Johannes “Koss” Haag (1604-1678), Survived the Thirty Years’ War – 52 Ancestors #286

Johannes, known as Hanss, Haag was born November 9, 1604 in Heiningen, Göppingen, Württemberg to Johannes Haag and Margareta Reich.

Johannes Haag 1604 birth

Baptism: the 9th of November: child: Johannes. Father Hanss Haga and mother Margaretha. Godparents: Mark Rapp, ? and Dorothea, wife of Vid? Hamss?

Haag is written as Haga in all of the old records, and Johannes of course is Hanss.

Hanss Haga married for the first time on November 21, 1628 in Heiningen to Margareta, widow of Hanss Ganssen.

Johannes Haag marriage 1628

Marriage: Hanss Haga, the smith’s son called Koss and Anna (x) Margaretha!, Hanss Ganssen widow

Note that the minister corrected his entry from Anna to Margaretha. How does the minister make a mistake on the bride’s name?

Margaretha’s identify remains a mystery. The Ortsippenbucher for Heiningen does not reveal a Hanss Ganss married to a Margaretha from the necessary time frame. Fortunately, she is not my direct ancestress.

It’s from this record that we learn that Hanss’ nickname was Koss and that he was the “smith’s son.” His name is also given again as Hanss Haga, not Haag, which makes me wonder if Haga was an early word or surname that over time became Haag.

Hanss Haga amd Margaretha had one child, also by the name of Margaretha. This child was born on June 10, 1631 in Heiningen.  No further information is available about this child or Margaretha, her mother.

There are no death records in the church register of Heiningen for 1631-1637, so we have no way of knowing when Margaretha and the child died. Given that there was no second child born in 1633, one might speculate that Margaretha died before then, but maybe not. It’s possible that Koss was absent, because a war was raging.

The Thirty Year’s War

Koss, as he was called, was 14 years old in 1618 when the Thirty Years’ War began in Germany, ultimately devastating Heiningen.

Koss witnessed the entire three decades of carnage, 11,000 days. How terribly that must have affected him. From 14 through age 44.

In 1618, when the war began, Heiningen had 1000 inhabitants; in 1648 there were only 200. According to the Michaelskirche history, generously provided by the reverend, the town did not recover from the war until around 1800, 150 years later. While Heiningen was not often the center of the action, the war advanced in waves, washing over the country. Württemberg was particularly affected.

Then, in 1634, Heiningen was destroyed and looted by the “Kaiserliche,” soldiers of the Imperial Army that were either German or under the control of the Catholic German Kaiser. Those soldiers marauded through the country after the Battle of Nördlingen fought on September 5 and 6.

In that battle, the Roman Catholic Imperial Army of the Hapsburg Dynasty, aided by 15,000 Spanish soldiers crushed the combined Protestant armies of Germany and Sweden.

Johannes Haag Nordlingen

After the Battle of Nordlingen, Imperial soldiers ransacked the countryside.

We don’t know if Koss served as a soldier, but he likely did. I don’t know how any able-bodied man would avoid service with battles consuming the countryside all around.

The war killed soldiers and civilians directly, caused famines, destroyed livelihoods, disrupted commerce, postponed marriages and childbirth, and forced large numbers of people to relocate. The overall reduction of population in the German states was typically 25% to 40%, but Württemberg was disproportionally affected and lost three-quarters of its population during the war.

Johannes Haag Wurttemberg

By Ssch – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=350991

On the map above, Heiningen is located near Goppingen and Nordlingen is located just over the border in the green area of Bayern.

Much of the destruction of civilian lives and property was caused by the cruelty and greed of mercenary soldiers. Villages, like Heiningen, were especially easy prey to the marauding armies. Many did not survive. The Swedish armies alone may have destroyed up to 2,000 castles, 18,000 villages, and 1,500 towns in Germany, one-third of all German towns.

In Heiningen, those who could not find safety were in dire straits. Contemporary witnesses stated that their children and grandchildren were traumatized. Three-fourths of the population died.

Johannes Haag crucifix

The Michaelskirche church history tells us that the face of the crucified man on the Gothic altar crucifix from early 16th century, the time of the Thirty Years’ War, reflects the furies of war: torture, plunder, desolation of the fields, hunger, plague, typhus and dysentery.

The residents of the village were devastated. Certainly, no family was untouched by death, but the village does not appear to have been abandoned at any point. While there are no burial records conserved today, we do find one or more baptisms and marriages each month beginning in September 1634 through the first half of 1635. Clearly, children conceived before the war were going to be born, regardless, but baptisms could have been performed at a later date, as could marriages.

There were people living in the village during that entire time, although I’d wager there were an inordinate number of burials. Koss, being one of the survivors, then age 30, was probably digging graves as rapidly as he could – possibly for his own wife and child. That is, when he wasn’t defending the village.

Given what we know about the village of Heiningen, I do wonder if the villagers took shelter inside the walls surrounding the church. The church walls were thick as well, providing a second barrier, and the church itself may have served as protection and fortification to protect the village.

The terror that took place in the fall of 1634 endures in the history of the village to this day. That seemed to be the darkest of times. Those who escaped death were grief-stricken, traumatized and impoverished.

Although Margaretha and her child died sometime after June 10, 1631, Koss survived and remarried.

Remarriage

We know that Margaretha died sometime before 1637 when Hanss, aka Koss, married for the second time on August, 27th to Catharina Baür in Heiningen, still before the end of the Thirty Years’ War.

