Dear Dave: Meet Your Family – 52 Ancestors #185

For three days and nights, the tears rained like a defective faucet that I couldn’t turn off. A combination of nerves, excitement and sadness, all tossed together in a salad-spinner. That DNA match set off a tear tsunami. Finding your family meant, of course, that I got to revisit your final departure, on the anniversary of your funeral. No irony here. 

Yep, allergies in full bloom!

Sleep, however, eluded me successfully.

Would Helen read her messages about your DNA match?

Would she reply to me?

Would she answer my questions?

Would she tell me who her grandparents were? I didn’t want to seem too nosey at first. What I really wanted to ask was, “where was your father in July of 1954?”

Would she sense the fear and trepidation in my e-mail and become wary?

Would crossing my fingers help?

And then, suddenly, ding, there it was. An e-mail from Helen. Then one from another cousin with the same surname.

Helen apparently hadn’t held it against me that I had to correct my original e-mail, not once, but twice. I shouldn’t type when I’m nervous and somewhat overwrought – but had I waited for that to subside, I’d still be waiting.

We had come this far and reaching out was the only way to end the agony – regardless of the outcome.

Then the next step in the worry-chain began. If this sounds like “over the top” anxiety, all I have to say is that you’ve never stood in the shoes of someone during the discovery process of long-lost immediate family. I thought I understood it before, but empathy is no substitute for the proverbial mile in the moccasins. 

Would I ever hear back from Helen again?

Would she tell me who her father was. 

Did she have uncles?

Where did they live in 1954?

I did (mostly) resist checking my phone every hour during the night to see if Helen had replied.  I admit, I checked twice. Ok, maybe three times.

Was it only yesterday morning that Helen sent her phone number and invited me to call? Surely, it was at least a year ago. 

I feel like I’m living in an alternate universe right now, or maybe a parallel reality.  Of course, sleep deprivation doesn’t help any. Like Helen said, it’s like we’ve stepped over some transformational line in the sand that we didn’t even see – and now we’re suddenly on the other side wondering what the heck just happened.

This just happened so fast. We’ve been run over by a bus whose passengers are every emotion on the planet.

Life changed in the blink of an eye. Helen has a new sibling – her family just expanded. DNA did in an instant what 60 years failed to do. I’m just so grateful that she is welcoming of this news and not upset. .

Yesterday, after I finally composed myself enough to call Helen, sitting at my desk in my jammies because I just couldn’t wait any longer, I promised myself I wouldn’t cry. Of course, I did.

Thankfully, Helen is a lovely person.

Then Helen called me back again. Then I called her. Then we laughed, and cried, and talked and did it all over again. Several times.

Helen told me how she and her sisters had longed for a brother.

She told me how her father had moved north from Georgia in 1952, after her mother’s horrific death, and how the rumors swirled of a half-brother someplace, born about 1955.

You were conceived in July 1954.

Helen DNA tested to make genealogical discoveries. It never occurred to her that she might find her long-rumored half-brother.

Well, Dave, meet your half-sister, Helen.

No, not me, the other one. And yes, we are truly as joyfully happy as we look.

Rest assured, we’re trouble-makers together!  You have no idea what you’ve done by introducing us😊

Of course, because our lives cannot EVER be simple, Helen’s results are low for a half-sibling match, so there’s a possibility you’re first cousins. Helen’s other sister is DNA testing as well, just to confirm. 

Would taking a look at Helen’s father help?

Dave, meet the man we believe is your father!

He is positively either your father or your uncle.  Helen and her sisters say that you don’t look anything like the one other Priest brother that may have been in a northern state about the time you were conceived. The rest of the Priest brothers never left the deep south – and let’s face it, proximity is kinda critical in this situation.

When I saw that photo of Helen’s father, my breath caught. Could this really be the man you sought for so long? Let’s look at the two of you together.

What do you think, Dave?  Is this your father? I think he’s a dead-ringer for you. Of course, those pictures of you simply don’t do you justice. (No, I am NOT biased either!)

Because yesterday was Valentine’s Day, Helen and I decided to delay our meeting until this evening. Another 24 hours of torture!

In an amazing stroke of good fortune, Helen and I live about an hour apart. So I left two hours early, just in case. 

I prepared to gift Helen with what small things I have of you. I have nothing tangible from your lifetime on earth, except for a few photos and the prayer Jim wrote for your funeral. I put the prayer in an envelope, made Helen a thumb drive of your photos to keep and took my laptop so that we could look at your pictures together. 

I told Helen about our fun times together. Your determination to climb that wall at the fair and how you succeeded, in spite of how ill you were from your treatments. You and Helen are remarkably alike – unstoppable once you set your mind to something. I was awestruck by the unmistakable similarities.

Helen and I met at a lovely restaurant whose patient staff was incredibly tolerant of our long dinner. She brought me a white rose. I brought her a brother.

We ate. We laughed. We talked about you. Were your ears burning? They should have been.

We cried. Ok, I cried.

We exchanged meaningful looks and shocking stories. We swore, in your honor, of course! And we hugged.

We discovered that somehow we had known each other forever – just like you and I did. Deja vu.

We share the same regret – that you didn’t live long enough to meet Helen and your other sisters – who are now welcoming you posthumously with open arms.  Helen had experienced exactly the same longing I felt when I searched so long for you. 

They were looking for you Dave, while you criss-crossed the country feeling so alone in the world.

All that time, THEY WERE LOOKING FOR YOU!!!

They wanted to meet you, to love you. They wanted to have with you what I had with you.

So, via me as the intermediary, today you finally met your sister. What are the odds? Your non-half-sister helping you to find your real one.  No one could make this stuff up!

I felt so honored to tell her about the beautiful man I knew so that in some small way, she can come to know you too. Through me, you two connected, across time and space. A long-distance hand-hold with me as the human extension cord..

It’s the best we can do now.

But you know the most amazing thing, Dave?

You gave us something too. A surprise Valentine. Something precious that neither of us expected.

You united us in sisterhood. Yea, I know that sounds really corny – and you would probably guffaw a bit.

Perhaps the final gift of your life is to both of us, your two sisters who both love you now. Bringing us together so we can love each other too. A beautiful new beginning.

I certainly didn’t expect to receive that gift today. I thought I was gifting Helen with you. Ending a chapter. I never expected to recognize so much of what I love in you – in her. Perhaps by finding your family, I found a piece of mine too, a new beginning. I went to give, but instead we both received. For this gift from beyond, I love you all the more  

Two sisters through another brother. Sewn together from broken hearts. Best Valentine’s Day, ever. An amazing happy ending to an incredibly sad story.  

Thank you.

Love you, now from both of us. 

Bobbi and Helen

Dear Dave: I Found Your Father – 52 Ancestors #184

My Dearest Brother Dave,

It’s been 6 years last week that you left, departed this side, leaving your broken earthly vessel behind.

Six very long years. I thought the sun would never shine again, but somehow you arranged a gloriously sunny day to celebrate your funeral, and today as well. A fitting gift from a long-haul truck driver.

Since you can’t call me anymore as you crisscross the country in your big rig named The Black Pearl, I’ll just have to write to you and hope that the same airwaves that used to bring me your voice now transport my message to you.

You see, I finally found your father, or have at least narrowed the candidates and discovered your surname.

I remember how many years you searched, painfully and fruitlessly. DNA was the key, now that enough people have tested.

In 2004 when I finally found you, you explained how your mother had teased you with the names of at least three different men that were supposedly your father. How you tracked them down and arranged to visit. They were nice, understanding and sympathetic, but they weren’t your father.

I suspect that perhaps your mother didn’t know, considering the circumstances. We won’t revisit that, except to say it saddened me greatly to see you suffer so based on activities you had no part in. Worse yet, she left you an envelope hidden in a drawer with your name on it after her death in which you were positive you would find the answer. You ripped it open, but once again, no answer was forthcoming. A final disappointment. The first of two words that come to mind is heartless.

Our introductory phone call when I explained my understanding of who your father was – my father – which explained why you carry the Estes surname was one of the most emotional days of my life. You were finally found. A hole filled. The gap of almost 50 years gone.

You told me how you opened the envelope I had sent with the photos of “our” father, whom you already knew as a family member, but not as your father. I sent photos because I didn’t want you to think I was some crazy lady, or that my letter was some kind of scam.

You’d discover soon enough my own personal brand of crazy😊

Of course, at that time, I didn’t understand who in that family was actually your biological mother – and what that meant in terms of complex family dynamics. You’re so fortunate that, for the most part, your grandmother raised you, at least reducing your mother’s damage.

