Curtis Benjamin Lore (1856-1909), Devilishly Handsome Rogue, 52 Ancestors #113

Will the real Curtis Benjamin Lore please stand up?????

How I wish it were that simple. What his story lacks in simplicity, it more than makes up for in mystery – some of which we’ve never unraveled, and never will.

Curtis Benjamin, known as C.B. Lore, was the dark and dreamy mystery man, the elusive, unavailable, field hardened, working man….the kind of man that attracts women like moths to the flame. C.B. was a survivor, an entrepreneur, successful, adaptable, an expert in his field and respected – so one side of the story goes.

The other side suggests he was a fast talker, the slippery sort, not reliable and not truthful about his past, or present – in essence, a rogue.

One thing is for sure. He survived one way or another on his own, from the time he was a child, for 20 years by the time he met Nora Kirsch, the young woman who would become his wife…well, one of them anyway.

C.B. was very probably a ladies man. And Nora was young, very beautiful and living right there at the Kirsch House.  The attraction between them was probably magnetic.

Nora’s heart likely skipped a beat at the end of each day as the men from the oilfields would knock off work and come in to the bar for a beer, some food and in his case, probably a room as well. C.B. probably lived at the Kirsch House while he worked in the area.  After discovering Nora, I’m positive that he did. He probably spent evenings in the parlor, or helping out to be with Nora.  And when the chill of autumn set in in 1887, he put his arms around Nora to keep her warm.

Kirsch house 1990s

In 1990, 103 years later, his granddaughter, and great-great-granddaughter stand by that very bar that C.B. Lore frequented in the Kirsch House.  Can you see him, there beside them, leaning on the bar, smoking a fine cigar?

C.B. Lore was a manly man, a hearty outdoorsman who worked in the rough oil and gas fields. The census in Indiana says he was born in 1860 or 1861, but the 1860 census in Warren County, Pennsylvania shows us that he was born in 1856.

In 1887 when he came to Indiana from Pennsylvania, he was 31 years old, a roughneck, strong, worldly and extremely handsome.  Did I mention that he was handsome???

Nora Kirsch was 21 and had little experience with men.  It’s no wonder that he subtracted a few years from his age, reducing the 10 year divide between their ages to a less questionable 5 years.  I don’t know whether Nora ever knew the truth or not, but C.B.’s redesigned birth year stayed with him for the duration of his life, in the census and on his tombstone.

What was C.B. Lore, born in Pennsylvania, doing at the Kirsch House in Aurora, Indiana? Well, it’s a long story.  Get a cup of coffee or tea and some chocolate, a I’ll tell you the story of our mystery man.  Yea, you’re going to need chocolate for this one!  In fact, just bring the whole box!  That’s what my mother did when she found out…ate chocolate.  To quote her, “What else is there to do?”  Yep, you’re gonna need lots of chocolate!

Born in Pennsylvania

Curtis Benjamin Lore was born on April 17, 1856 in Blue Eye, Warren County, Pennsylvania to Antoine “Anthony” Lore and Rachel Levina Hill. Anthony and Rachel had moved to this area from New York a decade or so before.

Blue Eye is a remote area, fairly heavily forested and mountainous. There really isn’t a town of Blue Eye, it’s an “area” on or off of Blue Eye Road which intersects with the small town of Spring Creek, PA.  Only the locals call it “Blue Eye,” and no one knows how it got its name.

Blue Eye PA

This photo contributed by Betty Rhodes shows Spring Creek in 1903.

Spring Creek PA 1903

The area probably didn’t look a lot different when C. B. Lore lived there.

1870 census Warren co

Looking at the 1870 census, we discover a couple of very interesting items. Two things, actually.

First, much to my surprise, Curtis is hired out as a farm hand.  At age 14.  Where was his family?

The second surprise is that Curtis is not age 9, born in 1861, as was reflected in his documentation in Indiana, but age 14, born in 1856. So he wasn’t born in 1861 as the family said?  Well, maybe.  Let’s take a look at the 1860 census and see what we find there.

1860 census Warren Co

Sure enough, the 1860 census for Spring Creek Township in Warren County, PA shows Curtis with his parents, age 4. That pretty well cinches the 1856 birth year.

But where is the rest of his family in 1870?

Curtis’s mother is living with the Farnham family. His sister Margaret, age 12, who would have been listed as Marilla in 1860, is living with that family as well, but otherwise, none of the family is to be found in Warren County.  Based on Curtis’s father’s application for citizenship, we know that he applied in 1862 and never returned to claim his citizenship in 1868, so he died sometime between those dates.

Maria Lore, Curtis’s oldest sister married Elisha Stephen Farnham in 1862, but she is missing in 1860. Most of the older children had either married, moved away, or died.  The 1860s was an utterly brutal decade for this family, aside from the Civil War.

Have a piece of chocolate.

Aunt Eloise’s Stories

Nora Kirsch and C.B. Lore would marry in 1888 and have 4 girls, Edith (1888), Curtis (1891), Mildred (1899) and Eloise (1903). Edith Barbara Lore was my grandmother and she died in 1960 when I was a child.

However, I remember Aunt Eloise well. She was 15 years younger than my grandmother.  After my grandmother died, Eloise, who had no children of her own, “took over” the role of grandmother, as best she could.  Mother was close to Eloise and even though Eloise lived in Lockport, New York and we lived in Indiana, we visited with her as often as we could.  I remember how thrilled Mother would be when letters from Eloise arrived!

Eloise worked for a company that produced plastics and every Christmas we would receive a wonderful “Santa” box filled with gifts and plastic items that were slightly flawed, just enough that they weren’t saleable. That was before the days of outlet stores.  For us, it was like winning the lottery.  How we looked forward to those boxes and carefully rationed the contents, trying not to use them up too fast.  Eloise always included a box of chocolate too.

It would be Eloise who would provide the clues to begin the process of unlocking the secrets of C.B. Lore. According to the other daughters, Eloise was his favorite.  She was also the baby of the family.  Eloise and her sister Mildred would accompany C.B. in his buggy as he made his rounds, checking on his projects and horses, and the girls would listen to his stories.

Buggy ride

Eloise was only 6 years old when C.B. Lore died of tuberculosis, which must have been devastating for both of them. Perhaps because of his illness which incapacitated him, then killed him, he may have talked more and shared more with her and the other girls when he was bedfast than he would otherwise have done.

Eloise provided quite a bit of verbal history.

She told us that C.B. had a brother they called “Uncle Lawn” (my spelling, not hers, she told me verbally) but that she didn’t know his real name. Eloise tells the story about when “Uncle Lawn” visited in Rushville when Edith and Curtis were young.  Those two sisters were quite the mischief makers and were best friends.

Eloise said, “Edith and Curtis, always devils, put a pin in the horsehair sofa so he would sit on it.”  He did. The mischievous girls of course though this was hilariously funny.  “Uncle Lawn” was enraged and told C.B. Lore that his girls were awful and stormed out, never to return.  That event had to have happened between about 1895 and 1903, given that Curtis was born in 1891 and Eloise said that event occurred before she was born in 1903.  C.B. Lore doted on his daughters and I doubt he cared what “Uncle Lawn” thought.

Eloise said C.B.’s parents’ names were Benjamin (later proved to be Anthony) and Alvira or Alvina (later proved to be Rachel Levina), and that they both had immigrated when they were 5 or 6 and that “the first Kaiser Wilhelm had signed their immigration papers.”

The first Kaiser Wilhelm reigned from 1861-1888 in Germany and Curtis Benjamin Lore was born in Pennsylvania in 1856, so this made no sense, but then, Eloise didn’t feel the need to question what she had been told.  Later research proved this to be incorrect, but one has to wonder at the genesis of the story.  Was Eloise confused, was this a different family line, or did C.B. make it up to cover some uncomfortable or sinister truth?  It seems a very odd and detailed fact to be simply “created.”

Eloise wasn’t as quick to talk about the darker story of C.B.’s father’s death, but eventually she relented. Remember, she didn’t even know C.B.’s father by his correct name.

C.B.’s father, Anthony aka Benjamin, it seems, was an “Indian Trader” on the Allegheny river and drown. After discussing this for a while, Eloise confessed that C.B.’s father was really a “river pirate.”  I was quite shocked to have a pirate in the family and questioned the existence of pirates on rivers within the US.  Unfortunately, Eloise had or gave no details, but I would find information later to flesh out this story and would discover that yes, there were in fact river pirates on the Allegheny River in that timeframe.  Who knew?

Those river pirates weren’t pirates in the traditional sense, but were bootleggers and traders – not really a “profession” one could be proud of, at least not in this context.  They flew under the radar, as tavern keepers had to be licensed to sell liquor.  So the “traders” provided their illicit wares to rafts and the bored men on those rafts traveling the Allegheny by rowing from the sides of the river, hidden in the alcoves, out to meet the rafts as they drifted downriver.  However, it’s possible that Anthony began by being a “voyageur” in Canada, one who traded with the Indians. He may simply have transported his known occupation to a new location and slightly different circumstances.

Have another piece of chocolate.


However, Anthony’s story becomes more sinister, because he drowned and as Eloise talked more, and began speaking in hushed tones, I discovered that Anthony was perhaps murdered. Now, this wasn’t a murder where the family was righteously indignant, but one that seemed to carry some unspoken shame.

I guess engendering sympathy for a pirate’s demise, especially if he was “pirating” at the time of his death, was probably somewhat more difficult than for the local minister’s death.

For me, this new pirate edition was an absolutely enthralling story and I longed desperately to know more.  I’ve discovered over the years that how “good” and juicy a story turns out to be is approximately equivalent to the effort someone expends to hide the truth!  Even C.B. Lore, with his own rather checkered past didn’t want to tell the truth about his father and even went so far as to mis-state his parents’ names.  So, this story must have been a doosey!

Eventually we would find three additional lines of Anthony Lore’s family. All 3 lines would share a “death by drowning” story, but the circumstances were different in each version.  One would have him die at sea, one murdered while returning to or from France for his inheritance, another one on the river, but with no mention of being a pirate, and finally, our family line’s pirate version where he was either murdered or drown.

One thing seems certain, he probably did drown. That part is consistent.  All stories involved water and travel.  Two included murder.  Eloise said his body was never found.  Perhaps that is where the murder theory arose.  Or, perhaps it is true.


When I visited Warren County, Pennsylvania, I fully expected to find this family having lived on or near the Allegheny River, above, the county’s only major water thoroughfare.  This was not the case.  The Lore family lived in a very remote area of the county near a small stream, Spring Creek. All streams in that area do eventually empty into the Allegheny, so that does not preclude this story, but it certainly casts doubt upon it relative to earning a living on the river.  Or, maybe Anthony kept his family safely away from the river and pirates.

Trying to find Benjamin Lore in Warren County was indeed a red herring in this search, because the man did not exist. I surely spent a lot of time looking for Benjamin, based on C.B. Lore’s death certificate and family oral history.

C.B.’s father’s name is Anthony, or actually Antoine in French, but in the US, his name was always Americanized to Anthony.

Did C.B. intentionally disguise his father’s name, changing it to Benjamin? Did Nora believe C.B.’s father’s name was Benjamin, or was she just upset when providing his death certificate information?  Death certificate information, provided not by the deceased, but by a distraught family member, is often notoriously incorrect.  However, given that C.B.’s daughters said that their grandfather’s name was Benjamin, I suspect that Nora wasn’t confused and the family had been told that his name was Benjamin, not Anthony or Antoine.  But why?

Perhaps the river pirate stories were true and C.B. did not wish to divulge the true name of his father. Whatever the reason, his father’s name was incorrectly recorded on his death certificate, and his mother’s name was not recorded at all.  That information sent me on a very long and very wild goose chase.

As it would turn out, very little of what the Indiana family thought they knew about C.B. Lore in Pennsylvania was true.

Eloise went on to say that after C.B.’s father’s death, when C.B. was young, that he and the other children “pretty much raised themselves.” There was one sister apparently, and the story says that both the mother and sister died.  The impression I had from this story was that they died under very dire circumstances, were desperately poor, living on the doorstep of starvation.  This may indeed have been true.  Records found later do indicate that Rachel, C.B.’s mother, and youngest sister indeed did have to live with another family after Anthony’s death.  There are also no gravestones for any family member, another sign of abject poverty.

When I visited Warren County, PA, I had hoped to find at least a newspaper article telling about Anthony’s death and maybe C.B.’s mother’s death too, but there are no such articles in the papers that remain and have been indexed.

When the search for C.B. Lore’s heritage first began, more than 30 years ago, there was no internet and few compiled resources. What genealogy was to be done had to be done in person, or at the Allen County Public Library which had a superb collection of records.

However, the Lore brick wall would not fall until 3 decades after it reared its ugly head….sadly, after Mother’s passing…..and then with only the happenstance lynchpin of one word…….Blairfindie…..but I’m getting far ahead of myself. Let’s visit Warren County Pennsylvania and see what we find there.

It’s time for another piece of chocolate.  A really good one!

Curtis Lore in Blue Eye, Warren County, Pennsylvania

As any good genealogist does, I left a series of bread crumbs years ago hoping that someone someday would find them and the information they have and the information I have would click like puzzle pieces for both of us.

In September of 2003, a very unusual series of events occurred that began with someone reading my internet Rootsweb posting, then attending a class reunion in Warren County, PA, with Denny Lore and thinking to mention it. That comment at the reunion would lead to Denny and I meeting online. I was thrilled to receive Denny’s e-mail, as it was the first solid lead I had had in many years on this family.

We clicked immediately, like long lost family.  This seemed too good to be true, and Denny and I felt like we had decades of catching up to do.  It was the beginning of a wonderful friendship that endures to this day and some very productive research.  At first, in spite of how well we got along, Denny and I weren’t at all sure we were related.

Denny and I had very different information. He had rescued his Uncle Stanley’s genealogy from sure and certain destruction, literally from the curb after his death. I knew immediately when Denny told me that story that I liked him immensely and we were cut from the same cloth.

We didn’t know it at the time, but Uncle Stanley and Denny are both descended from Solomon, the son of Anthony and Rachel Lore. C.B. was Solomon’s brother.

Uncle Stanley documented this family by using existing family records. Stanley was born in 1911 and died in 1998, so his research was completed post 1930, entirely before the days of internet access and when one had to visit a major library to access microfilm census records.  Fortunately for me, he knew most of these people and didn’t need to find them in old dusty records, so the information he provided was invaluable and not available elsewhere.

My research had been done almost entirely by remote access methodology, except for trips to the Allen County Public Library and my trip with Mother to Rushville in the 1990s which wasn’t terribly productive aside from finding the graves of C.B. and Nora Kirsch Lore and that red herring death certificate.  I was working backwards in time. Stanley was documenting what he knew.  The challenge for Denny and I was to connect the dots between the two methodologies and see if these were indeed the same family.

Before we look at Uncle Stanley’s records, let’s see how we determined that Warren County, Pa. was indeed the place to begin.

C.B. Lore’s death certificate lists his birth place as Pennsylvania.

We know he was married in 1888, and the 1890 census was destroyed, so we first find him and his family in the 1900 census in Rushville, Indiana.

In 1900 they were renting a home and C.B. lists himself as a machinist, 4 months unemployed. They were fairly well to do, as they had two live-in servants.

Rushville 1900 census

Nora had borne three children and all were living. Curtis’s father’s place of birth is given as France, his mother’s as New York, his as Pennsylvania.  As it turns out, this is one third accurate.  C.B.’s father was born in Canada and he was Acadian.  C.B.’s mother was born in Vermont and C.B. was born in Pennsylvania.  Often, wives provided information to the census taker, so this could well have been second hand information and not deemed terribly important.  However, this record in combination with his death certificate sent me looking in Pennsylvania for Curtis.  Thankfully, that much was right.

By 1910, C.B. was dead, so we have no further census records for him.

Based on the 1870 Warren County, PA census, where Curtis is recorded as being age 14, he should be found in the 1880 census being age 24.

In 1880, C.B. Lore (indexed as Lare at Ancestry) is found in Pennsylvania, but not exactly as we might expect to find him.

1880 Warren Co census

The 1880 census shows in Warren Co PA:

  • Curtis age 24, a laborer, born PA and father born PA and mother born in England, with his wife, Mary E, 20 and their children:
  • Maud, 2, and
  • Hebert 2/12th.

This family is living in Enterprise, PA in the far southwest corner of Warren County.

Because my Curtis had never been married, I discounted this record for quite some time as being the “wrong” Curtis, but it turns out to be the “right” Curtis after all. It seems Curtis had been married, with children, something the Indiana family never knew.

More chocolate.

The Courthouse

I decided it was time to visit Warren County and meet my cousin, Denny.

Research at the local court house in Warren, Pennsylvania would give us a different perspective of Curtis’s life.  But first, we had a challenge of a different kind.

Denny and I visited the courthouse in 2004 amidst a massive renovation.  Books weren’t where they were normally stored, and staff was not terribly interested in accommodating those pesky genealogists who want access to old records, which in this case, were stored in the furthest and most inconvenient rooms and in the heights of the attic that could only be accessed by several sets of stairs that wound upwards inside a turret.  If you were one bit claustrophobic or afraid of heights or leary of a winding circular staircase with no railing snaking up the inside of a turret with increasingly small triangle wedge shaped steps, you were sunk.  Never let a little issue like that come between me and genealogy…

Warren Co PA courthouse

Of course, it was August with no air conditioning. I bet those old records are still there deteriorating because no one wanted to carry them back down those dangerous stairs.  And there was no organization of course, just crates and boxes of records all stacked together on shelves and on the floor amid layers of dust. It was amazing we found anything at all, and it wasn’t without a battle with the staff.

Ok, just eat the rest of the box of chocolate.

Lunatics, Alcoholics and Divorcees

In one dusty old book that I peered into out of utter frustration and mild curiosity, as I had never seen one before entitled “Lunatics, Alcoholics and Divorcees,” I received the shock of my life. There were Mary Lore and Curtis Lore.  Seriously, in the lunatics book?  What were they doing in here?  Were they crazy?  Alcoholics?  Divorcees?  Were divorcees considered crazy or depraved?  Talk about social stigma!  OMG!!!!

This is not exactly the book where you want to find your ancestors.  But you know, if it’s them, there’s going to be a good story, one way or another.  If it’s them.  Maybe it’s not them???  Maybe it’s not the right Curtis.  Maybe.

Extremely excited, I copied down the numbers, as this was only an index book, and took my results to the staff. The staff was equally as unhappy as I was excited, because the papers I sought were upstairs in the attic, in that turret, and they tried every excuse possible to avoid taking me there.  Also in this book was a second Lore divorce, a man who might have been C.B.’s brother, Alonzo, but those records were not able to be found, and the staff later refused to try again to locate them.  I’m telling you, those old records were all abandoned in that attic.

I begged. I whined.  I made noise about working with local government and FOIA.  They finally relented – I’m sure only to shut me up and because to comply with a freedom of information act (FOIA) request, they would have had to haul those books downstairs to copy.  It was easier to just take me upstairs to look – which was the exact outcome I was hoping for.

We climbed the stairs, one flight at a time, each flight getting increasingly smaller, and hotter.  Each step creaked and complained under our weight.  Rivulets of sweat ran down my back under my clothes.  I didn’t care.  The woman with me did.  I told her we would get out of there more quickly if she helped me look. I HAD to see those papers.  HAD to.

We found the book, then the box with the docket papers, even though she tried to tell me they no longer existed.  I saw the packet, tied with a string.  Lore vs Lore.  I opened the packet and a century’s worth of dust fell to the floor.  The old paper was very fragile.  My hands were sweaty and shaking.  There were no archival gloves to be had.  I opened the packet very carefully and began to read.

Heavy with oppressive heat, the room was entirely silent, except for the sound of us sweating and an occasional rustle of paper as I turned a page, simply not believing what I was seeing.  I had to read it again.  I wanted to take it downstairs to copy, but according to the woman, I wasn’t taking it anyplace because she wasn’t bringing it back upstairs.

Curtis was married in the 1880 census with 2 children. In 1887, we find that his wife, Mary, has retained an attorney and filed for divorce on Nov. 16th.  It was granted April 5th, 1888, 4 months after he had married the pregnant Nora Kirsch in Aurora, Indiana.  Damn those pesky details anyway!

Chocolate.  More chocolate!

Where Was Curtis Benjamin Lore?

The papers say that Curtis Lore was verbally read the filing the next day, on November 17, 1887, so we know that Curtis was at least in Pennsylvania for some time at that point, specifically on November 17th.

Nov. 17, 1887 – served the within subpoena in divorce on within named Curtis Lore by reading to him the contents of the within writ and also by giving to him a true and attested copy thereof and informing him of its contents.

This was almost exactly the time that Nora was becoming pregnant, judging from Edith’s birth date.  In my mind, this cast some significant doubt about whether or not this really was the same Curtis Lore.  Was this another red herring?  The worse of all bad genealogy jokes?

The truth being, I didn’t want MY Curtis Lore to be a bigamist – to be married to two different women at the same time. I also didn’t want MY Curtis to be the kind of man that abandoned a wife and four children.  Or a liar.  I wanted my Curtis Lore to be an upstanding gentleman, roughneck knight in shining armor, sweeping Nora off her feet – not a cheating husband.  I wanted him to be the renaissance man his daughters believed him to be.  He wasn’t.

The copy of the decree states that Mary Lore and Curtis Lore were married in Centerville, Crawford Co, PA on June 17, 1876 and until June 1886 Mary had “cohabited with him as his wife and it was owned and acknowledged as such by him and so deemed and reputed by all their neighbors and acquaintances: and although by the laws of God as well as by their mutual vows and faith plighted to each other they were reciprocally bound to that constancy and uniform regard which ought to be inseparate from the marriage state; yet so it is that Curtis Lore in violation of said laws and his vows aforesaid has willfully and maliciously deserted the libellant and absented himself from her habitation without reasonable cause for more than one year last past.” The “one year last past” comment would support his time spent in Indiana in the oil and gas fields.

Mary signed this compliant. They had been married 10 years when he left.  “Happy Anniversary Honey – I’m leaving.”  It was either the best anniversary gift Mary ever had, or the worst.  Keep this month and year in mind, June 1886, because there is even yet MORE to this story!

Divorces were different in 1870 than they are today. There was no such thing as a “no fault” divorce where people just agree to disagree and go their separate ways.  Someone had to be wrong, and worse yet, bad, very bad.  If they weren’t bad, they had to be made to look bad.  Adultery, physical abuse or abandonment had to be involved.  Clearly, Curtis did leave Mary, although we don’t know if it was meant to be just an oil drilling trip that became indefinite, then permanent – or if he meant to leave her permanently.  We don’t know if he sent money back home for his family, or not.  We just don’t know.

I hoped to find their marriage license, but checking the Crawford Co. genealogy web site they state that marriage licenses were not required until 1885 except for 2 years in the mid-1850s. Darn.  What luck.  They also said that sometimes there would be a newspaper announcement.  The web site states that these newspapers are indexed at the Crawford Co. Historical society.  Mary had married Curtis when she was 16 and her parents would have had to consent.  I wonder if Mary and Curtis lost their first child.

In June 1876, Curtis would have been age 20 years and 2 months, assuming his birth year was actually 1856.

This is what the courthouse would have looked like in 1877. It was probably in this building where the divorce accusations were “read to” Curtis.  He was probably relieved, knowing that he was going back to Aurora – although he clearly did not know that Nora was pregnant.  That information probably greeted him on his return.

Warren Co courthouse 1877

Further records combined with Uncle Stanley’s information reveals that before their divorce in 1887/1888, Curtis Lore and Mary Bills Lore had 4 children:

  • Maud Lore born in 1878, married in 1911 to Victor Hendrickson and had one son, Roger.
  • Herbert Judson Lore born Nov 23, 1879 in Enterprise, Warren Co., PA, married in 1900/1901 to Ina Mae Bills, died Aug 5, 1968 in Titusville, Crawford Co. PA. Herbert had 4 children, Ronald, May, Guinevere and Harold.
  • John Curtis Lore born January 20, 1881 in Pennsylvania.
  • Sid Lore – probably the child listed in the 1900 census with mother Mary Gilliland as Seldon B. Lore, born in June of 1886.  I’m guessing that B. might have stood for Benjamin.

