither can you simply accept them.

If you think your grandfather was 100% Native America and you have no Native American heritage on the ethnicity test, the problem is likely not the test or the reference populations.  You should have 25% and carry zero.  The problem is likely that the oral history is incorrect.  There is virtually no one, and certainly not in the Eastern tribes, who was not admixed by two generations ago.  It’s also possible that he is not your grandfather.  View ethnicity results as a call to action to set forth and verify or refute their accuracy, especially if they vary dramatically from what you expected.  If it’s the truth you seek, this is your personal doorway to Delphi.

Just don’t trade in your lederhosen, or anything else just yet based on ethnicity results alone, because this technology it still in it’s infancy, especially within Europe.  I mean, after all, it’s embarrassing to have to go and try to retrieve your lederhosen from the pawn shop.  They’re going to laugh at you.

I find it ironic that Y DNA and mtDNA, much less popular, can be very, very specific and yield definitive answers about individual ancestors, reaching far beyond the 5th or 6th generation – yet the broad brush ethnicity painting which is much less reliable is much more popular.  This is due, in part, I’m sure, to the fact that everyone can take the ethnicity tests, which represent all lines.  You aren’t limited to testing one or two of your own lines and you don’t need to understand anything about genetic genealogy or how it works.  All you have to do is spit or swab and wait for results.

You can take a look at how Y and mtDNA testing versus autosomal tests work here.  Maybe Y or mitochondrial should be next on your list, as they reach much further back in time on specific lines, and you can use these results to create a DNA pedigree chart that tells you very specifically about the ancestry of those particular lines.

Ethnicity testing is like any other tool – it’s just one of many available to you.  You’ll need to gather different kinds of DNA and other evidence from various sources and assemble the pieces of your ancestral story like a big puzzle.  Ethnicity testing isn’t the end, it’s the beginning.  There is so much more!

My real hope is that ethnicity testing will kindle the fires and that some of the folks that enter the genetic genealogy space via ethnicity testing will be become both curious and encouraged and will continue to pursue other aspects of genealogy and genetic genealogy.  Maybe they will ask the question of “who” in their tree wore kilts or lederhosen and catch the genealogy bug.  Maybe they will find out more about grandpa’s Native American heritage, or lack thereof.  Maybe they will meet a match that has more information than they do and who will help them.  After all, ALL of genetic genealogy is founded upon sharing – matches, trees and information.  The more the merrier!

So, if you tested for ethnicity and would like to learn more, come on in, the water’s fine and we welcome both lederhosen and kilts, whatever you’re wearing today!  Jump right in!!!

Barbara Drechsel (1848-1930), The Kirsch House, Turtle Soup and Lace, 52 Ancestors #110

Barbara Drechsel’s story begins with a mystery. Who is this beautiful young woman?  Is it Barbara?

Let this be a lesson – write on the back of every photograph you own, preferably in pencil – but do it one way or the other. Crayon would be better than nothing.  Oh, and then don’t stack the pictures together either so the writing on the back of one leaches or rubs off on to the one below it.  It just kills me seeing unidentified photos that I know are someone’s ancestors, someone’s family members – and especially when they are mine!

mystery photo probably Nora

This unidentified female in the Kirsch family documents was originally believed to be Barbara Drechsel as a teen, based on comparisons to other photos that are identified as Barbara, like the ones below. Of course, we don’t know what Barbara’s sisters looked like.  However, there was a fly in this ointment.  Barbara Drechsel was born in 1848, so she would have been a teen in the 1860s, smack dab in the middle of the Civil War and before the camera was really in use.

Given that information, this is more likely to be a photograph that was taken about the same time as the known ones of Barbara Drechsel, below, and is likely one of Barbara’s daughters. Her oldest daughter, Nora, would have been about 14 or 15 at this time, and this person looks to be about that age and resembles Nora, so perhaps we have a photo of Nora here.  Nora’s next younger sister was born in 1871, so would only have been about 10, and this young lady looks to be older than 10.

I know Barbara is my relative, so I might be a tiche biased, but I think she is a beautiful woman. I wonder if her hair was naturally curly or if this was artificial for the photos.  Photography at that time was very much a “dress up” affair.

Barbara Drechsel

This photo was unlabeled, but based on the photo below where the clothes are the same, it is Barbara Drechsel Kirsch.

Barbara Drechsel 2

This photo is labeled Barbara Drechsel Kirsch. I found this necklace, now broken, in Mom’s jewelry box after she passed away.  The photo frame says Brownell’s formerly Kelly’s Photo Gallery No. 196 W. 5th St, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Research on in the Cincinnati City Directory tells me that Kelly, a photographer, did business at that location from 1876-1880 and Brownell, another photographer, took over at that location in 1881, so this was probably from the 1881-1882 timeframe. Brownell would not have had the “formerly Kelly’s” tag for long especially since Kelly was only in business since 1876.  So, this photo of Barbara was from when she was about 33 or 34 years old.

Let’s Meet Barbara

Barbara Drechsel was born on October 8, 1848 in Goppmansbuhl, Germany to George Drechsel and Barbara Mehlheimer. She was the oldest of their 6 children, two of whom would be born in Germany before they immigrated to the US.

wirbenz church

Barbara was baptized in the protestant church in Wirbenz, above, the closest village, on October 22, 1851. She was also christened in June 1857, according to the Aurora church records. Her godmother in Germany was Barbara Krauss of Windischenlaiback, likely a relative and possibly a sister, aunt or other relative to one of her parents, probably her mother, since Barbara’s mother was, well, ahem, not married to Barbara’s father.  However, it was not because her parents were uncommitted to each other.  In fact, that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

The records pertaining to Barbara and her parents were exceedingly difficult to obtain. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I was fortunate enough to find a retired Reverend in that area who was interested and willing to drive from little village to little village and look through the old church books.  Because he was a Reverend, the churches would allow him access not otherwise granted, and he knew what to look for and transcribe.  Plus, he still read Latin, because the German of that time was interspersed with Latin and written in German script. If I recall correctly, Reverend Grieninger was in his 80s or 90s at that time, but his many years of working with the churches gave him a wonderful perspective of what life was like in Germany especially pertaining to records during the time that Barbara’s parents would have been living there, and leaving there.  He was also a very kind man and very non-judgmental.

George Drechsel’s emigration papers say they left from Bremen, his age was 29, and they arrived in Baltimore July 24, 1852 on the ship, “The Harvest.” Barbara wasn’t quite four years old.  She probably had no memory of the trip or of Germany.  Her earliest memories would have been of Aurora, Indiana.

We don’t know how the family traveled from Baltimore to Aurora, nor why they selected Aurora, but they did. They arrived sometime before the end of 1852, because George Drechsel applied for citizenship January 7, 1853 in Dearborn County, Indiana.  His citizenship application would have covered his wife and two children as well.  Barbara’s parents, George Drechsel and Barbara Mehlheimer were married three days later, a right we take for granted here, but a luxury they were not allowed in Germany.

Sometime after their arrival the name was changed to Drexler, which was probably the English phonetic pronunciation. It is also misspelled in other ways such as Drechsler and Drexel making it very difficult to find family members in records.

The Family Home

When Mom and I visited in the early 1990s, we found what we believed was the location where the Drechsel family lived according to the deeds we found and an 1875 map.

We discovered that Georg Drechsel had several entries in the Grantee and Grantor Deed Indexes 1826-1982.

Drechsel, Georg – (from) Riedel, Christian book 11 page 597, Nov. 1, 1856, Aurora lot 254. Note that Christian Riedel is the same person who witnessed for Georg’s naturalization.  I was hopeful of finding Christian in the census, but had no such luck.

George Drecksel to Louise Giegoldt Book 47 page 411, March 12, 1891, lot 254 the north half.

George Drecksel to Barbara Kirsch, book 66 page 19, lot 254 the East half lot 254, Dec. 15, 1905.

Except, there was a fly in the ointment. The 1875 map I was using was a black and white copy of an original.  I thought I could read it, then and now, but fate played a really cruel trick on me.

Mom and I went and found these properties in 1990. They have been “mine” ever since, until tonight when Jenny Awad from the Dearborn County Historical Society sent me a color scan of the original map.  I looked at it, realized it wasn’t the original map, but a better one with additional landmarks noted, and immediately thought, “wow, how clear.”

Then, I looked at the lot numbers and thought something looked odd.  Yep, you’ve probably guessed it by now.  Mom and I had the wrong lot number.  For 25 years now, I’ve been coveting the WRONG property.  But it does make the 1900 census confusion go away.  The reason George Drechsel lives on 4th Street in 1900 is because his lot IS on 4th Street and his house IS on 4th Street – and HAS BEEN on 4th Street ever since he bought it in 1856.  So all those lovely photos of the wrong houses….bye bye.

Oh, and yes, I get to go back and “fix” a couple of other articles too. Well, all I can say is better late than never, but am I ever, ever mad at myself.

So, here’s the really good “new” map where I can see the lot numbers clearly.

1875 Aurora Map color

The map above, from 1875, shows the Drechsel House on the Aurora map.

George Drechsel owned lot 254, on 4th Street between Bridge and Exporting.  It was a block away from the barrel factory where he probably worked.  He was a cooper.

If the original house still stands, it’s this house, at 510 4th street today.

510 4th Street Aurora

The Church

Drechsel St. John

The 1885 Dearborn Co. History for the City of Aurora says that George Drexler was a founder of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. “The church was formed in 1856 by a small number of settlers who were convinced that it was a necessity, as well as their Christian duty, to assemble on the Lord’s Day for divine worship.”

In May 1878, after renting a church from the Baptists, they began to build their own church on Mechanic Street, pictured above.  According to the local history, the church members made a procession out of leaving their old church and “moving into” the new one.  I of course don’t know what the procession actually looked like, but I view it probably as somewhat of a pious and somber parade with maybe everyone carrying a Bible, a hymnal and a candle.

It was a short walk from the Drechsel home to the new church, located at present day 222 Mechanic Street. The Drechsel family likely walked this path every Sunday together.

Drechsel to church map

In 1992, Mom and I visited Aurora, including the church of course, and took photos.

Every now and again you take a photo that is far more profound than anticipated. I feel like Mom is reaching across the generations in this photo.

Mom church window

The stained glass windows appeared to be original, and mother though they were beautiful. We took several photos, including the one above that shows the reflection of mother pointing to the windows.  Now she too has gone to join her ancestors who lived and worshiped here, and we are left with only the reflections of their lives on earth.

Religion played an important part in the lives of the German immigrants. Most of the German families were Protestant, but a few were Catholic.  Churches delivered their sermons in German until the advent of the First World War.  Eloise, Barbara’s granddaughter, remembers hearing German spoken at the Kirsch House, but she recalls that the adult children of Jacob and Barbara Kirsch told them that they needed to speak English, not German, when WWI broke out, and they “never spoke German again.”  They were afraid that people in America would think they were not loyal.

The Jacob and Barbara Drechsel Kirsch family attended the church that Barbara’s parents helped to found, as did their children who were educated in St. John’s Lutheran School held in the church. Free schools did not exist in Aurora at that time, so everyone who educated their children paid tuition in some location for their children to attend school.  Mother and I perused the records when we visited and found several “interesting” records that conflicted with dates in the family Bible – mostly marriage dates or birth dates that appeared in the Bible to have been “arranged” so that births occurred more than 9 months after marriages.  So much for the family Bible being the most accurate source available.

Aurora St. John Church

The side of the Lutheran church in 1992 and the front entryway, below. Note this window says 1874 where the history book says this church was completed in 1878.  Maybe it was begun in 1874 and not finished until 1878.

Jacob Kirsch st John Aurora


The 1860 census shows us that George Drexler, age 37 is a laborer in Aurora. He doesn’t have much of a personal estate, and it doesn’t show him owning property, although the deed records show differently.

Drechsel 1860 census Aurora

Perhaps the most interesting piece of information on this census is Barbara’s name, or nickname – Babbit. What a sweet name.

Married Life

Barbara Drechsel married Jacob Kirsch on May 27, 1866. He hadn’t been back from the Civil War long. I wonder if they courted before he left.  Did she write him letters while he was gone?  Their marriage probably wasn’t planned for long, because their first child arrived on Christmas Eve of that same year.  Many of these marriages that were originally a bit hurried lasted for a lifetime.  Theirs did.

By the time the census was taken in 1870, Barbara Drechsel and Jacob Kirsch had three children, Nora 3, Martin 2 and three month old Edward. Jacob is listed as being a cooper, probably working for the cooperage houses in Aurora – maybe the one behind the property that would one day become the Kirsch House.  They did not own a home, but they did live in Aurora.

Barbara and Jacob bought a house (or a lot and then built a house) in 1871, just down the road from the Drechsel home. They spent the first several years of married life in this location.  This life-event must have been a huge achievement for the young couple – to purchase and own their own home.  The land was described thus:  Dearborn County a certain lot or parcel of land known and designated as lot number six in David H. Walker’s sub-division of out lot number 49 in the City of Aurora, Dearborn Co., Indiana.

Jacob Kirsch Aurora map crop 3

That location is shown by the lowest red arrow, the Drechsel home at the middle red arrow, and the location of the Kirsch House which Jacob and Barbara would purchase in 1875 at the upper red arrow.

Jacob and Barbara didn’t live in Walker’s subdivision long, because by August of 1875, they bought the French House from James and Ellen French, renamed it the Kirsch House, of course, and moved on up the street to town, right beside the depot.

Thus would begin the legacy of the Kirsch House, an Aurora and family institution that stood as a landmark beside the train depot for the next 46 years, nearly half a century. Oh my, the stories those walls could tell if they could only talk!

The Kirsch House Legacy

In the 1880 census, Jacob is shown as a saloon keeper and having a boarding house. In fact, they have 3 boarders and Barbara’s sister, Mary Drexler, age 17, is living with them as a servant.

Barbara is “keeping house.”  Indeed, she is – and what an understatement.  Barbara has her husband, 6 children between the ages of 4 and 13, her sister who I’m sure is there to help, plus three boarders that live there – and that’s not counting overnight lodgers that come and go.  In addition, they maintain a pub and restaurant and you can rest assured it’s not Jacob who is cooking and washing dishes.

1880 census Aurora

Prior to Jacob and Barbara’s purchase in 1875, the establishment was called the French House. An ad in the 1876 business directory shows Jacob Kirsch as the proprietor, still gives the name as the French House and says, “The house is pleasantly situated near the railroad depot and will be found the most desirable place in the city of Aurora at which to stop.  Good wines, liquors and cigars.”

Kirsch House 2008

When I was able to tour the building in 2008, I recall that it seemed quite large.  There were several hotel type rooms in the annex area that reached towards the rear of the property, visible at left below.  I seem to recall that there were about 20.  The family sleeping area seemed to be on the second story above the front area, parallel with Second Street, as seen above.  All of the rooms on the second level were very small, as was the hallway and the only access to the upper level was the stairway in the parlor.

The public spaces, including the pub (accessed through the door at left, above), dining area (behind the pub) and parlor (accessed through the door at right, above) were located in the front part of the building on ground level, facing the street.  In the photo below, second street is to the right and Mom is standing in the parking lot of the depot.  The annex area where the boarders would have slept was in the extended area to the left.

Jacob Kirsch House side

This photo shows the property from the rear.  The private garden would have been the area that is growing in weeds today.  Mother said it was bricked in at the time and the well was located there.

Jacob Kirsch house rear

Surprisingly, even though the building spans 3 or 4 city lots, it is only about 2100 square feet.  That’s not a lot of space for the public spaces, the family area and the boarders areas.  I doubt the family had a lot of privacy and I suspect everyone shared a bathroom, such as it was at the time.

Not only was the Kirsch House a landmark establishment in Aurora, it was the hub of Kirsch family activity for nearly half a century. Memories of the Kirsch House, references to it and stories about it filled the 1900s and live into the 21st century, firmly planting the Kirsch House as an icon of the Kirsch family shortly after their immigration and representing the Kirsch family version of the realization of the American dream.  It seemed larger than life, especially to a child hearing all of those interesting stories from a time and mythical place “long ago.”

Mom and I found the original Kirsch House in 1992 when it was still being used as a restaurant. We were lucky enough to discover the bar that was there when Jacob and Barbara were proprietors still graced the front room of the building where the pub part of the building was located.

Jacob Kirsch bar

The Kirsch House was located beside the depot on Second Street. This allowed them the opportunity to provide service to any hungry or thirsty travelers departing or arriving on the train, and they were only a couple of blocks from the Ohio River where passengers arriving by steamer would disembark as well.  Because of the proximity to the train depot, the hobos would come to the back door of the Kirsch House and Barbara would feed them all.  The Kirsch’s were looked upon, according to Eloise, as elite shop and property owners.  Photos above and below were from our late 1980s or early 1990s visit.

Jacob Kirsch house by depot

Laminated onto the top of the bar in Aurora, we found original postcards, shown below, featuring the depot and the Kirsch House next door.

Jacob Kirsch house and depot

The Kirsch house at that time had a roof covering the sidewalk.  In 1992, the sidewalk roof, which I think they referred to as a portico, was gone.

Kirsch House postcard

It’s difficult to imagine the Kirsch house in its heyday, although having seen that bar, I can close my eyes and give it a pretty good shot!  Just look at those swinging saloon doors!  I doubt that the Kirsch girls were allowed in the pub area.

Unfortunately, over the past quarter century, the Kirsch House property has continued to deteriorate. The bar was removed and in essence ”disappeared” among legal wrangling.  The City owned the property for a while, but just today, literally, Jenny Awad with the Historical Society notified me that the property had been donated to an organization called Indiana Landmarks that is refurbishing the property and will put it on the market this spring, giving it in essence, another life as the gateway building to the City of Aurora, beside the historic depot, now functioning as the library annex.

Interestingly enough, during WWII, the former Kirsch House building served as a repository for the caskets of soldiers awaiting family.  That made sense, given that it was located beside the depot.  I wonder if they put each casket in a private room so that the family could have some privacy when they came to claim their loved one.  Finally, in the 1950s, when train travel declined and the trains from Cincinnati to St. Louis ceased operation, the establishment fell onto hard times. Hopefully this facelift will give it a new life.

It seems that the Kirsch House as an establish has always been quite unique in unexpected ways.

Barbara was an unusual woman in her own right too. She owned the Kirsch house, outright, free and clear, beginning in 1887.  Indeed something very unusual happened.  Jacob conveyed the Kirsch House to his wife Barbara Kirsch.  Now that’s something that just didn’t happen – ever.  Mom and I knew this was “odd” when we found that deed, we just didn’t know why.

In the 1960s, my mother, with down-payment money from her parent’s estate in hand and a job she had held for years, still couldn’t obtain a mortgage without a co-signer. Women simply did not own property as a “femme sole”, meaning a woman not subordinate to a husband, even some 80 years later – let alone owning land as a married woman but without your husband.  And to make things even stranger, Jacob conveyed the property to Barbara.  And no, they did not get divorced.  What was going on?  Women just simply did not own property under these circumstances.  But Barbara did.

But then again, men generally didn’t lynch people either. That’s right, Jacob was embroiled in a legal suit filed by the widow of a man who murdered another man, but was then immediately lynched by a mob, of which Jacob was apparently a member, perhaps a ringleader.  Apparently, in order to protect the Kirsch House, Jacob conveyed the property to Barbara and it remained in her name until she sold it in 1921, 35 years later, three years after Jacob’s death.

However, the years between 1885 and 1920 were simply brutal. One strange occurrence after another beset this family.  In 1886, when Jacob was involved with the lynching, Barbara was 38 years old and had six young children, all 6 born within a decade.  Then, Barbara had no more, even though her last child was born in 1876 when she was only 28 years old.  How would Barbara ever have raised those children and maintained the Kirsch House without Jacob, had he gone to prison for murder?  Why did Barbara have no more children?

By the 1870s, contraception was available, albeit underground due to the intolerant “Comstock Act” which made the trade of or mailing of anything to prevent contraception, to procure an abortion or any contraceptive information illegal. Some states went so far as to pass laws preventing contraception.  In any event, condoms were still sold as “rubber goods” and cervical caps as “womb supporters.”  I don’t know what Barbara did or how, but it was effective because she was evidently done having children.

Given the work load Barbara had with the Kirsch house, meaning the daily housework, laundry for family and guests and all of the daily cooking for the restaurant portion of the Kirsch House, in addition to taking care of and looking after her children, it’s possible that Barbara was simply, literally and figuratively, “too tired.”

Barbara maintained this pace for almost 50 years. Had her husband gone to prison in 1886, she would somehow have carried on.  When her brother-in-law, disabled by the Civil War, came to live with them, she simply carried on.  When her daughters began marrying in 1888, some leaving, and some adding another family member, she carried on.  I think Barbara just got up every day and put one foot in front of the other, treading that oh-so familiar path from one end of the day from dawn to dusk, up and down the stairs a million times…and carried on regardless of what life deposited on her doorstep.

Kirsch house staircase

One thing we do know about Barbara, and that’s what she did every Tuesday at the Kirsch House.

Turtle Soup aka Mock Turtle Soup

In fine German tradition, one could purchase a mug of beer and a bowl of turtle soup at the Kirsch House for ten cents.  You could probably pull a stool up to the bar and engage in some fine conversation to go along with it too, along with a cigar.

Barbara Drechsel Kirsch made turtle soup every Tuesday, and she took orders for home delivery.  Buckets of soup were delivered by the young Kirsch daughters using a wagon, up and down the streets of Aurora, probably to other German families.  Perhaps this was the first form of take-out and delivery.

The original recipe for Barbara’s Turtle Soup is below, probably in the handwriting of Nora Kirsch Lore. Note the Kirsch House stationery and the note that says Mama’s recipe. Also, the word Kirsch on the second page still retains a bit of high German script.  Nora was educated at the German Lutheran Church School, so that would not be unexpected.  The second image is the back of the page.  The third image is the Turtle Soup recipe again, this time in the handwriting of Edith Lore Ferverda, and noted as her Grandmother’s recipe. Notice the changes and modernization of the recipe.

Given the location in Germany so near to the Rhine River, I have always wondered if the recipe came from Germany with this family, and they simply substituted veal for turtle because turtle was not readily available here. This is probably not be the case, because in Germany, Mockturtlesuppe, mock turtle soup, is a staple. Clearly, at some historical time, a real turtle was involved.  Turtle populations though cannot recover quickly when a breeding adult is killed, so it’s possible that mock turtle soup has been without turtle for hundreds of years, hence the name.  Mom always called it mock turtle soup, which I assumed was to preventatively eliminate the “ewww” that would have resulted if someone got focused on the turtle part.  I didn’t realize that “mock” was actually part of the original German name of the soup.