A few days after our first phone call, we met for the first time, talking for hours like we had known each other forever. Time and place simply disappeared and we floated on our own wave of giddy happiness. I still have that photo by my desk, with your arm around me. You watch over me every single day, right beside me.

You shared that I was your only living family member, except for your children, and how you had always longed for a sibling.

I knew in that moment what family meant to you, and that if needed, you would die for me. Literally.

I loved you instantly and completely.

I came to know you as a grizzled, hard-driving, long-haired tattooed trucker with a short temper for injustice – to animals or people. God help anyone that abused someone you loved, anyone in need, or an animal.

You told me you never said “the L word,” love. Tough as you were, love would make you vulnerable. Your wife of many years confirmed that to me. I just smiled. Love doesn’t need words.

As I said goodbye the second time, a few weeks later, you hugged me and whispered softly, almost inaudibly in my ear, “Love you, Sis.”

“What?,” I asked and you grumbled, “You heard me,” afraid that someone else would hear. I just smiled and hugged you again, tears running down both our faces. Except, yours were just allergies of course.

You told me every time we talked after that, because as a truck driver, we never really knew when our last conversation would be. Our last words spoken, always, from that day forth, were “love you.” I smiled through tears every time and I suspect you did too.

Danged allergies.

We had already missed so many years.

I still hear that Dave, and I know the next time I meet you, I’ll hear it again.

Damn, I miss you.

I knew before you died that we weren’t half-siblings after all. The original two paternity/siblingship tests we took suggested that, but they weren’t conclusive and needless to say, we certainly didn’t want to believe that message.

Our next clue was when I was eliminated as your liver donor candidate, although the medical team would not confirm why. However, the “new” autosomal DNA tests we took not long before you died proved it beyond any doubt.

I never had the heart to tell you.

It would have broken both of our hearts and we were already indelibly bonded as family. Nothing, no DNA test would ever change that.

Remember that half heart I gave you to protect you on your journeys?  You took half of my real one with you when you left.

For the sake of honesty, I tiptoed around the siblingship subject, testing the water. The limited commentary you did make told me that perhaps you already suspected, but were strongly rejecting that possibility out of hand. End of subject.

The truth could wait until the afterlife.

However, I made a vow to you that you never knew about. One day I would identify your father. I would find that puzzle piece.

Now herein lies a great irony, the best irony of all. I have to tell you – you’re going to love this story. Hope you’re sitting down on a cloud.

Your grandmother raised you in the Catholic church and sent you to Catholic school. You left the church in high school, but those childhood teachings have a way of taking hold permanently.

During your last days in the hospital and then in hospice, you requested a priest to do a “Last Confession” and whatever rituals are completed in the Catholic religion to prepare for death.

The hospital called the local priest. Then, hospice called the local priest.

No response, at all.

Then, your wife called the local Catholic churches.

Still no response, at all.

Then I called.

Nothing.

When I saw you that day, I knew the end was very near.

Still no priest to do your Last Rites.

I’m sure you remember that Jim, my husband, a former Eucharistic minister in the Catholic church before he sinned by getting divorced and continued sinning by remarrying to a non-Catholic heard your last confession. He performed the anointing of oil, (my chapstick) and holy water, (bottled water from my purse,) both of which I blessed with my very own hands. HERESY!

Jim was horrified and was just certain I was going to be struck dead by lightning on the spot for my heretical actions, but I did what needed to be done. Just like you would have done for me. Whatever you and Jim did in that room together with the chapstick and Dasani holy water brought you great peace. That’s all that mattered.

And I survived to tell the story.

Love you Brother, and I surely hope you’re not stuck in purgatory because of my last minute battlefield fox-hole improvisations. 😉

Your wife was a Baptist, which might have been part of why the Priest never showed up, or even called. Clearly, there wasn’t going to be a Catholic funeral for any number of reasons, not the least of which was because you were cremated by that time.

Yes, I know, yet another “sin.”

Oh well, we just added it to the long list and St. Peter will have to blame us because you really didn’t get to vote, being dead and all.

You had volunteered at the Baptist church, refinishing the basketball floor and other odd jobs, so your wife invited the Baptist preacher to “preach your funeral.”

Being in the middle of the winter, we worried about the weather, with me arriving from out-of-state and many truckers that had known you for decades driving hard to get back in time. We scheduled your funeral for 4 on Friday to accommodate their schedules so they could arrive in time and didn’t have to sacrifice pay to attend.

I remember hearing those big rigs parked outside the funeral home, lined up, up and down the street, their running lights turned on, with their engines all running in a rumbling trucker-tribute to you.

I smiled then to think about how much you would have liked that. The neighbors must have been mortified.

The room at the funeral home was full, standing room only, overflowing into the lobby and outside when it was time for your funeral to begin. Your photos were on the table in the front, and everyone was seated and waiting.

But, there was no preacher.

Another 5 minutes passed. Then 7. Then 10.

The preacher didn’t answer his cell phone.

Everyone was shuffling and shifting restlessly.

The funeral home said they couldn’t help.

I looked at your wife, who was in no shape to do anything.

She looked at me and said, famously, “You have to do something.”

OH GOD.

Were you there with us? Do you remember how I started your funeral?

I just walked up front, picked up the microphone and said:

“Hi, I’m Dave’s sister. I bet most of you never knew Dave had a sister. Well, he does.”

I told about how we met.

I told them how much I loved you.

And how much you loved me.  Sorry, your secret is out!

I told them that your gruff and tough exterior disguised a soft soul afflicted with pain.

I told them how you rescued animals.

Not everyone knew the story of how you acquired Dio, your abused Rotty, literally rescuing him from the hands of his abusers. But, most everyone knew he rode with you for years. Dio had more miles than most cars. It does my heart good to know the two of you are riding together once again, across the rainbow bridge.

I remember how inconsolably devastated you were when he died as you were fighting your own battle.  He went to wait for you and I know the reunion was one of sheer ecstasy.

I told them that I discovered you had taken that awful mountainous Idaho potato run so that you could see me because the drop-off terminal was about 10 miles from my house. Of course, you would never have admitted to that!

I was amused to discover that they thought your “sister,” who you stopped to see regularly, was code for a different kind of relationship. Perhaps because they teased you incessantly about loving your sister😊

That’s Ok, so did the manager at the hotel down the road where you would park your rig while we went to eat and came to the house to visit for awhile. I explained that you couldn’t get turned around on my dead-end road but he didn’t believe me. Remember the time we finally pulled out both of our IDs and showed him we were both named Estes? The shocked look on his face said it all.

Those were such good days and wonderful surprises when you’d call to say you were coming through.

I miss them so.

I still look in every black truck I see. I know better, but old habits and rituals of love die hard.

I told them how you announced you would sell your house and move up here to care for me when you thought I had cancer. Thankfully, I didn’t have cancer, but that proclamation meant the world to me. You’ll never know how much. Ok, well maybe you know now.

I told them how much you loved your children and how living long enough to walk your daughter down the aisle was your motivation to live for many months while you waited for the transplant that never arrived. I never told them that you didn’t get to.

I told them how much you didn’t want others to make the same mistakes you had – because love you as I do – you weren’t exactly perfect. None of us are.

So, that day, I became at once the comforter and the preacher. I gave you the ultimate loving send-off on that spectacular sunny winter’s day six years ago. Much like the beautiful day outside today. I always feel that these lovely sunny winter days that melt the snow on the roads are a gift from you.

“Preaching your funeral” was an honor, and one I could never have adequately prepared for. Maybe impromptu was better.

But there’s one thing I didn’t share with them.

That you really weren’t my biological brother. It didn’t matter. I don’t know how I could ever have loved you more.

In spite of thinking your surname really was Estes, biologically, it wasn’t.

Because you were on the “other side” by then, you already knew the truth. You also knew that it was out of love that I spared you that pain here on earth.

Before you passed over, you didn’t know that I had secretly sworn an oath to you as well, that one day I would unearth the truth.

Dave, that day is today.

And now, the ultimate irony. Karma at it’s very best.

You see, you never needed a priest. Despite all of our unsuccessful efforts.

Because you are one.

For years at Family Tree DNA, you’ve had matches to multiple Y DNA surnames.

Recently, two men tested whose surname was Priest, descended from John Anderson Priest born in 1798 in North Carolina.

They are your closest matches, but still, given the variety of surnames that you matched, I paid it little mind.

That is, until today.

Your autosomal DNA returned a match to a first cousin, whose surname just happens to be Priest. Looking at your matches in common, I saw several people with that surname. About 4 hours later, I had the relationships mostly unraveled!

