Maria Margaretha Grubler or Gribler (present day spelling) was born on May 4th, 1748 and baptized the same day in Beutelsbach, Wurttemberg, Germany to Johann George Grubler and Katharina Nopp, both also of Beutelsbach. This family is indexed incorrectly at Ancestry, under the surname Brabler and a wide variety of other ways as well that don’t remotely resemble their actual surnames.
We don’t know much about Maria Margaretha’s youth, except that she was Lutheran much as everyone else in Beutelsbach, and she was an only child – a rare occurrence in a time when pregnancies routinely occurred every 18-24 months and there was little, if anything, one could do to prevent that aside from abstinence.
Like other German girls, she was likely called by her middle name, Margaretha – an enchanting and beautiful name.
Margaretha may have originally been a Scandinavian name, where it means pearl. It’s found in some format in almost all European languages.
Beutelsbach has provided an invaluable service to genealogists seeking their family by reassembling the historical families from church and other records and providing the information online, and for free.
These records allow us to search specifically at Ancestry in their Wurttemberg Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriage and Burials, 1500-1985 (which includes Buetelsbach) records collection for events like baptisms, marriages, births of children and burials. In German families in the 1700s, these are the activities and events that defined your life, especially if you were a female.
Margaretha grew up in this small village of just a few hundred people not far from the Rems River, where the hillsides sloped upwards and were filled with grapevines and vineyards. Beutelsbach is dab smack in the middle of the German wine region and the countryside is dotted with small villages, either within sight of each other or nearly so – scattered just far enough apart to have their own church and for people to walk to the nearby vineyards to work daily. In German villages, people lived centrally and walked a mile or so to their fields, or the fields they rented or worked for the landowners, the gentry. In Beutelsbach, the people who owned the fields would have lived in the Manor House, up on the hillside, overlooking the village. You can see the manor house in the drawing below. Today, the manor house is a hotel and conference center. I’d love to visit!
This beautiful view of Beutelsbach from 1598 was found in the forest register books created by Andreas Kieser. It probably didn’t look much different in 1748 when Maria Margaretha was born.
Beutelsbach and other nearly small villages have been joined together today administratively as the city of Weinstadt.
Margaretha’s father, Johann Georg Grubler, died on November 27, 1764 when he was 55 and she was 16 years old. They buried him the next day. This was probably Maria Margaretha’s first dealing with death up close and personal, as two of her grandparents died before she was born, one died a year after her birth and one when she was 4, so she never knew her grandparents – nor would she remember their funerals.
Church records don’t reflect any additional children for Maria Margaretha’s parents, but it would be highly unusual for a couple in that time who clearly could have children to have only one child. However, information unearthed by my friendly German genealogist, Tom, indicates that Maria Margaretha’s mother didn’t marry until she was 37 years old, on October 26, 1745, had Maria Margaretha in May 1748, at age 40, and never conceived another child. Knowing this, the fact that Maria Margaretha had no siblings makes a lot more sense – but she was probably the only “only child” in the entire village!
Eight years after Margaretha’s father’s death, she married Jakob Lenz, a vinedresser, on November 3, 1772. Given that Jakob’s parents had also lived in Beutelsbach their entire lives, Jakob and Margaretha likely had known each other since they were small children playing in the sunshine. They were only 3 months apart in age and were 24 years old when they married.
The document above, from the Lutheran church in Beutelsbach shows their marriage record. It says they were “married the 18th Sunday after Trinity and that Jacob Lenz was the legitimate unmarried son of the citizen and vinedresser, Jacob Lentz from here. Maria Margaretha is the legitimate unmarried daughter of the late Johann George Grubler, citizen and vinedresser from here.”
So both of their fathers worked in those vineyards above Beutelsbach. Their fathers had probably known each other their entire lives as well.
While Margaretha’s father didn’t join them on their wedding day, he was nearby, most likely buried in the churchyard just outside. The cemetery beside the church was the burial site for the House of Wurttemberg until 1311 when the official burials took place in Stuttgart. Certainly the local people continued to use the church burial ground.
