Kirsch isn’t Anna Margaretha’s surname, at least not that we know of – it’s her husband’s surname. Unfortunately, none, not a single solitary one of the existing church records provides Anna Margaretha’s birth surname, including her death record.
Something happened in the small village of Fussgoenheim, Germany, about 1725 or so. We only glimpse shadows of this event, whatever, it was, and only because the local “Lord,” vol Hallberg alleged a few years later that the Fussgoenheimers refused to pay to build the Lutheran church.
I say “alleged,” because Hallberg wasn’t exactly known for his honesty and integrity. He seemed willing to say or do anything to extract more money and taxes from the villagers, so I take pretty much anything he says with a very large grain of salt.
Local history says that Fussgoenheim has been Lutheran since before 1728, which might suggest that 1728 is some sort of transition or line in the sand – maybe some reason to recall that year specifically.
We know from other records and old cemetery stones that the first known Protestant pastor was in Fussgoenheim and buried there in the early 1600s, so Protestantism reaches back a long time in Fussgoenheim – long before our Anna Margaretha was born.
Something happened about that time to cause the church to need to be rebuilt. Something also happened to all of the church records prior to 1726. I’m just guessing, of course, but I can’t help but wonder if the church burned, the fire consuming all of the records along with the identity of Anna Margaretha’s surname and parents.
Anna Margaretha’s husband, Johann Michael Kirsch, the Mayor, was born about 1700. We don’t have his birth or death date, but we do know he was referred to as Sr., so older than his cousin, Johann Michael Kirsch, the Baker, born about 1706. His wife was named Anna Margaretha too. Another Johann Michael Kirsch, the Eldest, referred to as a Judge, who died in 1743 was married to Anna Margaretha Spanier.
It seems that Anna Margaretha was a very, very popular name in the small village of Fussgoenheim. That probably started decades or even hundreds of years before, with one Anna Margaretha, then more after children were named after her. In the 5 years surrounding 1738, there were Anna Margarethas in Fussgoenheim with the surnames of: Rusch, Hauck, Keiss, Kirsch (3), Seeg, Metthert, Wohfferts, Gross, Schuler, Bross, Poross, Borstler, Eigel (2), Koob/Kob, Ritthaler, Giff, Klinger, Linckenstein, Seng, and multiples with no surnames. (Ancestry is notoriously bad at translating and transcribing names, so some of these may be misspelled and others may be missing.)
Three Johann Michael Kirschs, all with wives named Anna Margaretha. No, nothing confusing about that. I wrote about our Johann Michael Kirsch, the Mayor, here.
Fussgoenheim Lutheran church baptismal records begin in 1726, but other records suggest that at least one child, Johann Jacob Kirsch, was born about 1725, which would suggest a marriage for Anna Margaretha in about 1724, assuming Johann Jacob was her first child. German girls typically didn’t marry until they were at least 20 and sometimes significantly older.
The village was small, with the church being just a short walk from the Kirsch home on Haupstrasse, in the upper red square. The original Kirsch home still stands, today, and remained in the Kirsch family for generations – at least three centuries, into the mid/late 1900s. This photo of the Kirsch family, standing outside the Kirsch home, was taken in the early 1940s or perhaps slightly earlier.
Anna Margaretha’s Life
We don’t know who Anna Margaretha’s parents were, or anything about her childhood, but we do learn about Anna Margaretha’s life after marriage through various church and historical records.
1724/1725 – If Anna Barbara’s birth, recorded in church records in 1726, occurred the normal 18-24 months after the prior child’s birth, that would put Johann Jacob Kirsch’s birth someplace between September 1724 and March 1725.
We know that son, Johann Jacob, survived, because he was confirmed in 1739, married Anna Catharina Elisabetha Klamm on February 12, 1750, in Ellerstadt, and died there in 1760.
Of course, Johann Jacob may not have been Anna Margaretha and Johann Michael Kirsch’s first child, especially if earlier children had died, a fate all too common in Germany of that day and age.
1726 – We know that Anna Margaretha had daughter Anna Barbara Kirsch on September 24, 1726.
Fussgönheim, Bavaria Evangelical Church records. Taufen_Trauungen_Bestattungen_Sonstiges_1726-1798_Bild9(1) from Archion.de
24 November 1726
Parents: Johann Michael KIRSCH and his wife, Anna Margaretha, a daughter was baptized and named: Anna Barbara. Godparents: Johann Jacob Spanier and his wife, Anna Barbara.
Anna Barbara married Abraham Zeitler on February 16, 1774, in Dannstadt and died there on December 26, 1796.