So yes, indeed, you, my dear brother, are a Priest.

I can hear you laughing heartily.

Estes can be your middle name now.

David Estes Priest, with no comma. Our new private joke, even if you do have to enjoy it from afar.

I hope you can truly rest in priest, er, peace now. It’s solved. The last tie to bind you here is gone.

Fly free.

I’ll see you overhome.

Love you.

“Heaven,” from Dave’s rig.

 

Conrad Schlosser: Gems Excavated from the Rabbit Hole – 52 Ancestors #183

Just when you think you can’t wring out one more drop of history, you’re at the dead end of the road and out of luck entirely – one of those genealogical acts of kindness for which we all long arrives at just the right time.

Unveiling the layers of Conrad Schlosser’s life reminds me very much of peeling that proverbial onion.  I’m making progress, but some tears have been shed!

In my recent article about Conrad Schlosser, I felt very fortunate to establish his birth year as 1635, especially since the church records in Steinwenden begin in 1684.  It’s there that we first find Conrad in 1685 with his children marrying and baptizing their own children.

Conrad’s burial on February 13, 1694 at age 59 provides his birth year as either 1634 or 1635, but it doesn’t tell us where.

I had to utilize the history of the region, to discern more.

Who Lived in Steinwenden?

Local historians tell us that in 1685, when Conrad’s daughters were marrying and having children, only 6 families lived in Steinwenden with a total of 25 people.  We also know that many Swiss immigrants settled here.

Conrad Schlosser’s family at that time consisted of:

  • Himself
  • Anna Ursula, his wife, last name unknown
  • Anna Catharina, daughter, born about 1661, never married
  • Anna Maria, daughter, born before 1665, married in 1685
  • Carl, son, born about 1664, married in 1701
  • Anna Ursula, daughter, born about 1676, married in 1696
  • Johannes Peter, son born about 1680, died 1691
  • Johannes, son, born about 1680, died 1701

That’s a total of 8 people living in his household. He had another daughter, Irene Charitas, who was married by June of 1685 when her child was baptized, so she and her husband may have counted as a second of those 6 households.

  • Irene Charitas, daughter born about 1660 who was already married to Johann Michael Muller.

With just Conrad’s family alone, we have at least 10 or 11 of the 25 reported residents accounted for.

Therefore, putting 2 and 2 together, it seemed logical that Conrad Schlosser was one of those Swiss immigrants, especially since we know that Johann Michael Muller that married Conrad’s daughter WAS a Swiss immigrant.

But guess what?

I was wrong.

Conrad did not arrive with the Swiss immigrant group in 1684 or 1685.

My German friend, Chris, found an invaluable record in this article:

“Johann Jakob Hauser around 1660 constructor of the “moor mill” in Steinwenden. During the 30 years war, the region Steinwemden, including among others the villages Weltersbach and Steinwenden, was heavily depopulated. It is only in a tax list in 1671, that inhabitants are again listed, among them Johann Jakob Hauser, miller in Steinwenden. [compare the copy from 1800 of a not conserved original; copy printed in: “Weltersbach. Streifzüge durch die Ortsgeschichte”, a.a.O., page 19]. Around 1660, Johann Jakob Hauser and CONRAD SCHLOSSER rebuilt the moor mill. In the 1680s, the mill was owned by Johann Schenkel.”

It seems that Conrad was in or near Steinwenden all along, which means that Anna Ursula, his wife, who was having children by 1661 had to have been there too. Weltersbach is only a hop, skip and a jump from Steinwenden. Literally, maybe half a mile.

Of course, we don’t know if Conrad Schlosser and Anna Ursula arrived from some other place together to make their home in the Steinwenden area, or perhaps their families arrived together or from different places at the same time.

In Search of Taxes and a Mill

The next several days after this breakthrough were spent in a frantic scramble with a friend in Salt Lake City trying to find the historical tax list cited in the paragraph above. Unfortunately, that document does not live in Salt Lake City, but in two libraries in Europe.  Whoever thought the Mormon Church WOULDN’T have something!

I reached out again to Chris, asking if he knew of any resources, and indeed, he did the logical thing.  He tracked down the author of the book, Roland Paul, and e-mailed him.  Well, duh.  Sometimes we don’t think of the simple solutions.  Of course, thankfully, Chris is a native German speaker, which overcomes the next hurdle for me.

Roland Paul, historian of the Steinwenden region, as it turns out, had also written an article about the “Moormuhle” in Weltersbach, the very mill that Conrad was helping to restore.

I generally use Google translate, but the page about the mill is entirely locked down, it seems, and Google translate doesn’t work, nor can I copy and paste manually into a German/English translator.  Chris tells me that the article is not about the early history of the mill that Conrad restored, and says that Conrad’s mill was torn down recently. Unfortunately, that means there is nothing left of the 1660 mill that Conrad rebuilt to see today.

Crumb!

It’s fun to look at the old photo in that article that is the home of the mill built in 1825 by a man whose name just happened to be Adam Muller. Of course, the word Muller translates literally into the profession, “miller” and every village needed at least one, so there are lots of German Miller families. To the best of our knowledge, this Muller isn’t related to our Johannes Michael Muller, but I’d love to have a Y DNA test of one of his Muller descendants to know for sure.

If any Miller male descends from this man, I have a free Y DNA test for you!

Ironically, I spy the same doorway in that article that was in a photo taken by cousin Rev. Richard Miller taken in 1996 when he visited Steinwenden. He obviously saw the word Muller above the doorway too.

Although this building is not the same mill that Conrad rebuilt in 1660, it’s still a part of Steinwenden’s history. Since it was only built in 1825, it wouldn’t have been there in the late 1600s and early 1700s where our family walked up and down these streets.

Strolling Through Steinwenden

Since we’re visiting Steinwenden anyway, let’s take a stroll down the very streets that Conrad Schlosser, his wife Anna Ursula, Johann Michael Mueller the first, Johann Michael Mueller the second, his wife Susanna Agnes Berchtol, and her parents Hans Berchtol and Anna Christina walked down. Yep, the whole family was here and many made the decision to immigrate to America together too. This is our ancient home!

I just love the character of these old buildings.

Welcome to Steinwenden!

Cousin Richard was very generous to share his photos.  Above, the 1825 mill again.

I recognize this building (above) as residing in the old village center, across the street from the contemporary church built in 1852, which is not the same structure as the old church. I suspect the old church was build in the same location, however. I’m hoping for confirmation of that fact soon.

Cousin Richard visited the current church in 1996 and they took him to the bell tower, the only remnant of the original church. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that Conrad as well as his older male children along with Johann Michael Muller (the first) helped construct the original church.

In the bell tower, we may well be looking at stones placed with their own hands, their fingerprints still in the mortar. If this bell tower could only talk!

The 1656 and 1671 Tax Lists

According to the records unearthed by Chris, there were no inhabitants of Steinwenden in 1656 as indicated in this statement, below.

Roland Paul was generous enough to send Chris a copy of the tax list from Weltersbach in 1671, along with some additional information which Chris was kind enough to translate.

Find enclosed the scan. Was Conrad Schlosser an ancestor of your acquaintance in the US? He [Conrad Schlosser] rebuilt the moor mill together with Jakob Hauser around 1660, after the mill had been destroyed in the 30 years war. My ancestors bought the mill in 1719. I am very interested in more details about Schlosser and Hauser, even more so since I currently write on an extensive chronicle about the moor mill.

So Roland’s ancestor bought the mill about 60 years after Jakob Hauser and Conrad Schlosser rebuilt it. Needless to say, I can’t wait to read his chronicle.

If rebuilding the mill was occurring as the area was being rebuilt and repopulated after the 30 Years War, in 1660, about the time that Conrad married – might this perhaps suggest that he and Jakob Hauser were potentially related?

I can’t help but wonder if Conrad’s wife, Anna Ursula is Jakob Hauser’s daughter.  Of course, there is nothing more, yet, to suggest this, BUT with few or no other families in the region, Conrad had to meet Anna Ursula somehow and we do know what Conrad was doing in 1660, about the time they married, and where.

Please note that this is unbridled speculation, and I probably shouldn’t even be thinking this out loud, let alone in print.  But maybe, just maybe, someone out there actually has some information about Jakob Hauser, the miller, and his family.

 

From Chris:

[The tax list] does not include information about Conrad Schlosser at all, only the names of the Steinwenden miller Johann Jakob Hauser, who rebuilt the moor mill together with Conrad Schlosser. Johann Jakob Hauser and Johannes Ingbert, a Swiss immigrant, were the only two inhabitants of the village of Weltersbach in 1671. But no names included here from the neighbor village Steinwenden, where Conrad Schlosser supposedly lived.

