A Visit to the Ancestral Kirsch and Koehler Homes in Fussgoenheim, Germany – 52 Ancestors #253

My Kirsch ancestors were born and lived in Fussgoenheim, Germany, along with Koehler family members. Recently, a friend, Noél who lives in the US but was traveling to Germany made me a fantastic offer – one I couldn’t believe – or turn down.

Noél offered to drive to Fussgoenheim during a trip to Germany and see if she could find the Kirsch/Koehler houses based on the photos in my blog articles.

Can you believe that? Well, neither could I, especially after discovering that the small local museum was entirely unresponsive and uncooperative. I had heard, for years, that the little museum housed genealogies and photos of the oldest local families as well as the oldest homes. Nope, they said, they know nothing – and then when I tried to make arrangements to visit, crickets.

A year earlier, when another cousin attempted to visit, they also found the door locked and the secrets firmly held. How sad.

I told Noél that I really could not impose on her vacation in that way.

Noél, an avid genealogist, however, was not to be deterred!

“Yes, the minutes are precious, but I can always make time for a fellow genealogist…plus you did help me…”

I can’t even begin to express my gratitude to Noél and her husband.

Historic Fussgoenheim

The article where I published the Kirsch/Koehler photos, taken by a cousin, Marliese, who was raised in Fussgoenheim and sent the photos in letters to a US cousin is titled Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler (1772-1823), Weak Child, Baptized in a Hurry – 52 Ancestors #228.

In early 1948, Marliese, then a teenager, wrote a letter addressed to “Koehler Family of Aurora, Indiana from Marliese in Fussgoenheim,” hoping that it would make it’s way to someone. It did.

In the letter she said:

Hunting through things, I discovered your address and pictures which my grandmother said were her American cousins, her only relatives.

More than a year ago, I decided to write but the thought that my letter might be regarded by you as a begger letter detained me from writing.

After providing additional family information, she closed:

We would be very happy to hear from you, the only relatives on my grandmother’s side.

She signed the letter, “Marliese, granddaughter, niece of Marie Kirsch.”

Hazel Koehler’s father, Henry, then age 79 answered Marliese on August 27th.

Marliese and Hazel wrote back and forth for more than 25 years, with Hazel saving everything, which eventually allowed me to corresponded with Marliese’s daughter briefly a few years ago.

I have never been so grateful for old correspondence. Their letters were immensely helpful, not only with genealogy but to gain historical perspective of both World War II and life in Fussgoenheim during earlier generations.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch home

Please note that in the original article I was uncertain about whether the house pictured above is the Kirsch or Koehler home, but rereading Marliese’s letters, including her address, combined with the address Noél found proves unquestionably that this home is the Kirsch home, not the Koehler home. I’m simply overjoyed, because this home still exists today AND I have photos.

Marliese tells Hazel:

We live in the old homestead of your ancestors, and in Germany the people that live on the farms need not suffer hunger.

Marliese’s letters portray a grim story of the war and the aftermath. I will include snippets throughout this “visit” to put the images in perspective and provide a bit of history about the family that lived in this home during that time.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch Koehler homes 2

In her November 1948 letter, Marliese says:

We still live in the old parental home and birthplace of your father and grandmother, because their house and acres were taken over by my great-grandfather, Jacob Kirsch. Even today some of the older people in the village call him Koehler Kirsch.

Marliese enclosed this identification document that included Jacob’s photo.

Jacob Kirsch b 1842 Fussgoenheim.jpg

Marliese continues:

I am 17 on Christmas Day. My father, Otto, 47, is the son of Marie Kirsch born in 1871, daughter of Jacob Kirsch whose sister Elizabeth married Philip Koehler with whom she immigrated to America. With them was also a brother John Kirsch.

Since my grandmother had no siblings and her father’s brothers and sisters went to America, they were her only relatives. I never knew my grandmother since she died 2 years before I was born.

Jacob, pictured above, is the great-grandson of  my ancestors, Johann Peter Koehler and Anna Elisabeth Scherer. He also descends from my Kirsch line in Fussgoenheim, but I’ve yet to figure out exactly how. Fussgoenheim has experienced record loss, but the Kirsch, Koehler and Koob families are very intertwined and it’s likely that Jakob descends from multiple ancestors in all 3 families, as do I.

Marliese goes on to say that:

The Kirsch family lived ever since 1626 in Fussgoenheim. Statistics which I have obtained which is one of the oldest families and John Kirsch 4th was one of the richest farmers in the area.

Fussgoenheim is about 70 km from France. I went to college where I studied both English and French.

While goods, according to Hazel, were no longer rationed in the US, they were in Germany according to Marliese, and would be for a long time to come.

Fussgoenheim street

In my articles, I always try to give directions so that any future genealogist could follow my path and find what I found. In this case, finding what I thought was the Kirsch home and publishing the location, I did myself a huge, and I mean huge, favor. I just didn’t realize it at the time.

The Genealogy

I pieced together the genealogy of the both Marliese and Hazel from their correspondence and subsequent documents. When Marliese first began writing, she had to depend on the memory of her parents, and needless to say, memories had faded with time. Eventually, she did obtain some documents from the town hall as well as a Koob descendant whom she describes as an old neighbor boy Walter Schnebel, and unraveled a bit more. Walter is reportedly writing a book.