Although I assumed that this recipe descended originally from the Kirsch family because of their proximity to the Rhine River in Germany, it may have instead originated in the Drechsel family. It was Barbara Drechsel Kirsch who made the soup at the Kirsch house.

Mother made this soup once a year, generally in the winter at or near Christmas-time. One either loved this soup or hated it.  My brother and I both loved it, as did mother, but I suspect this heritage recipe will die with me, as neither his children nor mine care for it and it takes a long afternoon  to make.

As a child of about 5, I have vivid memories of standing on a chair in front of the stove with a wooden spoon stirring the flour in the cast iron skillet as it browned.  Unbrowned flour will not work, and the flour was easy to scorch, so browning the flour was a VERY important job, especially if you were five.

Kirsch House stationery turtle soup

Kirsch House turtle soup 2

Kirsch house turtle soup 3

I still make this family recipe today, and of course, I’ve modernized the process even more.

meat grinder

Instead of the old bolt-on-the-table meat grinder, which took two people to operate, today I use a food processor – and I feel guilty, like I’m cheating, every time. However, I still stand and brown the flower in Mom’s cast iron skillet.  What memories that brings back.

Turtle soup pot 2

There is no way to make a small batch of turtle soup, so making it once each year and freezing portions for lunches is always a memorable way to spend a Sunday, and a bright spot every time I have lunch and think of the generations of my ancestors who enjoyed this same lunch, every Tuesday at the Kirsch House. I may not be sitting at the bar, visiting with Barbara and Jacob, but I’m with them just the same.

Turtle soup bowl

I’ve modernized the recipe once again, and I hope that one of you will continue this wonderful family recipe.  If your family was German, try it and see what you think of this legacy heritage dish.

Now the contemporary version of Barbara Kirsch’s Turtle Soup:

  • 1 veal or beef shank (knee down, bone in) – have butcher slice into several pieces
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 large onion
  • 5 large carrots
  • 1 32 oz bottle of V8
  • 1 8 oz bottle of catsup
  • 5 or 6 hard boiled eggs
  • 6 cloves
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 or 2 lemons peeled and sliced thin
  • 4 or 4.5 cups of flour
  • 1/2 cup of good sherry

Also, the amounts of anything don’t have to be exact. I think this was made when they put in what they had, if you know what I mean.


  1. Place shank, chunked onion, carrots, and celery in a large soup kettle, and cover with water. Add cloves and bay leaves.
  2. I put the bay leaves and cloves in a little muslin baggie that I tie with a string and just throw it away afterwards. I don’t like the spices to stay in the soup.  If the bay leaves are whole, it’s less of a problem.
  3. Cook under medium heat until tender (about 2 hours or so – maybe 3)
  4. Remove meat from bone and set aside to cool, return bones back to pot, and continue to cook for at least another hour, or more, until you’ve extracted all the possible flavor out of the vegetables and bones. The vegetables should pretty much just be mush.
  5. Let cool. Strain broth removing vegetables and spices.  You will throw away what you strain out.
  6. Put the broth back on the stove. Add V8 juice, catsup, and sherry.
  7. Grind meat and hard boiled eggs (I used a food processor, it works great).
  8. Add meat and eggs to broth.
  9. Brown about 4 cups of flour over low to medium heat in a cast iron skillet until light toasty brown. Sift into warm soup, stirring to mix thoroughly.  I have my helper shake it slowly through a colander while I stir to keep it from clumping.
  10. Cut rind off of lemon and slice lemon into slices. Add to soup and heat thoroughly.  The lemon really does add something to the soup, but I don’t eat the lemon slices.  I just push them aside in the bowl if I’m served one.
  11. Taste and finish seasoning with salt if desired.
  12. Enjoy and think of the Kirsch House or your own German ancestors.

Apparently Barbara maintained the Kirsch House for a few years before she sold it after Jacob’s death. Jacob died in 1917 and the above stationery with the recipe is preprinted for the 1920s.  B. Kirsch is listed as proprietor.  She was 72 years old in 1920 when this stationery was printed. She was one ambitious lady and in none of her pictures does she look any worse for the wear.  In fact, she looks like an incredibly well put-together Victorian lady.

Jacob Kirsch and Barbara Drechsel

This photo shows Barbara Drechsel and Jacob Kirsch. It was probably taken the same day as the one below, as Barbara is wearing the same clothes.

We can date the photo somewhat by the age of Eloise who is in the photo and looks to be about 3 or 4 years old, so the photo must have been taken about 1906 or 1907 but before 1909 when C. B. Lore died and after 1905 when Philip Kirsch died, or he would have been included in the picture.  Barbara would have been 59 or 60.

Jacob Kirsch family photo crop

This is the only photo where all of the Kirsch children appear to be present with their parents.  Left to right, I can identify people as follows:

  • Seated left – one of the Kirsch sisters – possibly Carrie.
  • Standing male left behind chair – CB Lore – which places this photo before November 1909
  • Seated in chair in front of CB Lore in white dress, his wife – Nora Kirsch Lore
  • Male with bow tie standing beside CB Lore – probably Edward Kirsch
  • Male standing beside him with no tie – probably Martin Kirsch
  • Woman standing in rear row – Kirsch sister, possibly Lula.
  • Standing right rear – Jacob Kirsch.
  • Front adult beside Nora – Kirsch sister, possibly Ida.
  • Child beside Nora – Mildred or Eloise Lore, probably Eloise
  • Adult woman, seated, with black skirt – Barbara Drechsel Kirsch
  • Young woman beside Barbara to her left with large white bow – probably Curtis Lore, Nora’s daughter

The Decade(s) from Hell

I didn’t know Barbara personally. My mother knew her as a young child.  Barbara died when Mom was 8.  Mom said that Barbara encouraged her to come and sit on the porch swing beside her, but she was afraid which made Barbara sad.

My grandmother clearly knew Barbara well as she had lived at the Kirsch House as a late teenager.  Barbara seemed to be a woman who simply handled whatever she needed to at the moment and rolled exceedingly well with any punches.  She had a lot of experience.  She was dealt far more than her share of work and grief in her lifetime, and the years of her life beginning about 1905 had to be just living hell.  If she thought 1886 and 1887 were difficult, those were just training wheels.

Barbara’s brother-in-law, Philip Jacob Kirsch, who had lived with them since Jacob’s mother’s death in 1889 died on September 5, 1905. From his will and other family oral history, Barbara and her family were very close to Philip who had lived with them for about 15 years.  Barbara ran a boarding house, so it probably mattered little who was occupying a room.  She had to do the same amount of work regardless.  The difficult part was that Philip was ill and Barbara likely administered whatever medical and palliative care was available to him.  His intestinal problems that developed during the Civil War plagued him for the rest of his life and caused him a great deal of pain and suffering.  Philip’s mother, then Barbara cared for him.  He clearly knew he was very ill because he made a will in July 1905, leaving what little he had to his siblings and their children and saying very kind and grateful words about Jacob and Barbara.

“The balance that is left after all my legal debts are paid, this includes all of which is left, I want my dear brother Jacob Kirsch to have this being for the kind treatment which has always been given me by him and all of his family.”

Four months after Philip’s death, Barbara’s mother died on the third day of January 1906. Her official cause of death was listed as “cardiac arthmia” (probably cardiac arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat), but given that she was born in 1823,  at 79 years of age, “old age” played a large part, I’m sure. However, that doesn’t make losing your mother any easier.  Not at all.  Losing your mother is losing your mother.  Losing parents is a natural progression of life, and you can take at least some comfort in that they had a long life, a good life and that they had the opportunity to live a full life.  But none of that makes burying your mother less painful.

However, losing her mother presented Barbara with the problem of what to do with her father, George, who was the same age as her mother and either was or was becoming senile. Perhaps Barbara’s sister, Lou, helped.  Lou’s husband had died in 1901 and she lived next door to her parents with her two daughters.  George had sold Lou half of the lot in 1891 and they had built a house next door.  In the photo below, George’s house is on the right and Lou’s is on the left.

510 4th Street both houses

Nora’s daughter, Edith, lived at the Kirsch House about this time. She would have graduated from high school in Rushville about 1906 and she attended business school in Cincinnati while living at the Kirsch House – taking the train back and forth to commute.  I don’t know long Edith lived with her grandmother at the Kirsch House, but Edith married John Ferverda in Rushville in November of 1908, so she was back in Rushville by then. Learning that Edith spent this time under Barbara’s tutelage perhaps explains a lot about Edith’s independent spirit that was frustrated by the social restrictions placed on women of her generation, especially in the highly conservative Brethren/Mennonite/Amish community of northern Indiana.

The other, unspoken reason that Edith may have gone to live at the Kirsch House was to help Barbara with her father or to perhaps help with duties at the Kirsch House so Barbara could attend to her father.

Barbara’s father died two years and a month after his wife, so in February 1908, Barbara found herself once again standing in the Riverview cemetery beside the Ohio River in the dead of winter, burying a parent. Barbara probably expected this at some level, even though I’m sure she dreaded it terribly.  What she could not have expected was what was lurking in the shadows.

Three of Barbara’s daughters had married; Nora in 1888 to C. B. Lore, Lou in 1899 to Charles “Todd” Fiske and Caroline in 1902 to Joseph Wymond. Barbara’s two sons had married and moved away.  Daughter Ida was living at home, unmarried.

Lou’s husband, Todd Fiske lost his job as a civil engineer and depression set in. Lou and Todd moved back to the Kirsch House.  On October 31, 1908, a Saturday night, Todd stepped outside behind the Kirsch House in the garden, took a gun and ended his life with a gunshot to the head.  On Saturday night, the Kirsch House would have been full of guests.  Did they hear the gunshot?  Did Barbara know in her heart what had happened before she got there?  Was Lou at home?  Did she see him in that condition?  Who found him in the garden?  Todd’s death had to be something that haunted everyone involved for the rest of their life.  And poor Todd, to be so heartbroken and despondent to end any opportunity for the future.  His anguish must have been awful.  I can only imagine the chaos and heartache in the Kirsch House.  As a mother, it’s bad enough to suffer through something yourself, but it’s even worse to witness your child’s suffering and be able to do nothing about it.

It was about this same time that Barbara’s eldest daughter, Nora, would have come home to have a talk with her mother too.

Nora’s husband, C. B. Lore contracted tuberculosis. He died on the 24th November of 1909, the day before Thanksgiving and just a year and a month after Todd’s untimely death.  I don’t know if the family would have been thankful that C. B. was no longer suffering or grieving his death, or both.  I am under the impression that he was seriously ill for at least a couple of years before his death.  Finances were difficult.  I don’t know how they survived.  I know Nora began to do alterations and sewing for people.

Google tells me that 50% of untreated TB patients die within 5 years. Nora and the girls took care of C.B. at their home in Rushville.  So, during this time when Todd was out of work and subsequently killed himself, Barbara also knew that her other daughter’s husband was dying as well, that Nora was suffering trying to care for him, and there was nothing she could do to help that daughter either.

But there was even worse news waiting. I told you it was the decade from hell.

Barbara’s daughter, Carrie, had married Joseph Wymond in 1902, the son of a wealthy Aurora family. However, in 1910, Joseph too killed himself… before syphilis could take him.  Yes, syphilis.  Yes, incurable.  Yes, Carrie had it too and yes, it would eventually kill her as well.

We don’t know if Barbara knew about Carrie’s situation in 1908 or 1909. If not, she would surely learn of it sometime before July 3rd, 1910 when Joseph Wymond shot himself in the chest and the coroner determined it was suicide due to despondency over his illness.  I don’t know if what Joseph did was cowardly or brave.  I do know that he was not living with his wife at the time, and Carrie was living with her parents at the Kirsch House – so clearly Carrie knew and understood how he had contracted the disease.

That may sound like an odd comment, but I knew someone in the 1970s whose husband “gave” them a similar gift and the physicians even then were less than frank, instead asking questions like, “Have you been with someone other than your husband?”  “No.”  “Well, then…..”

That was the end of the conversation with absolutely no explanation of what “well then” meant or that the diagnoses was indeed something that could only be sexually transmitted.  People were and are extremely uncomfortable with these topics.  In the Kirsch family, what “really” killed Carrie was a topic reserved for only the closest family members and then only when adults and only conveyed in muffled whispers of modesty and embarrassment.

That must have been some conversation between Joseph and Carrie.  “Well honey, I have syphilis and guess what, so do you!  Yes, we’re going to die, but we’ll still be together.”  Disbelief, betrayal and shock must have followed.  Poor Carrie.  I wonder how long she waited before telling her mother and sisters and I wonder if anyone ever told her father.  Being the proprietor of a bar it’s unlikely that Jacob was in the dark.

How do you tell your mother that your handsome husband from the “right side of town,” from the upstanding family, whom you trusted and promised to love for better or worse…has given you syphilis? In the Victorian era, how do you even talk to your mother about a sexually transmitted disease?  Because if you have an STD, it means you had S part of STD.  OMG!   However, at some point, you have to say something.  Your mother is neither blind, deaf nor stupid – and Aurora was a small town with an active grapevine.  You know syphilis is a death sentence, a slow, horrible, torturous, death sentence.  And you know the day you tell your mother you are laying a burden on her heart that can and will never be removed.  Not to mention that your father, who lynched a man in 1886, might just go and kill said husband when he finds out.

Wymond’s 1910 obituary suggests that he had been ill for about 3 years. If that is correct, then Carrie probably had that talk with her mother sometime between 1907 and 1910.  So Barbara knew what Carrie was facing, but she didn’t know how soon or when.  Barbara didn’t know if she would live long enough to care for Carrie, or if she would be able.  All Barbara knew was that her child was going to suffer horribly and eventually die through no fault of her own, and due to the betrayal of the man she trusted to be faithful…and wasn’t.  I think Wymond is lucky Barbara didn’t kill him.

Based on what we know, Nora would have known C.B. was in trouble maybe as early as 1905, Carrie knew about Joseph’s disease about 1907 and Lou’s husband lost his job and killed himself in 1908. Those things, combined with her parent’s deaths surely made Barbara’s heart very, very heavy.

But that wasn’t all. Nora’s daughter, Curtis, had contracted tuberculosis caring for her father.  They surely knew this for several years before Curtis died, so while Barbara was dealing with Carrie’s situation, not to mention Todd’s death and that of C.B. Lore, she also knew that her granddaughter would succumb too.  In the one photo of Nora during this timeframe, she looks like a walking zombie.  I’m glad there aren’t more.

They tried everything to save Curtis, including remedies that were extremely painful to Nora, like having Curtis live on the front porch in the winter cold, with the belief that the cold air would cure tuberculosis. Nora was desperate and I believe she would have tried anything.  Fate was not to smile on the family, and Curtis died on February 12, 1912, at age 21, 2 years and 2 months after her father, leaving Nora and the rest of her daughters utterly devastated.  My grandmother, Edith, said that when Curtis died, she lost her best friend.

Nora blamed herself for Curtis’s death, unnecessarily.  Curtis wanted to go to the Southwest, either Arizona or New Mexico with her boyfriend’s family for “better air” when she was sick and her mother didn’t want her to go.  Nora wanted Curtis to be where she could help her.  In retrospect, Nora felt she should have let Curtis go because she might have been cured and lived.  In reality, at that time, nothing could have saved her, except antibiotics which had not yet been discovered.

Ironic that the same antibiotics that would have saved Carrie and her good-for-nothing husband would also have saved C.B. Lore and Curtis.

By 1912, Barbara, now 64 years old was living with 2 widowed daughters who had no children, meaning there would be no one to care for them in their old age. Not long thereafter, Carrie would move to Indianapolis until after Jacob’s death in 1917.  Syphilis is known to behave as if it has remitted, outward symptoms abating, while in reality it is wreaking havoc and destroying your internal organs.

Barbara’s third widowed daughter, Nora, was struggling to make ends meet in Rushville, Indiana by being a seamstress while taking care of her daughter who was critically, then terminally, ill. The amazing thing is that Nora did not contract tuberculosis herself, despite caring for two family members who died of the disease over a period of several years, maybe as long as a decade.

This strain of tuberculosis was not done with the family however. Nora’s daughter, Edith, married John Ferverda in 1908, before C.B. Lore passed away.  John caught TB, but it lay dormant in his lungs until the late 1950s when it reactivated, causing him to have to be admitted to a tuberculosis sanitarium.  Tuberculosis did not kill him, because liver cancer claimed him first.  Mom and I had to have chest x-rays for years afterwards to check for TB.

In 1913, the Ohio River flooded, twice, once in January and once in April, flooding Aurora so badly that it was called “the greatest disaster of modern times.”  The water was to the roof of the train depot next door, which was about the second story of the Kirsch House.

In 1916, Jacob Kirsch became ill. He had stomach cancer, according to his obituary.  He lived about a year and died on July 23, 1917.  Barbara assuredly cared for Jacob during his illness.

While all of these things were going on in Barbara’s life she still continued, every day, to do what needed to be done for and at the Kirsch House. After all, that was her living too and she had a lot of people to support.

Barbara had endured an incredible amount in a relatively short time. Deaths are terrible, but they are also an end where healing begins.  Carrie’s sickness could only end in death and the suffering on that path was daily and unremitting.  Yet, it was Carrie who moved back home to help her mother after Jacob’s death.

In the winter of 1917/1918, the Ohio flooded and caused ice dams to form and break, again flooding Aurora. What else could go wrong for Barbara?

I’m sure there were bright spots too. In 1915 and 1922, Edith Lore Ferverda would give Barbara two great-grandchildren, but unless Edith visited Barbara from Silver Lake, in northern Indiana, Barbara was in no situation to leave the Kirsch House and visit Edith.

Son Edward had 4 children, two of whom died shortly after birth in 1891 and 1896, but the other two born in 1892 and 1899 lived. He had moved away by 1910.

Martin had two children as well, in 1889 and 1892 but had moved away by 1900.

Barbara didn’t get to spend much time with her grandchildren.

In many ways, selling the Kirsch House in 1921, although I’m sure Barbara hated to do it, was liberating for her. She could go someplace.  She could stay someplace.  She was no longer tied to sheets and toilets and cooking for other people every minute of every day of every week of the year.  I hope she enjoyed her new-found freedom.

Now, the absolutely amazing thing is that when you look at this photo, below, of Barbara, at right, and Nora, at left, you would never, ever imagine the level of grief and devastation both women had survived.

Nora 4 gen 1922

A four generation picture with Barbara Drechsel Kirsch (far right), Nora Kirsch Lore (far left), Mildred Lore Martin (center) and Jim Martin, infant, born in 1922.

This picture would have been taken about a year after Barbara sold the Kirsch House. She may have been 73 years old at the time, but she does not look haggard or worn out after being an innkeeper for half of a century.  Innkeeper in this case I’m sure means cook, maid, washer-woman and not just for her family, but for however many people were staying at the Kirsch House, 7 days a week, 365 days a years, every single day of every single year.  And given that the Kirsch House catered to traveling men by advertising fine wines and liquors, you know that Barbara got to clean up after way more than her share of overly-inebriated customers.

After selling the Kirsch House in 1921, Barbara and Carrie reportedly moved to Indianapolis, although I could find no record of them living there. It is inconceivable to me that Barbara left Aurora after all those years. What I did find was a record of Barbara purchasing property in Aurora, at the corner of 4th and Exporting, lot number 247, right across the street from where she grew up.

1875 Aurora Map color

Today, this property is 516 4th Street, according to Google maps..

516 4th Street front

Mother said the property where Barbara lived with Carrie was described as “the house on the hill” and this house certainly fits that description.

516 4th Street side

516 4th Street rear

It’s interesting that we also have proof that this house is original, through the photograph taken in 1883 that included just the side of this house, but we can see enough to tell that the doors and windows are in the same location – so this is the original house that Barbara and Carrie lived in for a few years.

1883 Aurora flood family properties

The top right arrow off to the side of the picture is pointing to Third Street. The arrows below third street is pointing to Fourth Street, which is the first street running parallel with the bottom of the photo, closest to us.  The arrow on the corner of 4th Street and Exporting is the house that Barbara Drechsel Kirsch, George’s daughter, would purchase in 1921 when she sold the Kirsch House.

The top left arrow is pointing to the train depot, and the right arrow at the top is pointing to the Kirsch House, which fronts Second Street, further away. You can see its portico over the sidewalk appearing below the white front of the building.

There was no one left in Aurora to help Barbara as she aged and she eventually moved to where her family was.  But that situation may not have been exactly as it appeared outwardly either, meaning that at least initially, it wasn’t about someone caring for Barbara.

Barbara had another problem, a heartbreaking, gut-wrenching problem. Her daughter, Carrie, was getting worse and Carrie’s illness was likely part of Barbara’s decision to sell the Kirsch House when she did.

If there was any way Barbara could have cared for Carrie at home, she would have.  Between 1921 and 1924, Carrie deteriorated badly. In early 1924, Carrie was institutionalized from the effects of syphilis and finally died one very long 2 years, 5 months and 3 days later, on July 24, 1926 in the Institute for the Insane, in Madison, Indiana, about 45 miles from Aurora.  The neurological effects of Syphilis cause insanity and seizures and then it destroys your organs.

Fortunately for Barbara, and Carrie, there was train service from Aurora to North Vernon, and then from North Vernon to Madison.  Barbara could have visited Carrie easily, although every visit must have been heartbreaking in its own right.

I can’t even begin to imagine Barbara’s pain watching Carrie endure this for roughly 20 years, growing increasingly ill as the disease progressed, or how much she much she must have disliked the man who visited this horrible fate upon her daughter. Dislike is probably not nearly a strong enough word.

I can’t imagine why she actually allowed Carrie to be buried by Wymond in the Riverview Cemetery, especially when there were spaces available in the Kirsch plot. In other words, it probably wasn’t a matter of money, although we’ll never know.

Wabash, Indiana

Barbara lived the final chapter of her life in Wabash, Indiana with daughter Nora.  She probably moved there after Carrie’s death in 1926.

In 1929 when Barbara applied for Jacob’s Civil War pension, she lived at 279 E. Main (shown below) in Wabash. Eloise said Barbara had no money and they applied for the pension as a final way to try to help her.  I suspect that Barbara may have used the money from the Kirsch house sale to pay for Carrie’s stay in the institution where she died.  As a final insult, her widow’s pension application was denied, as they could not find Jacob’s service record. No problem, I found it, some 87 years later, far too late, of course, to help Barbara, but not too late to vindicate her honor and his service.  I’ve got your back, Barbara!

