Anna Hofschneider (sometimes spelled Hoffschneider) was born December 6, 1680, in Heiningen, Germany, the daughter of Michael Hofschneider and his wife, Margareta Widmann.
Anna’s Godparents are listed as Hanss Christoph Goltz & Anna Maria with an unreadable surname.
Anna didn’t marry until she was 25 years old. Anna Hoffschneider married Hanss Jerg (Johann Georg) Haag, a baker by trade, on the Feast of the Purification, February 2, 1706, in Heiningen.
I wonder why Anna and Hanss Jerg selected that particular date. Of course, they could have married any day, on either side of this religious feast day, so that particular date or feast celebration must have had special significance.
The Feast of the Purification is also known as Candlemas, the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus Christ, and the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglicans have different names for this Feast Day, but it is universally celebrated joyfully, “just as Easter.”
This Christian Holy Day is based upon Luke 2:22-40, which states that Jesus was circumcised eight days after his birth, historically viewed as January 1. Jewish law holds that males must be circumcised 8 days after birth in a special Brit Milah ceremony, at which time they are also given their name.
This illuminated manuscript circa 980 depicts the circumcision of Jesus.
Women, who, according to Christian literature, conceived children in sin must be purified 40 days after the birth of a male child and 80 after the birth of a female. The purification ritual occurred when the mother brought a burned lamb and a young pigeon to the temple to request the priest to pray for her purification. You can read more about this interesting historical custom here and here.
It appears that the circumcision of Jesus and the purification of Mary, one of which was to occur 8 days after Jesus’s birth, and one to occur 40 days after Jesus’s birth have been conflated into one religious holiday. Regardless, both involved celebration and purification and are widely celebrated in the Christian faiths.
In addition to celebrating the circumcision of Jesus and the purification of Mary, candles made of beeswax are blessed before the service, then carried during the service and throughout the year. Hence, the name Candlemass, or the mass that blesses the candles.
According to The Church Year. the candles, after being blessed, are carried “with the intention of obtaining from God by their pious use and the prayers of those who devoutly carry them, health of body and soul; that our hearts, through the doctrine of Jesus and the grace of the Holy Ghost, may be interiorly enlightened; and that the fire of the love of God may be kindled in our hearts, purify them from all remains of sin, and make us partakers in the joyous light of heaven, which will never be extinguished,”
Maybe Anna and Hanss Jerg hoped that marrying on Candlemass, amid the joyous celebration, would extend the blessing of the “joyous light of Heaven, which will never be extinguished” to their marriage.
The church would have been beautiful, candles freshly blessed, lit and burning brightly, hearts joyful as the young couple pledged their lives to each other. It’s likely that the entire congregation was present, and that this wedding was part of the religious festivities of the day. Something extra special for everyone to look forward to and celebrate.
Johann Pachelbel died in 1706, having composed Pachelbel’s Canon in D, beloved today as the “wedding march.” Perhaps Anna’s processional music was every bit as beautiful as she slowly approached her groom in the candlelit church. Close your eyes and listen, here.
A Market Town
We don’t know where Anna and Hanss Jerg lived, but Heiningen was a market town, and Hanss was the baker. The church was the center of both the village and the lives of the villagers. The market, the church, and the village shopkeepers would have all been located near or in the central square. At that time, houses and buildings, except for the church, abutted each other as part of a defensive strategy.
Anna and Hanss Jerg likely lived within a block or two of the original fortified wall surrounding the church, perhaps inside the “circle” to the right of the church itself on the map shown above.
They would have heard the church bells every day as they rang, marking time in their lives. It was a short walk to the quiet sanctity of the church – the first and last place visited in their lives and their respite in times of pain and confusion.
Anna and Hanss Jerg began their family with the birth of their first child in July of 1707. Having a total of 8 children, their 4th and 7th children perished with violent coughs as babies. Of course, today, I can’t help but think of the Covid-19 pandemic we’re dead center in the midst of as I write this article. Death in various forms threatened at all times. Anna was actually fortunate – more than half of her children survived.
It’s interesting to note that the only child who was given a middle name was the child named after Anna’s husband. The Heiningen Heritage Book is online, here.
- Margaretha Haag, born July 1, 1707 in Heiningen married Johannes Leyrer on May 30, 1732 in Heiningen.
