The Kirsch family is German. My mother knew they spoke German. She heard them. They stopped speaking German during WWI and WWII when speaking German meant inviting trouble. The Kirsch family had never been anything but German.
So now, they’re suddenly…French???
My head is spinning.
This causes me to close my eyes and shake my head slowly to see if when I open my eyes, this dream has dissipated yet.
Nope, they’re still there, with records in French.
At least that key word is there, record! But French?
Is this really my Kirsch family?
How did this happen?
The Baguette Trail
I thought those were rye breadcrumbs I was following, but these turned out to be baguette crusts.
I’ve already written two articles about Andreas Kirsch of Fussgoenheim, Germany – and not intentionally, mind you. I wrote the first article, thinking I had sorted the Kirsch family correctly, only to discover that I hadn’t, so in the second article Andreas acquired a new set of parents.
Andreas’s correct father was Elias Kirsch who I’m trying desperately to write an article about. He’s resisting. Like, you know, this French thing.
Why is this family so unruly?
Elias’s birth record has already been documented. I had a date for his death from a German cousin decades ago, but I could not find Elias’s actual death record anyplace. It clearly existed someplace, because no one remembers an exact date more than 200 years later. But where was that missing record?
Andreas’s son, Philip Jacob Kirsch, was born on August 8, 1806 based on calculations from his death date inscribed on his tombstone in Indiana, here in the US. Many different pieces of evidence during his lifetime point to his Germanness.
When I wrote Philip Jacob’s article, I had hoped to find a birth/baptism record in Germany, given that I knew he had been born in the little village of Fussgoenheim, but that record was not found.
About the Fussgoenheim Church Records
Unfortunately, the Fussgoenheim church records are in sorry shape, fragmentary at best.
Fussgoenheim records include the following:
- Baptisms: 1726-1798 and 1816-1839
- Marriages: 1727-1768 and 1816-1839
- Deaths: 1733-1775 and 1816-1839
Those books are not complete, with pages missing and significant water damage. In the words of Tom, my cousin and trusty German retired genealogist, “these are some of the worst German records content-wise I’ve ever perused,” followed by, “your gang is never easy.”
Isn’t that the truth! Tom is always so elegantly understated:)
Fortunately, we were able to find at least some records for each person, so we haven’t skipped a generation completely.
Here’s what I have for these three generations of Kirsch men along with what’s missing.
|Gen #||Name||Birth Record||Marriage Record||Death Record||Comment|
|#1||Elias Kirsch||Yes – 1733 Fussgoenheim||No – married to Susanna Elisabetha Koob||No – date of May 2, 1804 provided by German relative||He was married before the birth of his first child recorded in 1763|
|#2||Andreas Kirsch||Yes – 1774 Fussgoenheim||No – married to Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler||1819 – yes, Fussgoenheim||Would have been married about 1795 before birth of child in 1796|
|#3||Philip Jacob Kirsch||No, but born in 1806||Yes, Mutterstadt, to Katharina Barbara Lemmert||Yes, died in US||Birth date calculated from death date on tombstone|
We know Andreas Kirsch was married to Margaretha Elisabeth Koehler from their children’s birth and baptismal records, the same way we know the identity of Andreas’s mother.
Sure enough, we find Andreas’s death record in 1819, in Fussgoenheim, in German, just like we expect. He was born and died there, so surely his son, Philip Jacob was born there as well.
It’s nice that we have 1819 taken care of, but what about that missing 1804 death record for his father, Elias Kirsch? If Andreas was born and died in Fussgoenheim, it’s likely that his father died there too.
The Source of the 1804 Record?
Since the Fussgoenheim records are absent for 1804, I couldn’t help but wonder where my German cousin who still lived in the region found that 1804 date. It wasn’t just an approximation, but an actual day, month and year. Those detailed dates, even if wrong, generally came from a specific source.
I searched in my records and filing cabinets and found nothing. And I mean I deep searched, like deep cleaning your house. Still, nothing.
Driving Me Batty
That missing 1804 source was driving me batty. I KNEW I had seen something, but what, where and when. I didn’t just make that death date up and it did not magically appear in my computer from the death-date-fairy one night while I slept.