Barbara Wabash 1929

Barbara went to Wabash, of all places, because her daughter, Nora lived there. Nora remarried after the death of C.B. Lore to a man who was a superintendent in manufacturing plants.  Nora and her husband lived in Chicago in 1920, but by 1930 Nora was living with her mother in Wabash.  Nora and her husband didn’t legally divorce, but they also didn’t live together, so it’s likely that Barbara joined her daughter whose children were raised and gone.  I hope those two women enriched each other’s lives.  I hope that after all of the pain and suffering, that these were good years of peaceful, relaxing companionship, joy and warming rays of sunshine.  Truly the golden years.  If anyone ever earned them, Barbara did.

In the 1930 census, taken April 11th, Nora McCormick is listed as renting property at 123 Sinclair in Wabash, 63 years old, no occupation, with her mother, Barbara, age 83 who arrived in in the US 1849 and is naturalized.  The census doesn’t say whether it’s east or west Sinclair and I can’t tell from other clues.  That area looks similar to the area above and is only a few blocks away.  They apparently moved between 1929 and 1930.

Barbara Joins the Family at Riverview

Barbara died on June 12, 1930 in Wabash, Indiana. Her cause of death at the Wabash Health Department is listed as cerebral hemorrhage and intestated (interstitial) nephritis, also known as acute kidney failure.  In other words, she either had kidney failure and then had a stroke and died, or she had a stroke and lingered until kidney failure finished her off.  I hope the stroke simply took Barbara quickly, in her sleep, with no pain.  Barbara’s body was returned to Aurora for burial.

Surprisingly, my mother had never been to visit Barbara’s grave, at least not that she remembered. My grandmother, Edith, tended to protect Mother from things like death and funerals under the premise that she was too young to understand.

Mother and I found the Kirsch stone in Riverview Cemetery shared by Barbara Drechsel and Jacob Kirsch.

Jacob Kirsch stone

Here, mother stands beside Jacob and Barbara, or at least as close as one can get on this side of the great divide!

Jacob Kirsch stone with mother

Several of Barbara’s children and their husbands are buried on the same plot. Charles “Todd” Fiske and Lou Kirsch Fiske Wellesley, Ida Kirsch Galbreath with her husband William J. Galbreath and Barbara’s son, Edward Kirsch.  Carrie is buried in the same cemetery beside Joseph Wymond, a location that mystifies me and causes me to ask all kinds of questions, for which there are no answers.

Barbara’s parents are buried nearby in the same cemetery as well.


It’s somewhat ironic that I’m normally begging for mitochondrial DNA lines, but in this case, I carry that line myself, so that test was easy. If you think for one minute that mitochondrial DNA isn’t interesting or useful, read about what we discovered here.

mito line

What isn’t easy is finding anyone else descended from this line to test autosomally. I can’t believe that no one has tested to date, but they apparently haven’t, or I’m incredibly unlucky and don’t match them.  We do have matches from C.B. Lore’s line.  If you descend from the Kirsch, Drechsel or Koehler lines from either Dearborn or Ripley County, Indiana, or the home locations in Germany for these family lines, please consider taking an autosomal Family Finder test at Family Tree DNA.

The Needlework

No discussion of the Kirsch women would be complete without mentioning their absolutely stunning needlework. Barbara Drechsel Kirsch was a lacemaker, and her daughters likely learned the craft from the time they were young, at home as well as in the German schools.

I have no idea how Barbara got all the tasks done she had to do, let alone have time for needlework of any kind. Aside from mock turtle soup, and the Kirsch House, Barbara Drechsel’s legacy was her handwork.  Perhaps it was her sanity.  Of course, at that time, handwork was not considered “anything special,” it was just one of the many things women were supposed to learn how to do.

Drechsel lace collar

Above, a beautiful lace collar. At that time, collars were detachable so that you could preserve the piece of lace and reuse it after the underlying dress was no longer usable.  This was also a good way to change your wardrobe, creating something “new.”

Drechsel lace handkerchief

In our family, every woman who marries receives a beautiful lace handkerchief to carry at her wedding. I guess this is our own family version of “something old, something new.”  It includes and incorporates our ancestors as well in that special day.  I don’t know whether the handkerchiefs will run out or the descendants will run out first.  The one above is mine and was later mounted and framed.

Drechsel lace collar2

In 1994, mother and I were asked to create an exhibit for the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana that included both the needlework and a genealogical aspect of the history of the family.  Mother was particularly thrilled as so much of her family and her own personal history centered in and near Fort Wayne, about half an hour from where she grew up.

We titled the exhibit “Six Generations of Hoosier Needlewomen” and included works from Barbara Drechsel Kirsch, her daughters and their descendants.

Drechsel lace collar 3

In addition to Barbara’s beautiful lacework, her daughter, Nora’s Climbing Vine quilt was featured in the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. Unfortunately, we have no photographs of it at the fair, but Mother told the story of their visit to the fair to see Nora’s quilt.  Nora had entered the quilt in the local Sears competition, then it went to the regional and then the state competitions, finally winning and going to the World’s Fair, being exhibited in the Sears Pavilion.

climbing vine quilt

Here’s a close up of Nora’s Climbing Vine quilt. This work is all hand appliqué with fine hand quilting.

The depression was in full swing, and money was scarce. The family could not afford to go for an overnight to Chicago, so they got up very early and left from Silver Lake with Nora and the entire family.  They drove to the World’s Fair, took their food and picnicked, and the entire family saw the quilt hanging in its splendor in the exhibition hall.  Then they drove the entire way back home, arriving in the middle of the night.  All in all, the trip was about 24 hours in duration.

Sadly, Barbara missed this momentous event by just three years, but she was surely involved with Nora’s quilting while the two of them lived together in Wabash. I’m sure as Nora bumped along that road in the darkness of the night on the way to and from Chicago, she wished her mother could be along to share that day.  For an Indiana woman, a quilt at the World’s Fair was about as much validation and infamy as one could ever hope to achieve.  Barbara would have been so proud of her daughter and somehow, I know she was with them!

Mother would visit Nora, her grandmother, in “the little house” in Wabash, after Barbara’s death and she told about how Nora had a quilt frame that was lowered from the ceiling so that people could sit around it and quilt in the middle of the living room. When finished for the day, the quilt frame was just pulleyed up towards the ceiling and life went on just like in any normal room.  You know that Barbara and Nora spent many hours around that frame in the 1920s.  Those must have been peaceful, beautiful years for those women, a few years of calm after decades of storm.

The photo below is from the Six Generations exhibit and it shows my lace in a tray, center, Mom’s crocheted afghan and baby booties, rear, a table runner made by the Kirsch sisters that mother displayed on the piano under the beer stein and some lace in the far right corner.

When I first began making lace, many years ago, I didn’t realize that Barbara Drechsel had been a lacemaker too, nor that lacemaking was all but a deceased art. Neither my mother nor grandmother made lace, nor quilted for that matter, so I have to wonder about genetics.  I’d be happy as a clam to find a quilting gene!

6 gen Hoosier Needlewomen case

The quilt below is called Picket Fence. Mom also referred to it as Flower Garden.  I always particularly liked this quilt, as it reminds me of the perfect family that everyone wants, and doesn’t exist anyplace.  But the beauty within our family is nurtured and grows within the white picket fence.  That is both prophetic and appropriate for the Kirsch family, especially the sisters.

This quilt is dated 1931. The fence is hand pieced, the flowers are appliquéd and the entire quilt is hand quilted with small, fine stitches.  Perhaps Nora finished this quilt to ease the grief of her mother’s passing.  These quilts took months if not years to create.

Picket fence quilt

The yellow and white quilt below reminds me of sunshine. This nine patch and snowball block quilt was never used.  Before Eloise passed away, she sent this to Mother, along with some other needlework and quilted family items.  This quilt was made in 1927 or 1928, before Barbara’s passing.

Given that Barbara didn’t pass away until 1930, I’d wager that Barbara quilted on these and if she didn’t quilt on them, she surely sat with Nora and visited as Nora quilted. Mom and I did the same thing, some 50, 60 and 70 years later.  I so wish there could have been a time for us all to quilt together.

Nora's snowball quilt

All of these quilts are hand quilted and considering the timeframe, I’d say they are also hand pieced.

The crazy quilt in the photo below was made at least in part by Barbara Drechsel Kirsch’s daughter, Carrie Kirsch, who embroidered her name and “age 11.” The quilt is shown hanging on Mom’s quilt rack adjacent Mom’s climbing vine afghan she made in honor of Nora’s award winning World’s Fair Climbing Vine quilt.  Carrie Kirsch was 11 in 1884, so this quilt is more than 130 years old.  Unfortunately, the quilt is now in very poor condition.  To me, when I look at this cheerful quilt, it speaks to me of happier times at the Kirsch House before the tsunami of devastation rolled over the family.

Kirsch crazy quilt

This quilt would have been made at the Kirsch House, probably out of scraps left over after making their clothing. Barbara surely put a few stitches in this quilt with her daughters and may have taught them how to do the embroidery work found on several of the blocks.  I can see the four Kirsch sisters and their Mom, Barbara Drechsel sitting in the parlor at the Kirsch House after all of the dishes were done in the evening, the quilt spread between them, as they all worked on some part and chatted and laughed.  Maybe they confided in each other as well and talked over any problems too.  That’s what we do today.  We’ve certainly solved all the world problems around the quilt frame!

This last quilt is actually one of my favorites because of how it spans six generations of our family and all of the “character” it has accumulated over the decades.

Handkerchief quilt

Nora made this quilt. It was probably one that Barbara witnessed or was involved with.  The heyday of Nora’s quiltmaking seemed to be in the 1920s and very early 1930s which makes sense given that her children were grown, her husbands out of the picture and her mother lived with her.  Of course, the part of the quilt that Nora would have made is the blue drunkard’s path, the original part of the quilt.

Edith, Nora’s daughter, my grandmother, owned this quilt and she used it on the beds.  I remember it.  Mom said that this quilt came to them because no one else wanted it because it was utilitarian and not showy and beautiful like the show-stopping applique quilts.  So we really used it.  Every day.  When my kids when to visit my parents when they were little, they cuddled up in this quilt.

Mom washed it, in a washing machine, which, in retrospect, she should not have done, and the fabric began to deteriorate.  Eventually, there were several rather large holes in the quilt, and Mom gave it to me to make bears or salvage what could be salvaged in some way.  I brought it home and laid it out to cut for bears.  My daughter came into the room and asked what I was doing with “Mawmaw’s quilt.”  I told her and she was heartbroken, started sobbing, and blurted out between sobs, “You can’t cut up Mawmaw’s quilt.”  So much for bears.  Thankfully, I hadn’t cut yet.  Little did my daughter know that it wasn’t Mawmaw’s quilt, but it was Mawmaw’s Mawmaw’s quilt.

At a loss as to what to do, I went and found the box of handkerchiefs, accumulated by the Drechsel/Kirsch/Lore/Ferverda women and combined into a single box over the years. We don’t carry “hankies” anymore, so we no longer crochet edges on them, embroider them or purchase them for souvenirs or gifts anymore either.  But those women did.  So, my daughter and I selected handkerchiefs that were in decent shape that we thought were probably owned and used by these women.  Some had been washed so many times they looked as old as the quilt.  I used the handkerchiefs to construct “patches” and the Kirsch family women’s handkerchief’s saved the life of Nora’s quilt.  Karmic indeed. Yes, I still have the quilt today, of course and someday, so will my daughter.

Quilts wrap you in a blanket of love but the process of quilting, and apparently repairing quilts too, is bonding like no other. That bond is never broken or compromised, not across years or generations.  If anything, it is solidified by surviving heartache together, and the deeper the heartache, the firmer the bond – creating a legacy that even survives death.  Barbara lives on.

barbara drechsel cropped

Further Analysis of Native American Haplogroup C-P39 Planned

Haplogroup C is one of two Native American male haplogroups. More specifically, one specific branch of the haplogroup C tree is Native American which is defined by mutation C-P39 (formerly known as C3b).  Ray Banks shows this branch (highlighted in yellow) along with sub-branches underneath on his tree:

C-P39 Ray Banks Tree

Please note that if you are designated at 23andMe as Y haplogroup C3e, you are probably C-P39. We encourage you to purchase the Y DNA 111 marker test at Family Tree DNA and join the haplogroup C and C-P39 projects.

It was only 11 years, ago in 2004 in the Zegura study, that C-P39 was reported among just a few Native American men in the Plains and Southwest.  Since that time The American Indian DNA project, surname projects and the AmerIndian Ancestry Out of Acadia DNA projects have accumulated samples that span the Canadian and American borders, reaching west to east, so haplogroup C-P39 is not relegated to the American Southwest.  It is, however, still exceedingly rare.

In August of 2012, Marie Rundquist, co-administrator of the haplogroup C-P39 DNA project performed an analysis and subsequent report of the relationships, both genealogical and genetic, of the C-P39 project members.  One of the burning questions is determining how far back in time the common ancestor of all of the C-P39 group members lived.


When Marie performed the first analysis, in 2012,, there were only 14 members in the project, representing 6 different families, and they had only tested to 67 markers. Most were from Canada.

C-P39 countries

My, how things have changed. We now have more participants, more markers to work with and additional tests to bring to bear on the questions of relatedness, timing and origins.

Today, there are a total of 43 people in the project and their locations include the Pacific Northwest, Appalachia, the Southwest and all across Canada, west to east.

If you are haplogroup C-P39 or C3e at 23andMe, please join the C-P39 project at Family Tree DNA today.  I wrote about how to join a project here, but if you need assistance, just let me know in a comment to the blog and Marie or I will contact you.  (Quick Instructions: sign on to your FTDNA account, click on projects tab on upper left toolbar, click on join, scroll down to Y haplogroup projects, click on C, select C-P39 project and click through to press orange join button.)

Marie is preparing to undertake a new analysis and provides the following announcement:

The C-P39 Y DNA project is pleased to announce a forthcoming updated and revised project report.  The C-P39 project has established a 111-marker baseline for our 2016 study and analysis will include:

  • 111 marker result comparisons
  • geo-locations
  • tribal / family relationships
  • C P39 SNP findings
  • new SNPs and Big Y results

The current C-P39 Y DNA study has a healthy diversity of surnames, geo-locations, and tribal / family lines represented.

The C-P39 Y DNA project will cover the costs of the necessary 111 marker upgrades by way of Family Tree DNA C-P39 Y DNA study project fund.

Thanks to all who have contributed to the project fund and to participants who have funded their own tests to 111 markers as part of our study.  To voluntarily contribute (anonymously if you like) to the C-P39 Y DNA project funds and help our project achieve this goal, please click on the link below and please do make certain that the “C-P39 Y-DNA” pre-selected project is highlighted when you do:

Thank you to project members contributing DNA test results to the C-P39 study and for encouraging friends and relatives to do the same!  Thank you also to Family Tree DNA management for their ongoing support.

The project needs to raise $3164 to upgrade all project members to 111 markers.  Many participants have already upgraded their own results, for which we are very grateful, but we need all project members at the 111 level if possible.

Please help fund this scientific project if you can.  Every little bit helps.  I’m going to start by making a donation right now!  You can make the donation in memory or in honor of someone or a particular ancestor – or you can be completely anonymous.  Please click on the link above to make your contribution!!!  We thank you and the scientific community thanks you.

What is a DNA Scholarship and How Do I Get One?

I mention DNA scholarships from time to time in my 52 Ancestor articles and sometimes in conjunction with other projects as well.

What, exactly, is a DNA scholarship? Who gets one?  How and why?

First, let’s talk a bit about the basics of how DNA works, because understanding that is fundamental to understanding why we have DNA scholarships in the first place, who qualifies and why. Not everyone has the DNA they need for testing specific genealogical lines – and scholarships are a way to obtain that information from others.  I think of it as a testing incentive to someone who is already interested at some level.

Every person can test their DNA, but each person carries a unique and very important type of DNA from just one or two very specific ancestors.

DNA for Genealogy – Y and Mitochondrial

There are three kinds of DNA we can use for genealogy.

Mitochondrial DNA, carried by both males and females, is your mother’s mother’s mother’s line all the way up your tree until you run out of direct line mothers.

Y DNA, which only males carry, is inherited from the father’s father’s father’s direct paternal line which typically follows the surname.

The pedigree chart path of both Y (blue) and mitochondrial DNA (red) is shown on the pedigree chart below

Y and mito

You’ve probably noticed that the brother, or males, carry both blue Y DNA and red mitochondrial DNA, but the sister, or females, carry only red mitochondrial DNA.

Sisters, or females, pass mitochondrial DNA on to their offspring, but males don’t.

So, males can test for Y and mitochondrial DNA and females can only test for mitochondrial DNA. In either case, the mitochondrial DNA reflects the oldest direct matrilineal ancestor in that line.

Most (but not all) of the DNA scholarships that I offer are for Y and mitochondrial DNA lineages and Family Tree DNA is the only company that offers these types of genealogical tests.

Autosomal DNA

The third kind of DNA for genetic genealogy is autosomal DNA which allows testing for all of your ancestral lines and provides matching to others who carry the same DNA. The trick is, of course, that you have to look at your common genealogy to figure out why your DNA matches, meaning which ancestor you share.  Sometimes that quest is successful, and sometimes it isn’t.

Autosomal path

The reason autosomal DNA matching works is because you and the person you match have inherited a piece of the same DNA from a common ancestor. In the above chart, the DNA of the ancestors is colored blue, yellow, green, etc.  When you match someone else with a common segment, your goal is to determine which ancestor it came from.

Your autosomal DNA segments from any given ancestor become smaller and smaller over time with each generation, until eventually, they either become so small they don’t show up as matches, or you lose them altogether as more and more generations accrue between you and that ancestor. Ancestral DNA is “diluted” in a sense in every generation when the offspring receives half of each parent’s DNA.  The chances of carrying a particular distant ancestor’s DNA become less in each generation.

However, the Y and mitochondrial DNA are never diluted, because they are never admixed with the DNA of the other parent. They are passed intact, and therefore they provide a periscope back into the very distant past, but ONLY for that particular line.  In many cases, the haplogroup, or “clan” tells you a great deal about that ancestor, such as where they were from ancestrally.  There are African, Native American, Asian, Jewish and European haplogroups, and yes of course there is some overlap between some of those, but we have advanced tools to deal with that too.

Combining Autosomal DNA with Y and Mitochondrial

If you can discover the Y and mitochondrial DNA haplogroup of each of the ancestors on your tree, you can tell a great deal about them that may well have washed out in the autosomal DNA. For example, in the colored graph above, let’s say that the blue male line is unquestionably Native American and carries a distinctive Native American Y haplogroup, C-P39.

Using this example, if the blue male great-grandfather is 100% Native, which is very unlikely today, the “son’s” and “daughter’s” autosomal DNA would reflect something like 12.5% Native heritage.

However, if the blue great grandfather was himself only one eighth Native, he would have carried roughly 6.25% total Native autosomal DNA and his children would carry roughly 3.25%. The father in this chart would carry roughly 1.63% Native autosomal DNA and the children in the chart, only .81 or less than 1%, an amount which is generally not recognizable on autosomal ethnicity tests today.  It’s also possible that the Native autosomal DNA has “washed out” entirely by this time.

The good news is that the Y DNA is still 100% Native. So even though Native heritage may not be detectable today in the autosomal tests, it’s 100% confirmed in the Y DNA test for that line.  This makes Y DNA a very powerful tool.  Mitochondrial DNA works the very same way on the matrilineal line – it never gets diluted either.

But, what if your Native ancestor is not in either the Y (blue) or mitochondrial (red) lines that you can directly test for?  What if your Native ancestor is in the yellow, green, pink, grey, gold or aqua lines.  You won’t know what the DNA of those direct Y or mitochondrial lines tells you until you find someone appropriately descended from those lines to test.

DNA Beggars

You’ve now become a DNA beggar – begging for people who do descend from those lines through Y or mitochondrial DNA to test. If you’re a female, it can become immediately evident if you have no male siblings and your father is deceased.  In this case, you can’t test your Y DNA directly (because you don’t have a Y chromosome,) but you desperately need those results to flesh out your genealogy.

The good news is that this same information is important to other people too and they DO carry the Y or mitochondrial DNA of the lineage you need.

I call this process creating your DNA pedigree chart.  Here’s an example of mine with haplogroups, where known.

DNA Pedigree

The good news is that sometimes people from those lineages have already tested and you may be able to find them through either surname projects, Ysearch or Mitosearch. When I can’t find someone who has already tested, I try various methods to recruit a suitable candidate and sweeten the pie by offering a DNA scholarship.

DNA Scholarships

Given that you want other people to test their DNA to provide information for your common ancestor – the best way to obtain that is to offer to pay for the test. Hence, the DNA scholarship.  Some people don’t feel comfortable if I say I’m paying for a test.  Sometimes, in surname and haplogroup projects, people join forces to pay for tests for someone with a particular lineage.  Regardless of who pays, or how, the result is that a DNA scholarship is available for someone of a particular lineage.

Looking for a DNA Scholarship?

You’d actually be surprised how many scholarships, or free DNA tests, are available. The ISOGG Wiki holds a list under the title of “Free DNA Tests” at this link.

The scholarships I offer, listed below, are for one person, and when someone has taken that one test, the scholarship is no longer available. I’ll update this list as I add scholarships and as they are (hopefully) redeemed.

Mitochondrial DNA Testing Scholarship for anyone who descends through any from the following people (or their female siblings) through all females only. In the current generation, meaning you, males can test so long as there are only females between the male and the ancestor.

