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. http://www.seawhy.com/gvmuch.html

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 Fold3.com 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 Ida.
  • Standing right rear – Jacob Kirsch.
  • Front adult beside Nora – Kirsch sister, possibly Lou.
  • 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

Later, I found this article as well published on March 3, 1887 in the Indianapolis News.


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.  The style of the bicycles tell us that the photo was taken after 1887 when the new safety bicycle was invented, as opposed to the older bicycle with a very large front wheel.  The bicycle craze was at its height in the 1890s and many ministers thought it immoral because women wore bloomers and people were skipping church to go bicycling.

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.  Jacob Kirsch signed for his daughter’s wedding the same day the wedding occurred, although he was probably not happy about the circumstances.  This is the only example of Jacob’s signature that we have.

Lore Kirsch Marriage

Nora’s 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 Curtis Benjamin Lore’s 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 and her sister Lou bought a house in Indianapolis and rented out rooms.  According to a family member, it was a brick home on the finest street in Indianapolis and had a veranda. Carrie lived in Indianapolis for a while, working at Blocks, then moved back to Aurora with her mother to help a at the Kirsch House after Jacob’s death.  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.

Apparently after Todd’s death in 1908, and her sister Carrie’s husband’s death in 1910, the two sisters decided to purchase a house together and move to Indianapolis.  After Jacob Kirsch’s death in 1917, Carrie moved back home to help her mother, and in 1920, Lou remarried.

Lou married Arthur Wellesley, a man born in Australia who lived in Chicago and listed his occupation as “orthopedic specialist” on their marriage license in 1920. 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 tombstone above is that of Jacob Kirsch’s parents, Philip Jacob Kirsch and Katharina Barbara Lemmert.  Philip Jacob died in 1880.  In 1887 the family sold the farm and Katharina Barbara came to Aurora to live with Jacob, along with her son, Philip, who lived with Jacob until his death as well.  Barbara died about 18 months after selling the farm and is buried alongside Philip Jacob.

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.

One last tidbit about Jacob’s life came in the form of a small article in the Hamilton, Ohio Evening Journal July 25, 1917.

Jacob Kirsch death


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.



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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.



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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.

join 13

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.

Join 14

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

Join 15

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.

Join 6

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.

Join 7

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.

Join 11

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

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Katharina Barbara Lemmert (1807-1889), The Pregnant Immigrant, 52 Ancestors #108

I don’t know if my mother was named Barbara for Katharina Barbara Lemmert or for Nora Kirsch Lore’s other grandmother, Barbara Mehlheimer.  Nora’s mother was Barbara Drechsel.  She married Jacob Kirsch and they had Ellenora, known as Nora, whose middle name I could have sworn was Barbara.  However, there is no record of any middle name for Nora, so apparently she simply passed the name Barbara on to her daughter, Edith Barbara Lore who passed it on to my mother.  Unfortunately, it ended with my mother’s generation.  I love the name Barbara.  Roberta – well, not so much.

barbara pedigree

True to the German naming tradition, my mother’s name was Barbara Jean, and she was called by her middle name. Everyone knew her as Jean, unless it was her mother using both names when she was in trouble, or someone who didn’t know mother well.  That’s how we knew if she was receiving “spam” phone calls.  If they asked for Barbara, Barbara was never at home.  If they asked for Barbara Jean, we asked who was calling.  If they asked for Jean, she was home and we generally knew the caller by voice.

In my generation, I only wish I had been named Barbara. I carry my mother’s middle name, but am called by my first name.  I would have much preferred Barbara.  However, by the time I was born, we were five generations out of Germany, five generations in which to “modernize” and lose the old traditions, and female children were no longer being named the same name as their mother.  It’s odd, males maintained that proud naming tradition, but it was considered very unusual and nearly unheard of for women in my generation.  One MIGHT be named for a grandmother or aunt, but never the same name as your mother.

I wish we had a picture of Katharina Barbara Lemmert. We don’t.  There might have been one missed opportunity, and that was when her granddaughter, Nora Kirsch was married at the Kirsch House in January of 1888.  If Katharina Barbara was able, you know she would assuredly have been at that wedding.  A photo was taken of both the bride and the groom, separately, although those photos might have not been taken that day since there are no “family” pictures.  I so very much wish that occasion had been memorialized with photos.

Three of Nora Kirsch’s four grandparents were living when she married and lived in the area. What a missed opportunity.

German Beginnings

Katharina Barbara Lemmert was born on September 1, 1807 in Mutterstadt, Germany to Johann Jacob Lemmert and Gerdraut Steiger.

Katharina Barbara Lemmert 1807 birth

The church registry above records the birth of Catharina Barbara Lemmert, also spelled as Katharina, and shows her baptism the next day, Sept. 2, 1807. It  gives her parents’ names, and indicates that her godparent is Catharina Barbara Wetzler, unmarried.  Typically godparents are related in some fashion to the child’s parents, but I don’t know how Catharina Barbara Wetzler was connected.  In Mutterstadt, everyone was related to everyone else.  Occasionally, a godparent it is an honorary position, such as a mayor.

The German church records were all translated by Elke Hall, now retired, but my trusty interpreter of both German language and customs for many years.

Katharina Barbara Lemmert never knew her father, because he died on February 28, 1808, exactly 6 months less one day after she was born. He was a farmer, noted as a fieldman. He was only 33 years old when he died.  I wonder what took him so early.  I always wonder about some kind of farm accident.  One thing is for sure – it wasn’t old age.

Katharina’s mother was young and had three daughters, the oldest of which would have been just under 7. Yet, Gerdraut did not remarry for another 7 years, not until 1814.  There are no church records of additional children for Gerdraut, although we may have missed them due to the name change.

We do know that Gerdraut was living in 1829 due to Katharina Barbara’s marriage record that says the following:

Kirsch Lemmert 1829 marriage

Today the 22nd of December 1829 were married and blessed Philipp Jacob Kirsch from Fussgoenheim, the legitimate, unmarried son of the deceased couple, Andreas Kirsch and Margaretha Koehler and Katharina Barbara Lemmerth the legitimate unmarried daughter of the deceased local citizen Jacob Lemmerth and his surviving wife Gertrude Steiger, both of protestant religion.

One of my favorite things about German records is that the females, even after marriage, are always referred to by their maiden name so you can tell who they are!

We don’t know what happened to the middle sister, but Katharina Barbara’s oldest sister, Anna Maria Lemmert, born in 1801, married Philip Jacob Krick in 1824 in Mutterstadt, according to church records. She reportedly immigrated in 1848 to Indiana with her sister, Katharina Barbara, but I have not been able to find any record of that happening.  I hope it did, because it would have meant that Katharine Barbara had family here.

We do know that Katharina Barbara’s husband’s sister, Anna Margaretha Kirsch who had married Johann Martin Koehler (born 1796 Ellerstadt) did immigrate after his death in 1848 or 1849, so Katharina Barbara did know someone here, other than her husband and the Weynacht family who immigrated from Mutterstadt on the same boat with the Kirsch family. The Weynacht family would live as neighbors to the Kirsch family in Ripley County.  German families tended to stay together in the new land.  It probably felt very good to have someone else in close proximity whose native language was the same as yours and whose family history was from the same place.

After they arrived, but not long after they arrived, something odd happened.

Katharina Barbara Lemmert and Philip Jacob Kirsch arrived in New Orleans on July 4, 1848 and they were married in America on July 27, 1848 in Ripley Co., Indiana. I found this exact scenario with another ancestral couple, and I discovered the other couple was never married in Germany, but that is assuredly not the case for Katharina Barbara Lemmert and Philip Jacob Kirsch, because we have their church marriage record, shown above, and their subsequent children’s baptism records.  Germans of that time were very anal about stating very explicitly if a child’s parents were married or not married.

So why would a couple decide to remarry and immediately after arriving in the US? They arrived in New Orleans on July 4th and the trip to Aurora took 8 days by steamer.  Let’s give them a day on either end for transfers, which brings us to about July 14th.  This means they were married 13 days later in Ripley County.  This suggests two things to us.

First, they already knew where they were going. They didn’t have to scout around for a location – and they had some way to get there.

Second, getting married in the US was considered to be very important for some reason. I have never been able to figure this out, nor has anyone else been able to enlighten me.  If anyone knows why this happened, please do tell.  There has to be some significance.

Not only had they been married for nearly 20 years, Katharina Barbara was pregnant for their last child, Andreas, who would be born in February of 1849.

That wedding must have been something with the couple’s 6 stair-step children in attendance, the bride holding a child of 18 months, and 2 months pregnant for another child.

On February 6, 1849, just 7 months later, Katharina Barbara would give birth to her last child they would name after her husband’s father, Andreas, who had died when he was just 13.

Roots in Ripley County, Indiana

The 1850 census shows the family having settled in on a farm in Franklin Township of Ripley County, near Milan. They own real estate worth $1200.  Indeed, they had realized the American dream – land ownership was something they couldn’t have achieved in Germany and was one of the primary immigration motivations.

Kirsch 1850 ripley

They live beside the Andrew Waynacht family who came over on the same ship with them.  They too had achieved the dream of land ownership.  The German Rader family is also a neighbor, although there are farmers from other areas too, including Scotland, NY, PA and Ohio.  This looks to be a good area in which to settle with lots of diverse neighbors seeking the same thing – opportunity.

This adorable ginger-bread house sits on their land today and certainly looks like it could be from that timeframe.  I can just see Katharina Barbara standing here.  She would have lived here from the time she was about 41 until her death, 41 years later, just shy of her 82nd birthday.  She literally lived half of her entire life here, so it was assuredly “home” in the most heartfelt way.

Kirsch ripley house

Katharina Barbara walked this land, toiled in her garden which would have been behind the house and probably watched for people arriving down the road from the front porch, if the porch existed then.  She would have sat in the shade of the trees, wearing her apron over her housedress, and “snapped” beans in her lap.  She would have cleaned peas, shucked sweet corn or maybe hulled luscious strawberries for a rare dessert treat.  Every morning, she would have walked the rows of the garden, inspecting the plants and gathered what was ripe while the dew was still glistening on the leaves, before the oppressing heat of the day.

A few hours later, those veggies plus whatever meat they had would become lunch for the family as they came in from the fields after working half the day, literally since sunup, the coolest part of the day that included daylight.  What was available in the garden often was the determining factor in terms of what she prepared for the family to eat that day.

The main meal was eaten at noon and farm wives fed everyone working on the farm that day, plus whoever happened by.  Often they didn’t know exactly how many they would be feeding, so they made a lot of whatever they made.

Plus, there was always a pot of beans simmering.  If all else failed, beans!  If you ran out of something, beans!  Need a snack, beans!  Beans was always the fallback answer, along with potatoes at my house.  Root vegetables and those that could be stored for long periods (carrots, cabbage, potatoes,) dried (beans,) or ground (corn, wheat) were staples that never failed you. I grew up on a farm much like this in Indiana and little changed in the intervening century, except for tractors with engines.

To the best of my knowledge, this was the only farm this couple would ever own. Philip Jacob Kirsch would live another 30 years and Katharina Barbara would live almost 40 more years.  It seems that once they hit solid land they put down roots and never moved again.  I can hardly say that I blame them.

The good news is that the Lutheran church they helped to found and attended wasn’t far away.

Kirsch land and cemetery

Their farm was located at the left red arrow and the Lutheran church they helped to found was at the right, about a mile and a half distant. They were Lutheran in Germany and Lutheran in Ripley County as well.  That much didn’t change.  They brought their religion with them.

Deaths, Marriages and Births – The Cycle of Life

The sad news is that the church had a small cemetery and they buried little Andreas there likely the day after he died, on September 8th, probably in 1851. His stone is so worn that the death year has been variously recorded as 1853, 1821 and 1891, but the month and day are always September 8th.  Katharina Barbara’s baby was gone.

Andreas Kirsch stone

Every time she went to church, she was reminded of that loss. Was this comforting in some way for her, or simply a weekly painful reminder of the death of her youngest child, the one that would forever be her baby? I’ve wondered if Andreas was a Down’s child.  Katharina Barbara was in her 40s when he was born.

The St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church was established by a small group of pioneers in Franklin Township in 1847, but it was disbanded in 1855. The cemetery where Andreas is buried abuts a clearing that probably held the church.

Lutheran lost church cemetery

This burial begs more questions, because Katharina Barbara’s oldest daughter, also Katharina Barbara Kirsch, married Johann Martin Koehler in Fink’s Church in June of 1851, three months before Andreas died. Perhaps the Koehlers attended Finks.  Or perhaps they didn’t have a minister at St. Peters to marry them at that time.  Or perhaps only St. Peter’s had a cemetery and that’s why Andreas was buried there.  St. Peters was less than two miles from where Barbara Katharina lived, and Fink’s was about 9 miles, via our roads today.  I suspect at that time that there were wagon roads that reduced that distance a couple of miles or more.  You can see the remnants of those roads today on the satellite map and on the 1884 plat map as well.  The map below shows Finke Church on the left, the cemetery where Andreas Kirsch is buried on the right and their home a mile or so west of old Milan where the address is displayed.

Finks to house to lost lutheran

Did Katharina Barbara begin attending Fink’s before St. Peter’s dissolved in 1855?  Did she visit Andreas’ grave often, or did she just take his passing pretty well in stride, perhaps feeling lucky that only one of her children had died?  Children’s graves tend to draw mothers, regardless of how painful.

Katharina Barbara’s first grandchildren arrived shortly after her daughter’s marriage, perhaps helping a bit to sooth her grief over the death of Andreas.

Katharina Barbara Kirsch and Martin Koehler would have 4 daughters, three of which lived to adulthood.  Sadly, Katharina Barbara Lemmert would bury her granddaughter in Aurora in 1860 when she was just 3 years old.

Johannes Kirsch would be Katharina Barbara’s next child to marry, in 1856.  It’s unclear exactly where Johannes went after his marriage in Ripley county to Mary Blotz or Blatz, as I was unable to find them in the 1860 census, but they were having babies by 1858 and by 1870, were living in Indianapolis.

The 1860 census tells us that Katharina Barbara and her family are doing well in Ripley County. They own land worth $2000 and have $400 in personal assets.  They also have two other children living with them.  Elizabeth Kaiter, age 6, born in Indiana and Matthew Weis, age 9 born in Bavaria.  I don’t find any more about Elizabeth, although her surname could be misspelled.  I do find a Matthew Weis living in Aurora Indiana in 1920, so this is likely the same man, but it doesn’t tell me why he was living with Katharina Barbara Lemmert Kirsch in 1870.  Regardless of why, these children were too young to be “servants” so Katharina was clearly acting as their mother, or foster-mother.  These two would have been her children of heart.

1860 Ripley census

We don’t know a lot about the time after Katharina Barbara and Philip Jacob immigrated and before the Civil War, but we do know that Katharina Barbara’s son, Jacob, had his “eye put out” with a gun, and I do mean literally. It’s not funny, but I do have to laugh, remembering all those warnings by mothers immemorial about not doing whatever because “you’ll put your eye out.”  Well, Jacob was living proof.  I wonder if his mother told him not to do what he was doing…

The family story says that Jacob and another boy were quail hunting and Jacob was hiding behind a bush. Apparently, and I’m extrapolating here, the other boy thought Jacob was the was a quail and shot him in the eye – or maybe the two boys were just horsing around.  I surely would have loved to hear Jacob tell this story. It’s probably a good thing they weren’t using very powerful guns, or Jacob would have lost far more than his eye and I wouldn’t be here today!

The Dark Cloud of the Civil War

The 1860s had to be an extremely difficult time for Katharina Barbara. The Civil War descended upon these people.  She had four service aged sons and all able-bodied men between the ages of 20 and 45 were required to report.  We know for sure that at least 3 of her sons served, and probably all 4.

Katharina Barbara’s oldest son, Philip Kirsch, became very ill but served the full three years of his enlistment. He did return home, but never recovered.  He lived with his parents for the rest of their lives, then lived with his brother Jacob until Philip’s own death in 1905 where he left his meager estate to his siblings, nieces and nephews.