Sometimes Marliese referred to people by thier nicknames which really threw me for a loop, necessitating piecing several clues together. Not to mention that names were recycled generation after generation, of course.

I won’t be including a lot of genealogy, but for reference and documentation purposes, I’m providing their trees.

Marliese's grandmother Kirsch's line

Marliese’s grandmother’s Kirsch/Koehler line. Marie was born in the Kirsch house in Fussgoenheim. Click to enlarge.

Hazel's Koehler Kirsch line

Click to enlarge. Johann Peter Koehler was Hazel’s grandfather, born in Fussgoenheim.

Roberta Kirsch Koehler tree

Roberta’s Kirsch/Koehler line. Click to enlarge. Philip Jacob Kirsch was born in Fussgoenheim.

Noél’s Trip

I tried to schedule an appointment at the museum in Fussgoenheim, with no luck. The people I was referred to never replied, and then neither did the original contacts. Very frustrating and not very welcoming.

Noél’s trip was imminent, so I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best, meaning that she could find something, even without local assistance. Frankly, I wouldn’t have blamed her one bit had she thrown in the towel at that point.

I waited to hear. I tried not to worry.

A month later, late one night, an email arrived from Noél, where she says:

Let’s start with the “not good” news.

My heart sank.

The museum in Mutterstadt is only open by scheduling an appointment in advance which we found out today at the Rathaus. So that was a bust. 😠 We tried to visit the library in Fussgöenheim in the hope of finding more information on the two families. Only open on Tuesday from 3-6 and Thursday 4-7  😔

By the way, the Rathaus is the city hall – the same place I had called and written trying to schedule someone at the museum. They aren’t open without an appointment, then refuse to schedule one. Yes, I’m still salty about that.

Now on to the good news.

Holding my breath now…

Your Google Earth research was positively spot on. And we have a huge number of pictures for you. However, they are locked in my camera until we can download them so I took a number on my cell phone to hold you over until we return.

Jumping for joy!!!!

Noél is apparently aware of my (ahem) ancestor-rock-addiction.

There were no rocks for me to grab at the Kirsch home but there were a number of rock-shaped pieces of stucco (that had fallen off the house) so I grabbed one for you.

Fussgoenheim stucco.jpg

This piece is large marble size – about three quarters of an inch.

You will be happy to know that I was able to walk beside the Kirsch home to take photos. Look at what is on the second floor in that picture…wonder if it came with the house???

Enjoy the pictures and I’ll send a ton more when we return. Let me know if you have any questions. FYI the house number for the Kirsch house is #9.

Then…drum roll…the photos!

The Teaser Pictures

Fussgoenheim-Kirsch-home-2.jpg

I am literally feasting my eyes.

Fussgoenheim-Kirsch-3.jpg

Click to enlarge

If you compare the original Marliese photo, you can see the “door in the door” above that was standing open in the photo from the 1930s or 1940s.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch wall.jpg

It looks like the house that Marliese marked secondly as the Koehler home is gone today and is where there is a gate in the wall between the two homes. I wonder when that happened.

Noél tried to find someone at home, but no one answered.

Fussgoenheim-Kirsch-garden-2.jpg

However, look at this beautiful garden area at the Kirsch home today.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch antiques.jpg

And this! THIS! Be still my heart. Were these items from the original house? Did my ancestors own these? What is that area beneath the roof and above the wall? Was it originally the barn and held these items? Marliese did send a grainy photo with her father driving a tractor, so it would have been housed someplace.

Fussgoenheim-Hauptstrasse.jpg

Looking at the Kirsch home from down the street. I still can’t believe I actually found it on Google maps, and Noél found it too.

Fussgoenheim-neighbors.jpg

The neighbors, further down the street. I can’t help but wonder if more relatives lived here. Of course they did! We just don’t know who they were.

I was ecstatic to receive these teaser photos, but there was much more on the way a few weeks later!

More Pictures

One rainy day when I desperately needed something uplifting, Noél’s envelope arrived, plopped down on the doorstep in the rain by the mail carrier. Thankfully, Noél had packaged things carefully.

I found these things inside:

  • A thumb drive with pictures
  • A small box with my stucco piece that had fallen from the Kirsch house
  • A guided tour with the photos printed in order that they had been taken

She went to a lot of effort on my behalf. Shall we accompany Noél?

Welcome to Fussgoenheim

I can’t tell you how excited I am!

Fussgoenheim has existed since at least 893 when a list of goods is found in the records of the Prum Abbey. Jerg Kirsch, born about 1630, is reportedly already in Fussgoenheim in the first records and noted as “mitpichter des Sankt Jopten Altargutes,” which I’m told translates to someking akin to “land church tenant.” Another researcher indicated that he was co-tenant of the Josten estate.”

Marliese, who had access to far more records than I do, indicated that the Kirsch family was in Fussgoenheim in 1626.

There may well have been another 800 years of ancestors living right here before Jerg. The first population details were recorded in 1560 when 150-200 people were living in Fussgoenheim. Today, there are about 2,500.