Y DNA Testing Scholarship for any male who descends from the following people through all males, meaning you carry the surname today:

  • Berchtol, Hans (1641/53-1711) Konken/Krottelbach, Germany, wife Anna Christina or Hans Simon Berchtol/Bechtel, wife Catherine, living in Steinwenden, Germany in the same timeframe
  • Bonnevie, Jacque dit “Beaumont” (c1660 Paris -1783 Port Royal, Acadia)
  • Combs, John (c1705-1762) Amelia County, VA or brother George Combs (b 1701/05-c1765) lived in Charlotte County, VA
  • Dorfler, Johann George (1732-1790), Speichersdorf and Wirbenz, Germany, married Anna Magdalena Buntzman, Johann Dorfler (1699-1779) Wirbenz married Anna Gerlin, Johann Dorfler (born c 1660) Wirbenz married Barbara Ehl
  • Kirsch, Jacob (1841 Mutterstadt, Germany -1917 Aurora, Indiana) married to Barbara Drechsel, Philipp Jacob Kirsch (1806 Mutterstadt, Germany -1880 Ripley County, Indiana) married to Katharina Barbara Lemmert, Andreas Kirsch (1772-1819 Fussgoenheim, Germany) married Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler, Johann Valentin Kirsch (1744 Fussgoenheim – 1792 Carlberg, Germany) married Anna Margaretha Kirsch, Johann Wilheim Kirsch (b 1706 Fussgoenheim) married Maria Catharina Spanier, Johann Martin Kirsch (c1680 Fussgoenheim – 1741) married Anna Elisabetha Borstler, Johann Jacob Kirsch (c1660-Fussgoenheim-c1723) married Maria Catharina surname unknown, Jerg Kirsch (born c1630-died Fussgoenheim, Germany)
  • Mann, John (1725 Ulster, Ireland-1774 Botetourt Co., VA) married Frances Carpenter
  • Martin, Thomas (b 1577 Ringwould, Kent), father William Martin (died 1614)
  • Mercer, Edward (c1704-1763) married Ann, lived in Frederick County, VA
  • Woodrow/Woodward, Matthew born about 1550 probably Northborne, Kent

Jacob Kirsch (1841-1917), Lynching Saloonist With a Glass Eye, 52 Ancestors #109

The Kirsch House was the gleaming diamond of the Kirsch family – an establishment in Aurora, Indiana that lasted for almost half a century and was remembered in glowing terms. Mom and I didn’t really expect to be able to find it nearly three quarters of a century later.  When we did, it was in terrible shape, a hollow shell of its once illustrious self.  This really didn’t surprise me, given that we could find the building at all.  It is, after all, roughly 150 years old, give or take a few years in either direction.  However, what did surprise me was the rest of the story.

Far from being overblown, the legend of the Kirsch House was only partly revealed in the family stories.  And it contained chapters that one could never, ever have guessed.  How I wish this building could talk!

Come along on my three decade journey of discovery. This ancestor, Jacob Kirsch, and his family are chocked full of amazing surprises and intrigue – and some of them are kind of, well…on the dark side!  Get a cup of tea and get comfortable…this is some story.  I think Jacob holds the OMG Ancestor Award – meaning I said that more researching him than anyone else.

jacob kirsch

This photo was noted as Jacob Kirsch in Mom’s “suitcase of my life” that she left me when she passed. The name is not on the back of the photo, but Mom says that she thinks this is Jacob.  We do have some photos of Jacob when he’s older that are positively him.  Note the military pin, probably privately made by a local jeweler.  I wonder where that pin is today.  Surely not in my jewelry box!

Jacob Kirsch was certainly an interesting man. For one thing, he had a glass eye.  When he was an old man, he used to sit outside the Kirsch House on the sidewalk in his chair, take his glass eye out and scare the children, who would run away screaming for their life…only to return for him to do it all over again.  Even more amazing, for a man who died in 1917, we have two eye-witness (pardon the pun) accounts!

As my mother, his great-granddaughter would have said, he was “some character.” How I would love to sit down in a chair beside him, watch him scare those kids and listen to stories about his life – and how he lost his eye.  Maybe the children would gather around and listen to his lifetime of adventures too!  Goodness, there were wars and murders and floods and elephants, oh my!

Eloise Lore, his granddaughter, said that Jacob’s eye was lost in a quail hunting accident, something about hiding behind a bush with another boy. Boys will be boys.  So when his mother lectured the other children about not “putting your eye out,” maybe they listened!  Nah!

Ironically, the glass eye would definitely affect two other things in Jacob’s life, although today we don’t know exactly how. First, depending the age at which the accident happened, it could have affected his ability to serve in the Civil War, as it would have affected his depth perception.  His obituary, with information obviously from a family source, said that even though he could not pass the Civil War physical, he went along anyway and served as the cook and teamster.  And yes, by the way, his family was “Union,” being from Indiana.

Additionally, another story about Jacob’s marksmanship survives within the family, but we really can’t gauge whether this is a true story or a tall tale. Eloise, his granddaughter who knew him well, told me that he was at one time called to the Cincinnati zoo to kill an elephant that had either broken out of the zoo or turned on its trainer.  In any event, the elephant had gone insane.  I shudder to think about why, but Jacob supposedly was summoned because of his superior marksmanship and went to kill the elephant.  One would think that with one eye, his marksmanship would be inferior, not superior, but then again, there are a lot of possible variables to this story.  Eloise, born in 1903, also said that he had a lot of “large hunting rifles” at the Kirsch House.  Jacob would have been 62 in 1903, so Eloise knew him from that time until his death in 1917.

The fact that Jacob does have a glass eye is visible in later photographs, if you realize what you’re looking for. In the earlier photo above, he doesn’t seem to have the glass eye, assuming that it is Jacob.  However, he is wearing some sort of apparent military pin.  I wish this pin were clearer in the photo.  That pin might hold another clue about his military service.

Certainly, all of these stories can’t be true…but we know for sure that one of them is. Telford Walker, a man in his 80s or so in the 1980s when Mom and I visited Aurora, Indiana, and the local historian, told us he was one of those small children who used to watch Jacob Kirsch remove his glass eye!!!  He told me that Jacob used to pop it in his mouth and then spit it out again.  No wonder those kids ran screaming.  That’s the stuff nightmares are made of.

Another local man, Earl Huffman, born in 1896 tells about the Kirsch House and Jacob in his column in the Journal Press, “Aurora As I Saw It Through the Years” on December 14, 1976. Earl says of Jacob, “He had only one eye but he saw everything.  He operated the business on a high level and catered only to high-level traveling men.”

Funny, that glass eye story is one Mom and I had never heard until Telford told us. We sat there in the old Kirsch House, dumbstruck, spellbound, staring at Telford and each other in disbelief.  Jacob must have been having a good laugh, watching his great-granddaughter and great-great-granddaughter come back to the Kirsch house to be shocked by his infamous glass eye.  Family memory can be quite selective – but you’d think that story would have been VERY memorable.  We asked Eloise, his granddaughter, who was elderly but still living when Mom and I first visited Aurora, and she confirmed the story.  She thought “everyone knew that,” so there was no need to mention it.

Germany to Indiana

Mutterstadt church

Photo compliments of Chris Young of the Weinacht family.

Jacob Kirsch was born in the Lutheran church in Mutterstadt, Germany (above) on May 1st, 1841 to Philipp Jacob Kirsch and Catharina Barbara Lemmert.

Jacob Kirsch birth

The church registry in Mutterstadt, above, records the birth of Jacob Kirsch on May 1st, 1841 and his baptism on May the 5th.  It states the names of his parents as well as his godparents, “Jacob Krick II and Anna Maria Lemmert, Protestant couple from here.”  Anna Maria was his mother’s sister, so Jacob was named for his mother’s sister’s husband.  The record also says Jacob immigrated with his parents in 1847.  Gotta love those German church records!!!

We don’t know if the church records were a year off, or it the family took some time after leaving Mutterstadt to get to their port of debarkation, because they didn’t actually set sail until June of 1848.

Another record of Jacob’s birth is from Nora Kirsch’s Bible

The following document was sent to my mother years ago by Eloise Lore, Jacob and Barbara’s granddaughter. It is from the Bible of Eloise’s mother, Nora Kirsch Lore.  The handwriting is my mother’s as she “fixed” things.  As you can see, sometimes her “fix” was inaccurate.

Nora's Bible2

Jacob and his family immigrated first to New Orleans, then boarded a steamer for Aurora, Indiana.  They left on June the 14, 1848 from the port of Le Havre in France and arriving in New Orleans on the 4th of July, the significance of which is not lost on me.

Although I’m sure it changed some between 1848 and 1920, here’s a postcard depicting the quayside in Le Havre.  Many of the old building would have been the same.  Jacob’s eyes must have been as big as saucers.

Jacob Kirsch Le Havre

I visited LeHavre in 2013, and although it didn’t look anything like the quayside above today, the surrounding countryside was still very quaint and villages were scattered about every couple miles or so – each one with a cluster of houses and a church. Scanning the horizon, you could see several at one time.  Little has probably changed between then and now except for power lines, paved roads and a few new buildings.  The little villages are still the little villages nestled in the countryside, the church at the center of the community.

The sea, however, I’m sure looks exactly the same. Timeless, vast, and sometimes dark and ominous in its beauty.

Le Havre sea

This must have been high adventure for a boy of 6 or 7 years. I bet his mother had a terrible time keeping track of him on the ships, because he would have been the perfect age to want to explore, run around and perhaps play like he was a mate or a pirate.  I wonder if he wore a patch over one eye!

1848 Ship Manifest

The ship’s passenger list gives Jacob’s age as 6.

This painting from the 1860s shows the port of New Orleans at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Their landing would have looked something like this – amazing I’m sure to Jacob.  As far as he was concerned, this trip was the adventure of a lifetime.

Jacob Kirsch New Orleans

From New Orleans, the family boarded a river paddle steamer and steamed their way up the Mississippi River, angling northeast at the Ohio River. This steamboat on the Mississippi in 1853 is probably very close to what Jacob saw.

Jacob Kirsch riverboat

On the map of Dearborn County below, you can see the City of Aurora at the bend in the River, and Lawrenceburg upstream towards Ohio.  This would be the end of the line for the Kirsch family – and the beginning of their new life.

Dearborn map

Ripley County

Aurora, in Dearborn County, would play a large part in Jacob’s life as an adult, but first the family went to Ripley County, joining Dearborn County on the west near Moore’s Hill, where Jacob lived and grew up as a child. His first sight of Indiana was likely the steamboat dock at Aurora.  Ironically, that dock was less than a quarter mile from where Jacob would spent the majority of his life as an adult, the Kirsch House on Second Street.

aurora dock to Kirsch house

The Kirsch family is found living in Ripley County in the 1850 census, and Jacob had a new baby brother, Andreas, who would die as a young child. This child was listed as 1 year old, meaning he had had his birthday by August 20th, 1850.  The gravestone in the old Lutheran Cemetery is confusing and in very poor condition, but the date was still legible many years ago, February 6th.  If this child turned 1 on February 6, 1849, that means his mother was pregnant when she was on board that ship. If she had morning sickness on top of sea sickness, she would have been one miserable woman.

Andreas death date is also given as September 19th, 1821 and 1891.  Clearly, neither year can be accurate.  Another transcribed source says 1853, which is likely closer to the truth. The year was probably 1851 since both a 2 and a 9 can look like a 5 when the stone is worn,  and 1 is the constant last number in the 1821 and 1891 transcriptions.  We know Andreas is not in the 1860 census,

We don’t know if Jacob had experienced death before or not, but we do know that on September 19th, (probably) 1851 his baby brother, age 2 years and 7 months, died and they likely buried him in a small grave beside the Lutheran church that no longer exists, in the countryside, in their new country.  Jacob would have been 10 years old. He would certainly have remembered that day, probably vividly.

By 1860, the older family members were moving to town. Jacob’s sister Barbara married Martin Koehler in 1851 and brother Philip Kirsch was living with them in a boarding house in Aurora in 1860.  Brother Martin Kirsch was living with William Kraas, a German baker in Lawrenceburg.  The young Kirsch’s were fledging.

But Jacob, along with his brother John, born in 1835, are, well, missing, for lack of anything else to call it. Actually, we know John outlived Jacob because Jacob’s obituary provides us with that tidbit – so he’s not dead. And Jacob is very much alive too…someplace.  I just can’t find him!

On May 27th, 1866, Jacob Kirsch married Barbara Drechsel in Aurora, Indiana, a nice German girl.

Between the 1860 census where Jacob was missing and his 1866 wedding, life for the Kirsch family would change dramatically.

The Civil War

Jacob’s parents, Philipp Jacob Kirsch and his wife Katharina Barbara Lemmert had five sons. One died in infancy.  Three, and possibly four, served in the Civil War.  Martin served, but is never found in records again and likely died, either in active duty or by disease.

I believe that Jacob Kirsch also served in the War. He certainly was of the age where militia participation was required. There is, however, that little issue of a glass eye, and the obituary that says that he “was unable to pass the physical examination for admission, but served in the conflict as cook and teamster when but 19 years of age.”  And there’s the painting of him wearing what appears to be a Union uniform, passed down through the family.

Jacob Kirsch civil war painting

And not only am I confused about his service, but it appears that the government was too.

Jacob Kirsch pension app

Jacob’s widow, Barbara, applied for a Civil War pension after Jacob’s death. Her pension application was declined, but she gives Jacob’s unit number as the Indiana 137th Regiment Infantry, Company F and says he enlisted in Jefferson County, Indiana. This unit was organized at Indianapolis, Ind., and mustered into service May 26, 1864. If Jacob was in this unit, he was ordered to Tennessee and assigned to duty as Railroad Guard in Tennessee and Alabama, Dept. of the Cumberland, until September, 1864. Barbara did not say when he mustered out.  Given that Barbara likely knew Jacob during the Civil War, I find it unlikely that Jacob did not serve.  Furthermore, we have that painting of Jacob in uniform.

I researched the 137th regiment, and found a daily diary kept by another soldier, removing all doubt about whether or not that particular soldier served.  This man’s name was also not on the roll of the unit.  It appears that records were not well kept during the Civil War, so although Jacob Kirsch does not appear on the official federal roster of this unit, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility that he did in fact serve.  We’ll likely never sort this out today, but I gave it my best shot!

When I received Jacob and Barbara’s records from the National archives, they included the intermingled records of two different Jacob Kirschs. Another Jacob Kirsch died in 1931 and his military records involving his burial allowance indicate that he served in company K, 13th regiment and enlisted on May 16, 1864, discharged on September 21, 1864.

The “other” Jacob Kirsch lived in North Madison, Indiana, when he died, was a cooper, born in Cincinnati, Ohio of German parents. His wife’s name was Eveline, but she predeceased him, according to his death certificate.  His step-daughter applied for burial benefits, so Eveline could have married Jacob when he was older.  In some of the service records, he is recorded as Jacob Cash.

A note on the request for award of benefits for the burial of the Jacob Kirsch in Madison County says, “Name not found on rolls of the 13th Indiana Infantry, Private Co., K 137th Indiana Infantry, 100 days, 1864, enlisted May 16, 1864, discharged September 21, 1864.”  Note, the underscore was theirs.

So, they denied Barbara’s pension request in 1929, but they “fixed” the request of the 1931 Jacob so his family could obtain the burial benefit.

Jacob Kirsch pension chart

Somehow, I just have the feeling that the mortician looked in that exact same book that I discovered, found Jacob Kirsch listed, and suggested that the “Other Jacob’s” step-daughter file for death benefits. The worst thing that could happen was that they would be turned down.  They weren’t.

I verified at that there is a service record index card for Jacob Kirsch, Company K, 137 Indiana infantry.

The Regiment is the same. The history of Regiment 137 shows us that it had 10 companies, lettered A to K, with different companies being raised from different geographic areas.

So, now we have Jacob of Madisonville who died in 1931 whose step-daughter claimed service in Company K, 13th Indiana infantry.  A Jacob Kirsch’s name was found on the 137th infantry, Company F.  And Barbara claims her Jacob served those same dates in the 137th, Company F but her widow’s claim was denied.

Company F shows a Jacob Kirsch from Jefferson County on the “Indiana Volunteers, 137th Regiment.”   Company K shows no Kirsch or Cash.

Jacob Kirsch enlistment document

Jacob Kirsch company F

Jacob Kirsch Company F 2

It’s beyond me why the Veteran’s Bureau could not find Jacob’s name on the roster for the unit in which Barbara says he served, when he is clearly there, and they corrected the application for another Jacob two years later. This list of rosters was published by the State of Indiana in 1867, so it was surely available in 1929, and the undertaker apparently found it two years later in 1931.

Had Barbara not believed that Jacob had served, she would not have filed for a pension. In a small community, one cannot claim service without the rest of the community knowing whether you actually served or not.  Apparently by 1929, Barbara was elderly and impoverished, and the family was very hopeful that his pension would help her.  I’m sure her daughters didn’t let Barbara starve, but it’s sad to see the widows of our servicemen reduced to dependence on others in their old age.

Jacob’s Brothers Who Served

From the Dearborn Co. History book, we find the list of men in the 32nd Regiment, Indiana Volunteer Infantry, described as “strictly a German regiment,” recruited in Sept 1861.  Dearborn Co. German men furnished most of two companies; Company C with John L. Giegoldt of Aurora as Captain, and Company D that included Martin Kirsch and Valentine Kirsch, a member of the Lawrenceburg Kirsch family.

Ripley County offered a $20 bounty for every man drafted, then in 1864, they offered a $100 bounty for every man who either served or found a suitable substitute within the county.

Jacob’s oldest brother, Philipp Kirsch served in the Civil War in the US Army Company D 3rd Regiment, Indiana Volunteer Infantry, known as the third Cavalry.  He was joined Aug. 22, 1861 at Madison, Indiana for the duration of the war.  He owned his own horse, but the equipment was furnished by the government.  He was in Capt. Keister’s company and mustered out at the end of the war on Sept. 9, 1864 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  He served a total of 3 years and a month.  Based on his regimental history, Philip was likely at the historic Battle of Antietam, the single bloodiest battle in American history, with 23,000 casualties in one day.

Miller Brethen church Antietam

Only one known photo of Philipp Kirsch who served in the Civil War exists, in the photo below with Philip on the left, Barbara Drechsel Kirsch in the middle and her husband, Philipp’s brother, Jacob Kirsch on the right. This photo had to have been taken before Philipp’s death in 1905.  Jacob Kirsch doesn’t look nearly as gray as he does in later photographs.

Philip Kirsch Barbara Drechsel Jacob Kirsch

Jacob’s brother Martin Kirsch also served in the Civil War, and may have been killed. I find nothing after the Civil War for Martin. He was recruited in 1861 and served in Company D 32nd Indiana Regiment. Part of the Army of the Ohio, the 32nd fought at Rowlett’s Station in Kentucky; Shiloh, Stones River, and Missionary Ridge in Tennessee; and Chickamauga in Georgia.

There is also a John Kirsch who served, but I’ve been unable to verify that the John who served is Jacob’s brother.

Starting a Family in Aurora

On May 27, 1866, Jacob Kirsch married Barbara Drechsel, daughter of Aurora residents George Drechsel and Barbara Mehlheimer. Barbara Drechsel was born in Germany too, and according to family members the entire group spoke German until WWI when they began speaking English publicly.  They were married by J.C. Schneider, minister at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran church, formed in 1856, where their children were subsequently baptized and attended school.  In 1866, the Lutherans would still have been renting the Baptist church, as the “new” church wasn’t built until 1874, so that’s likely where Jacob and Barbara were married.

Barbara’s father, George is listed as one of the Lutheran church founders, so Barbara had likely attended the Lutheran church in the Baptist church house her entire childhood. The current church was built in 1874, with Barbara and Jacob likely watching it be built and perhaps participating.

Jacob Kirsch st John Aurora

Here’s the Google street view of the church where many of these baptisms took place, but it looked a little different even 25 years ago when Mom and I visited.

Jacob Kirsch st John's google

The church in the early 1990s still had a grassy area along the side. Mom and I wondered if the Kirsch children played in this yard as they attended the Lutheran school.  They assuredly walked to school, being less than two blocks to the Kirsch house and only a couple blocks to their Drechsel grandparents as well.  Plus there would have been few strangers and everyone knew everyone else.

Jacob Kirsch St. John side

The Kirsch children were educated in St. John’s Lutheran School held in the church. Free schools did not exist in Aurora at that time, so everyone who educated their children paid tuition in some location for their children to attend school.

Mother and I visited this church and perused the records when we visited. The stained glass windows appeared to be original, and mother thought they were beautiful.  We took several photos, including the one below that shows mother pointing upwards.  Now she too has gone to join her ancestors who lived and worshiped here, and we are left with only the reflections of their lives on earth.

Mom church window

Religion played an important part in the lives of the German immigrants. Most of the German families were Protestant, but a few were Catholic.  Churches delivered their sermons in German until the advent of the First World War.  Eloise remembers hearing German spoken at the Kirsch House, but she recalls that the adult children of Jacob and Barbara Kirsch told them that they needed to speak English, not German, when WWI broke out, and they never spoke German again.  The family was afraid that people in America would thing they were not loyal.

I understand the concern, but it seems odd for a group of people who fought in the Civil War some half a century earlier.

The 1870 census shows that Jacob and Barbara had started a family.

They were living in Aurora, but didn’t own property, at least not yet. Jacob is listed as a cooper and they are living in a building with another German family and possibly some additional people as well.  Nora was 3, Martin 2 and the baby, Edward, was 3 months old.

A year later, on September 9th, 1871, they bought lot 6 in David Walser’s subdivision in the city of Aurora.

Jacob Kirsch Aurora map crop 3

Mom and I were given this 1875 plat map during our visit to Aurora, and we were able to locate the properties of importance to Jacob and Barbara Kirsch during their lifetime. Barbara Drechsel’s parents’ home is located on 4th Street, and the future Kirsch House, labeled as the French House, is located on Second Street beside the depot.

Their first home in Walser’s subdivision is near the bottom, with a pencil note indicating which lot was theirs. I wonder if they built that house or if it had been previously built.

Today, this property is along Lincoln Street where it splits from Conwell.

Jacob Kirsch first property

Old maps and Google street view today are wonderful tools used jointly. We can “drive along” Lincoln.

Jacob Kirsch Lincoln driveby

The original homes are probably gone today or well disguised under contemporary siding and modernization.

Jacob Kirsch Lincoln driveby 2

Jacob and Barbara didn’t live there long, because by August of 1875, they bought the property from James and Ellen French, renamed it the Kirsch House, of course, and moved the two blocks to town, right beside the depot.  Prior to this sale, the establishment was called the French House.  An ad in 1876 business directory shows Jacob Kirsch as the proprietor, still gives the name as the French House and says “The house is pleasantly situated near the railroad depot and will be found the most desirable place in the city of Aurora at which to stop.  Good wines, liquors and cigars.”