One John Kirsch did serve, but I can’t tell if it was Katharine Barbara’s second son, John, or not. John worked with wood and it would have taken $300 for him to hire a replacement for his service – assuming he could find a replacement.  Not likely for a woodworker.

Katharina Barbara’s third son, Martin Kirsch, enlisted and is recorded in the “strictly German” 32nd Regiment, Indiana Volunteer Infantry, Company D, but is never heard of again.  We don’t know if he died or what, but he was never discharged.  Perhaps as the balance of the Civil War records are digitized, we’ll learn his fate.  We know that he was not mentioned in his brother’s will in 1905.

The fourth son, Jacob Kirsch, was the son who had the perfect “out,” meaning he didn’t pass the civil war physical, but the family history tells us he served anyway as a teamster and cook. He must have felt strongly about this cause.  After his death, Jacob’s widow filed for a pension and was declined for non-service, but the Indiana roster records do show Jacob Kirsch.

Katharine Barbara had plenty to worry about for several years, and probably got to either bury son Martin, or never got to bury son Martin because his body was not returned. Most soldiers were buried on or near the battlefield where they fell or the “hospital” where they died.

By late 1864, her sons that survived had mustered out or served their time. It has been a very long three years.  Katharina Barbara was probably trying very hard to help Philip Jacob recover from his persistent, and as it turns out, lifelong, intestinal issues.

Sunlight Again

On November 22, 1864, Katharina Barbara’s youngest daughter Anna Marie Kirsch would marry John Kramer in Dearborn County. After the years of the war, this had to be an very welcome happy event, a celebration.  By 1870, Anna Marie (Mary) and John were living in Illinois, so Katharina Barbara probably didn’t get to see much of her daughter or those grandchildren. In the 1900 census, Mary Kramer is a widow and has 9 children, all living.  In the 1920 census, she gives her parents birth location at Mutterstadt, so this is unquestionably the right Mary Kramer living in Collinsville, Madison County, Illinois, across the river from St Louis, Missouri where Jacob Kirsch’s 1917 obituary says his sister, Mary Kramer, lives.

The next wedding would be son Jacob Kirsch to Barbara Drechsel in 1866. I’m sure Katharina Barbara was relieved that they were living in Aurora.  Yes, it was a few miles, about 15, but only a few miles.  The day before Christmas, Jacob and Barbara’s first daughter, Nora, my great-grandmother, arrived in the world.  I’m sure the Christmas of 1866 was joyful.  The war was over, Jacob was married and there was a new baby.  Nora’s generation always celebrated Christmas on December 24th, a typical German tradition, so Nora’s arrival on the 24th gave everyone something extra-special to celebrate.  I sure wish we had pictures!

Katharina Barbara’s son William Kirsch followed by marrying in 1870 to Carolyn Kuntz, although we don’t know much about them. We know that William was dead by 1905 when his brother Philip remembered William’s 2 male and 1 female children in his will.  William was probably the William Kirsch that died in Nebraska in February 1891, wife Carrie, with sons Edward and Henry and daughter Mattie, the oldest of which was born in Indiana.

The 1870 census reflects Katharina Barbara’s shrinking family in Ripley County as her children married and began families of their own.

1870 Ripley census

Interestingly, in addition to Katharina Barbara, her husband and son, we also find Mathias White, age 19, now listed as farm labor, which is probably the same person as Matthew Weis in 1860. Weis is the German word for white.  He would not have been old enough to serve in the war, Mathias was very probably a great help to Philip Jacob and Katharina Barbara on the farm during the war years.

In 1874, son Philip who was living on the farm with his parents applied for a Civil War pension saying that his father’s situation had become very strained and that he, Philip (the son), could not do any manual labor due to his Civil War injuries. Philip Jacob Kirsch, the father, would have been 68 years old and Katharina would have been 67.  Indeed, their years and miles were likely wearing on them.

Grandchildren and Great-grandchilden

Katharina Barbara had a total of 24 grandchildren, but 4 died during her lifetime. Of her children, only Philip Kirsch, Jacob Kirsch and Katharine Barbara Kirsch Koehler stayed relatively close.  Philip lived with his parents, Jacob lived in Aurora in Dearborn County and Katharina Barbara Kirsch Koehler lived in both Aurora and Lawrenceburg at various times.  The rest of Katharina Barbara’s grandchildren were with her children who were scattered in Illinois, Indianapolis and possibly Nebraska.  Of course, three of Katharina Barbara’s children didn’t have children.

In 1876, Katharina Barbara’s first great-grandchild was born to Lizzie Koehler Knoebel, a boy, Harry Knoebel. Another generation began.

In 1878, Katharina Barbara’s second born great-grandchild was born to Lizzie Koehler Knoebel and would die. What would Katharina Barbara have said to her grieving granddaughter as she stood beside her at the graveside burying her baby? Barbara had certainly stood in Lizzie’s shoes a few years earlier in the little cemetery beside the log cabin church in Ripley County.  Did Katharina Barbara simply hug Lizzie and stand silently, sharing a grief for which there were no words, or did she have some words of wisdom and comfort for Lizzie.

Two years later, on April the 26th, 1880, Lizzie had a third child, a son, that would live, but just a few days later, the grim reaper would visit the family, just the same.

On May 10, 1880, Katharina Barbara’s husband, Philip Jacob Kirsch, died. Two days later, on a spring day, he was buried in the Riverview Cemetery south of Aurora where their son, Jacob lived.  Flowers were probably blooming, birds chirping, but there was no joy in the Kirsch family that day.

riverview entrance

Jacob bought the plot in which many members of the Kirsch family would be buried, including the Knoebel baby. The information at the cemetery says that Philip Jacob died of “old age” and that the couple lived near Milan.

In the 1880 census, taken just a month or so later, Katharina Barbara is living on the old home place with her son, Philip Jacob, the Civil War veteran. Philip is 49 with a disability and Katharina Barbara is 73.  Neither one of them are spring chickens, and life must have gotten very difficult for them about this time.  Did their neighbors help them out?  Did their married children that still lived locally come to help?  How did they manage to farm, given that farming was very physically labor intensive?

1880 Ripley census

The Indiana 1880 mortality census records are not yet digitized and available at Ancestry. When they are, there may be additional information about Philip Jacob Kirsch’s death.

On July 1, 1884, Katharina Barbara’s granddaughter, Lizzie Koehler died, just past her 30th birthday. I wonder if her death had anything to do with childbirth.  Lizzie is buried on the Kirsch plot in the Riverview Cemetery with her child that had died a few years before her in 1878.

Barbara would once again have visited the cemetery.  She probably put flowers on Philip Jacob’s grave before her granddaughter’s funeral and maybe pulled a few stray blades of grass growing over the base of the stone.  I know that mother always felt that “cleaning up the stone” was in essence doing something for or taking care of the person who was buried there.  Kind of like pushing the hair off of their forehead.  They didn’t much care but the person performing the caring gesture felt better.

I don’t know if Jacob had the current stone set before or after his mother passed.  Katharina Barbara probably also realized that she was in essence visiting her own final resting place too.  By this time, Katharina Barbara had been through several dress rehearsals.

On August 29, 1887, Katherina Barbara, along with all of her children and their spouses would execute a deed selling the farm in Ripley County.  Katherina Barbara turned 80 on September 1st, and son Philip, who had lived with her was 50 and disabled.  I’m sure they simply could not maintain the farm any longer, so they sold.  Fortunately, that deed is very descriptive and confirmed the location of the farm, along with the names and locations of all the living children.  Interestingly enough, Katharina Barbara and Philip were both living in Dearborn County by this time, according to the deed.  I’m sure they were living with son Jacob Kirsch and his wife, Barbara Drechsel Kirsch at the Kirsch House in Aurora.

On January 18, 1888, Katharina Barbara’s granddaughter, Nora Kirsch (below) married Curtis Benjamin Lore at the Kirsch House in Aurora. I know that, weather permitting, Katharina Barbara would have been present for that wedding.  This was her first grandchild through son Jacob to marry.

Nora Kirsch wedding

On August 2, 1888, my grandmother and Katharina Barbara’s great-granddaughter, Edith Barbara Lore was born in Indianapolis.

Edith as a child cropped

Was Nora able to take the baby back to Ripley or Dearborn County to see her grandmother? I hope so. All grandmothers love their grandchildren and particularly love babies.   Oh, how I wish there was a generational photo of the family that year.

This would be the last baby Katharina Barbara would get to love. The last set of fingers to kiss, the last baby to smile and laugh and probably drool on her as well.  The last feet to tickle, the last child to rock and sing to sleep.

Barbara Passes On

Katharine Barbara Lemmert died February 1, 1889 and was buried beside Philip Jacob Kirsch on a cold winter’s day, seven months shy of her 82th birthday, 60 years after marrying Philip Jacob (the first time) and 41 years after first setting foot on American soil. What a journey!

Barbara had seen a lot in her life, lived in two countries on two continents, crossed the ocean in either a sailing ship or a steamer, and plied the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers in a steamboat paddlewheeler…pregnant…with 7 children…and a husband. Two weeks later, she married that same husband for the second time…just to be sure I guess.  Just over a decade later, at least three of her sons, if not four, fought in the Civil War, and one of them probably perished.  Two children, four grandchildren, a great-grandchild and her husband would precede her in death.  At least, on that far shore, much the same as the far shore of America, she had someone waiting for her.

Kirsch Philip Jacob stone

Mitochondrial DNA

Katharina Barbara Lemmert’s mitochondrial DNA was passed to her by her mother. Woman pass it on, men don’t, so Katharina Barbara’s sisters would have passed it on as well.  However, since we don’t know much about those sisters, we don’t know of any descendants to test today.

Katharina Barbara’s two daughters both had daughters who passed her mitochondrial DNA on through their daughters who hopefully passed it on to someone who still carries it today. In the current generation, males also carry their mother’s mitochondrial DNA, so they can test.  They just don’t pass that kind of DNA on to their offspring.  Only females pass it on.

Katharina Barbara Kirsch who married Johann Martin Koehler had the following daughters who lived:

  • Mary Koehler, born January 6, 1852, married Henry Hornberger in 1871 in Dearborn County, Indiana. He is shown alone in Nebraska in the 1880 census, so she has apparently died by this time. There is no record of any children, but the family sources do indicate that “they went to Nebraska.” The Riverview cemetery shows her burial on January 22, 1880, age 28, and having been sent for burial from Omaha.
  • Elizabeth “Lizzie” Koehler born in 1854 married Christian Knoebel and had two male children. Lizzie died in 1884.
  • Mamie Koehler born in 1869 married John Fichter in 1892 and had two daughters, Florence and Alberta. Family oral history said that Mamie is a foster or adopted child. Not all the family agrees with that commentary – but all of the people who would have known are now dead. Mamie is shown with Barbara on the 1880 census, but in the 1870 census when she would have been one year old, she does not show in the census with this family in Aurora, Dearborn County, Indiana.

Anna Maria Kirsch born in 1847 married John Kramer and became known as Mary Kramer. She died in 1929 in Collinsville, Madison County, Illinois with her birthplace listed as Mutterstadt.  She had 9 children of which 6 were daughters.

  • Ida Kramer, 1867-1944 never married
  • Nettie Kramer, 1869-1940, married a Huber
  • Louisa Kramer, born in 1871, married Mathias Phillips and had 6 daughters
  • Lilly Kramer born in 1873, was single in 1940, so apparently never married
  • Elizabeth Kramer born in 1875, married John Bell and had one daughter
  • Florence Kramer 1887-1911, never married

It appears that the only possible individuals living today who carry Katharina Barbara’s mitochondrial DNA are people who descend from Nettie, Louisa or Elizabeth Kramer through all females to the current generation.

If this description fits you, I have a DNA testing scholarship with your name on it. I’d love to find out more about our ancestor, Katharina Barbara Lemmert.



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Genealogy and Ethnicity DNA Testing – 3 Legitimate Companies

Big 3 logos

Update: Please note that a 4th company has now been added to this list, MyHeritage.

As with any industry that has become popular, especially quickly, there are the front runner companies, and then there is an entire cadre of what I am going to call “third tier” companies that spring up and are trying to play off of the success of the front runners and the naivety of the consuming public. I’m going to avoid the use of the words snake oil here, because some of them aren’t quite that bad, but others clearly are.  You get the drift, I’m sure.  There is a very big gulf, as in a chasm, between the three front-runners, Family Tree DNA, Ancestry and 23andMe, whose recognizable logos you see above and the rest of the pack.

Recently, we’ve seen a huge raft of people finding these “third tier” companies, purchasing their products thinking they’re getting something they aren’t, often due to what I would call corporate weasel-wording and snazzy ads, and then being unhappy with their purchase. Unfortunately, often the purchasers don’t understand that they’ve in essence “been had.”  This type of behavior tarnishes the entire genetic genealogy industry.

So, if you find a test on LivingSocial or a Groupon coupon that “looks familiar” it may by the AncestrybyDNA test that people mistakenly purchase instead of the AncestryDNA kit sold by Ancestry.com.  They think they are getting a great deal on the AncestryDNA test.  They aren’t.  It’s not the same thing at all.  AncestrybyDNA is an old, inaccurate, ineffective test called DNAPrint that has been rebranded to be sold to the unsuspecting.  Don’t buy this Groupon item.

There are other useless tests too, probably too many to mention by name, plus I really don’t want to give them any publicity, even inadvertently.

I also want to be clear that I’m only talking about genetic genealogy and ethnicity testing, not about medical DNA testing or traditional paternity testing, although some of the labs that offer paternity testing services also offer the less than forthright tests, in fact, those very two mentioned above.  I’m also not talking about add-on services like GedMatch and DNAGedcom which don’t provide DNA testing and do provide much valued services within the genetic genealogy community.  I’m also not talking about the Genographic project testing which does provide great information but is not in essence a genetic genealogy test in the sense that you can’t compare your results with others.  You can, however, transfer your results from the Genographic project to Family Tree DNA where you can compare with others.

Twisting the Truth

One of the biggest areas ripe for harvesting by sheisters are the thousands of people who descend, or think they descend from, or might descend from Native Americans. It’s a very common question.

If you find a company that says they will tell you what Indian tribe you descend from, and believe me, they’re out there, just know that you really can’t do that today with just a DNA test.  If you could identify a tribe that quickly and easily, these three leading companies would be doing just that – it would be a booming consumer product.  “Identifying my tribe” is probably my most frequently asked question and a highly sought after piece of information, so I’m not surprised that companies have picked up on that aspect of genetic genealogy to exploit.  I wrote about proving Native heritage and what it takes to identify your tribe here and here.  If that’s how they’re trying to hook you, you’re either going to be massively disappointed in your results, or the results are going to be less than forthright and truthful.

Yes, the DNA truth can be twisted and I see these “twisted results” routinely that people have paid a lot of money to receive and desperately want to believe.

Let me just give you one very brief example of DNA “fact” twisting. Person one claims (“self-identifies” in the vernacular), with no research or proof, that their maternal grandma is Cherokee, a very common family story.  Their mitochondrial haplogroup is H3, clearly, unquestionably European and not Native.  You test and share haplogroup H3 with person one.  I’ve seen companies that then claim you descend from the same “Cherokee line” as person one with haplogroup H3 and therefore you too are magically Cherokee because you match someone in their data base that is “Cherokee.” Congratulations!  I guess all Europeans who carry haplogroup H3 are also Cherokee, using that same logic.  Won’t they be surprised!

This H3=Cherokee analogy is obviously incorrect and inaccurate in several different ways, but suffice it to say that, as a hopeful consumer, you are now very happy that you are now “proven” to be Cherokee and you have no idea or understanding that it’s all predicated on one person’s “self-identification” that allows the less-than-ethical company to then equate all other H3 people to a “Cherokee lineage.” The problem is that you aren’t either proven Native nor Cherokee on your direct matrilineal line. And you’ve been snookered.  But you’re obliviously happy.