Given Seldon’s birth month and year, C.B. Lore left Mary that same month, leaving her either 9 months pregnant or with a newborn child, plus 3 children under 8. So either he was the king of all cads, or he didn’t believe the child was his.  However, that’s not mentioned in the divorce proceedings and it would have been very significant.  This situation is not looking good for C.B. Lore’s sense of integrity.  Mary remarried in 1888 as well, but in the 1900 census Seldon is listed as her husband’s step-son with the Lore last name, so clearly represented as C.B.’s child.

The 1880 census shows Maud and Hebert (Herbert?). Uncle Stanley shows both of them, Maud listed as Maud Lore Henderson Marshall Rainer (or Rasner), the last two names being handwritten later.  Uncle Stanley gives no location for where Maud lives, but shows Hebert in Pleasantville, PA. Stanley also shows a J. E. Lore in Jefferson, Ohio and then a Sid with no further info.  Sid could possibly be by a second wife, although his name appears above the words “second wife”, but the wife’s name is not indicated nor is any further info about Sid.  Maybe Sid died.  Or maybe, God forbid, there really is yet another wife and another child named Sid.


In the 1900 census we find that Curtis’s first wife, Mary, remarried in 1888 to Allen Gilliland, and is living in a household in Warren County that includes her Lore children.

In 1904, both a Seldon and a John Lore are living in Oil City, PA as a laborer and an electrician, respectively, according to the city directory.

Mary’s son, John Curtis Lore, was later found residing in Radical, Lee County, Kentucky, a very spartan, remote, mountainous area. John’s WWI draft registration card in 1918 shows he was born in 1881, has blue eyes, brown hair, is tall and of medium build.  He lists his occupation as a driller, so he has apparently followed his father into the oil fields.  His mother, Mrs. A. W. Gilliland, living in Crewe, VA is given as his nearest relative.

The name Curtis seems to repeat and must surely be a family name of some sort, likely through the Hill family of Vermont.  Curtis Benjamin Lore names his daughter Curtis as well.

Apparently, sometime between about 1910, the year after C.B. Lore died, and 1916, the year Nora remarried and left Rushville, John Lore went to find his father, Curtis.

The Illegitimate Son Story

Aunt Eloise told me “the illegitimate son” story, as did Mother. When my grandfather, John Ferverda was courting my grandmother, Edith Lore, or shortly after they were married, and they were in the home of her mother, Nora Kirsch Lore, in Rushville, Indiana, they received an unexpected visitor.  I initially had the impression that this was before C.B. died, but it may have been after, based on later conversations.  John and Edith were married in November 1908 and Edith’s father, C.B. Lore died a year later on Thanksgiving Day, 1909.

In any event sometime within a couple years of this time, one day, a young man “from Kentucky” came and knocked on the door.  Nora answered the door and he told her that he was the son of C.B. Lore and he was looking for him.  The family did not know C.B. had been married previously, so it was presumed that this son must have been illegitimate.  Unfortunately, the question of “what happened next?” must remain unanswered, because the story ends with just this tantalizing tidbit and the fact that Nora invited the young man inside and told him that he was too late.

We’re assuming here that this son was John, but truthfully, it could have been Herbert, Seldon or Sid, whether those are one or two people, or possibly, yet another son. For some reason, Eloise though this son was from Kentucky, fathered when C. B. Lore was tending to race horses in Kentucky.  John was from Kentucky, but clearly fathered in Pennsylvania before C.B. came to Indiana.

Perhaps Nora knew the truth, if not initially, then eventually, that C.B. had been married before and had 4 children from that marriage.  Perhaps the visit from C.B.’s son was as enlightening for Nora as for the son.  Maybe C.B. never told Nora exactly when he got divorced, but did confess the marriage and the children. Maybe he never told her anything at all.  Given the circumstances, perhaps C.B. would have preferred to allow Nora to think he had an illegitimate child rather than for her to know he was already married at the time he married her.  That would have been a betrayal of the first degree on many levels – giving a second wife legitimate grounds for divorce.

But I don’t think Nora wanted to divorce C.B. I think he was indeed probably the only man she ever loved.  She was buried beside him, so one way or another, they continue to be together, regardless of his indiscretions.

The Marriage

Given that Nora’s father, Jacob Kirsch, had been involved with lynching a man in August 1886, just 17 month before Curtis married Nora in January 1888 – I’m thinking that maybe Curtis decided that a marriage, regardless of the circumstances was preferable to the business end of the shotgun owned by a man with an obvious temper and a willingness to execute on that temper, pardon the pun.  Curtis also had to know that Jacob was a crack shot.  A decade later, at more than 50 years of age, with a glass eye, Jacob would win a tri-state shooting competition.  Jacob Kirsch was a non-trivial force to be reckoned with.  C.B. Lore, being a veteran of the rough and tumble oil fields would have recognized that immediately.

There is very little that will get a man riled up quicker than someone getting his daughter pregnant.  Well, unless it’s a married man with a family getting his daughter pregnant.  Where I grew up, that would have been viewed as an experienced worldly man “taking advantage” of Nora’s innocence and naivety.  Clearly, Jacob could not have known about the marriage to Mary and the four children or Curtis would already have been dead – and it would have been considered justifiable homicide.

Lore Kirsch Marriage

On January 18th, Jacob Kirsch signed for the marriage of Nora Kirsch and Curtis B. Lore.  I’m betting this was not a joyful trip to the courthouse.  They were married later that same day!  I’d almost wager a bet that Jacob found out earlier that day, or maybe the evening before and was waiting on the courthouse steps when they opened on the 18th.  I wonder if he had the shotgun with him.  I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall that day.

Someone knew at least a little in advance, because Eloise had a copy of their wedding invitation.

Nora Kirsch wedding invitation

Based on what little we know, Curtis left Pennsylvania in June 1886, the same month his wife Mary gave birth to a son, Seldon. We know for sure he was in Aurora, Indiana in November of 1887 when Nora got pregnant, and we also know he was in Pennsylvania on November 17th, 1887 because his divorce warrant was filed and “read to him” at that time.  Maybe he went back to Pennsylvania to “take care of business” so he and Nora could marry, not realizing of course that Nora had just gotten pregnant.

Using a reverse conception calculator, if the resulting daughter, Edith, was born at exactly full term, Nora became pregnant between November 3rd and November 8th.  So we know where Curtis was then too.

Curtis Lore Wedding

One thing is for sure, based on this wedding picture, Curtis is one handsome rogue.

Is Edith Curtis’s Child?

So, now the delicate question of paternity raises its head.  Not the paternity of Mary’s child, but the paternity of Nora’s child.

Given how close these dates are in terms of where Curtis was in November of 1887, is Edith really Curtis’s daughter?  I’m sure when that thought ran through my head, Nora probably rolled over in her grave a couple of times and then wanted to sit up and slap me.

But I couldn’t help wondering. Call it the cynic in me…plus…I really don’t want to do a lot of genealogy work on a line that isn’t mine, especially thinking it is mine.

Thankfully, cousin Denny agreed to test his DNA, initially for the Y chromosome, but then later when autosomal testing was available, for the Family Finder autosomal test as well. Denny, if you remember, descends from the brother of Curtis Benjamin Lore, so if my mother matches Denny appropriately, then the question of paternity for Edith is resolved.

Denny and my mother match on several segments, as shown below.

Denny Mom chromosome browser

The chromosome browser information at Family Tree DNA, above, is also available as a match table, below.

Denny Mom match

Based on this amount of DNA, Denny was estimated to be mother’s 2nd cousin.

Denny Mom pedigree

Mother and Denny are actually 2nd cousins once removed.

Furthermore, both of them match additional cousins on the Lore side, one additional through Solomon, one through Curtis’s son (by Mary), Herbert, and one through Curtis’s sister Marie.

I was curious how much of Curtis’s DNA I had inherited, and how much of Curtis’s DNA my child had inherited, so I compared Cousin Denny with all three of us.

Denny Mom Me child chromosome browser

In the above chromosome painting, I am orange, mother is blue and my child is green. You can clearly see some segments where Mom had DNA that matches Denny, but I don’t.  Chromosome 12 has a fairly large segment that I did not inherit.  On the other hand, look at chromosomes 1 and 2 where most of the large segments are passed between generations.

Chromosome 16 is another great example where I received almost all of Mother’s, but my child only received about half of that segment.

And yes, some small segments hold up quite well with this type of parental matching, which is called parental phasing because you can clearly see which parental side of your family this DNA came from.

I color coded this spreadsheet with the same colors as the chromosome browser, above.  Match groups are in the bracketed red boxes.

Looking at this matching group on chromosome 2, we have a classic example.

Denny mom me child chr 2

On chromosome 2, Denny matches mother on the largest segment, 22.46 cM and 3766 SNPs.  I inherited part, but not all of, of that segment from Mom, 19.58 cM and 3482 SNPs, and my child inherited the entire amount of that segment from me.  The table below shows all of the matching segments between Denny, mother, me and my child.

Denny mom me child matches

You can easily see which of these matches are valid, meaning which survive parental phasing. Identical by chance matches won’t match your parents as well as you.

There are also several segments where Denny matches only Mom, meaning that segment was not passed to me.  That too is normal.

I’ve sorted this next spreadsheet by match type so it’s easier to see which of these matches falls into what category.

Denny mom me match sort

The IBC or identical by chance are not valid matches because they don’t match through the generations, meaning up through my mother to Denny. The only way I can receive Curtis Lore’s DNA is through my mother, so for Denny’s match to me to be valid, he must also match my mother on that same segment.  You can read more about matching and what it means here.

The matches to my mother only may be valid or identical by chance. There is no way to tell for sure without tests from additional people who descend from the Lore line.  The larger match at 10cM is the most likely to be valid, but certainly some of the others may be too.

The match groups are comprised of at least me and mother, which means that Denny matches both of us, so the DNA is not matching by chance bouncing between two parents. Match groups that include only me and mother to Denny have the *.

Some match groups include my child as well, so that child has also inherited at least some of Curtis Benjamin Lore’s DNA.

Some of you are going to wonder why I didn’t label these as triangulation groups. They are, technically.  The definition of a triangulation group is three (or more) individuals whose DNA matches and who descend from a common ancestor. However, when three are individuals who are very closely related, I tend to count them as “one” group and not 3 people in the triangulation group.  Therefore, I’d be most comfortable calling these triangulation groups if we had Denny, plus my family group, plus a third person descended from the Lore line, preferably through yet another child.

But back to the question at hand, yes, Edith was unquestionably Curtis’s child, as proven by DNA matching, and so was Herbert.

Sorry, Nora, for doubting there for a minute! Your virtue is redeemed even if mine isn’t for doubting.

The Blue Lick Well

What brought C.B. Lore to Aurora, Indiana? He was a well driller and came to Indiana to drill for gas wells, but that wasn’t what he discovered.

BLue Lick Well

The Blue Lick Well was discovered in 1888 by Curtis Benjamin Lore, who, along with others in his crew, accidentally discovered the mineral well while drilling for gas.

Here’s Mom leaning on that very well when we visited around 1990. She was thrilled that we could find that location and the well still existed.

Mom Blue Lick Well crop

At that time it was covered under a shelter behind a building, allowing access to the water.

Blue Lick Well Mom

The above photo shows Mom at the well as it appeared in the 1990s. In 2008, it was being used as a car-port.

Today, the shelter appears to be taped off.

Blue Lick well today

The Blue Lick well is located on 350 north of Exporting on the south bank of Hogan Creek, on the left side of 350/Importing.

Blue Lick well map

In the pictures above and below, the gray balloon marks the location.

Blue Lick well satellite

The Kirsch House was just over the bridge beside the depot at 2nd and Exporting Streets.  At the bottom of the photo, right beside the white box, the Kirsch House is the light grey roof beside the red roof which is the train depot.

Indianapolis and Rushville

We know that shortly after their marriage in January of 1888, Nora and C.B. Lore moved to Rushville, Indiana, but we don’t know what attracted them to that location.

We also didn’t know that they lived in the Indianapolis area for at least a little while, between Aurora and Rushville, until my grandmother accidentaly found her birth certificate in Marion County. Until then, she thought she had been born in Rushville – the year after she was actually born.  The discrepancy was explained away by something about an insurance policy.  Even the family Bible had been “amended.”  Goodness, the webs we weave…

Adding two and two, it appears that Nora and C.B. left Aurora before their first child was born, possibly to disguise the fact that Nora was already pregnant when they were married, moving to Indianapolis where Nora was born. C.B. Lore seemed to be something of a drifter of sorts, following one thing and then another.  Maybe an opportunist or entrepreneur would be a more embracing and positive word.

C.B. and Nora lived in Rushville for all of their married life, except for that short stint in Indianapolis. Unfortunately, their married life wouldn’t last all that long, just 21 years.

Lore collage

C.B. Lore and Nora Kirsch Lore had 4 daughters (above):

  • Edith Barbara Lore, born August 2, 1888 in Indianapolis, married John Ferverda in 1908 and died in Rochester, Indiana on January 4, 1960. Edith had two children, Barbara Jean and Harold Lore Ferverda. Edith’s best friend was her sister, Curtis.
  • Curtis Lore, born in March of 1891, presumably in Rushville, died on February 9, 1912 after contracting tuberculosis taking care of C.B. Lore who died of that disease in 1909. Curtis never married.
  • Mildred Elvira Lore, born April 8, 1899 in Rushville, married Claude Martin in 1920 and died in Houston, Texas on May 30, 1987. She had two children, James and Jerry Martin. Mildred’s best friend was her sister, Eloise.  I suspect Mildred’s middle name was “in honor of” C.B.’s mother, except her name was Rachel Levina, not Elvira, although the Indiana family clearly thought it was Elvira.
  • Eloise Lore, born October 8, 1903, married Warren Cook in 1929 and after his death, married “a younger man,” Al Rutland in the 1970s. Eloise died June 5, 1996 in Leesburg, Florida. She stayed active, playing golf into her 90s until she became blind, which curtailed her activities significantly.  Macular degeneration is hereditary and my mother had that disease as well, so I suspect it was inherited from either C.B. or Nora.  Eloise never had children.

Nora and C.B. went back and forth visiting Aurora from time to time. The girls, one of whom was my grandmother, Edith, and another being my Aunt Eloise who I knew well, had many wonderful memories of the Kirsch House – a glorious place bigger than life to those children.  Mildred said that she and Edith spent the two years that C.B. was so desperately ill living with their grandmother Barbara Drechsel Kirsch at the Kirsch House in Aurora.  This may well have saves their lives, because their sister, Curtis, who remained at home contracted TB and died.

This photo of C.B. Lore was taken in Aurora.

CB Lore Martin Kirsch

C.B. Lore is to the right and Martin Kirsch, Nora’s brother, is on the left. The photo is undated, but it has to be between 1886 and 1909 when C.B. died.  He looks to be a younger man, about 30 or so, so my guess would be this was taken in the late 1880s or maybe early 1890s.  The modern “safety bicycle” was invented in 1887 and by 1890, everyone was riding the more modern bicycles in what was known as the bicycle craze.  So this photo above were probably taken before 1890 and possibly before 1887.

The only other photo we have of C.B. Lore is this family photo taken about 1907 or 1908 based on the fact that the young child is Eloise who was born in 1903 and looks to be about 4 in the photo. The photo was taken before C.B. became desperately ill and died in November 1909.

Jacob Kirsch family photo crop

Left to right, I can identify people as follows:

  • Seated left – one of Nora’s Kirsch sisters – possibly Carrie.
  • Standing male left behind chair – C. B. Lore – which places this photo before November 1909 when he died
  • Seated in chair in front of CB Lore in white dress, his wife – Nora Kirsch Lore
  • Male with bow tie standing beside CB Lore – probably Nora’s brother Edward Kirsch
  • Male standing beside him with no tie – probably Nora’s brother Martin Kirsch
  • Woman standing in rear row – Nora’s Kirsch sister, possibly Lula.
  • Standing right rear – Jacob Kirsch, Nora’s father – the man with the shotgun.
  • Front adult beside Nora – Nora’s Kirsch sister, possibly Ida.
  • Child beside Nora –Eloise born 1903
  • Adult woman, seated, with black skirt – Barbara Drechsel Kirsch, Nora’s mother
  • Young woman beside Barbara to her left with large white bow – probably Curtis Lore, C. B. and Nora’s daughter

What Did C.B. Lore Do, Exactly?

Let’s just say that I wish I had asked Aunt Eloise a lot more questions, and earlier, when her memory had not yet begun to fade.

We know that C.B. Lore worked the oil fields, which is how and why he came to Indiana.

He was listed in the 1900 census as a machinist.

The family said he had race horses in Kentucky too, and he went to check on them regularly.  According to Mildred’s granddaughter, C.B., called Curt by Nora, kept a sulky and horse at the Jones farm.  Mr. Jones had a livery stable and race horses.

C.B. also obtained contracts with the city of Rushville to do some sort of contracting or construction work. When he became ill, he apparently was bidding on something, with the hopes of being able to obtain the contract and do the work. Nora, being concerned about being left with a contract and obligations she could not fulfill, went to the “powers that be” quietly and explained that he was much more gravely ill than he wanted to admit, and asked them not to award the contract to C.B.

Another hint we have comes in the way of a death notice published in the Shelbyville Democrat November 27th, 1909 where he was referenced as a contractor..

Curtis Lore funeral

Thank goodness for small town obituaries.

CB Lore Obit 3

This obituary gives is the date they moved to Rushville, 1893, so it appears that Curtis who was born in 1891 was likely born elsewhere, perhaps Marion County where Edith was born.  Eloise had mentioned that they thought he contracted TB in Kentucky looking after his race horses, and this obituary confirms what she said.  Note that Curtis’ children from his first marriage are not mentioned, although we have no idea if Nora knew anything about that first marriage or his children.

Based on these obituaries, Curtis’s last year must have been pretty miserable.  I wonder how the family lived.

CB Lore obit 4

These obituaries confirm that indeed, Nora did think that Curtis’s father’s name was Benjamin, and that she did believe his birth year was 1861.  The past piece of evidence in that vein is this note found by Eloise in Nora’s Bible where Nora was doing some kind of calculations in 1890 and clearly thinks that Curt is 30 years old.

Nora Bible note

I must admit, this obituary is the first I had ever heard of a “sprinkling wagon,” so I had to research “sprinkling wagon.”  A sprinkling wagon sprinkled the streets of a city, likely to keep the dust down, I’m guessing.  In the picture below, you can see the water at the rear of the wagon.

sprinkling wagon

Rushville, Indiana

In the 1910 census, a year after C. B. Lore died, Nora and the girls were living at 324 W. First Street in Rushville which is, today, the state highway through town.

Nora sold fabric and such, after C. B.’s death, so this would have been a perfect location for her business, being the main drag through town.

Nora Wabash house

I don’t know if Nora lived in this location when C.B. Lore was alive, but I suspect that Nora would not have moved unless she was forced to.  Deed records don’t indicate that they ever owned property.

Trying to unravel the lives of Nora Kirsch and C.B. Lore, Mom and I visited Rushville in the late 1980s or 1990.

Mom and I found find the Graham School that the Lore girls would have attended, which was located a couple of blocks from their house, which was on Main Street according to the census.  The school was abandoned in the 1990s, but when the girls would have gone to school, it would have been a bustling place full of youthful voices.

Rushville school

I can see the Lore daughters walking up this sidewalk, perhaps holding hands and swinging them back and forth on a lovely, warm spring day.

Rushville school crop

This is the First Presbyterian Church in Rushville where Nora and C.B. were members.  This would also have been the church wee C.B.’s funeral took place on the Sunday afternoon after Thanksgiving in 1909, as well as daughter Curtis’s funeral in 1912.

First Presbuterian Rushville

This is embarrassing, but I can’t recall exactly what Mother and I discovered about the church. I obviously didn’t take adequate notes and deceived myself with “of course, I’ll remember this.”  Mom’s gone and I can’t ask her.  I can’t recall if they simply attended this church, if C.B. Lore helped to construct this church, or both.  Whatever the connection, Mom was very excited to find their church.  In Aurora they were Lutheran.  Here they were Presbyterian.  By the time their daughter Edith would move to Silver Lake, the family would become Methodist.  Mom would become Baptist.  Our German ancestors would be appalled.  I heard a minister once refer to the “church of opportunity” and this seems to be the case.  My family was flexible and bloomed in whatever accepting church was planted nearby!

Rushville church

I’m so glad I took some photos that included Mom. I cherish these trips we took together more than ever today.

Mom church Rushville

A final hint relative to C.B.’s social status is this excerpt from the Centennial History of Rush Co. (1921), and it gives us only one tidbit:

The Rushville Social Club, the leading organization of its sort in the city and recognized as one of the most substantial clubs in this section of Indiana, came into being at a meeting called for the evening of March 13, 1896 when a number of the leading men of Rushville got together to talk over the plan of organizing a club which would provide a home where friends could meet in a social manner and where the wives and families of members also might find entertainment. The project was favored and an organization at once effected.  Claude Cambern was elected first president of the Social Club and the other initial members were……Curt B. Lore.  (List of other individuals omitted.)

The Cemetery

Judging from the photos in Mother’s box, her visit with me was not the first time she visited Rushville. She apparently visited with her mother at least twice, once about 1940 and then again after Nora’s death in 1949.  She knew the location of the cemetery, but we had a difficult time finding the tombstones.

The photos below were taken by C.B. Lore’s headstone when Mom was probably 28 or 29.

Mom Rushville 1940s

The grave looks fairly new in this photo, and this is Nora’s burial, so I suspect that Mom’s visit was shortly after Nora’s September 1949 death, perhaps in the late fall of 1949 or the spring of 1950.

The Payne family crypt is located in front of the stones, so getting a good photo is difficult. However, it makes a great landmark when trying to find the stones.

Lore graves Rushville

Lore graves Rushville2

The 3 Lore family members in a row. Note no grass on Nora’s grave.

Rushville Payne memorial

The Lore headstones are to the left in the photo above taken in 1990.

Nora Kirsch Lore stone

When we visited in the 1990s, we found the three family stones together.  Given the short distance between the stones and the Payne building, I wondered how a coffin could fit there.  It wasn’t until I saw the photos from the 1940s that I realized they are buried behind the stones.

Nora stone with CB and Curtis

Curtis Lore stone

Daughter Curtis Lore, above and father Curtis Benjamin Lore, below.

CB Lore stone

C.B. Lore’s Spirit

It’s difficult to discern or understand from a distance why our ancestors might have done what they did, or their intentions. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, Curtis’s marriage with Mary may have unraveled and neither wanted to continue.  Maybe he stayed as long as he could or as long as either of them wanted.  Maybe Mary wanted out as much or more than he did.

The flip side of the coin would be that Curtis was a scoundrel, cheating on his wife, abandoning his family both physically and financially at the worst time possible – the month Mary had their 4th child which also marked their 10th anniversary.

I don’t know if either end of this spectrum is truth, or if the truth lies someplace in the middle.  Or perhaps C.B. made a mistake, or two, in judgment.  Who hasn’t.  Perhaps he learned from his mistakes.

My mother’s reaction to this was somehow very appropriate.  “There’s nothing to be done now.  It is what it is.  It was a long time ago.  We weren’t there and don’t know.  He wasn’t all bad.  Here, have some chocolate.”  What she didn’t say is that without him having made the choices he did, bad or good, neither she nor I would be here today.