If you were going to have a bed and breakfast type of tavern in Aurora, this was the place to be. Earl Huffman in his article mentions the crowds of people at the train station awaiting the arrival of trains and references the Kirsch House of that era as a “glamorous hotel.”  I think I would have been outside with a tray of cold drinks in the summer and hot drinks in the winter, working the crowds!  The train depot delivered people to the doorstep, and directly down second street were the docks for the Ohio River.  As they say in real estate, “location, location, location.”

Jacob Kirsch Kirsch House satellite.jpg

As a proprietor, it doesn’t get any better.

In the 1880 census, Jacob is shown as a saloon keeper and having a boarding house. Indeed, they have 3 boarders and Barbara’s sister, Mary Drexler, age 17, is living with them as a servant.

Earl Huffman who knew Jacob Kirsch and the Kirsch House says that “The Kirsch House catered to tobacco buyers and other prominent business men who visited Aurora. It was a plush and modern hotel at that time, with a resplendent history and a stone gutter and a wooden portico over the cement sidewalk which was laid in 1905.  Jacob Kirsch catered to only high-level traveling men.  Aurora had some of these men, and they frequented, and some lived at, the Kirsch House.”  The Kirsch House may have been posh and had a portico over the sidewalk, but according to Huffman, at that time in history, the street was still dirt.  Of course, horses and carriages waited at the depot for visitors who needed a ride, so the clip-clop of hooves would have been a constant backdrop at the Kirsch House.

Kirsch House postcard

You can see the depot and the porch in the photo above, which was laminated on the bar in the old Kirsch House building when Mom and I visited in the 1990s.

The Kirsch House

From 1875 until 1921, for nearly half a century, the Kirsch House was a landmark establishment in Aurora as well as the hub of Kirsch family activity.  Memories of the Kirsch House, references to it and stories about it filled the 1900s and live into the 21st century, firmly planting the Kirsch House as an icon of the Kirsch family shortly after their immigration.  My mother may have been there as a child, but she had no recollection of it.  Her brother, Lore, did visit as a child, and Eloise, mother’s aunt, had many fond memories of the Kirsch House.  Eloise was the youngest child of Nora Kirsch and C.B. Lore, born in 1903, so she spent her entire childhood visiting the Kirsch House.  My grandmother, Edith Lore, Nora Kirsch’s daughter, lived at the Kirsch House while attending business school in Cincinnati between 1905 and 1908, taking the train back and forth to classes daily.

Eloise said that there was a bar on one side, and on the other there was a parlor, dining room and kitchen. The cooper’s wagon delivered beer to the Kirsch house and the beer was kept in the basement.  I’m surprised there was a basement with the river flooding issue.

Eloise said the stairs to the upstairs were curved, and that is the staircase that Nora descended to marry Curtis Lore, Eloise’s father.  Eloise also said that Jacob always said, “Another horse, by God,” and that he lost his eye behind a bush while quail hunting.  You know, I guess it’s possible that a stick poked Jacob’s eye out, given that bush part of the story, instead of a gunshot.  I really never thought about that possibility, but it wouldn’t make nearly as good of a story.

Kirsch house 1990s

Mother, my daughter and I visited the old Kirsch House in 1992 when it was Perrone’s restaurant. The bar is original, and may have already been installed prior to Jacob owning the property when it was the French House.  Regardless, Jacob Kirsch, with his glass eye, stood behind this bar for nearly 45 years and served his patrons.  I wonder how many different stories he had in his repertoire about how he lost his eye.  You know the patrons asked!

Based on the metal seal on the bar, it was manufactured in Cincinnati, but we don’t know when. It was beautifully restored when we visited in 1992, but was missing from the building in 2008.

Jacob Kirsch bar seal

Research on the Huss Brothers Manufacturing company tells us they were in business still in 1912 when an article in a woodcraft journal tells us they had a fire in their varnish room, but the machinery wasn’t damaged and that they made billiard and pool tables and bar fixtures. The company seems to be in business as early as 1890 and specialized in high end cabinetry, including musical instruments.  The bar probably arrived via rail, right next door.

Jacob Kirsch bar

I visited the Kirsch House one last time in 2008, when it was indeed in a sorry state. It had not been inhabited in the past 15 years or so, and the bar had become the subject of a lawsuit.  I’m guessing the bar is or was the single most valuable asset on that property, and it apparently “disappeared” at some point in a real estate transaction.  In 2008, the city was evaluating their options in terms of purchasing and restoring the building and had an architect provide an evaluation and recommendations.  The mayor at that time was kind enough to not only give us a complete tour, something I had never had before, but a copy of the recommendation as well.  I told him I was hoping to win the lottery, then he wouldn’t have a funding issue.  Needless to say, I didn’t win.  As of 2013, the building was still standing, but had not been restored.

The Kirsch House was located beside the depot on Second Street. This allowed the proprietors to take full advantage of any travelers arriving on the train, and they were only three blocks from the Ohio River where passengers arriving by steamer would disembark as well.  Because of the proximity to the train depot, the hobos would come to the back door of the Kirsch House and Barbara would feed them all.  The Kirsch’s were looked upon, according to Eloise, as upper class shop and property owners.  Photos above and below were from our late 1980s or early 1990s visits.

Jacob Kirsch house by depot

The Kirsch house, when Jacob owned it, had a roof covering the sidewalk. In 1992, the roof over the sidewalk was gone.

Jacob Kirsch house rear

Mother always spoke of the private garden area behind the house. I understood that this area was enclosed with brick for privacy, included a pump, and it is indeed where one of Jacob Kirsch’s son-in-laws’ committed suicide.

In the photo below, my mother and daughter are looking at the depot side of the Kirsch House. This is a very long building and this is about half its length.

Jacob Kirsch House side

You can see in essence the same view of the Kirsch House in the postcard below, also from the Kirsch House bar.

Jacob Kirsch house and depot

It looks a lot different today. Jacob and Barbara would probably be heartsick.

The following document provided by Telford Walker (now deceased) was an envelope singing the praises of Aurora sent from the Kirsch House in 1894.

Jacob Kirsch house envelope back

Jacob Kirsch House envelope front

The Kirsch House was purchased in August 1875 by Jacob Kirsch from James and Ellen French. Twelve years later, in February 1887, a very unusual transaction occurred and Jacob sold the Kirsch House to his wife Barbara Kirsch.

The family scuttlebutt was that Jacob had been involved somehow with the murder of an itinerant bricklayer who accosted a local gal and the bricklayer’s family subsequently sued the men who killed him. As it turns out, this story was based at least partially in truth, with a bit of icing on the cake.  A suit was filed in the Federal Court in Indianapolis.

Barbara eventually sold the property in March of 1921 after Jacob’s death to G. and L. Neaman.  This location comprises four city lots, lots 280-283.

In July of 1941, George and Louise Neaman sold the property to Fred Wellman, and in 1976, the Wellman’s sold it to PGR. In 1986 PGR sold it to Ann Craft who apparently still owned it when we visited in the late 80s or early 90s.  It was then an Italian Restaurant, Peronne’s.

Emmert. L. Kirsch of Lawrenceburg Indiana in 1993, provided the following information in a letter.

City of Aurora Directory, Dec. 5 1895 – Phil Kirsch, Retired
Jacob Kirsch, Proprietor
Ed Kirsch, Clerk

Kirsch House 162 and 164 Second Street.

Emmert notes that the above address raises the question of the actual location of this establishment.  An 1876 article indicates the north end of Second Street but the 1895 directory address indicates the south end of Second Street.   Emmert goes on to speculate that perhaps Jacob had a second location at the south end of Second Street at that time.  He says there is evidence of a track at that location.  I don’t think this is the case.

The current address for the property is 506 Second Street. In the 1875 deed, it is listed as 280-285 Second Street, which were the lot numbers, and in 1900, the census lists Jacob at 148 and his son Edward at 162 Second St.  There is evidence that the addresses on the Streets were changed at some point, and from the looks of the addresses, possibly twice.

We do know that the location of the Kirsch House that Mother and I found is at the North end of town, beside the depot, and Telford Walker knew Jacob Kirsch at the Kirsch House in that location. In fact, in an incredible twist of fate or moment of synchronicity, Telford was at a luncheon taking place at Perrone’s, the former Kirsch House, when mother and I visited.  The then current owner went and got Telford and introduced us.

In the courthouse at Lawrenceburg, there is a framed “Boland’s Location Map of the Business Center of Aurora, Indiana”. It says the coffin factory had just been erected, which was built in 1889 or 1890, so this map must be from the early 1890s.

At the top of this chart, separated from the O. & M. depot grounds by only an alley is located the Kirsch House conducted by Mr. J. Kirsch, with the following ad. “The traveling world will here find every comfort and convenience of a temporary home; good viands, good beds and courteous treatment. Keep the Kirsch House in your mind when you visit Aurora.”

On the map, the Kirsch House is located between Exporting and Bridgeway Streets on Second, the same location as today. The entire block behind the Kirsch House is taken up by the Samuel Wymond Cooperage stave yards and the train depot is next door.  Jacob Kirsch’s daughter, Carrie, would marry Samuel Wymond’s son.

Cousin Irene Bultman (now deceased) recalls of the Kirsch House:

Back in the 30s or 40s, my mother’s sister and her husband bought the Neaman House, the old Kirsch house, and found some pictures in the attic, but I don’t know what happened to them. Gladys and Fred Wellmann, then their son Thomas took ownership and had it until 1976. Thomas or Tommy, as he was known, refinished the counter behind the bar.  The dining room has been redone.  When Aunt Gladys lived there, on the ground floor was a living room and a large dining room and a large kitchen.  You could go into the saloon from the dining room.  I don’t remember whether there was a bedroom on the first floor and whether the living room was used as a bedroom. I know that my female cousin slept upstairs.  The Express Freight office was also connected to this building.

The following photo is of Jacob and Barbara Drechsel Kirsch in later years. Jacob’s beard and moustache were ever-present it seems.  Jacob was apparently carrying a pocket watch and I can’t tell for sure, but it looks like he might have been wearing a lapel pin.  I wonder if it was that same military pin.  He was also wearing a ring on his left hand.

Jacob Kirsch and Barbara Drechsel

Another photo of Jacob and the family exists. We can date it by the age of Eloise who is in the photo and looks to be about 3 or 4 years old, so the photo must have been taken about 1906 or 1907 but before 1909 when C. B. Lore dies.  These two photos appear to have been taken the same day, judging from the clothing.

Jacob Kirsch family photo crop

This is the only photo where all of the Kirsch children appear to be present with their parents.  Left to right, I can identify people as follows:

  • Seated left – one of the Kirsch sisters – possibly Carrie.
  • Standing male left behind chair – CB Lore – which places this photo before November 1909
  • Seated in chair in front of CB Lore in white dress – Nora Kirsch Lore
  • Male with bow tiestanding beside CB Lore – probably Edward Kirsch
  • Male standing beside him with no tie – probably Martin Kirsch
  • Woman standing in rear row – Kirsch sister, possibly Lula.
  • Standing right rear – Jacob Kirsch.
  • Front adult beside Nora – Kirsch sister, possibly Ida.
  • Child beside Nora – Mildred or Eloise Lore, probably Eloise
  • Adult woman, seated, with black skirt – Barbara Drechsel Kirsch
  • Young woman beside Barbara to her left with large white bow – probably Curtis Lore

Apparently Barbara maintained the Kirsch House, at least for a few years before she sold it after Jacob’s death in 1917.  We found stationery predated for the 1920s with 192_.  B. Kirsch is listed as proprietor.  She was 72 years old in 1920 when this stationery was printed. She was one ambitious and apparently tireless lady.

Barbara did not inherit the property when Jacob died because she already owned it, free and clear. Based on an 1887 deed, the Kirsch House legally belonged to Barbara alone, an extremely unusual situation for that time and place.

Mother and I found the February 1887 deed from Jacob to Barbara. This was a highly unusual move, especially since they did not divorce nor was there any oral history of discord.  We wondered why, and suspected that something was amiss, or at least that there was a good story lurking someplace.  However, we were certainly not prepared for what came next.

The Lynching

Jacob Kirsch was involved with a lynching. What appears below is the newspaper coverage we were able to find, followed by the actual court documents found at the National Archives branch in Chicago, Illinois in 2008.

Aug. 26, 1886 Newspaper article:

Swift Retribution

Louis Hilbert Murdered by a Tramp Bricklayer at Aurora

The Murderer Forfeits His Life Within Twenty Minutes After Killing His Victim

A frightful double tragedy occurred at Aurora on Thursday last about the noon hour, resulting in the death of two men. The announcement that a highly esteemed citizen had been murdered by a vagabond tramp convulsed the city with excitement, but retribution was quick and horrible. 

The murderer was hanged on the street in less than thirty minutes after the commission of his crime. The Aurora fair was in progress and the many thousand people who were in attendance were wild with excitement.  The particulars of the murder and lynching are as follows:

Mrs. Randolph is putting up a business building next to the First National Bank on the principal street. Her son-in-law, Louis Hilbert, of St. Louis was sent for and came to Aurora  to oversee the work. 

Two weeks ago a tramp bricklayer named Watkins engaged to work on the building. He worked steadily until Thursday, when about noon, he appeared at the Randolph building and Hilbert ordered him to go to work.  He had been drinking and spurned the order with an oath.  Hilbert then told him to leave the premises, when he drew a knife, and flourishing it, made for Hilbert.  Valentine Grossman, a laborer, tried to hold Watkins, but he struck at Grossman with the knife and intimidated him.  He then rushed viciously onto Hilbert and stabbed him 4 times in the breast and shoulder.  Hilbert sank to the ground dead. 

Several eye-witnesses detained the murdered until Officer Anderson arrived and placed him under arrest.

An examination of Hilbert proved that he was lifeless and the crowds on the street became furious. Watkins, the murdered, was placed in a buggy and with an officer on each side of him, an effort was made to take him to jail for safekeeping.  The crowd had now swelled to hundreds and the facts were passed from pallid lips to resolute hearers.

“Hang him!”, “Mob him!”, “Kill him!” was the cry on every hand. The horse which was drawing the murdered away was stopped, men climbed into the buggy from every side and over the buggy top like demons thirsting for human blood.  Watkins was torn from the powerless officers, a handy rope was tied around his neck and he was dragged and kicked through the streets to the coal yard enclosure of the Aurora Distilling Company.  The scaffold over an old well was utilized by the mob for a gallows and here Watkins was strung and paid the penalty of his awful crime.

Watkins lifeless body was cut down and taken to the Coroner’s office. From letters found upon his person it was found that he was a married man living at No. 153 S. Lombard St., between Ohio and Wayne Streets, Louisville, KY and that his name was William Watkins.  A letter from his wife of date August 13th, inst, discloses the name to be Eliza D. Watkins.  In the dead man’s pocket was found the following letter:

Aurora Indiana, Aug. 18th

Dear wife – I received your postal and was glad to hear from you. Got the two dollars.  Here is two more.  Best I can do at present.  Don’t answer till I write again.  Maybe I will stay.  Drop a postal anyhow.  It will be no loss and let me know whether you got the two dollars or not.  Sorry to hear Mother was sick.  God bless you all.  Good by.”

The knife Watkins used was an old shoemaker’s tool – a sharp blade only two and a half inches long.

This is the first hanging that has occurred in Dearborn County since the hanging of Fuller in 1820. Hilbert, the murdered man, married the daughter of Louis Rudolph, who a few years ago was brutally beaten to death with a dray pin by two young men named Cope and Johnson who died in the penitentiary while serving out a life sentence soon after their imprisonment.  An unfortunate and untimely death soon after carried off a beautiful daughter.  A fire a few months since destroyed the homestead, and the son-in-law attempting to rebuild it now loses his life in the attempt.  So it would seem that a strange and sad fatality was attending the family. 

Almost Another Murder

While the excitement attending the affair just described was at its height, Martin Garrity struck William Dixon, felling him insensible to the ground. Instantly, the cry was raised that another murder has been committed and from every side arose the cry of “Hang him”, and a crowd of excited fellows started to enjoy another lynching bee.  Sheriff Guard appointed a number of deputies and succeeded in quieting the excitement.  Dixon was seriously injured and for a time, his life was despaired of, but he is not thought to be in a fair way to recover.  He is an old and must esteemed citizen of Cochran.  Martin Garrity, the cowardly assailant of Dixon, in a worthless character.  He is now in jail awaiting the convening of court.

About March 10th, 1887, same newspaper:

Damages Wanted

The lynching of William F. Watkins at Aurora on August 19, 1886 will be remembered by our readers. Watkins was a Kentuckian, a citizen of Louisville, and a bricklayer by trade.  While doing work at Aurora, he had a quarrel with his boss, a well known and popular contractor, and stabbed him to death.  Public indignation was so great that Watkins was taken from the arresting officers and hanged by a mob.  On Thursday last, suit was begun in the Federal Court at Indianapolis by William W. Gibson as administrator of his estate and on behalf of the widow and children of the deceased, against Jacob Kirsch, William Gerlach, George Langford, Julius Hauck, Charles Baker, Joseph Schwartz, Adolph Schultz, William Thompson, Cyrus Sterling, Albert Bruce and Valentine Grossman for $10,000 damages.  The manner of Watkins’ death is not stated in the complaint, but it is alleged that the defendants, on the late-mentioned date “did kill and murder” the deceased, thus depriving his family of his support and leaving them unprovided with any means of gaining a livelihood.

Jacob Kirsch filing

The Lawsuit

This information was intriguing, and finding the original documents was a 15 year journey itself crossing the state of Indiana from Aurora to Indianapolis, then culminating with an archival technician in Chicago at the National Archives records center doing a personal favor and preserving these documents by cleaning them of coal dust and dirt before opening this packet that was sealed by the court 119 years ago. The technician made me copies of these documents, at the exorbitant copy fee of 75 cents per page, and sent me the entire case file.  I didn’t care how much it cost.  To me, it was gold.

The file shows that the suit was filed against all of the men accused of the murder of William Watkins by his estate administrator. All of the defendants, Jacob Kirsch included, retained the same law firm.  Much of the case file is the same pleadings and responses, word for word, being filed for each defendant.

The package included the actual pleading document itself, Jacob’s response, which was identical to that of the rest of the men, although Jacob is consistently named and mentioned first, perhaps implying that he had a leadership role (or that someone though he had more assets and would be the best legal target), the settlement document and the court’s finding.  All very interesting.

Jacob Kirsch summons

The Pleading

In the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Indiana, term 1887, William W. Gibson, the administrator of the estate of William F. Watkins, decd, plaintiff vs Jacob Kirsch (and the other 10 men named separately), shown here.

The plaintiff William W. Gibson who sues as administrator of the estate of William F. Watkins, decd, complains of the defendants, Jacob Kirsch (plus the list of other names) and says that the plaintiff is a citizen of and resident of the state of Kentucky and that the deceased herein named was at the time of his death and for 5 years theretofore a resident of the city of Louisville and that Eliza D. Watkins was on the 19th day of August 1886 a resident of Kentucky with her children.  And the plaintiff says that on the 24th day of February 1887 he was duly appointed administrator of the estate of William F. Watkins by the proper court of Jefferson County, Kentucky.

Plaintiff says that the deceased William F. Watkins was the husband of Eliza D. Watkins and that they were duly married at the City of Louisville in the State of Kentucky on December 23, 1873 and that they lived and cohabited together at said last named place as husband and wife from that time up to the time of his death hereinafter charged and that there were born to them three now surviving children, Sarah Blanche, aged 8, Francis Marion aged 6 and Emma Elizabeth aged 3 and that said Eliza Watkins and 3 children are now all living in the City of Louisville, Kentucky.

And the plaintiff says that on the 19th of August 1886 and for a short time theretofore the deceased William Watkins was temporarily in the City of Aurora, Dearborn County, Indiana employed at his usual avocation.  And plaintiff says that on said day the defendants and each and all of them at the City of Aurora unlawfully struck, beat, bruised, wounded, choked and strangled the said William Watkins and that then and there the said William Watkins died.  And the plaintiff says that the defendants and each of them did then and there kill and murder the said William Watkins and did then and there in the manner aforesaid wantonly, wickedly and unlawfully cause the death of the said Watkins.

And the said Watkins then and there died leaving surviving him as his only heirs at law the 3 children herein before named and the said Eliza Watkins, his widow.

Wherefore the plaintiff demands judgement against the defendants for the sum of $10,000 dollars and all further and proper reliefs.

Signed, George E. Downey, Lawrenceburg, Indiana, attorney for plaintiffs. Filed March 2, 1887.

As in all civil lawsuits, a response to the plaintiff’s complaint was filed, for each defendant, all of them reading the same except for the name. Sadly, all are signed by the attorney firm, not the defendant, so we don’t have a signature of Jacob Kirsch.

The Response

Now comes Jacob Kirsch, one of the defendants in the above entitled action, by Gordon, Roberts and Stapp, his attorneys, and answer to said plaintiff’s complaints says that he denies every allegation contained therein and specifically controverts the same.

And for further answer to the said complaint said defendant says that William F. Watkins, deceased, on August 19th 1886 in the City of Aurora, Indiana did feloniously, purposely and of and with his premeditated malice kill and murder one Lewis Hilbert, in the peace of God and the said State of Indiana, then and there being by then and there feloniously, purposely and of and with his the said Watkins, premeditated malice, with a certain deadly weapon, to wit, a knife which he, said Watkins, then and there had and held in his, said Watkins, right hand, striking, cutting, thrusting, stabbing and mortally wounding him the said Louis Hilbert, of which said striking, cutting, thrusting, stabbing and mortally wounding the said Hilbert then and there instantly died, and so he avers that the said William Watkins, decd, then and there became and was guilty of murder in the first degree, by reason of his then and there feloniously, purposely and of and with his premeditated malice, in manner and form aforesaid, stabbing, mortally wounding and killing the said Hilbert, and he says that immediately upon the aforesaid killing and murdering of the said Louis Hilbert by the said William Watkins, decd, in manner and form and  at the time and place aforesaid, the said William Watkins was by one Ben Anderson, a constable of the county lawfully acting as such, arrested and taken into custody and held prisoner for and on account of said murder, by him then and there committed in manner and form aforesaid, and while under said arrest, and prisoner as aforesaid in the hands and custody of said constable, and while the dead body of the said Louis Hilbert was lying on the ground, with the blood running out of the mortal wound in his body and person, which said Watkins, decd, had inflicted in the presence of the people of said city and county who were assembled in that city at and around the said dead body and scene of the said murder  – a great multitude of said people, so then and there assembled, upon seeing said murdered, William Watkins, decd, in the custody of said constable near the scene of the said murder, rushed spontaneously and simultaneously upon him and seizing him dragged him along the street of the said city to a derrick, then and there standing in the said city, and thereupon with a certain rope placed about his neck, suspending him by means of said rope to said derrick, and then and there let him hang by the neck until he was dead and whatsoever he may have done in aid or assistance of those who so hung said William Watkins, decd, or said by way of encouragement thereof before it was done or of approval afterwards, was done and said under the circumstances and in the way and manner and for the reason hereinbefore set forth and not at another time or place, or under different circumstances, or for any different reason whatever.  And he avers that at the time the said William Watkins decd was so hanged his whole natural life was forfeited and due the said State of Indiana, by reason of the deliberate, felonious and intentional killing and murdering of Louis Hilbert purposely and of his premediated malice in manner and form aforesaid, and no other person, under Heaven than said State had any legal estate, interest, right or title in or to the same and the same was of no pecuniary value in law to his said wife or children, or to his said administrator, William Gibson, in this case.