Where was Conrad Schlosser living?  Was he living at the mill with Jakob Hauser or with his family?  He had to be living in close enough proximity to work at the mill every day, and there are no other villages nearby.

I can’t help but notice that Johannes Ingbert was mentioned as a Swiss immigrant. This suggests that Swiss immigration began long before we find the Muller family in Steinwenden intermarried with Conrad Schlosser’s daughter in 1685.

Chris also found two additional resources, tax lists that might contain information from neighboring villages.  Would we be lucky enough to find Conrad there?

“Schatzungsbelagregister” from 1656 (no inhabitants in Steinwenden, but maybe interesting anyway because of family names in neighbor villages) and “Schatzungsprotokoll” from 1683-1684, available here at FamilySearch.

The 1683/1684 tax lists are from just before the records began on September 21, 1684 in the church in Steinwenden.

Of course, all of this begs the question of where Conrad’s children were baptized between 1661 and 1685.  And sadly, given the time and place, there were probably several children buried someplace too.  Did Conrad Schlosser and Jakob Hauser establish a cemetery for their family members?

If so, where?

The Old Cemetery Hill

As it turns out, Chris just might have found the answer to that question too.

My speculation was that the cemetery was around the original church, but that would not have been until 1684 and after.  What about between 1660 and 1684?  And what about before the 30 Year’s War?  Did the new inhabitants just continue to bury their loved ones in the same location as the inhabitants before the war?

We don’t have the exact answer to that, but Chris did find some very interesting information.

I think the old church tower would be most probably at the same location or very close to the current church. The current Steinwenden cemetery is today Northwest of the Steinwenden church. I attach a Google Maps screenshot with the Protestant church labeled with a green circle and the current cemetery labeled in red surroundings as well. That, however, does not answer at all the question, where Steinwenden inhabitants were buried at the time of Michael Müller and Conrad Schlosser. Since Steinwenden only counted a few families these days, it is quite possible that burials first took place around or close to the church and that only later on a larger cemetery was constructed. The cemetery then may have moved another time later on.

Chris provided the map below, with the current cemetery boxed in red, the contemporary church in green, and the old cemetery hill with the red balloon.

Chris provided a link to an article in German, which Google translate doesn’t, which states (as translated by Chris):

The Steinwenden centre is formed by the protestant church and the village square and the well system south of the church. Only a few metres south of it, on the old cemetery hill, is the local community house,newly constructed in 1992 and surrounded by a public park.

The photos in the article of Steinwenden are so enchantingly beautiful that they make my heart skip beats. I can just see my ancestors here.

The Location of the Mill

Chris found the location of the mill that Conrad restored.  In the aerial photo below, the mill is the red balloon and the small grey pin near the top is the church in the center of Steinwenden.

Google tells me that it’s one third mile or a 6-minute walk from the mill to church.

Steinwenden and Weltersbach are neighboring villages and obviously, Conrad lived someplace in this vicinity.

The location that Chris pointed out as the location of the mill can be seen below, as closely as I can zoom in. The creek, Moorback, runs between Moormuhle, Haupstrasse and Muhlbergstrasse. It was here, right here, that Conrad worked in 1660.  It may have been here that he lived as well.

I can’t tell you how much I wish that Google Street View was enabled here. Oh, to drive down this street!

Rabbit Holes

You know, there just have to be a few rabbit holes.  And I simply cannot help myself, so let’s take a look and see if there are any rabbits. First, let me say how very blessed I am to have friends, many of whom are blog followers and commenters.

The one hint about the origins of the Conrad Schlosser family that I do have, or might have, is the location given in this Steinwenden church entry:

28 April 1685 at Steinwenden were married Melchior Clemens, emigrant from Graffschaft Felkenburg with Anna Maria, legitimate daughter of Cunradt Schlosser, the same (place?).

Of course, what does “the same place” mean?  Does it mean the same place at the time the record was written, or the same place as in Graffschaft Felkenburg?

Update: Chris looked at the record and suggests that “the same place” refers back to where they were married – meaning Steinwenden, especially since we know that Conrad Schlosser was in the area by 1660. However, I am leaving the rest of this section for context…and just in case.

And if Conrad left Graffschaft Felkenburg in 1660 and Melchoir is listed as being from there in 1685, that’s quite a bit of time difference.  Of course, Melchoir’s family could have left at the same time as Conrad, or it might not mean that at all. But, since it IS my ONLY hint, I’m very grateful for all of my friends that are willing to go rabbit-hole hunting with me.

Another friend, George who draws maps professionally, to support his genealogy habit I’m sure, offered the following:

Roberta, I am by no means an expert on this, but I do draw maps as my day job and so took up your challenge to find out what happened to Graffschaft Felkenburg.

Treating the two words separately, it appears that Graffschaft (Grafschat) was a term for a “county” or “administrative district” (rough understanding) under authority of the Holy Roman Empire. I did find one reference to a “Principality of Felkenburg (Montefalcone) in a Google Book search.

I did a Google search on “Falkenburg County” and came up with the reference on page 465, Appendix II of a book named “Introduction to the study of international law designed as an aid to teaching, and in historical studies” written by Woosley, Theodore D. In 1879.

I have no clue if this is your Graffschaft Felkenburg, but it sounds promising and you may want to now search for Montefalcone.

Roberta, take a look at item # 7 on the following page. The spelling is Falkenburg, but the associated maps might help, or lead you further down the rabbit hole.

https://sites.google.com/site/ancestorsinthepfalz/home/1700—divisions

And because one rabbit hole isn’t enough, another friend did some footwork and offered the following:

Looking for Felkenburg and remembering one of the commenters of Conrad Schlosser’s entry said his ancestors with the same surname lived in Alsace, so I tried to google “comté felkenburg”. It seems there’s a Faulquemont in Lorraine which is named Falkenburg or Falkenberg in German, as the region passed between France and Germany quite a few times.

Then trying “Schlosser Faulquemont”, I found a book titled “Inventaire sommaire des archives communales de la ville de Strasbourg antérieures à 1790, rédigé par J. Bruncker, archiviste – Série AA Acts constitutif et politique de la commune, première partie”; roughly “Succinct summary of the district archives of the city of Strasbourg older than 1790, written by J. Brucker, archivist – constitutional and politic actes of the district, first part”.

https://books.google.ca/books?id=tpkNAAAAQAAJ&printsec=frontcover&hl=fr#v=onepage&q&f=false

On page 121, subtitled “correspondance des souverains, corps d’état, gouverneurs, etc.” “AA. 368. (liasse) 46 pièce papier en bon état”
“1530-1536 (suite) […] Réponse du comte Louis à des lettres d’intercession et de recommandation du magistrat de Strasbourg en faveur de Simon Schlosser de Faulquemont, incarcéré”

Translation:
“correspondence of the monarchs, state, governors, etc.”
“AA. 368. (bundle) 46 piece of paper in good state”
“1530-1536 (continuation) […] Reply from the earl Louis to letters of intercession and recommandation of the magistrate of Strasbourg in favor of Simon Schlosser of Falkenburg, jailed”

So, there was some Schlosser in Faulquemont, Lorraine, back in 1530. Maybe not your family though, I don’t know how widespread the surname was, but they could be.

Another interesting entry: “Le comte palatin Louis […] prévient [le magistrat de Strasbourg] que les anabaptistes de Munster ont dépêché un émissaire, nommé Jean de Goele, vers Strasbourg, pour y acheter de la poudre et d’autres munitions de guerre, et que Knipperdolling doit également se rendre dans cette ville”

Translation:
“the palatin earl Louis […] warn [the magistrate of Strasbourg] that the Anabaptist of Munster send an emissary, named Jean de Goele, to Strasbourg, to buy powder and other war ammunition, and that Knipperdolling must also go to the city”.

Earl Louis would be Louis V, elector palatine

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_V,_Elector_Palatine

Hmmm….Anabaptists. This is my Brethren line.

Google is my friend too.

I Googled Graffschaft Felkenburg and found an article, in German of course, and a photo of Falkenburg, a location in the Pfalz.

Von Bgfx – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27563727

From Wikipedia:

The ruin of the Falkenburg lies above Wilgartswiesen in the Palatinate Forest in the district of Südwestpfalz in Rhineland-Palatinate. Like almost all castles in the Palatinate Forest, it is built on a colorful sandstone rock as a rock castle. The Falkenburg was probably built in the 11th century as the successor of the Wilgartaburg and the protection of the neighboring villages.