One thing is for certain, C.B. Lore took the road less traveled and it brought him to Indiana where he married Nora Kirsch and had my grandmother.  None of his daughters through Nora had an unkind word to say about him.  He pretty much walked on water, as far as they were concerned.  A very different perception than the man I found in the records.  It took a lot to convince me that those two men were one and the same person, but they are.  I knew it and eventually, DNA proved it.

I do know that C.B.’s family life as a child was ripped apart with his father’s death, leaving the children to literally fend for themselves. Some died.  The family came to depend on the charity of others and by the age of 14, C.B. Lore was living on his own and working as a farm laborer.  From what Eloise said, he had been on his own since he was someplace between 10 and 12, which would place C.B.’s father’s death at between 1866-1868, within the bracket of 1862 when we know he was alive and 1868 when we know he was dead.  I could not help but notice that C.B. Lore did not name one of his 8 known children after his father.  Perhaps there is yet more to that story that shaped C.B. in ways we’ll never understand.  I ache for that poor boy child, all alone.

C.B. Lore made something of himself. Yes, he may have been a farm laborer when other boys his age were in school learning, a hard-scrabble oil field roughneck type of guy and perhaps a cad as far as his first family was concerned – but he worked his way up and took the opportunities that presented themselves.  He started with nothing and wound up a leader in his community.  He was an entrepreneur in his day, unafraid of what the future held.  The future couldn’t have been any more frightening than facing the world completely alone as a child.

C.B. was a bit of a gambler too, judging from his behavior and his love of race horses. Had he not contracted tuberculosis, that family could well have wound up being quite wealthy.  Judging from the fact that they had two servants in 1900, they seemed to be well on their way.  But fate is a mean mistress.  Curtis died when he was only 52 years old, or 48 years of age if you asked his wife.  He had a lot of life left to live – and he was deprived of seeing the daughters he loved so desperately grow up.  Karma perhaps?

It would have killed C.B. to know that the disease he had also took the life of his namesake daughter, Curtis, two years and three months after his death.  She contracted tuberculosis caring for her father.

I like to think that a bit of the good side of C.B. Lore’s irrepressible spirit came to me via my mother and grandmother. They too were status-quo-challenging rebels in their own way and time.

Edith Lore, C.B.’s daughter, my grandmother, left home, went to live at the Kirsch house and attended business school in Cincinnati. Finally, someone talked some sense into that girl and she settled down and got married, like women were supposed to do, a decision she was never at peace with and always regretted in many ways – not that she didn’t love my grandfather.  However, her business school training was the only thing that saved the family during the depression when my grandfather lost his business.  She had a job.  He didn’t and there were no jobs to be found.

Mother also did many things that women just didn’t do. For example, she moved to Chicago and was a professional ballet and tap dancer – coming out of an extremely conservative and religious region in Indiana with one Brethren parent.  She also committed the “sin of divorce” when she caught her husband cheating. Those were both outrageous scandals of magnanimous proportions.  Several years later, Mom bought a house as a single woman too – completely confounding the bank in 1960 with the audacity of her mortgage application and her refusal to obtain a co-signer.  She got the mortgage too, after a battle, and eventually paid it in full!

Much to my mother’s chagrin, I too followed suit in many ways. I mean, really, what else did she expect?  Being well-behaved for the sake of conformance does NOT run in our family.  It might be easier and more socially acceptable to be blindly compliant, but that just doesn’t happen.

In high school, when denied a seat in an advanced placement class, for those students on their way to college, because they “weren’t going to waste a seat on a girl who is just going to get married and have babies anyway,” I petitioned the school board, with absolutely no adult support – and yes, I did obtain that seat. I also graduated from college, with multiple degrees, in fields women didn’t enter at that time.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, believe me.  I don’t think you can ever stop being a rebel, when necessary.  It’s in the blood.  Dare I suggest the genes perhaps?  Maybe a combination of old Jacob Kirsch and C.B. Lore?

I like to think that all of this wasn’t just being “arnry,” difficult and unduly rebellious, but that C. B. Lore’s adventurous and resilient spirit was shining through, guiding our way, silently spurring us on to confront and change that what needed changing.  Perhaps we are his legacy.

Based on this photo of “well behaved women,” which are C.B. Lore’s wife and three surviving daughters, including my grandmother Edith, on the rear – Mother and I came by this honestly!

lore sisters motorcycle



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Concepts – How Your Autosomal DNA Identifies Your Ancestors

Welcome to the concepts articles. This series presents the concepts of genetic genealogy, not the details.  I have written a lot of detailed articles, and I’ve linked to them for those of you who want more.  My suggestion would be to read this article once, entirely, all the way through to understand the concepts with continuity of thought, then go back and reread and click through to other articles if you are interested.

All of autosomal genetic genealogy is based on these concepts of inheritance and matching, so if you don’t understand these, you won’t understand your matches, how they work, why, or how to interpret what they do or don’t tell you.

The Question 

Someone sent me this question about autosomal DNA matching.

“I do not quite understand how the profiles can be identified to an ancestor since that person is not among us to provide DNA material for “testing” and “comparison.”

That’s a really good question, so let’s take a shot at answering this question conceptually.

Do you have a cat or dog?

Chica Pixie Quilt

I bet I could tell if I could see your clothes, your house, your car or your quilt. Why or how?  Because pets shed, and try as you might, it’s almost impossible to get rid of the evidence.  I went to the dentist once and he looked at my sweatshirt and said, “German Shepherd?” I laughed.

When your ancestor had children, he or she shed their DNA, half of it, and it’s still being passed down to their descendants today, at least for the next several generations. Let’s look, conceptually, at how and why this works.

In the following diagram, on the left you can see the generations and the relationships of the people both to the ancestor and to each other.

Our ancestor, John Doe, married a wife, J, and had 2 children. Gender of the children, in this example, does not matter.

Everyone receives one strand of DNA from their mother and one from their father. If you’re interested in more detail about how this works, click here.

In our example below, I’ve divided this portion of John’s DNA into 10 buckets. Think of each of these buckets as having maybe 100 units of John’s DNA.  You can think of pebbles in the bucket if you’d like.  Our DNA is passed, often, in buckets where the group of pebbles sticks together, at least for a while.  Since this is conceptual, our buckets are being passed intact from generation to generation.

John’s mother’s strand of DNA has her buckets labeled MATERNALAB and I’ve colored them pink to make them easy to identify. John’s father’s strand of DNA has his buckets labeled FATHERSIDE and is blue.  Important note – buckets don’t come colored coded pink or blue in nature – you have no idea which side your DNA comes from.  Yes, I know, that’s a cruel joke of Nature.

John married J, call her Jean. Jean also has 2 strands of DNA, one from her mother and one from her father, but in order to simplify things, rather than have two colors for the wives, I’d rather you think of this generationally, so the wives in each generation only have one color. That way you can see the wives’ DNA mixing with the husbands by just looking at the colors. Jean’s color is lavender.

DNA “Shedding” to Descendants

So, now let’s look at how John “sheds” his DNA to his two children and their descendants – and why that matters to us several generations later.

Concept ancestor inheritance

Please note that you can click on any of the graphics to make them larger.

In the examples above, the DNA that is descended in each generational line from John is bolded within the colored square. I also intentionally put it at the beginning and ends of the segments for each child so it’s easy to see.

In the first generation, John’s children each receive one strand of DNA from their mother, J, and one from John. John’s DNA that his children receive is mixed between John’s father’s DNA and John’s mother’s DNA – roughly 50-50 – but not exactly.

At every position, or bucket, during recombination, John’s child will receive either the value in John’s Mom’s bucket or the value at that location in John’s Dad’s bucket.  In other words, the two strands of John’s parent’s DNA, in John, combine to make one strand to give to one of John’s children.  Each time this happens, for each child conceived, the recombination happens differently.

Concept Ancestor inheritance John

In this case, John’s children will receive either the M or the F in bucket one.  In buckets 2 and 3, the values are the same.  This happens in DNA.  The child’s bucket 4 will receive either an E or H.  Bucket 5 an R or E.  Bucket 6 an N or R.  And so forth.  This is how recombination works, and it’s called “random recombination” meaning that we have not been able to discern why or how the values for each location are chosen.

Is recombination really random, like a coin flip?  No, it’s not.  How do we know?  Because clumps of neighboring DNA stick often together, in buckets – in fact we call them “sticky segments.”  Groups of buckets stick together too, sometimes for many generations.  So it’s not entirely random, but we don’t know why.

What we do know for absolutely positively sure is that every person get’s exactly half of their parents’ DNA on chromosomes 1-22.  We are not talking about the X chromosome (meaning chromosome 23) or mitochondrial DNA or Y DNA.  Different topics entirely relative to inheritance.

You can see which buckets received which of John’s parents’ DNA based on the pink and blue color coding and the letters in the buckets.  Jean’s contribution to Child 1 and Child 2 would be mixed between her parents’ DNA too.

Concept Ancestor inheritance child

In the first generation, Child 1 received 6 pink buckets (segments) from John’s mother and 4 blue buckets from John’s father – MATHERSLAB.  Child 2 received 6 blue buckets from John’s father and 4 pink buckets from John’s mother – FATHERALAB.  On the average, each child received half of their grandparents’ DNA, but in reality, neither child received exactly half.

Note that Child 1 and 2 did not necessarily receive the SAME buckets, or segments, from John’s parents, although Child 1 and 2 did receive some buckets with the same letters in them – ATHERLAB.

If you’re thinking, “lies, damned lies and statistics” right about now, and chuckling, or maybe crying, join the club!

Looking at the next generation, John’s Child 1 married K and John’s Child 2 married O.

Child 1

Let’s follow John’s pink and blue DNA in Child 1’s descendants.  Child 1 marries K and had one child.

Concept Ancestor inheritance grandchild child 1 c

John’s grandchild by Child 1 has one strand of DNA from Child 1’s spouse K and one strand from Child 1 which reads MATJJJJLAB. You can see this by K’s entire strand and the grandchild’s other strand, contributed by Child 1, being a mixture of John’s DNA along with his wife J’s DNA.  In this case, for these buckets, John’s mother’s pink DNA is only being passed on.  John’s father’s buckets 4-7 were “washed out” in this generation and the grandchild received grandmother J’s DNA instead.

Concept Ancestor inheritance gen 4 c

In the next generation, 3, John’s grandchild married P and had generation 4, the great-grandchild. Generation 4 of course carries a strand from wife P, but the Doe strand now carries less of John’s original DNA – just MA and LAB at the beginning and end of the grouping.

Concept Ancestor inheritance gen 5 c

In the next generation, 5, the great-great-grandchild, you can see that now John Doe’s inherited DNA is reduced to only the AB at the right end.

Concept Ancestor inheritance gen 6

In the next generation, 6, the great-great-great-grandchild carries only the A, and in the final generation, below, the great-great-great-great-grandchild, none of John Doe’s DNA is carried by that descendant in those particular buckets.

Concept Ancestor inheritance gen 7 c1

Can there be exceptions? Yes.  Buckets are sometimes split and the X chromosome functions differently in male and female inheritance.  But this example is conceptual, remember.

You always receive exactly half of your parents’ DNA, but after that, how much you receive of an ancestor’s DNA isn’t 50% in each generation. You saw that in our examples where both Child 1 and Child 2 inherited a little more or a little less than 50% of each of John’s parents’ DNA.

Sometimes groups of DNA buckets are passed together and sometimes, the entire bucket or group of buckets are replaced by DNA from “the next generation.”

To summarize for Child 1, from John Doe to generation 7, each generation inherited the following buckets from John, with the final generation, 7, having none of John’s DNA at all – at least not in these buckets.

concept child 1

Now, let’s see how the DNA of Child 2 stacks up.

Child 2

You can follow the same sequence with Child 2. In the first generation, Child 2 has one strand of John’s DNA and one of their mother’s, J.

Child 2 marries O, Olive, and their child has one strand from O, and one from Child 2.

Concept Ancestor inheritance gen 3 c 2

Child 2’s contributed strand is comprised of DNA from John Doe and mother J.  You can see that the grandchild has FA and ALAB from John, but the rest is from mother J.

Concept Ancestor inheritance gen 4 c 2

The grandchild (above) married Q and their child generation 4, inherits most of John’s DNA, but did drop the A .

Concept Ancestor inheritance gen 5 c 2

Sometimes the DNA between generations is passed on without recombining or dividing.  That’s what happened in generation 5, above, and 6 below, with John’s DNA.

Concept Ancestor inheritance gen 6 c 2

Generations, 5 (great-great-grandchild) and 6 (great-great-great-grandchild) both receive John’s F and AB, above.

Concept Ancestor inheritance gen 7 c 2

However, in the 7th generation, the great-great-great-great-grandchild only inherits John’s bucket with B.  The F and A were both lost in this generation.

concept child 2

This summary of the inheritance of John’s DNA in Child 2’s descendants shows that in the 7th generation, that individual carries only one of John’s DNA buckets, the rest having been replaced by the DNA of other ancestors during the inheritance recombination process in each generation.

Half the Equation

To answer the question of how we can identify the profile of a person long dead is not answered by this inheritance diagram, at least not directly – because we don’t KNOW how much of John’s DNA we inherited, or which parts.  In fact, that’s what we’re trying to figure out – but first, we had to understand how we inherited DNA from John (or not).

Matching with known family members is what actually identifies John’s DNA and tells us which parts of our DNA, if any, come from John.

Generational Matching

Let’s say I’m in the first cousin generation and I’m comparing my autosomal DNA against my first cousin from this line.  First cousins share common grandparents.

Assuming that they are genetically my first cousin (meaning no adoptions or misattributed parentage,) they are close enough that we can both be expected to carry some of our common ancestor’s DNA. I wrote an in-depth article about first cousin matching here, but for our purposes, we know genetically that first cousins are going to match each other virtually 100% of the time.

Here’s a nice table from the Family Tree DNA Learning Center that tells us what to expect in terms of matching at different relationship levels.

concept generational match

The reason our autosomal DNA matches with our reasonably close relatives is because we share a common ancestor and have inherited at least a bucket, if not more than one bucket, of the same DNA from that ancestor.

That’s the ONLY WAY our DNA could match at the bucket level, given what we know about inheritance. The only way to get our DNA is through our parents who got their DNA through their parents and ancestors.  Now, could we share more than one common ancestral line?  Yes – but that’s beyond conceptual, for now.  And yes, there is identical by chance (IBC), which doesn’t apply to close relatives and in general, nor to larger buckets. If you want to read more about this complex subject, which is far beyond conceptual, click here.

Now, let’s see how we identify our ancestor’s DNA!

Concept ancestor matching

Let’s look at people of the same generation of descendants and see how they match each other.  In other words, now we’re going to read left to right across rows, to compare the descendants of child 1 and 2.  Previously, we were reading up and down columns where we tracked how DNA was inherited.

Bolded letters in buckets indicate buckets inherited from John, just like before, but buckets with black borders indicate buckets shared with a cousin from John’s other child.  In other words, a black border means the DNA of those two people match at that location.  Let’s look at the grandchildren of John compared to each other.  John’s grandchildren are first cousins to each other.

Concept ancestor matching 1c

Our first cousins match on 4 different buckets of John’s DNA: A, L, A and B.  In this case, you can see that both individuals inherited some DNA from John that they don’t share with each other, such as their first letters, M for Child 1 and F for child 2.  Because they inherited different pieces from John, because he inherited those pieces from different ancestors, the first cousins don’t match each other on that particular bucket because the letters in their individual buckets are different.

Yes, the first cousins also match on wife J’s DNA, but we’re just talking about John’s DNA here.  Now, let’s look at the next generation.

Concept ancestor matching 2c

Our second cousins, above, match on four buckets of John’s DNA.  Yes, the A bucket was inherited from John’s Mom in one case, and John’s Dad in the other case, but because the letter in the bucket is the same, when matching, we can’t tell them apart.  We only “know” which side they came from, in this case, because I told you and colored the buckets pink and blue to illustrate inheritance.  All the actual software matching comparison has to go by is the letter in the bucket.  Software doesn’t have the luxury of “knowing” because in nature there is no pink and blue color coding.

concept ancestor matching 3c

Our third cousins, above, match, but share only A and B, half as much of John’s DNA as the second cousins shared with each other.

Concept ancestor matching 4c

Our 4th cousins, above, are lucky and do match, although they share only one bucket, A, of John’s DNA, which happens to have come from John’s mother.

Concept ancestor matching 5c

By the time you get down to the 5th cousins, meaning the 7th generation, the cousins’ luck has run out, because these two 5th cousins don’t match on any of John’s DNA.

Most 5th cousins don’t match and few 6th cousins match, at least not at the default thresholds used by the testing companies – but some do.  Remember, we’re dealing with matching predictions based on averages, and actual individual DNA inheritance varies quite a bit.  Lies, damned lies and statistics again!

You can adjust your own thresholds at GedMatch, in essence making the buckets smaller, so increasing the odds that the contents of the buckets will match each other, but also increasing the chances that the matches will be by chance.  Again, beyond conceptual.

concept buckets inherited

While this is how matching worked for these comparisons of descendants, it will work differently for every pair of people who are compared against each other, because they will have, or not have, inherited different (or the same) buckets of DNA from their common ancestor.  That’s a long way of saying, “your mileage will vary.”  These are concepts and guidelines, not gospel.

Now, let’s put these guidelines to work.

Matching People at Testing Companies

Ok, so now let’s say that I match Sarah Doe. I don’t know Sarah, but we are predicted to be in the 2nd or 3rd cousin range, based on the amount of our DNA that we share.

As we know, based on our inheritance example, amounts of shared DNA can vary, but we may well be able to discern a common ancestor by looking at our pedigree charts.

Sure enough, given her surname as a hint, we determined that John Doe is our common ancestor.

That’s great evidence that this DNA was passed from John to both of us, but to prove it takes a third person matching us on the same segment, also with proven descent from John Doe. Why?  Because Sarah and I might also have a second common genealogical line, maybe even one we don’t know about, that’s isn’t on our pedigree chart. And yes, that happens far more than you’d think. To prove that Sarah Doe and my shared DNA is actually from John Doe or his wife, we need a third confirmed pedigree and DNA match on that same bucket.

A Circle is Not a Bucket

If you just said to yourself, “but Ancestry doesn’t show me buckets,” you’re right – and a Circle is not a bucketA Circle means you match someone’s DNA and have a common tree ancestor.  It doesn’t mean that you or any Circle members match each other on the same buckets. A bucket, or segment information, tells you if you match on common buckets, which buckets, and exactly where.  You could match all those people in a Circle on different buckets, from completely different ancestors, and there is no way to know without bucket information.  If you want to read more about the effects of lack of tools at Ancestry, click here and here.


Matching multiple people on the same buckets who descend from the same ancestor through different children is proof – and it’s the only proof except for very close relatives, like siblings, grandparents, first cousins, etc.  Circles are hints, good hints, but far, far from proof.  For buckets, you’ll need to transfer your Ancestry results to Family Tree DNA or to GedMatch, or preferably, both.

I’m most comfortable if at least two of the individuals of a minimum of three who match on the same buckets and share an ancestor, which is called a triangulation group, descend from at least two different children of John.  In other words, the first common ancestor of the matches is John and his wife, not their children.

Cross generational matches 2

The reason I like the different children aspect is because it removes the possibility that people are really matching on the downstream wives DNA, and not John’s.  In other words, if you have two people who match on the same buckets, A and B above, who both descend from John’s Child 1 who married K, they also will share K’s DNA in addition to John’s.  So their match to each other on a given bucket might be though K’s side and not through John’s line at all.

Let’s say A and B have a match to unknown person D who is adopted and doesn’t know their pedigree chart.  We can’t make the presumption that D’s match to A and B is through John Doe and Jean, because it might be through K.

However, a match on the same buckets to a third person, C, who descends through John’s other child, Child 2, assuming that Child 2 did not also marry into K’s (or any other common) line, assures that the shared DNA of A and B (and C) in that bucket is through John or his wife – and therefore D’s match to A, B and C on that bucket is also through the same common ancestor.

If you want to read more about triangulation, click here.

In Summary

The beauty of autosomal DNA is that we carry some readily measurable portion of each of our ancestors, at least the ones in the past several generations, in us. The way we identify that DNA and assign it to that ancestor is through matching to other people on the same segments (buckets) that also descend from the same ancestor or ancestral line, preferably through different children.  In many cases, after time, you’ll have a lot more than 3 people descended from that ancestral line matching on that same bucket.  Your triangulation group will grow to many – all connected by the umbilical lifethread of your common ancestors’ DNA.

As you can see, the concepts, taken one step at a time are pretty simple, but the layers of things that you need to think about can get complex quickly.

I’ll tell you though, this is the most interesting puzzle you’ll ever work on!  It’s just that there’s no picture on the box lid.  Instead, it’s incredible real-life journey to the frontiers inside of you to discover your ancestors and their history:)  Your ancestors are waiting for you, although my ancestors have a perverse sense of humor and we play hide and seek from time to time!



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Demystifying Ancestry’s Relationship Predictions Inspires New Relationship Estimator Tool

Today, I’m extremely pleased to bring you a wonderful guest article written by Karin Corbeil as spokesperson for a very fine group of researchers at

I love it when citizen science really works, pushes the envelope, makes discoveries and then the scientists develop new tools!  This is a win-win for everyone in the genetic genealogy community – not just adoptees!  I want to say a very big thank you to this wonderful team for their fine work.

Take it away Karin….

As genetic genealogists we are always looking for a better “mousetrap”.  Tools and analyses that can better help us understand what we are actually looking at with our DNA results.  For adoptees and those with unknown ancestors it can be even more important.

When Ancestry came out with their “New Amount of Shared DNA” an explanation was necessary to understand what we were seeing.

We at DNAAdoption are asked to explain over and over again why your half-sibling was predicted as a 1st cousin, or that predicted Close Family – 1st cousin could actually be a half-nephew, or a predicted 3rd cousin could be a 4th cousin.  Ancestry doesn’t provide the detailed information needed to support their predicted relationship categories so providing the explanations was often a struggle.

We knew that you cannot draw or correlate any relationship inferences from either the total amount of shared DNA or the number of segments from the typical tools utilized by genetic genealogists because Ancestry’s totals will be lower and their segments will be broken into more pieces due to the removal of segments identified by the Timber algorithm as invalid matches.[1]

So in order to get a better reference to how predictions are set by Ancestry, we at DNAAdoption gathered data from 1,122 matches of different testers who had confirmed these matches as specific relationships. A collaborative effort was led by Richard Weiss of the DNAAdoption team.  Richard worked his magic with the data and the results are presented here.

A clip of the Pivot table from the data input:

Ancestry relationship table

The full data spreadsheet can be downloaded here:

Ancestry Predictions vs. Actual Relationships

Ancestry Predictions vs actual relationships

The most interesting thing about some of the prediction vs the actual relationships was seeing how more distant relationships can vary so greatly. Look at the 4th cousin prediction, for example. This varies from a half 1st cousin once removed to an 8th cousin once removed. (Obviously, this confirmed 8th cousin once removed probably has a persistent or intact segment that, due to the randomness of DNA down the generations, persisted for many generations). This makes it extremely difficult to assess any predicted relationship at the 4th cousin level. Even 1st, 2nd and 3rd cousin predictions had wide variances.

The only conclusion we can draw from this is to use Ancestry predictions with extreme caution.

With this data we were then able to take the numbers and add to our DNA Prediction Chart that we use in our DNA classes at DNAAdoption.

DNA Prediction Chart

DNA Prediction Chart 2

The full Excel spreadsheet can be downloaded here.

We then incorporated this data into our Relationship Estimator Tool created by Jon Masterson.

Jon explains, “This small program is intended to make the DNA Prediction Chart Spreadsheet a bit easier to use. It is based entirely on the data in this spreadsheet plus some interpolation of missing values. The algorithm to determine the most likely relationship(s) is very simple and based on summing the score of valid entries in the table for a given input. It is very much an experiment and test. It is likely to be less accurate with close relationships where there is missing data in the spreadsheet. You can also save the match information that you generate.”