Two days later, I found notes attached to a letter sent from that German cousin, Marliese in 2002 indicating that she had obtained at least some information from a retired cousin, Walter Schnebel in Fussgoenheim who was working on some related surnames. Walter, according to Marliese was a neighbor boy when she grew up in Fussgoenheim and his grandmother was a Koob. Hmmm, I wonder if Walter is still living…
Additionally, Marliese mentioned that a man named Friedrich Kirsch was writing a book but that he couldn’t help her. Another cousin, Hazel, mentioned in another letter in passing that she thought that Friedrich lived in California. I’d surely love to know who Friedrich is and if he finished that book.
Finally, my curiosity was satisfied – I knew why I recorded that date, but I still didn’t know the source, meaning where Marliese found it. I was trying to decide what to do with that date when I decided to search one more time online. New records do become available occasionally.
I searched at Ancestry for any Kirsch who died in 1804 and found a record not in Fussgoenheim, but in the Ludwigshafen records for Ruchheim. That’s odd.
I decided to take a look.
What? This can’t be right. These are French records. My French is rusty, but this definitely French.
Here’s the record. Tom wasn’t able to translate every word, but the gist is as follows:
Date of the Act: 16 Pluviose in 12th year of the French Republic or 6 February 1804.
Death Act No. 36
The 16th day of the month of Pluviose in the year 12 of the Republic, the Death Act of Elias KIRSCH…..the 15th Pluviose in the morning between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. at the age of 71 years son of the late Michael KIRSCH and Margaretha his rightful? wife from the declaration made by Andreas KIRSCH, ? and farmer here……and Kristoph Braun…farmer …..
Klingenburger, mayor and civil registrar. Mayor’s signature as well as signatures of Christoph Braun and Andreas Kirsch.
I can’t believe that Tom can read this at all, especially in a third foreign language. He’s amazing! Even after he translated the contents, I had to ask him which signature was Andreas Kirsch’s.
How cool is this! What was surely a sad day for Andreas as he signed his father, Elias’s death record is a boon for me today because I now have Andreas’ signature. Something very personal left by him 215 years ago at a turning point in his life.
But French? How is a death record for a German man in Germany written in French? Can this be right?
Is this the correct Elias and Andreas Kirsch?
Finding this record triggered a very vague memory from about 30 years ago.
When Elke, my translator at that time, was translating records from this family group – we found a page of script in the Lutheran Reformed church book, I believe from Mutterstadt, a neighboring village.
That cover page didn’t resemble the format of any of the other pages, and it may have been in the front of the book.
At that time, I was copying the pages from the Family History Center and sending them snail mail to Elke, about 20 pages at a time or so.
She would then read and translate any records with my family surnames in them, generally printing the translation by hand and attaching her translated page to the copied page I had sent her. Then she would return the entire packet with a letter which was like a Christmas gift with every arrival.
I don’t remember if Elke actually translated that cover page, or if she told me what it said when we were talking on the phone, but I remember that she thought it was interesting. The essence of what I remember about that church-book entry was jaw dropping at the time.
The old handwritten letter, in German script of course, addressed to no one in particular and everyone in the future said that the people (residents, parishioners) had crossed over the Rhine “once again” and were scattered. The few people left behind had been admonished to seek comfort where they could and to have their children baptized and their dead buried, even by the Catholics, if they could find any, because that was better in the eyes of God than nothing. Then, the letter said that, God willing, they would one day return to their village and farms and take their church book home with them to rebuild – not knowing if there would be anything left at all.
From this, I understood that the church book went with the minister, in his possession, and was not left behind in the church. Clearly, that book was significant to the minister as well as the church members – probably representing one thing preserved from the past and hope for the future. It may have been the only item from their village that survived. Invading armies were brutal and burned almost everything, leveling the landscape.
The words “once again” peaked my curiosity. Looking at the history of this region, the Rhine River acted as a road, bringing trade, but also foreign armies. Warfare was a fact of life.
In other records that Elke translated, I did notice some German, then French, then German again – but at that time, it didn’t really affect me, or at least I didn’t think it did.
I figured it was like any people living close to a border. Many people are multi-lingual. All of Europe is close to a border, so I didn’t think much more about it.
The real reason was much more alarming.
In essence, the left (west) bank of the Rhine was controlled by France from 1792 to 1815. During this time, the French introduced the concept of Civil Registration, as opposed to the church records being defacto civil records.