And further answering the said defendant says by the way and for the purpose of mitigating damages in this action that on the 19th of August 1886 in the City of Aurora the said Watkins did feloniously, purposefully and with and of his premedidated malice kill and murder one Louis Hilbert in the peace of God and the state then and there being, by the then and there with a certain deadly weapon, to wit, a knife which he had and held in his right hand, unlawfully and cruelly thrusting, cutting, stabbing and mortally wounding him the said Louis Hilbert of which he then and there instantly died and so he avers that the said Watkins, decd, became and was guilty of murder in the first degree, and he says that immediately upon and after the commission of the murder said Watkins was by Ben Anderson, an acting constable, lawfully authorized to act as such, duly and legally arrested and taken into custody and held prisoner for and on account of the said murder by him then and there committed in manner and form aforesaid and while so under arrest and held prisoner for said murder and while the said body of said Louis Hilbert was then and there lying dead upon the ground and the blood was running and bubbling out of his said dead body and from the mortal wounds cruelly and murderously inflicted by the said Watkins in the presence of a vast multitude of the people of the city who were assembled in the city at and around the dead body and scene of the said murder, upon seeing the said Watkins in the custody of the constable and near the dead body and scene of the said murder rushed spontaneously and simultaneously upon Watkins and seized him and dragged him upon and along the streets of said city to a derrick standing in said city and thereupon immediately with a rope placed about his neck suspended him by means of said rope to said derrick and then and there let him hang by his said neck until he was dead.  And he avers that at the time Watkins was so hanged his whole natural life was forfeited and due to the state aforesaid by reason of his murder of Hilbert and that no other person except the said State had any estate, interest, right or title in or to the same, either present or then prospective and the same was then and there of no pecuniary value in law whatever to his said wife and children, or to any of them, or to the said plaintiff.  And this he is ready to verify.  Wherefore he prays judgement and whether said plaintiff should further have and maintain his aforesaid action thereof against him.  Signed by his attorneys and filed in November 1888.

The Decision and Settlement

Next we find a handwritten note in the file dated February 1, 1889 from Jacob’s attorneys that says “the defendants here now offer to confess judgement for the sum of $5” and then a note that says “refused” and signed by the plaintiff’s attorney, George Downey.

Next we find that a letter from George Downey dated May 23, 1889 that states “On payment by the defendants of all unpaid costs herein it is agreed by the parties and requested that an entry by the parties showing submission of the cause to the court without the intervention of a jury and a finding for the defendants without judgement thereon.” From a sheet of paper in the file, it looks like the costs might have amounted to about $58.30.

The official court entry says; “No 8241, Civil Action…May 23, 1889 before the Honorable William A. Woods, Judge. “Come now the parties by their respective attorneys and thereupon agreement of the parties this cause is now submitted to the court for trial without the intervention of a jury.  And therefore the court upon agreement of the parties herein doth find for the defendants.”

Maddeningly, they never told us exactly WHAT the agreement was!

And that was the end of the lawsuit and the closing of this chapter of Jacob Kirsch’s life.  I’m left wondering what his wife and children thought of his actions.  I’m guessing no one ever messed with one of his daughters or granddaughters…at least not after that.

Knowing this tall tale wasn’t so tall and wasn’t a tale and actually did happen also perhaps provides some perspective as to why Curtis Lore married Nora Kirsch in quite the hurry that he did.

In Retrospect

I must admit, I’m totally stunned that Jacob Kirsch and the other men named were not arrested and prosecuted for murder. Today, they would unquestionably be tried, and likely convicted as well.  You can’t just take the law into your own hands, or the hands of a crowd, and lynch someone, regardless of whether they were guilty of the equivalent crime of murder or not.  And it’s not like there weren’t witnesses – there were – two police officers and the town fair taking place.  This seems to be a case of mob mentality taking over.

It’s interesting that the oral story morphed to be that Jacob killed a man, but it was protecting a woman’s honor who was being or had been attacked, the inference being that Jacob saved her from being raped and was clearly the hero in the story. Well, oral history didn’t fail us entirely, except for the rescuing the damsel in distress part which of course pokes a hole in that hero part too.

The lynching of William Watkins wasn’t’ the only drama in Jacob’s life.  He had daughters to contend with, and then there was also the matter of floods.

The Floods

Dearborn County along the Ohio was very prone to flooding. Stories were told in the Kirsch family about the flood waters, all sounding very dramatic.  In Aurora, industries established themselves along Hogan Creek, which, of course, fed the Ohio River.  The Kirsch House was located at the intersection of Second and Exporting, at the railroad tracks, near the intersection with the W. Eads Parkway today.

Aurora and creeks

Aurora was pretty much a peninsula surrounded by water, given that Hogan Creek was on two sides and the Ohio on the third. When the Ohio flooded, so did the Hogan Crreks and Aurora was underwater.

Aurora flood table*Thanks to Joe Grace for many of these numbers.

The devastating flood of 1913 was referred to as the “greatest disaster of modern times” when the water reached 69.8 feet and only the top of the depot beside the Kirsch House was visible.  That’s second floor level at the Kirsch House.  I wonder where the Kirsch family took refuge.  How did they ever get the house dried out and cleaned out?  How was it ever mold and mildew free?  Can you imagine shoveling out the basement which surely accumulated mud, trash and dead things.  I’m surprised that you can’t see water marks on the walls but maybe that’s because the water was to the top of the basement walls, and above, so there was no “line” to be seen.

Jacob Kirsch basement

The basements were probably the first to fill due to the outside access doors that were on the sidewalks and used for both loading coal for heat and the kegs of beer which needed to be kept cool. Surprisingly, the mayor told me during the tour that his family also had a hotel, with a basement, so it wasn’t uncommon.  Everyone just shoveled and cleaned.  It must have smelled terrible.

Jacob Kirsch sidewalk cellar entrance

The photo below shows the train plying flood waters near Hogan Creek.

Jacob Kirsch train in flood

Another challenge faced by the Kirsch family in Aurora was ice dams. In the winter of 1917-1918, it was bitterly cold, with only 3 days above freezing in two months, and the river froze solid at 53 feet with an ice gorge that broke with great destruction, carrying buildings away.  This was on top of 36 inches of snow.  Jacob Kirsch died in the summer of 1917, so Barbara was struggling as a widow when the elements seem to be stacked against her.  It’s amazing that she did not sell the Kirsch House then instead of in 1921.  Some of her daughters later lamented that they could not go and help when Barbara needed it.  This was surely the timeframe they were referring to.

Where I grew up in Indiana, the local creeks flooded once in a while and the main rivers too, but most people were out of harm’s way. One house I lived in got a foot or so in the yard and that was a “100 year” flood.  So, I thought to myself, how bad could these floods really have been?  The answer – they were devastating.

The 1883 and 1884 Floods

In the 1880s, a photographer named James Walton had a portrait studio in Aurora. Barbara Drechsel Kirsch had her picture taken there.  In 1884, Aurora experienced a devastating flood.

1883 Aurora Flood

The photo above is labeled 1883, and the 1884 flood was worse. It was said to have been to the second level of the Kirsch House and to the roof of the train depot.  I’m exceedingly grateful to James Walton for this photo, because it’s the only one of the town in the 1800s that I’ve seen that includes our family properties, plus it gives us some perspective on the floods in general, and how terrible it must have been a year later, in 1884.  In 1883, the river crested at 66 feet, in 1884, at 71.6 feet, so almost another 6 feet higher.  Roughly 50 feet is considered flood stage.

This photo was taken from Langley Hill, so we are looking straight down Exporting Street.

1883 Aurora flood family properties

The top right arrow off to the side of the picture is pointing to Third Street. The arrow below third street is pointing to Fourth Street, which is the first street running parallel with the bottom of the photo, closest to us.  The arrow on the corner of 4th Street and Exporting is the house that Barbara Drechsel Kirsch, Jacob’s wife, would purchase in 1921 when she sold the Kirsch House.

The top left arrow is pointing to the train depot, and the right arrow at the top is pointing to the Kirsch House, which fronts Second Street, further away. You can see its portico over the sidewalk appearing below the white front of the building.

The photo below is Second Street in the 1884 flood. The Kirsch House was located on the North end of Second Street, which is only 3 blocks long in total.  Notice that the people are standing on the second floor balconies of their homes, and the roofs at water level are the roofs normally over the sidewalks.

Jacob Kirsch 1884 flood

We know that the Kirsch family owned the Kirsch House during the 1884 flood and the subsequent floods in 1907 and two floods in 1913, just a few weeks apart, as well.  In Aurora, the floods are legendary…and devastating.

As properties in Aurora go, the Kirsch House was in a relatively safe place.  It flooded, but it was one of the last to flood.  By the time they were in trouble, so was everyone else.

The local newspaper has reported what happens in Aurora at various flood stages.  At 68 feet, water covers the intersection of 2nd and Mechanic.  They didn’t make note higher than that.  I think by then you’re in the OMG stage and everyone just needs to get the heck out of Dodge because pretty much everything is covered.  In 1937, when the river hit a historic 80 feet, every business was underwater, 780 of 1206 homes were underwater and over 3000 residents were displaced.  Floods last an average of 12 days, but the Kirsch House would only have been affected directly at the crest of the worst floods.  They probably provided shelter for displaced people the rest of the time.

One survivor of the 1937 flood, Bill McClure, said in an interview that the worst part was the mess afterwards, the mold and disease.  The drinking water wells were contaminated as well.  His sister contracted pneumonia and died in the aftermath the 1937 flood, so while she didn’t drown, the flood claimed her life just the same.

Life in Aurora

The Wymond Cooperage spanned two full blocks of Aurora along Hogan Creek, including the full block behind the Kirsch House. It’s no wonder that both Jacob and Phillip Kirsch were originally listed as coopers.  Many young men in Aurora were probably coopers. Barrels were needed for the whiskey distillers and to transport lots of things long the riverway.

Jacob Kirsch depot

With the cooperage on one side, the railroad depot (pictured here about 1920) on the other side offering passenger service, the boat dock at the far end of Second Street and the distillery nearby, the Kirsch House was ideally situated to cater to the needs of travelers as well as the local work force seeking a friendly local pub with good German food.

BLue Lick Well

The Blue Lick Well, above and below, was discovered in 1888 by Curtis Benjamin (CB) Lore, Jacob’s daughter’s husband, a well driller from Pennsylvania, who, along with others in his crew, accidentally discovered the well while drilling for gas.  Above, a photo of the Blue Lick artesian well given to Mother showing the well as it was originally.

Blue Lick Well Mom

The Blue Lick Well’s mineral waters would serve Aurora for years, and in fact, the well was still running when Mother and I visited in the early 1990s. The photo above is mother standing by the well that her Grandfather discovered about the time that he married her Grandmother, Nora Kirsch.  I wonder if C. B. Lore was a guest at the Kirsch House or if he met Nora while imbibing at the Pub, drinking some of those fine liquors and smoking cigars.  I can close my eyes and see the older, strong, tan well driller coyly flirting with the beautiful young daughter of the proprietor.

Aurora steamboat

Steamboats played an important role in life in Aurora. Not only was this the method of transportation that our Kirsch family used to thread their way from New Orleans to Wymond caneAurora when they emigrated, but steamboats were used daily to provide transportation between river towns. Night life, gambling and other less virtuous activities were readily available for the gentlemen in the Great Steamboat Era.

The temptation would prove too much for one son-in-law of Jacob  Kirsch.  Joseph Smithfield Wymond would shoot himself before he died a terrible death of syphilis after reportedly going insane from the effects of the disease, although the coroner’s report simply said, other than the gunshot wound, he had dyspepsia, which is basically indigestion.

Wymond’s wife, Jacob’s daughter, Caroline Kirsch Wymond, would also die of this hideous disease sixteen years later.  How heartbroken Jacob and Barbara must have been for their daughter.  Joseph Wymond’s gold tipped “fancy cane” is pictured here to the right.  This cane is lightweight and is not meant as a walking aid.  It was a fashion statement for a wealthy man.

Bicycling was a very fashionable and popular pastime. In the photo below from the Dearborn County Pictorial History book, these 5 cyclists posing in front of the Kirsch House appear to be the adult children of Jacob and Barbara Kirsch.

Jacob Kirsch children

The 1900 and 1910 Census

The 1900 census says Jacob lives at 162 Second Street, immigrated in 1847, has lived in the US for 53 years, is naturalized and is a “Saloonist.” I’ve never heard that term before.

Interestingly enough, another Jacob Kirsch is living with him, but I believe this is actually Philip (Philip Jacob), born in 1831, also immigrated in 1847, also naturalized, and a cooper. Daughters Carrie and Ida are living at home and unmarried, but Lulu is married to Charles Fisk, civil engineer, who is living there as well.  They have been married for 1 year.

Even more interesting is who else is living there. Joseph Wymond, the man who would marry Carrie Kirsch in 1902 and give her syphilis which would kill them both.  He is listed as “cooperage company” so he obviously wasn’t a laborer.  The Wymond Cooperage company was located directly behind the Kirsch House, so this was probably a very convenient place for a 38 year old single businessman to live, or at least live part of the time.  Carrie was all of 26.  Joseph Wymond would die in July of 1910 and Carrie would live another 16 years.  He may have already had the disease when he was living at the Kirsch House in 1900.

Syphilis takes between 10 and 20 years to kill people if untreated. Victims don’t actually die of syphilis itself, but from the effects of syphilis on the nervous system and the organs.  Syphilis affects different people differently, but it is always fatal without the use of antibiotics.  Penicillin was not discovered until 1928 so for Joseph Wymond and his unfortunate wife, Carrie Kirsch, syphilis was a slow and painful death sentence. Wymond ended his life with a gun.  Carrie suffered through until the end.  I bet she cursed him every single day.  I know her family did.

In the 1910 census, three of Jacob’s daughters are living with them at the Kirsch House, Carrie, Lulu and Ida. Ida was unmarried at 34.  The other two are widows.  Barbara immigrated in 1854.  Jacob immigrated in 1847, is naturalized, the landlord of a hotel, speaks English and both he and his wife can read and write.

It’s ironic that with all the information we do have about Jacob, we don’t have a signature.  Apparently a tracing of his signature was included in his Civil War application packet, but it was not in the package the National Archives sent me, although I could see the note saying it was in the file.  Wouldn’t you know!

Children of Jacob Kirsch and Barbara Drechsel Kirsch

Jacob Kirsch and Barbara Drechsel Kirsch had 6 children, 4 girls and 2 boys born between 1866 and 1876. While we have very few photos of the earlier generation, we have several of Jacob and Barbara’s children.  Their lives were filled with enough drama to rival any good soap opera.

Nora Kirsch Lore McCormick

Nora Kirsch wedding

My ancestor, Ellenore “Nora” Kirsch was the eldest child.  She was born on Christmas Eve in 1866 and was baptized in St. John’s Lutheran Church on July 5, 1868.  She died on Sept. 13, 1949 in Lockport, New York, living with her daughter Eloise.

Nora married Curtis Benjamin (known as C.B.) Lore on January 18, 1888 at the Kirsch House. Her children say she made her own wedding dress, and cake, and she descended the spiral staircase at the Kirsch House to marry her groom.  After his death in 1909 in Rushville, Indiana, she married Tom McCormick, with whom she was never happy.  They never divorced, but neither did they live together. She is buried in Rushville beside C. B. Lore.

Nora Kirsch’s wedding photo, above. Below, C. B. Lore’s wedding photo.  Odd that there isn’t one together.  Little did she know that he was not yet divorced from his wife in Pennsylvania, but that story will have to wait until his article.

Curtis Lore Wedding

I know it doesn’t look like much today, but these are the stairs, in 2008, that Nora Kirsch would have descended in the Kirsch House to meet her groom. I’m sure Nora was thinking thoughts that all brides think.  How wonderful it is to start her new life.  How handsome the groom.  Am I going to trip on my dress and fall down the stairs?  Is my makeup running?  Or in her case, “I hope no one can tell that I’m pregnant?” and “Please tell me Dad didn’t bring the shotgun.”

Jacob Kirsch stairs

Curtis, or C.B. as he was known, on the other hand was probably having very different thoughts, ranging from, “has Jacob put that shotgun away?” to “he really will kill me if he finds out I’m already married.” I wonder, if you’re already married when you get married again, do you think of your first wife as your second wife descends the stairs in her wedding dress?

Of course, C.B. knew that Jacob Kirsch was indeed a man of action and perhaps with a somewhat volatile temper too, as proven by that lynching a year and a half before, in Augusts of 1886, still fresh in everyone’s mind, I’m sure…but especially preying on Curtis’s mind.

Georg Martin Kirsch

Jacob and Barbara Kirsch’s second child was Georg Martin Kirsch, who was called Martin, born March 18, 1868 and baptized July 5, 1868, the same day as his older sister. His grandfather, Georg Drechsel was his godfather.  Martin, as he was called, married Maude Powers on July 18, 1888.  It was a busy year for the Kirsch House with two weddings in just a few months, and two babies to follow.  In the family Bible, his marriage is recorded three months before it occurred.  The July date is from the church records where it says he was married in the rectory.  Martin died January 15, 1949.

German families of this era, and perhaps all families of this era, went to great pains to disguise pregnancies that did not last for 9 months and led to births that occurred “prematurely” after a marriage.  I know of at least three cases in this family of Bible records being modified or intentionally recorded incorrectly.

Martin and Maude had two children, a boy and girl. Edgar Kirsch was born Feb. 21, 1889, died Nov. 12, 1964, and married Freida Neely in 1929.  No more is known about this couple.  Martin’s second child was Cecil Kirsch, born Sept. 9, 1892 and died about 1988.  She married Frank Toner in 1923.  Cecil Toner who lived in Anderson, Indiana used to write to Mother.  Cecil was one of the last of the older generation to pass away, if not the last.  I remember Mom sadly saying, “there’s another one gone” when she died.  Mom felt her connection to her family and ancestors slipping away with each elder’s death.

CB Lore Martin Kirsch

Martin Kirsch on the left and Curtis Benjamin (C. B.) Lore on the right about 1886, possibly as late as 1888.

Martin Kirsch is buried in the Forest Hill Cemetery in Shelbyville, Indiana.

Martin Kirsch stone

Johann Edward Kirsch

Jacob and Barbara’s third child was Johann Edward Kirsch, called Edward, born July 30, 1870 and died about 1924. His baptism was witnessed by Johann Drechsel, his mother’s brother.  Edward married Emma Miller in 1891 and they had three children, two girls and a boy; Juanita Kirsch about whom nothing is known, Hazel Kirsch who was born in April and died in August of 1891, and Deveraux (also spelled Devero) Hoffer Kirsch born August 6, 1899 and died in Vigo Co., Indiana in December 1975.  Devero married Mary Schlater and they had one known child, Anita Kirsch about whom nothing is known.

Aunt Lula and Kirsch male

I believe this photo may be Edward Kirsch and his wife. What a fashionable hat! Mom’s note said Aunt Lula and Edgar Kirsch, a cousin.  Edgar would have been the son of Martin Kirsch and Maude Powers.  Lula, Martin’s sister, would have been an aunt to Edgar, not a cousin. We may never know.  None of the evidence adds up exactly.

Edward Kirsch is buried at Riverview Cemetery along with many of his siblings.

Edward Kirsch stone

Caroline Kirsch Wymond

Jacob and Barbara’s fourth child was Caroline “Carrie” Kirsch born Feb. 18, 1871. She died July 24, 1926 in a sanitarium in Madison, Jefferson Co., Indiana, of complications of syphilis which she contracted from her husband.  Mother referred to Carrie’s husband rather disdainfully as  a “Dandy,” which is defined as “a man who places particular importance upon physical appearance, refined language, and leisurely hobbies, pursued with the appearance of nonchalance in a cult of self.”

Carrie’s institutional records never mention syphilis directly, but do discuss Bright’s disease and other issues.

Carrie married Joseph Smithfield Wymond in 1902. He was 10 years older than Carrie and preceded her in death in 1910.  His family was wealthy and Eloise reported that his brothers cheated Carrie out of all of Joseph’s money and she died utterly destitute.  If that’s true, and it seems to be, he cheated on her in life, cheated her in death and then cheated her out of her life.  Wonderful man.

After Joseph’s death, Carrie lived in Indianapolis for a while, then moved back to Aurora with her mother to help a at the Kirsch House.  After Barbara sold the Kirsch House in 1921, they purchased “the house on the hill,” according to Mother, which turned out to be at 4th and Exporting in Aurora, not in Indianapolis.  Carrie had lived in Indianapolis before returning to Aurora to help Barbara after Jacob died.  Sadly, it was only a couple years later that Carrie would have to be institutionalized.  Carrie was brought back to Aurora for burial.  She had no children, but her nieces thought the world of her.  She was spoken of very highly as a lively and vivacious and lovely woman.  Her photos show the same.

Carrie died as the Southeast Hospital for the Insane at 1:15 PM July 24, 1926 of general paralysis. She had resided there 2 years 5 months and 3 days before her death.

Holthouse was the undertaker and the body was embalmed. Carrie was 55 years 5 months and 3 days old.  Untreated syphilis is a horrible, agonizing, miserable death, and it appears that aside from destroying her organs, she also had the neurological form which causes dementia, seizures and insanity.  If you presume she contracted this disease when she married in 1902, and not later, it took 24 years to kill her.  Her husband’s obituary says he contracted it about 1907, so perhaps it only took 19 miserable years to kill her and not 24.