Fussgoenheim-sign-2.jpg

Looking at this sign, I surely wonder if any of my ancestors were here in 893. The town is reportedly in the process of publishing a book by Walter Schnebel, but I’m not holding my breath.

Fussgoenheim Ruchheimer and Hauptstrasse.jpg

Noél found the Rathaus at the intersection of Ruchheimer Strasse and Hauptstrasse.

Fussgoenheim-Rathaus.jpg

Around the corner, the library, also closed.

Fussgoenheim library.jpg

Not to be deterred, Noél and her husband went on to find the Kirsch and Koehler properties.

Fussgoenheim intersection Ruchheimer Hauptstrasse.jpg

Again, the intersection. To find the Kirsch home, Noél would turn to the right.

Fussgoenheim corner.jpg

They found the street.

Fussgoenheim-home.jpg

The older homes have the large doors which function as car doors, driveways and gardens today. Historically, the houses in the village were all joined for protection and defense – so these doors opened into work areas for the homeowners who were farmers and craftsmen. The fields were located behind the homes in very long narrow plots.

Fussgoenheim aerial fields.png

Here’s an aerial view with the top red arrow pointing to the intersection and the lower red arrow pointing to the Kirsch home. Note the fields to the rear of all of the properties.

Marliese’s mother wrote to Hazel in 1949:

You asked why our houses are so close together. Our ground is so rich that a farmer with 32-40 acres is considered a rancher of high standing. In normal times, a farmer with 8 to 12 acres can live solely off the crops which he can raise. The fields of various sizes are situated about the village and all is bottom land (not hilly.)

Then she adds:

When the war broke out, we could not buy enough to eat. We raise mainly vegetables and cannot raise livestock so must buy our draft animals.

My father’s sister’s only son just returned from Egypt where he was an English prisoner all this time. Now he’s 28.

Fussgoenheim Hauptstrasse 2.jpg

Many of the large doors open into a courtyard today. Most seem to be a car door with a person door included.

Fussgoenheim Hauptstrasse distance.jpg

Look! Look! I can see it, on the left just beyond the pink buildings in the distance!!!

Fussgoenheim Kirsch on Hauptstrasse.jpg

Here it is!

Fussgoenheim-Kirsch-front.jpg

Just look at that! The large door is almost as large as the house and is as large or larger than the portion of the building to the right of the door. I surely wonder what is inside today. The window in the right part is entirely shuttered and the ones on the second floor of the part on the left too.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch garden designer.jpg

Garten Testaltung translates into garden design. A gardener – how fun.

Fussgoenheim Koehler wall 2.jpg

To the right of the house is the garden wall where the old Koehler house used to stand. The extremely frugal Germans hardly ever tear anything down, so I wonder what happened to that building. Other buildings of the same age are being lived in and are well-maintained.

Fussgoenheim-Kirsch-Koehler.jpg

You can see that the house in front is gone, but several buildings to the rear remain.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch Koehler

It’s obvious in an aerial photograph too.

Fussgoenheim-Koehler-neighbor-house.jpg

Driving on down the street and looking back. I wonder what the difference was between the houses with the roofs with and without that little triangle shaped divit in the front. Maybe built at different times, or socio-economic class perhaps. The tallest buildings had more windows in total and 3 rounded ones.

Fussgoenheim architecture.jpg

Why are the upper windows small and rounded on top?

These are the kinds of questions the museum or local historian might have been able to answer.

Fussgoenheim-craftsman-homes.jpg

The sign on this house translates into “installer and heating builder master plant.” Another house with a large door that connects two buildings on the same plot of land.

Fussgoenheim door.jpg

I love those old wood doors. I wonder how old that wood is.

Fussgoenheim-Kirsch-windows.jpg

The Kirsch house has only one small rounded window, while some of the larger homes have 3 and an extra story.

I’ve also wondered when people who lived here obtained amenities like sewers and electricity. In one of Marliese’s letters, she said that they had electricity since 1910 in Fussgoenheim.

Interestingly, she also mentioned in that same letter that the family all has dark hair. So did our Kirsch line.

As Marliese chattered about the family, more than once she mentioned that people often didn’t talk about family members who “died young.”

Anna Maria Kirsch had a daughter, Maria Katherine (1825-1862) who was married to Carl Ritthaler who later moved to Maudach after his wife died. They had a son, Peter, born in 1860 and his name was Peter Ritthaler and now I hear that my uncle’s son-in-law came from Maudach. He said yes, his relatives came from Fussgoenheim and that his father who died 3 years ago was Peter. He said his grandmother was Koehler but she died young. He said he had a godfather in America but he doesn’t know much about it because his father talked little about it.

Taking a Walk

Noél was able to walk along the left side of the house.

Fussgoenheim-Kirsch-left-side.jpg

Note the corner where the stucco has been repaired. That’s your anchor point for the next few photos.

Fussgoenheim-Kirsch-corner-stucco.jpg

The wall of the Kirsch house. In the photos from the 1930s or 1940s, another house stood up against the Kirsch home on this side.

Even after the war ended officially, times were very difficult for German citizens. It was to this home that Hazel sent gifts to Marliese and her family who were terribly embarrased about their economic situation resulting from the war.