First, download the zip file here.

Extract the files from the zip file and run the RelationshipEstimator.exe

relationship estimator

The following results are for the same person who has been confirmed as a 3rd cousin. The first set of data is from Gedmatch, the second set is from Ancestry. With this match the actual total cMs over 5 cMs are 122.9 with 5 segments; the same person shows Ancestry Shared DNA of 112 cMs with 7 segments.

For 23andMe/FTDNA/Gedmatch add the individual segment lengths in the first box using a slash “/” between each number.

At the “Source” box select 23andMe/FTDNA/Gedmatch, then click the “Process” button. Several possible estimated relationships will show.

Relationship estimator 2

For Ancestry, enter the total cMs, the # of segments.  At the “Source” box select “Ancestry”, then “Process”.

Relationship estimator 3

More information about this tool can be found here.

By seeing the larger variances with the Ancestry data (6 estimated relationships vs 3 for the actual Gedmatch data) we can only encourage those on Ancestry to upload your raw data file to Gedmatch. Of course, we still hope that one day Ancestry will release the full segment data in a chromosome browser.

We at DNAAdoption continue to try and provide analyses and tools, many times in cooperation with DNAGedcom, to give those searching for their roots better information. But we are “not for adoptees only” and provide this information for the genetic genealogy community as a whole.  We plan to add more data to these analyses in the near future.  We hope you will find it useful.

Your questions and comments are welcome.

Karin Corbeil (

Diane Harman-Hoog (

Richard Weiss (

Jon Masterson ( 

[1] Roberta Estes, paraphrased from



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Barbara Mehlheimer (1823-1906), Floods, Flames and Celebrations, 52 Ancestors #112

As I work with the information I have for each of my ancestors when I write these articles, something profound, remarkable or defining seems to emerge for each person. Something that is representative of their life.  I don’t “name the article” until the end, often, because until I’ve really assembled the entire story, mulled it over and worked with it, I don’t really know that ancestor very well – regardless of how well I thought I knew them when I began.

Barbara was no exception in that vein, but she was an exception in another way.  Her life was not defined by sorrow and death as many women’s lives were, continually burying children and family members.  Barbara’s life was defined differently, by floods and flames and celebrations.  I know those things don’t seem to go together, but they do.  Let’s meet Barbara and hear her incredible story.  From an impossibly difficult beginning, she had an amazingly rich life.

Goppmannsbuhl, Germany – A Crossroads

Goppmannsbuhl is, quite literally, a wide place in the road. Using Google Earth, it looks to be about 1000 feet across, and was probably smaller when Barbara Mehlheimer was born there in 1823.  There are two Goppmannsbuhl’s, one designated “a bach,” for a brook, and one as “a berg,” for a mountain.  Barbara’s emigration papers specified Goppmannsbuhl am berg, shown below, which literally butts up against Goppmannsuhl a bach, but on the north side of the brook.

Goppmannsbuhl 1

Goppmannsbuhl am berg, above, where Barbara lived.  The two villages literally divide at the brook.  I’m sure there is an old story about why buried there someplace.

Goppmannsbuhl 2

Goppmannsbuhl am bach, above, south of where Barbara lived.

Goppmannsbuhl 3

A satellite view of this combined area today.

This area of Goppmannsbuhl am berg is less than a quarter mile from end to end. Barbara lived in one of these houses, north and east of the stream called the Tauritzbach.


I wish there was a way to identify which house Barbara lived in, and with whom.


Speichersdorf to Wirbenz

Wirbenz and Goppmannsbuhl are both small villages located near Speichersdorf.  Barbara was born and lived in Goppmannsbuhl, but was baptized in Speichersdorf, probably the closest church to where she was born.  Goppmannsbuhl was then and is still too small to have a church. Wirbenz has a Protestant but no Catholic church.  It’s only a couple miles from Goppmannsbuhl to either Speichersdorf or Wirbenz.  The church in Wirbenz is where Barbara had both of her daughter’s baptized.  Wirbenz is also where other Mehlheimers were found in church records.

Records for both Speichersdorf and Wirbenz reach back into antiquity, and the three villages, today combined into the municipality of Speichersdorf, are tied together historically.

Speichersdorf was first found mentioned in a protective letter of Pope Celestine Ii on May 15, 1195. In 1802/1803, Speichersdorf and area fell to Bayern. These three municipalities were then incorporated into the Upper Palatinate while the western portion of Speichersdorf fell under Upper Franconia.

There is a Carolingian cemetery at Wirbenz. The presence of this cemetery gives us an important clue as to the history of Wirbenz and this general area.

The Carolingian dynasty (known variously as the Carlovingians or Karlings) was a Frankish noble family. The name “Carolingian,” an altered form of an unattested Old High German meaning “descendant of Charles.” The family consolidated its power in the late 7th century, eventually making the offices of mayor of the palace and dux et princeps Francorum hereditary and becoming the de facto rulers of the Franks as the real powers behind the throne. By 751, the Merovingian dynasty which until then had ruled the Franks by right was deprived of this right with the consent of the Papacy and the aristocracy and a Carolingian, Pepin the Short, was crowned King of the Franks.

The greatest Carolingian monarch was Charlemagne, also one of my ancestors through a different line, who was crowned Emperor by Pope Leo III at Rome in 800. His empire, ostensibly a continuation of the Roman Empire, is referred to historically as the Carolingian Empire, incorporating all of this part of Germany as shown on the map below depicting the Empire from 800-924.

Carolingian empire

The Carolingians were displaced in most of the Empire in 888. They ruled on in East Francia until 911 and they held the throne of West Francia intermittently until 987. So a Carolingian cemetery in Wirbenz would predate the year 1000.

If Barbara’s ancestors lived in this area during the 800s and 900s, they would have been part of Charlemagne’s empire. There may be family members buried in that ancient cemetery.

Unfortunately, we can’t reach further back in time beyond Barbara’s mother who was born sometime around 1800.

Barbara’s Birth

Barbara Mehlheimer was born in Goppmannsbuhl on December 12, 1823 and christened the same day in Speichersdorf, probably the closest church to where she was born, just a couple of miles away. The same day christening suggests that perhaps there were complications and her life may have been feared for.  Catholic children were often baptized shortly after birth, but protestants, not so much, based on a differing belief about what happened to the souls of children who die.

We know very little about Barbara’s mother and even less, as in nothing, about Barbara’s father.

Barbara was born to Elisabetha Mehlheimer who was not married and the baptismal record did not list Barbara’s father’s name. Perhaps the church clerk or minister didn’t note the father’s name.  Regardless, to put this succinctly, we don’t know who Barbara’s father is.  Because females don’t have a Y chromosome from their father to DNA test, it’s unlikely we will ever know the identity of Barbara’s father unless some additional church records turn up someplace, which is always possible.

The Reverend Greininger retrieved the records I have back in the 1980s, and I don’t know whether he meticulously went through all the records hunting for additional children of Elisabetha Mehlheimer or not. It would certainly be very interesting to reconstruct this family from the available church records.

In the christening record for Barbara’s second child born in 1851, Barbara’s mother, Elisabetha Mehlheimerin is listed as “the former day laborer in Goppmannsbuhl,” which indicates she is deceased. The fact that she is also listed as Mehlheimerin, the final “in” typically designating an unmarried woman, indicates Elisabetha never married and she bestowed upon her daughter her maiden name.  At least, that’s what is typically found.  Every region and church clerk has their own customs and quirks and the relevance of a particular record can really only be judged in relationship to other records from the same place and time.

By the time Barbara is an adult and having children herself, she is listed as a servant, which is a notch up the social scale from a day laborer.

On the social ladder, the day laborer is on the bottom rung and often led a brutally difficult life.

From FamilySearch, we learn the following:

The social hierarchy of a village was determined by the size of farmland and personal property. People with little or no property found themselves at the bottom on the social ranking. These were the sons and daughters of farmers who were not entitled to inherit the farm. The number of people in such predicament grew steadily after the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). They had to work as day laborers or seasonal workers and had to be very creative to make ends meet.

Priests during that timeframe wrote of the deplorable conditions in which day laborers lived. Often, they slept on hay in the corner or loft of a peasant’s home.  They have few or no belongings, and lived at only a subsistence level.  If they did live in a separate “house,” it was often a poorly made shack on the periphery of the village.  Their children left home as quickly as possible to work for themselves or to marry.

There was an entire underclass of day laborers, a significant social notch below peasants who tended to live on and work the same homestead generation after generation. Sometimes day laborers were younger children who stood to inherit nothing. Day laborers often moved from place to place, so can be especially difficult to track genealogically.

They were right about this. Other than Barbara’s birth to Elisabetha, we have no record of Elisabetha at all except that she was dead by 1851, but there is no death record in the local church.  We know Elisabetha was probably born about 1800, or maybe somewhat earlier to be having Barbara in 1823.  Certainly Elisabeth was born sometime between 1778 (would have been 45 in 1823) and 1805 ( would have been 18 in 1823) to be of childbearing age in 1823.

The fact that Elisabetha stayed in one area suggests that perhaps there was family or a tie of some sort in the area. In other words, she wasn’t effectively a gypsy.  But if she had family, then why was she a day laborer?

Rev. Greininger found the following four records in the death register in Wirbenz:

  • Page 50, house 28:
    1851, death of Barbara Melhleimer wife of the master weaver Johann Mehlheimer, died April 6 of a disease of the lower abdomen. 65 years 6 months.

This means that she was born in October 1785.

  • Page 128, house 28:
    1868, Johann Mehlheimer, master weaver and pensioner, widower, died March 29. 75 years 10 months old.

This means he was born May 1792.

  • Page 114, house 29:
    1865, Anna Elisabetha Mehlheimerin, wife of a weaver, died of stomach hardening on Sept. 4. 68 years 3 months old.

This means she was born December 1796.

  • Page 134, house 29:
    1868, Marie Henriette Mehlheimer, second child of the weaver and farmer Lorenz Mehlheimer died Nov 26th of diphtheria.  2 years 6 months old.

This means she was born in May 1866.

Note that the first two are in the same house, as are the last two, and the houses are adjacent.

This looks to be at least three generations of this family, so they are clearly established in the region. Elisabetha could be the sister of Johann Mehlheimer born in 1785.

It’s also interesting that the wives in these church records are noted by their husband’s names, not their maiden names as is typically found in German church records.

Elisabetha may have been a day laborer, but she was a day laborer her entire life in this one area, which strongly suggests family. This almost makes me wonder if this person wasn’t in some way impaired and was a “day laborer” but in a protected family environment.

I wish the good Reverend had copied the records and sent them to me, but alas, I’m not at all sure that the churches he was visiting at that time would have had copy machines. He was lucky to even be allowed to look at the records.

In the church records in Aurora, Indiana, Barbara is also recorded in one place as her name being Maria, so perhaps she is actually Maria Barbara.

Now that we know when and where Barbara got her start in life, let’s look at the rest of her life as a timeline.

Why A Timeline?

Sometimes a timeline allows us to see things differently, with continuity, as they happened. When I create timelines, I include events that were going on around the person that also affected their lives.  I think it helps to understand what their life was actually like to see events together.  It’s different to say a child was born in a particular year, and to see that the child was born between the deaths of someone’s parents and sibling.  Gives their life, and that event, an entirely different perspective.

Women’s lives, especially, were often heavily defined by their family, meaning their siblings, their parents, of course, their husband and the choices he made, and their children. Family generally consisted of many children, one being born about every 18 months to two years during childbearing years.  This means that one likely had a lot of siblings, scads of nieces and nephews and hopefully, lots of children and then grandchildren as well.  Often the eldest daughter was marrying and producing grandchildren while the mother still had very small children at home, or was still having children herself.  In other words, there was no generational break, one flowed into and overlapped the next, and the women simply took care of and fed whoever was around at the time, be it their own children, their siblings children, their grandchildren or great-grandchildren.  Same thing happened when parents died.  The children were just “absorbed” by other family members, typically those who were godparents at the children’s baptisms, and without skipping a beat, life just went on.

Pride was taken in the number of children and grandchildren one had and it was often mentioned in church records and obituaries. Frustratingly, for us, in Barbara’s case the number was mentioned, but the names were not so we have a “count” to attempt to reach, but few hints.

All of these different events aren’t separate stories, but an interwoven tapestry of Barbara’s life.

So, let’s take a look at Barbara’s life in timeline fashion, telling Barbara’s story as we go. Buckle up, we’re starting in Germany and this ride is full of rather unexpected twists and turns and rolling seas!

Humble German Beginnings

1823, December 12 – Barbara is born to Elisabetha Mehlheimer in Goppmannsbuhl and was christened the same day in Speichersdorf in the protestant church. No father is listed in the church records.

Speichersdorf distance

Photo by Stefan Steininger

The Speichersdorf church steeple is visible and we are looking in the general direction of Goppmannsbuhl.

1848, October 8 – Barbara Mehlheimer, now almost 25 years old, gives birth to daughter Barbara Mehlheimer (but who would always be known as Barbara Drechsel) in Goppmannsbuhl. The father is George Drechsel, but Barbara and George are not married.

1851, May 13 – Barbara Mehlheimer gives birth to daughter Margaretha Mehlheimer (but who would always be known as Margaretha Drechsel) in Goppmannsbuhl. The father is again George Drechsel, and the parents are still not married.

wirbenz church distance

1851, June 17 – Both of Barbara’s daughters were christened in the protestant church Wirbenz (above) on the same day. Godparents were Barbara Krauss of Windeschenlaiback and Margaretha Kunnath of Berneck.  These woman must surely be relatives, but further searching for both of these individuals came up empty-handed.  Godparents were the people responsible for the religious upbringing of the children and who would raise them in the event that the parents died.  We also don’t know if the surnames of these women are maiden or married names.


Windischenlaibach is just slightly south of Speichersdorf, but the only Berneck I could find is Bad Berneck, and I’m not at all convinced this is the correct location, but it is feasible.

The 1851 records are the ones that tell us that Barbara’s mother is deceased. Typically, if a female has a child without being married, she is still living with her parents.  But we don’t know who Barbara’s father was, and her mother was dead, and for all we know, could have been dead for a long time.  Was Barbara simply living with the family to whom she was a servant?

Permission to Leave

1852, April 18 – Barbara was granted permission, along with her two illegitimate daughters and George Drechsel to leave Germany and emigrate.

The State archives in Amberg, Germany, said in a record for the administration of the upper Palatinate they find that “Barbara Mehlheimer of Goppmansbuhl am Berg received permission to emigrate with her two illegitimate children, as well as Georg Drechsel from Speichersdorf, on April 18, 1852.  We were not able to find any record for Georg Hering or Drechsel regarding paternity, but the two records for the two daughters, Barbara and Margaretha are still available.”

This event is actually much more important than it would seem at first glance.

George Drechsel and Barbara Mehlheimer were married immediately upon arrival in the US.  According to the Reverend who found these records for me in the church in Germany, they probably had to immigrate to be allowed to marry.  He commented on how brave this young couple must have been.  In Germany, a young man had to prove he could support his family before he was allowed to marry.  Immigrating to America at that time was the social equivalent of eloping and was very unacceptable.  George would have had to work long and hard to save enough for both his and Barbara’s passage, and those of their two children.  This was likely their only opportunity for marriage, and they seized it.  Marriage is a right we take for granted today, but one Barbara and George risked their lives and fortunes to obtain.

The fact that they were unmarried when their first two children were born was not a matter of choice, and was not at all what they wanted, but a state forced upon them by the social class into which they were born combined with societal rules. Barbara and George were willing to stand up to society and tradition and do what they needed to do to remedy that situation.  They were brave young social rebels.  I had no idea of the hidden message in these records and am forever grateful to Reverend Greininger for revealing the truth.

Reading what the Reverend wrote about this couple changed my entire perspective of them, their lives and their choices. In this case, illegitimacy was not a sign of irresponsibility or carelessness, but was a situation forced upon Barbara, George and their children by the culture and laws of the time and place where they lived.  Instead of meekly accepting their fate, apparently the same fate as their own parents, they gathered their resolve and changed their future and that of their children and descendants, forever.

Barbara was one extremely courageous young woman, to set out for a new world with no known family and two small infants with a man not her husband – crossing an ocean known for storms and death in order to reach the new shores of life. She didn’t have to leave.  She made that choice.  I can’t even imagine.  How I would love to sit and chat with Barbara.


1852, July 20 or 24 – Barbara, George and their two young daughters arrive in Baltimore from Bremen upon the ship, “The Harvest.”

Drechsel passenger list 2

Baby Margaret was listed separately from her parents as an infant .01 months (years?) old. George’s emigration papers say they left from Bremen, his age was 28 when they arrived and 29 when he applied for citizenship, and they arrived in Baltimore July 24, 1852.

This “View of Baltimore” by William Henry Bartlett is probably similar to the sight that greeted Barbara and George upon their arrival.  It must have been a great relief to arrive and a bit overwhelming at the same time.

View of Baltimore

1853, January 7 – George Drechsel applies for citizenship in Dearborn County, Indiana which covers the naturalization of Barbara and his children as well.

Drechsel naturalization

Dearborn County is a long way from Baltimore.  Surely there must be a reason for selecting this area, but I have yet to discover what that reason might have been.  It’s not near the coast or a port city.  Normally, people join family already settled.  If Barbara and George did that, we don’t know who those relatives were.

Despite looking, I have never found any indication, with one exception, of anyone they might be related to in this region. That exception is when their daughter, Caroline (Lena) is living as a maid to a Heinke widower in Cincinnati in the 1880 census and is listed as his cousin.

Putting Down Roots In Aurora, Indiana

1853, January 10 – Barbara and George are married in Dearborn County, Indiana, where they will spend the rest of their lives.

This was a big day for this couple, as they obtained their marriage license the same day as they applied for naturalization. They were married 3 or 4 days later, on the 10th or 11th, by the Justice of the Peace.  This was indeed the American dream for this couple.  They embraced their new life immediately and wholeheartedly.

Drechsel marriage license crop

Above, the Drechsel-Melheimer marriage license in Dearborn Co Marriage Records, book 8 page 491, marriage performed by W. Stark, JP.

Sometime after their arrival the name was at least intermittently changed to Drexler, which was probably the English phonetic pronunciation.

1854, January 8 – Almost exactly a year after their arrival in Indiana, Barbara’s daughter Caroline, known as “Lina” and “Lena” is born in Aurora, Indiana.

1856 – Barbara’s husband, George, is reported to be among the founders of St. John’s Lutheran Church. Of course, by implication, that means that Barbara was an active church member too.

“The History of Dearborn County” tells us: “The church was formed in 1856 by a small number of settlers who were convinced that it was a necessity, as well as their Christian duty, to assemble on the Lord’s Day for divine worship. In May 1878, after renting a church from the Baptists, they began to build their own church on Mechanic Street.”

Drechsel St. John

1856, August 16 – Barbara’s only son, Johann Edward, is born in Aurora, Indiana.

Property – The American Dream

1856, November 1 – George Drechsel buys lot 254 in Aurora (book 11 page 597) from Christian Riedel, the same person who witnesses their application for citizenship. Is Christian related to them?  I can find nothing more on Christian Riedel.

I don’t know if the lot they purchased had a house, or if they built the house, but this would be the only property they ever owned, located at present day 510 4th Street in Aurora.

510 4th Street Aurora

I’m sure, with four children, that Barbara was very glad to have a house of her own.


1859, February 22 – The Ohio River flooded, and Aurora is located at a bend in the Ohio River, just downstream from Cincinnati. The water at Cincinnati was 55 feet 5 inches and is typically 3-4 (or more) feet higher in Aurora.

If Barbara and George lived in Aurora for 7 years before the river flooded, they were lucky indeed. Floods were a quintessential part of life in Aurora, although they had to be frightening.  The Ohio River is wide in that location, and when it floods, it becomes much wider, often half a mile to a mile, dirty brown, very swift and overpowering.  In other words, it’s terrifying.  The good news is that it typically rises relatively slowly, so it’s not like a tornado where you receive no warning.  The bad news is that floods last for days and you don’t know when the waters are going to crest.  I read while researching this article that the average flood in Aurora lasts for 12 days.  That would be 12 VERY LONG days.

Recently, on the Lost Aurora Facebook page, someone posted an old newspaper article with a summary of what happened in Aurora when the river floods.

To help put things in perspective, here’s a regional view of the Ohio River including Cincinnati, Lawrenceburg, upstream in Dearborn County, and Aurora on the bend of the river.  In case you didn’t realize it, that’s Kentucky right across the river.

Aurora Cincy

The part of Aurora that floods is the peninsula part, the downtown area, that lies between Hogan Creek, South Hogan Creek and the Ohio River – right at the bend in the river where all of that water is supposed to be turning. There is just too much water and it rushes into Aurora and Hogan Creek.

Aurora flood area

This satellite view shows that the area to the south/southwest of Aurora is actually hilly, meaning that the area prone to flood is the city itself.

Aurora flood area satellite

  • 50 feet at Aurora is considered flood stage. At that point the water is over Water Street at the foot of 3rd.
  • 50 feet closes Water Street at the foot of 3rd
  • 53 feet closes Route 56 at 3rd
  • 56 feet floods Importing at George Street
  • 60 feet closes the bridge over South Hogan Creek
  • 61 feet floods behind Acapulco restaurant on 2nd
  • 61 feet floods in front of the IGA on 3rd
  • 61 feet covers 4th and Judiciary
  • 61.5 feet covers 2nd and Main
  • 65 feet floods 3rd and Main
  • 66 feet floods behind the Kirsch House from the 1883 picture
  • 68 feet floods 2nd and Mechanic
  • 69 feet closes traffic on 50 (now Eads Parkway) to Lawrenceburg

Of course, water level isn’t the entire story with Ohio floods. If the river is also carrying ice, it turns into battering rams and shreds everything in its path.  Wind makes a difference too.

The map below depicts the various water levels described, although I found a few more later, one being at Bridgeway and 2nd.

Aurora flood map

All told, it looks like, with the exception of a massive flood, the Drechsel home on 4th Street (bottom arrow on map below) was relatively high and escaped flooding.  The Kirsch house on Second Street between Exporting and Bridgeway (top arrow on map below) seems to be out of harm’s way too, most of the time, although we know it flooded at least twice (probably 1884 and 1913 when the river crested above 70 feet) when Barbara Drechsel and Jacob Kirsch owned it, and likely in 1937 (80 feet) and 1945 (69.2 feet) as well.

Aurora flood map family

1859, July 18 – Barbara’s daughter, Emma Louise, known as “Lou” is born in Aurora.

1860 – The census shows Barbara’s family in Aurora. George is a laborer.  Aurora is a bustling waterfront town on the busy Ohio River with lots of people coming and going.  The census from one decade to the next has a lot of “missing” people and a lot of “new” people as well.

Drechsel 1860 census Aurora

The 1860 census tells us that Barbara can read and write, although I’m not sure that would mean English.  We have no example of her handwriting or signature.

1862, January 24 – Another flood. The water at Cincinnati was 57 feet 4 inches and is typically 3-4 (or more) feet higher in Aurora which is downstream of Cincinnati.

1862, December 28 – Barbara’s daughter Theresa Maria, known as “Mary,” is born in Aurora.

The Civil War

1861-1865 – The Civil War intruded into the lives of the people in Aurora. No battles are fought here, but every man between the ages of 20 and 45 had to make themselves available for service.  George is on the upper end of that range, and he apparently does not serve, or at least I’ve found no record of military service, although he was on the draft list.  This must have kept everyone on edge.  War, the thought of war, war on your own land – something the Germans were painfully familiar with – and the fear of your family member leaving, fighting and dying was ever-present for a few years.

Barbara’s daughter, Barbara, would marry Jacob Kirsch who served in the Civil War.

1864 marks the half way point of Barbara’s life – but of course she doesn’t know that.