The 1910 census shows Carrie at the Kirsch House with her married name. Her husband is not listed, but she is noted as married for 6 years, 38 years old, not widowed. Given the circumstances, it’s not at all surprising that they were not living together at his death.  The only thing worse than contracting syphilis from your husband, which would assure your death, would be to have to care for him during his illness as well.

Joseph died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on July 3, 1910, so the census must have been taken just before that. It is typically taken “as of” June.

In 1917, Jacob’s obituary lists Carrie as living in Indianapolis.  In 1918 the Indianapolis City Directory shows Carrie as living at 525 North Delaware and lists her as the widow of Joseph S. Wymond.  This area today is restored brownstones in the downtown area, a living arrangement that would have required little or no maintenance from Carrie and would have been a thriving and vibrant community.

N Delaware Indianapolis

The 1920 census lists Carrie B. Wymond, a widow and as Barbara’s daughter, living at the Kirsch House and noted as “assistant” to Barbara who is the “keeper.”  Carrie came back home to help her Mom, in spite of her own illness.  Just 4 years later, early in 1924, Carrie would be so ill that they had to have her institutionalized.  I’m guessing that in 1921, the Kirsch House just became too much.  Barbara was 73 and Carrie was literally terminally ill.

Carrie Kirsch Wymond

Carrie Kirsch Wymond overlooking the Ohio River, above, and below, with her bicycle.

Carrie Kirsch bicycle

Interestingly, Carrie entered the Indiana State fair and on September 11, 1911, the Indianapolis Star lists here as a first place winner in the category of pyrography. I’m not even going to pretend I didn’t have to look this word up in the dictionary.  Pyrography is the technique of decorating wood or other materials with burn marks resulting from the controlled application of a heated object.

In 1914, the newspaper shows that she was one of several renting rooms on Winona Lake, a popular tourist attraction in Indiana, “14 rooms, rooms only on front terrace above Evangel Hall.”  Religious conferences were held at Winona Lake and cottages and rooms were rented to attendees.

Joe Wymond

Mom’s notes say this is Joe Wymond, the Dandy himself, about 1908. Ironic that his obituary says, “He was a striking specimen of the advantages derived from the training received in our military schools and his splendid personal appearance and magnificent physique was frequently spoken of and coveted by those less favorably endowed.”  I’ve never seen an obituary quite like this before, especially in light of what killed him, or surely would have taken his life had he not killed himself first.  I’m sure Carrie’s family had a different opinion of Joe.

Although the coroners report says he suffered from “dyspepsia,” in addition to the gunshot wound, there was clearly more to the story that wasn’t being publicly stated.  The obituary continues by saying, “The beginning of the prolonged sickness which resulted in the death of Mr. Wymond dates back to something like three years ago.”  If that is true, then he contracted syphilis five years after his marriage to Carrie in 1902.  The obituary then says “In the early part of the present year he was taken to the Sanatorium at Lafayette with the hope that he might there recover his health.  His condition was soon found to be hopeless and death at last relieved him from the suffering of an incurable disease.”

Both Joseph and Carrie were diagnosed with “Bright’s disease” but Bright’s disease is a chronic inflation of the kidneys and is typically a symptom of another systemic problem. In this case, the “other problem” was syphilis, although I doubt that was ever discussed in “polite company,” given that there is only one way to contract that disease.  Even two generations and some 70+ years later, it was still spoken of in whispers.

Carrie’s life and death were so unnecessarily tragic. Carrie was remembered so positively and the circumstances of her death with such sorrow.  Suffice it to say her husband was not remembered kindly within the family. It’s bad enough to betray your wife, but in this case, she suffered not only the emotional side of a marital betrayal, but actually died of it, after suffering physically for someplace between 19 and 24 years.  I’m surprised Jacob Kirsch didn’t kill Wymond and save Wymond the trouble – or perhaps Jacob felt Wymond deserved to suffer for what he had done to Carrie.

If you’re thinking right about now, “Maybe Jacob did kill Wymond,” I’ve had the same thought.  Wymond was shot in the chest, not through the head like a typical suicide.

Surprisingly, Carrie was buried on the Wymond lot in Riverview beside Joseph sixteen years after his death.

Margaretha Louise Kirsch Fiske

Jacob and Barbara’s fifth child was Margaretha Louise “Aunt Lou” Kirsch, born Oct. 25, 1873 and died June 1, 1940 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her baptism was witnessed by her mother’s sister, Louise Drechsel.  She married Charles “Todd” Fiske October 15, 1899.  The Fiske family owned the Fiske Carriage business in Aurora.

Two of Jacob’s daughters married into wealthy Aurora families.  Neither went well.

Todd committed suicide at the Kirsch House on October 31, 1908. His obituary is as follows:

Charles Fisk Jr, son of Charles and Laura Fisk born in Aurora…age 35, committed suicide last Sat. night by shooting himself through the temple with a 38 caliber revolver. He has filled some very responsible positions as civil engineer. He has been out of employment for several months owing to the business depression. It is thought that it was during a period of despondency that he committed this rash act. He leaves a wife, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Kirsch with whom they made their residence during their stay in Aurora.

Eloise said there was a “panic”, which we could call a recession today. He lost his job and was very depressed. There was a courtyard in the back of the Kirsch House that was bricked in and he went outside in the private courtyard and shot himself.

After his death, Lou married a man by the last name of Wellesley. She had no children and lived in Miami, Florida in her later years.

The Kirsch sisters remained very close and drew strength from each other during these difficult times.

Kirsch sisters Lake Winona

The Kirsch sisters at the lake in bathing suits!  Those rowdy girls!  This photo may help us figure out the identities in some other photos.  Mom said Carrie is “Aunt Cad.”  The photo says 1905 on the back, but 1911 on the front.  Is Ida the gal in the water?

Lou and Cad Kirsch

Mom’s copy says “Lou and Cad taken on our cottage porch at Winona last summer – year 1914”. Lou on left, Carrie on right.  Another note has them reversed.  This must be the cottage that Carrie is advertising with rooms for rent in the Indianapolis Star in 1914.

I just have to mention here that summers in Indiana are HOT!!!  Look at those clothes.  That porch looks quite inviting though.

Kirsch sisters white dresses

Above, Aunt Lula on left, Carrie in the middle and Edith on the right. Original is a post card that says “place 1 cent stamp here.”  I would guess this is before Edith’s marriage in 1908.

Mom said that Aunt Lou’s second husband owned land in Florida near a beach and he massaged feet on the beach for pay. Mom was 12 or 13 (so 1934-1935) at this time.  They came north for a couple of months.  They had a little dog that came with them.  When they visited, Lore, Mom’s brother, made a bed for himself in the pump house, Mom’s parents took Lore’s room and the guests took their room.

Lou Kirsch Fiske crop

Mom had these two photos labeled Lou Fiske, but I think they look a lot more like Carrie.

Lou Kirsch Fiske formal

The note on Mom’s copy of the above photo says Aunt Louise Fisk but my note says Carrie Kirsch Wymond. I’m not sure where I got Carrie’s name or if I just matched this photo against another one.  I don’t know which is right, but probably Mom’s note.

Lou Kirsch 1931

Mom’s photo says Sou Toa and Lou, Miami Beach, FL, Dec. 25, 1931.

Aunt Lou Kirsch Fiske Wellesley was brought home to Aurora and buried beside her first husband, Charles Fiske, below.

Fisk Wellesley stones

Ida Caroline Kirsch Galbreath

Ida Kirsch 1910

Ida Kirsch in 1910, according to a note on the back.

Jacob and Barbara’s sixth and last child was Ida Caroline Kirsch born December 12, 1876.  She died March 5, 1966 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her baptism was witnessed by “Lina” (probably Caroline) Drechsel, her mother’s sister, and Caroline Kirsch, probably Caroline Kuntz Kirsch who married Johann Wilhelm Kirsch, Jacob’s brother, two years earlier in the same church.  Ida married William “Billy” Galbreath in 1921.  Ida was 14 or 15 years older than William.  She was 45 when they married, he was 30, and they had no children.  William died twenty five years later in 1946 of “acute alcoholism” which is, in essence, drinking so much before you pass out that it kills you. He is buried in the Kirsch plot.  Mother recalled that he was incredibly mean.  Ida’s marriage could not have been pleasant.

Mom said Ida fell down the steps and caught her legs. She went to a nursing home in Cincinnati and lived for many years.  Eloise said she gave her money away, but mother said she paid it to the “widow’s home” in exchange for a place to live for the rest of her life.  She was the youngest of the sisters so there was no one to help her.

Nora Kirsch Lore and Ida Kirsch 1913

Nora and Ida in Florida about 1913.

Mom and Ida Kirsch 1950

Photo of Mom and Aunt Ida taken in Cincinnati about 1950, per Mom.  It may be out of focus and fuzzy, but they look like they are having fun don’t they – laughing and smiling.

Ida Kirsch c 1950

I had to laugh, because I think those are the same black “old lady” shoes my grandmother wore in my earliest memories of her.

Ida Kirsch and John Bucher

Mom says this is Aunt Ida Galbreath and Johnny (John Curtis Bucher) circa 1952. Her handwriting says Nora’s sister.  John was born in 1942.

Mom also recalls that Aunt Ida had one leg shorter than the other. Caroline Kirsch also had one short leg.  (I wonder if Mom was confused here.)

This following letter was found in the items Eloise sent to Mother. Lorine Weatherby is the daughter of Albert Weatherby and Mayme (Mary) Rabe, daughter of Margaretha Drechsel and Herm Rabe.  Margaretha was the sister of Barbara Drechsel who married Jacob Kirsch.

I have tried to piece together the people Lorine references in her letter and have come up with the following pedigree chart.  (Hint, you can double click on the image to make this larger.)

Drechsel Rabe pedigree

However, I have no idea who the Youngs are that Lorine references in her letter.  I suspect they are in the Drechsel line but that mystery will have to persist until another time.  If anyone knows, please give me a shout.

March 15, 1966

Dear Eloise,

I lost your address so that is why you have not heard from me. Today I was searching for unusual stamps for my nephew’s little boy’s stamp collection.  I had a box of mail that had been forwarded to Michigan last summer while I was vacationing there.  I always meant to sort it out but never got around to it.  Today I began to examine the mail for interesting stamps, and there I found your note.  I can’t read the post mark so don’t know if you wrote it last summer or in the spring.  All I can decipher is 1965.  But it does give me your address, so I can pass on to you what has occurred here.

Saturday evening March 5, my sister Juanity Heather phoned me that Bodman Widow’s Home called her to say that Ida had died that day after a short illness. She asked if they had notified any of the relatives and the woman who called said yes, you had been told.  I thought perhaps we might hear from you.  At that time, funeral arrangements had not been made.  Sunday the funeral director phoned and said services would be the following Wednesday morning at 10 with burial at Aurora Cemetery.  I phoned my cousins Eleanor, Robert and Donald Young and Eleanor and Sis phoned Ray and Wilbur Bosse (Aunt Lou’s grandsons) and the other Youngs.

We ordered a basket of flowers sent to the funeral home, white chrysanthemums, different shades of pink snap dragons and pale pink Gladiolas. And when we went to the funeral, we certainly were glad we had sent flowers, because nobody attended from the Bodman Widow’s Home and not even a small spray was sent.  Wilbur, his wife, Ray Bosse’s wife, Robert and Don and Eleanor and my sister and I were the only ones there.

The casket was a very plain gray, wood or cloth covered. Ida looked pretty with a gray silk dress with white silk collar and feather effect down front and around wrists.  Her hair was curled.  The last several times we saw her, her hair was in stringy straight patches, she was clean but in the poorest-looking faded flannelette nightgown, no stockings, propped in a metal chair, back in that basement room, mostly underground.  For awhile they had her in a ground level room, but about Nov. 1 when Sis and Eleanor and I went over to visit her, she was back in that underground room with nothing but the doll to look at.  The walls were light green and clean, the bed was clean, the white metal chair and metal stand were the only other furniture.  She was so thin, almost nothing left but skin and bones, all her teeth were out.  They were having a bazaar in the upper floors of the place.  We bought some cookies and cupcakes and I asked if I might give Ida some.  The nurse said “Only if you feed it to her.”   I broke off pieces, put them in her mouth and without teeth she managed to get it down.  She could not help herself at all, so I guess she was a great care to them.  She was mentally blank.

When I wrote to Edna Lunt at Christmas time, I asked her to send me your address, but I did not hear from Edna then or later. So I am wondering if she still is alive if she has had a stroke or other illness.  Do you ever hear from Edna Lunt (Lent?)?

William and I drove to Aurora. Sis and Eleanor went with me.  The two Bosse wives went with Wilbur.  It was a beautiful sunny day.  After the grave-side services, we walked around a bit.  And we discovered to our dismay that Ida’s grave marker was next to her mother’s grave, but they had buried Ida in a different row, next to your Aunt Lou Fisk Wellesley.  Wilbur and Sis were furious.  They told the cemetery people she would have to be moved.  Another funeral arrived at that time so we had to leave and of course we haven’t been back to see if they corrected the mistake.  There are 8 graves in the lot.

    1          2             3            4


    5          6             7            8

1=Ida’s grave next to 2
2=Barbara (Drechsel) Kirsch, Ida’s mother
3=Ida’s father (Jacob Kirsch)
4=Billy Galbreath
5=Charles “Todd” Fisk
7=Where they buried Ida
8=vacant grave (no marker)

Sometime in the near future, Sis and I intend to go back to Aurora and see what they did about their error. So far as I am concerned, I think it would be better to let her rest in peace beside her sister, Lou.  I always dearly loved Lou.  She was my godmother when I was baptized and my memories of her are very pleasant.

At the funeral service, the minister read a short life history of Ida. He said she was 90 years old.  I am sure that was wrong, because she was younger than Lou.  Lou and my mother were girlhood chums and the same age.  Mother would have been 90 last August 24.  So I am sure Ida was 2, 3 or 4 years younger.  Of course, it doesn’t matter, since only her name is on the grave marker.

This isn’t a very cheerful letter. I’m sorry to have to write you all this mournful news.

You asked in your note if I knew anything of Cecile or Juanity or Devereaux Kirsch. Cecile and I used to write to each other occasionally, but as time went on, we both were busy and stopped writing.  That was before she was married.  You said her name is Mrs. Frank Toner and she lives at Anderson.  Is in Indiana?  Does she have a street and number?

Juanita and Deveraux with their parents used to come here occasionally for a visit. Their home was somewhere in Kentucky, I believe Somerset but I’m not sure.  We haven’t heard from them for I guess about 50 years.  No doubt the parents are dead.  Ida probably was the last of that generation.

Edith Ferverda used to come here several times a year for a visit and so did Edna Lent. But since they no longer come we’ve lost track of what is happening in the relationship.  Our family is somewhat scattered.  My sister Mardie Endres retired from being a public school principal in Cincinnati and is teaching English as a Presbyterian mission College at West Point Mississippi.  Her daughter Linda is a junior at Trinity University (Presbyterian), San Antonia, Texas.  Mardie’s daughter Erin is married and lived at Anaheim, California.  She has a baby boy.  Sis has three children.  Roger, her son has two boys and a 3 year old girl.  Nita, her daughter, has two boys 9 and 6.  Loren Heather, Sis’s youngest is a heart specialist at Los Angeles Co. Hospital, California. He has 4 sons, 12, 9, 4 and 18 months.  They live at Newport Beach in southern California.

Is your sister Mildred living in Texas? Does she have any children?  If so, do they live in Texas?  Do you ever hear from Edith’s family?

I hope you can decipher this letter. And I hope also that someday you can come here for a visit.  The last time I saw you, you were an adorable little girl about 4 years old.  You probably don’t remember those days in Aurora do you?



I can’t even begin to express how sad I find this letter.  My worst fear is living and dying like Ida – alone and demented with a “blank mind” in a room in some “facility” with no one to watch over and advocate for me.  Somebody kill me please, or get me a gun while I can still do it myself.  That “life” is far worse than death and who knows how long she “lived” in that condition.  The poor soul.

On another piece of paper, I found the following:

L. Weatherby
1540 Northview Ave
Cincinnati (23), Ohio 45223

According to Eloise, Lorine’s mother (Mayne or Mary) was the same age as Lou who was born in 1875, so Lorine would be born about 1895-1915. I subsequently found Lorine in the census, born in 1894, the daughter of Mary Rabe and Albert Weatherby.  Mary, known as “Mayme” was the daughter of Margaretha Drechsel (Barbara Drechsel Kirsch’s sister) and Herb Rabe.  This family seems to break down as follows:

Mardie Endres

Dau Linda – junior at Trinity University in San Antonio (Presbyterian)

Dau Erin – married living in Anaheim California

Baby boy

Sis (Juanita Heather I believe)


Two boys and a 3 year old girl


Two boys 9 and 6

Loren Heather (the youngest) – heart specialist at LA county hospital, Ca. – lives    at Newport Beach

              4 sons, 12, 9, 4 and 18 mos

Ida Kirsch Galbreath’s stone at Riverview below, with her husband William J. Galbreath.

Galbreath stones.jpg

Riverview Cemetery

riverview entrance

The entrance to Riverview Cemetery where all of my ancestors from Aurora are buried, including the extended Kirsch/Koehler and Drechsel families.

Philip Jacob Kirsch monument daughter

The Philip Jacob Kirsch monument is shown above with my daughter leaning against one side. We had fun that day in the cemetery, but it was steaming hot.  We look a bit wilted.  Ok, maybe mother and I had fun, and my daughter simply tolerated us – but today, some 25 years later, and now that mother is gone, I’m sure my daughter is glad she went along.

Philip Jacob Kirsch, the emigrant, and his wife Catharina Barbara Lemmert Kirsch are the first of my ancestors to be buried in Riverview Cemetery. They are surrounded by  many family members, children and grandchildren, including their son, Jacob.

The first family member, their grandchild, was buried here in 1860, less than a decade after their son, Andreas was buried in Ripley County.  It’s sad that they didn’t move Andreas to Riverview to be with the rest of the family.  From the looks of things, it wasn’t Philip Jacob Kirsch and Catharina Barbara Lemmert themselves who were making these arrangements, but their children, Jacob Kirsch and his sister, Katharina Barbara Kirsch Koehler who had moved to Aurora before the 1860 census.  From this time forward, all of the Kirsch family members who died locally were buried at Riverview, and many who did not die locally were sent “home” for burial.

There is another Kirsch family in Lawrenceburg, Johannes Kirsch and his wife Margaretha Boehman, that is in fact related to our Kirsch family back in Fussgoenheim, Germany. Johannes Kirsch of Lawrenceburg was a wealthy farmer and owned vineyards, a craft which I’m sure he learned in Germany.  He was born October 11, 1804 in Mutterstadt, according to church records.  Fortunately, this family is not buried at Riverview so these two families are not intermixed after their immigration.

There are two plots that include Kirsch family members at Riverview. The first one was purchased sometime before or when the first burial occurred in that plot, about 1860.  I would refer to this first plot as the Koehler-Kirsch-Knoebel plot because it was likely purchased by Johann Martin Koehler and his wife Catharina Barbara Kirsch when their child, Elisia, died in 1860.  It also includes the burials of Catharina’s parents, Philip Jacob Kirsch and Katharina Barbara Lemmert.  Based on Find-A-Grave, this lot would be in section, H, Lot 28 and there were at least 8 graves in this lot, because Catharine Barbara Kirsch Koehler Snell is buried in grave 8.

The second lot was purchased by Jacob Kirsch in 1906 and I would refer to this one as the Jacob Kirsch lot, as many of his children and some of their spouses are buried here as well. The lots at Riverview were family plots, not individual lots and would hold numerous graves.  According to the letter from Lorine Weatherby, there were 8 graves in Jacob’s plot, and 2 remained vacant in 1966.

Mother and I visited the cemetery before we had put the various relationships together, so we initially found the various graves somewhat confusing, but later sorted through the people involved. If it ever really matters to anyone whom is buried by whom, I suggest a trip to the cemetery.

Let’s take a look at who is buried on these lots, because it helps to reassemble family groups.

The Koehler-Knoebel-Kirsch Graves

This lot is found in section H, Lot 28

Philip Kirsch Catharine Barbara Lemmert stone

The immigrant, Philip Jacob Kirsch’s daughter, Katharina Barbara Kirsch married Johann Martin Koehler, her first cousin, the son of Philip Jacob Kirsch’s sister, Anna Margaretha Kirsch who married Johann Martin Koehler who died in Germany. Anna Margaretha Kirsch Koehler immigrated with her brother to America, bringing along her children.  Her son Johann Martin Koehler, named for his father, married Philip Jacob Kirsch’s daughter, Katharina Barbara Kirsch and their daughter Elizabeth, known as Lizzie, married Christian Knoebel.  After Martin Koehler’s death, Katharina Barbara Kirsch Koehler remarried to Charles Schnell.

Koehler common pedigree

If you find this confusing, well, so did I.  And I like to never figured it out.  You’d think when people come to a new country that their relationships would be straightforward from that time into the future, but guess again.  You can leave the old country behind, but you cannot leave the cat’s cradle tangle of intermarried relationships of a few families in a small village behind – especially if you bring some of those people with you and marry them…again.

The stones below belong to Martin Koehler and wife Katharina Barbara Kirsch Koehler Schnell and their daughter Lizzie Koehler Knoebel.

Knoebel stones

Knoebel Koehler Schnell

Philip Kirsch, Jacob’s brother is buried in the plot as well and has two stones, one from the family and one that looks to be government issue. His Civil War unit is inscribed on the second stone.

Philip Kirsch d 1905 stone

In the Koehler-Knoebel-Kirsch plot, we find:

  • Elisia Koehler (1857-1860)
  • Anna Koehler (Anna and Elisia are the daughters of Johann Martin Koehler (1829-1879) and Catharina Barbara Kirsch (1833-1900))
  • Mary Hornberger daughter of Johann Martin Koehler and Catharine Barbara Kirsch Koehler Snell.  She was removed to Lawrenceburg when she died, age 28, lived in Omaha at the time of death. Born Jan. 8, 1852 and died Jan. 22, 1880.
  • Martin Koehler (1829-1879, Johann Martin Koehler mentioned above)
  • Philip Jacob Kirsch (1806-1880, the immigrant)
  • Lizzie Koehler Knoebel (1854-daughter of Johann Martin Koehler and Catherina Barbara Kirsch Koehler Snell)
  • Catharina Barbara Lemmert Kirsch (1807-1889, wife of Philipp Jacob Kirsch above)
  • Catharine Barbara (Kirsch Koehler) Snell (1833-1900,  daughter of Philipp Jacob Kirsch and Catharina Barbara Lemmert Kirsch, wife of Johann Martin Koehler)
  • Philip Kirsch (1830-1905, son of Philip Jacob Kirsch)

The Kirsch footstone below.

