Johann Wilhelm Kirsch (c1670 – c1723), Piecing Life Back Together in Fussgoenheim – 52 Ancestors #304

Johann Wilhelm Kirsch was born about 1670, someplace in the Palatinate, but we don’t know where for certain – or exactly when. His father was known as “Jerg” Kirsch, short for Johann Georg Kirsch who married Margaretha Koch in September of 1650 in Bad Durkheim.

Given that Johann Wilhelm Kirsch was married in the same city in 1695, one could make the argument that he was born there sometime around 1670, or at least between 1650 and 1670.

Another argument could be made that Johann Wilhelm was born in Fussgoenheim because his father was noted as a leaseholder of the Jostens estate in Fussgoenheim in 1660.

If Johann Wilhelm Kirsch was born in Fusgoenheim, he certainly spent time in Bad Durkheim for some reason, because that’s where he married Anna Maria Borstler on February 22, 1695.

Kirsch Boerstler marriage.png

Translation, courtesy of Tom, from Bad Durkheim Evangelical Parish Records on Ancestry.

Marriage: 22 Feb 1695

Were married by the pastor J. Darsch? Joh. Willhelm Kirsch, surviving son of the late Joh. Georg Kirsch with Anna Maria, surviving legitimate dau of the late John. Adam Borsler, former resident of Kirz?

In 1710, both Johann Wilhelm Kirsch and his wife were found in the in Oggersheim church records according to Walter Schnebel’s records, probably as godparents.

Johann Wilhelm’s brother, Andreas, noted as single, died in Oggersheim in 1712.

Kirsch durkheim oggersheim

We don’t know what, or why, but there was some connection to Oggersheim.

Unfortunately, the church records in Fussgoenheim are missing prior to 1726, but we find the confirmation of Johann Wilhelm’s daughters beginning there in 1727, so we know they were in Fussgoenheim before that time. In fact, significantly before.

In 1717, Fussgoenheim was still trying to recover from both the Thirty Years’ War, which ended in 1648, although the area didn’t begin to be repopulated until 1650 or so, along with the later French incursions beginning in 1673 and not ending until 1697. People starved during this time, and many fled across the Rhine River for safety.

The Kirsch family had unquestionably lived in Fussgoenheim, at least after the Thirty Years’ War and before the Nine Years’ War, which actually lasted longer than 9 years.

We know this to be a fact based on a Fussgoenheim document preserved from 1717. This old historical document is written in very old German language, but the essence of the document is that Fussgoenheim was attempting to reclaim some semblance of social organization.

Wilhelm Kirsch and Christoph Hauck, both noted as a “courthouse clerk,” (Deepl translation) or “court man” or “judge” (by Walter Schnebel) along with Andreas Kirsch, Dieter Coop (Johann Dietrich Koob born in 1670) and Hans Jacob Spannier worked with 7 “old men” from the village who are noted as:

  • Adam Kirsch (born 1677)
  • Jacob Antes
  • Hanss Adam Hauck
  • Theobaldt Biirstler (Borstler)
  • Matthew Musspach
  • Hemp Nickel Coop (probably Hans Nicolaus Koob)
  • Adam Gifft

The 1717 notes indicate that all court records and other written documents, “rights and righteousness” were totally destroyed along with all old, traditional rights and customs of the village. The unidentified 88-year-old father of one of those men was still living, meaning he had been born in 1629, during the Thirty Years’ War. We know that Johann Wilhelm’s father was deceased by 1695, so the 88-year-old is not his father.

I’ll include the entire Deepl translated document in the future article for Johann Adam Kirsch since Adam was one of the elders mentioned.

The devastation wrought by the French soldiers in the 1670s and 1680s explains why Johann Wilhelm Kirsch was living back in Bad Durkheim when he married. The villages were again burned, the residents left with nothing, not even clothes.

We only know about four children belonging to Johann Wilhelm Kirsch, based on their marriages or confirmations. There may have been additional children, of course, and probably were.

We don’t know when Johann Wilhelm Kirsch died, but Walter Schnebel, now deceased local researcher who grew up beside the ancestral Kirsch home in Fussgoenheim records his death as occurring before 1723, along with his brothers Johann Jacob Kirsch and Daniel Kirsch.

I wish I knew how Walter determined that Wilhelm was deceased before 1723. There is obviously a record of some type someplace. I suspect it’s a 1753 accounting that I’ve seen Walter reference which details family descendancy relative to land.

The lack of records in Fussgoenheim makes documenting Wilhelm’s life extremely difficult.

We know that Wilhelm was born sometime after his parent’s marriage in September of 1650 and roughly 1670 which would have made him roughly 25 years old at his own wedding in 1695.

Between his birth and marriage, it’s likely that Wilhelm lived in Fussgoenheim between 1660 and the 1670/80s when his family had to seek refuge again as the French overran and destroyed what had been rebuilt in Fussgoenheim.

Thanks to his marriage record, we know that Wilhelm’s father had died by 1695, although we have no idea when his mother died. In fact, we know nothing more about her at all except that she clearly lived long enough to give birth to Wilhelm’s siblings between 1650 and roughly 1677.

Sometime after 1695, Wilhelm returned to Fussgoenheim with his wife and family. He could have been living there when he and his wife were godparents in Oggersheim in 1712.

Johann Wilhelm may have decided to return to Fussgoenheim after his marriage in order to reclaim his citizenship rights, those held by his father, or to be near his siblings, one of whom was mayor in 1701. By 1717, Wilhelm was clearly established.