Johannes Haag marriage 1637

Marriage: the 27th of August 1637 Hanss Haga called Kos a widower here and Catharina, surviving legitimate daughter of Leonhardt Baür, of blessed memory, from here.

“Of blessed memory” tells us that Catharina’s father, Leonhardt, is probably deceased.

How I wish they had stated Koss’s occupation. Maybe at that point, there were no more “occupations,” per se, the only occupation being survival. If only we knew more.

Hanss Haag, aka Koss, died February 3, 1678 in Heiningen.

Johannes Haag death 1678

Burial: Hanss Haga called Koss, 73 years, 3 months old with a sermon.

I wish the church record had included what Biblical references were used in that sermon. I wonder if his funeral service mentioned his first wife or deceased children, or the war that he survived. What was this man’s legacy?

Johannes Haag Heiningen early church photos

The Michelskirche on the day of Koss’s funeral probably looked much as it does in these photos taken before a 1904 renovation.

At the time Koss’s funeral sermon was preached, the miserable War had been over for 20 years. Those atrocious memories surely hadn’t faded, especially given that of Koss’s 6 children born during that War, only one survived to adulthood.

The family likely sat on those wooden benches, the minister standing in the pulpit with the staircase overlooking the coffin, center front, preaching Koss’s funeral sermon to his widow, Catharina, three surviving children and 6 surviving grandchildren. None, not one of Kos’s 17 siblings appears to have survived to have children, or if they did, they are not reflected in any Heiningen records. How did Koss managed to survive?

Of course, after the funeral, Koss’s casket was carried out the side door of the church, through the sacristy, and was buried outside in the churchyard, someplace between the church itself and the defensive wall.

Was the churchyard full? Later records mention that at one time, the ground became so elevated outside due to all of the “digging” that parishoners actually had to walk down steps into the church from the churchyard.

Johannes Haag Michaelskirche layout

At least 800 people died between 1618 and 1648 and had to be buried. Historical records elsewhere in Germany indicate that bodies were buried minimally 2-3 years before being removed to the ossuary.

Did bodies buried in 1734 have to be exhumed and taken to the now-sealed ossuary beneath the sacristy on the south side of the church to make room for Koss, or had those bones already been disinterred? Was the ossuary still in use at that time, or had it already been sealed? Were families buried in family grave plots, and if so, was Koss buried where his parents or first wife, Margaretha, had lain?

Children

The births recorded in the early records all reflect the surnames as Haga, not Haag. In the Heiningen heritage book, the surname is recorded as Haag, which tellus us that today, the surname is Haag.

Hanns, Koss, had a total of 8 children, one with his first wife, and 7 with Catharina Baür. Of those children, we have no further information about 3 females and two males, which suggests they perished young.

Koss had two surviving sons who were born, married and died in Heiningen:

  1. Michael Haag, born January 4, 1649, just 8 months after the end of the Thirty Years’ War; married July 28, 1671 to Margareta Bechtold; died April 9, 1727. Michael, my ancestor, had three sons, at least one of whom had sons who lived to marry and have children.
  2. Johannes Haag, born May 20, 1653; married Margareta Hässler on May 18, 1680; died February 24, 1703. Johannes had 4 sons who survived, married and had sons who may descendants who are Haag males today.

Any male born to Michael or Johannes who descends through all Haag males to men today carries the Y DNA of Hanss, or Koss, Haag or Haga.

By testing the Y DNA of those male Haag descendants, we can determine where the Haag family originated, before they settled in Heiningen.

I have a DNA testing scholarship for Y DNA for any Haag male descending from this line. Please let me hear from you.

Conclusion

We know so very little about Koss’s life.

He was unquestionably Protestant as was the entire village of Heiningen. The Reformation had occurred only 70 years before Kos’ birth, so the remnants of Catholicism and the troubled times surrounding that tumultuous religious transition still haunted Europe. The Thirty Years’ War was, again, a Catholic/Protestant conflict that literally depopulated large swaths of Protestant Germany.

Koss almost assuredly served in some capacity at some time in the military. Military service was probably synonymous with self-defense in that time and place and may have been required. In the midst of a devastating war, there was probably no avoiding military service, especially as a young man, even if he had wanted to – and I’m guessing he would have taken pride in serving and protecting his family, village and fighting for his religion.

Koss was 24 years old when he married the first time. For all we know, he may have already served for years as a soldier, which might be why no occupation was listed.

Koss buried one wife and at least 5 children, along with a few grandchildren. He didn’t have many grandchildren, because not many of his children survived.

The fact that Koss managed to live through the entire Thirty Years’ War, through incessant religious turmoil, through the destruction of Heiningen by Catholic soldiers in 1734, and until the age of 73 years and 3 months is nothing short of miraculous. He probably never expected to survive that long, given the destruction and devastation swirling around him most of his life. Most people died much younger.

I shudder to think about the atrocities that Kos assuredly witnessed, and how those memories probably haunted him.

As I reflect upon Koss’s life and times, I reach the conclusion that I’m very, very fortunate to be here today.

Acknowledgements

A special thank you to my friends Tom and Christoph for their never-ending assistance, research and patience, and to the Michelskirche in Heiningen for the beautiful church photos and history.

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2 thoughts on “Johannes “Koss” Haag (1604-1678), Survived the Thirty Years’ War – 52 Ancestors #286

  1. Could he have been trained as a smith? Many families had the same specialty, generation after generation. A blacksmith was a high-status artisan.

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