1865, March 7 – Another Flood. Water level at Cincinnati was 56 feet 3 inches and is typically 3-4 (or more) feet higher in Aurora which is downstream of Cincinnati.

The Marriages and Grandchildren Begin

1866, May 27 – Barbara’s eldest daughter, Barbara, marries Jacob Kirsch.

This photo below was taken many years later, probably about 1906-1908, but it’s one of only two with Barbara and Jacob together, and they were taken the same day.

Barbara Drechsel and Jacob Kirsch

1866, December 24 – Barbara’s first grandchild, Ellenore “Nora” Kirsch, born to Barbara Drechsel and Jacob Kirsch. Our family always celebrated Christmas on the 24th, except for “Santa” gifts.  This must have been a wonderful Christmas for Barbara.

1867, March 14 – Another flood. Water at Cincinnati was 55 feet, 8 inches and is typically 3-4 (or more) feet higher in Aurora which is downstream of Cincinnati.

1868, March 18 – Barbara’s second grandchild, George Martin Kirsch, born to Barbara Drechsel and Jacob Kirsch. George Dechsel was the witness for his christening and the child’s middle name of “Martin” was likely in honor of Jacob’s brother, probably deceased, who served in the Civil War and was never found in any records thereafter.

1868, July 5 – Barbara’s granddaughter, Ellenore “Nora” Kirsch is baptized at St. John’s Church in Aurora. This is a special day, because not only is this Barbara’s first grandchild, but she and George stood up as the godparents as well.  Now for the mystery.  Every other grandchild seems to be named “for someone,” except Ellenore.  There are no Ellenore’s on either the Kirsch or Drechsel side, that we know of – so who was Ellenore?  Is this somehow a clue to the identity of a family member back in Germany?

1870, January 19 – Another flood. Water at Cincinnati was 55 feet 3 inches and is typically 3-4 (or more) feet higher in Aurora which is downstream of Cincinnati.

1870, February 18 – Barbara’s third grandchild Johann Edward Kirsch born to Barbara Drechsel and Jacob Kirsch. Johann Edward Drexler, Barbara’s son, is listed as a witness to his christening in either May of 1870 or 1871.  The year was unclear in the church records.

1870 – The 1870 census shows Barbara’s family has continued to grow, and that the older children are beginning to leave the nest. Barbara’s oldest daughter, Barbara married Jacob Kirsch in 1866 when Barbara’s youngest daughter, Mary was only 3 years old. Barbara Drechsel Kirsch’s first child was born 4 days before her youngest sister turned 4.  That must have thrilled young Mary!  What a great birthday present.

Drechsel 1870 census

I would think that in 1870 Barbara was very comfortably happy. The threat of war was past and Barbara’s family was growing and healthy.  The todays gently turned into tomorrows and the flow of life was sunny and comfortably routine.  Life as a servant in Germany was but a distant memory of another place and time.

1871, February 18 – Barbara’s fourth grandchild, Caroline “Carrie” Kirsch was born to Barbara Drechsel and Jacob Kirsch. She was probably named after Barbara’s sister, Caroline Drechsel.

1871, September 9 – Barbara’s daughter, Barbara and her husband, Jacob Kirsch, purchase property just a few blocks away in Aurora. This must have brought Barbara some peace of mind because it meant that they weren’t moving away and were putting down roots nearby in Aurora.  Jacob Kirsch was a cooper, as was his brother and George Drechsel.  Aurora supplied a huge number of barrels for whiskey and shipping to the boats on the Ohio, more than 600 barrels per day with about 100 local coopers filling that need.

1873, September 21 – Barbara’s daughter Margaretha Drechsel marries Herm Rabe in Aurora.

1873, October 26 – Barbara’s fifth grandchild, Margaret Louise “Lou” Kirsch is born in Aurora to Barbara Drechsel and Jacob Kirsch. Note the names are now becoming less German. In the German church, she would have been named Margaretha Louisa.  Louise Drexler is noted as the Godmother.  She would have been 14 at that time and was probably thrilled!

The New Church Begun

1874 – The new window for the St. John’s church where Barbara is a member was constructed. It will be another 4 years before the new church is completed according to “The History of Dearborn County.”

Jacob Kirsch st John Aurora

1876, August 6 – A summer flood, which is quite unusual. Water at Cincinnati 55 feet 5 inches and is typically 3-4 (or more) feet higher in Aurora which is downstream of Cincinnati.

1875, August – Barbara’s sixth grandchild, Mary “Mayme” Rabe, is born to Margaretha Drechsel and Herm Rabe.

The Kirsch House Era Begins

1875 – Barbara’s daughter, Barbara Drechsel and her husband Jacob Kirsch purchase The French House, renaming it The Kirsch House. It was a fine establishment, located beside the railroad depot and served the local people as well as travelers with overnight and boarding accommodations, a pub, food and fine cigars.  Barbara Drechsel Kirsch makes Mock-Turtle Soup at the Kirsch House every Tuesday, which may well have been a family recipe handed down from her mother, Barbara, brought from Germany.  I’ll be having some of Barbara’s Turtle Soup for lunch today!  That recipe has become a family tradition.

Kirsch House postcard

The depot is to the left and the Kirsch House to the right in this old postcard that mother and I discovered decoupaged to the top of the bar in the old Kirsch House, then Perrone’s, during our visit in 1990.  Given that the Kirsch House was only a couple blocks away, Barbara assuredly visited often, probably helping with the grandchildren or maybe making turtle soup!

Kirsch house 1990s

1876, September 29 – Barbara’s seventh grandchild, Frederich George Rabe was born to Margaretha Drechsel and Herm Rabe in Cincinnati, Ohio.

1876, December 12 – Barbara’s eighth grandchild, Ida Caroline Kirsch was born to Barbara Drechsel and Jacob Kirsch in Aurora. Caroline Drexler was her godmother.  I wonder where the name Ida came from?

1877 – Barbara’s son John Edward Drechsel is noted in the church records as living in Cincinnati.

June 10, 1877 – One Lena Drexler is noted as having obtained a marriage license in Cincinnati to John Vester.  I don’t know if this is our Caroline, known as Lena, or not, but since we find Caroline in the 1880 census, I’m thinking it’s not.  However, she could have obtained the license and never married, or been widowed very shortly thereafter.  I could find no further information on John Vester.

St. John’s Evangelical Church Completed

1878 – St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church is completed and members make a procession out of moving into the new church.

Aurora st John postcard

Thanks so much to Jenny Awad for the postcard, above, that includes St. John’s Church on the right. The same view today, below.  The hill has reforested.

Aurora St. John today


It’s actually rather amazing that Barbara had no deaths in her immediate known family from the time of her arrival in 1852 until 1879, a span of 6 children, 7 grandchildren and 25 years. Of course, we don’t know what happened back in Germany.  A quarter of a century with no fatalities in the days before antibiotics was not only remarkable, it spoke of very good genes and probably some amount of good luck as well.  But that was coming to an end.

1879, June 24 – Barbara’s grandson, Freidrich George Rabe died in Cincinnati and was brought home to Aurora for burial in the Riverview Cemetery. St. John’s Lutheran church records in Aurora show his cause of death as lung disease due to cough.  Age 2 years 8 months and 25 days.  The verse read at the funeral is Isaiah. 40:11.

He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.

It must have been a terribly difficult funeral. His mother was 6 months pregnant for a another child.

1879, September – Barbara’s ninth grandchild, Louisa B. Rabe, is born in Aurora.


1879 – A fire burned the Wymond cooperage company, causing one of the two owners to retire. The remaining owner purchased the company and merged with the Gibson cooperage company, rebuilt and began producing barrels again at the rate of over 600 per day.  They employed over 100 men in Aurora.  It’s interesting that simple math tells us that coopers at that time were able to make at least 6 barrels each, per day.  Barbara’s husband was a cooper, so this fire surely affected him one way or another.  In the 1880 census, George Drechsel reports that he is a cooper but has been out of work 2 months in the current census year, perhaps as a result of that fire.

1880 – In the 1800 census, the family is down to Barbara and George and their youngest daughter, Louisa, now 21, who is a seamstress.

Drechsel 1880 census

1880 – We may have a census record for Barbara’s son, listed as John Drexler, in Cincinnati, but after this, if it’s him, there is no further information about John. He is not listed in the 1890 Cincinnati Directory.

May 6, 1880 – The Cincinnati Daily Star, on Thursday, May 6, 1880, reports that Jacob Kirsch and his wife, who is Barbara, attended the funeral the day before for one John Dreckler.  This answers the question of what happened to Barbara’s son, John.  However, it does beg the question of why Barbara and George Drechsel weren’t also mentioned as having attended their son’s funeral, along with his other sisters.


1880 – Barbara’s daughter Mary is living at the Kirsch House with her sister, Barbara.

1880 – Barbara’s daughter Caroline (Lena) is living in Cincinnati with the Heinke family as a housekeeper, where she is listed as a cousin. She later marries Gottleib Heinke, but according to census records, not for another 15 years.  What she does or where she is from 1880 to 1895 is completely unknown.  She is not listed in the 1890 City Directory, but females are not listed unless they are heads of households.  Gottfried, a salesman, and Jacob Heinke are listed as living at 13 Magnolia.

1880, December 3 – Barbara’s 10th grandchild, Caroline Louise Rabe is born in Aurora.

1881, August 30 – Barbara’s daughter, Emma Louise Drechsel, married Johann Georg Giegoldt in Aurora.

1881 – Barbara’s daughter Mary is noted in the church records as having married and moved to Cincinnati.

1880-1882 – Photo of Barbara’s daughter, Barbara Drechsel Kirsch taken about this time.

Barbara Drechsel

1882, February 9 – Barbara’s eleventh grandchild, Barbara Margaretha Josephine “Nettie” Giegoldt, is born to Louise Drechsel and John Giegoldt. Barbara, now 59 years old, and daughter Margaretha stand up at her christening.

1882, February 12 – A rather severe flood. Water at Cincinnati was 58 feet 7 inches and is typically 3-4 (or more) feet higher in Aurora which is downstream of Cincinnati.

“The Great Fire”

It seems that every city and town has one, and Aurora was no exception. You’d think that with all the floods Aurora residents had to endure, they might be excused from fires, but that wasn’t the case.  A fire during a flood might have doused itself, but that wasn’t the case either!

1882, September 4 – Aurora experienced what was known as “The Great Fire,” being the worse fire the city had ever experienced. I can’t tell for sure whether Barbara and George’s home burned or not, but if not, the neighbor’s surely did.

1875 Aurora Map color

This map from 1875 shows Barbara and George’s home on lot 254, on Fourth Street, right beside the Indiana House. Here is what “The History of Dearborn County” tells us about the fire.

September 4, 1882 occurred the greatest fire at Aurora that the city ever experienced, by which was consumed nearly a whole block of buildings. The fire originated in the chair factory of John Cobb and company on Bridgeway Street, nearly opposite the Indiana House.  The wind was blowing a sweeping gale from the burning building right into the heart of the city and most of the surrounding buildings were wooden structures.  The fire extended in every direction except to the north.  The Indiana House burned, everything east of it on Fourth Street, John Siemantel’s buildings on Third Street, also Adolph Man’s saloon and all the out-houses between Third and Fourth Street and the first alley east of Bridgeway, burned.  On the west side of Bridgeway Street the chair factory, engine house, dry house and warehouse, a carpenter shop and brick dwellings and all buildings there between Third and Fourth and First were burned.

Here’s a current map with north at the top. I have noted the Drechsel home with the arrow, and based on the description and the photo, I have “drawn” the area that burned.  Unfortunately, Aurora is on the diagonal so sometimes when they talk about directions, it’s unclear what they actually mean.  Sometimes their directions seem to conflict with each other – and this is one of those times.  The description said the fire went every direction except north, but the detailed descriptions of what burned were in fact, north of the building where the fire started.  It also mentions First and I’m unclear where First was located at the time, so I’ve simply omitted that information.  I’m not very talented drawing with a mouse.

Aurora fire map

Based on this map and the 1875 map, the Drechsel land would have been on the east side of 4th Street between Bridgeway and Exporting.

Jenny Awad with the Dearborn County Historical Society was kind enough to share this photo with me, taken after the fire.

Aurora after fire Drechsel house

The right bottom is 5th and Bridgeway.  Next street towards center is 4th and Bridgeway with the burned out building which would be where the fire started.  The Indiana House is on the corner of 4th and Bridgeway, beside the Drechsel home, according to the 1875 map.

The house with the arrow must be Barbara and George’s home. Now, the question is, did it burn, partly burn or was it spared?  The reports said the Indiana House burned and that was literally right next door.  The roof of the Indiana House is still intact, but it looks like it’s doors are all black.  Today’s Drechsel home is two stories, with the door offset to the left.  In other words, today it doesn’t look like this house in the photo. Did the Drechsel’s have to rebuild due to the fire, or was the original house rebuilt later or enlarged?

Did Barbara and George escape a second time in their lives with the clothes on their backs? Even if their house did not burn, it must have been utterly terrifying to watch the fire consume the property next to yours, and the next entire block, knowing well that fate and luck and a change of winds were all that stood between you and disaster.  Where were they huddled watching?  Were they trying to get as much out of the house as they could, just in case?  Did they have any time at all?  Did any of their children’s homes burn?  There is so much we don’t know.

1883, January 10 – Barbara’s twelfth grandchild, Wilhelm J. Rabe, is born in Aurora to Margaretha Dechsel and Herm Rabe.

Devastating Floods Three Years in a Row

In the 1880s, a photographer named James Walton had a portrait studio in Aurora. Barbara Drechsel Kirsch had her picture taken there.  In 1882, 1883 and  1884, Aurora experienced increasingly devastating floods.

1883 Aurora Flood

The photo above is labeled 1883, and the 1884 flood was worse. The 84 flood 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, and to Jenny Awad for sharing it with me, 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.

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 right side of the picture is pointing to 3rd Street. The arrow below 3rd street is pointing to 4th 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, Barbara’s daughter, would purchase in 1921 when she sold the Kirsch House.

Barbara and George Drechsel’s house would have been on 4th street, two lots to the right of the 4th street arrow, so just outside the picture. Fourth Street appears to be somewhat higher in elevation than the areas nearer to Hogan Creek and downtown Aurora.

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 2nd Street. You can see its portico over the sidewalk appearing below the white front of the building. At the time this picture was taken, Barbara’s daughter, Barbara, had been married to Jacob Kirsch for 17 years and they had been the proprietors of the Kirsch house for 8 years. According to family oral history, the Kirsch House flooded at least once to the second level, in other words the portico, and I believe twice.

1883, November 6 – Barbara’s thirteenth grandchild, Caroline Louise Lillian “Lilly” Giegoldt is born to Louise Drechsel and John Giegoldt in Aurora. Her christening records show the godparents as Karoline Drexler and Lilly Louise Drexler.  Could Lilly Louise have been another name for Emma Louise or could it possibly be Johann Drechsler’s wife name? Or an unknown person?

1884, February 6-15 – One of the most devastating floods ever recorded in the Ohio Valley with the water level at Cincinnati being recorded at 71 feet 1 inch. The water level is typically 3-4 (or more) feet higher in Aurora which is downstream of Cincinnati..  “The History of Dearborn County” tells us:

The water rose to such height that the force of its lifting power alone was sufficient to upturn buildings and break them in two; but to this force was added a boisterous windstorm that shook the buildings to their bases and lashed them with the furious waves until hundreds of buildings of various kinds left their foundations to be tossed upon the waters, broken to pieces or carried bodily into the river and lost forever to their owners. On the 15th, the waters reached their highest point, being two feet 8 inches higher than ever before known.

Jacob Kirsch 1884 flood

Above, 2nd Street in the 1884 flood.  People are standing on their second floor balconies looking over the flood waters.  The records indicate that when a flood was imminent, people would take their things “upstairs” to protect them.  Floods lasted an average of 12 days.  I wonder how one managed to live on the second floor of a building with no heat, no refrigeration in the middle of the winter for days on end.  I think not knowing how high the water would get would be terribly anxiety producing.  In essence, going to the second floor as a refuge made you an isolated sitting duck for the duration – or at least until someone came by with a boat, assuming they could.

One of the interesting aspects of this flood is that even though it was worse, the fact that people actually prepared for it eliminated some of the actual losses. Based on “The History of Dearborn County,” we know the following:

As a result of their precautions, the citizens of Aurora will not suffer nearly as much as they did in 1882 or in 1883, and the destruction of property will not be one-third as much as in either of those years. Warning came over the wires: ‘Prepare for seventy feet.’ That would be three feet and six inches more than we had in 1883, and the people lost no time in preparing. All the people living in houses likely to be submerged moved into their second stories, where they were high enough, and where this was not the case they abandoned the houses and moved to higher ground. All of our merchants moved their goods and perishable property beyond the possible reach of the water, and thus saved everything, many of them working night and day to accomplish their object. Of course Cobb’s Iron & Nail Company, the Sutton Mill Company, Aurora Distilling Company, and the Aurora Valley Furniture Company were drowned out and stopped operations, but, aside from loss of time, trouble and inconvenience, their losses will not amount to much. With the river already bank full (and over its banks in many places), the rain commenced Monday night, February 4, and poured down almost incessantly till Thursday morning, February 7. Tuesday, February 5, the water was over the sidewalk from the Eagle Hotel to the Crescent Brewery, and in all that portion of town north of Hogan Creek, and between George Street and the river. Then the rise was rapid, and the water extended up Second Street to Mechanic Street, up Third to Main, up Mill Street to the office of the Aurora Distilling Company, and up Main Street to its intersection with Third.

The above part of this article was written Monday morning, when we had the faintest hope that there would not be much more to tell, but the rains kept coming up till last night, when they finished early in the night with a heavy climax, and then the wind changed, and the most welcome cold snap that ever visited any community fell upon us and put a check to the rain, and gave us hope that the river would not overflow the hilltops, at least. But the rainfall had been general through the-whole valley of the Ohio, and the greatest of all floods was inevitable. Up and up and up it climbed, driving people from one refuge to another, until 4 o’clock this Thursday afternoon, February 14, 1884, it had reached a point six feet above the once legendary flood of 1832. It stood at this height for some time, as if meditating whether to burst itself in one final effort to do yet greater things, and then it began very slowly to recede.

In order that those of our readers who are away from Aurora may understand the height of the flood, we will give them a few old landmarks to go by. The water was just to the top of the door of the old yellow brick house on Cobb’s corner, which house has stood in all the great floods since 1832. It was eight feet and ten inches deep on the floor in Cobb’s store; it stood in the gutter in front of Dr. Sutton’s office, on Third Street; it was about eight inches deep on the inside corner of the pavement at the Catholic Church, on Fourth Street; it went up Second Street as far as the front door of Tuck’s building, at the corner of Bridgeway; it backed up Broadway nearly to Hogan Creek, six inches more would have sent it through the whole length of Broadway; it stood. several inches deep in Stedman & Co. ‘s foundry; it backed up Main. Street beyond Third, so that by stepping across the pavement from the front door of the old Asa Shattuck residence, one would step into the river; it was over the door knob of Dr. Bond’s residence, on George Street, and was up into the yard at John Cobb’s residence; it was in some places over the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad, between Aurora and Lawrenceburgh; over the tops of the telegraph poles, and was over the roofs of freight cars loaded with stone that were placed on the Wilson Creek bridge. Those of you who have only seen the high water of 1832 and 1847, in Aurora, have no idea of what a real high water in the Ohio is.

In other words, we don’t believe Aurora’s loss will foot up more than $20,000, unless you count the loss of time to factories being idle; and how often are they shut down to reduce stock, or by reason of a strike, for a longer period than the flood closed them? True, Aurora has lost more houses than she did last year, and more are off of their foundations, but the loss of household goods is not nearly so great this year, and the loss of mercantile stock is actually nothing worth naming, while last year it was very great, because people would not then believe that the flood would surpass every previous one, and did not get out of the way. * * * * Taking all things into consideration, we cannot help but believe that Aurora has suffered less loss this year than she did last, although this flood has been with us, and upon us, more than twice as long as that of 1883. “—Independent, February 21, 1884.

In essence, the people of Aurora suffered devastating and disruptive floods three years in a row.

1883-1885 – Sometime between 1883 and 1885, Margaretha Drechsel and Herm Rabe move their young family to Cincinnati.

1884 – Cincinnati’s records are burned, so any marriage or legal records before 1884 are lost. This would include any marriage record for John Drexler/Drechsel and Lizzie Theisinger as well as for Mary Drechsel if she married in Cincinnati before 1884, as the church records indicate.

The Lynching

1886, August 19 – Barbara’s son-in-law, Jacob Kirsch was involved with the lynching of one William Watkins after seeing him kill another man in Aurora.

1886, October 23 – Barbara’s grandson, Wilhelm Rabe, died in Cincinnati and is buried in the Wesleyan Cemetery there. He was three and a half years old.  The entire Aurora contingent likely went by train from Aurora to Cincinnati for this sad event.

1886 – Barbara’s daughter Mary sometimes comes home and goes to church with her mother, because she is occasionally listed as taking communion in the Aurora church records.

1887 – Jacob transferred the deed for The Kirsch House to Barbara, given that the administrator of Watkins estate had filed a lawsuit. The suit came to naught, although I’m sure it caused this family a great deal of anxiety, but Barbara Drechsel Kirsch continued to own the Kirsch House in severalty, even though she was married, until 1921 when she sold the property after Jacob’s death in 1917.  Jacob apparently felt he stood a better chance with Barbara than the lawsuit, and he was apparently right since she never kicked him out!

The Third Generation Begins

1888, January 18 – Barbara’s oldest granddaughter, Nora Kirsch, married Curtis Benjamin Lore at the Kirsch House. I don’t think anyone in the family knew about the scuttlebutt that would ensue…and I don’t mean their first child’s birth a few months “early.”  To read about the scuttlebutt, you’ll need to read the article about Curtis Benjamin Lore!  He was one handsome rogue!

Nora Kirsch wedding

1888, July 18th – Barbara’s grandson, George Martin Kirsch, married Maude Powers in the rectory of the St. John’s Lutheran Church.

1888, August 2 –Barbara’s first great-grandchild, Edith Barbara Lore, below, is born in Indianapolis, the child of granddaughter Nora Kirsch Lore.

Edith as a child cropped

1889, February 21 – Barbara’s second great-grandchild, Edgar Kirsch, is born to grandson George Martin Kirsch.

1889, August – Barbara’s daughter Margaretha Drechsel Rabe dies and is buried in the Wesleyan Cemetery in Hamilton County, Ohio. She leaves behind her husband and 4 living children, ages 4-14.  The family lived in Cincinnati, so Barbara was probably unable to help with the children much unless she went by train.

1891, March – Barbara’s third great-granddaughter is born, Curtis Lore, to granddaughter Nora Kirsch Lore, probably in Rushville, Indiana.

1891, March 12 – George Drecksel transfers a part of his property to Louise Giegoldt, Book 47 page 411, lot 254 the north half. It’s rather odd that he didn’t transfer the property to Louisa AND her husband.  Perhaps this was his way of insuring his daughter’s future, but it is a bit odd for the time and might be suggestive of a story we don’t know.  “Odd” things often are.

Giegoldt Drechsel crop

The closest white house is the house Louise and George Giegoldt built on lot 254 and the second white house is where Barbara and George Drechsel lived.

1891, April 6 – Barbara’s grandson, Johann “Edward” Kirsch married Emma Miller.

1891, April 30 – Barbara’s fourth great-grandchild, Hazel Kirsch, is born to grandson Edward Kirsch.

1891, July 2 – Barbara’s fourth great-grandchild, Hazel Kirsch, died and was buried in Riverview Cemetery. She was just over 2 months old.  This must have been a terribly sad day for the family.

1892 – Barbara’s daughter, Mary, is no longer listed in the church records. Either she stopped coming home, she died or she moved away.

1892, April 28 – Barbara’s granddaughter, Mary “Mayme” Rabe marries Albert Weatherby in Cincinnati, Ohio.