Given that Elias died in 1804, he had been caught up in the middle of the French/German drama and occupation in his elder years. Clearly, he hadn’t left, because he died on the French side of the Rhine, which is why his death record is in French.
This also explains why so many church records from the late 1700s to 1816 are missing as well. Not to mention that any church books taken across the Rhine may have never found their way back home.
The French record keepers did us the “favor” of translating the names from German names to French names. For example, Philip Jacob became Philippe Jacques. Johannes became Joan in French and other similar changes.
In other words, those records could have been hiding right there in plain sight – but I never paid any attention because the name and associated record was French, not German and the location wasn’t Fussgoenheim. I had no idea that the French had imposed a different type of civil registration and redistricted governmental administration in a more typical French manner. Ludwigshafen’s administrative district included Ruchheim which includes Fussgoenheim records.
Understanding the history of the region where our ancestors lived is so important to understanding the lives of our ancestors – and their records.
Hmmm, if Elias’ death record was in these “misplaced” records, which other missing records might we find here as well?
Philip Jacob Was Born Philipp(e) Jacques
Once I began searching differently and thinking in French, I found a treasure trove of records.
As you can see, there are lots of Kirsch records in Ruchheim.
On August 8, 1806, we find Philip Jacob masquerading as Philipp Jacques Kirsch born to Andre, which is really Andreas and Marguerithe Elisabethe who is really Margaretha Elisabetha. It seems odd to see those German names under the influence of the French – like kids playing dressup.
Of course, the Germans were probably very displeased by this turn of events and their new French names just rubbed salt in the wound. I’m sure they couldn’t wait until they could shed their new Frenchness like so many dirty clothes.
The Ruchheim records do include Fussgoenheim, so this Philipp Jacques in Ludwigshafen/Ruchheim is actually Philip Jacob from Fussgoenheim.
In his birth record, Fussgoenheim is even underlined in red in the original book.
Here’s the translation, again, courtesy of Tom:
The year 1806, the 8th of August at 10 A.m. came before me the mayor and civil registrar of the community of Fussgonheim, mayor of Sougheim? and declared: Andre KIRSCH, laborer, age 35 years, resident of the said Fussgonheim and presented an infant of the male sex born today at 3 a.m. of the said Marguerithe Elisabethe KOEHLER, his wife and given the names of Philippe Jacques (Philip Jacob). The declaration was made in the presence of Francois Joel, laborer, age 26 and Andre Stein, Jr., 28, both residents of Fussgonheim, who signed the document below and it was read alound.
Andreas Stein, Junger
Glory be, Philip Jacob Kirsch was actually born as Philippe Jacques. That’s one secret he never told!
I love the detail included in this record. We don’t have godparents listed like we did in church records, but we know that Philippe Jacques was born at 3AM. The ages of other people involved are provided too, which may help other genealogists, although Andreas’s age is only approximate. He was actually 32 at that time.
The missing marriage records weren’t found. The mother’s birth surnames were provided through the children’s baptisms, so we filled in those blanks another way.
However, discovering two of four missing records is wonderful.
Just when I thought I’d already been surprised by every trick move possible! I don’t quite know how to prepare for unexpected events like when your rye bread crumbs transform into baguettes. One thing is for sure, my ancestors never fail to disappoint.
I sometimes wonder if the ancestors are having a boring day, sitting on some clouds together in the hereafter, and plotting.
“Hmmm, what curve ball haven’t we thrown her yet?”
“I’ve got it – let’s just change languages to something different, for no apparent reason.”
“Yeah, that’s it. Great idea!”
“Watch this…hold my beer!”
“Don’t make me come up there…”
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Don’t you love it when the ancestors throw you a curve ball from the great beyond? Looks like you hit this one out of the park! I wonder how many more baseball related metaphors I can do. Ah, two’s enough.
Very interesting story and it meshes well with history at the time. I have encountered something similar in Italy. A cousin with the last name Palermo migrated from Gesualdo, Italy to Worcester, Mass. He changed his last name to DeSimone for whatever reason. His relatives kept the Palermo name when they came over so I don’t think assimilation was an issue. There’s a story there, too. I’ve asked my DNA matches from the Palermo line what it is and they have no idea. It’s a shame. Palermo’s a great last name. Sure it’s the same as a town in Sicily and Gesualdo is FAR from Sicily. I wonder why he changed it.