Jakob Lenz and Maria Margaretha Grubler had 9 children, their first child being born just days after their first wedding anniversary.
- Katharina Barbara Lenz was born November 17, 1773 and died September 4, 1817 in Beutelsbach of epilepsy. She never married. This makes me wonder if she was epileptic for her entire life. I expect she lived with her parents. Perhaps it was a blessing that she died before they did.
Katharina Barbara’s birth and baptism records are shown above, and death entry in the church records, below.
Katharina Barbara’s parents, now age 69 would have weeped beside their firstborn child’s grave. They buried their first child 44 years after she was born. They buried their second-born within weeks of his birth.
- Jakob Lenz was born July 12, 1775 and died September 1, 1775 in Beutelsbach.
Jakob’s birth record above, and death entry in the church records, below.
On a late summer’s day, holding their first-born daughter, now 22 months old and perhaps with epilepsy, they would have buried their son, not yet 6 weeks old. This was not a happy family portrait.
- Maria Magdalena Lenz was born October 1, 1776 and died November 1, 1849 in Beutelsbach of weakness of old age. She too never married.
Maria Magdalena’s birth is recorded above, and her death in the church records, below.
- Johannes Lenz was born January 16, 1779 in Beutelsbach and died October 29, 1813 in Beutelsbach. He was single and the cause of death; stickfluss (bronchitis or pneumonia). Occupation not given. Tom indicates that the word gebrachi is used which means frail or infirm, so he may never have been well.
Johannes’ birth record is shown above, and his death entry in the church records, below.
- Philipp Jakob Lenz was born April 30, 1781 and died March 1, 1789 in Beutelsbach.
Philipp Jakob’s birth is shown in the records above, and his death, below. He lived to be almost 8 years old, past the dangerous first year or two. His parents must have been devastated at his death. His death record doesn’t indicate a cause of death.
Maria Margaretha’s mother, herself a widow, likely lived very close to Margaretha, if not with Margaretha and Jakob. On July 26, 1781, Margaretha’s mother died. Being an only child, Margaretha would have laid her mother to rest beside her father who died 17 years earlier.
Given that Maria Margaretha had no siblings, her mother’s death would have been her last immediate family member to pass over. Siblings help to cushion the blow, but with no siblings, Margaretha may have truly felt orphaned at 33.
On the other hand, with 4 living children at home, including a 3 month old infant, Maria Margaretha would have been very busy. Perhaps that was a good thing because she did not have time to dwell upon her mother’s death. On the other hand, in a small village, every time she would have passed by the house where she was raised, she would clearly have remembered her parents. Every Sunday attending church, she would pass by her parents graves. Did that make Maria Margaretha feel comforted that they were close, or sad that they were so close, yet so far away?
Life moved on, and Maria Margaretha continued to have 4 more children.
- Jakob Lenz was born March 15, 1783 and left to emigrate to America just before his 34th birthday. This is my ancestor whose story is absolutely incredible. So incredible, in fact, that we had to tell the story in two parts, plus a third for his wife, Johanna Friedericka Ruhle whom he married on May 25, 1808 in Beutelsbach. The church records tell us that Jakob left with his family to immigrate on February 12, 1817.
- Katharina Margaretha Lenz was born November 2, 1785, died January 6, 1858 and married Johann Conrad Gos on April 21, 1807 in Beutelsbach.
Katharina Margaretha Lenz’s birth is shown above and her death is shown in the church records below.
At Katharina Margaretha’s death on January 6, 1858, she is listed as daughter of Jakob Lenz, vinedresser and Maria Griblerin, the trailing “in” often added to maiden names of single women. Griberlin, the way it’s written, indicates that Gribler was her mother’s maiden, not married, name. Katharina Margaretha is also noted as the wife of Joh. Conrad Gos, bricklayer assistant who emigrated. She died of weakness of old age.
