The family in Fussgoenheim, Germany said that Margaretha was supposed to have been a twin. Her birth year was given as 1774 by a cousin who lived there.
Her twin was reported to be Anna Elisabeth Koehler who married Johann Matthias Koob. The problem is that I was unable to find a second child, a twin, born in October 1781 when Anna Elisabetha was born. Plus, the years of 1774 and 1781 aren’t exactly twin material.
Furthermore, I could find no record of any twins at all in this family. Twins, especially twins that survived, were extremely rare due to the propensity for twins to be born prematurely.
Of course, every Koehler family in this entire region named their daughters the exact same names, so sometimes it’s very difficult to assemble these records into families unless the records are very precise or you can retrofit using multiple records.
As it turned out, I spent years spinning my wheels about twins when it didn’t matter.
The German relatives were insistent though, and I thought surely, surely, they knew what they were talking about. Marliese, the mother of my corresponding cousin was a pen pal with Kirsch/Koehler family members in the US during the bombings in WWII – not all THAT far removed from when Anna Margaretha died. A little over 100 years. Marliese, then a teenager, lived in the same village and her family knew the family history. Her grandparents were still living, reaching back generationally into the mid-1800s. Who was I, a Johnny-come-lately, to question?
By the time I started asking questions, another half century+ had passed and the cousin’s daughter in Germany was NOT pleased about me asking “Do you know where your Mom found that piece of information?” over and over again. Eventually, I stopped asking for fear of receiving NO information. Not long after, she stopped writing. I think she was experiencing heath issues. I was extremely grateful for what she did provide, because photos and other items she sent would have been impossible for me to discover any other way.
Thankfully the family in Indiana, so grateful for those WWII letters, had saved them and shared them with me. God bless those cousins, in particular Irene Bultman, all now gone to dwell with the ancestors.
I’ve now killed the twin rumor, but what do we have left?
Margaretha Elisabetha’s Son’s Marriage Record
One reason this family was so difficult to unravel was because Margaretha Elisabetha’s name was recorded more than one way. In her son, Philip Jacob Kirsch’s marriage record, her name is given simply as Margaretha.
Typically, using German naming conventions, the first name is never used except formally, with the middle name used as the common name. Given the German naming convention, Margaretha would have applied had she been named Elisabetha Margaretha or Anna Margaretha. In fact, any first name plus Margaretha for a middle name – since German children were called by their middle names.
Except…except…she wasn’t named Elisabetha Margaretha but Margaretha Elisabetha. It also turns out she wasn’t Anna Margaretha, another candidate, either. But getting to this conclusion was a twisty turny mud path with potholes thrown in for good measure.
I was only called by my middle name, in addition to my first name, when I was in one heap of trouble. I wonder if that came from Mom’s German side.
These records were so difficult to sort through back in the 1980s when I realized I really needed to sort through them and not just take family information as gospel. You might laugh today, but truly, that was quite a surprise revelation to me, and I didn’t come to that realization until I received conflicting information from 3 different cousins, all of whom “should know.”
I still remember that day, realizing that EVERY piece of information I had might be in error, because some of it unquestionably had to be wrong. Three different people for a mother simply could not be accurate.
I had to start from scratch.
I was not happy. I think that was the day I went from a genealogical gatherer to a hunter. Something I never intended to be.
But I had to sort that one question out.
Just that one question….
Yea, right. The moon is made of cheese and the earth is flat too.
Research in the 1980s
Research in the 1980s was challenging in and of itself – the genealogical equivalent of walking uphill in the snow, both ways.
First, I had to visit the local Family History Center and search through the indexes for names of people who might be the person of interest. Some indexes were computerized, some were on fiche and some indexes had to be ordered on microfilm.
After finding the index entry I was interested in, I had to order the photo image of each record from the church at the Family History Center and wait for its arrival. Many of these images are available online today.