Margaretha had 8 children, 3 boys, and 5 girls. Of the girls, 3 died young. All three boys died as children. It appears that Margaretha probably had no surviving children. This had to be devastating for both Margaretha and her mother, Anna, who undoubtedly welcomed each pregnancy as a new beginning, hoped and prayed with Margaretha, wept with her, and comforted her daughter as best she could as each child was buried. One child lived to at least 15.
Margaretha’s children died of odd things. The first died of “Schmerz in der brust“ which translates as chest pain,” one of “Stickfluss” which would be something akin to whooping cough or a paralyzing of the lungs, two of emaciation, one of “Durchschlechten” which I could not translate exactly but occurred when she was 17 days old and could be something akin to “slipped away,” and the last two of a combination of the words, “Durchschlechten, Gichter” which translates as “slaughter, gout.” Gout, of course, is the buildup of uremic acid due to kidney dysfunction. I would strongly suggest that these children had a genetic issue.
Perhaps Anna was relieved when her daughter no longer became pregnant because it meant there would be no more babies to bury. Margaretha’s last known living child was confirmed in the church in 1749, but then, silence.
- Dorothea Haag, born April 24, 1709, in Heiningen, married Johann Georg Hardtle on August 14, 1736, in Heiningen and died August 17, 1789, also in Heiningen. Cause of Death: Nachlass der Natur (survivor of nature; old age). Dorothea had 4 children, 3 boys, 1 who died young of dysentery, 1 who married in Crailsheim and one who married in Madgeburg, and 1 girl who died at age 7 of gout.
- Anna Haag, born September 29, 1711, in Heiningen; married Johann Michael Spingler on March 9, 1734, in Heiningen and died November 29, 1740, in the same location. Cause of death: childbed fever. She had 3 children, 1 girl who married in Rothenberg, one boy who died a few months after his mother, and one who survived.
- Catharina Haag, born May 12, 1714, in Heiningen; died March 31, 1715. Cause of death: violent cough. Whooping cough perhaps?
- Catharina Haag, born April 24, 1716, in Heiningen, married Johann Jakob Lenz (1712-1793) on November 12, 1734, in Heiningen (see ancestor article here,) and moved to Beutelsbach. They had 4 children, 1 girl, and 3 boys, all of whom lived to adulthood and married.
- Johann Georg Haag, born September 13, 1718, in Heiningen; married Anna Catharina Frasch on September 15, 1744, in Heiningen. She died on July 28, 1772, in Heiningen. They had one child who died at 3 months of age of emaciation. Johann Georg married second to Margaretha Schurr on June 29, 1773, in Heiningen. She was born December 11, 1740, and died March 22,1806 in Heiningen. They had 4 children, 2 boys, one of whom died young and one we know nothing more about, and 2 daughters, one who died young and one who died in 1856. Both of their deceased children died in August 1826, a few days apart, of bloody dysentery. Johann Georg continued in the Haag family tradition of being a baker by profession.
- Michael Haag, born March 11, 1721, in Heiningen; died February 28, 1722, in Heiningen of tuberculosis or pestilence. I can’t help but wonder if this child had whooping cough too.
- Elisabetha Haag, born November 7, 1722, in Heiningen; married Johann Georg Kümmel on August 13, 1748, in Heiningen; and died 16 November 16, 1768, in Heiningen. They were married for 20 years, but no children are listed. Based on the experience of Margaretha, I wonder if Elisabetha had the same issue as her sister, except in Elisabetha’s case, she either never became pregnant or never carried the pregnancy to term. I don’t believe stillbirths were recorded in the church records.
1713, 1714, and the beginning of 1715 were particularly difficult for Anna. In February 1713, her mother died. In May of 1714, her child, Catharina, was born but became ill at some point. In October of 1714, Anna’s father died, followed in March of 1715 by Catharina, then 10 months old.
In addition to her children, Anna buried 13 grandchildren whose deaths were recorded, and possibly another 2 whose records we don’t find in the church books after their baptism or confirmation. Only 9 lived to adulthood – at least where records were found.
Life in German villages, under the best of circumstances, was not for the fainthearted. However, high infant death rates made difficult situations even more heartbreaking.
Families had lived in this village for generations. Since at least the 1300s and probably earlier.
It’s possible that a specific mutation or combination of mutations was found in higher frequencies in this population due to a founder effect, meaning that several families descended from a particular ancestor passed this mutation on to their offspring. If people who both have the same mutation or mutations happened to marry each other and have children – those children could inherit a copy of the mutation from both parents. In this case, the result would have been these deadly diseases that manifested with symptoms of gout and emaciation. The result, of course, was death for the child.