Katharina Margaretha had 5 children. Her husband, Johann Conrad left for Russia in 1817 where he died before the 1823 birth of Katharina’s last child, Jakob Freidrich Gos in Beutelsbach. Jakob Freidrich’s birth record is shown below.
Jacob Freiderich died in the poorhouse of emaciation and “wasting” in 1857, according to the church record below, which according to Tom, means he had tuberculosis. His occupation was that of a hafner (potter). He died the year before his mother.
It was initially unclear to me whether Jakob Freidrich was the son of Johann Conrad Goss, perhaps home for a visit, or the son of a different father. However, Tom translated the original records and answered that question, although it’s not exactly forthright.
Jakob Freidrich Gos’s baptismal record states:
Child’s parents: Katharina Margaretha, the late Konrad Gos, citizen and brickmaker, from here surviving widow.
The father according to the record extracts, noch ………..16 January 1824.
According to Tom, Jakob Friedrich Gos was considered illegitimate. His birth entry indicates his father was deceased and his death entry call him Jakob Friedrich Lenz, not Gos.
This is highly suggestive that Katharina Margaretha, while either married or a widow, conceived Jakob Freidrich and perhaps the clergy didn’t quite know what to say. Maybe the village knew Konrad Gos was dead, but didn’t know exactly when he died – and Katherina Margaretha wasn’t telling. Maybe the presumption of illegitimacy was not enough to pronounce Jakob Freidrich illegitimate at his birth.
However, the recording clerk or minister when Jakob Freidrich died 33 years later seemed to have no problem making that distinction by reverting him to his mother’s maiden name and labeling him “spurious,” meaning illegitimate.
In Tom’s words, “his father is clearly a mystery. If the child’s father acknowledged the birth at the time of his baptism or even later (in writing or as an affirmation to the minister), then the child would be considered legitimate. This was not done in this case as far as I can determine.”
We’ll never know for sure, because Jakob Freidrich Gos or Lenz never married, so never had children, at least none that we know about. If he had produced sons, we would have the possibility of Y DNA testing to see if his sons’ direct male descendants match Gos men or men by some other surname. Katharina Margaretha’s secret, if in fact it was a secret at all, has already gone to the grave. In a small village, there may have been very few true secrets.
While Katharina Margaretha was probably a bit scandalous as a widow bearing a child, we always have to consider the possibility that the conception wasn’t consensual and she may not have been the merry widow at all, but a victim. That would also be one reason the father would never have acknowledged the child.
Jakob Freidrich may never have been healthy, and Katharina Margaretha was apparently left to raise him alone. There was no happy ending to this story.
- Johanna was born June 22, 1788 (although the Beutelsbach history information says July 2) and died October 10, 1788 in Beutelsbach.
Johanna’s birth record is shown above, and her death entry in the church book, below. Her mother only got to love her, in this world anyway, for three and a half months.
- Christina born January 1, 1793, died “8-13” but no year given. The Beutelsbach history information says “probably 1793,” but as it turns out, this was incorrect.
Tom found Christina’s actual death record, shown below, on August 13, 1872 in Beutelsbach of cholera nostras, an acute bacterial disease caused by drinking fecally contaminated water.
There were cholera epidemics in Germany in both 1871 and 1873. The 1873 episode was noted as the worst cholera epidemic Germany had ever suffered. No cholera was listed in Germany for 1872, although obviously it was still lurking and was found in both Russia and Hungary in 1872. It’s only 400 miles from Beutelsbach to the border with Hungary, so that’s about the distance from Raleigh, NC to Washington, DC, an easy half day drive today.
Of Maria Margaretha and Jakob’s nine children:
- 3 children, 2 boys and 1 girl, died as children at 2 months, 3 months and 8 years of age
- 2 died as adults, but before their parents, having never married
- 2 married and had children
- The son who had children immigrated to America in 1817
- The husband of the daughter who had children left for Russia in 1817
- 2 daughters lived to adulthood but never married
- Only 4 children outlived their parents
- There were no sons left in Germany to care for either their aging mother or unmarried sisters upon the parents’ deaths
- Two of Maria Margaretha’s sons were named Jakob. A third was named Philipp Jakob and was probably called Jakob. No confusion there!