We know that Johann Wilhelm can read and write, because otherwise, he would not have been the court clerk taking those notes in 1717. I wonder where the original document is currently archived, because it would stand to reason that if I can obtain a copy, I would be viewing Johann Wilhelm’s own handwriting – or maybe that of the other clerk, Christoph Hauck. Perhaps the man who scribed the notes signed the document. Hmmm, I think I need to make some inquiries.

How I wish I could ask Wilhelm what was meant by some of those archaic words. Not just literal translation, but events that he, his brother and the other village elders documented. Clearly, they had information about Fussgoenheim families reaching back, at least, between 1660 and the war that began in 1674.

We know that in 1717 there were only between 7 and 12 people whose memory extended back in time far enough, a half century+, to be useful in reconstructing information about the old village, residents and family structure.

This tells us that these families, when they returned to Fussgoenheim, likely would have settled on the land in the center of the village where they could offer each other protection and shelter, if needed. Originally, that was the only village.

There were probably only a handful of families in 1660 when Jerg Kirsch and his children settled in Fussgoeneim. Most had died during the Thirty Years’ War, and those who survived had relocated decades earlier. Of course, those few who returned got to evacuate all over again just a few years later. Starting over yet a third time in the 1690s would have been a difficult decision to make, although other options may not have been much better.

Citizens rebuilt their lives for a generation or so in peace and quiet, but a few years later, in 1743 Lord von Hallberg attempted to redraw land boundaries and confiscate residents’ lands. We know that the Kirsch families had expanded to occupy several homes in the village. Wilhelm only had one known son, Johann Andreas, so he might well have inherited Wilhelm’s rights. If so, that means that it’s likely that Andreas is shown on the 1743 “redistricting” map submitted to the town fathers by Hallberg, which they quickly rejected.

Unfortunately, we can’t read all of the names on this map, but we can place several known Kirsch males in specific houses. We can also read two additional locations that show Kirsch inhabitants, but I can’t decipher the first name.

Of the male grandchildren of our progenitor, Jerg Kirsch, who would be entitled to some form of inherited rights, we have six Kirsch men who potentially could be noted on the map in the locations that we can’t read.

Having said that, it’s fairly certain that Wilhelm lived in one of these Kirsch properties before his death. There are no properties without names.

Kirsch Fussgoenheim Kirsch property

Properties attributed to Kirsch men are as follows:

  • Michael Kirsch, Schultheiss, which means mayor – three properties on the right-hand side. Other Kirsch families may have lived in these homes.
  • Martin Kirsch, red arrow upper left.
  • Peter Kirsch, red arrow center left.
  • Michael Kirsch’s widow, who we know is Anna Margaretha Spanier. Her son is Peter Kirsch.

The green arrows are:

  • Center left – may be another Kirsch male, beside Martin Kirsch, but I can’t read clearly – could be Andreas.
  • Upper right on the bend – clearly a Kirsch surname, but can’t read the first name.

Not shown on this map, but on an adjoining map to the south, we find a William Kirsch listed adjacent to the Lutheran church on the lower left, above, and the second property from top, below.

Kirsch Wilhelm 1743 map.png

This William Kirsch would have been living in 1743, so if Johann William Kirsch who was born about 1670 died before 1723, that property would not have been his – nor did he have a son named William, at least not that we know of.

Kirsch Ruchheim street

The locations of those two properties today are shown with red stars, above.

All of the Kirsch men would have lived within a block or so of each other. The village in 1720 only consisted of 150-200 people. At 5 people per household, that’s only 30-50 houses, and with 10 people per household, that’s just 15-20 homes. The 1743 map shows 32 which would suggest perhaps 160 residents with about 60 adults.

The intersection of Amstrasse, Ruchheimer and Hauptstrasse is now and was then the center of town.

Fussgoenheim Ruchheimer and Hauptstrasse

Noel, on her detour through Fussgoenheim on my behalf took this photo from the intersection that looks up Ruchheim Street towards the curve where one of the Kirsch properties was located, across the street from the blue building in the distance.

Fussgoenheim intersection Ruchheimer Hauptstrasse

The location below, on the curve on Ruchheimer Street, is relatively easy to discern. I wish that Google maps had street-view in Germany.

Kirsch Ruchheim property.png

The property on present Amtsstrasse, below, is someplace in the center of the block.

Kirsch amtsstrasse.png

The City Hall is the building to the far right. Of course, in 1717, there probably wasn’t any city hall or civil building yet constructed. The church had not yet been rebuilt either, so I’d wager that the city hall came after the church in terms of priority. Church records begin in 1726, so I’d bet that’s when the church was completed.

Fussgoenheim Rathaus

The few records available for Johann Wilhelm Kirsch belie the complexity of the time in which he lived. He personally sat at the table and recorded the efforts to piece life back together in 1717 after two devastating wars, listening to the stories and testimony of the village elders – the few that had survived. The fact that we know they had returned by 1701, yet were only in 1717 beginning the process of documenting the social, land and inheritance structure previously in place bears silent testimony to the difficulty of rebuilding literally from scratch.

I’d wager that it took that long to stabilize the community in such a way that farms were producing, mills rebuilt and the food supply reliably restored. Clearly, that would have been the first priority before focusing on documenting the social and family constructs of a village ripped to shreds 99 years before, beginning in 1618 until at least 1650 and then again from 1674-1689. It was a difficult task indeed, but thankfully, Johann Wilhelm Kirsch and his brother preserved as much as they could, probably from stories told by their parents before their death. Ironic, somehow, that the family histories of those village elders, their genealogy, would save the day, laying the foundation for future generations.

Johann Wilhelm Kirsch would be very pleased, I’m sure, to know that 303 years later, the beautiful, quaint, lovely village of Fussgoenheim has grown and matured, but remains intact and is still a place he would recognize.

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