I would go back to the FHC (20 miles each way) to retrieve the record when it arrived from Salt Lake City. Then I packaged up the image, along with the church index record that I had ordered from and sent everything to Elke, my German translator.
Elke translated each record by hand and sent the entire document set back, stapled together, thankfully. From these individual records, I assembled families, first on group sheets and then in PAF, Personal Ancestral File, a now-defunct genealogy program that ran on a computer that was physically huge, but much less powerful than our phones today.
Hard to believe we ever accomplished anything, but we did – just V-E-R-Y slowly!
Internet searches are truly a Godsend.
Bread Crumb Trail Builds Family Records
Along the way, as Elke translated each record, I assembled a series of hints. For example, from Margaretha Elisabetha’s children’s marriage records, we discovered that Margaretha Elisabetha was alive in 1821 but dead by 1829. Those records bracketed her death year, but her death record itself was stubbornly elusive.
In 1819, Margaretha Elisabetha’s husband, Andreas Kirsch died at the young age of 45, leaving a 47 year old widow with children to raise. I’m suspecting that Margaretha Elisabetha and her surviving children worked in the fields together outside the village of Fussgoenheim. What choice did she have except to do the work of her deceased husband in addition to her own?
In 1819 when Andreas died, Margaretha Elisabetha’s family consisted of at least 3 if not 4 living children.
|Child||Birth Date||Age in 1819||Comment|
|Andreas Kirsch||August 17, 1896||23, if alive|
|Catharine Barbara Kirsch||Sept. 13, 1798||Died in 1817||☹|
|Johann Adam Kirsch||Dec. 5, 1798 (clearly there is a year or parent issue – two children cannot be born 3 months apart)||21, died in 1863||May not be her child. No birth record found. Married Maria Katharina Koob.|
|Johannes Kirsch||Aug. 11, 1801||Died in 1811||Never married|
|Anna Margaretha Kirsch||Feb. 16, 1804||15, died Nov. 30, 1888 in Indiana||Johann Martin Koehler in 1821|
|Philip Jacob Kirsch||Aug. 8, 1806||13, died May 10, 1880 in Indiana||Katharina Barbara Lemmert in 1829|
Three or four children ranging between the ages of 23, if Andreas (Jr.) was alive, and 13 were living when Andreas (Sr.) died. Philip Jacob Kirsch continued his father’s name by naming his youngest son Andreas, or Andrew in the US, but that son died at 4 years of age.
I’m guessing that the family remained together, with everyone living in the same house or with the eldest son as the family morphed. As her family matured, Margaretha Elisabetha gradually changed from being the head-of-household to the matriarch and then, perhaps, to being cared for by others until she passed.
Unfortunately, Margaretha Elisabetha died in 1823, just two weeks shy of her 51st birthday and just prior to the 4th anniversary of Andreas death. Philip Jacob, her youngest child and my ancestor was only 17 at the time.
Daughter Anna Margaretha Kirsch had already married in 1821, so Philip Jacob likely lived with his sister and her husband, Martin Koehler. That probably explains the bond between these two families, because in 1848, both families would immigrate to the US together, settling in Ripley County.
Records Confuse the Issue
OMG, I have no hair left! And I was doing this to relax.
Let’s just say that finding a death record for the person who DID turn out to be Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler under the name of Anna Margaretha Koehler Kirsch really threw me for a loop.
Everything was right – the parents, the husband, AND, there was indeed one Anna Margaretha Koehler born to those parents. But was Anna Margaretha who died in 1823 really the daughter of Peter Koehler and Anna Elisabetha Scherin named Anna Margaretha or was that daughter Margaretha Elisabeth?
“Anna Margaretha” Dies
Sadly, Margaretha Elisabetha or Anna Margaretha, the wife of Andreas Kirsch, whatever her name really was, didn’t have a lengthy life – at least not by today’s standards. She passed away at 50. I always wonder about my ancestors’ causes of death.