It’s not terribly unusual in German records to name a second child the name of a child that died, but I still find that custom a bit disconcerting. In my very 20th Century American way of thinking, each child needs their own name so that you can remember and honor them properly. How do you differentiate the first child Jakob who died from the second child Jakob who lived? There were a total of 5 Jakobs in this family; grandfather, father, son who died, son who lived, son Philipp Jakob who would have been called Jakob, who also died, but after the second Jakob was born. In other words, for a few years, they had two sons who would have been called Jakob.
When you speak about Jakob Lenz, for example, do you speak about the one who was born and died at just over 6 weeks of age in 1775 as “the first Jakob,” His father might have been referred to that way, or even his grandfather who was also Johann Jakob Lenz. Or do you refer to that first child as “the dead baby Jakob,” or do you just never refer to that child that passed? Unlike stillborn children or those who died shortly after death, the first Jakob survived for more than 6 weeks. Not in this family, but I have seen even a third child given that same identical name if the second child died. In this case, I suspect they wanted to have a child named Jakob after his father, and grandfather.
It’s somehow ironic that of 9 births recorded in the church records, only two of Margaretha’s children would give her grandchildren. One of those, Jacob left in 1817 for America, taking his four living children of course, who would have been ages 11, 8, 3 and 6 months old. Maria Margaretha never knew the rest of his children, born in America, and youngest two born in Germany would not have remembered their grandmother.
In 1775, Maria Margaretha buried her second-born child at about 6 weeks of age, in 1781 she buried her mother, then in 1788, she buried a child three months old. The next year, in 1789, another child died just before their 8th birthday. That must have been particularly difficult, because after infancy, you feel somewhat safe that they will survive.
Other than friends and distant family who lived in the village, Maria Margaretha had a reprieve for a few years, but the family deaths began again in October 1813 when her adult son, born in 1779 died of pneumonia.
Maria Margaretha would have stood by the small grave of her grandchild, Johannes, when they buried him five months later, on March 9th, 1814, a baby of 2 years and 3 months old, nearly the same age as one of her own children when she buried them. Another child she loved and lost.
A third grandchild, Elizabeth Katharina Lenz, died on the ship en route to America. In many ways, when Maria Margaretha kissed and hugged her grandchildren goodbye for the last time in the winter of 1817, they would have been functionally dead to her, given that she would never see them again. But receiving the letter that told of Elizabeth’s death, at age 4 or so, would have been devastating news. Maria Margaretha thought she was sending Elizabeth off to a new, better, life, not to a watery grave.
After son Jakob left for America in the later winter or early spring of 1817, he became shipwrecked in Norway in the fall after nearly starving to death on the high seas, and was stranded in Bergen, Norway for nearly another year. Surely, if Jakob was able to get a letter to Germany, Margaretha would have known about his predicament and been worried sick. Jakob and family managed to get themselves on another ship a year later, only to nearly perish on that voyage as well, and then had to sell themselves into indentured servitude to pay for their second passage after arrival in America.
Maybe Margaretha didn’t know those details. Maybe she did, afterwards, and was simply glad they were alive. Where there is life, there is hope. There were other Beutelsbach residents on those ill-fated ships as well, so Margaretha wasn’t alone in her grief.
In September of 1817, while Jakob’s ship was floundering on the high seas, Maria Margaretha buried another child, Katharina Barbara, who died of epilepsy at age 44. I have read accounts of people who died of increasingly worsening epileptic seizures and the reports are horrific. A small part of their brain is destroyed with each seizure and the damage is cumulative over the years, until they are often childlike, then infantile, as adults, ravaged by seizures they dread, terribly, can often feel beginning, and can do nothing to control. Maria Margaretha, after caring for her firstborn for 44 years, may have thanked God for taking her “home” so that she didn’t have to worry about if and how Katharina Barbara would be cared for after Maria Margaretha herself passed over. Maria Margaretha must have been keenly aware of her own mortality.