The castle was first mentioned in 1246, although the construction of the castle, as with many castles in the area, may have taken place earlier. 44 years later, in 1290, a Werner von Falkenburg was mentioned in a document. From 1300 to 1313, the Falkenburg was pledged to Frederick IV of Leiningen, in 1317 she was mortgaged again, by Emperor Ludwig the Bavarian, this time to the Counts Palatine of the Rhine Rudolf II and Ruprecht I. 1375 Emich V. von Leiningen was the owner of Castle. Although the Falkenburg, which was measured in 1427, survived the German Peasants’ War, it was occupied in 1632 until it was returned to its owner in 1648. It was blown up in 1680 by French troops.

The fact that this location was destroyed would also explain why the location can’t be found contemporaneously.  The additional clue is that the word Graffschaft means administrative district.  Together, this seems to make sense.  The question is, of course, if it’s accurate.

If indeed, this is the location, it’s about an hour away from Steinwenden, still well within the Palatinate.

Is any of this relevant to our story?  Danged if I know.  Remember, we’re in the rabbit hole.

Aha, Finding a Rabbit – The 1684 Tax List

My friend Chris made another incredible find on the tax list from Steinwenden and surrounding villages in 1684.

The first Schlosser appearance occurs on page 271 at FamilySearch, or the original book page 185.

Conrad is listed, but I don’t see any tax calculated for him. The next film in the series is an extracted version of the tax list which gives us the date of April 17, 1684.  Note that there is one Hans Jacob Muller, mayor or sheriff (schulteuss) of the Weilerbach court, as well as a several other Mullers listed on the tax list with locations noted.

Also, Nikel Muller, Hans Muller and Hans Jacob Muller (twice) in Rodenback, along with Hans Jacob Muller in Ertzenhausen.

Hans Muller of Porbach and Hans Muller of Schweydelbach.  Are you getting the idea that Muller is a common surname?

The title says this list above is from Weylerbach and Conrad Schlosser is noted as being “of Steinwinden,” although the word looks to be Binwenden.  It’s not, it’s the German script. Why is Conrad being taxed or mentioned in Weylerbach?

It appears that the men listed at the top of this page are the “committee,” according to a German to English translation tool.

Weilerbach and Steinwenden aren’t terribly distant, about 5-6 miles with Rodenbach just beneath Weilerbach.

The next municipality in the tax book is Steinwenden.

Page 286 begins the tax list, and two pages later, we find Conrad Schlosser in the middle of the page.

The tax records for Steinwenden begin on FamilySearch page 288 or book page 220. That’s the original page 113 of the original book at the bottom right, or page 220 at the top right.

His actual tax is calculated two pages later, on page 289 at FamilySearch, or page 222 of the original book.

On this list, it shows that he either pays or is valued at 745, as compared to other people’s worth between 75 and 485 with the exception of one man, Jacob Nagel who has a value or pays a tax of 800 whatever the money was at that time.

There are a total of 15 entries, including Conrad. His son-in-law, Johann Michael Muller nor any Muller is listed other than the Mullers listed above. Are any of these relevant.  Possibly Hans Nickel Muller, but I don’t really know.

Here’s the translated page including the households.

This is slightly different than the earlier information that Steinwenden had a total of only 6 families comprised of 25 people in 1684.  This looks to be 15 households if you don’t count the people listed above as a “committee” with no tax amount. It’s also possible that some of these families lived in the same household.

Chris says the term “aussmarcker” is an old fashioned word that means a person who does not live within a parish and don’t have full resident rights, but owns lots in the parish area.

Bernhardt Schlosser’s Widow

Perhaps the best nugget is saved for last, on the following page (290 FamilySearch, original page 225) where we find the widow of Bernhardt Schlosser listed separately.

This widow is not taxed on a house, so it would be reasonable to speculate that indeed, Bernhardt might have been the father of Conrad and the still-living-widow is Conrad’s mother.  What are the possible scenarios?

  • Given that Conrad was born about 1634, and the widow is found in 1684, 50 years later, if this is Conrad’s mother, she would be between 70 and 90 years old. Chris points out that she could have not had a house and been living with Conrad (or someone else) or she could have had a home in such poor condition that it was considered to be worth nothing.
  • Bernardt could also be the brother of Conrad, so this widow could have been Conrad’s sister-in-law.
  • It’s also possible, but less likely, that Bernhardt is a son of Conrad, born around or before 1660 and having died before 1684, not long after marriage. This is the less likely of the various scenarios.

One thing we do know, though, is that the widow herself surely perished (or remarried, if she was young) very shortly after the tax date of April 21, 1684, because the Steinwenden church records begin in September 1684 and no widow of Bernhardt (or Gerhardt as it’s translated in this document) Schlosser is found in the death records. It’s also worth mentioning that the only records from 1684 in the book are baptisms and the death records don’t begin until 1685.  Does that mean no one died or was married between September and December of 1684, or were those records simply not recorded?  We don’t know the answer to that question either.

Conrad’s Wife

The two surnames we have from the 1671 tax list are Hauser and Ingbert.  By 1684, just 13 years later, I don’t find either surname in either Weylersbach or Steinwenden.

Did the miller Johann Jacob Hauser move away?  What about Johannes Ingbert?  Did they die or move?  I did find death records for both Ingbert (Ingvert) and his wife and both were born about 1600, so they were of an age that they could certainly have been having children in 1633. I find no records for any Hauser.

Was one of these two families the parents of Anna Ursula Schlosser, Conrad’s wife?

If not, would we be lucky enough to find Anna Ursula’s family name among those on the tax lists in 1684?  Perhaps if not her parents, then maybe uncles or brothers?

Here is an extracted list of the Steinwenden families in 1684:

  • Samuel Hoffmann
  • Hans Georg Schumacher
  • Conrady Schlosser
  • Nickel Orsel
  • Hans Sprentz
  • Gerdardt (Bernhardt?) Schlosser
  • Johann Engbiess (is this possibly Johannes Ingbert?)
  • Hans Peter Frolich
  • Simon Christmann
  • Jacob Schenckel (owned the mill according to local history)
  • Jacob Pletsch
  • Jacob Holtzhauser
  • Jacob Nagel
  • Michael Feyhel
  • Georg Jeserang

Is it too much to hope that Anna Ursula’s family is among these names?

Summary

Well, thanks for my rabbit-hole indulgence.

Where are we in evaluating where Conradt, probably along with Bernhardt Schlosser, came from?

I suspect that Conrad Schlosser probably arrived from closer rather than further away.

My gut feel is that generally the closer, simpler option is always more likely than further or more difficult. KISS for genealogy. Of course, during and after a time of horrific warfare, who is to say? Conrad wasn’t born yet when the 30 Years War reached the Palatinate in 1620.  His parents were either young, or young parents themselves.

By the time the 30 Years War ended, in 1648, Conrad would have been about 14 and as soon as he became of age, the lure of reconstruction and perhaps the ability to settle on land in the Palatinate was probably quite alluring.  He obviously did well for himself by 1684, about age 50, based on the fact that he was on the tax committee and one of the two wealthiest men in the village of Steinwenden. Nothing like being a big fish in a little pond. I wish we knew his occupation, the source of his wealth.

The Palatinate tended to be more protestant than Catholic, but the French were just the opposite.  Steinwenden was very clearly Protestant, so I would guess that Conrad was too. I would think the Palatinate locations for the Schlosser family would be more likely than the Wurttemberg area.

Without additional hints being uncovered, we’ll likely never know…but then again, that’s exactly what I thought about 3 articles ago too.

And since it seems that I’m destined for more rabbit holes, let me share one more hint that literally just this minute arrived from Chris:

In 1682 a daughter of Bernhard Schlosser from Steinwenden was married in the church of Steinwenden with the marriage entry recorded in the church book of Miesau. So here we go…

This tells us a couple things.  First, there was a church or at least a minister in Steinwenden in 1682 and second, perhaps their earliest books had not been started or have since been lost.

Given this new information, we may have the answer to where Conrad’s children were baptized.  Miesau is about 8 miles from Steinwenden and their church records begin in 1681. Baby steps backward in time.

You know what I’ll be doing for the rest of the day, don’t you?

I was stunned to see a second Schlosser name on those tax lists. I suspect that Bernhardt’s widow was indeed Conrad’s mother, but without any church death records, there is no way to verify. However, this brand new information tells us that Bernhardt had children marrying in 1682, so he was too old to be Conrad’s son.  We’re back to brother or father or maybe even uncle.