It’s interesting that the Spanier family served as godparents. There is no direct ancestral line to the Spanier line, at least not that we know of, BUT, they are heavily married into the Kirsch family.
The Eldest Johann Michael Kirsch, the Judge, who died in 1743 was married to Anna Margaretha Spanier and was the brother of Johann Adam Kirsch, the father of Johann Michael Kirsch, the Mayor. Anna Margaretha Spanier was his aunt by marriage.
Furthermore, the brother of Mayor Johann Michael Kirsch, Peter Kirsch, married Maria Barbara Spanier.
Could our Anna Margaretha be a Spanier too? It’s certainly possible, but it’s also equally as possible that those families were simply close because they had been intermarried for at least two generations and were probably neighbors.
1728 – Anna Margaretha’s next child was born on August 17, 1728.
Taufen_Trauungen_Bestattungen_Sonstiges_1726-1798_Bild11 from Archion.de
17 August 1728
Johann Michael KIRSCH, the parent above and Anna Margaretha, his wife, a daughter was baptized named: Maria Barbara. Godparents: Maria, the late Wilhelm Kirsch’s widow from here.
Wilhelm Kirsch was the uncle of Mayor Johann Michael Kirsch. Wilhelm’s widow was Anna Maria Borstler, the Mayor’s aunt by marriage.
We find no further records about Anna Margaretha’s daughter, Maria Barbara. Most death records from this timeframe are missing, and it’s likely that she died.
It was about this time that the tides began to turn in Fussgoenheim, although that may not have been evident immediately. Jakob Tillman von Hallberg, a member of the House of Hallberg, inherited half of the village of Fussgoenheim.
1729 – The following year, Hallberg undertook a resurvey of the village, supposedly in order to understand the land, relationships of people, and taxes due. Emphasis on “taxes due.”
In 1730, the situation became worse when Hallberg obtained the other half of the village as well and set about to essentially bankrupt the villagers – his apparent goal to reduce them all to serfs over whom he could rule with impunity.
Hallberg stated that he, “tolerated in his village no stranger to serfdom.”
That set the stage for decades of conflict with the Kirsch family.
Kirsch family members owned land, apparently as third-generation land-owners – which pitted them against the Hallbergs. These families became mortal, life-long enemies. And I’m guessing into eternity as well.
In the Kirsch household, I’m sure many red-hot words were spoken, if not in front of the children, then at least between adults as they tried to figure out how they would cope.
Some things, however, didn’t change. Children continued to be born.
I do wonder if Anna Margaretha lost a child in 1730 for whom the records are missing since we have a three-year gap between children.
1731 – Maria Veronica Kirsch was born on July 24, 1731. Her godmother was Anna Veronica with no birth surname given, the widow of the late mayor Heldmayer.
1733 – We don’t know for sure when Johann Michael Kirsch became Mayor, but in January 1733, Johann Michael Kirsch, the Baker, had a child with his wife and the Godmother was the daughter of “Herr Schultheiss Koob,” translated as Mayor Koob, from here. Apparently, Johann Michael was not yet mayor, given that the Koob and Kirsch families were neighbors in the under-Village. Each half of the village had a mayor, but the Koob and Kirsch families would have lived under the jurisdiction of the same mayor.
In Fussgoenheim, the situation and relationship with von Hallberg was deteriorating badly, and rapidly. He pressured townspeople relentlessly, adding tax after tax, and they rebelled.
Suits were filed, and every time the villagers won an inch, von Hallberg took another mile, going so far as shortening the survey rod when resurveying the village, causing 2/3rds of the village to become “vacant,” which he, of course, claimed for himself.
The villagers were furious and revolted.
It was about this time that he raised taxes again, claiming among other things that the villagers refused to pay for the building of the Lutheran church. That’s our clue that something had happened to the original church.
Amidst this uproar, on May 6, 1733, our Anna Margaretha was again baptizing a baby, probably in that “new” church which still stands today, nearly 300 years later.
Taufen_Trauungen_Bestattungen_Sonstiges_1726-1798_Bild18 from Archion.de
6 May1733 Johann Michael KIRSCH and his wife, Anna Margaretha, a son was baptized and named: Elias Nicolaus. Godparents: Elias Nicolaus Specht and his wife from Durckheim.
Elias Nicolaus Kirsch, my ancestor, married Susanna Elizabeth Koob sometime before April 1763 when their first child was born. He died on February 4, 1804, down the road in Ruchheim, probably having evacuated over the Rhine during the war.
1735 – Like clockwork, two years later, in 1735, Anna Catharina Kirsch, a new daughter, joined the family.
