The fact that we know anything at all about Anne Maria Boerstler or Borstler is nothing short of a miracle.
Were it not for the chance discovery of her marriage record in Dürkheim (now Bad Dürkheim) to Johann Wilhelm Kirsch on February 22, 1695, we might never have known her name nor that of her father.
Anna Maria’s marriage was recorded in the church record book, along with the name of her deceased father, Johann Adam Borstler.
Translation, courtesy of Tom, from Bad Dürkheim 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 and kirchengeschworener from here.
We know that Anna Maria’s father-in-law’s family took refuge in Dürkheim during the Thirty Years’ War when the Palatinate was depopulated. We’ve found records of the Boerstler family in various places in this part of Germany before the War, but most records were destroyed when the farms were abandoned during the Thirty Years’ War. This record tells us that Anna Maria’s father was a trusted elder of the church in Dürkheim before his death.
We also know that at least some families, or the next generation, slowly returned to their home villages in the countryside after 1650, but had to evacuate again between 1673 and 1689 when the Palatinate was once again invaded and burned to the ground, leaving the residents starving and without even clothing.
In the 1670s and 1680s, the Kirsch and Boerstler families already had a history and connections in Dürkheim, given that Dürkheim was only one of three cities that survived at least somewhat intact and their families had lived there for nearly half a century.
I was actually quite surprised to discover that Anna Maria Borstler and Johann Wilhelm Kirsch married in Dürkheim given that the city was nearly completely destroyed when French troops engaged in a scorched-earth campaign upon the orders of the French king.
Anna Maria would have been a teenager as she witnessed the city burn around her in 1689.
Dürkheim rebuilt quickly after the ending of the war in 1689, but still, it’s remarkable that she was able to be married there just 6 years later. This engraving shows Dürkheim in 1787. The church with the tower is where I thought Anna Maria was married in 1695. But, as it turns out, she couldn’t have been married there.
This amazing article, written by the Christlieb-Chrislip-Crislip family genealogist provides the best detailed documentation of the church I’ve found.
You can see photos of the beautiful Schlossekirche, here, formerly St. John’s Church, originally constructed in the 1300s.
In 1689, the church was gutted by fire, the walls suffering such intense heat that the bells fell out of their mounts and melted onto the floor of the church. Only the hulk remained, not being rebuilt until 1727 when the walls had to be reinforced with iron bars due to the damage from the heat of the 1689 fire. Somehow, at least some of the churchbooks were saved with burials from as early as 1640. I wonder if Anna Maria’s father was instrumental in their salvation. The books must have been removed before the fire, with the minister continuing to make entries, even though the church itself lay in ruins for 40 years.
Clearly, Anna Maria didn’t marry in the church building of her childhood.
Still, the Protestant citizens would have worshipped someplace during that time – perhaps in a makeshift church or someone’s home.
The part of the church to the rear, shown here, is original, as is the street. The cemetery, where Anna Maria’s father was probably buried, was located just to the right of the church.
Did Anna Maria walk up this street and pause for a moment to glance at his grave, on the way to wherever she would be married?
Anna Maria’s Church and School
This 1630 pen and ink drawing of the St. Johannis Church depicts the church, of course, the churchyard surrounding the church where the parishoners would have been buried, and the school. You can see the street, in the photo above, to the right of this drawing. The street itself hasn’t changed, the curve behind the church still quite identifiable.
If Anna Maria was born sometime between 1670 and 1677, at the latest, she would probably have attended the Protestant Latin School near the church. It’s almost certain that all these half-timber wooden structures burned during the war, but this drawing provides us a rare glimpse of the neighborhood that Anna Maria would have frequented as a child. I can’t help but wonder if she lived in one of these houses, given that her father was one of the two primary church caretakers.
Inferring Anna Maria’s Life
Given that Anna Maria was married in February 1695, she probably had her first child in 1696, and a new baby joined the family thereafter every 18 months to two years.
We know almost nothing about Anna Maria’s life, except by inference.
We know that she and her husband served as godparents in Oggersheim in 1710. It’s possible that Oggersheim was the closest functioning church to Fussgoenheim where they probably lived at that time.
We know that Anna Maria’s deceased father-in-law held leasehold rights in Fussgoenheim, just 5 miles or so from Oggersheim, after 1660 and before his death.
Anna Maria’s brother-in-law, Johann Adam Kirsch, had returned to Fussgoenheim and was mayor in 1701.
We know that in 1717, Anna Maria’s husband, Johann Wilhelm Kirsch, noted as the court clerk or cognant, was scribing tetimony along with a few other elders in the village documenting village customs before the war, which means that the family was well-established and living there.
The Fussgoenheim church records are incomplete for several periods of history. No records exist before 1726, possibly because there was no church which meant there was no minister, and because the Fussgoenheim citizens took their children to the next closest church for baptisms until they could afford to rebuild their own.