What a shameful way to exploit Native people and their descendants, not to mention the consuming public.

Unfortunately, there are lots of ways to twist the truth, intentionally or inadvertently.  If you’re looking for direction on this topic, there is a FaceBook group called Native American Ancestry Explorer: DNA, Genetics, Genealogy and Anthropology that I would recommend.

In genetic genealogy, meaning for both genealogy and ethnicity, there are three companies that are the frontrunners, by any measure, and then there are the rest, many of whom misrepresent their wares and what they can legitimately tell you. Or they tell you, and you have no idea if what they say is accurate or their own version of “truth” from their own “private research” and data bases, i.e., H3=Cherokee.

The Big 3

So, here are the Big 3 testing companies, in my preference order.

  1. Family Tree DNA
  2. Ancestry
  3. 23andMe

Not only are these the Big 3, they are the only three that give you the value for your money as represented, plus the ability to compare your results to others.

Family Tree DNA is the only company to provide mitochondrial and Y DNA testing and matching.

All three of these companies provide autosomal tests and provide you:

  • Ethnicity estimates
  • Autosomal DNA Results (downloadable)
  • Autosomal DNA Matching to others in their data base
  • Different tools at each company that vary in quality and completeness

If it’s not one of these three companies, don’t buy, JUST DON’T.

You can debate all day about which of these three companies is the best for you (or maybe all three), but that is what the debate SHOULD be about, not whether to use one of these companies versus some third tier company.

I’m am not going to do a review of these companies in this article. Suffice it to say that my 2015 review holds relatively well EXCEPT that 23andMe is still going through something of a corporate meltdown with their genetic genealogy product which has caused me to take them off of my recommended list other than for adoptees who should test with all three vendors due to their data base matching.  Also, if you’re trying to make a decision in relation to the Big 3 companies and testing, you might want to read these two articles, here and here, as well.

I will do a 2016 review after 23andMe finishes their transition so we know how the genealogy aspect of their new services will work.

Personally, I think that everyone interested in genetic genealogy should test their mitochondrial DNA (males and females both,) and Y DNA (males only) at Family Tree DNA and their autosomal DNA (males and females both) at both Ancestry and Family Tree DNA. Family Tree DNA offers a $39 transfer from Ancestry, so you can put together a nice testing package and reap all of the benefits.  Here’s a basic article about the different kinds of DNA testing, what they cover and how, based on your family tree.

Bottom Line

So, here’s the bottom line – as heated as the debate gets sometimes within the genetic genealogy community about which of the three vendors, Family Tree DNA, Ancestry or 23andMe, is best, that really IS the question to debate.  The question should NEVER be whether to use a third tier company for genetic genealogy or ethnicity instead of one of these three.

So spread the word and hopefully none of our genealogy friends or well-meaning spouses or family members purchasing gifts with the very best of intentions will get sucked in. Stick with the Big 3.



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Saying Hello in the DNA World

Hey Baby, what’s your sign?  Remember that?  I surely do.  It was the worst introductory, aka “pickup line” ever!

If someone asked me that today, after rolling my eyes of course, I’d just have to show them a double helix on my Kerchner R1b piniphone or maybe just look at them deadpan and say “R1b,” M269” or “J1c2f.” If they know what means, well, there might be hope…

Ok, so what DO you say to someone with whom you match on your DNA?  How do you appropriately say “hello?”

When you receive a match from a vendor or via tools like GedMatch, what do you say to that new match that will elicit a response that might be useful and not make you look either like an idiot or predatory in the process? In part, that has to do with what kind of DNA match it is, meaning Y, mitochondrial or autosomal, and in part, how you ask for information.

So, first, let’s talk about some basics of how to obtain good responses and secondly, let’s look at each type of match.

The Basics

I know some of these basics sounds, well, really basic, but I wouldn’t have included them if I didn’t receive a lot of e-mails from people who obviously don’t understand these basic communications “good manners.”

  1. Do use capitals and punctuation. If you don’t you’re conveying the message to the recipient that they don’t matter enough to bother constructing a complete sentence. E-mails like this are apt to be immediately deleted.
  2. Don’t put the entire question in the subject line. These get deleted too.
  3. Include the person’s name who you match. Don’t assume that the person whose e-mail is on the kit is the person who tested.  Many people manage multiple (as in many) kits.
  4. Don’t write “dear match” e-mails and copy several people at once.
  5. Title the e-mail with something relevant like “DNA Match to Robert Doe at Family Tree DNA.”  You don’t want your e-mail to wind up in their spam filter.
  6. Include the basics of the match including the match’s name on the kit (or kit number) and the company (or service like GedMatch) where the match occurred.  I always add the test type as well, and if the match is particularly close.
  7. Don’t say, “Can you tell me how we’re related?” without giving any other information. That comes across as sounding a bit “entitled” and the response it gets from the receiver generally isn’t positive.
  8. Do not tell your life story. They won’t read it and they’ll delete it.
  9. Include friendly, short, concise basic information, depending on the kind of test.
  10. I always end my communications with a question for them to answer and a short, positive comment.


Y-DNA tests are between males, so if you’re a female, you might want to mention that you’re the custodian for the kit for your brother, or father, John Doe. Give basic surname and lineage information for the Doe line.

Here’s an example of a contact e-mail for Y DNA:

Dear Robert Doe,

I’m the custodian for the DNA kit at Family Tree DNA of John Doe, my father. I noticed that he matches Robert Doe, which I presume is you, on the Y DNA test at 67 markers with only one mutation.  In addition, these two men carry the same surname which suggest a common ancestor.  I’ve also checked and you two don’t seem to match on the Family Finder test, so perhaps the common ancestor between you and my father is a few generations back in time.

Here is my father’s direct Doe lineage:

y pedigree

As you can see, I’m stuck with Martin Doe in Virginia. I’m hoping that our match might be helpful in getting beyond this brick wall.

Who is your oldest Doe ancestor and where were they located?

Thank you for your time. Here’s hoping we can find our common ancestor or at least some hints!

Jane Doe

Mitochondrial DNA

Mitochondrial DNA is a little more challenging genealogically, because the surnames change with every generation. Therefore, locations become very important clues in terms of finding a common ancestor.

Here’s an example of a mitochondrial DNA contact e-mail:

Dear Susie Smith,

I’m the custodian for the DNA kit at Family Tree DNA for my mother, Barbara Jones. I noticed that mother and Susie Smith, which I presume is you, share mitochondrial DNA at the full sequence level with no mutations difference.  This means that our common relative could be in recent generations, or maybe further back in time.  Since you’ve both also taken the Family Finder test, I noticed that you also match in the 2nd to 4th cousin range, meaning you and mother could potentially share great-grandparents to great-great-great-grand-parents. That could possibly be from Barbara Brown, Ellen Green or Mary on my pedigree chart below.

Here is my mother’s matrilineal line as far back as I have information:

mtDNA pedigree

Of course, it’s possible that our common ancestor is further back in time, but I’m hopeful that some of these names or locations might look familiar or be where your matrilineal family members are from too.

Do you see anything here that looks promising in terms of a common ancestor or location?  Where is your most distant maternal ancestor from?

I look forward to hearing from you. Maybe we can solve this puzzle together.

Jane Jones

Autosomal DNA

Autosomal DNA is, of course, genealogically more complex than either Y or mitochondrial DNA in that your matches can be from any of your family lines. That also means this test is full of potential as well, but it’s more difficult to provide your matches with enough information to obtain a useful response without overwhelming them.  With three different vendors plus GedMatch, a one-size-fits-all introductory letter doesn’t work

The first thing I do is to see if I can tell how this person may match me.

For example, my mother has taken the Family Finder test at Family Tree DNA as well, so the first thing I check on any match is to see if that person matches both me and my mother. If so, then that match is through my mother’s side of the tree.

This is easy to do with the ICW (in common with) button at Family Tree DNA.  The ICW button looks like crossed arrows and is blue, below.

Joy compare

The list of matches returned will either show my mother or it won’t.

If the person doesn’t match my mother, and Joy doesn’t, I see who else they do match in addition to me.  For example, let’s see who Joy matches that I match as well.


I can tell based on the ICW cousins that Joy and I both match that indeed, this match is on my father’s side and that it’s in the Vannoy line. That’s actually very helpful, because it helps me provide my match with some direction and gives us someplace to go.  This also illustrates the benefit of testing every cousin you can find!

Here’s an example of a Family Finder contact e-mail:

Dear Joy,

I notice that I have a match to Joy Smith, which I presume is you, at Family Tree DNA on the Family Finder test.  Our connection is estimated to be at the 2nd to 4th cousin level. This is exciting because it means we may be able to find our common ancestor.

Based on the fact that you match several of my cousins, including Stacy, Charlene, Christopher, Debbie and 3 Vannoy cousins, our common ancestor seems to be either in the Vannoy line, from which we all descend, or a common ancestral line to all of these cousins.

I’m attaching a copy of my father’s pedigree chart in pdf format so that it’s easily readable. Please note that his grandmother was Elizabeth Vannoy and take a look at her lineage. There is an index in the back of the document so you can easily scan to see if anyone looks familiar.

Are any of her ancestors your ancestors too?

I’m excited to see if we can make a family connection. I look forward to hearing from you,

Roberta Estes

Of course, if you’re sending a message to someone you match at either 23andMe or Ancestry.com, it would read a little bit differently because their tools are different from those provided at Family Tree DNA. For those vendors, my contact verbiage reads somewhat differently, in part, because my mother’s DNA is not at either of those vendors and I have much less flexibility in terms of tools and usage.

For example, at 23andMe the contact request is “blind” and you can’t see anything about matches until the contact and DNA sharing requests are accepted. This is changing shortly at 23andMe, but exactly how all of this will work is uncertain.  Also, not all 23andMe kits can be transferred to Family Tree DNA.

At Ancestry, they have no chromosome browser, so you can’t look at any comparative chromosome information. You can see who else you match in common though, in addition to the Circles.

The message is also different because both Ancestry and 23andMe contacts must be made through their internal message system where you cannot attach files and you are limited in terms of message size. Also, remember to sign your full real name.  Your screen name may not be the same and that’s all the recipient will see in the message they receive through the vendor.  I also include an e-mail address.

Here’s an example of a 23andMe or Ancestry contact message.

I notice that we are a DNA match. That’s great news.  I believe that we may match through the Estes line, but I’m not positive.  I have a number of Estes cousins who have tested from this line at Family Tree DNA that you might match as well.  You can upload your results to Family Tree DNA and see your matches for $39 instead of retesting, which is a real value.  You can also join the Estes project at Family Tree DNA.  Many of my cousins have uploaded their results to GedMatch too.  Have you uploaded your DNA results to http://www.GedMatch.com yet?  It’s a free service provided by genealogists for genealogists and allows people who have tested at different companies to compare their kits for matching.  I’d love to send you my pedigree chart, my GedMatch kit number, provide instructions for transferring your kit to Family Tree DNA and GedMatch, or answer questions.  You can e-mail me at xxxxxx@att.net.  I look forward to seeing if we can find our common ancestor.  Do you have any Estes ancestors in your tree?  Genealogy sure has gotten exciting since DNA has been added as a tool.

Roberta Estes

If I can make this contact more personal, I do. For example, if we share a common ancestor in a tree or a Circle at Ancestry, I always include that information.  I tend, in general to get more responses where I can tell the recipient at least something about how we do or might match, even if it’s nonspecific.

If you want to read more about autosomal DNA contacts tips for success, you can read this more extensive contact article here and one for adoptees here.

Making the contact takes very little effort. Not all contact requests work, of course, but I’ve found some real gems in those that do.

Let me know in the comments what contact techniques work well for you.

Have fun!!!



I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

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Phillip Jacob Kirsch (1806-1880), German Immigrant, 52 Ancestors #107

Following many years of genealogical detective work, we have been able to track several lines that were ancestral to the Kirsch family in Germany.  We, in this case, involves several people over a period of about 30 years.  Mom and I searched as did Irene Bultman, our cousin in Dearborn County, Indiana, before her death.  Heike and her mother Marliese, cousins in Germany, found invaluable information as well.  I ordered rolls and rolls of microfilm from my local Family History Center.  Elke Hall, now retired, served as my friend and interpreter for years.

Oh, how I loved the days when packets of translated records would arrive in the mailbox from Elke, before the days of internet. Often, I would take those envelopes into the bathroom, the ONLY place in the entire household that included children, dogs, cats and a husband where one was afforded any privacy at all, and read those packets in uninterrupted luxury.

Dearborn County, Indiana is located at the far southeastern corner of Indiana bordered by the mighty Ohio River on the South and by Cincinnati, Ohio a few miles to the East.  The photos of the Rhine River and the Ohio look remarkably similar, although the land surrounding the Ohio appears to be somewhat less rugged and friendlier towards farming.  The Ohio is the photo on the left and the Rhine is on the right below.

Rhine Ohio

It’s no wonder that my German ancestors felt at home along the Ohio.

Using electronic mapping tools today, we are able to easily find the locations in Germany where our ancestors lived. Mannheim and Ludwigshaven were the predominant areas where we find the Kirsch family in Germany.  When I first started searching German records, even finding a village on a German map was a process.  Things have changed dramatically.

Kirsch Germany map

The above locations where ancestors of the Kirsch family originated all surround the city of Mannheim, on both sides of the Rhine River, and are located within about 15 miles from point A to point I. People who lived pre-1900s most often died within 12 miles of where they were born.  Especially in Germany, many died in the same house where they were born.  Homes, even if they were on leased land, stayed within the same family for centuries.

  • A=Ellerstadt
  • B=Fussgoenheim
  • C=Ruchheim
  • D=Mutterstadt
  • E=Reingoenheim
  • F=Neckarau
  • G=Schwetzingen
  • H=Ladenburg
  • I=Heidelberg

The first of our Kirsch family immigrated from Mutterstadt to America, leaving on June 14th, 1848 from the port of LeHavre, as recorded in the immigration records of the Mutterstadt Civil Register, which actually says 1847. Philipp Jacob Kirsch (Sr.) and his wife, Katharina Barbara Lemmert, along with their 7 children, arrived in New Orleans on July 4, 1848.

Why New Orleans?

Steamboats plied the waters of the Mississippi River, and you could arrive in Aurora, Indiana only 8 days after leaving New Orleans. It was the easiest route to Aurora from Germany.

Why Aurora, Indiana?

There were probably already people from Mutterstadt, and possibly family members, living there. A welcoming committee and other people who spoke German.  Although we think of the days before the telephone as continents separated by oceans being disconnected, they weren’t.  Letters arrived and departed then as now – they just took a lot longer to be delivered.

It was a long trip from Mutterstadt to the port of Le Havre, over 450 miles, which may account for the 1847 civil register date. Goodbyes must have been very difficult.  Those leaving knew they would never see their family who remained in Germany again.  Philip Jacob Kirsch’s parents were both dead, as was Katharina Barbara’s father, but her mother could still have been living.  Those goodbyes, to parents and siblings, must have been terribly difficult.  However, Philip Jacob’s sister and family immigrated and one of Katharina Barbara’s sisters may have as well.

Many immigrants wrote glowing letters back home hoping to entice those left behind to join them in the new land. Given that the Kirsch family obviously had a specific location in mind, as they sailed directly for Aurora, it’s likely that family members were waiting on the dock for their arrival, welcoming the newest Americans.

Mutterstadt LeHavre map

  • A=Mutterstadt
  • B=LeHavre

They probably brought few things with them, and the things they did bring that weren’t essential were probably near and dear to their hearts. Family legend tells us that they brought the chocolate pot and the beer stein, still in the family.


The plates that Jacob Kirsch, their son, used in the Kirsch House in Aurora were also German, but I have to wonder if they ordered them later instead of his parents having brought them on their initial journey.

Let’s take a look at the area of Germany where the Kirsch family lived. The top part of the map below, showing Mannheim on the Rhine and through Eberback on the Neckar was Kirsch stomping grounds.