Furthermore, her death record, which in essence the only “tombstone” she has today is recorded under the wrong name.
Andreas had already died in 1819. Margaretha died only 4 years later. Tom was kind enough to translate Anna Margaretha’s actual death record from the Fussgönheim, Bavaria Evangelical Church records.
On the 21st of April 1823 died and on the 23rd was buried, Anna Margaretha KIRSCH, widow of the late Andreas KIRSCH, aged 49y11m22d. Her parents: Peter KÖHLER from Ellerstadt and Anna Elisabetha SCHERR.
Dang! Now what?
WHAT IS HER DOGGONE NAME???
I thought, based on that death record, that I had incorrectly identified Anna Margaretha Koehler as Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler, her sister. Documents had been recorded both ways, so I eventually had to make a chart.
First, I checked her children’s birth records.
|Name||Birth Date||Death Date||Mother’s Name in Record|
|Andreas Kirsch||Aug 17, 1796||unknown||Margaretha Elisabetha in birth record|
|Catharina Barbara Kirsch||Sept. 13, 1798||May 28, 1817||Margaretha Elisabetha in death record. Name not recorded in birth record.|
|Johann Adam Kirsch||No record translated, may not be her son|
|Johannes Kirsch||Aug. 6, 1811, age 10 years 1 month||Margaretha Elisabetha in death record|
|Anna Margaretha Kirsch||Feb 16, 1804||Indiana in the US||Her 1821 marriage record says she is the daughter of deceased Andreas Kirsch and Elisabetha Koehler, present and consenting.|
|Philip Jacob Kirsch||August 8, 1806||Indiana in the US||1829 Marriage record says he is the son of Andreas Kirsch and Margaretha Koehler. Birth record says Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler|
Ok, can we find Margaretha’s own birth record? Maybe THAT will shed some light on the situation.
The birth date of April 30, 1773 was calculated from the death date in the civil death record of Anna Margaretha Koehler Kirsch. We’re fortunate that the death record included her exact age and the names of her parents, including her mother’s birth surname.
Years ago, Elke translated the birth records of the children of Peter Koehler and Anna Elisabetha Scherin who lived in Ellerstadt. Peter was the proprietor of the inn called “The Lion” and they had several children, all born in Ellerstadt.
The problem is that they had other children that preclude Anna Margaretha from having been born in 1773, the death record year, or 1774, the year provided by the German cousin.
- In 1772, Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler was born on April 30th.
- In 1774, Maria Eva Koehler was born on February 23rd.
Clearly, neither of these daughters are named Anna Margaretha nor are they born in 1773.
However, the fact that the actual month and date of the Margaretha Elisabetha maps correctly to April 30th in the civil death record suggests that the death date year calculation used in the death record was off by a year.
Furthermore, Anna Margaretha in the death record is actually Margaretha Elisabetha who was 50 when she died, not 49, based on two pieces of evidence; the day/month match and the consistent use of the name Margaretha and often Margaretha Elisabetha in additional records.
It’s also helpful to know that when deaths were recorded in church records, generally the minister would go back and look up the birth record if the person was born in the same location. However, civil registrations had to take the word for the birth date/year from the people reporting the death who were clearly upset. Registrars recorded the name as they heard it, possibly not knowing the deceased as the local minister would.
That was a lot of heavy lifting.
Margaretha Elisabetha’s Birth Record
Margaretha Elisabetha was born in the village of Ellerstadt, not far from Fussgoenheim where she would live with Andreas Kirsch. Ellerstadt was literally the next village over, 2.6 km or a mile and a half, and the fields tended by the residents of the two villages would have intersected.
I wonder if the young people flirted while tending the fields, or if they met at church, or if the families had simply known each other for generations. Perhaps they “met” as toddlers playing while their parents worked and perhaps tended grape vines in the vineyards.
Today this region is wine country, probably much as it was when Margaretha Elisabetha was born there in the spring of 1772.