The first Kirsch burial we find is in 1735, followed by multiple Kirsch deaths every year except for 1742. From 1743 to 1762 there are none.
The church in Fussgoenheim was rebuilt in about 1726, after which time four of Anna Maria’s children were confirmed in what would have been a beautiful brand-spanking-new church.
Anna Maria Borstler and Johann Wilhelm Kirsch’s four known children are:
- Maria Catharina Kirsch was born about 1711 and married Johann Theobald Koob on February 21, 1730. Was that date intentionally selected, given that it would have been the day before her parents’ 35th wedding anniversary?
Anna Maria would have attended her daughter’s wedding, about 60 years old at the time. Not “old” by any measure today, but certainly viewed with an “elder” status at that time – having survived warfare, fires, plagues, pestilence, moving to a ruined area in the countryside to begin anew, not to mention multiple childbirth and deaths.
- Anna Catharina Kirsch was born about 1715, but we know nothing more so she may have died after her confirmation in 1727.
- Johann Andreas Kirsch was born in 1716, confirmed in 1729 in Fussgoenheim, married Anna Barbara Sorg in 1737 in Friedelsheim and died about 1745. Freidelsheim was about 4 miles away, halfway between Fussgoenheim and Dürkheim.
- Anna Margaretha Kirch was born about 1718, confirmed in 1731 in Fussgoenheim and married Georg Heinrich Koob, brother of her sister’s husband, in 1736. Anna Maria would have attended this wedding too, in the newly-rebuilt Fussgoenheim church.
Based on these births about 1711, 1715, 1716 and 1718, we can surmise that there would have been other babies born in:
That’s 9 infants, or perhaps more, that died as babies or young children. Their oldest child would have been confirmed about 1707 or 1708, many years before the church records in Fussgoenheim began in 1726.
Of course, it is possible that some of the children didn’t perish young and married prior to 1726. If they moved elsewhere, it would have in effect erased any trace of their life in Fussgoenheim. Their oldest child would have been marriage-age about 1720 when Anna Maria’s youngest child would have been about 2.
It’s almost certain that some of those babies would have been buried in the churchyard in Fussgoenheim, or perhaps in Dürkheim before they returned to Fussgoenheim after their marriage. Of course, for Anna Maria, she might well have lived her entire life in Dürkheim, so it wouldn’t necessarily be “returning” for her, simply starting life anew outside of Dürkheim. Fortunately, Dürkheim wasn’t terribly distant, about 6 miles, certainly walkable but much easier riding in the back of a cart.
Anna Maria’s grandchildren began arriving in June of 1731. For a few years, she was able to enjoy watching them peacefully play in the farmyards, orchards and fields of Fussgoenheim.
Location, Location, Location
It’s possible that Anna Maria was deceased by 1743 when a map was drawn of the properties in Fussgoenheim. Widows were noted on the property that had been their husband’s and there is no widow of Wilhelm Kirsch shown.
If Anna Maria had passed away, either the William Kirsch land, inherited from his father, had passed to someone else, or into the hands of her two daughters whose husband’s homes are listed as locations 6, 16 and 23.
Theobald Koob married Maria Catharina Kirsch. It’s interesting that the two Theobald Koob properties abut Mayor Michael Kirsch’s land and George Koob was living across the street, just north of Peter Kirsch.
Michael Kirsch owned three pieces of land, and it’s entirely possible that one of those had been Wilhelms, passing to Michael when Wilhelm passed on. A 1753 accounting, if we can get our hands on it, should answer those questions.
Noel in her drive through Fussgoenheim didn’t intend to capture one of the properties of Theobald Koob, but she did, inadvertently.
Just north of the main intersection in town, on the right hand side, the home of Theobald Koob was located between the corner and Michael Kirsch’s just before the curve of the street in the distance.
Theobald Koob’s property was beyond the building with the red roof, likely the white building with the brown roof.
Noel accidentally caught a glimpse of George Koob’s property too.
The yellow building visible across the street from the Michael Kirsch home (at left) was where George Koob lived with his wife, Anna Margaretha Kirsch.
During WWII, Marliese, a Kirsch descendant, corresponded with the Kirsch family who had immigrated to Indiana 90 years before, sending photos. At that time, the house beside the Michael Kirsch home was reported as the Koehler home. Who knew it once belonged to Theobald Koob?
Theobald Koob’s property that abutted the Kirsch home no longer stands, but miraculously, thanks to Marliese, we have a photo.
The house with the “O” was the Theobald Koob home, with the X being Michael Kirsch’s.
Anna Maria Borstler Kirsch may have lived with one of her daughters as she aged. If so, she lived in one of these three locations. She assuredly knew these homes as well as her own, visiting her daughter, entering without knocking like the residence was her own.
In a small, crossroads farming settlement, I’d wager that every village woman was in and out of every single house. Everyone was related to everyone, one way or another, not to mention group activities like food preparation and preservation, childbirth, and caring for the sick and infirm. There was no mortician then and people died often. Families lovingly washed bodies and prepared them, at home, for burial. Yes, everyone just made themselves at home and did what needed to be done.