Johann Michael Kirsch & wife, Anna Margaretha
A daughter was born, baptized and was named: Anna Catharina
Godparents: the honorable Johannes Schneer?, town councilman from Lam(b)sheim and wife, Anna Catharina.
Born the 17th of July 1735 between 8-9 a.m. and baptized the 20th.
We know that Anna Catharina survived childhood. On March 4, 1853, she stood up as the godmother for Johann Nicolaus Moeser in Ellerstadt, identified as the daughter of the Johann Michael Kirsch, the Mayor. We have no further information about Anna Catharina.
1738 – On February 6, 1738, Anna Margaretha, another daughter, joined the family as well and was baptized 4 days later.
Taufen_Trauungen_Bestattungen_Sonstiges_1726-1798_Bild26 from Archion.de
1738 Johann Michael Kirsch, Sr. and wife, Anna Margaretha
A daughter named Anna Margaretha
Godparents: Johann Georg Eigel, the member of the court and his wife, Anna Margaretha nee Ritthaler.
Born: 6 Feb 1738 Baptized:10 Feb 1738
Margaretha’s Family in 1738
After Anna Margaretha’s birth in 1738, Anna Margaretha, the mother, would have had several children at home.
Her eldest, Johann Jacob would have been 14 or maybe even 15, a strapping young man who had probably been helping with produce and harvests for years.
The family lived in the house boxed in red and worked the fields immediately behind their home. All German villages were laid out in this manner, which the houses clustered together for safety. The first road parallels a stream that probably served the residents and their livestock as well.
Anna Barbara would have been 11.
Maria Barbara and Maria Veronica had probably passed away, but maybe not. If not, they would have been 9 and 7.
Elias Nicolaus was a spunky 4, almost 5. He probably shared the fact that he was “almost 5” with anyone who would listen.
Anna Catharina was assuredly an exasperating two and a half year old. The “terrible twos” weren’t invented in our generation, that’s for sure.
And then, of course, the new baby arrived in February of 1738. Everyone loves new babies.
They would have celebrated holidays by walking together to the church. Michael would have attended meetings, trying to deal with Hallberg shrinking his fields by two-thirds – and how to fight not “city hall” but a royal family.
The daily rhythm of life, preparing and cooking food, making and cleaning clothing, the never-ending needs of children, and spending time with her husband and family would have defined Anna Margaretha’s days. A woman with between 5 and 7 children has little time for much of anything else.
I hope Anna Margaretha found some time to walk alone in the fields, perhaps in the misty early mornings before anyone else was awake. Perhaps along the bank of the creek, listening to the rooster crow, and perhaps enjoying some dew-kissed wildflowers.
But something went terribly wrong this time, before the end of the year.
Tom translates a bare-bones burial record:
December 10, 1738 – Anna Margaretha Kirsch, wife of the Mayor Kirsch
Such a brief entry with so little information provided. Perhaps the reverend was overwhelmed.
Anna Margaretha wasn’t the only one.
There were several Kirsch deaths. One in the middle of November, then another on December 6th, then 4 days later, our Anna Margaretha succumbed, followed by another Kirsch death in January.
The church records reflect a total of 44 deaths in 1738, with almost half, 20 of them occurring in November or December, and I know the indexed list on Ancestry is incomplete because two of our Kirsch deaths are omitted. Using that as a yardstick, there could have been twice as many death – a devastating blow to a small village.
In 1739, there were 42 deaths, and 16 were in January and February, mostly January. Clearly, something fatal swept through the village, taking Anna Margaretha.
Most years saw less than 20 deaths. In 1720, the entire population of the village was 150-200 people. Assuming the same population in 1738, 22% to 29% of the population died, in each year. If there were even more deaths, then a higher proportion of the population succumbed.
In 1738, there were only 35 baptisms. Some years saw negative population growth.
Anna Margaretha was buried here, in the churchyard, outside the Lutheran church. New graves were dug weekly, and sometimes daily. I’d bet they had an ossuary someplace, or the original churchyard was larger because this small churchyard could not have accommodated that number of deaths without reusing graves.
The entire village probably attended Anna Margaretha’s funeral service, at least anyone who wasn’t ill with whatever was killing villagers. It’s likely that Anna Margaretha was a local girl with many relatives to mourn her passing.
Anna Margaretha was only about 38 years old. Her parents could well have been sitting in those pews, along with her siblings, nieces, and nephews. It’s not impossible that a grandparent or two was still living.
Someplace in this timeline, Anna Margaretha either buried her parents, or they buried her.
Anna Margaretha’s death record tells us that she was the mayor’s wife, so the church would have been packed from that alone. She was probably, literally, related to every villager.