1892, June – Barbara’s fifth great-grandchild, Juanita Kirsch, is born to grandson Edward Kirsch. I don’t have much information about Juanita, but I do know she lived to adulthood.

1892, September 9 – Barbara’s sixth great-granddaughter, Cecile Kirsch, is born to grandson, George Martin Kirsch.

1892, October 27 – Barbara’s son-in-law, Jacob Kirsch is involved in a hunting accident so severe that his eye is blown out of his head and the side of his face absorbed a shotgun blast.  Due to the proximity to the jugular vein and the extent of his injuries, he is not expected to live, but somehow, miraculously, he does.

1893, July 15 – Barbara’s seventh great-granddaughter, Lorine E. Weatherby, is born to granddaughter Mary Rabe Weatherby.

1895 – According to the 1900 census, Barbara’s daughter Lena (Caroline) marries Gottleib Heinke about this time, probably in Cincinnati.

1895-1900 – The 1900 census indicates that Lena Heinke has one child that has died. Assuming the child was born after Lena’s marriage to Gottleib, it would have had to be between 1895 and 1900.  Linda would have been 41 years old in 1895.

1896, February 3 – Barbara’s eighth great-granddaughter, Juanita A. Weatherby, was born to granddaughter Mary “Mayme” Rabe Weatherby.

1896, July 1 – Barbara’s ninth great-granddaughter, Pauline Kirsch, was born to grandson Edward Kirsch.

1896, July 3 – Baby Pauline Kirsch dies, just two days old, and is buried at the Riverview Cemetery.

1899, April 8 – Barbara’s tenth grandchild, Mildred Elvira Lore, was born to granddaughter Nora Kirsch Lore in Rushville, Indiana.

Copy of Mildred Lore

1899, August 6 – Barbara’s eleventh greatgrandchild, Deveraux “Devero” Hoffer Kirsch, is born to grandson Edward Kirsch in Aurora.

1899, October 15 – Barbara’s granddaughter Margaret Louise “Lou” Kirsch married Charles “Todd” Fiske in Aurora. They never have children, and Todd tragically takes his own life at the Kirsch House October 31, 1908, Halloween night, in the garden, by shooting himself.  If someplace was ever going to be haunted, it would have been the garden of the Kirsch House.

Drechsel 1900 census

1900 – The census for George and Barbara shows their daughter, Lou, living next door with her husband and two daughters. Barbara must have realty enjoyed having these two granddaughters next door as well as the Kirsch grandchildren just a couple blocks away.  The rest of Barbara’s grandchildren lived in the Cincinnati area, or perhaps further.  While that isn’t a huge distance, it’s not conducive to being a part of everyday life either.

1900 – The 1900 census shows that Barbara’s daughter, Caroline, known as Lena, is married to Gottfried Heinke, with the census showing that she had one child, but none are living. It saddens me that her only child died.  The census also shows that Lena and Gottfried have been married 5 years, but Lena has been living with the Heinke family since before the 1880 census.  The 1910 census shows that Lena and Gottlieb have been married 15 years and she has had one child, and one child is living.  Unless she had that child immediately after the 1880 census, and that child left home before the 1900 census, there was no living child in 1900.  So either the 1900 or 1910 census is incorrect.

1902, April 22 – Barbara’s granddaughter, Caroline “Carrie” Kirsch marries Joseph Smithfield Wymond, of the Wymond Cooperage company family. They did not have children.  He gives Carrie syphilis which would ultimately take both their lives.  He shot himself on July 3, 1910 and Carrie died in an institution on July 24, 1926.  I’m glad Barbara didn’t live to suffer through that.  It’s unlikely that she knew about the syphilis before her death, although not impossible.  Wymond’s illness apparently became public knowledge in about 1907, so he may have had it for some years before that.

1903, October 8 – Barbara’s twelfth great-grandchild is born, Eloise Lore, to granddaughter Nora Kirsch Lore in Rushville, Indiana.

Aurora 1907

In the photo above, Eloise (at left) and sister Mildred at right, at the depot by the Kirsch House in Aurora.  Aren’t these little girls just adorable!  I wonder how they managed to keep that white dress white.

Eloise and Mildred in Florida

Eloise and Mildred in Florida a few years later in Florida!  The sisters were very close their entire lives.

1904, November 11 – Barbara’s thirteenth great-grandchild, Margaret L. Weatherby, is born in Cincinnati to granddaughter Mary “Mayne” Rabe Weatherby.

1905 – George and Barbara deeded the east half of their property to daughter, Barbara Drechsel Kirsch.

Barbara Kirsch from George Drecksel, book 66 pg 19, Dec. 15, 1905 section E ½, lot 254.  This is an example of the words north and east being confusing in Aurora.  They previously deeded the north half to Louisa Giegoldt, and there are only two halves of the lot.

Barbara’s mother died within a month of this transaction, so I suspect that it was connected with her death and the parents’ wishes for their property.

1906, January 3 – Barbara Mehlheimer Drechsel passes away. The Board of Health shows her age as 83 years and 12 days, born in Germany, died Jan. 3 1906, sick for 5 months, died in Aurora of “Cardiac arthma” probably cardiac arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat.  I’m glad she wasn’t ill long.

I surely wish we had a photo of Barbara and George. I am still hoping that perhaps another family member does and it will appear someday!

This photo of Barbara Drechsel Kirsch’s family was taken about the time of Barbara Mehlheimer Drechsel’s funeral. We know it wasn’t taken at the time of her funeral, because she died mid-winter and this is clearly taken in warmer weather.  Based on the age of the child, Eloise, who was born in 1903, this photo was likely taken in 1907 or so.

Jacob Kirsch family photo crop

This is the only photo where all of the Barbara Drechsel and Jacob 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 – C. B. Lore – which places this photo before November 1909 when he died
  • Seated in chair in front of CB Lore in white dress, his wife – Nora Kirsch Lore
  • Male with bow tie standing beside CB Lore – probably Edward Kirsch
  • Male standing beside him with no tie – probably Martin Kirsch
  • Woman standing in rear row – Kirsch sister, possibly Lula.
  • Standing right rear – Jacob Kirsch.
  • Front adult beside Nora – Kirsch sister, possibly Ida.
  • Child beside Nora –Eloise born 1903
  • Adult woman, seated, with black skirt – Barbara Drechsel Kirsch
  • Young woman beside Barbara to her left with large white bow – probably Curtis Lore, Nora’s daughter


I hate to say this, but maybe it’s a good thing Barbara passed over when she did, because the next handful of years were devastating for her children and grandchildren.

1907 – Another devastating flood. River at Aurora at 66 feet.  The levee broke at Lawrenceburg.  I wonder if Barbara’s grave was underwater.

1908, February 26 – George Drechsel dies and joins Barbara at Riverview.

1908, September 4 – Barbara’s granddaughter, “Nettie” Giegoldt died of Tuberculosis after suffering for 2 years.

1908, October 31 – Barbara’s granddaughter’s husband, Todd Fiske, commits suicide at the Kirsch House.

1909, November 24 – Barbara’s granddaughter’s husband, Curtis Benjamin Lore dies of tuberculosis.

1910, July 3 – Barbara’s granddaughter’s husband, Joseph Wymond reportedly kills himself before syphilis can take him.  Unfortunately, he has infected his wife, Carrie, with syphilis, which, before antibiotics, is incurable.

1912, February 12 – Barbara’s great-granddaughter, Curtis Lore, dies of tuberculosis contracted caring for her father.

1912, November 28 – Theodore Bosse, the second husband of Barbara’s daughter, Louise, dies.

Barbara was spared all of that heartache but her daughters Lou and Barbara probably ached desperately for her presence.

Missing Grandchildren

I know that I’m missing several grandchildren. Both George’s and Barbara’s church death records tell how many grandchildren they have.  Hers says 19 and his, a couple years later, says 17.  I have accounted for 15 in total, but of those only 12 are living when either Barbara or George died, so I’m not sure how they are counting. Maybe someone simply miscounted, or maybe the discrepancy lies with the missing children and grandchildren.

Regardless, I’m short at least 2 if not 4 or more grandchildren, if they have excluded grandchildren who have passed away. I’ve accounted for all children  except John and Mary, and one of those two is dead, but certainly could have had children before their death.

I have listed all of the known grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the table below.

  Grandchild Birth Death Parents Comments
1 Nora Kirsch Dec. 24, 1866 Aurora Sept. 13, 1949, Lockport, NY Barbara and Jacob Kirsch Married C.B. Lore 1888, 4 children 1888, 1891, 1899, 1903
2 George Martin Kirsch March 18, 1868 Aurora Jan 5, 1949 Shelbyville, IN Barbara and Jacob Kirsch Married Maude Powers 1888, 2 children 1889, 1892
3 Johann Edward Kirsch Feb. 18, 1870 Aurora July 2, 1924 Edwardsport, IN Barbara and Jacob Kirsch Married Emma Miller 1891, 2 children deceased 1891, 1896, 2 living children 1892, 1899
4 Caroline “Carrie” Kirsch February 18, 1871 Aurora July 24, 1926, Madison, IN Barbara and Jacob Kirsch Married Joseph S. Wymond 1902, no children
5 Margaret Louise “Lou” Kirsch October 26, 1873 Aurora June 1, 1940 Cincinnati, Ohio Barbara and Jacob Kirsch Married Charles “Todd” Fiske 1899, no children
6 Mary “Mayme” Rabe 1875, Aurora 1961 Margaretha Drechsel and Herm Rabe Married Albert Weatherby 1892 Cincy, 3 children 1894, 1896, 1904
7 Freidrich George Rabe Sept. 29, 1876, Cincinnati, Ohio June 24, 1879, Aurora, Indiana Margaretha Drechsel and Herm Rabe Buried at Riverview
8 Ida Caroline Kirsch Dec. 12, 1876 Aurora March 5, 1966 Cincinnati, Ohio Barbara and Jacob Kirsch Married William Galbreath 1921, no children
9 Louisa B. “Lou” Rabe September 1879, Aurora Jan 30, 1963 Whiteside County, IL Margaretha Drechsel and Herm Rabe Married Irvin Isaac Denison, no children
10 Caroline Louise Engel Rabe Dec. 3, 1880, Aurora June 27, 1951 Cincinnati, Ohio Margaretha Drechsel and Herm Rabe Buried in the Wesleyan Cemetery, never married
11 Barbara Margaretha Josephine “Nettie” Giegoldt Feb. 9, 1882 Cincinnati, Ohio September 4, 1908, Aurora Emma Louise Drechsel and Johann Georg Giegoldt Buried Riverview, never married, no children
12 Wilhelm J. Rabe Jan. 10, 1883 Aurora Oct. 23, 1886, Cincinnati, Ohio Margaretha Drechsel and Herm Rabe Buried in the Wesleyan Cemetery
13 Caroline Louise Lillian “Lilly” Giegoldt Nov. 6, 1883, Aurora Dec. 3, 1951 Cincinnati, Ohio Emma Louise Drechsel and Johann Georg Giegoldt Married Theorodre Ludwig “Louis” Bosse 1907, 2 children 1911, 1915
14 Eleanor Rabe March 1885 Jan. 24, 1961 Cincinnati, Ohio Margaretha Drechsel and Herm Rabe Married Guy Nicholas Young, 4 children 1908, 1910, 1915, 1929
15 Unknown, probably a Henke Before 1900 Before 1900 Caroline Drechsel and probably Gottfried Heinke Deceased per the 1900 census

There is a total of 15 grandchildren born with 12 living at George and Barbara’s deaths, none died or were born in-between George and Barbara’s deaths – at least not of the group we know about.

Great grandchildren – 13 total before Barbara and George’s deaths, 11 living at their deaths, 19 total after their deaths, 17 lived beyond infancy.  Barbara’s church record says there were 12 great-grandchildren.

It’s inconceivable to me that my grandmother knew Barbara Mehlheimer Drechsel personally and now I’ve lost two of Barbara’s children and their children. If I could just ask my grandmother some questions!

Barbara’s DNA

Barbara carried special DNA that is inherited from one’s mother, but only passed on by females. This mitochondrial DNA is not mixed with the DNA of any of the fathers, so it is the same exact DNA that her direct matrilineal females ancestors carried.  In other words, Barbara’s mitochondrial DNA was passed to her from her mother, Elisabetha Mehlheimer and then to her from her mother who is unknown. By analyzing this DNA we can tell some of the story about this line long before we can identify the names of the ancestors, because mitochondrial DNA reaches back into ancient times.  In this case, we see a lot of Scandinavian matches, so there must be a story there someplace aching to be told.

All of Barbara’s children carried her mitochondrial DNA, but only her daughters passed it on. Only her granddaughters through daughters would inherit Barbara’s mitochondrial DNA and pass it on for another generation.

Unfortunately, a lot of the females in these lines did not have children, so Barbara’s mitochondrial DNA is only passed on by four of her grandchildren, bolded above: Nora Kirsch, Mary “Mayme” Rabe, Eleanor Rabe and Caroline Giegoldt, although Caroline had only two sons, so Barbara’s mitochondrial line died with them in that line.

Mehlheimer mtdna

Of course, if Barbara’s daughter Mary had daughters who had daughters, we could potentially have another line carrying Barbara’s mitochondrial DNA. I hope so.

However, in the known lines, it’s dead in my generation. The only possibilities for passing it on are through Nita, Linda, Erin, Marian and Nancy if they had daughters who have daughters.

I don’t know of anyone from Barbara Mehlheimer’s line who has tested their autosomal DNA. Maybe I should say this another way – I don’t know anyone from Barbara Mehlheimer’s line, at all.  If this is your family, please give me a shout!  Inside of 4 or 5 generations, sadly, the family has become entirely disconnected.

Barbara’s Passing

Barbara died of “cardiac arthmia” which I’m sure was actually arrhythmia, meaning an irregular heartbeat. Ironically, today, a pacemaker installed in an outpatient procedure would likely have bought her many more years of life.

George Drechsel purchased a lot for himself and Barbara at Riverview Cemetery when she died. They are buried on an Indian Mound in the cemetery, just a couple miles south of Aurora on the Ohio River at the mouth of Laughery Creek.

Beside Barbara’s burial record in the cemetery books is the note “charged one single grave to George Drexler credit to him on ____”. Section Q, lot #56-tier 1, Gr 3 Plot: permit # 3489.  George was later buried beside her in grave 2.

Drechsel St, John postcard crop

The St. John’s church record shows Barbara’s remaining family as “husband, 4 married children, 19 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren.”

The Funeral and Procession to the Cemetery

The verse read at Barbara’s funeral as noted in the church records was Hebrew 4.9-11 in German and Rev. 14.13 in English.

I found it interesting that one verse was read in German and one in English – and for some reason, which one was read in which language was worth noting.

Hebrews 4:9-11 Authorized (King James) Version

9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. 10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.  11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

Revelation 14:13

13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.

Mom church window

When Mother and I visited Aurora 1990, we took photos outside of the Lutheran Church, but it never occurred to me at the time to take pictures inside. I think we were just so excited to be able to see the records that we forgot about everything else.

Many thanks to Becki Nocks, a very kind lady for sharing the card and photos inside the church. I’m sure the church has been updated since, but the basic layout and structure would still have been the same as when Barbara and George were involved with the founding and design of the church.

St. John Card

This photo above was in the form of a Christmas card. The church is beautiful and looks very “German” to me.

St. John inside

Barbara’s casket would have laid in the front of the church.

St. John's Aurora interior c

When I’m having trouble getting through a funeral service (without blubbering), I tend to look at something and attempt to focus. Stained glass windows make a wonderful focus point.  These would have been part of the original church.  Barbara would have seen them every Sunday and probably many weekdays too, judging from how much went on at a church, the social center of the community.  I expect that everyone knew everyone and so the entire community attended funerals – and there was probably at least one a week. I wonder if Barbara focused on these windows to get through difficult funerals, like those of her grandchildren.

St. John inside window

It was cold right after New Years when Barbara died. In the summer, the attendees might cluster in the church yard while the casket was loaded onto either the horse drawn hearse or the wagon, whichever they used.

Aurora St. John Church

Those windows are beautiful from the outside too. Barbara probably gazed upon them many times and thought so as well.

I don’t know if it was the case then, but now, the undertaker is just across the street from the church. This Aurora business has existed for a very long time.

Funeral St John

The funeral procession would have left the church and headed down Mechanic Street, towards the final destination, Riverview Cemetery, just a couple miles south of Aurora along the Ohio River.

Riverview map

Most of the people who attended the service would have climbed in buggies and on wagons and gone to the cemetery for the burial. Our family did not feel they had “closure” unless they attended the actual burial itself.

Let’s go along.

Leaving the church, we travel along Mechanic Street.  Can you hear the steady clip-clop of the horses hooves?

Funeral 3rd Mechanic

Passing 3rd Street. Many of these houses were probably build after “The Great Fire.”

Funeral 4th Mechanic

Mechanic approaching 4th Street.  Where you see a car today, just replace it in your mind with a horse and buggy.

I don’t know if the German Lutherans in southern Indiana did this, but the Germans in northern Indiana always make one last pass by the home of the deceased with the body on the way to the cemetery after the funeral. If they did, the Drechsel home is a block and a half up on the right on 4th Street from the intersection of Mechanic and 4th.

Funeral 4th

Turning right on 4th, to visit the Drechsel home one more time, we pass the homes Barbara knew so well.  These houses all burned during the fire too, so Barbara would have watched many of these being rebuilt.

Funeral Drechsel house goodbye

One last look at Barbara’s home, above, behind the picket fence, where she lived for 50 years, just a few months shy of half a century. Of course, in January, there would have been no leaves on the trees and this tree has probably been planted since.  Generally, a black wreath hung on the door, signifying that this house had experienced a recent death.

Funeral 4th and bridgeway

Turning around and looking down 4th Street now, towards the River from in front of Barbara’s house, we see that the brick building on the immediate left has been at least twice rebuilt, because that was the location of the Indiana House Hotel that burned in “The Great Fire,” and the 2 story white building across the road, I believe, was the Cobb building where that devastating fire began.

Funeral 4th and Mechanic

Back now to the intersection of 4th and Mechanic, we look left one last time down Mechanic at the Lutheran Church that played such a central role in Barbara’s life.  One final glimpse and goodbye.  Looking right, we can see the Ohio River in the distance at the bottom of the 4th Steet hill.  A slight flick of the reins and the horses are off to the cemetery.

Funeral 4th Main

Descending the hill on 4th from Main.  I’m sure Barbara was extremely grateful for this hill, as it protected her family from the devastating floods.

Funeral 5th hill

On our Google Street view, 3rd and 4th were both closed for construction, so we moved over to 5th Street to reach the road along the Ohio River.  Horses pull differently going downhill, using their body weight to prevent the carriage from “running away.”  You can feel the horses change their stride to a purposeful braking plod.

Funeral Ohio at 5th

From this location at the foot of 5th Street, we see a beautiful view of the Ohio, looking across the river and upstream.  Barbara would have seen this many times, for the past 54 years.  She and George may have arrived via riverboat and docked just a few feet upstream when they first arrived in late 1852.  So this location may have been both a comforting hello and goodbye.

Funeral Ohio on 56

Barbara’s procession would have turned right and followed along the river. These two miles or so between Aurora and the cemetery would have been a peaceful ride.  And it’s a journey Barbara had made several times herself, although never before riding inside the box.  That’s generally a one ticket, one way ride, just one time.

Funeral Ohio 2

The clip-clop of the horses hooves and swaying of the carriage would have been rhythmic and soothing.  Did George’s thoughts drift back to his lovely Barbara as a young woman as they embarked upon their journey along the Rhine River more than half a century earlier when they left Germany, as he looked at the Ohio that day? Rivers had played such a central role in their lives.

Funeral Laughery Creek Road

The entrance to the Riverview Cemetery is off of Laughery Creek Road.   Turning right on Laughery Creek Road, then left immediately on the private road, the procession would have entered the cemetery.

Funeral Riverview from 56

You can see the Indian mound where Barbara is buried from 56, the main road. She is actually buried very near the brick structure in this photo.

Funeral satellite Riverview

In this satellite view, you can see both the brick structure and the main road, 56, to the right. Barbara’s burial location is shown on this diagram of Riverview.

Riverview flyer 2

The entrance then would probably have looked much like the entrance shown on the Riverview flyer we were given in 1990.

Riverview flyer

The  entrance looks a bit different today.

riverview entrance

Barbara is buried within view of the entrance.

Funeral Barbara Drechsel cemetery

In this photo, Barbara Mehlheimer and George Drechsel’s matching stones are in the front, but you can see the entrance archway to the right rear of the photo.

Funeral Barbara Drechsel stone

George would pass away two years later, in February 1908, but Barbara wasn’t alone. A son-in-law and some of her grandchildren were already buried here, and more of her children, in time, would be.

The Children of Georg and Barbara Mehlheimer Drechsel

Two of Georg and Barbara’s children were born in Germany and the rest after arriving in the United States.

  • Barbara Drechsel was born October 8, 1848 in Goppmannsbuhl, Germany and baptized in Wirbenz, the closest village, on October 22, 1851. She was also christened in June 1857 in St. John’s Lutheran Church in Aurora. Her godmother in Germany was Barbara Krauss of Windischenlaiback, likely a relative and possibly a sister, aunt or other relative to one of her parents. Barbara married Jacob Kirsch on May 27, 1866, lived most of her life in Aurora, and died on June 12, 1930 in Wabash, Indiana. She is buried at Riverview, not far from her parents.  Barbara had 6 children, all of whom survived to adulthood and married, although only 3 had children.

Jacob Kirsch stone with mother

  • Margaretha Drechsel was born May 13, 1851 in Germany, baptized on October 22, 1851 in Wirbenz and probably christened on September 1857 in Aurora with her sister. She married Herm Rabe Sept. 21, 1873 and they had a total of 6 children before Margaretha died in 1889. For a long time, I could find nothing more on Margaretha, then I discovered someone had entered her burial on Find-A-Grave, along with her children.  Thank you to that volunteer.

Drechsel Margaretha stone

Margaretha’s marker has been destroyed and only the base remains today. It is located beside that of her husband, Herb Rabe, in the Wesleyan Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Herm Rabe stone

I would suspect that Barbara was not happy that Margaretha wasn’t brought home for burial. Being “brought back” seemed to be very important to these families, judging from later letters and hurt feelings about other deaths.  Margaretha was probably Barbara’s first child to die, although either John or Mary died before Barbara’s death as well.

Margaretha Drechsel Rabe’s children were:

  1. Freidrich George Rabe was born in 1876 and died in 1879 due to “lung disease due to cough. He is buried at Riverview.
  2. Caroline Louise Engel Rabe born December 3, 1880 and died in 1951, buried in the Wesleyan Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio.
  3. Mary “Mayne” Rabe born 1875 and died in 1961, married to Albert Weatherby and had three daughters, Lorine, Juanita and Margaret.
  4. Louisa “Lou” Rabe born 1879 in Aurora and died in 1963 in Whiteside County, Illinois, married to Irvin Isaac Denison in 1919. No children per the 1920 (she was 41) and 1940 census.
  5. Wilhelm Rabe born in 1883 in Aurora, died in 1886 in Cincinnati, buried in the Wesleyan Cemetery.
  6. Eleanor Rabe born in 1885 in Cincinnati, died in 1961, same location, buried in the Wesleyan Cemetery, married to Guy Nicholas Young and had 4 children, Marian, Eleanor, Donald and Guy.
  • Carolina “Lina” Drechsel was born January 8, 1854 and baptized in May of that year. Little is known about this daughter. In 1876 she was the godmother for her sister Barbara’s daughter Caroline.  In 1881 in the church records she is listed as married and moved to Cincinnati, but as late as 1886 she is still taking communion part of the time in Aurora.  By 1892 she is no longer listed in the church records.