Perhaps I’ll never know. Still weird. Rather like how Vincenzo became James here in the US. That’s another story!!
I do enjoy reading about the strange things in your research. It shows what pressures people in the past faced and how they dealt with it; not to mention giving research ideas. Besides, it makes me feel more sane about my tree when I come to a wall in the maze.
Yea, I keep thinking there is nothing else that can surprise me. But then…
I have yet to tackle the origins of my German ancestors, for the most part I do know where they came from, just not documented yet. After England took control of Nova Scotia from France, they replaced the French residents with Germans 1750-51 and New England Planters 1760-62. My ancestry has both, but my Germans were recruited from states who were aligned/friendly with England. I guess I’ll need to educate myself on their German local history, as well as geography.
The kings of Great Britain in the 19th century were from the house of Hanover. That’s probably where they get their German settlers.
Very likely, thank you, nice map.
“The Baguette Trail
I thought those were rye breadcrumbs I was following, but these turned out to be baguette crusts.”
That was hilarious!
Yes, the French-German border moved many, many times through the centuries. If you need help translating from French, I can do it for you. I’m French Canadian.
Can you see my email address? I might need help in the Eastern United States, where I think that you live, so if you have a lot to translate from French, we might be able to help each other out. 🙂
Oh, also: I don’t think that your ancestor was born Philippe Jacques. The priest or the clerk who noted down the names most likely translated whatever he heard according to his personal whims and fancies. We have that problem, in Canada, when we try to identify captives from the British colonies. Some transformations are very fanciful and don’t respect the etymology of the name, which can make proving someone’s identity difficult, especially when the captives are children.
I love reading about the examples of other commenters above. Vincenzo (Vincent) to James! Wow! These names barely sound alike, but people were much more flexible back then.
To other commenters: please provide more examples of those fanciful translations if you have any! That helps.
Same thing with the Bohemian Vaclav, which was written as Wenzel when the records were written in German. With few exceptions, changed to James in the US. Maybe immigration officials suggested/recommended, or automatically wrote it as James on their papers.
There seems to be a order in this madness, at least among the Scots of Quebec City.
Angus -> Ignace
John -> Jean or Jean Baptiste
Rory -> Honoré
Jacob -> Jacques
Mary -> Marie
Margaret -> Marguerite
Agatha -> Agathe
All quite logical, but then you have:
Flora -> Geneviève xD
And I have at least two women, probably three who follow this pattern.
ozakatomoe : Thanks! Can you give me more of these illogical examples from Quebec, and perhaps add the full names of these captives or immigrants so that I can find them and their stories online? I am working on a paper.
Among the captives of New France, Stephen was also translated as Joseph. It sounds just a little alike, but the etymology is different.
These are from just my own ancestors and their families. They came to Québec City in 1773.
The Flora -> Geneviève are Flora McNeil married to Angus Ignace Mcintyre and Flora McIntyre married to John Jean McDonald. The third one, which is always named Marie-Geneviève McIntyre, was born outside the province, either in Scotland or in Prince-Edward-Island. She married Michel Kemner dit Laflamme.
Hi Marie. Thank you? But I’m in the Midwest and unfortunately, 3.5 hours from a genealogy library. The genealogy hinterlands. Can you identify the word before farmer that Tom couldn’t read?
When I zoom in in my browser, the picture doesn’t get any bigger, only the text that you wrote. It would work better if you sent me the original scanned files by email.
It’s amazing that you can do all that New England research from there! It must require some skills. 🙂
I’ll send a new reply to this thread with my email address. Don’t make it public, just use the email address to send me the original JPEG or TIFF files so that I can blow them up. They are not easy to read, even for a native speaker. I need more practice at paleography. 🙂
My email is : email@example.com
Based on your location, I am not sure that you have the resources, the time, or the desire to help, but if you end up having a lot of French texts to translate, my proposal could be advantageous.
You mentioned that some records seem to be lost. Keep in mind that any record created under French law was always made twice. One copy was for local purposes. The other went to Paris. The French should still have the copy of those books in Paris, in their national archives, as long as they were created during a French regime. I was told that it’s normally easier to conduct research in the regional archives. Since they have many, many linear kilometers of archives in Paris, and since you might not find the right box right away in the catalog, it can be more tricky to do research in Paris. However, if the only copy of certain records is there, it’s good to know that it probably still exists. My questions were about an ancestor that emigrated to Canada from Normandy in the mid 1700s. Since Normandy was heavily bombed in WWII, a lot of regional archives were destroyed. Since the records you want are from a later period, there is a very good chance that this second copy still exists… as long as the French were ruling at the time.