If Maria Margaretha believed in literal “Heaven,” she would have taken comfort in knowing that she would see her child again, on the other side of the pearly gates and Katharina Barbara would be “whole” in Heaven. That is probably what Maria Margaretha wanted more desperately than anything else in her life. But it was not to be in this world.
I can only imagine the horror Maria Margaretha felt to see her child convulse for the first time, and the second, and the third…for 44 long years. Maria Margaretha obviously took very good care of Katharina Barbara or she would never have lived for those 44 years.
Maria Margaretha’s other child who married and gave her grandchildren, her and her mother’s namesake, Katharina Margaretha, married on April 21, 1807 to Johann Conrad Gos. Katharina Margaretha had children in 1808 and 1812, but then in 1814, the third child died 12 days after birth, just before Christmas, on December 19th. This was the second grandchild that Maria Margaretha buried in 1814 with three burials of children and grandchildren in just over a year. I have a feeling there was no joy in that Christmas season.
A fourth grandchild was born to Katharina Margaretha in 1817, the same year that her husband immigrated to Russia, leaving Katharina Margaretha and the children behind. This is an odd situation. We don’t know if Katharina Margaretha refused to leave for Russia, so he went without her. We don’t know if she planned to join him later, then didn’t. Did her pregnancy interfere? Did he go for work and perish? Did he return to visit in 1822, hence the conception of Jakob Freidrich?
What we do know is that Katharina Margaretha had another son, Jakob Freidrich, on February 19, 1823, according to the church records, whose surname was Gos at his baptism. She is mentioned as a widow, although the baptism didn’t take place until 1824. However, Jakob Freidrich’s death record shows him as illegitimate and with the surname of Lenz.
On July 2, 1821, Maria Margaetha’s husband, Jakob Lenz died of a fever typically found in people with tuberculosis. In other words, she likely had to take care of Jakob for weeks or months before his death. Maria Margaretha would have been 73 years old, no spring chicken herself, that’s for sure. Perhaps her daughters who never married and lived at home helped their mother.
On July 5, 1823, Maria Margaretha died – two years and 3 days after her husband, Jakob.
Her death record in the church book, above, translates as follows:
Maria Margarethe Lentz,
Born here 4 May 1748
Parents: the late Johann Georg Grubler, citizen and vinedresser here and Katharina nee Nopp.
Wife of the late Jakob Lentz, citizen and vinedresser here.
Cause of Death: Dropsy or Edema
Place and Time of Death: here, 5 July 1823 at 3 pm
Place and Date of Burial: here, 7 July 1823 at 10 am
Folio 421 (Family Register)
Ist hier geschult und aufgezogen worden. Has been schooled and raised here.
They even tell us what time she died and what time she was buried. Gotta love those precise Germans.
Dropsy is an old term for edema, which means the collection of fluid in the cavities of the body. Often, this is a symptom of congestive heart failure. People with pulmonary edema often pass away of pneumonia. I hope she died quickly and in her sleep without suffering so that she could see her children, grandchildren, husband and parents once again.
Maria Margaretha’s son, Jakob, was in America. Her daughter Maria Magdalena never married and didn’t die until 1849, so she must have been living at home with her mother, as was her daughter Christina who died in 1872. Perhaps the third daughter, Katharine Margaretha, whose husband left in 1817 and subsequently died, lived in the family home as well, along with her children and infant son born February 19, 1823, just under 5 months before her mother would pass away.
I have to wonder, who took care of these 4 women after Jakob Lenz died in 1821, and the three adult daughters after Maria Margaretha died in 1823? How did they earn money to survive? Did they become charity cases? Their death records don’t mention the poor house.