Drechsel Lina 1880

I believe I found Lina in the 1880 census in Cincinnati listed as a cousin to Jacob Heinke. This is the only hint of family in the US for the Drechsel family.  Jacob’s wife Emilie was a Gotsch.  She is buried in the Walnut Hills Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her family seems to be from Muhlau and Ziegelheim, Saxony, according to the birth locations listed in her siblings burials.  Her father was a doctor.  There is no indication of a relationship to Lina Drechsel through Emilie.

Jacob Heinke’s father was Johann Jacob Henke born in Hanover and Louisa Maria Schafstall, also born in Hanover.

Was Lena truly a cousin? If so, first cousins share grandparents.

In 1878 and 1879, Gottfried Heinke is listed as an upholsterer at the address of 17 Adams Street, and Lena Heine is listed as a tailoress at 610 Race, so perhaps not the same person.

In 1900, I found Lena Heinke and her husband Gottfried, married for 5 years, living at 1612 Pleasant Street in Cincinnati. This census shows that she has had 1 child, but no children are living.  Of course, Gottleib could have been her second husband.

Drechsel, Lina 1900

Gottleib and Lena are still living in 1910 and 1920 where he is a polisher in a private factory.

I found Gotfried Heinke buried in the Riverview Cemetery, born March 1, 1854 and died Feb. 23, 1926. He has no stone, but buried next to him is Lena Heinke, close to George and Barbara Drechsel in section Q, lot #57, Tier 1, Grave 23.

The 1930 census confirms Lena Heinke’s identity. She is shown living with her niece, Leah Rabe at 1568 Hobart in Cincinnati.

Drechsel Lena stone

Lena’s burial information shows that she died January 24, 1938 and is buried at Riverview. She was 84 years old when she died.

  • Barbara Mehlheimer and George Drechsel’s fourth child was Johann Edward Drechsel born on August 16, 1856. In 1871 he was the godfather of Johann Edward Kirsch, his sister’s child. By 1877, he was living in Cincinnati.  In his father’s obituary in 1908 he is listed as living along with 3 daughters, but in Georg Drechsel’s church death record, it states there are 4 daughters living.  I may have found John in the 1880 census, but I cannot find him later.  He could also be listed under Edward, and Drexler could be spelled any number of ways.  I could find no burial for him either.

The John Drexler in Cincinnati, Ohio in the 1880 census is married to Lizzie Theisinger. They are living with her parents.  He is a tailor and was born in 1856 in Indiana and his parents were born in Prussia.

Drechsel John 1880

Philip Theisinger, who would have been John’s father-in-law, died in 1884 with no will or probate apparently. However, the Cincinnati court house did burn in 1884.

Probably the most frustrating part of not being able to find John Drechsel or Drexler is that he is the only male candidate for Y DNA testing. He has no male siblings and his father has no known siblings either, although there could certainly be a sibling in Germany for his father that I’m unaware of.  However, without a male Drechsel to test, we’ll never know anything about George’s Y line DNA which means I’ll never know anything about his ancient history, before the advent of surnames.  Searching for him has been like searching for a needle in a haystack, being uncertain of which first name he used and unsure of how his last name was going to be spelled at that minute in time.

Does anyone know anything about John Drexler and Lizzie Theisinger?

  • Barbara Mehlheimer and George Drechsel’s fifth child was Emma Louise “Lou” Drechsel born on July 18, 1859 and died in Aurora June 8, 1949. She was known as “Great Aunt Giegoldt”. She married Johann George Giegoldt on March 30, 1881 and had two children.
  1. Barbara Margaretha Josephine Giegoldt was born on Feb. 9, 1882 and was baptized on April 9th. Her godparents were Barbara Kirsch and Margaretha Rabe, her mother’s sisters.  In her confirmation, Margaretha is underlined and next to it the name Nettie is penned.  She never married, died in 1908 at age 26 and is buried at Riverview.
  2. Their second child was Caroline Louise “Lily” Giegoldt born November 6, 1883 and baptized on Christmas Day. Her godparents are Karoline Drechsel and Lilly Louise Drechsel. Is Lilly another name for her mother’s sister Emma Louise, or perhaps is Lilly John Drechsel’s wife?  Caroline married Theodore “Louis” Bosse, a watchmaker, moved to Cincinnati, and had sons Raymond and Wilbur.  The 1910 census shows them in Cincinnatti.

Johann George Giegoldt

After Johann George Giegoldt died in 1901 of Tuberculosis, Lou married Theodore Busse or Bosse on May 3, 1908. Yes, if you’re scratching your head wondering if Caroline Louise Giegoldt (the daughter) actually did marriy Theodore Bosse and her mother, Louise Giegoldt, also married a Theodore Bosse in the same town 11 months later.  The answer is yes, they did.  This should not be allowed.  How to confuse a genealogist!!!

Theodore Bosse (the elder) died in 1912 of kidney failure and Louise Drechsel Giegoldt Bosse then married Valentine Dietz.

I show Louise and Valentine Deitz in 1920, 1930 and 1940 in Madison, Indiana. He died in 1941.  “Great Aunt Lou,” as mother called her, was actually married to Dietz longer than she was to either of her first two husbands, combined.

Pictured here is the Giegoldt family monument in the cemetery in Aurora.

Giegoldt monument

  • Teresa Maria “Mary” Drechsel born December 28, 1862. In the 1875 she was baptized and by 1880 she was living at the Kirsch House with her sister. By 1881, church records note her as living in Cincinnati.  Nothing more is known about Mary.

Flood, Fire and Celebrations

Barbara’s life was truly remarkable. She seemed to skirt or somehow make the best of every possible tragedy.  Although starting out with a significant social handicap, she and George risked everything and left for America, which offered them the freedom to become what they would, and could, based on their own work, not on their birth circumstances and customs beyond their control.

The city lot that Barbara and George purchased seemed to have escaped most if not all of the major floods. If they did flood, it was probably only once.  Some of that may have been luck, but some may also have been their foresight living near large rivers in Germany.  4th Street was on a hill and that proved to be an excellent choice.

However, hill or no hill, fire still threatened. The major fire of 1882 burned the building next to their home and all of the buildings down the block in two directions.  Fortunately, it seems like the Drechsel family was in luck.  If the house did burn, that’s not a story we ever heard.  And most importantly, no lives were lost.

But even more remarkable is that Barbara seems to have avoided death in her family for more than 27 years. That’s more than a quarter of a century.

Of course, we don’t know when her mother died in Germany, but we do know it was before Barbara’s second daughter was born in 1851. We don’t know if Barbara had siblings or other family members she was close to.

What we do know is that from the time Barbara immigrated, in 1852, there were no deaths until her grandchild died in 1879. At the time of Barbara’s death in 1906, she had lost 2 children, a son-in-law, 3 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.

Let’s look at the flip side of that though. Barbara had 6 children born, all of whom lived, meaning 6 baptisms and 6 confirmations, all days for celebration.  She attended at least 13 weddings of immediate family members.

Barbara had 15 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren, which means baptisms and christenings for them as well. And that’s not counting birthday celebrations, Easter and Christmas, all opportunities for family celebrations and a home filled with people, laughter, children and cheer.

While Barbara did have some grief in her life, and I don’t want to diminish those events, her life was remarkable because of the number of celebrations she enjoyed – well over 100 not counting birthdays and holidays. That’s not bad for a woman who arrived with just the man not yet her husband and 2 small daughters with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, and no family.

Barbara’s life was shaped by her remarkable bravery and being willing to take risks and act beyond her fear.  Her family and the joyous celebrations she would enjoy for more  than half a century were her reward.

Barbara’s life was also defined by rivers and water.  First the Rhine, as an escape route, then the Atlantic, and finally the Ohio which carved the landscape and shaped the lives of those in living in Aurora, and beside which, on an Indian mound, Barbara reposes today.

Ohio hill



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The Concepts Series


Sometimes we get caught up in the details of how DNA testing for genetic genealogy works and what it means. Then someone asks a simple conceptual question, and I have to step back and figure out how to not tell them how to build a clock, but simply answer the question of what time it is.


Someone sent me this query about autosomal DNA matching.

“I do not quite understand how the profiles can be identified specially to an ancestor since that person is not among us to provide DNA material for “testing” and comparison.”

That used to be a common question, but less so now, or so I thought. But maybe it’s just because people aren’t asking anymore, or I’m talking to a different audience.

So, I’m introducing a “Concepts” series of articles. These articles won’t explain the specifics of “how to,” but will explain the concepts of genetic genealogy – just the concepts.  For details, how to and exceptions – and you know there are always exceptions, you can dig deeper.

If you have a basic concept question about genetic genealogy or know of one you’d like to see addressed, drop me a note or attach it as a comment to this article. I’ve discovered that many times concepts questions begin with a phrase like, “Maybe I’ve missed something, but…..”

I’ll be adding the Concepts articles here as I publish them.  And yes, the first article will be “How Your Autosomal DNA Identifies Your Ancestors.”

Concepts Articles



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Thank you so much.

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SMGF Animations Reborn

SMGF Animations

For those of you who used to refer people to the Sorenson animations about how DNA works, before Ancestry “discontinued” the data base, the data base loss was a double whammy because the animations were gone, as well as the data.

These animations have resurfaced at the University of Utah Health Sciences page. I don’t know how they got there, but thank you and hurray!!!

Click here and take a tour!!!



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George Drechsel (1823-1908), Flight of Faith, 52 Ancestors #111

Drechsel valentine

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Today, you’re going to meet a real cupid and Valentine’s Day hero!  Georg’s story is remarkable.  I never understood the subtleties and what they meant until I really delved into the history and customs of the Germany where and when George lived.  The story on the surface is not the true story at all, and to think how easily I could have missed it.  Come along, you’ll love meeting Georg and hearing his surprising love story!

Georg Drechsel was born September 8, 1823 in Speichersdorf, in the Pfalz, in Bayern, Germany. He was born at 11:30 at night according to his birth records in the church in Wirbenz.  He was christened at 2 in the afternoon the following day.  A christening this soon after birth makes me wonder if there was some question about Georg’s health.

Speichersdorf church

Georg’s father was named Georg Drechsel as well, born in 1785 in Neuhoff/Crusen, in the Pfalz, in Bayern, Germany.

His mother was Eva Barbara Haering born in 1789 in Speichersdorf, a servant who is the single daughter of a farmer.

Georg’s parents were not married when he was born, and he was christened George Hering (Haering), but obviously used the surname Drechsel. His father’s surname was listed as Drechsel, and he is noted as being a servant.  Georg’s parents were subsequently married five years later in 1828.

Our family had humble beginnings.

You can see on the map below, with the church location noted, that fields surround the church yet today. It may well be in these fields that these families worked, as servants.  Germans lived in houses clustered in the village and worked the fields that surrounded the village.  That explains why there are so many villages scattered like polka-dots throughout the countryside, literally every couple of miles.

Speichersdorf church map

The church is shown in the old part of Speichersdorf, on the way to Goppmannsbuhl, where Georg’s sweetheart, Barbara Mehlheimer, lived.

Speichersdorf to Goppmannsbuhl


Like his parents, George had children prior to marriage. He had two illegitimate daughters with Barbara Mehlheimer.

The first record we find of Georg, after his christening, is the birth record of his first daughter, Barbara, born to Georg Drechsel and Barbara Mehlheimer on October 8, 1848 in Goppmansbuhl, a little farming village outside of Wirbenz. Barbara was baptized in the church in Wirbenz, a couple of miles distant.

On May 13th, 1851, a second daughter, Margaretha was born to George and Barbara, also in Goppmansbuhl, also baptized in the church in Wirbenz.

Maybe by today’s standards, having two children out of wedlock, in Germany at the time, might be considered “odd,” but the Germans were not living by the American’s standards of then or now. And no, by the way, the couple was not “living together” as couples might do today.

But still, I had to wonder, clearly, they had 6 or 7 months after Barbara discovered she was pregnant for the first child to “fix” the marriage issue. Why didn’t they?  It clearly wasn’t a “one night stand,” because they had a second child together two and a half years later.  Barbara was no child either.  She was 2 months shy of 25 years old when she had the first child and 27 when she had the second.


We don’t know anything else about Georg, spelled without the e on the end, until we find his permission to emigrate. Yes, then in Germany, you had to seek and obtain permission to leave the country.  You also had to pay tithes on any property you took out of the country.  I’m guessing George and Barbara took nothing but the clothes they had on their backs and their daughters, because as servants, they would have owned nothing else.

The State Archives in Amberg, Germany, said in a record for the administration of the upper Palatinate they find that,” Barbara Mehlheimer of Goppmansbuhl am Berg received permission to emigrate with her two illegitimate children, as well as Georg Drechsel from Speichersdorf, on April 18, 1852. We were not able to find any record for Georg Hering or Drechsel regarding paternity, but the two records for the two daughters, Barbara and Margaretha are still available.”

This record tells us that George was living in Speichersdorf at the time, and Barbara was living in Goppmannsbuhl.

Speichersdorf to Wirbenz

On this map. You can see that it was about 4km from Speichersdorf to Goppmannsbuhl, and that’s assuming they both lived “village center.” They may have lived much closer to each other actually.  Wirbenz, where both daughters were baptized, is shown at right.  Was George in attendance at their baptisms?

Barbara and George must have been thrilled. Emigration was their ticket to a new, better and very different life than what was available to them in Germany, and what had been available to their parents as well.  In Germany, they were destined to be servants and never more.  There was no upward mobility once you were classed as a servant, restricted in your ability to form your own family and stained with the cultural blot of illegitimacy, caused by the restrictive circumstances of servitude.  In other words, it was a vicious circle lasting generations from which there was no escape, except emigration.  A new beginning, a fresh start, an opportunity.  George and Barbara weren’t just turning over a new leaf, they were writing a whole new book and changing the future.

We know the couple obtained permission to leave on April 18th, and we know they arrived in Baltimore on either July 20th or 24th, both dates are recorded in two different places.  Regardless, they left from Bremen and the crossing itself would have taken from 3 weeks in a steamer to 6-8 weeks or so in a sailing ship.   Speichersdorf to Bremen was 561 kilometers.

Speichersdorf to Bremen

Bremen was not close, in fact, it was half a continent away.

Bayreuth Bremen map

I checked the major rivers to see if Georg and Barbara likely used the waterways to make their way to Bremen, their port of departure. Bayreuth is very close to the Czech Republic in the eastern part of Germany.  There are no direct river passages from there to Bremen, so it’s likely that they went overland to a location on perhaps connected with the Fulda or the Weser Rivers which would take them to Bremen.


The Drechsel’s arrived in Baltimore on July 24, 1852 on the ship “The Harvest” that sailed from Bremen. Daughter Barbara was shown as 3 years old and  Margaret, an infant, was listed separately from her parents on a page with all of the infants on the ship.

Drechsel passenger list cropDrechsel passenger list 2

They were passengers 240, 241 and 242.  That ship was very full, and they weren’t at the end of the list.

Drechsel passenger list 3

Georg’s emigration and arrival papers tell us that they left from Bremen.  His age was 28 when he arrived and 29 when he applied for citizenship.  He was a farmer and they arrived in Baltimore July 20th or 24th, 1852. Georg applied for citizenship January 7, 1853 in Dearborn County, Indiana.

Working backwards from this arrival date to discover a departure date, it looks like they would have left in either May or June, so it took them about a month or 6 weeks to make their arrangements and get themselves to Bremen. I wonder if they were excited or terrified or a bit of both.

We don’t know if Georg’s parents were alive, and he had to tell them goodbye, or if he had already said his goodbyes to them graveside. Either way would have been difficult.  Georg knew he would never see any of his German family members again.

Aurora, Indiana

Within a year, Georg and Barbara’s lives changed completely, literally, like night and day. In addition to telling their family goodbye, they would apply for and obtain permission to emigrate, make their way to Bremen, leave Germany, sail the Atlantic, arrive in Baltimore, make their way to Aurora, apply for citizenship, and get married. Yes, they did!  They applied for their marriage license the same day George applied for citizenship and were married just a few days later!

This was a Red Letter Day for this couple, maybe THE Red Letter Day, as they obtained their marriage license the same day as they applied for citizenship.  What a celebration they must have had!

Georg and Barbara were married 4 days later, on the 11th, by the justice of the peace.  This was indeed the American dream for this brave couple.  Did they just leave the courthouse with quiet smiles, or did they stand on the steps, whoop for joy and wave those long-sought and much-suffered-for papers in the air with a victory dance?

Drechsel marriage license crop

Above, the much coveted Drechsel-Melheimer marriage license in Dearborn Co Marriage Records, book 8 page 491 by W. Stark, JP.

So George Drechsel and Barbara Mehlheimer were married immediately upon arrival in the US. If they were married immediately upon arrival, why didn’t they marry in Germany before they left, before they had children, or at least after the first one was born?  Ahhh – there is more to the story – it’s not at all as it might appear.

It’s so easy, and natural, to look at the history of our ancestors through the lens and filter of social and cultural norms today, but they don’t always apply – and this time they certainly didn’t.  Any assumption I might have made would have been wrong.

According to Reverend Greininger, who found these records for me in the churches in Germany, Georg and Barbara probably had to immigrate to be allowed to marry. He commented on how brave this young couple must have been.  In Germany, a young man had to prove he could support his family before he was allowed to marry, although the good Reverend did not say what constituted proof nor who had to confer their approval.  Whoever it was, they clearly didn’t.

Immigrating to America at that time was the social equivalent of eloping. This would have been going against the grain, rebelling, not conforming, bucking tradition, and likely without the approval of his or her family and certainly not the church.  The German people liked order, conformity and obedience.  George broke the mold.  George and Barbara were rebels.  It was “bad enough” having children out of wedlock, your sins recorded for all posterity to see in the church records, “staining” your daughters forever and, of course, confirming that you had s, e, x out of wedlock too.  But then to openly defy the system on top of that……tsk, tsk, tsk.

George would have had to work long and hard to save enough for both his and her passage, and those of their two children.  But saving enough for the entire family to emigrate apparently still wasn’t enough “proof” of commitment and financial stability to allow them to marry. Emigration to America was likely their only opportunity, and they seized it, marrying at their first opportunity.  Marriage is a right we take for granted today, but one they risked their lives and fortunes to obtain.

A marriage license to us might be just a technicality we have to endure to get to the wedding itself, but for them, it was a victory – proof positive they had made the right decision despite the hardships and heartache!  I can just see their smiling faces as they held that document in their hands.

For Georg, he had succeeded. He had rescued his family from a place and circumstances where he could not marry his wife and a culture that made his daughter’s forcibly illegitimate.  He worked hard enough to pay their passage, and upon arrival, he married Barbara – with his two beautiful daughters in attendance.  How could there be a sweeter love story?

A new and shiny bright future was in front of them, and they were taking full advantage of their opportunities to make a life in America!

George Drechsel’s application for citizenship is shown below, and his signature enlarged above. Notice that the old style s looked very much like an f during the timeframe when Georg lived.  Also, the German name of Georg did not have an e on the end like the English version does.  His e would get attached soon enough and the spelling of the surname would change over time too!

Drechsel naturalization

Sometime after their arrival the name “became” Drexler, which was probably the English phonetic pronunciation.

George and Barbara set out to live the American dream to its fullest. They began to save for property and just a few years later, they bought their first and only house.  Or, perhaps they bought a lot and built a house.  But regardless, it would be theirs, where they raised their children and then deeded the property to daughters Lou and Barbara in 1891 and 1905, respectively.

George and Barbara were no longer servants, or children of servants, nor did they or their children any longer carry that social stigma what was inherited in Germany. In America, they could rise above their birth circumstances, they could own property, and they could succeed as far as their hard work would carry them.  Georg and Barbara were Americans!

The American Dream – Property

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

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

  • Drechsel, Georg – (from) Riedel, Christian book 11 page 597, Nov. 1, 1856, Aurora lot 254. Note that Christian Riedel is the same person who witnessed for Georg’s naturalization.  I was hopeful of finding Christian in the census, but had no such luck.
  • George Drecksel to Louise Giegoldt Book 47 page 411, March 12, 1891, lot 254 the north half.
  • George Drecksel to Barbara Kirsch, book 66 page 19, lot 254 the E half lot 254, Dec. 15, 1905.

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

Mom and I went and found these properties in 1990. We took pictures.  We bonded with them.  They have been “mine” ever since…until tonight when Jenny Awad from the Dearborn County Historical Society sent me a color scan of the original map.  I looked at it and immediately thought, “wow, how clear.”  Then, I realized it was a different map, with more landmarks identified.  Then, I looked at the lot numbers and thought something looked odd.  Yep, you’ve probably guessed it by now.  Mom and I had the wrong lot number.  THE WRONG LOT!!!

For a quarter century now, I’ve been coveting the WRONG property. But it does make the 1900 census confusion go away.  The reason George Drechsel lives on 4th Street in 1900 is because his lot IS on 4th Street and his house IS on 4th Street – and has been ever since he bought it in 1856, on 4th Street.

Sigh. So all those lovely photos of the wrong house….bye bye.  This is as bad as sawing the limb off of your own family tree!

Oh, and yes, I get to go back and “fix” a couple of other articles too. Well, all I can say is better late than never, but am I ever mad at myself.  I should have checked against the original, back then.  The person at the historical society marked the proper lot for me, being much more familiar with the town than I was – and off Mom and I went to find that property today – “today” being about 1990.  We were SOOO happy.  Little did I know that the lot numbers, which were hand written of course, and worn, would be that easy to confuse…but they certainly were.  I did it too – until I saw the second map with the really, really clear lot numbers.  I had never seen that map before.  Thanks Jenny, I think!

So, here’s the really good map where I can see the lot numbers clearly, thanks to “troublemaker” Jenny who caused me to have this disruptive epiphany and genealogical meltdown, resulting in absolutely no sleep last night. As exasperated as I am (with myself), I’m actually extremely grateful to Jenny, because she stopped me from disseminating (and believing) incorrect information.  Because I publish online, “fixing” what I’ve written incorrectly is comparatively easy.  In fact, that’s what I did most of the night.  Do you think I inherited a bit of that German propensity for order and accuracy, perhaps?

1875 Aurora Map color

The map above, from 1875, shows the Drechsel house, lot 254, on 4th Street between Bridge and Exporting.  It was a block away from the barrel factory where George probably worked as a cooper.

If the original house still stands, and it looks like it does, it’s this house, at 510 4th Street today.

510 4th Street Aurora

1860 Census

The 1860 census shows that Georg’s family is growing.

Drechsel 1860 census Aurora

George and Barbara now have 5 children:

  • Barbara, age 11, listed at Babbit
  • Margaret, age 9
  • Lina, who was Caroline, age 6
  • John, age 4
  • Louisa, 9 months old

Mary would be born 2 years later.

George says he is a laborer, but I surely wish we knew more about what he did.  Maybe the next census will tell us.

The Civil War

George Drexler is listed on the Center Township district #9 Civil War Draft List.

This is a list of all persons subject to do military duty between the ages of 20 and 45 in Dearborn Co. with the following information:

“Any person enrolled may appear at the board of enrollment at Greensburg and claim to have his name stricken off the list if he can show to the satisfaction of the board that he has been improperly enrolled and not liable to do military duty on account of

  1. alienage
  2. nonresidence
  3. unsuitableness of age
  4. manifest permanent disability”

We show no evidence that George actually served in the war, but it is a distinct possibility that cannot totally be ruled out, although Fold3 shows no record of his service.  Why his name would have been on the exclusion list above, if it was, is also a mystery, as he would have been eligible to become a citizen in 1859, although he may have been bumping up against the age limit.

Another list for Dearborn county included about three times the number of people they actually needed and the balance of the people were “dismissed” as soon as their quota was filled. Perhaps this is what happened with George as well.


I finally found George in 1870 by going through the Aurora census page by page. I have no idea how his surname is indexed, but it’s not Drechsel nor does it look anything like that, but based on the names and ages of the family members, it’s clearly the correct family.