Rhine Neckar map

What caused our German ancestors to migrate to the United States? Was it the failed uprising of 1848 in which citizens sought democracy and obtained only more restrictions? Most likely not, although the 1850s were one of the peaks of German immigration, with over a million Germans arriving in that decade.

German immigrants

German immigrants boarding a ship in the 1800s are shown above.

The primary reasons for migration seemed to be for the proverbial American dream. In Germany, inheritance laws such as primogeniture, which allowed only the eldest son to inherit land, and forbade him from selling, giving or sharing that inheritance with his other siblings caused a constantly expanding peasant class.

Land was becoming very scarce and expensive, beyond the reach of peasants. Opportunities were only in the cities, which were overcrowded and disease-ridden, forcing people back into the countryside, or to America, the land of opportunity, jobs and land available for farming.

The first members of our German Kirsch family to immigrate to America were Philipp Jacob Kirsch, a farmer, and his wife Katharina Barbara Lemmert.

Fussgoenheim church

According to the Lutheran Church records, Philipp Jacob Kirsch was born in Fussgoenheim, Germany (above and below) in the province of Bayerne, later to become Bavaria on August 8, 1806 to Andreas Kirsch and Margaretha Elizabetha Koehler.

Fussgoenheim, Germany

Today this area is the Pfalz- Palatinate. Katharina Barbara Lemmert, his wife was born September 1, 1807 in Mutterstadt, a neighboring village.

Mutterstadt postcard

This postcard from 1905 from Mutterstadt probably isn’t terribly different than when the Kirsch family left in the 1850s.  The protestant church on the left is where their children were baptized.

Kirsch Lemmert 1829 marriage

Philip Jacob Kirsch and Barbara Lemmert were married in Mutterstadt on December 22, 1829, shown in the church record, above. The record is translated, as follows:

Today the 22nd of December 1829 were married and blessed Philipp Jacob Kirsch from Fussgoenheim, the legitimate, unmarried son of the deceased couple, Andreas Kirsch and Margaretha Koehler and Katharina Barbara Lemmerth the legitimate unmarried daughter of the deceased local citizen Jacob Lemmerth and his surviving wife Gertrude Steiger, both of protestant religion.

Mutterstadt is near Fussgoenheim – about 5 miles distant.

Mutterstadt Fussgoenheim

Philip Jacob Kirsch left the French port of Le Havre on June 14, 1848 and arrived in New Orleans July 4, 1848 with his wife and children whose names are given on the ship’s passenger list, below.

1848 Ship Manifest

The wonderful thing about this passenger list is that it gives the names and ages of all of the children. Many don’t.

In New Orleans, the family would have transferred to yet another boat, a steamer, and steamed up the Mississippi to the Ohio River, and on to the docks at Aurora. These photos were taken in 1848 of the budding city of Cincinnati, just a few miles upstream from Aurora.  The Aurora waterfront probably didn’t look a lot different.  Notice all the steamboats.

1848 Ohio steamboat

This may well be a peek into what types of scenes they saw on the steamboat in 1848. Their son, Jacob, my ancestor, would have been six at the time and for a boy of that age, this must have been an amazing adventure.

1848 Ohio steamboat cincy

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. Ripley County borders Dearborn County on the West.  The Kirsch family lived not too far west of Moore’s Hill.  Kelso Township is in the north part of the county where yet another Kirsch or Kersh family resided.  All of these locations hold significance for the Kirsch family story as it unfolds.

Dearborn map

The Kirsch family settled in Ripley County near the town of Milan.

Milan to Aurora

It wasn’t terribly far from Aurora to the 80 acre farm where we find Philip Jacob Kirsch in the 1850, 1860 and 1870 census.

1883 Kirsch plat map crop

The above Plat Map is of Franklin Township in Ripley County, in 1883. Notice the old town of Milan and to the east, the Cemetery by Fordes Hill.

Two years after the family arrived, in the 1850 census, we find Philip Jacob Kursch listed as a farmer in Ripley County, Indiana. Ironically, he is living next door to the Weynacht family, who is also listed along with him on the same ship arriving in New Orleans.  Clearly, these two families immigrated together and were likely related.  But then again, judging from those church records, everyone in Mutterstadt was related several times over.

Kirsch 1850 ripley

Their youngest Kirsch child, Andreas, was born after their arrival in 1848 and died in about 1851. He is buried in a small rural cemetery called the “Old Lutheran Cemetery” about one half mile East of old Milan, where there used to be an old log church.

old Lutheran cemetery

The cemetery is located on the left side of the road as one leaves Old Milan by the road that runs by the present Old Milan Church.

Andreas Kirsch stone

The St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church was established by a small group of pioneers in a log cabin in Franklin Township in 1847, but it was disbanded in 1855. The cemetery where Andreas is buried abuts a clearing that probably held that church.

Lutheran lost church cemetery

There is a gravestone there that says “Andreas Kirch geb.den Feb. 6, 1817 gest den Sept. 19 1891.

At FindAGrave, Andreas death date is shown as 1821 instead of 1891. As old as this stone it, it’s hard to tell the correct dates.  Andreas is missing from the 1860 census, so this must be the child, Andreas Kirsch who was born in 1847 and the death year was probably 1851.

Irene Bultman, now deceased, believed the family attended a church called Fink’s after that. She had found at least one marriage record of a Koehler family member.  Katharina Barbara Kirsch, daughter of Philip Jacob Kirsch, married Johann Martin Koehler in that church in 1851.  Irene told me that the church records still exist, but they are in German and the current minister in the 1980s when she visited could not translate them.  Today, Finke Church is located at 6960 N. Finks Road in Delaware, Indiana, not terribly distant from where the Kirsch family lived.

In 1860, the census shows Philipp Kersch living in the same location, owning land and living with his wife and youngest children, William and Mary. Two additional children Elizabeth Kaiter and Matthew Weis are living with them, although we have no idea why or if they are related.

1860 Ripley census

Andrew Wenaicht is still living next door. Checking FindAGrave for Andrew, we find Andreas Weinacht born in 1809 in Mutterstadt. So indeed, it appears that Andreas was likely a close friend of Philip Jacob Kirsch.  Looking in my family records, it appears that the Weinacht family was in Mutterstadt for quite some time as they do marry into other families as well.

By 1860, Philip Kirsch, a cooper, was living in Aurora, Indiana with his sister Barbara and her husband Martin Koehler, a hotel keeper. Along with 26 or 27 other people – boarders at the hotel.  While Martin Koehler’s occupation is noted as hotel keeper, given that the other people who lived there were residents and all had occupations such as cooper, bar keeper, carpenter, shoemaker, tailor, cigar maker, clerk, tinner, saddler, rectifier, stave cutter, ferrier and blacksmith, it looks to be more of a boarding house for single men.  There were also several servants living there.

Philip Jacob Kirsch filed his intent to be naturalized, and was in fact naturalized in 1868 in Ripley County, Indiana, according to court records.

But first, the Civil War would interrupt their lives.

The Civil War

On March 3, 1863, Congress passed the Conscription Act which calls for all able-bodied males between the ages of 20 and 45 to serve for 3 years. A drafted man, however, was allowed to pay $300 to hire a substitute.

Three hundred dollars at that time would buy a small farm. Few people had or could come up with that kind of money, and Philip Jacob Kirsch had 4 boys in that age range, although Philip Jacob himself was too old.

As German immigrants who had filed to become American citizens, Philipp Jacob Kirsch and his wife Katharina Barbara Lemmert, saw at least three of their sons serve in the Civil War – Philipp, Martin and probably Jacob. There are records for a John Kirsch as well, but I can’t tell if the John who served in the Civil War is the son of Philip Jacob Kirsch or not. John is such a common name.

Philipp Kirsch served in the Civil War in the US Army Company D 3rd Regiment. He was mustered out 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 where all the men all owned their own horses.  Philipp was mustered out at the end of the war on Sept. 9, 1864 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  He served a total of just over 3 years.

The 3rd Regiment Indiana Cavalry (East Wing) (or Right Wing), consisting of Companies A, B, C, D, E and F, organized at Madison, Indiana, August 22, 1861, that were intended for service with the 1st Regiment Indiana Cavalry. On October 22, the six companies were designated the 3rd Cavalry and assigned to the Army of the Potomac in the eastern theater of the war. The East Wing saw action at the Battle of Antietam.

The Battle of Antietam (also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg, particularly in the South), fought on September 17, 1862, near Sharpsburg, Maryland.  The Battle of Antietam Creek was the first major battle in the Civil War to take place on Northern soil. It was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, with almost 23,000 casualties. Phillip would likely have been there.  The picture below was the bridge over Middle Antietam Creek taken in September of 1862.

Antietam Creek Sept 1862

It’s greatly ironic that this battle took place on the land (below) of the Miller descendants of my mother’s father’s grandmother’s line. The Kirsch family is my mother’s mother’s grandfather’s line.  This twist of fate would bring these men from different family lines into close proximity some 45 years before a marriage in northern Indiana would forever cement the blood of these two families.

Battle of Antietam Miller

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

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.

The 45th Regiment, Indiana Volunteer Infantry was known as the third Cavalry.  Company D was from Dearborn Co. and included Philip Kirsch.

Only one known photo exists of Philipp Kirsch who served in the Civil War.  In the photo below Philip is 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.

Kirsch family pre-1905

Sadly, Philipp Kirsch suffered the rest of his life due to some type of intestinal issue that occurred during the Civil War. According to his service records, he was twice hospitalized, but never recovered either during the war or afterwards from diarrhea that he contracted during his service period.  He applied for an increase in his disability pension in 1874, stating that he had been living with his father since the war and that his father’s circumstances had become very strained.  As a result of his disability, Philip was unable to do any physical labor. He later died of complications from the effects of chronic and prolonged diarrhea.  The rather graphic description in his service records cause me to feel very sorry for the man and the chronic pain he lived with.  Philip Jacob lived with his father in Ripley County until his father’s death in 1880, then with his mother until her death in 1889, then with his brother Jacob at the Kirsch house until Phillip’s own death in 1905.

Martin Kirsch also served in the Civil War, and may have been killed or died of disease. I find nothing after the Civil War for Martin. Martin was recruited in 1861 and served in Company D 32nd  Indiana Regiment, the state’s “only German regiment” in the Civil War. Part of the Army of the Ohio, the 32nd fought at Rowlett’s Station in Kentucky; Shiloh, Stones River, Missionary Ridge in Tennessee; and Chickamauga in Georgia.  The brothers served in the same unit and would have mustered in the same day.  That also means that Phillip may have witnessed his brother, Martin’s, death.

I believe that our ancestor, Jacob Kirsch, also served in the War. He certainly was of the age where militia participation was required, and given that he was not yet married, it’s unlikely that he sought and paid for a replacement. Three hundred dollars at that time would buy a farm.

Jacob’s wife, Barbara, applied for a Civil War pension after Jacob’s death. Her pension application was declined, but she gives his unit number as the Indiana 137th Regiment Infantry, This unit was organized at Indianapolis, Ind., and mustered in 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. She says he was mustered out September 21, 1864, at the end of the war.  Given that Barbara likely knew Jacob during the Civil War, I find it unlikely that Jacob did not serve.  Furthermore, we have a painting of Jacob in uniform.

I researched the unit in question, and found a diary kept by another soldier, removing all doubt about whether or not that soldier served. That man’s name was also not on the roll of the unit.  It appears that records were not well kept during the Civil War.  However, in a surprise turn of events, even though the federal government said Jacob did not serve in that unit, I found his service records listed with that unit in Indiana’s records, so Jacob and Barbara are both vindicated – although not without more than a little confusion and more than a century after the fact.

A painting of Jacob in which he appears to be wearing a Union uniform exists within the family and a picture of the painting is show below.

Jacob Kirsch civil war painting

Philip Jacob Kirsch, listed erroneously as Peter, was still living in Ripley County in 1870. Son Philip, now 38, having served in the Civil War, is listed as a cooper, and Mathias White is living with them as farm labor.

1870 Ripley census

In the 1880 census, we find that Philip Jacob Kirsch has just died, and Barbara, his widow, is still living on the home place with their son Philip Jacob Kirsch, the Civil War veteran who never married. For many years, I thought of Philip as the benevolent son, staying on the farm to care for his aging parents.  Now, perhaps that visage needs to change, because it appears that Philipp may have been living with his parents due to his disability or inability to work.  So maybe they all took care of each other as best they could.

1880 Ripley census

Final Resting Place

Philip Jacob Kirsch and Katharina Barbara are both buried in the Riverview Cemetery south of Aurora along the Ohio River, as is their son Philipp.  It’s somehow fitting that he watches over the Ohio River for eternity.  His life was closely connected to rivers, first the Rhine, then the Mississippi and Ohio.

riverview entrance

Philip Jacob’s tombstone says that he died in 1879, but the cemetery records say he died in 1880, as does this snippet from the Aurora Dearborn Independent on May 13, 1880.

Philip Kirsch Death crop

I was surprised to discover that there was no service for Phillipp in the church.  I was also surprised that the body was sent by train and not by horse and wagon, although the depot was right beside the Kirsch House.  The Fifth Street German Reformed Church is not the church that Jacob Kirsch, Philipp’s son who lived in Aurora, belonged to.  I don’t know if Philipp’s services were conducted by this Reverend because there was a difference in the beliefs of the two German churches, reflecting Phillipp’s personal beliefs, or maybe just because this particular German minister was available to bury a body already 2 days dead in mid-May.

Kirsch Philip Jacob stone

Cemetery records tell us that Philip Jacob was a farmer, was married, lived in Ripley County, near Milan, and died of old age. “Father of Jacob Kirsch of this city, he was 73 years, 9 months and 2 days old and is buried in section H 28” in Riverview.  The section 80 permit was obtained by Jacob Kirsch and is number #803.  Philip Jacob Kirsch was buried May 12, 1880, two days after his death.  Parents listed as “Pilip (sic) Jacob Kirsch mother Barbara Deubert.”  According to Mutterstadt church records, his parents’ names are listed incorrectly.  This is a relatively common occurrence.  Keep in mind in this instance that Philip Jacob’s children never met their grandparents, so it’s not surprising they would not remember their names.

Calculating his death date by his age given, which was calculated from his death date originally, we do indeed find that he died in 1880. This stone was likely set later.  The stone of his son, Philip Jacob, who served in the Civil War and died 25 years after Philip Jacob, the father, is shown in the right corner of the photo.

Philip Jacob’s Land

When Mom and I visited in the 1980s, I vaguely remember finding Philip’s land, or at least we thought we had.

I was quite thrown for a bit, because the roads and landmarks just weren’t lining up, until I realized that today’s Milan was not the same Milan as when Philip Jacob Kirsch lived there.

Milan map

In fact, today, it’s called “Old Milan” and once I realized that, everything fell right into place.  On the map above, Old Milan is just above Milan at the intersection of Old Milan Road and County Road 475 North, which is the road the Kirsch family lived on.

It’s a lot easier today with Google maps in conjunction with the plat map.

Kirsch land and cemetery

On the satellite map above, you can see Philip Jacob’s house location – the red arrow on the left. The address is 5828-6202 East Co Road 475 N, Milan.  The arrow at right is the location of the cemetery where their child, Andreas Kirsch, is buried.

Here is the street view. I love this house. It’s ole enough that it could be original.  It looks like a ginger-bread house.  I wonder if Philip Jacob Kirsch built this house and planted those trees, at least some of them?

Kirsch ripley house

Across the road, the barns.  Hoosier barns, corn in the field beside the house and summer dried grass always make me feel so at home.  I can still hear the crunch of gravel as the truck turned off of the macadam road into the driveway.  The slamming of the kitchen screen door.  The rustling movements and musty smell of the farm animals.  The tractor’s engine.  A dog barking and chasing after someone or something – maybe one of the barn cats that were both pets and working animals too.  Their job was to keep the barns and house mouse-free.

Kirsch Ripley barns

Often, on old farms, the barn is across the road from the house.  This road dissects Phillip’s property almost in half.