I am not sure that what I need is available at a genealogy library from the LDS Church. The two things that I need right now are in New York City and require a genealogist to be physically there. I have another family group (unrelated) that moved around between the colonies and finally settled in the Dover area. Their movements over time need to be tracked in order to determine their point of origin. The spouses either traveled separately until marriage or perhaps traveled together as a group. (Their families may have been part of the Great Migration.) I have found some breadcrumbs that could lead to a discovery. For the time being, I am focusing on the New York captive. One thing at a time!
Perhaps someone kniws a NYC genealogist that they can recommend.
For the first record of the article, only the heading is in French, the block of text is in German I guess, do I spot a few “und” and “nin”?
The second one is in French, and I confirm Tom’s translation is accurate in every point.
You are a comedian sometimes.
It reminds me of J.K. Rowling’s Who Do You Think You Are episode when she stumble on German records while looking for her French ancestors in Alsace. Borders were a more mobile back then in this part of the world. And like you noted, it sure is useful to have a general idea of the history of places where we look our ancestor.
But it sure is neat to find new records, even if in a different language.
I never realized that part of Germany was controlled by France, so that was educational for me.
I know that feeling right. I was looking for info on an ancestor born in 1730s or 1740s in today’s Belgium. I stumbled on information about Spanish Netherland and wondered what Spaniards were doing so far North. xD
There is an old 19th century saying often and wrongly attributed to Mark Twain that goes: War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.
These issues get in the way of a lot of researchers. It is harder when the Napoleonic wars are stacked on top of the 30 Years War of 150 years earlier. My German line seems to have materialised in the swamps of the upper Oder in the early 19th century about the time your Germans got Frenchified-and they not always resisted as the French often replaced rather reactionary and nasty local rulers-and have no idea how to push the lines back earlier, but I know through a FMS at FTDNA that the maternal line seems to end up in the middle of Sweden. hence the 30 Years War reference.
I love these stories, they give us all hope, and it is like reading a serial in the newspapers in the 19th century, ala Dickens.
I’ve been working with German ancestors recently and never thought of them living or claiming another country. That will help a lot in my searches. Thank you
I’ve had similar experience with French-language records, Frenchified names, and the French Republican Calendar in recent research of my wife Dee’s Belgian ancestors. Did you find the online tool to translate calendar dates?: http://angeneasn.free.fr/celendrier/calendrier.htm
I don’t subscribe to many blogs anymore, but I never miss yours! 🙂
As usual, very interesting; and (as often is the case) for for thought about situations in my own ancestry.
My Ludwig & Feig ancestors came to USA from Asch; a German village which found itself transformed to Czeck, but the people still consider themselves German. These ancestors apparently brought with them very old photo frames (they now frame photos of my gr-grandparents), which have been identified as pre-French Revolution, and a tilt-top table with a similar estimate of age, and we’ve wondered about the connection.
This article prompts me to go check out locations and borders and history!
I didn’t have an interest in history until recent years – –
Doesn’t that make you think about that table packed on the cart on the way to the boat as they left their village? Probably their prize possession.
It’s hard to imagine how they did what they did!
I do agree with the gentleman above and about J. K. Rowling’s ancestry from Alsace-Lorraine, which passed from French to German occupation after the War of 1870. This was the very first place the French attacked in August 1914. Also Emperor Napoleon III came to England after his defeat in 1870, and is now interred at Farnborough Abbey in Hampshire, about 5 miles from where we live – created by his widow after his death in 1873.
This area of France was fought over extensively again during Napoleon’s retreat after 1812, so you need to understand all those pesky German Kingdoms and Principalities before Bismarck unified the whole country.
While researching my spouse’s ex I found that some of the ancestors were Palatine Germans resettled in the American British colonies. Many of them removed to Canada when the American Revolution occured and they were termed Loyalists (there is a heritage society of the Loyalists). It was not something I was expecting when I found those Palatine Germans. The Palatinate – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palatinate_(region) – was subject to political and governmental switches between German and French forces, which could have made just getting by day to day difficult for the people. The Palatine Germans – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Palatines – mostly ended up in Ireland or British New York when they left the Palatinate. If you search for Palatinate Germany or Palatine Germans there are many sites with information. Considering that you know where your ancestors came from will help. I found that several of the ex’s ancestors moved from Switzerland to Palatine Germany then to British New York and then Canada and some in the 1850’s and later back to America, mostly in Minnesota.