I’m sure friends attended Maria Margaretha’s funeral, but only three children and four grandchildren stood by her grave. That a very, very low number for a woman born in the mid-1700s in Germany. Of course, Maria Margaretha buried 3 offspring as children, two as adults, waved goodbye to one who emigrated to America and cared for 2 daughters who never married and outlived her. That only leaves one child in Germany having children among 9 who were born.
Maria Margaretha’s DNA
As hard as it is to believe, given the children that Maria Margaretha had, there is only one daughter who had children, and of those children, only one granddaughter. The church records tell us that Friederika Gos was born on January 12, 1817 in Beutelsbach and the Beutelsbach records indicate that she died after 1842 in Steinreinach. We don’t know if she married.
If she married and had daughters, she would have passed Maria Margaretha’s mitochondrial DNA on to them. If that daughter has descendants today who descend from her through all daughters, they would carry Maria Margaretha’s mitochondrial DNA.
You can see how the different kinds of DNA are passed to offspring in this short article.
If one of those descendants, through all daughters, took the mitochondrial DNA test, we could discover additional history for Maria Margaretha Grubler Lenz.
Mitochondrial DNA is passed unmixed with the father’s DNA, so it reaches back in time relatively unchanged, except for an occasional mutation, and we can tell a great deal about population migration and where our ancestors came from. The story of our ancestors is written in our DNA, and the story of Maria Margaretha’s matrilineal ancestors is written in her mitochondrial DNA, if it still exists in descedants today.
If someone does descend from Maria Margaretha through all females to the current generation, which can be a male, I have a DNA testing scholarship available for that person.
I hope that the final chapter for Maria Margaretha has not been written.
In addition to mitochondrial DNA, current descendants could well carry part of Maria Margaretha’s autosomal DNA – passed to her from both of her parents and representing her ancestors, which of course, are our ancestors too.
It’s possible that if someone descended from Maria Margaretha through any child (not just females) would match other descendants today autosomally. I would be fourth cousins with someone in my same generation descended from Maria Margaretha’s daughter, Katherina Margaretha. Some people who are 4th cousins don’t carry any of the same autosomal DNA of their common ancestor, but some do.
I would be third cousins with anyone descended from Jacob Lentz, Maria Margaretha’s son, through a child other than Margaret Lentz (also my ancestor). Third cousins share more DNA than 4th cousins, and I do match two Lentz third cousins.
If anyone else descends from Maria Margaretha Grubler/Gribler or Jakob Lenz, or these lines from Beutelsbach, I’d love to make your acquaintance.
I’m sure there were moments of great joy in Maria Margaretha’s life. Some of those are recorded as her marriage, her children’s marriages and the births of her children in the church records. Other than that, we don’t know what was joyful in Maria Margaretha’s life and made her smile. What did she like to do? Her favorite food? I wish we knew.
Great griefs and sadness are recorded in those ancient church books as well – the saddest of days were when parents, your spouse and children passed to the other side.
Aside from what is recorded in the church records, we know that beginning in 1803, the Napoleonic Wars spread fear, turbulence and social strife throughout Europe.
In 1816, following the eruption of Mt. Tambora in 1815 in Indonesia, the atmosphere was so full of particulate matter that 1816 was known as “the year without a summer” when the weather was so cold that crops failed throughout Europe and America. Some people starved. Harvests failed, including grapes. Prices skyrocket and riots for food ensued. This was not a good time to be alive and it probably seemed like the Biblical end of the world. Maria Margaretha was taking care of an adult epileptic daughter who clearly would never be able to take care of herself. Maria Margaretha must have worried increasingly about her daughter as she herself aged. Providence would soon step in and take care of that question, but what a grief-filled solution. There was no good outcome possible – only bad and worse.
Life was difficult and sometimes devastating for the last 20 years or so of Maria Margaretha’s life. However, she persevered.
In my mind’s eye, I can see her marching forward, through whatever she had to march through, scratched up, bleeding, perhaps very thin, a tearstained face, but head held high and still marching forward through whatever adversity fate served up next. That is the picture I will always hold of Maria Margaretha Grubler, a woman of steel resolve.