In a letter in 1948 titled, “To Our American Family from Your German Family,” Marliese’s mother writes to Hazel:

Thanks for that rich package to our Marliese which you have sent her. Marliese has never had these things because she was only 7 when the war broke out. We know them only by name.

However words fail me to say the things I should and feel because the knowledge of knowing we are not in a position to repay you.  No words can express the happiness which you have bestowed upon our child and none of us could keep back our tears of happiness to see her as happy as she was.

It is hard to select which item has brought her most happiness. Take for instance the nylon hose which is only a dream for younger girls over here. And solemnly she tells everyone that this treasure, her nylon hose, she will only wear on very rare and special occasions.

And then the chocolates and sweets; this also is treasured very highly. To prove it, Marliese and her father are fighting a civil war, because every time she checks upon the contents, somehow it has diminished. Questioning her father, he had to admit getting into it. He too is very fond of sweets. His excuse is that he has more of a right to take a piece now and then; so he says that his relationship is much closer than hers. This brought laughter and all was forgiven.

It is true that all the food things which you have sent have made us very happy but you ought not spend money on us. We do not go hungry. Of course it is impossible for us to obtain the things that you have sent. In years past we have learned to restrict ourselves of luxuries and delicacies.

You can imagine how happy it made us to receive your first package on Christmas Day, which is as you know Marliese’s birthday. She was ready to go to church Christmas morning as the mailman came. He said “Santa Clause from America is here.”

It fills my heart with joy and from the bottom of my heart I wish to thank you for all the happiness you have bestowed upon our Marliese. Actually you don’t even know her. I want to take the opportunity to introduce you.

Marliese as a child has filled our hearts with happiness. She was and is a good girl as well as brave. In school she was a top scholar. Her vocabulary is wide, therefore we sent her to college. There again she was one of the best scholars. The sad thing, however, is that we had to curtail her studying.

Financially we became embarrassed but most of all we needed her help at home.  Physically, I am not too well. It was a hard blow to her as well as the professors, but it could not be helped and now she is a very able hand in the house as well as in the field. Her heart however, is still on studying to further broaden her. Any problem that occurs here in document or writing or just plain figuring, it is Marliese who does it. Therefore it is more helpful and interesting to her when you write to us which is a change when she can answer your letters.

The prisoners of war who returned compared American and German farming.  Everything in America is mechanized but over here we must farm day in and day out. Between March and November we spend all our time in the fields and housework is much neglected. Only on Sundays we were allowed to catchup a bit. It is definitely not a nice life to live. It is very trying and tiresome. Farming is since June 1948 due to the stabilizing of the dollar(?), one of the most essentials. We have two hired hands, plus 4 by day in the summer. This last year we have had to do with one hand only and do the rest of the work ourselves.

Perhaps some of the space in the second building, to the rear and in the lofts was for the hired hands.

Fussgoenheim-Kirsch-left-wall.jpg

The windows would have been added since that time, perhaps when the neighbor structure was removed. This tells us that these buildings or additions to the Kirsch home were originally built before the neighbor house was demolished, and probably long, long before.

Obviously, even though the houses are built against each other, they do have separate support, framing and walls because the houses on both sides of the Kirsch home have been removed and this house still stands. I wonder how many hundreds of years old it is and what records might still exist.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch left wall 2.jpg

It looks like the Kirsch home has been expanded several times. The windows on this side look to be glass bricks, but the bricks in each section are different from each other.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch left wall 3.jpg

It looks the fourth addition has a more modern square roof on top. I’m reminded of the farm houses in the US. My Dad used to say you could always tell when it was a good year because houses had room additions and new barns.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch left wall 4.jpg

Notice the pink neighbor building butts right up against the Kirsch home. In some places, the stucco has fallen off and you can see the original brickwork.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch bricks.png

The bricks below are exposed on the front portion of the building at the driveway. We know this portion of the house was there when Marliese lived here, and her ancestors before her. These bricks below don’t look like they were laid with mortar. I can’t help but wonder if descendants still own this property, but I have a vague memory of Marliese’s daughter saying no.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch old bricks.png

Ok, let’s go back out to the street.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch exit.jpg

I must say, the building between these two wasn’t very large, only wide enough for a driveway now. However, as we’ll see in a minute, that wasn’t terribly unusual.

In the vintage photos, one man was wearing an apron that looked like a butcher’s apron, which might explain the need for a separate building that didn’t need to be very wide. Craftsmen in these villages practiced their trade where they lived.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch neighbor.jpg

Between the buildings, you can see another yellow heritage home across the street. I wonder who lived there when my ancestors lived here. Given that both the Kirsch and Koehler families married heavily into the Koob family, they surely lived in very close proximity.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch sidewalk.jpg

The sidewalks are new, of course. In the vintage photos, they look so to be quite uneven cobblestones, probably constructed at different times, then patched – the goal being mud reduction.

All of the buildings have the dark brown area at the bottom front-facing – both then and now. I wonder what it is and why. This one looks to be metal. Are the spaces vent holes?

Marliese’s father, Otto, may give us a clue in a letter he penned to Hazel on Christmas Day in 1949.