The baptism records of her children indicate that the couple had close relations with people from surrounding towns as well. Those people, at least some of them, may have been relatives. Some godparents might have been selected because they were politically expedient – but still – a good German couple was NOT going to entrust someone untrustworthy to raise their children. They believed that the very souls of those children hinged on that selection – so they would have chosen well.
Parents didn’t expect to die, but with the high mortality rate before modern medicine, it was certainly a good possibility that at least one parent would bury the other and at least a moderate possibility that both parents would perish while the children were still young.
After the minister preached her funeral, Johann Michael Kirsch, now a widower, probably carried the baby and led the rest of the children, holding hands, youngest to oldest, as they walked through the doorway into the churchyard. Johann Jacob, Anna Margaretha’s oldest child, then a young teen of maybe 14 or 15 was probably trying not to cry publicly.
With heads bowed, final prayers would have been said, the coffin lowered, and Anna Margaretha was laid to rest.
What happened to Anna Margaretha?
We will never know for sure. Some death records provide a great deal of information, but not this one. No cause of death, no surname, no notation about the verses at the funeral. Nothing.
It could have been dysentery, typhoid, or perhaps the flu. Childbirth was unlikely just 10 months after giving birth to her namesake daughter, Anna Margaretha. She could have been very early in a pregnancy with their next child who would never be born. Perhaps a miscarriage.
However, there is one other possibility.
The scourge that came to be known as the Great Plague of 1738 – an outbreak of the Bubonic Plague that first arrived in Europe in early 1738 and claimed tens of thousands of lives through 1740. No exact number of deaths is available, but the 1740 Hungarian Diet said that the Great Plague had claimed 36,000 lives there. The Palatine in Germany was not among the hardest-hit regions, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t affected at all.
Under whatever guise the grim reaper arrived, death brought a great deal of grief to this little village.
The Mayor is a Widower
Probably just shy of 40 and a widower, Johann Michael Kirsch had at least 5 children and possibly 7 if the two girls we know nothing more about were still living. They ranged in age from a teenage boy to a 10-month-old baby girl who would have still been nursing. Or was, before her mother died.
The battle with the Hallbergs was still escalating. Michael was Mayor now, according to Anna Margaretha’s burial record, and not only responsible for his own family, but also for the other villagers as well. His village was under siege and Johann Michael had children who needed a mother.
Plus, he still needed to earn a living.
Single For a Few Months
Johann Michael Kirsch wasn’t a widower for long. He married Maria Magdalena Michet, the widow of the mayor of Alsheim on June 23, 1739, 7 months after Anna Magaretha passed, likely a marriage of convenience for both of them.
We don’t know how many children Maria Magdalena had, but given that she was born in 1700, it’s likely that she had 7 or 8 children too, assuming they all lived.
Johann Michael Kirsch’s family would have swollen substantially, but his children would now have a step-mother and her children had a step-father.
However, tragedy wasn’t done with the Kirsch family, and struck again.
Three months after his marriage to Maria Magdalena Michet, baby Anna Margaretha died, on September 23, 1739, just 19 months and a few days after her birth.
She was laid to rest in a grave beside her mother just 9 months after our Anna Margaretha had passed.
What a terribly difficult day this must have been for Johann Michael – to have lost both Anna Margarethas. I can only imagine how grief-stricken her children were. By this time, the older children had not only buried their mother and baby sister, but likely two more sisters as well, not to mention at least two grandparents. Plus other relatives in the village as they were plucked off, one by one.
I am left to wonder if my ancestor, Elias Nicolaus, who would have been 5 years and 6 months old when his mother, Anna Margaretha, died, had any recollection of her. I hope his last memories were not of her suffering. He would have been raised by Maria Magdalena Michet who didn’t pass away until 1784, back in Alsheim, where she likely had roots and returned sometime after Johann Michael Kirsch’s death occurred after 1757.
Maria Magdalena and Johann Michael had two children of their own, one in March of 1741 and one in June of 1742. Sadly, it appears that both of these children probably died as well.
The Fussgoenheim church records are remarkably incomplete during this time.
The only one of Anna Margaretha’s daughters that we know survived to marriage is Anna Barbara Kirsch who was born on September 24, 1726, and married on February 16, 1774, to Abraham Zeitler in Dannstadt at the age of 47 – too old to have children.
Unless another one of Anna Margaretha’s daughters did survive to have children and has descendants through all females to the current generation, which can be male, Anna Margaretha’s mitochondrial DNA is extinct.
Unless we discover the identity of Anna Margaretha’s parents, and she had sisters who were more fortunate and had surviving female children, the information held in her mitochondrial DNA is forever lost.
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