Drechsel 1870 census

George’s real estate is listed as worth $700. He was born to parents of foreign birth, but he is a citizen. And now we know he’s a cooper.


In 1880, George is shown again as a cooper and was unemployed for 2 months during the census year. I’ve never thought of “layoffs” in the 1800s in the trades.  I wondered perhaps if the cooper business slowed in the winter due to ice on the Ohio River, but that didn’t make sense either – because they would just have continued to work to stockpile barrels for the “rush,” certain to follow in the spring.  The primary use of the barrels was for whiskey which knows no season.

However, reading the “History of Dearborn County” written in 1885, it appears that the Wymond cooperage burned in the great fire of 1879 that burned several city blocks before being brought under control. One of the Wymond brothers retired at that point, but Samuel Wymond rebuilt and joined with another cooperage company to produce in excess of 600 whiskey barrels per day, plus barrels for other purposes as well, employing over 100 men.  This company owned several city blocks and the owners were exceedingly wealthy.  Little did he know it at the time, but George Drechsel’s granddaughter would one day marry into this family, with devastating results.

Drechsel 1880 census

By 1880, George’s children are gone except for Louisa who is living at home and is a seamstress. Mary, his youngest daughter is living at the Kirsch House with her sister, Barbara Drechsler Kirsch.  His house must have been getting quiet.

The 1883 Flood

In the 1880s, a photographer named James Walton had a portrait studio in Aurora. Barbara Drechsel Kirsch had her picture taken there.  Given Aurora’s proximity to the Ohio, and Hogan Creek, Aurora has a history and propensity to flood, like almost every year.

1883 Aurora Flood

The photo above is labeled 1883, and the 1884 flood was significantly worse – as in the river was another 5 or 6 feet higher. 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.  These floods affected the entire community and no one was immune.

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 right 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, George’s daughter, would purchase in 1921 when she sold the Kirsch House.

George’s house would have been on 4th street, two lots to the right of the 4th street arrow, so just outside the picture.  Fourth Street appears to be somewhat higher in elevation than the areas nearer to Hogan Creek and downtown Aurora.

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. You can see its portico over the sidewalk appearing below the white front of the building. At the time this picture was taken, George’s daughter, Barbara had been married to Jacob Kirsch for 17 years and they had been the proprietors of the Kirsch house for 8 years.  According to family oral history, the Kirsch House flooded at least once to the second level, in other words the portico.  The water was to the roof of the train depot, which was only one story.  I’m unclear whether this was the 1884 or 1913 floods, or perhaps both.  If that massive flood was in 1884, George would certainly have suffered through that one as well, although I don’t know if the part of town where George lived floods.  But if it was the 1913 floods, and there were two in three months, only George’s grave would have been flooded – and he wouldn’t have been worrying about it.

Church Founder

“The 1885 Dearborn Co. History for the City of Aurora” says that George Drexler was a founder of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church.

“The church was formed in 1856 by a small number of settlers who were convinced that it was a necessity, as well as their Christian duty, to assemble on the Lord’s Day for divine worship. In May 1878, after renting a church from the Baptists, they began to build their own church on Mechanic Street.”

Jacob Kirsch st John's google

I don’t know if the patrons build the church themselves, or had it built. George was more than 50 years old when this building was finished.  Had the congregation dreamed about this for the past two decades?  Was this new church also a dream come true for George?

Mom and I found the church in 1990 when we visited as well. I wish we had taken pictures inside.

Aurora St. John Church

George would have been very pleased to know that his daughter, Barbara, “Mrs. Jacob Kirsch,” is listed among the members in the 50 year anniversary book published in 1924.


The 1890 census is missing, of course, but in 1900, we find George and Barbara living at 148 Fourth Street. The neighbors look really familiar!

Drechsel 1900 census

Louisa Giegoldt is the daughter of George Drechsel and Barbara Mehlheimer. This is interesting because in 1891, George deeded part of this property to Louisa and she and her husband apparently built on their part of the lot.  This is one way to keep your family close!

The next year, in 1901, Louisa’s husband, John Giegoldt would die. He was only 42 in 1900, so still a young man.  I don’t know if his death was unexpected or not, but the fact that he is listed without an occupation might be a clue that he was ill.  Louisa has two daughters and both are employed as “shoe seamstresses.”  I must admit, I’m not exactly sure how that might be different than a shoemaker.

George and Barbara Drechsel show that they have been married 50 years in 1900 and have had 6 children, 4 of whom are living – which of course means two of their children have died.  One daughter, Margaretha, died in 1889, but we don’t know the identify of the second child who died.

George and Barbara show that they arrived in 1854 and have lived here for 46 years and are naturalized. Memory is slipping just a bit.

Actually, they have lived in the US 48 years, arrived in 1852 and have been married for 48 years as well, but who is counting!!! How could they forget that momentous event, although maybe their “math” was strategically a bit off, all things considered.

In reality, had George been allowed to marry Barbara in Germany, when he first wanted to, they would have been married about 53 years – a remarkable milestone, even today, in the age of advanced health care and antibiotics. For a couple of that day and age to hit the half century golden anniversary is amazing.  At Barbara’s death, in 1906, they had been “effectively married” at least 59 years, perhaps more.

I believe the street addresses have changed in Aurora since 1900, because the Kirsch House is listed as 162 Second Street in 1900 and today it’s 506 North Second.

The property shown below is present day lot 254. In 1910, it was listed as 148 Fourth Street.  George’s original house today is located at 510 4th Street, on the right in the photo below, and sure enough, another house is snugged right up on the left.  That would have been Louisa’s north half of the lot and is today 512 4th Street, according to the house number visible on Google Street View.  I love Google Street view.  I’ve visited so many places I could never otherwise visit – and certainly not on short notice.  It’s not the same as being there, but it’s doggone close!

510 4th Street both houses

Clearly George lived here beside his daughter for the rest of his life. It was probably unclear who was helping whom, at least until the end.  Louisa’s husband died in 1901.  In 1905 George deeded the rest of the lot to Barbara Drechsel Kirsch.  George’s wife, Barbara died in 1906 and George was likely becoming senile by that point.  Louisa remarried to Theodore Busse or Bosse in May 1908, just three months after her father died. Sadly, Louise’s daughter, Nettie, would died in September of the same year and then Bosse would die in 1912 as well, so poor Louisa had her hands full for a few years.

I’m glad to know that George helped Louisa and she helped him as well. Both Louisa and Barbara were very close, both to each other and to their parents, emotionally and geographically, and I’m sure they both provided their parents with a sheltering presence in their final years.

George’s Death and Funeral

George died of senility and “weakness.” His obituary reads as follows:

The death of George Drexler occurred on last Wed. from pneumonia at the age of 85 years 5 mos. and 17 days. Mr. Drexler was a respected citizen of Aurora for many years and leaves 1 son and 3 daughters to mourn his loss.  Funeral services took place from the German Lutheran Church of this city, Rev. Fisher officiating on last Fri. Feb. 27 and the remains were interred at Riverview.

The church records say that he died on the 26th, not the 25th and indicate that he died of weakness. They also give his age as 84 years, 5 mos and 18 days.  They indicate that he had 4 daughters, 17 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. Does this indicate that George’s son is dead?

In both George and Barbara’s obituaries, they refer to 4 married children, or 4 married daughters. This suggests that their son and one of their daughters has died, or perhaps two daughters, but everyone who is living is married.

It’s not very often we get to visit the funeral from a distance of more than 100 years, but because the church recorded the passages read at George’s funeral, in a sense, we too can be there. German Lutherans really didn’t discuss death much, until it happened.  They viewed death not as an end, but as a new beginning in an eternal life with God.

It was here, in the beautiful church George helped to found, 52 years later, that his funeral was held.

Drechsel St, John postcard crop

What a fitting tribute.

The passage read at George’s funeral was II Kor.5, 8, 9, taken below from the King James Bible, the Protestant English speaking standard Bible of the time. I wonder why this selection was made – if it reflected something about George,  was something the preacher thought appropriate or was simply standard funeral fare.

2 Corinthians 5

1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:

3 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.

4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.

5 Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.

6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:

7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)

8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

9 Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.

10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.

12 For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart.

13 For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause.

14 For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:

15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

16 Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.

17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;

19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

2 Corinthians 8

1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;

2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.

3 For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;

4 Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.

5 And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.

6 Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also.

7 Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also.

8 I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.

9 For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.

10 And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago.

11 Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have.

12 For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.

13 For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened:

14 But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality:

15 As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.

16 But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you.

17 For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you.

18 And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches;

19 And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind:

20 Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us:

21 Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.

22 And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have oftentimes proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, upon the great confidence which I have in you.

23 Whether any do enquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be enquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ.

24 Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf.

2 Corinthians 9

1 For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you:

2 For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many.

3 Yet have I sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf; that, as I said, ye may be ready:

4 Lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting.

5 Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness.

6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.

7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:

9 (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever.

10 Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;)

11 Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.

12 For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God;

13 Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men;

14 And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you.

15 Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.

I don’t know what hymns were sung at George’s funeral, but I do know that in other parts of the country, one hymn in particular was much requested at German funerals, apparently in reflection of the wars, immigration and trials faced by the German immigrants. In English, it is called, “Lord, Take my Hand and Lead Me” and it was written by Julie Katharina von Hausman who was born in 1826.  One German descendant said “there is no funeral without this hymn.”

1. God, take my hand and lead me
upon life’s way;
direct, protect, and feed me
from day to day.
Without your grace and favour
I go astray,
so take my hand, O Saviour,
and lead the way.

2. God, when the tempest rages,
I need not fear;
for you, the Rock of Ages,
are always near.
Close by your side abiding,
I fear no foe,
for when your hand is guiding,
in peace I go.

3. God, when the shadows lengthen
and night has come,
I know that you will strengthen
my steps toward home,
and nothing can impede me,
O blessed Friend!
So, take my hand and lead me
unto the end.

Please enjoy this beautiful hymn in German:

And in English:

Thank you for attending George’s funeral with the family.  Now let’s go to the Riverview Cemetery.

The Riverview Cemetery

When George Drechsel passed away, he joined his wife and other friends and family in the Riverview Cemetery overlooking Laughery Creek where it joins the Ohio River, just a couple of miles south of Aurora.

Riverview flyer

Riverview flyer 2

George and Barbara are buried on an Indian Mound in the cemetery in Section Q lot 56, tier 1 grave 2 and 3, marked near the top of the brochure, above.

Drechsel riverview mound

They weren’t kidding when they said he was buried on a mound. It’s a terraced mound no less.  I’m terribly curious about what is beneath that mound, but I’m sure I’m not the first to ask and since there is no answer today, there isn’t likely to be either.  The Indiana Department of Natural Resources recognizes the cemetery as a historic site and says the “two” burial mounds at the site have never been excavated and were intentionally incorporated into the cemetery plan.  Mounds are common along the Ohio River and like the well known Angel Mounds, may be from the Mississippian culture.

Drechsel riverview terracing

Looking at the hill, George and Barbara’s tombstones are located just to the right of the middle tree with the flower basket hanging.

Drechsel Riverview closer

George and Barbara’s stones are identical. These were difficult for me to find, so I’m “walking” you there.

Dechsel Riverview tree

The cemetery information lists George Drechsel as a cooper and says he died of senility and was buried in Section Q, lot 56-1, Grave 2.

Drechsel Riverview me

George and Barbara, ran away to America together for a better life…and found one. Now they rest together for eternity.

There is one last difference between what their life, and death, in Germany versus America would have been like as well.  In Germany, as in most of Europe. The graves are “reused,” as in recycled, after a few years.  That’s normal there and no one thinks anything about it.  When it’s time to bury the next person, the bones, if any are left, are removed and put anonymously in an ossuary to finish decomposing, and the new person is buried in the same location.  Sometimes other family members utilize the plot, and sometimes, complete strangers.  In Germany, graves are not a final resting place, but more of a decomposition pit stop.

Here, your grave is your grave is your grave, forever.  Well…except in the very rare case, and I mean chicken’s teeth rare, when you are buried on an Indian Mound, and then you may well have an unanticipated buddy, or several.  As long as you have a marker, your descendants can find you and visit and we’ll just say hello to your nameless buddies too.  Somehow, I just find this the ultimate irony.

Dechsel Riverview Georg and Barbara

The Family Line and DNA

George and Barbara had six children, two born in Germany and the rest in Aurora, Indiana. Among those children, only one boy, Johann Edward Drechsel, later written Drexler, is the only possible candidate for us to be able to obtain the Y DNA of George Dreschel.  Males pass their Y chromosome only to sons.  In fact, the Y chromosome is what makes males male.

We don’t know if George had any siblings in Germany, or if his father had siblings or uncles. There are other Drechsel, Drexler and Drexel families that immigrated to other places in the US.

Drechsel 1880 names Drechsel 1920 names

Some of those other Drechsel’s may indeed be from the same family line. Drechsel is from the Old High German word drasil, or “turner,” as in wood turner, a person who makes hand-made wooden items, such as bowls, using a lathe, so there could certainly be turners from different regions that are unrelated.

But without finding a male Drechsel, by whatever spelling, that descends from George’s line, we’ll never know.

Ironically, the Drechsel surname is still found in that part of Germany, near Crussen, because in a military newsletter from April of 2015, it gives the name of one Barbara Drechsel as a contact for a “volkesmarche” or people’s walk, a health event. So, they are still there and still named Barbara.

Children of George Drechsel and Barbara Mehlheimer

In total, George and Barbara had 6 children, 5 girls and one boy.

The girls were:

  1. Barbara Drechsel was born October 8, 1848 in Goppmannsbuhl, Germany and baptized in Wirbenz, the closest village, on October 22, 1851. In Aurora, Indiana she married Jacob Kirsch and died in 1930.
  2. Margaretha Drechsel was born May 13, 1851 in Goppmannsbuhl, Germany. In Aurora, she married Herm Rabe and died in 1889.
  3. Carolina “Lina” Drechsel was born January 8, 1854. She married Gotfried Heinke in Cincinatti, Ohio and died in 1938.
  4. Emma Louise “Lou” Drechsel born on July 18, 1859 and died in Aurora in 1949. She was married three times, first to Johann George Giegoldt, second to Theodore Bosse and third to Valentine Dietz.
  5. Teresa Maria “Mary” Drechsel born December 28, 1862. She’s living at the Kirsch House with the her sister Barbara in 1880 and is shown in the Aurora church records as living in Cincinnati in 1881, but after that, she’s a mystery.  She may have been the other child to die before 1900.

Son John, or Edward, or Johann Edward, or Whatever

George and Barbara’s fourth child and only son was Johann Edward Drechsel born on August 16, 1856.  In 1871 he was the godfather of Johann Edward Kirsch, his sister’s child.  By 1877, he was living in Cincinnati, according to church records.  In his father George’s obituary in 1908 he is listed as living along with 3 of George’s daughters, but in George’s church death records, 4 daughters are listed as living.

John is particularly difficult to track for a couple of reasons. First, he could have used either John or Edward.  Edward would have been the more traditional German name to use, but traditions were changing and the one record that may be him uses John.  The surname has been misspelled and mis-indexed about 100 ways to Sunday.  The most common are Drexler and Drexel, but in some places and cases, it’s simply unrecognizable.  Had I not gone through the 1870 census page by page, knowing the family was living in Aurora at that time, I would never have found them.  I suspect this same issue applies to many other records pertaining to this family, and since John’s surname is Drechsel, his records could well be obscured by this issue.

I may have found John in the 1880 census in Cincinnatti, Ohio, but I cannot find him later and I have no way to confirm the 1880 record is our John. He could also be listed under Edward or Drexler could be spelled any number of ways.  I could find no burial or other records for this John or his wife either.

John Drexler in the 1880 census is married to Lizzie Theisinger. They are living with her parents.  John is a tailor and was born in 1856 in Indiana and his parents were born in Prussia.  That fits.

Drechsel 1880 Cincy census

Philip Theisinger, who would have been John’s father-in-law, died in 1884 with no will or probate apparently.

I chased the Theisinger family through cemeteries in the Cincinnati area. If something happened to John or Lizzie, one would think they would be buried with the rest of the Theisingers, but I came up completely empty handed.  I also don’t find them in the 1900 census, but then again, the name could be misspelled, and they could have moved to a different part of the country.  Furthermore, Lizzie, probably short for Elizabeth, isn’t exactly a unique name either.  I also checked Ancestry’s trees in the hopes that someone in the Theisinger family dove into genealogy, but that hasn’t happened.  I’m striking out here!

Probably the most frustrating part of not being able to find John is that he is the only candidate for Y DNA testing. He has no male siblings and his father has no known siblings either, although there could certainly be siblings in Germany for his father that I’m unaware of.  However, without a male Drechsel to test, we’ll never know anything about George’s Y line DNA which means we’ll never know anything about his ancient history, before the advent of surnames.  Searching for John has been like searching for a needle in a haystack, being uncertain of which first name he used and unsure of how his last name was going to be spelled at that minute and place in time.

Does anyone know anything about John Drexler and Lizzie Theisinger?

If you are a male Drechsel or Drexler, spelled in whatever way, descended from George’s line, in the US or in Germany, there is a DNA testing scholarship with your name on it!!!

On Faith Alone

George’s story is one of faith. He was a quiet, unsung hero.  A man who began life as the illegitimate son of servants who could not afford to marry and ended his life having broken that chain.  He became a successful tradesman, a cooper, owned property and risked everything, including his life, crossing two continents and an ocean to break the legacy of generational servitude and impoverishment for himself, the woman who would be his wife and his children.

George came on faith alone, because he had nothing but faith and a prayer. One could call it brave.  One might call it foolhardy.  Bravery is moving beyond fear.  George could either reach out to a terribly uncertain future, embrace his only opportunity, and risk failure, or he could never reach out.  Instead of focusing on failure, he spread his wings to fly.  And fly he did.  George soared, and in doing do, became the wind beneath the wings of his descendants.  I would not be here today were in not for George’s flight of faith to marry the women he loved.

Happy Valentines Day George and Barbara!

wedding rings



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Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

lederhosen kilt

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

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

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

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

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

Ok, Why?

So glad you asked!

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

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

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

So, who are the Germans?

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

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

Now think about who settled the British Isles.

Where did those people come from and who were they?

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

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

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

Reference Populations

The second challenge is obtaining valid and adequate reference populations.

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

Except, it’s not quite that easy.

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

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

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

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

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

population admixture

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

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

That’s what we do know.

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

We are one big mixing bowl.


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

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

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

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

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

Ethnic regions

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

ethnic country

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

Two Strands of DNA

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

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

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

pop ref 3

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

Finding The Right Bucket

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

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

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

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

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

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

And who are the Germans anyway?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Real Life Examples

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

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

Back to You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GedMatch admix menu

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

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

The Exceptions and Minority Ancestry

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

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

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

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

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

There are two factors at play.

Recombination – the “Washing Out” Factor

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

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

Wash out factor 2

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

Recombination – Population Admixture – the “Keeping In” Factor

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

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

Endogamy IBP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using Minority Admixture to Your Advantage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s A Lot of Work!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s Talk About Scandinavia

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

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

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

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

Six gen both

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what can we conclude about this conundrum.

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

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

The Companies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

mystery photo probably Nora

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

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

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

Barbara Drechsel

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

Barbara Drechsel 2

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

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

Let’s Meet Barbara

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

wirbenz church

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

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

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

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

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

The Family Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1875 Aurora Map color

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

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

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

510 4th Street Aurora

The Church

Drechsel St. John

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

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

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

Drechsel to church map

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

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

Mom church window

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

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

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

Aurora St. John Church

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

Jacob Kirsch st John Aurora

We do know that Barbara was involved in some way with the Fifth Street German Church, as the Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper carried as a social announcement on November 3, 1910 that “Mrs. Jacob Kirsch and Mrs. Fred Kappel entertained the ladies of the Fifth Street German Church Wednesday afternoon in the church parlors with a coffee social.”


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

Drechsel 1860 census Aurora

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

Married Life

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

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

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

Jacob Kirsch Aurora map crop 3

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

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

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

The Kirsch House Legacy

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

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

1880 census Aurora

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

Kirsch House 2008

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

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

Jacob Kirsch House side

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

Jacob Kirsch house rear

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

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

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

Jacob Kirsch bar

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

Jacob Kirsch house by depot

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

Jacob Kirsch house and depot

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

Kirsch House postcard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barbara maintained this pace for almost 50 years. Had her husband gone to prison in 1886, she would somehow have carried on.  When her brother-in-law, disabled by the Civil War, came to live with them, she simply carried on.  When her 80 year old mother-in-law came to live with them in August of 1887, Barbara carried on.  I’m sure Barbara cared for her mother-in-law in the final 18 months that she lived at the Kirsch house, before her death on February 1, 1889.

When Barbara’s daughters began marrying in 1888, some leaving, and some adding another family member, she carried on.  I think Barbara just got up every day and put one foot in front of the other, treading that oh-so familiar path from one end of the day from dawn to dusk, up and down the stairs a million times…and carried on regardless of what life deposited on her doorstep.

Kirsch house staircase

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

Turtle Soup aka Mock Turtle Soup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kirsch House stationery turtle soup

Kirsch House turtle soup 2

Kirsch house turtle soup 3

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

meat grinder

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

Turtle soup pot 2

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

Turtle soup bowl

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

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

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

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


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

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

Jacob Kirsch and Barbara Drechsel

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

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

Jacob Kirsch family photo crop

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

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

The Decade(s) from Hell

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

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

In October 1892, Jacob was shot in the face in a hunting accident.  This devastating accident literally blew his eye out and he wasn’t expected to live.  He did, but rest assured that Barbara, now 44, not only cared for Jacob while he recovered, but also ran the Kirsch House and took care of the needs of the rest of the family.


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

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

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

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

510 4th Street both houses

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

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

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

On October 23rd, Barbara’s niece, Nettie Giegoldt died of tuberculosis, the same disease that took her father in 1901.  Nettie was one of Louisa’s two daughters.  Louisa had been living beside George before he died, married to Theodore Bosse in May after her father’s death, then was stricken by her daughter’s death in October.  But seven days later, something even more unthinkable happened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barbara’s daughter, Carrie, had married Joseph Wymond in 1902, the son of a wealthy Aurora family. However, in 1910, Joseph too reportedly killed himself… before syphilis could take him, at least the newspaper tells us the story of his despondency over being ill and his suicide.  Of course, the newspaper said nothing about syphilis.  Yes, syphilis.  Yes, incurable.  Yes, Carrie had it too and yes, it would eventually kill her as well.  In spite of what the newspaper said, Joseph’s death certificate says that he died in the Wabash Valley Sanatorium, in Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, Indiana, of Bright’s disease…the exact same thing that Carrie’s death certificate would say 16 years later.  Perhaps Joseph’s family had friends at the newspaper?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nora 4 gen 1922

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

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

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

1875 Aurora Map color

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

516 4th Street front

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

516 4th Street side

516 4th Street rear

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

1883 Aurora flood family properties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wabash, Indiana

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

We know that in June of 1924, according to a notice in the Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper, Mr. and Mrs. Ed Kirsch of Edwardsport, Indiana were guests of Mrs. Jacob Kirschof Aurora.

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

Barbara Wabash 1929

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

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

Barbara Joins the Family at Riverview

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

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

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

Jacob Kirsch stone

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

Jacob Kirsch stone with mother

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

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


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

mito line

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

The Needlework

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

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

Drechsel lace collar

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

Drechsel lace handkerchief

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

Drechsel lace collar2

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

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

Drechsel lace collar 3

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

climbing vine quilt

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 gen Hoosier Needlewomen case

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

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

Picket fence quilt

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

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

Nora's snowball quilt

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

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

Kirsch crazy quilt

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

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

Handkerchief quilt

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

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

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

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

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

barbara drechsel cropped



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Further Analysis of Native American Haplogroup C-P39 Planned

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

C-P39 Ray Banks Tree

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

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

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


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

C-P39 countries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research