This is a story familiar with me. The Jura of Switzerland and I believe most of the CH was taken over by France in the same period. Although our records were always French, thes e were written in the manner of France. This I know as I have French family in Aquitaine and have read and gone through many French records. We became the Department Mount Terrible of France. We were taken over just before the Revolution. The fact is that land and people were taken by force back and forth in this region. But where did that not happen.
Roberta mentioned that some records seem to be lost. Keep in mind that any record created under French law was always made twice. One copy was for local purposes. The other went to Paris. The French should still have the copy of those books in Paris, in their national archives, as long as they were created during a French regime. I was told that it’s normally easier to conduct research in the regional archives. Since they have many, many linear kilometers of archives in Paris, and since one might not find the right box right away in the catalog, it can be more tricky to do research in Paris. However, if the only copy of certain records is there, it’s good to know that it probably still exists.
My own questions were about an ancestor that emigrated to Canada from Normandy in the mid-1600s. Since Normandy was heavily bombed in WWII, a lot of regional archives were destroyed. Since the records Roberta and you are describing are from a later period, there is a very good chance that a copy of missing or destroyed records still exists… as long as the French were ruling at the time. It’s worth remembering.
You may have known that, but it may be useful information for other genealogists. 🙂
I didn’t know that. Thank you. Maybe someday these will be indexed and transcribed.
It’s not likely that all these archives will ever be indexed and transcribed (or digitized) in their entirety. There is too much of it.
It would require computer power beyond anything that exists today. I was specifically told that by the librarian from the national archives.
Don’t you mean that Johannes became JEAN??
I like how French civil records try to mention the person’s occupation as well as age!!
I am familiar with many French records and handwriting, but I am having a very tough time with these.
I’m inclined to characterize these records as written mostly in German, but conforming to the French recording requirements at that place and time.
The handwriting appears to be in a German cursive style, which my eyes are not very familiar with, so reading is difficult to impossible for me, but maybe not for Tom.
Of the words I can pick out, many appear to be German words, not French.
For one example, in the first record, the word for month in French is mois, and in German is monat. Here, the word written before the month Pluviose is not the word mois, but looks more like a form of the word monat.
Perhaps, as Tom seems like he might be familiar with German handwriting, I wonder if he could try to do a transcription for you instead of just a translation, and if that might lead to eventually figuring out some of the difficult words.
Thank you for your help with this. I just received another translation which is very similar to Tom’s and will post that as a comment shortly.
I agree with David. I believe that I also see a “und” (and) at the end of the second to last line, before the signatures.
As for the record called “No. 96”, that’s in French.
Here is the transcript and translation of No. 96.
L’an mil huit cent six le huit août à dix heures du matin, pardevant nous maire, officier de l’état civil de la Commune de fusgenhinn, mairie de (Ab?)ughinn, est comparû : André Kirsch laboureur agé de trente cinq ans demeurant audit fusgenhinn, lequel nous a presenté un enfant du sexe masculin né ajourd’hui à trois heures du matin de lui comparant et de Marguérithe Elisabethe Kochler son épouse, et auquel il a déclaré vouloir donner le prénom de Philippe Jacques. Lesdites présentation et déclaration faites en presence de Francois Joel laboureur agé de vingt six ans et de André Stein lejeune agé de vingt huit ans, tous deux demeurant audit fusgenhein, et ont les témoins signé avec nous le present acte après lecture faite, le père ayant déclaré ne savoir écrire.
Andr(???) (S?)(t?)ein (???)
In the year one thousand eight hundred and six, the eighth of August, at ten o’clock in the morning, before us the mayor, officer of the civil registry of the Commune of fusgenhinn, (Ab?)ughinn city hall, appeared : André Kirsch, ploughman, thirty five years old, residing in the said fusgenhinn, who presented a child of the male sex, born today at three o’clock in the morning, [the progeny] of the same and Marguérithe Elisabethe Kochler, his wife, and to whom he declared wanting to give the first name Philippe Jacques. These presentation and declaration were made in the presence of Francois Joel, ploughman, twenty six years old, and André Stein the younger, twenty eight years old, both residents of the above-mentioned fusgenhein, and the witnesses signed this record with us after a reading, as the father declared not knowing how to write.