All through the war we lived in constant fear and danger day and night. We had air raids due to the fact that we live right in the vicinity of the two cities of Ludwigshaven and Mannheim.  Night after night we live in our basements in order to get some sleep and again today that fear of constant fear and hardship has arisen from the east (Russia) and we are praying to god to spare us from this danger. We are very well informed what communism is because our boys had fought in Russia and have felt with soul and body the principals of communism.  Thank God I was not a soldier but a factory worker.

This tells us that there is a basement in this house, so these must be basement windows of some sort. I wonder if basements were originally included as safety for the family. Germany has a very long history of warfare and invasions.

My ancestors stood and walked here on these streets. They were born and died here. Generation after generation for at least 400 years – in tough times and those that were prosperous.

Marliese Gets Married

Marliese never got to return to college. The war interrupted so many lives and plans.

By 1951, Marliese was able to send some things to Hazel from Germany, which pleased Hazel to no end. However, for some reason, they were prohibited from sending glass items.

I was very touched in 1954 when Marliese invited her “Aunt Hazel” to her wedding, a love-struck young bride.

Aunt Hazel was greatly appreciative, but unable to attend. Today, we hop on planes with barely a second thought, but not then.

In 1959, Marliese tells Hazel that they are paying her generosity forward by sponsoring two families in the “East Zone” of Germany.

Marliese and Hazel became fast friends, even though Hazel was more than 30 years older then Marliese. They shared news of births and deaths, and at one time, some 25 years later, recapped their quarter century of being enmeshed in each other’s lives. They had met when Marliese’s family was in great need and had seen each other through immeasureable joy and grief as family members arrived on and departed from this earth.

About 1974, Hazel writes, chatting about her cat, then:

So much has happened in 25 years.

Mama, Papa, Papa’s sister Blanche, Papa’s 2 sisters Aunt Anna Metzger and Aunt Laura Littell, cousins Harry and Earl Littell, and Dan Metzger have all passed on.  Also Papa’s half sister Aunt Minnie Gerlach also his 2 half brothers John and George Koehler.  Only one half brother left Herman Peter Koehler who lives in Florida.

Over there in Germany your father and grandfather were gone and you were 17.  Now you are married with 6 children. I hope your mother is well.  I have kept all your letters and pictures.

Marliese’s father and grandfather died 5 weeks apart and the grandfather lived with them in the Kirsch home.

Eventually, in the mid/late 1970s, Marliese shared with Hazel that her daughter was in the US and through another of her children had an 8 month old grandchild.

Marliese’s mother still lived in the Kirsch home in Fussgoenheim and I believe Marliese and her family did as well. Eventually, they all moved.

In 1977, Hazel wrote to Marliese’s daughter in the US. The torch was passed to yet another generation.

Hazel, who never married, told Marliese that she went every week to visit the Riverview cemetery in Indiana where her father, as well as Anne Marie Kirsch are both buried. Hazel said Anne Marie Kirsch Koehler (1804-1888), who immigrated as a widow after Martin Koehler died and remained that way the rest of her life, was the 7th person to be buried in that cemetery. Anne Marie was baptized as Anna Margaretha – Anne Marie was her family nickname.

Marliese continued with her interest in genealogy over the years, in spite of having a large family with at least 6 children. In a letter written some time after 1975, she said:

The ancestors left Germany because it was a time of need.  A lot of hard work and little money.

I had always wondered what prompted Philip Jacob Kirsch and several family members to undertake that journey, especially knowing there was no going back or seeing anyone left behind.

Marliese also mentioned that the French destroyed some of the records at some point, so the regions genealogical records are incomplete. I’ve since discovered the same issue.

It seems that the history of Germany is steeped in both warfare and economic ebb and flow.

The Koehler Family

By comparison, the Koehlers who lived next door, were relative newcomers.

Marliese writes to Hazel on her 17th birthday, Christmas Day, in 1948 saying that soap is a luxurty and simply cannot be obtained in Germany. She says she can’t remember the last time she ate chocolate. Chocolate and cocoa weren’t available at all for most of the 10 year war, “but they are “now” but are very expensive.” Too expensive for Marliese’s family.

She says they have been very busy laboring in the fields and she had to leave college to assist.

Marliese is embarrassed about their poverty and accepting gifts when she can return nothing. War was a decade of hell, encompassing almost all of lifetime that Marliese remembers. Families turned to God and the church, because their faith was often the only thing they had to sustain them.

We are praying to God that He may save our homeland for ourselves, because He would know the approximate time of another war involving our vicinity.  We would pack up and leave.  Maybe we are forced to leave and now I wish you a very happy New Year.

And then, Marliese shifted gears and told us this tidbit.

The old Koehler homestead is not in Fussgoenheim, but is in Rheingoeheim, exactly 8 miles from Fussgoeheim. There are many people there with that name. Our great-grandmother came from there with that name. My mother remembers that her great-grandmother had relatives in America, but cannot remember particulars. I wonder if we are also related on my mother’s side.  I am trying to find the birthplace of Martin Koehler.

In July 1939, Marliese added this:

My father belongs to a singer society and one day when he was coming home from a rehearsal he told me that Martin Koehler, your grandfather, is one of the charter members. He verified it by explaining a large picture on which were all charter members and others that had joined is proudly hanging on the wall of the home of the Society. The picture is in the form of a tree and Martin Koehler is one of the roots as a charter member. And my father is one of them.