Kirsch Ripley roads

Looking down the road.

Kirsch Ripley road 2

And the other way. Roads are just SOOO inviting to me.

Kirsch top of Ripley land

This satellite view shows Philip Jacob’s land with the arrow pointing to the northernmost boundary.


Seven years after Philip Jacob’s death, his children and widow sold the land.  I’d wager that it was just too much for Barbara, his widow, and Philip, his disabled son, to maintain.

When I first saw this deed, I thought perhaps the family all came back and were together one last time on the farm, signed the deed, and had a glorious reunion.  Then, as I read the deed and the notary statements, I realized that isn’t what happened at all.  Even the family in Marion County didn’t sign in person.


This indenture witnesseth that Barbara Kirsch, Jacob Kirsch Jr., Philip Kirsch of Dearborn County, Indiana and John Kirsch and Mary Kirsch of Marion County, Indiana, William Kirsch and Caroline Kirsch of Fremont, Nebraska, Mary Kramer and John Kramer of Collinswell, Illinois convey and warrant to Douglas Martin of Dearborn County for the sum of $1200 the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged the following described real estate in Ripley County, Indiana, to wit:

The east half of the NE quarter of section 14, township 8, north of range 12 east, containing 80 acres more or less.

In witness whereof the said Barbara Kirsch, Jacob Kirsch, Barbara Kirsch Jr. and Philip Kirsch, John Kirsch, Mary Kirsch, William Kirsch, Caroline Kirsch, Mary Kramer and John Kramer have hereunto set their hands and seals this 29 of August 1887.


  1. Jacob Kirsch
  2. Barbara Kirsch
  3. John Kramer
  4. Mary Kramer
  5. Charles Schnell
  6. B Barbara Schnell
  7. John Kirsch
  8. Mary Kirsch
  9. William Kirsch
  10. Caroline Kirsch
  11. Barbara Kirsch
  12. Philip Kirsch

Before me James F. Honson a notary public in and for the county of Dodge, State of Nebraska, personally appeared William Kirsch and his wife Caroline Kirsch and acknowledged the executrion of the annexed and foregoing deed.

September 3, 1887

State of Indiana, Marion County, before me Robert Knoff a Notary Public in and for said Marion County, Indiana personally appeared John Kirsch and his wife Mary Kitsch and acknowledged the annexed and foregoing deed. September 15, 1887

Deed Book 59, Sept 1887-Nov 1888, page 45


Madison County, State of Illinois – Before me a Notary Public in and for the County of Madison in the state of Illinois, personally appeared Mary Kramer and her husband John Kramer and acknowledged the execution of the annexed and foregoing deed. Sept. 6, 1887

Dearborn County, Indiana – On the 12th day of September 1887 before me the undersigned Notary Public personally appeared Jacob Kirsch Barbara Kirsch his wife also Philip Kirsch and Karbara Kirsch and acknowledged the execution of the foregoing deed.

Recorded October 18, 1887 at 11 o’clock AM.

Deed book 59, September 1887-November 1888, page 46

German Naming Patterns

German families typically gave their children first names of Saints, even those who weren’t Catholic, and they were addressed by their second name. This makes records particularly challenging to locate, since the name you know the person by is often not their first name.

One pronounced exception to that rule is the name Johannes.  As a Saint’s name, the child is named Johann Jacob Kirsch, for example, but when the first name Johannes is used, then that is the only name and his actual name is Johannes.  Johannes Kirsch, for example.  Johann(es) is the German form of John.

Often many children in the family were given the same first name.  For example, Johann Michael and Johan Jacob.  Neither child would have been called Johann, but both would have been called  by their middle names, Michael and Jacob.  Also, the names of deceased children were recycled for later births, sometimes more than once.

Add to that that the names became Americanized over here.  Anna Maria Kirsch in German baptismal records became Mary Kirsch in Indiana and then Mary Kramer when she married.  Try tying Mary Kramer who died in 1929 in Illinois to Anna Maria Kirsch in the 1840s in Mutterstadt, Germany.

Philip Jacob Kirsch became Jacob Kirsch, but then so did his brother Jacob Kirsch whose name was probably actually Johann Jacob Kirsch.  So the father Philip Jacob Kirsch was (generally) called Jacob, the son Philip Jacob was (generally) called Phillip to differentiate his from his brother Jacob who was always called Jacob.  Nope, not confusing at all…..

Children of Philipp Jacob Kirsch and Katharina Barbara Lemmert

Philip Jacob Kirsch immigrated in 1848 with his wife, Katharina Barbara Lemmert and his children. Those children would join the others in the melting pot called America.  His children spoke German, of course, and they naturally gravitated towards other German-speaking children as their playmates and eventual spouses.  They were probably quite close to the Weinaught family next door.  I’m actually surprised there was no intermarriage.

The Kirsch children’s births are recorded in the Protestant church in Mutterstadt, and documentation sent by Friedrich Kirsch many years ago from Germany that he obtained in Mutterstadt (I believe, from the municipality) confirms the following:

  • The marriage date of Philip Jacob Kirsch and Katharina Barbara Lemmert
  • Their birth dates
  • Their parents, his from Fussgoenheim and hers from Mutterstadt
  • Their children and their birth dates
  • That they emigrated to America in 1847
  • That both Philip Jacob and Katharina Barbara and their parents were farmers

Their first child, a son, Philipp Jacob Kirsch was born in 1830.  He never married and lived out his life with his brother, Jacob Kirsch and his family at the Kirsch House in Aurora after his mother’s death in 1889.

Kirsch, Philip Jacob 1830

The Mutterstadt church registry entry above in 1830 gives us the date of the birth and baptism of Philipp Jacob Kirsch, that he was confirmed in 1844, and that he immigrated with his parents to America in 1847. Furthermore, it states his parent’s names, and that his godparents were Philipp Jacob Ellenberger and his wife Anna Maria Lemmert who was the sister of Katharina Barbara Lemmert.

Their second child, daughter Katharina Barbara Kirsch born in 1833 married Johann Martin Koehler, also born in Fussgoenheim, in 1851 in Ripley Co., Indiana. After Martin’s death, she remarried to Charles Schnell. Barbara died in 1900 in Dearborn County, Indiana and is buried at Riverview Cemetery, on the Jacob Kirsch lot under her remarried name, Schnell .

Kirsch, Barbara Katharina 1833

The church registry above records the birth of Katharina Barbara Kirsch in 1833. She was confirmed in 1846 before immigrating with her parents in 1847.  It gives her godparents as Katharina Barbara Reimer, wife of the barrel maker George Seitz.

Their third child, son Johann Kirsch born in 1835 was living when his brother Philip Jacob Kirsch died in 1905. When Jacob Kirsch died in 1917, his obituary said that his brother John was living in Indianapolis.  John married Mary Blatz in 1856 in Ripley County and subsequently moved to Indianapolis where we find him from 1870 until his death in 1927.

Kirsch, John 1835

The church registry entry above in 1835 for Johannes Kirsch shown his birth on the 14th, then his christening 7 days later on June 21st and says he emigrated to America with his parents in 1847, gives his parents’ names and names his godparents as Johannes Weihnacht and his wife Katharina Barbara Zimmer.  There’s the Weinaught family again.

The fourth child, Martin Kirsch born in 1838 fought in the Civil War, but then there is no more information except that he is not mentioned in his brother, Philipp’s 1905 will. I have checked www.fold3.com several times to see if I can find further records for Martin, with no luck. The full Civil War service packs are not yet entirely digitized.

Kirsch, Martin 1838

The church registry above for Martin Kirsch says he was born and baptized Sept. 16, 1838 names his parents, notes that he emigrated, and gives his godparents as Martin Kohler and his wife Maria Kirsch from Fussgoenheim.  Maria Kirsch was the sister of Philip Jacob Kirsch who was married to Martin Koehler who was also Philip Jacob Kirsch’s first cousin.

Jacob Kirsch, born in 1841, our ancestor, married Barbara Drechsel, a young German woman from Aurora.

Kirsch, Jacob 1841

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.”  It also says he immigrated with his parents in 1847.  Anna Maria Lemmert is the sister of Katharina Barbara Lemmert.  Anna Maria was married to Jacob Krick.  So, we now know that Jacob was named after Jacob Krick, his godfather.  In the German tradition, this also meant that if something happened to Jacob Kirsch’s parents, his godparents would be the people to raise him.  Maybe naming the child after the godparent was a way to “connect” them emotionally to each other, just in case.

Johann Wilheim Kirsch, born in 1844 married Carolyn Kuntz. We know he is dead before 1905 and that he had 1 girl and 2 boys.

Kirsch, William 1844

The church registry record above gives us the birth date of Johann Wilhelm Kirsch, his baptismal date four days later on January 7, 1844, the names of his parents and gives his godparents as Johann Wilhelm Kirsch and Katharina Barbara Koob, protestant couple from Fussgoenheim.  Johann Wilhelm Kirsch who is married to Katharina Barbara Koob is the brother of Philip Jacob Kirsch.

Anna Maria Kirsch, born January 11, 1847 married John Kramer in 1864 in Indiana and was living in St. Louis in 1917 when her brother Jacob Kirsch died, according to his obituary. Mary Kramer died in Madison County, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis in 1929, her birth location given as Mutterstadt.

Kirsch Anna Marie 1847 crop

The church registry above records the birth of Anna Maria Kirsch and states that she was baptized January 17th in the Protestant school house in Mutterstadt, that Philipp Roeder and his wife Anna Maria nee Baumann, Protestants, were her witnesses (godparents).

Andrew Kirsch, their only child born in the US, Feb. 6, 1849, died in roughly 1851 (one record says 1853) and is buried at the old Lutheran Cemetery near Fordes Hills near Milan. This means that Barbara, his mother, was pregnant on her journey to the US on a rocking ship, then on a riverboat steamer.  A brave woman, indeed.

Had Andreas been born in 1848, his birth would have been recorded in Germany. It wasn’t.  Instead, we find repeated commentary in the church records that the family immigrated in 1847.  They may have left Mutterstadt in 1847, but it wasn’t until June of 1848 that they left the French port of LeHavre and not until July 4th, 1848 that they arrived in New Orleans.  Truly Independence Day!

Surprisingly, we don’t know a huge amount about Philip Jacob Kirsch, the person. We know he was a Lutheran farmer who was either brave enough or foolhearty enough to sail across the ocean with his entire family of 7 children and his pregnant wife.

He surely worried when at least 3 of his 4 sons left to fight in the Civil War. I wonder if he somehow knew one of them might not come home.  Maybe he was secretly just a little thankful that Jacob had shot his eye out as a child so that Jacob wouldn’t have to put his life in danger.  However, that logic didn’t work, because Indeed, Jacob did serve.  Was Philip Jacob Kirsch proud of his American sons and their loyalty, or was he regretful that he had come for opportunities and one of the opportunities they got was civil war, just 13 years later – far above and beyond what they ever had reason to expect.

Did Philip Jacob view this as somewhat ironic in a wry way? Did he view it as a crisis?  Was he worried or accepting?  Did he take strength from his religion, and then comfort in times of death, or was he simply a “habitual attender” who attended church more out of habit (or his wife’s persuading) than conviction?  Unfortunately, we don’t have a periscope to look back in time, at least not at these questions.


The only periscope we do have available to us would be Philip Jacob Kirsch’s Y DNA. Unfortunately, there are very few DNA candidates.  I tracked Philipp Jacob’s son, John, forward in time with the hope of finding a DNA candidate in that line. I’m hopeful that it indeed will work.  There are some additional candidates as well.

  • Jacob Kirsch’s son Edward Kirsch had a son Deveraux “Devero” Kirsch who died in 1975 in Vigo County, Indiana.  He had a son, William Kirsch.
  • Jacob’s son Martin Kirsch had a son, Edgar, who married Frieda Neely in 1929. I don’t show any children for this couple.
  • Philip Jacob’s son, Johann William Kirsch, known as William, was dead before 1905 and had 3 children, 2 of whom were sons.  We know he married Caroline Kuntz in 1870 in Indiana.  I have found a William Kirsch living in Pohocco, Saunders County, Nebraska in the 1885 Nebraska state census, wife Carrie, daughter Mittie (13) born in Indiana and sons Edward (11) born in Nebraska and Henry (9) also born in Nebraska. This William died in February of 1891 and was apparently involved in some kind of accident going over the Platte River Bridge in December of 1889. His son Edward died in 1967 and married Beatrice.  In 1910 they had been married 12 years, had 2 children, but none were living.  Edward was living with his mother in 1930.  Henry was alive, 55 and unmarried in the 1930 census, so it’s unlikely that he has any descendants.  It appears that there are no male Kirsch descendants through this line, if this is the correct William Kirsch.
  • Philip Jacob’s son, John Kirsch, moved to Indianapolis and had son Frank Kirsch and son Andrew Kirsch.

Let’s hope that one of these sons or grandsons continued to have male children and that one of them will find us through an interest in genealogy. I have a DNA testing scholarship for any male Kirsch descended from this line.

The “Other” Kirsch Family of Lawrenceburg

As luck would have it, it appears that the neighboring Lawrenceburg (Indiana) Kirsch family may be from Fussgoenheim as well, although I did not originally think that was the case because the 1870 census shows the birth location as Rheinbier, Bavaria. However, that is a misspelling of Rheinpfalz or Rheinbayern which means the southern portion of the current Rheinland-Pfalz.  However, according to Ancestry trees, descendants think that Rheinbier is the village name based on the census.

As fate would have it, I stumbled across the records for this family in the Mutterstadt church records.

I found the marriage of Johannes Kirsch, son of George Heinrich Kirsch and Anna Barbara Elsperman marrying to Margaretha Boeckman, daughter of Immanual Bockmann and Margaretha Elisabetha Ermel in Mutterstadt on September 6, 1831.

Children subsequently baptized in the same church by this couple include:

  • Johannes born Nov. 13, 1831
  • Heinrich born Dec. 5, 1833
  • Catharina born March 8, 1835
  • Valentin born March 27, 1836
  • Johannes born Jan. 21, 1838
  • Johan Georg born June 8, 1840

I can’t find John in the 1850 census, which, based on his 1860 census information, means the family was still in Germany at that time.

In 1860 John Kirsch is living in Lawrenceburg with son George, age 20, a cigarmaker, son John born 1838 who had married.  John also had several younger children:

  • Valentine age 15 (born 1845 in Germany)
  • Jacob age 12 (born in 1848 Germany)
  • Helena age 9 (born in 1851 Germany)

Dearborn County, Indiana records indicate that:

  • Valentine Kirsch married Mary Elizabeth Kohlerman in Lawrenceburg in 1866.
  • Heinrich Kirsch married Elizabeth Schleicher in 1856.
  • Son John (Johannes) married Margaretha Bultman in1859.  In the 1860 census, they have a new son, John, as well.

This sure looks to be the same family!

So, the Lawrenceburg Kirsch family was (apparently) from Fussgoenheim as well. I don’t have John’s father, Georg Heinrich Kirsch connected on back to my Kirsch line in Mutterstadt, but I’m betting money he connects.

So, I wonder, are there any Kirsch’s still around in Lawrenceburg today?

It surely would be fun to test a Kirsch male from each line to see if indeed, they do share a common Kirsch ancestor prior to the first church records.

It would also be fun to test any descendants, male or female (with any surname), of these couples to see if we match each other autosomally. If so, that means that we can identify which segments of our ancestral DNA was inherited through the Kirsch lines, or those lines that fed the Kirsch lineage.



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The Ancestry 200

Sounds like a race doesn’t it, but it isn’t. It’s a milestone checkpoint of sorts, so I thought I’d take a few minutes and take a look at where my Ancestry DNA shakey leaf tree matches are, and how they are performing.

On January 13th, 2016 I reached 200 shakey leaf DNA matches at Ancestry.  In case you don’t know, a shakey left hint with someone means that our DNA matches AND our trees indicate that we have a common ancestor.  As far as I’m concerned this is the low hanging fruit at Ancestry, and pretty much all I bother with except in rare circumstances.  But those shakey leaf matches are just plain fun.  It’s like getting a bite of genealogist-crack-candy when I get a new shakey leaf.