Clearly, no one had an understanding of genetics, per se, in the 1700s, but I can’t help but wonder if there was at least a rudimentary understanding of trait inheritance, especially if a specific situation plagued many members of the same family or lineage? If that was not the case, then I wonder why the Catholic priests had to grant special dispensation for marriage to certain levels of cousins.
Anna’s Mitochondrial DNA
All of Anna’s children inherited her mitochondrial DNA that she inherited matrilineally directly from her mother’s line. However, only women pass mitochondrial DNA on to descendants. If anyone, male or female, descends today from Anna through all females, I have a mitochondrial DNA testing scholarship for you! With Anna’s mitochondrial DNA, we can track her ancestors back beyond the information genealogical records can provide.
Anna’s daughters who are candidates to have female children include:
- Margareta Haag – If any of Margareta’s daughters survived, which is extremely unlikely, it would have been Catharina Leyrer who was born in 1734 and confirmed in 1749 or Margareta Leyrer who was born in 1743.
- Anna Haag – Anna’s daughter Ursula Spingler was born in 1735 and married Johann Daniel Bubeck in 1768 in Rothenberg. She may have had daughters.
- Catharina Haag – Married Johann Jakob Lenz and had one daughter, Anna, born in 1744 who married Johann Jakob Birkenmayer and had 4 daughters.
Our only known possible mitochondrial DNA candidates descend through Catharina or possibly Margareta or Anna.
Anna lived a long life, outliving her husband by 19 months – both of whom died as octogenarians.
Death: January 20, 1764, died Anna, surviving widow of the late Hanss Jerg Haag, baker, buried at a later time; aged 83y1m2w.
It’s interesting to note that Anna was buried “at a later time.” I’m guessing that this had to do with the fact that the ground was frozen in January.
In weather records, the winter of 1946/47 was referred to as the coldest and harshest experienced since 1764 in Europe, which of course suggests that 1764 was worse. I wonder where her body was stored, and how long the family had to wait to bury Anna beside Hanss, the two small graves of her babies, her daughter who had died of childbed fever thirty years earlier and at least 13 grandchildren.
The churchyard today seems to have no gravestones, although I haven’t seen a closeup photo that shows the yard on every side. European cities and villages reuse burial locations and have for a very long time. The old stones are removed. Even if the churchyard is no longer in use today for burials, it assuredly was at the time that Anna was buried.
The defensive wall rings the medieval church and nearby buildings. Church members, which would have meant everyone living in the village at that time, would have been buried beside the church in the churchyard after their funeral service. All their neighbors, who were also their relatives, gathered round. All heads bowed.
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One minor correction: The Feast of the Circumcision and the Feast of the Presentation/Purification have not been conflated into one feast day. They are still celebrated as two separate and distinct Feasts, just as you first wrote. The Feast of the Circumcision and Name of Jesus is celebrated on January 1, the eighth day of Christmas (which is why I start my New Years’ Day celebrations by going to church, not for New Years’ Day, but for the Feast of the Circumcision). And the Feast of the Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Jesus is celebrated on February 2, forty days after Christmas. We still bless our candles at Candlemas and process by candlelight into the dark church, it is a very beautiful service, as you have written!
Can I please ask which denomination? Thank you for the additional information.
Ernest Thode, _German-English Genealogical Dictionary_, (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing, Inc., 1992), defined Durchschlechten as “diarrhea, dysentery.”
“I wonder where her body was stored”
In Québec, churches have a… let’s call them “build in shed”?… on the northern side, which is meant to store coffins up to the spring. It may be a feature they had in Germany too.
Let’s see… Heiningen… East of Stuttart, they are hardiness zone 6, two zone warmer than where I grew up, but the ground will still freeze every winter for a few months.
I had more time tonight, so I gave a deeper look. In Québec, they are named “charnier”, which seems to be the equivalent of “charnel house”, although in France, “charnier” is more akin to ossuary. And although in my village, it is build in the church, in older parishes, they are stand alone stone building in the cemetery.
In another article from one of your German ancestor, you mentioned ossuaries, so I would guess there was room in the building to store a few coffins for a few winter months, in addition to the bones from the old graves.
The ossuaries I’ve seen are small, but that doesn’t mean they all are. Maybe 8 or 10 feet square with shelves for the bones. I’m guessing in a pinch you do what you have to do.