We had been told that Martin Koehler, my father’s grandfather was a music teacher and it must be the connection he had with this society and being a charter member, where the folks got that idea.

Not long ago I was told by an old woman that we are related to you on my mother’s side. My mother’s great-grandmother was Barbara Koehler and hailed from Rheingoehheim and now I have found out that Rheingoenheim and Ellerstadt are the same line and clan.

That tidbit about the Rheingoenheim and Ellerstadt families is quite interesting, because those villages aren’t exactly neighbors.

Fussgoenheim Ellerstadt Rheingoenheim

I don’t find the Koehler family in Rheingoenheim, but across the Rhine in Seckenheim in older generations. Rheingoenheim is between the locations, so that makes sense.

Fussgoenheim Ellerstadt Rheingoenheim Seckenheim

Johann Peter Koehler was born in 1723 and died in 1791, in Ellerstadt. However, at least some of his children moved to the neighbor village, Fussgoenheim. Johann Peter’s daughter, Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler was born in Ellerstadt, but she married Andreas Kirsch of Fussgoenheim.

The Koehler home belonged to Johann Martin Koehler and Anna Margaretha Kirsch. I don’t know if Marliese ever found this informatoin, but Martin was born on October 23, 1796 in Ellerstadt. In 1821 he married Anna Margaretha Kirsch, the daughter of my ancestor Andreas Kirsch and his wife Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler who lived next door in the Kirsch house.

Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler was the daughter of Johann Peter Koehler and Anna Elisabetha Scherer of Ellerstadt. Johann Peter and Elisabetha were the grandparents of Johann Martin Koehler. These 2 families began intermarrying and continued for several generations.

After Johann Martin Koehler, a musician, died in 1847 or 1848, Anna Margaretha Kirsch Koehler immigrated to Dearborn County, Indiana with her 3 sons and her brother, Philip Jacob Kirsch’s family.

Ironically, Philip Jacob Kirsch’s son, Jacob, born in Mutterstadt Germany in 1841 founded an establishement in Aurora, Indiana called “The Kirsch House.” Of course, I think fondly of this home in Fussgoenheim as “The Kirsch House” too – the original one.

The Kirsch House

So many of my ancestors lived in this this very house, looked out of these windows and touched this wood. Some, their identities, unknown today, probably roofed this structure with baked ceramic tiles centuries ago. Others passed by and married into the Kirsch family. In a small village, everyone knew every person who lived in every house. There were no strangers and few secrets.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch Koehler ancestors.png

The ancestors blocked above in red we know lived or died in Fussgoenheim. The red stars we can probably safely assume did. Johann Peter Koehler lived in Ellerstadt, the next village over, just two miles up the road, but you know he visited his daughter and several of his other children who married in Fussgoenheim.

The Koob family also figures prominently in both of these families, so I wonder if the Koobs lived in one of the neighbor houses in the pictures.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch home looking up.jpg

Looking up at the Kirsch home as we walk past. These two families were surely in and out of both houses as if they were one.

Noél was able to photograph the garden area of the Kirsch home.

Fussgoenheim-Kirsch-antiques-2.jpg

Those are incredible wagon wheels, crocks and lanterns! I see a plow, I think, a yoke for oxen and so many other pieces of memorabilia. Horseshoes, baskets and harnesses. Noél’s camera took amazing, clear, photographs and I was able to zoom in for a great view.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch garden 2.jpg

Facing the home, at right is the smaller building to the right of the main large door, and indeed, that large brown door is access to the alleyway between the two structures for parking. The actual house doors open into this garden/driveway area.

I believe the wooden gnarly thing beyond the small tree in the very corner of the photo to the left is an old grapevine.

Fussgoenheim-Kirsch-garden-6.jpg

Person after my own heart – a rock on the steps.

The carved or cast stone basins are watering troughs.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch garden 7.jpg

A millwheel and a barrel, along with more wagon wheels and a broom.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch garden 5.jpg

Goodness. Baskets and bells and tables and chairs and stumps, plus a garden gnome of course.

What a beautiful way to decorate a small space.

The Koehler House

Stepping back onto the sidewalk, the building to the right, above, is the small structure to the right of the large brown door when facing the building from the street, with the one window, before the garden walls starts, below.

Fussgoenheim Koehler wall 3.jpg

The wall is where the Koehler home used to be.

Fussgoenheim Koehler tiles.jpg

I wonder if the building in back of where the Koehler home stood is original or new.

Fussgoenheim-Koehler-building.jpg

I think it looks to be newer, based on the windows.

Fussgoenheim Koehler garden.jpg

Noél was able to see over the top of the gate.

Fussgoenheim  Koehler garden 2.jpg

The right side of the structure behind where the Koehler house stood.

Fussgoenheim Koehler garden 3.jpg

Like all of the old homes in this village, it seems to be a combination of living and work space.

Fussgoenheim Koehler garden 4.jpg

This property today looks possibly to be a combination of 2 earlier properties.

Flooding

I’ve wondered if historically this area flooded. The buildings seem to have some moisture-looking damage at ground level, and the fronts all seem to be “buffered” in some way for a foot or two above the sidewalk.