Andr(???) (S?)(t?)ein (???[this last word probably means junior or the younger in German])
Note that a ploughman is a different occupation than a labourer. Beware of false friends!
I just learned something. It looks like, at that date, a “laboureur” (ploughman) is the equivalent of a yeoman in the English class system. You should do some background research to make sure that it’s correct in the case of your German ancestors. If the following Wikipedia entry applies, these ploughmen should all be landowners and have deeds in their name.
The ploughman was the other signer I believe?
André Kirsch and Francois Joel are both “laboureurs” (ploughmen). See complete translation above.
Correcting myself, I was focusing on the first record entry #36 thinking it looked like German. The second record entry #96 is indeed in French.
LOL! I got confused too since the German text does include a few French words (probably for legal reasons), but the rest looked like chicken scratches and I couldn’t make out any word I knew, and the date isn’t far enough back in time to make the language very different in grammar and vocabulary from modern French. I was wondering if it was an Alsacian dialect or something… But no, it’s clearly German with French borrowings.
That first record is definitely German. The second is French, which I can read with no problem, other than deciphering the name of the town where the mayor’s office is located (looks like Augheim to me, but I think I’m misreading the initial letter. Looking at the map of the area, I can’t make out a likely candidate. The way the sentence reads, it is indicating that Fusgenheim (Fusgonheim?) was governed by the mayor’s office (or town hall of this second town).
And yes, the German-speaking Palatinate went back and forth between German and French rule, leaving records on both languages. Just because a record is in French does not in any way mean the people documented in that record spoke French. Likewise with a German-language record. It just means it was the language of the ruling power in that area at the time. My immigrant Greib ancestor was from Alsace-Lorraine. The parish record book where his 1711 birth record was found contains records in both French and German. His family was German-speaking, but the Reform minister of that church (Église Réformé de Diedendorf), who kept the records, spoke both languages and apparently was assigned to that church because he could minister to both the German-speaking and French-speaking Reform populations of the region.
When New Amsterdam became New York, the same phenomenon occurred in the records. The language used switches based on who is making the entry on that day, and you are right Nancy, it doesn’t mean anything about the language used by the citizens.
Since the region changed hands many times over the centuries, it’s not impossible at all that the locals could speak a little French beforehand. It’s still like that today, both in France and in Germany along the border. The locals keep their own ancestral identity, no matter on which side of the border they happen to live, but many (most?) can speak both languages.
I have also found, in New York records, that French Hughenots or Englishmen are mentioned with a Dutch version of their names. For instance, Peter Minuit was a Walloon. His original name was Pierre Minuit (French), but he created records in Dutch and various translations of his name exist. Everything got translated into the language of whoever created the records.
What a fascinating story; thanks. It acts as a warning to other researchers to take war and other political change into account.
Also of note in the French language record: the witnesses’ names are recorded in the official, civil record as their French versions: “François Joel” (not sure about the last name, but it looks like Joel to me) and “André Stein.” But the two young men signed with the names they no doubt were known by, their German names: “Franz Jehl” and Andreas Stein” (plus a German word I don’t know that must mean, “the younger” or “junior.”)
“Understanding the history of the region where our ancestors lived is so important to understanding the lives of our ancestors – and their records.” is spot on but I would include geography.
Many European countries were at one time ruled by French speaking peoples and their records are then in French. These include England and Austria. two areas that my research have encompassed. Having spent time in Alsace, it is still bilingual.
Countries like Germany and Austria did not even exist. They were City States or Provinces ruled by a local potentate so record keeping was not consistent.
During the Austro-Hungarian Empire the official language in areas they controlled was French which has resulted in the German spoken in Austria today being smattered with French words and phrases. That blew my mind when I first visited Venna.
Thank your lucky stars, Roberta, that your families appear to have kept their surnames. My MUELLER (MULLER) family were originally MEIER (MEYER) but changed the surname at the order of the local ruler because they were millers. My mother-in-law showed me the papers.
I just love reading your family history and know the feeling when you make a breakthrough like this one. Big congrats on this one.
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