Chris, a Native German used to working with these records, agrees, but he said he’s not convinced enough to “put his hands in the fire over it.”  What a quaint saying, and I agree, although clearly with more rabbits to seek, we’re not done yet.

Are these people buried at the old the Old Cemetery Hill or by the old church tower in Steinwenden?  Very probably.

Where did Conrad Schlosser baptize his children, all born between 1661 and 1681?  For that matter, where was he married?  Are there church records that are awaiting us in the future? I checked and the church records for Weilersbach don’t begin until 1721, so we’re out of luck there – unless there is a burial after 1721 for someone born in the 1600s that might be relevant.  Sounds like another rabbit hole that needs to be investigated.

I’m beginning to have a rabbit hole list.

Where were Johann Michael Mueller and his wife, Irene Charitas Schlosser living in 1684?  They had a child baptized in the Steinwenden church on June 5, 1685.  I’m presuming that child was born that day since, sadly, he died the following day. Using a reverse conception calculator, Irene Charitas became pregnant about September 12, 1684, assuming the child was full term.

Given that the Steinwenden church records didn’t say anything about illegitimacy, and they surely would have if that was the case, we’re going to presume the parents were married before conception, meaning there is probably a church record for that lurking someplace too.

We know that they would have married in that region, because the Schlosser family clearly had lived there for a quarter century by that time. The couple had to live in the same proximity to “court.” Therefore, there are only three options as to where Johann Michael Muller and Irene Charitas Schlosser were living in April of 1684 when the taxes were taken:

  • They weren’t married yet, and both Johann Michael Muller and Irene Charitas were living with their respective parents or other family members. In this case, Johann Michael Muller’s family has to be present.  Who is the father of Johann Michael Muller?  Was he perhaps Hans Jacob Muller or Johannes Muller of Weilersbach? We do find a Hans Nickel Mueller and a Johannes Mueller in Steinwenden baptizing children at this same time. Hmmmm….rabbit hole.
  • They weren’t married yet and Johann Michael Muller had not yet arrived. If this is the case, then the couple fell madly in love and had a whirlwind courtship given that Johann Michael Muller arrived sometime after April and before mid-September when Irene Charitas became pregnant.
  • They were already married and living with another family, probably Conrad Schlosser, given that this family was apparently more well-to-do than their neighbors. From the 1684 list, we know that Conrad lived in Steinwenden. Furthermore, Johann Michael Muller and Irene Charitas Schlosser baptized their newborn baby, Johann Nickel Muller, in June in the church in Steinwenden – surely the closest location given that the baby was gravely ill and not expected to live. He died the following day. To assure the child’s spiritual salvation, they would have baptized the baby immediately in the closest church, which suggests they were living in Steinwenden at that time.

Lastly, were Conrad Schlosser’s wife’s parents among the families in Steinwenden on that 1684 tax list? We don’t know, but if I had to guess, and I do have to guess, I would suspect that either Anna Ursula’s father was Johann Jacob Hauser or that her family was found among the Steinwenden families in 1684.  Families tended to travel together in order to assist and support each other.

Yes, yes, I know, more rabbit holes.  But you know, sometimes you find those elusive golden rabbits!

A hearty and heart-felt thank you to all of my friends and rabbit-hole buddies. I literally could not do this without all of you!

I Am A River – 52 Ancestors #182

The quilt, “I Am A River” was inspired by a dream during a very difficult period in my life in the 1990s. In fact, I refer to it as “the decade from hell.”

The “elevator pitch” summary from that decade includes the death of my sister along with the prolonged death of my step-father and my in-laws. However, the worst catastrophe was that my (former) husband had a massive stroke which did not kill him but severely disabled him both physically and mentally – meaning I was thrust literally in the blink of an eye into many roles for which I was either ill-prepared or entirely unprepared.

In the spirit of “anything that can go wrong, will,” the stroke occurred at the same time that my much-beloved step-father was dying. My mother was a basket case and so was I. Of course, all of this affected my children in different ways too, and none of it positively. The “decade from hell” doesn’t even begin to convey the magnitude of the swath of devastation.

There were many decisions that I had to make flying blind, with the future entirely unknown.

The Dream

In the dream, various people stood at the intersection of branches of a river where the river split into two divergent paths.  They reacted in different ways. One person kept looking back, regretting what had been left behind. One person crawled up on the rocks and tried very hard to avoid making any decision. Me, I craned my neck, peering as far as I could down both sides of the river, upstream and downstream, trying my best to discern the future to make an informed choice.

I felt the soul-searing anchor weight of knowing my decision affected the lives of others as much or perhaps even more than those decisions affected me. I might have a chance to recover.  Others would not if I made a poor choice.

Since it was a dream, I could have been all three people – dreams don’t have to make sense and I only remembered the essence, not the details, upon awakening. I also never forgot. The simple message of that dream haunted me.

Of course, in reality, we can’t see very far down the river or into the future anyway and even if we could, we’d never know what was hidden around the next bend. We have to make the best decision we can at the time and then simply hold on for the ride. Especially when your bucolic “Lazy River” ride has turned into a class V whitewater rapids, defined as:

Extremely difficult. Long and violent rapids that follow each other almost without interruption. River filled with obstructions. Big drops and violent currents. Extremely steep gradient. Even reconnoitering may be difficult. Rescue preparations mandatory.

Except – there is no rescue.

The dream represented different approaches to an uncertain and terrifying future – looking backwards and attempting to dwell in the high cliffs of the past, climbing out of the water onto the rock, trying to delay a decision, or trying to peer into the future.  It was impossible to simply having faith and go with the flow. “The flow,” in this case, was strewn with peril and death.

I am not that faithful “go with the flow” person. I worry. I fret. I stew. I worry some more. Especially when other people’s welfare is involved. I’m much more willing to roll the dice about my own.

The great irony in all of this is that when forced, I make a decision and simply march forward, one foot in front of the other.

I hear the poem, Invictus, and try my best to believe it. I repeat the phrases “bloody but unbowed” and “I am the captain of my soul” and attempt to convince myself I’m not afraid. Mostly, I simply refuse to acknowledge the shrill voice of fear.

It’s only when I have the luxury, or torture, of time to decide that I agonize over the “what-ifs.”

So here I am, standing in the middle of the river once again. I’ve come to believe we all stand in this river many times in our lives.

DNA

DNA has shaped both me and my life – indelibly. DNA literally created what I am in a biological sense and accounts in many ways for who I am in terms of my traits.

However, for the past 18 years, DNA has shaped me through genetic genealogy as well – allowing me to become acquainted with my ancestors in ways never before possible. To identify with them in a very personal way. It has taken me to places I never dreamed I could or would go – literally, figuratively and scientifically. A new frontier – the one within.

We have the capacity today to be closer to our ancestors through available records and DNA testing than ever before.  A new horizon has been reached – the threshold crossed.

So, it’s only natural that I would look backwards to my ancestors, perhaps hoping for some shred of advice or imparted wisdom as I stand once again on what seems like the continental divide.

What did my ancestors do when they had decisions to make? How did they make them? What were they thinking? Is there a guiding light there someplace?

I’d settle for a glimmer.

Were they wanderlusts or unwilling refugees? Some of both? Is that heritable? Did they bequeath it to me?

I picked up, moved across the country and changed my life when I was in my mid-20s. I was certainly not unafraid, but I was infinitely determined. My mother called it stubborn😊 I call it tenacious. A rose by any other name. I have no regrets.

Then, fate intervened again some 13 years later with my husband’s stroke. That was one horrific day – and only a beginning that shoved me unwillingly through a doorway from which there was no return.  A one-way portal.

More than a decade later, my life transformed again when I lost my mother. I also remarried. I didn’t anticipate or expect any of those changes back when I was making that first decision to move across the country with my small children in tow.

Sometimes you receive wonderful gifts of fate, opportunities, and sometimes you have to make lemonade out of lemons. Often, you think you’re doing one and you wind up doing the other. Gifts, lemons and lemonade all chained together in the garland of life. That, of course, is exactly why we worry and sit in the middle of that river.

The unknown. That damned terrifying unknown.

So, what would my ancestors do?

WWMAD?

Let’s take a look and see what wisdom the ancestors might impart, based on what we know about their life-altering decisions.

My mother always voiced this lament that made me laugh which made her cringe:

“If you would only just behave.”

This from the woman who danced in the 1930s into the 1940s – trailblazing for others to follow. Ironically, her decision to dance was more driven by the fact that she had no other skill with which to support herself, rather than a burning desire to perform.  What she wanted to be was a bookkeeper – but college money was for boys in the family, not girls. Girls danced.