The page in the church book recording Margaretha Elisabetha’s birth was titled in Latin, a remnant of Catholicism and the Holy Roman Empire. This made me wonder if the church was Catholic, but it was Protestant.
On the 30th of April, at noon, about 11 or 12 o’clock, was born here a little daughter and due to weakness, as baptized the 1st of May. The father is Peter Koehler, proprietor of “The Lion,” from here and the mother was Anna Elisabetha. Godparents were Johann Jacob Muller, master miller from Heuchelheim and his wife, Anna Margaretha who have her in Holy Baptism the name Margaretha Elisabetha.
Aha, so maybe they met at The Lion as the families intermingled.
Heuchelheim could be another hint as to family members. If they weren’t related, why would a couple from 10 miles away travel to Fussgoenheim to stand up as godparents, especially on quick notice, for a weak child, who they would be obligated to raise if something happened to her parents?
It’s humbling to realize that Margaretha Elisabetha almost didn’t live. This may be the first record I’ve ever seen where a child was baptized “quickly” because the child was felt to be at risk of death actually survived.
Lucky for me that she did.
But this record also served to add to the confusion because I originally suspected that this child had, in fact, perished and perhaps there really had been another child born in 1773, a year later, perhaps with the same name. Reusing a name after a child had died was a typical German custom, although I’ve always wondered how they knew which child they were referencing.
What evidence could I accumulate as to the name and identity of the wife of Andreas Kirsch? Is she really Margaretha Elisabetha born in 1772, an unrecorded child by the same name born in 1773, or Anna Margaretha born in 1765 to the same parents?
Why do these people have to name multiple children with the same names? Were Margaretha Elisabetha and Anna Elisabetha both called Margaretha? No wonder someone thought there were twins. Maybe German Mom’s just named everyone the same thing so when they yelled out the back door and called their kids, they just had to shout one name for each gender and everyone showed up!
“Margaretha, Johann, time to eat!” and poof, all 10 kids plus the husband ran inside! Of course in a German village, using that logic, half the town would have arrived.
How sure am I that my ancestor, Andreas’ wife, really is this weak child? Or is she the older sister, Anna Margaretha, as stated in the death record, 9 years older than Andreas who was born in 1774?
Something is wrong, but which something and how, exactly, is it wrong?
Is this question really settled?
In date order, I created a summary of the pieces of evidence that we have for both names.
|Type of Evidence||Date||Anna Margaretha||Margaretha Elisabetha|
|Anna Margaretha Koehler||March 10, 1765||X|
|Birth of Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler||April 30, 1772||X|
|Birth of Andreas||Aug 17, 1796||X|
|Birth of Catharina Barbara||Sept 13, 1798||X|
|Birth of Johann Adam (may not be their child)||Dec. 5, 1798||?||?|
|Birth of Johannes||Aug 11, 1801 (1811 death record might show more)||X|
|Birth of Anna Margaretha||Feb. 16, 1804||?||?|
|Birth of Philip Jacob||August 8, 1806||X|
|Death of Catharina Barbara||May 28, 1817||X|
|Death of Andreas Kirsch||May 20, 1819||X|
|Death of Anna Margaretha Koehler, wife of Andreas Kirsch||April 23, 1823||Calculated birth date as April 30, 1773|
|Marriage of Anna Margaretha||Sept 30, 1821||Margaretha||Elisabetha and Margaretha, separately|
|Marriage of Philip Jacob||Dec. 22, 1829||Margaretha||Margaretha|
Margaretha alone, without any other name, could be either person.
However, the correlation between the calculated birth month/day and Margaretha Elisabetha’s birth, plus the fact that the only record in which the name Anna Margaretha appears is her death record, except for the 1765 birth record with a different month/day, pretty much confirms that Andreas’s wife’s true name was indeed Margaretha Elisabetha and that she was the daughter born in 1772.
In other words, it’s her death record that has the wrong name. Kind of like putting the wrong name on the tombstone, for eternity.