Marliese wrote to Hazel sometime in the spring of 1949.

Last year in a calendar from our homeland, the Pfalz, I read that many years ago families by the name of Hohenbacher from our town as well as the Pfalz immigrated to America as well as did hundreds of other families. They homesteaded in different states and so it came while reading in the calendar I found Aurora, Indiana. I found a street in Aurora named Hohenbacker. Is that so? I had to write to you and have been so happy to receive your letters.

We live 10k from the Rhine, so don’t have to fear a flood. It used to flood, but it is dammed in its banks.  When your grandmother was here, there was still the danger of high water or floods, but not now.

Aunt Hazel, in your letter to asked me my wishes. Well, this is a little bit embarrassing. I do not want anything. I cannot see that I should burden you with things that are costing money. I am happy that I can write to you and get an answer from you. We have lived through so many years of war and had to make the most of it and better times I do hope are ahead. Direct hunger, we have not, because we always have our bread and potatoes. We are managing and make the best of it with our clothing. We have learned to be satisfied and I am not reared to live in luxury. At the beginning of the War, I was only a little girl. We could not purchase anything and so all clothing for me was retailored from my mothers and grandmothers. Today it is not quite as bad. We are able to purchase the most essential things, but all goods and materials are expensive but cheap. We still do the best we can and only buy when necessary and so again I would like to say it would only hurt me to know you have to spend money on me. If I only knew that times would get better and I would be in a position to repay you, then I would say that I would be happy and pleased over most anything to say outright I need everything, but this I only whisper to you for I am so afraid that you would be sorry you had answered by letter and the greatest heartache for me would be to stop corresponding with my aunt in America.

We take so much for granted today. Eventually, Marliese was able to send a cuckoo clock to Hazel for her father, but sadly it arrived after he died a tragic death.

Hazel was so pleased to be able to send gifts to Marliese and her family that brought joy.

Ancient Homes

Fussgoenheim Kirsch goodbye.jpg

The Kirsch and Koehler homes were probably some of the oldest houses in Fussgoenheim, situated a few houses from the Rathaus where government affairs occurred, and the present-day library is located.

How do we know these buildings are ancient?

According to Fussgoenheim history, until the 1800s, only the eastern route consisting of Hauptstrasse, translated literally to “main road,” and Ruchheimer Strasse was populated.

Fussgoenheim map.png

The settlement in Fussgoenheim of many peasants, craftsmen and merchants led to a significant population increase in the first half of the 1800s from about 500 inhabitants in 1815 to about 1000 in 1840.

The 16 members of the combined Kirsch and Koehler family left for Indiana on June 14, 1847 from the port of Le Havre, according to the Mutterstadt, Germany civil register which recorded the date. The entire town of both Mutterstadt and Fussgoenheim must have turned out to say goodbye as a wagon loaded with their worldly possessions began the 450 mile overland journey to the port of LeHavre where they would board a boat to cross the Atlantic. A year and three weeks later, on July 4, 1848, they would finally arrive in the port of New Orleans, to board a paddlewheeler that would paddle its way up the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, arriving in Aurora, Indiana a couple weeks later where they may have had family or friends waiting.

Aurora was very similar to the Rhine valley where the Kirsch family had lived for countless generations.

Growth and Expansion

It wouldn’t be until about 1950 that the population of Fussgoenheim reached 1500 according to official records, but Marliese said in 1948 that the population was about 2500.

During the growth period beginning in the early 1800s, settlement expanded in a westerly direction because the steep slope on the eastern border constituted a problem.

The Kirsch and Koehler homes reach far back into antiquity, probably predating the Hallberg Castle, built by Jakob Tillmann von Hallberg just down the street from the Kirsch home in Fussgoenheim in 1740.

Fussgoenheim Hallberg Castle.jpg

Jerg Kirsch predated Jacob Tillman in Fussgoenheim by more than 100 years.

While the Kirsch and Koehler families were craftsmen in the 1800s, we don’t know much about their lives in the 1700s. Jerg’s son, Johann Michael Kirsch, my ancestor who died in 1743 was noted as a court member or juror. This could well have been where he served!

It’s likely that many if not most of the village residents who lived along Hauptstrasse worked for the wealthy Hallberg family, including the Kirsch family who lived at 9 Hauptstrasse and eventually the Koehler family at 11 Hauptstrasse. The castle was only a 5 minute walk away.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch 9.jpg

Even the Kirsch house number is decorated with horseshoes constructed to look like a flower – a lovely wink to the past. I so wonder if these were salvaged from the barn.

Fussgoenheim Koehler 11.png

House number 11, the Koehler home, or where it was, well, let’s just say it’s not what it used to be.

Given the smallness of the village and how few homes would have existed – it’s very likely that other ancestors lived in these houses in earlier generations as well. If a village had 500 inhabitants, and each family had 10 members, that’s only 50 homes in 1815 and 100 homes by 1850. We could probably look at the church records between 1750 and 1800 and figure out who those 50 household (500 people) around 1800 would have been.

I suspect that by the time records began to be kept, everyone was already related. In the 1800s, everyone was literally related to everyone else. By that time, the Kirsch family had been there for at least 200 years, roughly 8 generations of intermarrying. Maybe the Koehler bloodline was a welcome addition, although somehow I’m thinking that a village only a couple miles away was also quite interrelated.