Kirsch footstone

The Jacob Kirsch Plot

Jacob Kirsch Barbara Drechsel stone

Jacob bought lot 111, Section M, in the Riverview Cemetery in 1906, a few months after his father-in-law died. Perhaps he was thinking about his own mortality and doing what German families seemed to try to do – making arrangements to “keep the family together” if at all possible. Perhaps after losing so much family to distance when immigrating, the family they do have becomes even more precious, causing them to clutch their relatives closely, even unto death.

Jacob Kirsch cemetery ownership

People buried in the Jacob Kirsch plot are:

  • Jacob Kirsch (1841-1917)
  • Barbara Drechsel Kirsch, wife of Jacob Kirsch (1848-1930)
  • Their daughter Ida Kirsch Galbreath (1876-1966)
  • William Galbreath, husband of Ida (1890/1891-1946)
  • Their daughter Margaretha Louise “Lou” Kirsch Fiske Wellesley (1873-1940)
  • Charles “Todd” Fiske, husband of Lou (1874-1908)

Mom recalls that Todd Fisk, Joe Wymond and Curtis Benjamin Lore all died within a year and 9 months of each other in October 1908, November 1909 and July 1910, respectively.  All 3 Kirsch sisters lost their husband’s, two with terminal illnesses and two via suicide.  It must have been a very difficult time for the family and extremely hard for Jacob and Barbara to see such devastation befall their daughters, especially after having just lost Jacob’s brother, Philip in 1905, Barbara’s mother in 1906 and her father earlier in 1908.  That’s 6 major deaths in 5 years, with Nora’s daughter to follow in 1912 after contracting tuberculosis from her father, Curtis Benjamin Lore, while caring for him before his death.  On top of all that, they would have known that Carrie was also eventually terminal and the horrific road that lay ahead for her.

Jacob managed to gather three of his six children to him in death. Three are buried elsewhere.  Nora Kirsch Lore McCormick is buried in Rushville, Indiana with C.B. Lore.  Carrie Kirsch Wymond is buried at Riverview, but in the Wymond plot beside Joseph, although I was amazed to discover her there, all things considered.  Martin Kirsch, is buried in Shelbyville, Indiana.

The Jacob Kirsch stone is grey granite with  beautifully carved scrolling K.

Jacob Kirsch K

At the end of the stone, the locations of both “father” and “mother” are marked, but of course, all of the children are gone now too, the last passing away and being buried on this plot in 1966. Today, we’re into the generation of their great-great-great-grandchildren who don’t even know the names of the other great-great-great-grandchildren or if any even exist.  Jacob’s burial took place just 99 years ago, but it seems like a very long time and far removed.  Very little oral history was preserved in those intervening generations, and had it not been for one particularly long-lived granddaughter, Eloise, we would have had almost nothing.

Jacob Kirsch stone

Mother was in awe when we found Jacob’s marker. “Look”, she said, “there’s Jacob.”    Mother was so happy to find Jacob – I think finding his grave made the legendary Jacob real to her.  It was as if she had been waiting to meet him all of her life.  He only died about 5 years before her birth, so she barely missed him!

Jacob Kirsch mother pointing crop

Mom’s with Jacob now. I surely hope she’s asking him about these lingering unanswered questions!  And I wish she would share those answers…

Jacob Kirsch stone with mother

We found Jacob’s obituary taped in the cemetery book, and my daughter copied it word for word on a hot summer day in 1991.

July 27, 1917

Jacob Kirsch

Jacob Kirsch, one of the best known residents of Aurora died at his home at the Kirsch House where he has been living for the past 42 years, died at 2 o’clock on Monday, July 23, 1917 after an illness of more than a years duration from cancer of the stomach. The deceased was born in Mutterstadt, Germany, May 1, 1841, and came to this country with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Philip Kirsch, at the age of six years.  The family settled at Milan this country.  Mr. Kirsch grew to manhood in this locality, and learned the trade of a cooper which he followed at the plant of the Gibson Cooperage in this city for a number of years.  He was unable to pass the physical examination for admission to the Army during the Civil War but served in the conflict as cook and teamster when but 19 years of age.

He was married May 27, 1866 to Miss. Barbara Drexel (Drexler), of Aurora, and they have settled in this place, where they have since resided. Six children were born to them , two boys and four girls, all of whom survived Mr. Kirsch’s death being first to occur in the family circle in 52 years of married life.  The children are: Mrs. Thomas McCormack of Wabash: Mrs. J.S. Wymond of Indianapolis; Mrs. Charles Fisk and Mrs. Ida Kirsch of this city.  Martin of Shelbyville and Edward of Vincennes.  One brother an one sister also survive, John Kirsch of Indianapolis and Mrs. Mary Kramer of St. Louis, together with 7 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild.


I wish we had a DNA sample from this family. We have none.  We don’t have either Y DNA or autosomal. There were very few males and people in Germany don’t tend to DNA test nearly as much as families in the US and other migration destinations looking for their roots back home.  For as close as the Kirsch family once was, the descendants are entirely scattered now and unknown to each other.

Of all my genealogical lines, this one and my Dutch line are genetically barren. Why?  One reason is that these lines are recent immigrants and they did not have prodigious numbers of children.  Of Jacob’s 6 children, only 3 had children and only 6 children between them that lived.  Our odds of finding an individual today with the Kirsch surname from this line that is interested in genealogy isn’t very good.  But I’m hopeful that these breadcrumbs will work.

Another reason more recent immigrants often have few matches is because the people back home in the old country don’t feel the need to DNA test to see where they are from…because they are living where they are from…or at least they think they are.

I am offering a DNA testing scholarship for any Kirsch male with proven descent from this Kirsch family line, either in the US or in Germany. This would include a male Kirsch from the Lawrenceburg line.

And Yes, This is Finally The End

Jacob did well for himself, even with only one eye. He went from being a the son of a German farmer with no land and no hope of ever owning land to a landowner and the proprietor of a hotel that became a landmark in Aurora.  In the world of the 1800s, this is upwardly mobile and far better than he could ever have done back home in Germany.  Jacob’s parents sacrificed and risked a lot by leaving, but from the distance of 168 years, it seems to have been worthwhile for them and for their children too, perhaps with the exception of Martin who may have died in the civil war.  Of course, there were wars in Germany too.

As I looked at the idyllic rolling hills along the Ohio river in the countryside, I can’t help but think how far removed this is from Germany, but in the same breath, it’s a lot like Mutterstadt and Fussgoenheim, along the banks of the Rhine. So while it was far away, it probably also felt strangely familiar.  That may be part of why so many people from that region of Germany settled in this area along the Ohio.

I began this search for these elusive Germans who lived in the “larger than life” Kirsch House years ago on a joint mission with my mother, and I am ending it without her. I never thought about this possibility when we were on our quest for information about our heritage.  In retrospect, even though my then teenage daughter was anything but enthusiastic about our trip together, I’m so glad I dragged her along.  Those joint memories and pictures are priceless now – regardless of how hot and miserable we were that day in the cemetery.  Now, there is no one to go along.  This journey is not nearly as much fun alone.

Mom began a fan chart and added to it some as we went. When we began, we didn’t know the names of Jacob Kirsch’s parents nor where his family was from.  We didn’t even know his wife’s surname.  We were thrilled every time we could add a name or a date or some tidbit, and we both sat there and watched as Mom carefully, almost sacredly, penned their named into the chart.  We looked at each other and smiled…job well done.  Success!

Jacob and the Kirsch House had been the legend in our family that was bigger than life and it seemed there was no history, or none worth knowing anyway, before Jacob. But there surely was…and Mom and I found it.

The Kirsch House was described in a bright and glowing way by the grandchildren of Jacob and Barbara, assuredly reflecting happy years spent with their grandparents visiting and participating in the daily life in the vibrant and bustling hotel and pub by the train depot. The Kirsch House represented a glamorous steamboat era of wealthy river barons sporting gold tipped canes and fancy ladies with dramatic hats and parasols.  An age that was golden and then was gone – living only in the memories of those who were children at that time…and now, living only in legend.

That glamorous, bustling era of women in starched white dresses and men in perfect suits, tipping their hats as ladies passed by, a bygone era, is how the Kirsch House, that time in history, and the people who lived there were described to us, decades later. It was with fond memories and smiles that Eloise recanted stories to us…the last living legend…and then she was no more – taking all of those memories with her.

Mom's Kirsch pedigree

I’m including this chart, not because it’s complete, because it isn’t, and it also has some inaccuracies – but because it’s in Mom’s handwriting. The pencil updates were mine.  Today, my records are all on my computer and my laptop and the digital camera goes along on these trips.  No more paper, no more microfilm and no more of that glossy slick copy paper that distorted everything and made it fuzzy either.

It was both sweet and bitter to find this old chart, written in Mom’s own hand, in my files. Made me smile and my heart warm at seeing something so familiar and comforting as mother’s handwriting while my eyes teared up and I choked with the loss of so much.

Bittersweet. Truly bittersweet.  Every generation takes so much with them when they leave.

Native American Haplogroup X2a – Solutrean, Hebrew or Beringian?

I was very pleased to see the article, “Does Mitochondrial Haplogroup X Indicate Ancient Trans-Atlantic Migration to the Americas? A Critical Re-Evaluation” by Jennifer Raff and Deborah Bolnick.

This is one of those topics that gets brought up over and over again and is often presented in the form of an urban legend with some level of bias based up on the agenda, exuberance or opinion of the person who is presenting the evidence. In other words, it makes for good click-bait.

Personally, I don’t have a horse in this race. I care about the truth, whatever it is, being discovered and unraveled.  I think the authors of this paper have done a good job of presenting the evidence in both directions then drawing conclusions based on scientific data as we know it.  There has been new evidence emerge in the recent past and there is likely to be more in the future which, depending on the evidence, could cause a re-evaluation of this topic.

Why has haplogroup X2 been so contentious and controversial when the other Native American haplogroups have not?

There are two primary reasons:

  1. There is no clear-cut genetic path across Beringia to the New World for X2a, meaning that X2a is not found in Siberia in the areas bordering Beringia. The ancestral form of the other Native American haplogroups are found there, indicating a clear migration path. Having said that, haplogroup X2a and subgroups is very clearly the rarest of the Native American mitochondrial DNA haplogroups and it’s certainly feasible that not enough testing has been performed on living or ancestral people to discover X2 or X2a directly ancestral individuals. It is also possible that line has died out, but hopefully we will still find examples in skeletal remains as more are DNA typed.
  2. Many of the early carriers of haplogroup X2a were found in eastern maritime Canada, a prime theoretical landing location for Solutreans.  This certainly fanned the Solutrean flame.  However, more recent discoveries of haplogroup X2a and subgroups have been more widely geographically dispersed.  Neither is there a path or ancestral form of X2a found in Europe or the Middle East.

Looking at the X2a subgroups (X2a, X2a1, X2a1a, X2a1b, X2a1c, plus three forms of X2a2) in the haplogroup X project at Family Tree DNA, the American Indian project, GenBank and various academic papers, we find the following locations identified for X2a and subgroups, moving west to east:

  • Saskatchewan
  • Pasadena, California
  • Chihuahua, Mexico
  • Edmonton, Alberta
  • Selkirk, Manitoba
  • Manitoba (2)
  • La Pointe, Wisconsin
  • Ontario
  • Ontario border with Michgan (Manitoulin Island)
  • St. Ignace, Michigan (near border with Ontario)
  • Manawan, Quebec
  • Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Newfoundland (Island) 2
  • Cape Breton, Canada
  • Nova Scotia, Canada

Although not in the haplogroup X project, X2a2 has also been found among the Navajo and Jemez in the American Southwest and in Kennewick Man found in Kennewick, Washington. Other tribal affiliations include the Chippewa, Ojibwa and Sioux.  Given the Newfoundland and Canadian seaboard locations, the Algonquian speaking Micmac and Beothuk populations would clearly be involved as well.

X2a map

Note on the X2a map above reflecting the oldest known ancestral locations, that no locations appear outside of North America.

Haplogroup X2a is believed to have developed in Beringia during the period of isolation of approximately 8,000 years experienced by the people who were to become the “First Nations” and “Native Americans” in North America. This is the reason, not just for X2a, but for other haplogroups as well, that some subgroups exist only in Native people in the New World and not in Asia from whence they came.  Those haplogroup identifying mutations occurred during their long stay in Beringia.

We know from archaeological excavations along with genetic analysis in some cases that the Native people by roughly 14,000 years ago had emerged from Beringia, trekked southward and were in Monte Verde in Chile. The Native population seems to have diverged into two groups, one in South America who likely arrived via a western coastal route, and one who migrated more eastwardly, the ancestors of Anzick Child who lived about 12,500 years ago in Montana and whose DNA has been tested.

Kennewick Man who carries the oldest form of haplogroup X2a yet found in the Americas was dated to be about 9,000 years old and was found in Washington State, so clearly X2a was present in the Native population 9,000 years ago and on the western side of the continent.

You will note that in the list of X2a results given above, none of the locations are any further south than Chichuhua, Mexico.  Based on the locations of these most distant ancestors, a primary west to east migration path just north of the present day border between the US and Canada is suggested, along with a secondary path southward along the Pacific coast or western corridor.

Here are the salient points listed by Raff and Bolnick in support of haplogroup X2a and subgroups originating in Asia, along with the other Native American haplogroups, and arriving together in the same settlement wave:

  1. Haplogroup X2a is present in the Americas in pre-European contact skeletal remains confirming is it not a result of post-contact admixture.
  2. While the Altai, considered to be the original Asian homeland of today’s Native American people, do carry haplogroup X2, the linking mutations between X2 and X2a have not been found in that or any other population group today. Haplogroup X itself originated in the Middle East before X2 evolved, but that is not indicative of Hebrew or European ancestry.
  3. X2a is not found in the Middle East, and therefore could not have been part of a theoretical Hebrew migration from the Middle East 2500 years ago. Haplogroup X2a was found in Kennewick man who lived 9000 years ago, in Washington State, so X2a in the Americas predates the proposed Hebrew migration by some 6,500 years.
  4. The oldest and deepest rooted X2a result, relative to the haplotree, is Kennewick man whose remains were found in the western US. If X2a was the result of a Solutrean migration during the Pleistocene 23,500 to 18,000 years ago with a landing base in Newfoundland or someplace on the east coast, the oldest and deepest lineages should be found in the eastern population, not on the west coast.
  5. Based on coalescence dates and demographic history, X2a is likely to have originated in the same population as the other American founder haplogroups.
  6. Kennewick Man was explicitly tested for his affinity with European and Polynesian populations and that hypothesis was rejected.
  7. Studies have indicated that a population found in central Asia contributed strongly to both the Native American population and the European population by moving from central Asia into both Europe and Siberia, but that does not equate to Europeans being ancestral to Native Americans. Instead, a common ancestral population often referred to as the “ghost population” was part of the founding group of both Europeans and Native Americans as described here and here. This means that later European populations, such as Germanic people who do show small amounts of “Native American” admixture are probably more closely related to Native Americans than earlier populations from before the central Asian people arrived and settled en masse in Europe.
  8. No Solutrean skeletal remains have been recovered in Europe in order to facilitate a direct comparison. However, if Solutrean people did arrive in the New World on the east coast, one would not expect to find a European/Solutrean signature equally distributed among all native people, but instead distributed in a gradient pattern with the highest levels closest to where the Solutrean people lived, meaning their landing point.  In other words, it would radiate outward like ripples from a rock thrown into water.  However, the genetic signature of West Eurasian ancestry in Native American people is found equally in all Native American genomes tested to date, and as such, predates the evolution of regional genetic structure within North and South America as reflected in migration patterns.

How to Join a DNA Project

Family Tree DNA provides three types of projects for people to join. Projects are free to join and are run by volunteer project administrators, people who have a specific interest in the topic at hand and are generally quite glad to be of assistance.  Projects are great ways to find people you match and others interested in a common topic.

There are three kinds of DNA projects:

  • Surname projects – like Estes
  • Haplogroup Projects – like R1b, M269 or J1c2f, for both Y and mitochondrial DNA haplogroups and subgroups
  • Geographic projects – really anything else that isn’t a surname or a haplogroup, like Cumberland Gap or Cherokee or Scottish DNA

You can join unlimited multiple projects, but you want to make sure projects you join are relevant to your genealogy, your research and/or your haplogroup.

I covered haplogroup projects in depth here and surname projects in depth here, but today, I just want to do a simple “how to” instruction on how to find and join any project of your choosing.

Joining projects is easy.

First, of course, you must have tested at or transferred your results to Family Tree DNA and you must have taken the type of test relevant to the project at hand.

For example, if you have taken the Family Finder Autosomal test and not taken any other tests, you can’t join a Y DNA project because you have not tested your Y chromosome. Ladies, sorry, you can’t join Y DNA projects either because you don’t have a Y chromosome.

If you haven’t yet tested, then you can join a project and get a discount on your test at the same time. If you already have results at Family Tree DNA, skip to the next section, “Joining Up.”

Discounts When Ordering Through Projects

You can order tests through projects at a discount if you’ve never tested before. To do that, just click on this link, then type your surname of interest into the search field by the green text box.

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Hint – if you’re an adoptee, just type adoptee and you’ll see the adoptee project. If you type a surname, you’ll see surname related projects.

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Click on the project you’re interested in joining to see discounted project based pricing, example shown below.

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Not sure what to order? You can read about the different kinds of DNA testing and how they apply to various ancestors on your tree in this “basic” DNA article.

Joining Up

If you’re already a customer at Family Tree DNA, it’s easy to join projects. First, sign on to your account.

Join 1

You’ll see your home page that looks something like this at the top.

In the upper left hand tool bar you’ll see the projects tab, with 3 drop down selections, shown below.

Join 2

“Learn About Projects” is basic information which you should, of course, read.

The “Manage My Projects” selection shows you which projects you are a member of and provides you with a convenient click list to visit any of your projects.

Join 3

But before you can manage projects, you have to join some first.

Click on “Join Projects.”

The first thing you will see is a list, based on your surname, of projects where the administrators have entered your surname as a surname of interest to their projects. This may or may not be useful to you.  If your surname is the surname of your spouse – not useful at all.  In my case, however, Estes is my maiden name so these projects might be useful to me.

Join 4

Let’s take a quick look.

  • The Cumberland Gap mtDNA project isn’t relevant, because my Estes line is my paternal line and my mitochondrial DNA is my matrilineal line – so no cigar on this one.
  • The Cumberland Gap Y DNA project isn’t relevant for me, because I’m a female and don’t have a Y chromosome, although my family is from the Cumberland Gap area. Hmmm…I need to find a related Estes male to test so he can join that project.
  • The Estes surname project. I have it on good authority that I can join this project whether or not I’m related via the Y, mitochondrial or autosomal connection. Hint – I founded this project and yes, we welcome anyone who is Estes descended.
  • Estis Jewish Ukraine – Nope doesn’t pertain to me and neither do the surnames Jester or Maestas, although clearly Estes could be derivative spellings of those surnames.
  • The I-L161 project is a Y DNA haplogroup project, so I’m not sure why a surname would be listed here, but this does not apply to me as I have no Y chromosome.
  • The administrators of the North Carolina Early project have obviously found the Estes surname in early records, but my line came through Virginia and Tennessee, so this doesn’t pertain to me either.

So, I can join one of these projects. Please, please take the time to read the project descriptions to see if the projects listed are a good fit for your family and for the stated project goals.

Some people think that this list is Family Tree DNA recommending certain projects, or suggesting that they join these projects. It isn’t.  The only way these projects appear is for the administrator to list your surname as one that their project is interested in – and it’s likely not universal meaning not relevant to everyone who carries the surname.  For example, Early North Carolina is confined to a specific geography and timeframe.

Obviously, there are probably other projects of interest that can’t be sensed by your surname.

Join 5

At the bottom of the project list, there is a search field, followed by a list of projects that are divided into types.

First, type into the search box the surname (or word) you are trying to find. Let’s use Ferverda for example.

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Yes, there is one project with 3 members for Ferverda. You can click on the project name to see additional information.  In fact, please do read the entire project description, because that’s the only way you’ll know if you qualify to join and the project is a good fit.  For example, what is the word Ferverda, or worse yet, Ireland?  Is it a surname or a place?  If it’s the place, can you join only if you are proven to descend from Ireland or can you join if might have Irish heritage?  Mitochondrial or Y DNA, or both?  What about autosomal DNA?  Read the project description to find out.

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Once you’ve determined that this project is for you, click the orange join button to join. Don’t worry, you can unjoin easily if you make a mistake.  Some projects have a “request to join” feature to be sure the pairing is a good fit.

Can’t find your surname? Try an alternate spelling or scroll down and see if you can find a different kind of project that fits the bill.  (Hint – you can double click on this image to make it larger.)

Join 8

For example, let’s see what’s available under the letter B under Y-DNA Geographical projects:

Join 9

Hmm, I can’t join those because they are Y DNA projects, so lets look under mtDNA Haplogroup projects. I’m haplogroup J.

Look, here’s the perfect project for me!

Join 10

Now all I have to do is click on the project link and then on the orange Join button to become a member.

Privacy Settings and Sharing

You will want to be sure your privacy settings are set such that your results will show in the projects you choose to join. I wrote about that here with specific instructions, so be sure to check, especially if you tested in 2015 or later, because the default is set to not publicly sharing.  This means if you don’t change your settings, your results will not be visible on the public project page.  An example of my haplogroup J project results on the public project page is shown below.

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The great thing about projects is that they ultimately benefit everyone through sharing, but sharing is the key word.

For example, this map of where the J1c2f ancestors are found in Europe and Asia, generated within the haplogroup J project, would not be available if people didn’t:

  1. Join projects
  2. Share publicly
  3. Enter the location of their most distant ancestor for that line

Join 12These maps allow us to take a look at the migration and settlement story behind this haplogroup. There are there hints based cumulatively on where our most distant ancestors are found.  We’ll never unravel the ancestral story without these hints and these hints are the results of shared information.  So, please share.  You’ll benefit from others sharing and others will benefit from you sharing.  Sort of a scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours scenario.

Have fun and find some great projects to join. You never know where your DNA will take you or the discoveries you’ll make!  What is your DNA waiting to tell you?