The Autumn of Anna Maria’s Life?
We don’t know for sure when Anna Maria died or where she is buried, but we do know that she lived in Fussgoenheim and that she resided there when her last child was born about 1718. Her husband was the court cognate in 1717 and there is scant reason to believe they lived elsewhere thereafter, meaning she would have died in Fussgoenheim – although there is a shred of doubt.
This much we know for sure – Anna Maria died sometime after 1740.
On April 16, 1736, Anna Maria served as godmother to a granddaughter named Maria Catharina Koob, born to her daughter, Maria Catharina Kirsch and Johann Theobald Koob.
On October 14, 1740, Anna Maria was once again called to Maria Catharina’s bedside as she prepared to deliver her fifth child. The baby, in obvious distress and described as weak was baptized immediately in the home, with Anna Maria as godmother. She bore sad testimony to the baby’s death, as the church record notes that the child was deceased within a few hours. Sadly, this tiny girl’s name wasn’t recorded, and I can’t help but wonder if she would have been named for her grandmother, Anna Maria, as was tradition.
Anna Maria had delivered her (probable) namesake granddaughter, baptized her and buried her. How incredibly sad.
Given that burial records exist between 1735 and 1743, and we know Anna Maria was living in October 1740, there’s a real possibility that she may have died after 1743 when she would have been about 70.
Several Kirsch families were expelled from Fussgoenheim in 1743 when they refused to validate the “redrawn” map submitted by the nobleman, Tilman von Hallberg, that deprived families of most of their hereditary land. Given that Anna Maria’s husband, Johann Wilhelm Kirsch was deceased by this time, and she was elderly, it’s unlikely that she was evicted, although there is a house, adjacent the church on the south side with the name Wilhem Kirsch, but no mention of “widow.” Still, given that she seems to have still been living, in that there’s no known death record for her, I can’t help but wonder if this is where she lived.
If so, Anna Maria lived adjacent the church, probably in the structure with the red arrow, below.
It’s possible that this property belonged to one of the two younger Johan Wilhelm Kirsch’s alive at that time. We simply don’t know, but we do know that while the elders refused to sanction this map submitted by Hallberg in 1743, he drew it sometime prior to 1743. An accounting made in 1753, when the family was allowed to return to the village, may provide the missing details.
There are no Kirsch burials from 1743 to 1762. If Anna Maria did leave Fussgoenheim during that time, as did the Kirsch families and Johann Theobald Koob, she likely went to Ellerstadt with the rest of the Kirsch clan or perhaps with her daughter Maria Catharina and Johann Theobald Koob to Weisenheim am Sand. Or, she could have died in Fussgoenheim and the record could simply be missing. If she died nearby, I can’t help but wonder if they wouldn’t have brought her back to Fussgoenheim to be buried. Neither Ellerstadt nor Weisenheim am Sand was far distant.
If Anna Maria is buried in the churchyard in Fussgoenheim, she is resting beside Johann Wilhelm Kirsch, her daughter, Anna Catharina, her unnamed granddaughter, and several more small graves that held children of her own. Eventually, her two daughters and grandchildren would be laid to rest nearby.
There are no gravestones marking burials in the Fussgoenheim churchyard today, nor records of who was buried there. Yet we know that the dust of our ancestors’ rests here, behind the church that was probably constructed as Anna Maria watched, perhaps from next door.
Anna Maria’s heart would have rejoiced to see a new church built between 1726 and 1733 where she could worship. The religious wars had taken so much from them, breaking their hearts, but not crushing their souls. She watched her own church burn, along with the rest of the village in Dürkheim in 1789.
Anna Maria would have celebrated this new church, lifting her voice in joyful hymns, watching her family gather in the pews. This rebuilt church was more than a building – a beacon of hope lighting the way into a better, more stable future. As she surveyed her family, children and grandchildren as they gathered for baptisms and burials in the little church in Fussgoenheim, Anna Maria knew full well that one day soon enough, it would be her turn to be carried from the church into the churchyard for her eternal sleep.
Anna Maria Borstler’s mitochondrial DNA was inherited from her mother, and her from her mother, back into time immemorial.
Mitochondrial DNA is inherited by both sexes of children, but only passed on by females. Anyone who descends from Anna Maria through all females to the current generation, which can be males, carries her mitochondrial DNA.
Anna Maria’s mitochondrial DNA can help connect her to her mother and inform us of where her ancestral line came from in the more distant past. We don’t know who her mother was.
Daughter Anna Margaretha Kirsch married George Heinrich Koob and had daughter, Maria Catharina who married Johann Diether Koob and had three daughters.
If you descend from Anna Maria Borstler through all females to this generation, which can be male, I have a DNA testing scholarship for you. Please reach out!
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