Saying Goodbye

Alas, it’s time to say goodbye to the Kirsch home and where the Koehler home once stood.

Fussgoenheim Koehler Kirsch goodbye.jpg

Will this house still stand in another century, given that the houses on either side have already passed into memory sometime in the past 75 years? It’s difficult to maintain a vintage home.

If they don’t, Marliese and now Noél will have preserved at least a part of this wonderful home’s legacy for future generations. I can’t say a large enough thank you to Noél for her extremely generous gift.

Fussgoenheim aerial.png

My heart is touched to be able to visit, through Noél, this beautiful home in the quaint village of Fussgoenheim, a medieval farm village sewn into a patchwork quilt of fields in the German countryside.

A place where the land is nourished with the ashes, and DNA, of generations of my ancestors.

Ancestors Stories

If you’d like to read more about this family, I’ve written the following individual stories and there are more to come:

______________________________________________________________

Disclosure

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

7 thoughts on “A Visit to the Ancestral Kirsch and Koehler Homes in Fussgoenheim, Germany – 52 Ancestors #253

  1. Always enjoy your posts. Could you consider narrowing the width of your articles so they can be read in emails? Even though I have an extra wide screen – a good portion of the lines are off the screen and need to scroll to the right when reading each line. The alternative, of course, is to always view in the browser. Additionally, some of the titles of your other posts come in an incredibly humongous font but I believe these may be when you are at conferences.

    • What browser are you using? Just so you know, I have no ability to control the width of the page. Having said that, using Edge and Chrome I don’t have a problem. I also use Outlook and don’t have an issue with that or on my phone. So I’m interested in what combination of device and software you are using. Thanks.

  2. Dear Roberta,

    thank you for a good read! One quick comment about the “door in the door”, the explanation is quite simple: You see these still quite often in villages in Germany. The large gates are the original ones that were opened, when the farmers brought home their harvested fruits, straw etc. on wagons loaded to the limit. Today, opening the large gates to the yard behind is not required as regularly anymore, hence the normal-sized doors.

    Best wishes from your friend
    Chris

  3. My mother-in-law was German. She was born in 1927 and was a teenager during the war – in a small town near Stuttgart in southern Germany. She very much remembered the Allied bombing – there was a major railroad facility a couple blocks from her house, where her father worked, that the bombers were aiming at. Her house survived, but the next door neighbors’ was hit. Like Marliese, they went down into the basement during the bombing. For all of her life, her younger sister was deathly afraid of thunderstorms because it took her back to the sounds of the bombs exploding.

    As Marliese said, there was great scarcity after the war. My father-in-law was an American GI stationed in her town after the war and made a pest of himself until he eventually won her over. He wasn’t above bribery. He was able to obtain candy bars, canned meat and various other luxuries in the Army Commissary and PX that regular German citizens couldn’t buy in the civilian marketplace and would take them to her, her sister and her parents when he’d visit.

    They married in Dec 1947 right before he was shipped home and they traveled to the US by boat. In 1947 anti-American feeling was still felt by some Germans. (Many families had lost sons/husbands in the war, of course – my M-I-L lost her brother on the Russian front.) Many of my M-I-Ls relatives refused to attend her wedding. By 1955, when her younger sister also married an American GI, bitterness had eased and she had much better attendance at her wedding. Bitterness went both ways. When my M-I-L was in labor with my husband in 1951 in the US her nurse had lost a family member in the war and was “not nice” shall we say to my M-I-L.

    When my M-I-L married in 1947 even cloth for making your own clothes was a luxury. So my F-I-L’s relatives in the US sent my M-I-L fabric to make her trousseau so she wouldn’t be embarrassed by her poor clothing when she arrived in the US. Unfortunately, no one thought about different styles in the two countries and she arrived with short, fitted skirts when the style in the US was longer, much looser skirts.

    My husband and I have visited her relatives a couple of times in Germany, and one cousin’s house reminds me very much of the photos you have of your ancestor’s village. They had the same arrangement of houses side by side with the fields behind them. This cousin not only farmed, but had cows. The cows, when they weren’t out grazing, lived in the attached barn behind the house. It formed an “L” with the house just as the Kirsch house is arranged. So I wonder if that area with few windows was actually the barn. They didn’t have livestock during the war, but perhaps they did before. In any case they had to store the plow and perhaps an animal to pull it? Plus an area to put the harvest as they harvested it.

    A couple interesting notes. When we visited the cousin’s house there was an enormous manure pile in the “courtyard” formed by the house in front and the barn along the side. We’d never seen so many flies in our lives. Outside the house, but also inside. This was maybe 10 to 15′ from the door where you entered their house. With the German village arrangement you live up close and personal with your animals and their by-products. And either in that village or another we passed through I remember seeing all the village cows that had been grazing in the fields outside the village all walking down the street together back into the village as evening approached and the cows, on their own, peeling off from the group as they got to their own barns. This was in the early 1990’s.

    Those letters to and from Marliese are a treasure. And those new photos are wonderful. All very interesting.

    Tricia

Leave a Reply