If you’re going to dance, do it well enough to dance professionally.  That’s professionally as in stage and theater, not a strip club.  Turn lemons into lemonade.

Not to suggest I’m anything like my mother, but let’s just say this photo of me was taken after the genetic genealogy conference in Houston.

Ok. So. That “well behaved” thing is obviously never going to happen.

But where did it come from?

Grandmother, Edith Lore Ferverda and Great-Grandmother, Nora Kirsch Lore

On to my next ancestors, who, I might add, are in this motorcycle photo taken in the early 1900s when motorcycle riding was entirely verboten for women.  Not only is my grandmother, Edith, in this photo, so is her mother, Nora, (last two, at rear) and her sisters. In case anyone wants to know where I got that “not well-behaved” propensity, um, it might be here! If you’re counting, this is four generations of misbehavior in a row.  Genetic much?

My grandmother, Edith Barbara Lore, (rear of the motorcycle) used to tell my mother, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

She would know.

Edith didn’t follow her heart and never really forgave herself for the lost opportunity – coloring the way she reacted to her family for the rest of her life. At some level, she spent her life grieving the opportunity she never took. Perhaps she was sitting on that rock in the river, or attempting to peer downstream.

Regret is poison.

Had my grandmother gone to Colorado with “the cowboy,” let’s just say that my life would not be the same and my grandfather would have been someone entirely different. I wouldn’t be me.

Ironically, the name of the man who so convincingly stole my grandmother’s heart and took it west with him, whom she was afraid to follow, is entirely unknown. Just “the cowboy.”

Fear – so often the ruler or our life – and our decisions.

Had Edith made a different choice, my mother and I would be different people, raised in Colorado, not Indiana. A ripple through the pond of life that would reflect for eternity – so long as my grandmother’s descendants live.

I don’t want to live my life with regrets like my grandmother – but who’s to say she wouldn’t have regretted following her love to the wild west. It’s a possibility either way. Life’s like that.  No promises. Uncertain at best. Sitting in that rock in the river.

Father, William Sterling Estes

My father, William Sterling Estes, made so many outright bad decisions from anyone’s perspective that I often want to shake him and ask, “What the Hell were you thinking?”  Clearly, I’m not looking for any advice from him.  Just like you don’t go to the bar and ask the drunk guy who is broke for financial advice.

My father wasted no time even trying to look upstream.  He was caught up in the adrenaline of the minute, swimming directly into the rapids without even a life vest. He did however, appear to develop a skill in the backstroke, especially after being caught in a net!

The best I can hope for comes from the old adage, “at least he can serve as a bad example.”

Grandmother, Ollie Bolton

My father’s mother, Ollie Bolton – that poor woman. She certainly didn’t live the life she signed up for as a misty-eyed bride of 18 tender years.

I don’t know if she lived her own dreams, or her husband’s. Did she really want to leave Claiborne County, Tennessee and move to Springdale, Arkansas almost immediately after she was married where her first few children would be born? Was that trip full of just-married “I’ll follow you anywhere” starry-eyed love? I’d bet the journey back was VERY different.

Ollie moved back to Tennessee a decade later with a husband, William George Estes, who wasn’t fond of work and was very fond of alcohol. They are pictured together below, although she may haunt me for that.

Ollie wound up with a husband that wasn’t, who drank more than worked and had a roving eye as well as other body parts. In the next chapter of her life, after a child burned to death and living in yet a third state where she caught her husband cheating, Ollie found herself alone, struggling and parceling out her children. I don’t know how much was by choice or because she had only poor choices available at that point.

How I wish I could talk to Ollie and understand how she made those horribly difficult decisions – her thought process and the circumstances I’ll never fully understand that affected my father so profoundly.

Choices.

So often our choices really aren’t our own. Thrown into the water and forced to swim or drown.

Forced upon us by circumstances in which we find ourselves. No one wants to be that person who is living with their children, destitute, ill, dependent and vulnerable in their old age.

My greatest fear isn’t death, and never has been, but that scenario! That!

GG-Grandfather, John Y. Estes

I think about my great-great-grandfather, John Y. Estes, who served in the Civil War, on the side of the Confederacy. He was listed as a deserter, supposedly captured, then became a POW. Did he put up a struggle, or was being “captured” really surrender or seeking the Union soldiers? Was he even serving of his own volition, or was he forced, conscripted? What did he think about when deciding to “desert,” if that’s in fact what happened? Was he brave or cowardly?

Eventually, after being held as a POW, John was released north of the Ohio River near the end of the war. I expect they thought the walk back to Tennessee on an injured leg would kill him, but it didn’t. Limping only slows you down. Sometimes impairments are more in the eye of the beholder and a matter of attitude. Maybe that tenacious, stubborn gene perchance?  Did I get a dose from both sides?

After his return to Claiborne County, Tennessee, John immediately sold his household goods to his eldest son who was only age 17 at the time. A transaction that raises eyebrows and provides nothing but questions. He continued to live in the home with his wife, because at least two more children were subsequently born.

Some 15 years after the Civil War, John Y. Estes walked to Texas with a bum leg. Why did he make that choice? What was the draw? Did he and Ruthy, his wife, discuss that choice before he left? What was their intention?

Was the attraction the land available in Oklahoma and Texas, although he never owned any there and appeared to abandon his land in Tennessee to his wife? Was this a form of unofficial divorce? Did he return to his roots? He lived on Choctaw land although his life in Oklahoma is murky at best.

Was he excited about an opportunity, looking forward? Or was he running from something, like his Civil War service or a marriage gone bad? Was he at odds with his wife? What was his motivation? How did he weigh the odds? Did he actually decide to walk 1000 miles, or did he just walk the first mile, then the second, then the third…until he had walked 1000? Analogous to simply jumping into the water and finding your self far downstream into uncharted waters.

Not only did he walk to Texas once, but he walked back to Claiborne County, then back to Texas again. Yes, three walks of more than 1000 miles each. Apparently his walk from the north to the south after the Civil War of 300 or 400 miles that was supposed to kill him was only training.

John was no spring chicken either. In 1865 when he was released as a POW, he was 47 and by 1880 when he first walked to Texas, he was 62. I can’t even begin to fathom walking to Texas, and back, and back to Texas again, at that age AND on a bad leg – so bad that his grandchildren’s recollection of him is that he was short and fat with bushy eyebrows and that he limped with one leg shorter than the other.

What drives, or inspires, someone to undertake a journey like that, at the age when others retire, especially with his “handicap”? Whatever in this world would cause him to undertake that journey a second and third time? Whatever it was, it must have been extremely compelling. Something caused him to plunge into the water and then swim upstream three times.

Why? What was he thinking?

And why did this man not leave a journal?  Some hint? So exasperating.

GG-Grandmother Ruthy Dodson Estes

And what of John’s wife, Ruthy Dodson? Did she proclaim “good riddance” when he left? Did he walk back to Tennessee, hoping to convince her to return to Texas with him? Did she actually decide not to go, or did she never decide, thereby deciding by not deciding? Was she attempting to peer down the river?

The only hint is that she says she is divorced in the 1880 census – but there is no divorce on record at the courthouse. Was she just saving face, missing him, and angry that John had left forever?

What did she think as he walked away for the last time? Did he turn around and look back with one last glimmer of hope? Was she too angry, stubborn or afraid to go?

Was she regretting a decision, or relieved? By 1883, when her son George moved to Texas too, she could have gone by train. But still, she stayed in Tennessee.

Ruthy had rheumatoid arthritis. Perhaps her health was simply too poor to travel that distance. The family story says that she was disabled for 22 years and her son, Lazarus, had to carry her down the mountain from her cabin to his so she could live with he and his wife. Did Ruthy’s health prevent her from making the decision to relocate to Texas?

Or, God forbid, was Ruthy’s deteriorating health part of what drove John Y. Estes to walk to Texas after being married for 39 years? Subtracting 22 years from her death date tells us that she was severely disabled by 1881.  I really, really don’t want to think John simply, literally walked away from a wife who needed help. Escaping down that river.

GGG-Grandfather, John R. Estes

The father of John Y. Estes, John R. Estes who was born and raised in Halifax County, Virginia packed his young family up after his military service in the War of 1812 and probably joined a wagon caravan through the mountains to Claiborne County, Tennessee. He was a young man then, but surely he knew that he was saying goodbye to his mother, father and siblings and would never see them again? How did he do that? Was he under the delusion that he would return to visit? His mother died not long after he moved, but his father lived another 40 years. Did he look backward up on those river cliffs, longing for what he left behind – wishing to see his parents one last time?