200 leaf

Where Are We Today?

I have a total of 150 pages at 50 matches each for a total of 7500 matches today at Ancestry. That’s roughly half of the number of matches I had pre-Timber phasing introduced in November of 2014 and double the number I had after Timber.  I wrote about the introductory Timber/phasing rollout here.

Pre-Timber After Timber Intro Nov 2014 January 2016
Total Matches 13,100 3,350 7,500
Shakey Leaf Matches 36 18 200

Today, my 200 shakey leaf matches represent 2.67% of my total matches. Not a terribly good return, but again, the tree matching makes seeing the (potential) connection with these matches much easier.  The other 97%…not so easy.

New Ancestor Discoveries (NADs)

Let’s look at the first thing you see on your page. New Ancestor Discoveries, or what I (not so) affectionately call Bad NADs, because these are not my ancestors.

200 NAD

And since April 2015, Ancestry, bless their hearts, has given be 6 bad NADs, New Ancestor Discoveries that aren’t. In one case, Robert Shiflet is the husband of my ancestor’s sister.

Shiflet NAD chart

So, while I share DNA with Robert’s children, it’s not Robert’s DNA that I share, but his wife’s. Actually, Ancestry has given me 8 bad NADS, but they also take them away from time to time. But then, some come back again! Kind of like a light bulb flickering off and on, trying to burn out.

In all fairness, there is some DNA connection somehow, but not necessarily through the individual portrayed. Unfortunately, this leads many, MANY people far astray as they take these projections as gospel, and they are far from gospel.  They are much more like a leap of ill-placed faith.  I wish NADs had been labeled “hints” with the explanation that you share some DNA with people who descend from this individual.  And I wish they were someplace at the bottom of the page, hidden away – not the first thing you see.  It’s deceiving – and just plain wrong to say that I’m a “Descendant of Robert Shiflet.”  I’m not.  He was married to my ancestor’s sister.  I’m not only not his descendant, I don’t share ANY blood connection with Robert Shiflet.

200 shiflet

Today, these NADs are labeled such that it flat out says you are a “descendant of” this person, which is in my case, unequivocally untrue for all of these NADs.

On to more useful topics.

DNA Circles

Ancestry has also put me into 19 DNA Circles. Actually, they have put me into 21 DNA Circles, but two of those circles have disappeared as well.  I suspect this is due to a change in Ancestry’s ranking algorithm because they disappeared at the same time.

A DNA Circle means that you have DNA matches with at least two other people who share a common ancestor with you in their tree. That’s the claim.  However, I have two cases where I only match one other person and I’m in a Circle, and many cases where I match many people and I’m not in the circle.

A match or being included in a Circle does NOT mean you match on the same segment, or that anyone in the tree matches on the same segments – only that you match and show a common ancestor in your trees. In other words, you could be matching as a result of a different ancestor entirely on entirely different segments, and there are no tools available (like a chromosome browser or triangulation tools) to verify this connection.

200 circle 1

However, DNA Circles are useful. For example, it’s unlikely, if you are matching an ancestor through different children, and there are many matches, that your connection isn’t through this ancestral couple, or someone who contributed to the DNA of this ancestral couple.  Yes, the language here gets wishy washy.

200 circle 2

I view Circles as a way to generally confirm that my genealogy is most likely accurate. Yea, I know, more wishy washy words – but that’s because the tools we have don’t provide us with a path to clarity.

200 circle 3

Shakey Leaf Matches

I have 200 shakey leaf matches with people, meaning that we share DNA and a common ancestor in our trees. We may or may not be in a Circle together, because Circles aren’t created unless you match at least two(?) other individuals from this common ancestor, plus some other proprietary weighting factors.

I particularly like that we can see how the other people we match descend from this same ancestor. This suggests that the match really can’t be due to a NPE (nonparental event, also known as an undocumented adoption) downstream of this ancestor. If that were the case, you would only match people through the same child.

200 shakey match

Non-Shakey Leaf Matches

Let’s take a look at my best, meaning my closest, matches. Unfortunately, my highest matches don’t have trees with a common ancestor with me – so no shakey leaves.  The second closest match has no tree at all.  This lack of trees or private trees is one of the most frustrating aspects of genetic genealogy – and particularly at Ancestry because their usefulness depends so heavily on the trees.  Regardless, given that these are my closest matches, let’s see if we can’t determine our common ancestor.

200 closest

So, using deductive reasoning, let’s see what we can discover about my three highest matches. In August, Ancestry introduced the feature called “Shared Matches” meaning Ancestry shows you who you both match in common for any match that is 4th cousin or closer, meaning 6 generations or closer.  So keep in mind, you both will have matches further back in time or predicted to be more distant matches, but they won’t show in the shared matches.

So let’s look at my closest match, PR, estimated to be a second to third cousin.

Clicking on Shared Matches with PR, I have a total of 13. That’s hopeful.  Of those 13:

  • 3 have no tree
  • 1 tree is unavailable
  • 1 shakey leaf match that’s private – who never answered the inquiry message I sent them and hasn’t signed in since February 2015

200 closest shared matches

Ugh, this isn’t hopeful anymore, it’s frustrating. I was very much hoping to be able to deduce the common ancestor by seeing who else I matched – and hoping that there were some shakey leaf people with common ancestor’s already identified in the match list, but that is not to be.

Let’s move to my second closest match and try to find my common ancestor with MH who has no family tree. I can’t imagine how they are using this tool without a family tree.  However, judging from the fact that they haven’t signed in since September 3rd, maybe they aren’t doing anything with these results.  With MH, I have 12 matches, of which:

  • 3 have no tree
  • 4 have shakey leaf hints

Now those shakey leaf hints are very hopeful, so let’s see if they all point to the same ancestor!

  • 2 point to Andrew McKee
  • 1 points to Samuel Claxton and Elizabeth Speaks
  • 1 points to Fairwick Claxton and Agnes Muncy, but not through son Samuel

Uh, that would be a no, they don’t all point to the same ancestor. But three of these people are in the same line, and the fourth, well, not really.

Andrew McKee is the father of Ann McKee who married Charles Speaks who had Elizabeth Speaks who married Samuel Claxton. So the three people who descend from these ancestors are legitimately from the same line.

200 McKee

However, there is no DNA pathway from Andrew McKee to Fairwick Claxton and his wife, Agnes Muncy, but Fairwick is in both people’s trees. In this case, MH must be matching the last person through a different line, and not through Andrew McKee.  The only way Fairwick could even be insinuated is if the person descends through Samuel Claxton, Fairwick’s son who married Agnes Muncy, but that isn’t shown in their tree.  Their descend from Fairwick is through a different child.

200 Claxton

So, this trip into deductive reasoning should have worked, but didn’t exactly work quite as planned due to what I’ll call “inferential tree assumptions.” That assumption would be that if your DNA matches, and you have a common ancestor in a tree, that your DNA link is THROUGH that common ancestor.  Sometimes, in fact many times, that’s true, but there are cases where the link is through a different common ancestor. In this case, it’s likely that one way I match MH is through Andrew McKee, but I may well have a second line through Fairwick Claxton and Agnes Muncy.  These people do live in the same geography.

200 multiple leafs

I see secondary and multiple lineages far more than I would have expected. When Ancestry can see that there are multiple ancestors in your trees that match, they show that you have “Shared Ancestor Hint 1 of X”, but they can only note what’s recorded and matches in both your trees.

Moving on to my third closest match, that’s a lost cause too because it’s the same line as the first match.

Indeed, working with shakey leaf matches are indeed your best bet at Ancestry.

However, let’s take a look at this matching data in a different way.

Matches and Circles by Ancestor

There may be 200 shakey leaf matches today, but there have been a total of 263 shakey leaf matches, of which 63 have either disappeared through the magic of Timber or for some other, unknown reason. A few were adoptees trying to work with various experimental trees, so I’ve eliminated them from the totals.  I’ve kept track of my matches by ancestor though, so let’s see how many of my matches are in circles and how many of my ancestral lines are represented.

The generations column is the number removed from me to that ancestor counting my parent as generation 1.  Remember, Ancestry does not report shakey leaf matches beyond 9 generations. Total matches is how many people whose DNA match mine also show this ancestor in their tree. Circle is yes or no, there is a Circle or there isn’t for one or both of the ancestral couple.  How many of my matches are in the circle and how many total individuals are in that circle.  Note that the Total Matches (to me) should be one less than the Matches in the Circle which includes me.

Ancestor Generations Total Matches Circle Matches in Circle incl Me Total in Circle incl Me
Abraham Estes & Barbara 9 8
Andrew McKee & Elizabeth 5 5 Andrew Andrew 6 Andrew 15
Antoine Lore & Rachel Levina Hill 4 1
Catherine Heath 8 1
Charles Hickerson & Mary Lytle 7 1
Charles Speak & Ann McKee 5 1
Charlotte Ann Girouard 8 1
Claude Dugas & Francoise Bourgeois 9 3
Cornelius Anderson & Annetje Opdyke 9 4
Daniel Garceau and Anne Doucet 7 1
Daniel Miller & Elizabeth Ulrich 6 8
David Miller & Catherine Schaeffer 5 3 David David 4 David 6
Edward Mercer 8 2
Elisha Eldredge and Doras Mulford 8 1
Elizabeth Greib (m Stephen Ulrich) 7 1
Elizabeth Mary Algenica Daye 8 1
Elizabeth Shepherd (m William McNiel) 6 6
Fairwick Claxton & Agnes Muncy 5 2 Fairwick


Fairwick 4

Agnes 4

Fairwick 7

Agnes 7

Frances Carpenter 5 1
Francois Broussard & Catherine Richard 9 3
Francoise Dugas 8 3
Francois Lafaille 6 2
George Dodson & Margaret Dagord 8 12
George Estes & Mary Younger 6 2
George McNiel & Sarah 7 7
George Shepherd & Elizabeth Angelica Daye 8 3
Gershom Hall 7 3
Gershom Hall & Dorcas Richardson 6 1
Gideon Faires & Sarah McSpadden 7 2
Henry Bolton & Nancy Mann (Henry had 2 wives) 5 12 Nancy


Nancy 7

Henry 8

Nancy 20, Henry 22
Henry Bowen & Jane Carter 9 2
Honore Lore & Marie Lafaille 5 1
Jacob Dobkins 7 1
Jacob Lentz & Frederica Moselman 5 2 Frederica Jacob Frederica 3 Jacob 3 Frederica 12, Jacob 12
Jacque Bonnevie & Francoise Mius 8 1
James Crumley & Catherine 8 1
James Hall & Mehitable Wood 7 2
James Lee Claxton 6 2
Jan Derik Woertman & Anna Marie Andries 9 1
Jeanne Aucoin 9 1
Joel Vannoy & Phoebe Crumley 4 8 Joel


Joel 8

Phoebe 8

Joel 8

Phoebe 8

Johann Michael Miller & Suzanna Berchtol 8 11
Johann Nicholas Schaeffer & Mary Catherine Suder 8 2
John Campbell & Jane Dobkins* 6 5 Jane


Jane 6

John 3

Jane 10 John 5
John Cantrell & Hannah Britton 7 7
John Francis Vannoy & Susannah Anderson 7 7
John Hill & Catherine Mitchell 6 1 John John 2 John 3
John R. Estes & Nancy Moore* 5 5 John


John 2

Nancy 3

John 6

Nancy 6

Joseph Cantrell & Catherine Heath 8 4
Joseph Carpenter & Frances Dames 8 4
Joseph Preston Bolton (multiple wives) 4 3 Joseph Joseph 5 Joseph 9
Joseph Rash & Mary Warren 9 3
Joseph Workman & Phoebe McMahon 7 2
Jotham Brown & Phoebe 7 11
Lazarus Estes & Elizabeth Vannoy 3 1
Michael DeForet & Marie Hebert 9 2
Moses Estes Jr 7 1
Moses Estes Sr 8 1
Nicholas Speaks & Sarah Faires 6 3 Nicholas Sarah Nicholas 5 Sarah 5 Nicholas 25, Sarah 24
Peter Johnson 8 2
Philip Jacob Miller & Magdalena 7 8
Pierre Doucet & Henriette Pelletret 9 1
Rachel Levina Hill (husband Anthony Lore not shown) 4 4 Rachel Rachel 4 Rachel 4
Raleigh Dodson & Elizabeth 7 1
Robert Shepherd & Sarah Rash 7 6
Rudolph Hoch 9 1
Samuel Claxton & Elizabeth Speaks 4 1
Stephen Ulrich 7 6
Thomas Dodson & Dorothy Durham 9 6
William Crumley (2nd) 5 1
William Crumley (1st) 7 1
William Hall & Hester Matthews 9 1
William Herrell & Mary McDowell 5 1

This chart is actually very interesting. Two couples have different tallies for the mother and father.  In these cases, bolded* above, the couple was not married more than once, so the matches should equal.  This has to be a tree matching issue. Remember, these tree matches are based on the information in the trees of the people who DNA test – and we all know about tree quality at Ancestry.  GIGO

Initially tree matches were going to be restricted to 7 generations or below, but have now been extended to 9 generations. Circles are apparently still restricted to 7 generations.

I also noticed that when counting the matches by looking at them individually, the count does not always equal the Matches in the Circle, even after allowing for one difference in the Matches in Circles. So, apparently not all matches are “strong enough” to be shown in Circles.

Relationships and Matches

This is all very nice, but what does it really mean on my pedigree chart?

I’ve divided my pedigree into half, one for each parent.

On the chart below, my father’s ancestor tree matches are blue, and the circles are green. You can click on the image to see a larger version.

200 father pedigree blue

Please note that the first 6 generations (beginning with my parent) are complete, but generations 7-9, I’ve only listed ancestors that are matches to someone through a shakey leaf.

On the chart below, the same information for my mother’s side of the house.

200 mother pedigree blue

This visual demonstration is actually quite interesting in that the circles all fall in the 4th, 5th and 6th generations, meaning we’ve had enough time in the US to have enough children to produce enough descendants for there to be some who are interested enough in genealogy to test today.

Remember, Ancestry does not create circles further back in the tree, so this clustering in these generations is to be expected. In my case, some of the matches in earlier generations are every bit as significant as the ones that created Circles.

Proven Connections

In the charts below, all of the proven connections and ancestors are in red. Yes, I said red, as in RED.

200 father inferred blue

What, you don’t see any red?  That’s because there isn’t any.  That’s right, not one single one of these matches is proven.

Why not?  How can that be?

Because Ancestry doesn’t give us a chromosome browser or equivalent tools to be able to show that we indeed match other testers from the same lineage on the same segments, proving the match to that ancestor. That, of course, is called triangulation and is the backbone of autosomal genetic genealogy.

If you’re lucky, you can get the people you need most to download to GedMatch, but most people don’t, and furthermore don’t understand (or don’t care) that these matches are all inferred. Yes, I said inferred.  Fuzzy.  As in might not be accurate.

Granted, a great number of them will be legitimate, but we have hundreds of examples where the matches are NOT from the same line as the Circle indicates. Or much worse, the NADs.  NADs are almost always bad.

And you can’t prove that a match is or isn’t legitimate unless you either download to GedMatch or transfer your results to Family Tree DNA, or preferably both.

Ok, so there’s no red, but let’s look at the inferred lineage confirmations.

If, and that’s a very BIG IF, all of these matches and Circles pan out to be accurate, the chart above, on my father’s side shows ancestors with Circles in green. Yellow infers the lineages that could potentially be proven if we had a chromosome browser to triangulate the matches both within and outside of the circles.  Remember, a match and a name does not an ancestor make. It’s a hint, nothing more.

This next chart is my mother’s side of the tree.