And that, I surely hope, is the final (and correct) answer!
The Kirsch and Koehler Houses
I am incredibly grateful to Marliese, my cousin who was raised in Fussgoenheim. She and her daughter blessed me with some photos that are nothing short of amazing.
Marliese labeled this first photo as the “Old Kirsch home in Fussgoenheim” where she grew up. The man at left looks like he’s wearing a long white butcher’s apron.
The entrance door appears to be in the black portion of the house which I took to be either a barn or garden area. That may be incorrect. I wonder the purpose of the architecture of the black area with the small door. In the photos below, some other houses seem to have similar structures.
The second photo, above, is labeled my Marliese as the Koehler house with an X and the Kirsch house with an O, although according to the first photo above, the houses would have been switched. Which house is which doesn’t really matter, because we descend from both families.
The close proximity of the houses surely explains the generations of intermarriage, although the early Kirsch records are in Fussgoenheim and the early Koehler records are in Ellerstadt. Based on this photo, at some point both the Kirsch and Koehler families lived in Fussgoenheim as neighbors.
This last photo is of a Fussgoenheim street, and I’m presuming the X marks the same location, just viewed from further away. You can see that other homes have a similar “barn door” like structure, with an embedded house type door.
Could this photo be of some sort of parade?
I don’t know enough about vintage automobiles to determine the model of the black vehicle. VW Beetles all look the same.
The Volkswagen was invented in 1938, but not put into significant production until in 1945, after WWII. This photo was probably taken after that but note the horse-drawn wagons as well.
One final photo shows people on the street in front of these homes, probably family members.
I surely want to know if these buildings still exist – and where they were. Unfortunately, Google Street View that provides actual “driving experiences” isn’t available in Europe.
I discovered that if you move sideway on Google maps, even though you can’t actually drive up and down the streets with Street View, you can still see and view the structure of the homes at least somewhat.
The building at left above is unique because it has the house, then the large black area which looks to enclose a garden or barn area, then another piece of the house on the other side before the next house with the 2 upper and 3 lower windows.
There’s no way to verify, at least not that I know of, that this was the original Kirsch/Koehler home. It’s a very good possibility due to the small, what appears to be flat roofed building, to the right that seems to match the style of the Kirsch home.
The house directly to the right of the truck which would have been the other Kirsch/Koehler house has clearly been torn down and replaced with a modern building.
Yes, I really did “drive” up and down the streets as best I could looking for a similarly shaped structure. It’s interesting how actually long and skinny these homes were with the fields to the rear. In one of Marliese’s letters, she stated that in the early 1900s, a field of 8-12 acres was sufficient to support a family.
Marliese, the German cousin, is related through both the Kirsch and Koehler families as well. The families intermarried significantly. Looking at the proximity of the houses, you can certainly see why.
People married their neighbors. Young people courted the people they knew.
The Oldest Known Photo
One last photo was passed down years ago through Joyce Heiss, another cousin, providing enough information that I could determine how this woman fits into the family tree and how I’m related to her.
I initially thought, based on the comment that she came to America with her children after her husband’s death that this was Anna Margaretha Kirsch, the daughter of Andreas Kirsch and Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler, born in 1821 who married Johann Martin Koehler. Anna Margaretha Kirsch immigrated to the US after her husband died, so this seemed to be a perfect descriptive fit – well, except for the name. We already know how confusing names can be.
However, this photo is of a different woman entirely. I had no idea this woman, the daughter-in-law of our Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler, immigrated too.
This photo is of Anna Elisabetha Kirsch born Dec 14, 1828 in Fussgoenheim to Johannes Kirsch and Maria Catharina Koob, probably in the Kirsch house in Fussgoenheim shown in the house photos. She married Philipp Jacob Koehler (1821-1873), the grandson of Andreas Kirsch and Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler through daughter Anna Margaretha who married Johann Martin Koehler.