200 mother inferred blue

I have far fewer inferred lineage confirmations in mother’s tree because two of her grandparents were recent immigrants, in the mid-1800s, and there aren’t enough descendants who have tested. Neither are there people in the old country who have tested, so mother’s inferred confirmed lineages are confined to two grandparents’ lines.

I have confirmed some of these lines at GedMatch and at Family Tree DNA, but not all. The ones I’m desperate for, of course, haven’t even answered an inquiry.  That’s how Murphy’s Law works in genetic genealogy.

We really do need that chromosome browser at Ancestry so we can begin to confirm these instead of having to infer these connections. Infer, in this case is another way of saying assume, and you all know about assume I’m sure.

As I evaluate these matches and try to figure out which ones might be more reliable than others, I refer back to two documents. First, the chart I showed earlier in the article which is derived from a spreadsheet I maintain of all of my Ancestry matches that shows me which child of the identified common ancestor my match descends from.  Ancestors with a high number of matches through different children of a common ancestor stand a better chance of being legitimate lineage matches.

Secondly, I refer to an article I wrote last fall, Autosomal DNA Matching Confidence Spectrum, in which I discuss the various type of matches and how much weight to give each type of match. Let’s face it, Ancestry is likely to provide a chromosome browser about the time that we inhabit the moon and most of your matches are unlikely to be willing to go to the time and effort to transfer anyplace, and that’s assuming that they answer a contact request, and that’s assuming that contact request gets delivered to them in the first place.  So, you will likely have to do the best you can with the situation at hand.

In my own case, because I was heavily involved in testing before Ancestry entered the autosomal testing market, I had recruited heavily, often utilizing Y DNA projects, and have had many cousins test at Family Tree DNA. Those who tested at 23andMe have transferred their tests, or in the case of V2 tests, retested at Family Tree DNA.

Because of this very fortunate grouping outside of Ancestry, I know that most of the lines above do triangulate on my personal triangulation spreadsheet. Therefore, many, but not all, of these matches on these two pedigree charts are indeed proven and triangulated at Family Tree DNA and GedMatch. But until and unless Ancestry gives us a chromosome browser type tool, they will never, ever be proven at or through Ancestry.  Come on Ancestry, where’s the meat?

In Summary

I know that the holiday season brings in a lot of sales for Ancestry and we should start seeing the results of that testing shortly. I wonder how long it will be until I have 500 shakey leaf matches, if we will have a chromosome browser by then so I can turn some of those ancestors red (stop snorting), and if any more of my missing lines will have tested.



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Finding Immigrant Descendants – aka- Identifying John Kirsch

Often, people ask how they can find someone to DNA test for a line whose surname they don’t carry.

There are indeed ways to do this, to stitch information snippets together, and if anyone can do this, a genealogist can excavate those gems and tie them back together. Genealogists have been described as crazy, insane, extremely focused, OCD and let’s not forget, tenacious.  And you know what, that’s all true – every word of it.  We tend to wear all that as a badge of honor, actually.

But sometimes, immigrants in particular can really test our mettle. Often, relatively recent immigrants are the worst to find DNA candidates for.


Because people in the old country don’t often embrace DNA testing, or genealogy for that matter, with the same veracity we do, if at all.

Why not?

Because they know where they are from, or at least they think they do, because their family “has been there forever.”

How long is forever?

Who knows, but long enough that they don’t think they were ever from anyplace else. And so, no need for searching for ancestral roots because they are “here,” wherever here happens to be, right underfoot.

Not to mention the little issue of a language barrier between us in the here and now and them in the ancestral country.

On the other hand, once one of the family line immigrates to the New World, be it the US, Canada, Australia or someplace else, the process of ancestral forgetting begins and within a couple of generations, events and places are no more than a fuzzy memory of a half-remembered story that may or may not be accurate. You know, like those three brothers stories.

If that ancestor arrived in say, 1650, they have had 300+ years to have accumulated descendants since arriving. Doing a bit of math, if they had 10 children who each had 10 children in each 25 year generation, between now and then, they now have about 1 billion descendants.  Ok, so let’s say only 5 children survived in each generation and the generation average is 30 years.  Now we only have 2 million or so.  Ok, but let’s say that the past 100 years since the advent of birth control, the number of descendants didn’t increase, just maintained itself.  Then we’d only have between 15,000 and 80,000 descendants.  And at least a few of those would surely be males who carry the surname.  At least one can hope.

Contrast that to Philip Jacob Kirsch, born in Mutterstadt, Germany in 1806, married in 1829 to Katharina Barbara Lemmert and had their first child in September of the following year. They were fortunate, because most of their children survived.  I am fortunate because the births of all of their children except the last child are dutifully recorded in the church in Mutterstadt.

Child Birth Death Marriage Offspring
Philipp Jacob Sept. 19, 1830 Sept. 9, 1905 Never married None
Katharine Barbara Kirsch Jan. 6, 1833 Aug. 2, 1900 Johann Martin Koehler 4 daughters, 2 lived, one uncertain, 4 grandchildren
Johannes June 14, 1835 Living in Indianapolis in 1917 per brother Jacob’s obituary ? ?
Martin September 16, 1838 Not heard of after Civil War, not mentioned in his brother’s 1905 will None known None known
Jacob May 1, 1841 July 23, 1917 Barbara Drechsel 4 daughters, 2 sons, 2 grandsons
Johann William Kirsch January 3, 1844 Before September 1904 Caroline Kuntz His brother’s will in 1905 says he is dead and has 1 girl and 2 boys
Anna Maria Kirsch Jan. 11, 1847 After 1917, per brother Jacob’s obituary Bernard Kramer Per census, 9 children, 4 living in 1910
Andrew Kirsch Feb. 6, 1849 Circa 1851, before 1860 None None

As you can see, our chances of finding a male Kirsch to Y DNA test aren’t wonderful, but there are possibilities through some male children, bolded above.

The total number of next generation descendants for Philip Jacob and Katharina Barbara were 8 children, 7 of which lived past childhood. Those children only produced 14 known grandchildren, with a few more possibilities.  In other words, the descendants doubled themselves, but after this generation, birth control came into play and large families became the exception and not the norm.

Unfortunately, these descendants tended to move away, and their names of John and William were quite common, so they are very difficult to identify if you don’t know where to look.

A couple years ago, a genealogist, Mike, who descended from one John Kirsch contacted me. He was looking for possible parents of his John Kirsch who lived in Indianapolis, had found Philip Jacob Kirsch in the Ripley County 1850 census with a son John, added two and two together and came up with parents.

I was skeptical. Not only did that seem just too convenient, but also because John is such a common name.  There were other John Kirsch’s too, like another John Kirsch in Lawrenceburg, Dearborn County, right next door to Ripley County, who was born in about 1838.  Mike’s John Kirsch’s tombstone says he was born in 1837, not 1835 as the actual church record, below, says of Philip Jacob Kirsch’s son, Johann (John in the US,) from Ripley county.

Johann 1835 church record

The Mutterstadt church registry entry above in 1835 for Johannes Kirsch shows his birth on June 14th and then his christening 7 days later on June 21st.  It also says he emigrated to America with his parents in 1847 and gives his parents’ and godparents’ names.

Maybe John Kirsch who died in 1927 in Indianapolis is neither of these John Kirsch’s.

To make matters even worse, there is a possibility that the Kirsch family in Lawrenceburg is related back in the old country to the Kirsch family in Ripley County, who subsequently moved to Aurora, also in Dearborn County. Let me translate, if that is true, autosomal DNA could give a match between John’s descendant, Mike, and my mother and it would not confirm that John was the son of Philip Jacob Kirsch.

So, the only thing to do was to set out to prove, or disprove, John as the son of Philip Jacob Kirsch of Ripley County.

But how?

Mike provided the information that his John was buried at Crown Hill Cemetery and had died on January 10, 1927, according to the markers at the cemetery. John was buried with his wife, Mary, and his son, Frank.

John Kirsch headstone

The headstones from FindAGrave confirm this and showed us that Frank also died in 1927, the same year as his father, and was born in 1858.

Frank Kirsch headstone

Mike personally knew these to be his family members and had been to the cemetery.

Mike had found a marriage record in Ripley County for a John Kirsch to a Mary Blatz or Blotz on February 18, 1856 – but we couldn’t tell if that John and Mary was this John and Mary. We also didn’t know if that Ripley County John was the son of Philip Jacob Kirsch.

From here, we begin to follow the breadcrumb trail.

We agreed that we needed to do three things at that time:

  • Contact the cemetery to see if they have additional information
  • Contact the Indianapolis Public Library to see if they hold an obituary for John or Mary
  • Obtain a death certificate for John Kirsch

There were fees associated with the cemetery records and the death certificate, not to mention restrictions on who can order death certificate and that they sometimes take forever to arrive. I wrote a letter to the Indianapolis Public library, but received no reply.  The letter found its way to the bottom of my pile where it reposed for a year.

However, as I began writing the 52 Ancestor’s article for Philip Jacob Kirsch, finding son John became more important. I thought I recalled that Mike’s John Kirsch had a son…and maybe…just maybe…a DNA candidate.

I contacted Mike again, and he had gotten busy too, so neither of us had obtained John’s records.

So, I set about a course of discovery.

First, I reviewed all census records I could find for John.

In 1850, he is living with his parents.

In 1860, I can’t find him anyplace, but he would have been married and had son Frank already, who was born in 1858. I do find a John Kirsch in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, born in 1838, married to a Margaret, with a young son, John, age 3 months.   That John is the son of an older John Kirsch, also living in Lawrenceburg.

In 1870, I find Frank and Mary in Indianapolis with son Frank, 12, confirming that 1858 birth year, and a daughter, Louisa, age 3. John works in a spoke factory.

In 1880, we find the John Kirsch of Lawrenceburg still living in Lawrenceburg, still married to Margaret, with an ever-growing family including children whose names do not include Frank and Louisa. We also find John Kirsch in Indianapolis, wife Mary, daughter Louisa, now age 12 and son, Andrew age 2.  Furthermore, we now know that Mary is Mary Blotz because Lena Blotz, age 68, John’s mother-in-law, is living with them.  A big bingo!

John Kirsch 1880 census

The 1890 census is missing, of course, but the 1900 Indianapolis census shows us that John gives his birth month and year as June of 1835, not 1837 as his cemetery stone says. He says he immigrated in 1846, has lived in the US for 53 years, is a spoke turner and has had 6 children, but only three are living.  By process of elimination, those children have to be Frank, Louisa and Andrew.

John Kirsch 1900 census

I called the Crown Hill cemetery and they provided additional information about Mary. She died on December 26, 1905.

Sure enough, the 1910 census shows us that John, a widow, is now living with daughter Louisa and her husband Oliver Hald, that John immigrated in 1847 and is naturalized. He is listed as the father-in-law.

In 1920, John is still living with Louisa and Oliver and says he immigrated in 1845 and is naturalized.

John dies in 1927.

The Crown Hill Cemetery told me over the phone that they sometimes have records provided by the family, and for a nominal fee, they will look “in the vault.” And even better news.  Instant gratification.  They take credit cards!!!

Indeed, the treasure from the vault tells us that John’s birthplace is given by the family as “Mutterstadt” in Germany and his birth date is given as June 16, 1837. His age was given as 89, but in reality, he was 91 years and 7 months.  John got shortchanged.

John, Mary and son Frank are buried on the Hald plot along with their daughter Louisa and her husband, Oliver.

The Indianapolis Public Library searched for an obituary for both John and Mary Kirsch in all three Indianapolis newspapers of the time, to no avail.

However, it has been a great research day, not because of one big find, but by several  puzzle pieces connecting together, we have a much clearer picture of John Kirsch and who he is:

  • We’ve confirmed that this John of Indianapolis is indeed the John who married Mary Blotz in Ripley County in 1856 by virtue of his mother-in-law living with them in the 1880 census.
  • We’ve confirmed that he is not the John of Lawrenceburg who was born in 1838 and continued to live there while this John was living in Indianapolis, also by virtue of the 1880 census. Their children also have different names, thankfully.
  • We’ve confirmed that John’s birthplace was in Mutterstadt, the same location as Philip Jacob’s son, Johann, was born in 1835, by virtue of the records held by the Crown Hill Cemetery and the Mutterstadt church records.
  • We’ve also obtained, from the 1900 census, information given by John himself, that his birth month and year was in June of 1835, not 1837 as is carved on his tombstone. 1835 matches the birth and baptismal records for Johann Kirsch, son of Philip Jacob Kirsch and Katharina Barbara Lemmert in Mutterstadt.
  • John named his last child Andrew. Andreas was the name of his grandfather he would never have known and also the name of his baby brother who died at the age of about 2 and a half, when John would have been 15 or 16, living in Ripley County.
  • Lastly, Jacob Kirsch of Aurora, Indiana, the son of Philip Jacob Kirsch and Katharina Barbara Lemmert of Ripley County, died in 1917.  Jacob’s obituary says that his brother, John Kirsch lives in Indianapolis.  There is no other John Kirsch in Indianapolis in either the 1910 or 1920 census who is born within 25 years of 1835, so by process of elimination, this John Kirsch is the only candidate to be Jacob’s brother.

Ironically, John Kirsch’s death certificate arrived today.  His father’s name?  John.  However, his mother’s name and information was entirely blank.  John’s birth month and year were off too, based on what we know.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen incorrect death certificates, especially when it comes to the mother’s name.  Generally, they at least provide her first name, but not in this case.

However, with the combined information, I feel confident at this point that I have correctly identified the John Kirsch in Indianapolis as the son of Philip Jacob Kirsch and Katharina Barbara Lemmert of Mutterstadt, Germany and Ripley County, Indiana.  Yes, in spite of the death certificate data, provided by a distraught family.  Ironically, the cemetery and census information was far more useful.  It’s a good thing I didn’t receive the death certificate first and just give up, assuming it was correct and that John who died in 1927 was not our John.

What’s Next

I hope DNA.

I hope that Mike, being a genealogist, will agree to test autosomally.

Mike also has male Kirsch cousins he has agree to approach about Y DNA testing.  There is so much to be learned from this test.  Where did the Kirsch family come from?  What is their history before they adopted surnames?  I’m very excited about the possibility of Y DNA testing.  I truthfully thought we’d never find a candidate.

My fingers are crossed.

My toes are crossed.

My eyes are crossed.

My everything is crossed….

Here’s hoping!



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Frank’s Ring Goes Home – 52 Ancestors #106

Sometimes the rest of the story is still unwritten, even 70 years later – seven decades after an untimely death.

Sometimes we don’t even know there is a “rest of the story.”

Sometimes we are granted breaths of life we never expected.

Sometimes our faith in humanity is restored.

Sometimes those who have gone on can reach across miles, decades and generations.

And so it has come to be.


Frank Sadowski

Frank Sadowski

The man who was supposed to be my father – but was instead killed saving others in WWII.


The man who had no children, no legacy, no future because he gave everything for another human in need. He made the ultimate sacrifice.


The man my mother loved with all of her heart.

Frank’s ring was what she had left of him after the war.

That was all.

Just the ring.

Nothing else.

Life was harsh.

That ring comforted her and nourished her soul for the next 61 years.  Then, she joined Frank and left the ring with me.

Frank's ring

Life was not kind to my mother.

Mom spent the decade after Frank’s death just trying to patch her life back together in a large city where she had no family.

Mom dance

Mom continued to dance professionally in Chicago, with the Dorothy Hild dance troupe at the Edgewater Beach Hotel and performing across the country in major cities. It sounds glamourous, but it was a brutal life.  Mom said they practiced all day and performed all evening until late at night.  She said she often lost 10 pounds a day and she had to work hard to keep her weight up.

Dorothy Hild Dancers slick

To give you some perspective, a few years ago, some of the former Dorothy Hild dancers were interviewed.

Alice Ann Knepp, Dorothy Hild dancer: Dorothy Hild was terrible to work for. She was very unpopular, but she got results. Every month, she would always have some kind of big production number with a big band. Our job included room and board and our salary was $30 a week. If you lived at home, the girls got $40 a week. We were free to choose what we wanted from the menu.