Confused? Me too.
This is like extracting tentacles of an invasive vine wrapped around a tree – MY family tree in this case.
Yes, it’s complex – and complicated further by the fact that her husband, Philip Jacob Koehler, died in Indiana in 1873, not in Germany as reported on the photo.
In the pedigree chart above of Anna Elisabeth’s husband, Philip Jacob Koehler, the people with the upper-case names are my direct line ancestors. I’m related to Anna Elisabetha Kirsch and Philip Jacob Koehler, individually, several times over.
Anna Elisabetha Kirsch and Philip Jacob Koehler had 5 children, one of whom died for sure as a child in Germany, one who probably died in Germany and three who immigrated and settled in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.
- Martin Koehler born July 16, 1848 in Germany died on January 3, 1913 in Lawrenceburg, Indiana and married Henrietta Doerner.
- Margaretha Koehler born October 14, 1849 in Germany died on June 19, 1903 in Lawrenceburg, Indiana and married Johann Freidrich Stuber (1847-1934). They had 7 children, 4 of whom lived to adulthood.
- Jacob Koehler born May 28, 1859 in Germany, married Wilhelmina Heckhauser.
This family settled close to my Kirsch family who lived in both Ripley County and Aurora in neighboring Dearborn County, just downriver from Lawrenceburg.
Anna Elisabetha Kirsch died in 1876 of tuberculosis in Dearborn County and is buried in the Riverview Cemetery just outside Aurora. The two Kirsch families knew they were related, although, to the best of my knowledge they weren’t sure exactly how. Or, perhaps they knew exactly and that knowledge was lost over the next hundred years.
Anna Elisabetha Kirsch is related to me on several lines on her maternal side. If I could reconstruct the Johannes Kirsch and Anna Margaretha Koob line, I’m sure I’d share even more ancestors with Anna Elisabetha.
Anna Elisabetha Kirsch shared several ancestors with her husband too. I’m betting they lived in the Kirsch and Koehler homes in Fussgoenheim and grew up as children, neighbors, playing outside together. This pedigree is what endogamy looks like. Some great-great-grandparents appear three times, and probably more if I had information on the missing generations.
Given that Anna Elisabetha is the oldest known photo of any Kirsch/Koehler/Koob ancestor, and I’m related to her through so many lines, I’m betting that my ancestors bore some physical resemblance to her. I look at her photo and wonder which of her features my ancestors shared and passed on down. Are some of her features my mother’s and mine as well?
I’m betting that I would share a LOT of DNA with Anna Elizabeth and perhaps with her descendants if they were to DNA test as well. There’s a lot of common DNA between Elizabeth’s children and the children of my ancestor, Philip Jacob Kirsch. Anna was Philip Jacob’s first cousin, once removed on her mother’s side and also related to him on her father’s side as well. Perhaps it’s a good thing they immigrated to a location where there were unrelated people to choose from as spouses.
Anna’s husband was Philip Jacob Kirsch’s nephew on his mother’s side and his first cousin once removed on his father’s side.
Anna was Philip Jacob Kirsch’s 1st cousin once removed on his mother’s side, and his second cousin once removed, as well as his first cousin once removed and second cousin, both, on his father’s side.
If you’re thinking that this isn’t a family tree, but a vine, you’re right.
Even though Anna Elisabetha Kirsch Koehler is not my ancestor, given how many ancestral lines we share in common, her descendants may match genetically as closely as if she was a direct ancestor. We share that many ancestors and there is only so much DNA in an ancestral population to pass around!
This is the perfect example of why endogamy can be confusing, both in the records, pedigree charts and when looking at DNA results where endogamous relations appear to be closer in time based on how much DNA is shared than they actually are.
Perhaps one day another Kirsch or Koehler cousin from the Lawrenceburg lines will DNA test and we’ll know how much ancestral Kirsch/Koehler/Koob DNA we share. Fingers crossed!