When you’re young, you can do it. I think we were ahead of our time with aerobics. Dorothy was very strict. During the summer she would prohibit us from getting suntans, and we weren’t allowed to mix or mingle with the people in the hotel. The costumes were just awful.

Ruth Homeuth, line captain, Dorothy Hild Dancers: It wasn’t as glamorous as it looked. It was like a reformatory. We used to wear uniforms and we were supposed to go to our rooms right after the show. We did get by with things, though. We had a little door on the side of the hotel that went through the garage where we would sneak out. Once in a while we used to catch Dorothy coming in the same time we did.

Ironically, the key to how mother met Frank is held in that interview. Frank’s sister was a dancer too – and Mom went home with Frank’s sister to visit.  Or maybe Frank came to see his sister dance.  But the “mingling” rules didn’t apply to Frank, because he was a dancer’s family.

After Frank’s Death

After Frank’s death, Mom just lost heart…in particular…she lost her spirit for anything. Mom went through the motions but part of her had died with Frank.

Nearly a decade later, she would meet my father. Let’s just say that relationship was rocky and doomed from the beginning.  When it ended, Mom found herself alone once again, but now with a daughter.  Then in her 30s, Mom was no longer dancing, but trying to make her way as a bookkeeper, what she had always wanted to do as a profession from the beginning.

I have vague memories of my mother wearing a ring on a chain under her clothes when I was young. After my father died in a car accident, she dated a man for a few years and was “hopeful” but thankfully, they never married.  After the split with that man, I noticed the ring again, but I never said anything.

When I was about 10 or so, I found the ring in a ring box in mother’s “special” jewelry box.  Not realizing it was a ring with special significance, I took it out, put it on and came waltzing out into the kitchen wearing the ring and waving it around on my hand like a diva princess. Until just recently, it’s the only time I ever really handled that ring.

Mom whipped around like she had been shot.  I was stunned by the intensity in her eyes.  She snatched the ring away from me.  I began to ask questions, but she was very clearly unable to answer.  That wound wasn’t healed at all…it was still very raw and open, more than 20 years later.  I really didn’t understand what I was seeing, but I certainly understood the depth of those emotions.

I had no idea about Frank at that time except for some passing references.  She would share the painful story later, much later.

A Second Chance

Mom met my step-father in the early 1970s. He was a widower with a son about my age and their relationship began simply as friends.  That friendship blossomed and they married in the fall of 1972.  Dean was a wonderful man.  I loved him dearly.

Mom began to act differently after she married Dean and moved to the farm. She began singing little ditties as she would cook in the kitchen.  She danced too, mostly kicking up her feet in the kitchen as she moved from stove to sink and back again.  Sometimes, she danced while she vacuumed.  I don’t think I’ve ever been that happy:)

Mom laughed, and smiled. I never realized, before talking to Curtis about Frank, how sad Mom had been, for years and years.  I never really put two and two together before, realizing the stark difference.  When I did, I felt desperately sorry for my mother.  She did what she needed to every day to support us, she put one foot in front of the other, but never did I realize what a joyless forced march life was for mother for more than 27 years after Frank’s death and before she married my step-father.

The Dancing Stops

Then, in 1994, after 22 years of marriage, Dean died, leaving Mom alone once again. The dancing stopped, the singing stopped, the smiling stopped, and once again, Mom went through the motions.  She tried, but it was simply never the same.  This time I realized she was unhappy and lonely, but I had no idea what to do about it. There are simply some wounds that cannot be healed.

I realized once or twice that she was wearing something around her neck on a chain again. Sometimes it was a conglomeration of “stuff” my step-father had…like the bullet he accidentally shot himself with.  (No, that was not what killed him and the entire incident became a huge family joke.)  But sometimes, it was Frank’s ring again.  Sometimes she wore both.  By this time, Frank had been gone more than 60 years, yet my mother still grieved for Frank, for their lost life, for his lost opportunity…for those dreams…hers and his both – and theirs of course.


She was lost.

Mom’s Ring

Mom wore one particular ring all of her life. Her parents gave it to her when she turned 16.  She wore it literally until her last hospital stay when I took it off of her hand for safekeeping because she was in a coma.

A few months before Mom had the stroke that took her, she decided it was time to give me some valuable things. Not valuable in terms of money, but valuable to her – and me.

One of the most difficult discussions I ever had with mother was the “end planning” discussion. Oh God, spare me from anything like that ever again.  Mom told me she thought she had maybe 6 months left.  She was very close to right.  After a discussion about her wishes, Mom picked up a ring box from her vanity.

Frank ring box

I knew the box well. After all of the years of opening and closing, the hinge was a little worn and the top slightly crooked.

Frank's ring in box

Mom tried to give me both Frank’s ring and her ring, the one on her hand I had never seen her without – ever. That was probably one of the most difficult moments of my entire life.

I simply gave them back to mother, put her ring back on her hand, even though the ring was by then far too large as she had become very frail, and told her those rings needed to be with her.

It wasn’t time yet.

Time would come all too soon.

It arrived in late April of 2006.

Some years earlier, I had chosen to inherit the small modest ring Mom wore daily instead of the “valuable” diamond cluster ring that went to my brother’s family. Money means very little to me and I knew how much the ring my mother wore meant to her.  That’s the ring I wanted.

After Mom’s death, I wanted to wear her ring, but I didn’t want to have it sized. I wanted it to remain much like she wore it.  I had my local jeweler attach loops on the shank for a chain which allowed the ring to lie flat…and I wear it…you guessed it…beneath my clothes next to my heart.  Not every day, but often. And especially on difficult days.  Mom goes with me that way.  It feels good to have her along.

Mom's Ring

After Mom’s death, Frank’s ring remained in Mom’s special jewelry box, it’s home for the past many decades. Of course, that jewelry box is now mine.

I didn’t really know what to do with Frank’s ring.  It felt far too personal for me to even handle the ring – like I was intruding into a very private and sacred space.  I knew what a hole in my mother’s heart Frank had left…and conversely…how blessed she had been for a very short time to have known love to that depth.  That love and grief was just too private for me to intrude, even by handling Frank’s ring after her death.

I looked at the ring in the box from time to time and then put it back away, wondering what my children would do with it. There was no evident answer.

That question haunted me.

Memorializing Frank

On Memorial Day 2015, I felt the unexplained need and inspiration to memorialize Frank. True, he was not my father nor any relative, but still, he was near and dear to my mother’s heart…and if I wasn’t going to do it…who would?  There was no one else.  Frank deserved at least what little I could offer.

I wrote the article, “Frank Sadowski (1921-1945), Almost My Father,” about his service, his life and his death.  I felt like I had done what I could do for Frank.  I included every tidbit of information I had or could find about Frank…except one thing.

What did I leave out?

A photograph of the ring. Somehow, I just couldn’t.  I don’t know why.  It still seemed so raw.

Little did I know about the rest of the story…that part yet unwritten that would unfold shortly.


On June 26th, one day less than a month after I published the article about Frank, a man named Curtis Sadowski in Illinois got a strange urge to type his uncle’s name into a google search engine.  His uncle, Frank Sadowski, had been dead since before Curtis was born.  Frank was killed in WWII, in 1945 – so why Curtis suddenly decided to google Frank in 2015, 70 years later, will forever remain a mystery.  But he did.

In Curtis’s words, he was utterly stunned when my article was the first item returned in the Google search. Curtis clicked, and for the first time, saw a photograph of his grandparents.

Frank Sadowski and father

Due to a family situation beyond the control of Curtis’s father, Frank’s brother, the family had no, and I mean no, photographs of their grandparents, or of Frank.

Curtis told me that for years after Frank died, on the piano in the living room in Frank’s parents’ home, a single photo of Frank in his military uniform “watched” the goings-on of the family and household. Curtis’s father told him that it seemed that Frank’s eyes followed you everyplace you went.

Frank’s sister lived in her parents’ home after their death, and her husband continued to live there after her death. They had no children, and when the sister’s husband died, all of the Sadowski family photos and memorabilia bit the dust – or more likely the trash can by the road.

That just made me sick to hear, but it’s not an unfamiliar story and happens all too often.

So imagine Curtis’s shock when he clicked on my blog to see his Uncle Frank, his grandfather, also named Frank Sadowski, and his grandmother looking out the door in the background.

Curtis posted a comment on my blog which started an intensely emotional back and forth exchange lasting several days. Both of us had to take breaks from time to time to gather ourselves.  Frank’s siblings joined in the conversation, and so did his son, Bert.

Bert, short for Robert, posted the following:

“Thank you for sharing this touching story with the world, I know it must’ve been hard. My name is SPC Robert Sadowski. PFC Frank Sadowski Jr. was my great uncle (my grandfather’s brother). I heard the he died as a medic during WWII, but no one in my family had any more details than that. I’m glad I got to learn more of the story, even if it’s so sad. I’m proud to be carrying on his fight.”

But there is more to Bert’s story that he didn’t share.


Before Bert enlisted in the Army four years ago to serve our country, he drove with his father to Chicago from central Illinois specifically to visit Frank’s grave. For some reason, Bert draws inspiration from his great-Uncle, Frank.  Bert had never seen a photo of either his great-grandparents or the man, Frank, who inspires him so.

Bert told his father he was taking up where Frank left off and he was going to “get it right.”  Bert is assigned to the medical corps…but right now…he’s on special assignment in the honor guard – laying to rest fallen soldiers and bringing a modicum of comfort to their families.

Bert is extremely proud to be assigned to this detail, having volunteered for a second “tour.”  A soldier can only serve in the honor guard twice.  I can’t tell you how proud I am of this exemplary young man.  I wish I had a younger unmarried daughter:)

Bert Sadowski in uniform

Here’s Bert on his way to a weekend funeral in Texas – proud to be serving.

I was also struck by how much Bert looks like Frank. Now, I do realize they are in the same family…but still.

Bert and Frank Sadowski

I knew in my heart as this scenario unfolded like scripts from a play in front of me where Frank’s ring needed to go.

Beyond any doubt.

I knew.

Yet, it was so hard to do…to wrap my head around…that I was considering giving away the ring so valuable to my mother. Without doubt, one of her most cherished possessions.

I spent several agonizing days going back and forth… talking to myself…taking both sides of the argument. Playing devil’s advocate.

I asked mother what she wanted.

I asked my quilt sisters what they thought.

I asked my daughter, my son, my daughter-in-law, my husband, my friend in NC, my friend in SC – all people who are my family of heart.

Yes, I was pretty much a wreck over this decision.

Curtis knew nothing of this. I didn’t share any of this with him.

My husband, always the pragmatic one, asked how I knew that someone in the Sadowski family wouldn’t just hock the ring. It is gold.

I told my husband that if Curtis was willing to drive half way, to meet me in Fort Wayne, Indiana, to pick up two original photographs, one of Frank and one of Frank and his grandfather…both of which were already scanned on my blog and free for the taking…that they would never hock the ring. That trip represented a several hour investment over 2 days and an overnight stay.  The photos on my blog were already there and free for the taking with no effort, at least not as compared to a trip to Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Not exactly a tourist mecca.

So, that was to be the test.

I offered Curtis the original photos but told him I was not willing to mail them. He never suggested that I should.  We discussed arrangements and decided to meet in Fort Wayne on July 15th.  By this time, we wanted to meet each other…it wasn’t just about the pictures.  The trip was a several hour drive for both of us, and Curtis is not in good health, so it was a real commitment for both he and his wife, Janet…far more than I realized initially.

Curtis never asked me about the ring, even though I mentioned it in the original article. So he had no idea if I even had the ring.

Rings Reunited

As long as I was going to visit Fort Wayne, I was going to research at the Allen County Public Library – a world-class genealogy research center.

I left for Fort Wayne the morning of the 15th and was planning to spend half a day in the library…but what to do with Frank’s ring during that time?  I wasn’t about to leave it in the car.  I couldn’t check into the hotel at noon and I wouldn’t leave it there anyway, and I was even afraid to leave it in my purse in case I turned my back in the library.  If anyone was ever going to steal my purse, it would have been that day.  I’m down to only one option – wear the ring.

Yes, wear the ring.  The sacred ring.

Would lightening strike and would I turn to dust?

I took the ring out of the box and put it on the chain around my neck with Mother’s ring. Somehow, to let the rings spend one last day nestled together, touching, as they must have when Mother and Frank held hands, seemed somehow very fitting.

I could feel their combined warmth, next to my heart.

I also took the opportunity to photograph Frank’s ring. His initials, FS, are engraved inside the band.  Frank graduated in 1940.

Frank's ring initials


Curtis confirmed that Frank was in medical school at Northwestern University when he enlisted. Franks death not only tore my mother’s life apart, it did the same thing to Frank’s family.

Frank’s mother blamed his father for encouraging Frank to enlist.  Their other son, Curtis’s father, also served in the war and survived, but suffered terribly from survivor guilt.  Curtis said the family never really recovered.  Neither did my mother.  It’s a real testimony to Frank that he was so deeply loved, but I know that Frank would not have wanted his death to destroy the lives of those he left behind.  That’s not the kind of man Frank was.  I think Frank was the shining star, the “brightest hope” of many who loved him and he took a lot of light out of the world when he left.

The night before I left for Fort Wayne, I realized I had to SAY something to Bert. Bert doesn’t know, as I write this, that he is going to receive the ring.  Curtis is waiting until Bert comes home on his next leave, probably at Christmas, because Curtis isn’t willing to ship the ring either.

The letter to Bert began:

“Dear Bert,

You’re probably wondering what kind of crazy woman would give her mother’s soul mate’s ring to someone she doesn’t know. I’ve been asking myself that very question now since I met you and your father online after your Dad reached out to me when he found the article about Frank.”

I explained to Bert that Frank was still alive to my mother, through her memories and Frank’s ring that she cherished so dearly her entire life. By passing the ring to Bert, and along with it, the torch, I can in a small way give Frank another breath of life.  Frank can be the wind beneath Bert’s wings, his guardian angel, his inspiration.

Bert wants to live to carry on what Frank could not do.

Mother would want Frank to live on in this way. It’s the only way left to give Frank life, through a legacy of inspiration and hope.

And like I told Bert…it’s up to him now. Frank did his part, Mom did hers, I’ve done mine…and now…it’s up to him.

I have sent Frank home.

Life has come full circle.

I know, beyond a doubt, Frank’s ring is once again right where it is supposed to be. You see, it fits Bert perfectly.

When I saw this picture, it literally took my breath away, and still does every time I see it!

Mom needed Frank’s ring, but I was only it’s keeper for a little while. It has a job to do, a life of its own.  I hope Bert wears it with honor for the rest of his life and cherishes it like Mom did.  I hope that Frank’s, now Bert’s, ring continues to inspire the Sadowski family for generations to come.  What better legacy for Frank.  For Bert to achieve what Frank could not.

God Bless and protect Bert as he serves his country, and after, and may he walk in the Grace of protection, with Frank as his guardian angel. May Frank truly be the wind beneath his wings and his protector as Bert is deployed shortly to Kuwait.

Bert, may Frank raise you up so you can stand on mountains, and may you be that same inspiration to others. The torch is now yours, for a while.  Then, someday, in some way, you too will pass it on.

But until that day, may you and Frank walk together as partners in silent camaraderie.

God Bless you both.

army seal

January 2016 Update – Bert’s Comments:  I shed a few tears when I read the letter, and again just now as I lie in bed, about to get up to face the day. I don’t know if I’ll succeed, but I’ll try to do Frank’s memory justice. The ring is currently with me in San Antonio, and while I haven’t worn it since that picture was taken, I see it every day on my dresser, and it fills me with determination. Thank you, Roberta, for this gift that was so hard for you to part with. I’ll treasure it and keep it safe until it’s time for it to inspire a new Sadowski. Until then, it’ll remind me that I’m fighting with the willpower of two men, and that I’ll always have someone watching my back, even when I feel alone.

2017 Update – Bert is now deployed in the Middle East, with Frank’s ring.  May it bring him protection and comfort.



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