And what about his wife, Nancy Ann Moore who would sit in her father’s church one last time hearing him preach? Did she get to vote or did she simply get dragged into the water along with John?

At least I get to vote. Which means, of course, I bear full responsibility for the outcome of that vote. Ying and yang.

GGGG-Grandfather, George Estes

John R.’s father, George Estes, was a Revolutionary soldier, served 3 terms, moved a family in 1781 to what would become Hawkins and Grainger Counties in eastern Tennessee, stayed a year or so, but then rode back to Halifax County where he spent the rest of his life.

George’s reverse path is really quite different, because no one ever “went back.” But George did! He rode his horse eastward, backtracking, even though he wasn’t married and there was no obvious compelling reason. What caused him to return? I’d love to know what he was thinking, as his decision is counter-intuitive, especially as compared to the other people following that same migration route westward.

Why?

What caused George to swim back upstream?

GGGGGGG-Grandfather, Abraham Estes

Abraham Estes, an orphan in Kent, England, married at age 25 in 1672 and buried his young wife before setting sail for America 9 or 10 months later. There’s no question that he was leaving heartbreak. He had nothing left to lose, and everything to gain. He didn’t care about what was down that river, because staying was so much more painful than leaving.

His decision, I understand, but others are much murkier.

Those Brave Souls

One brave soul, the founder of each family line in America had to make the decision to sell everything, pay for passage on a boat – or sell themselves as indentured servants – leave their homeland and head for the colonies. Of course, that assumes they weren’t convicts or slaves who had no choice at all. Sometimes slaves threw themselves into the sea, with full intention of drowning – because they believed death was better than what would follow. Perhaps they were right.

How did our ancestors make migration decisions? Were they made with excited optimism or with faces lined with worry about potential death. Did they really have choices? It’s one thing to decide for yourself, but what of the choice made for your wife and children – knowing that the old wives’ tale foretold that one child would die in each family for each sea crossing. Would you be willing to sacrifice a child to the watery grave – or did you think you would be the lucky unscathed family? Was their faith in whatever they perceived God or their religion to be such that they felt a child’s death was pre-ordained? Or, did they believe God would watch over them?

I’m afraid my rock-sitting in the middle of the river doesn’t do those brave ancestors justice. There was no question that they were never going home. There was no going back – no breadcrumbs. There were no phones. Letters were uncertain and best case, horribly slow.  Many never arrived at all. Whatever and whoever they left behind was unquestionably forever – and the future was obscured in the fog of an uncertain journey in a small leaky boat traversing a massive and often angry sea.

There was no guarantee they would survive the passage – and they clearly knew that. Yet, they made the decision to leave anyway.

I’d love to know how they reached that decision. Oh, to be a fly on the wall.

GGG-Grandfather, Jacob Lentz

The paternal Y-line DNA tells us that our Lentz line was found along the Volga River about 3500 years ago, one of very few men living today who match ancient burials there. They belong to the Yamnaya culture whose men decided in some way to “migrate” to what is today Germany.

We know, unquestionably that they left their homes, traveling thousands of miles, but why, and how was that decision made? Were they soldiers or did they arrive as settlers with families? Did they have any idea where they were going, or did they simply follow commands to travel west and attack villages as they went? Did they stay and settle, or just leave their DNA in the local population?

And then there was Yamnaya descendant, Jacob Lentz, the humble vine-dresser, too poor to marry his “wife,” causing their children to be born without the “benefit of marriage.”  In 1816 a famine and crop failure nearly starved the family, prompting them to leave Beutelsbach, Germany and set sail for the new world in the spring 1817 – only to become shipwrecked by a murderous sea captain, nearly starved for a second time, then becoming stranded in Norway. Jacob lost almost everything – except his wife and three of his children. One of his children perished. The wives’ tale fulfilled.

There’s far more that we don’t know than we do.

Brave – Jacob Lentz was an incredibly brave leader – finding his voice when compassion called, organizing the shipwrecked survivors into a cohesive group and finding passage, with no money, a second time. He and his family became indentured servants, but after serving their time, Jacob became a Brethren, moving once again cross country and acquiring land in Ohio. In spite of that horrific life chapter, Jacob certainly achieved his dream. But, there were costs, unspeakable literal life and death costs as he buried family members and friends at sea as they died of starvation. a fate impossible to even conceive of ahead of time.

Jacob must has been inconsolably wracked as he realized how others suffered and died because of his decision, including his own child.

Sometimes we drown in that river. Sometimes we watch others drown as a result of our decisions. Sometimes we wish we could drown.

How did Jacob balance the risk versus the potential reward?  Was his driving factor hunger and poverty? Was he desperate to marry his wife? How did he muster the courage to get on the SECOND ship to America, after his horrific experience on the first one? Was his driving desire desperation?

GGG-Grandmother, Fredericka Reuhle and her Parents

Jacob’s wife, Fredericka Reuhle, left Germany with her husband, children and parents on that ill-fated journey. She and her parents left some of her siblings behind. What a gut-wrenching goodbye that must have been. I know the famine and crop failure drove them to leave – but why did some choose to stay?

Fredericka’s parents were about age 60 at that time. We don’t know for sure that they survived, but they weren’t listed among the dead in Norway. Maybe they thought their days of decisions were over – only to make the most life-altering decision of their lifetime.

Did that decision lead to a new life or a slow death? Did they find themselves indentured as servants at age 60, or did they find only a watery grave at the end of their journey? Did they too drown in that proverbial river?

Some ancestors made an active decision to leave, or stay, but refugees from famine or war often had little choice. Convicts had none.

My ancestral lines include many religious refugees. The fighting between people of different religious (and political) views is as old as humanity itself. Some seeking religious tolerance.  Some left to escape religion entirely.

GGGGGG-Grandfather, Murtough McDowell

Murtough McDowell was a political refugee from Ireland who homesteaded in Maryland by 1722, before Baltimore even existed. He and his young wife were clearly seeking opportunities. It wasn’t possible to own land in Ireland at that time – not for poor Protestants anyway. Land wasn’t guaranteed in the colony of Maryland, but it was possible – and I’m sure it was that possibility along with almost constant warfare that drew him away from Kingsmoss outside of Belfast. I’d say he left with a smile on his face – right up until he waved goodbye to his parents if they were still living. He lived to realize his dream – with three land patents to his name. That river of life was kind to him, as best we know.

GGGGGG-Grandfather, Johann Michael Mueller

Johann Michael Mueller was probably a religious refugee – one of those reviled Pietists. The Germans were probably glad to see these folks move on – as the Swiss had been a generation or two before. No matter, America was the land of opportunity where religious freedom was tolerated if not encouraged in Pennsylvania. Michael Mueller/Miller immigrated with his half-brother, Jacob Stutzman – two young men probably full of life, seeking opportunity. The decision to leave was probably relatively easy for them, and they had each other for company. They literally dove into the water together.

Eventually, Johann Michael Miller’s descendants would marry those of Jacob Lentz on the prairieland frontier of northern Indiana, adjacent the Indian village.

Great-Grandparents, Curtis Benjamin Lore and Nora Kirsch

My mother’s grandfather, Curtis Benjamin Lore, above with wife Nora, was half Acadian. C. B. Lore, as he was called, made some questionable decisions. You know, like marrying a second woman before divorcing the first wife. Those pesky details.

However, unlike the decisions made by other ancestors, I very clearly understand HOW he made that decision – and it had to do with the shotgun of his soon-to-be father-in-law, Jacob Kirsch, who was a crack shot. Jacob, of course, didn’t know that the man who had gotten his daughter, Nora Kirsch, pregnant was still married to someone else – or I’m thinking that C. B. Lore wouldn’t have been afforded the option of marrying Nora – he would have been pushing up daisies instead. Jacob Kirsch had already lynched a man just two years earlier, so there would have been no doubt in C. B. Lore’s mind about what Jacob could and would do. That decision was probably easy.

One river branch was sure and certain death and the other was unknown.

GG-Grandfather Anthony Lore

C. B. Lore’s father, Anthony Lore or Lord, led something of a sketchy life and was rumored to be either a river trader or a pirate. The one thing we do know, for sure, is that at one point, after a terrible rift in his Acadian family caused by his mother renouncing the Catholic faith and becoming, gasp, Protestant, that Anthony simply picked up and left L’Acadie, south of Montreal. He followed Lake Champlain into Vermont where he met and married his non-Acadian, non-Catholic wife, Rachel Hill.

Why he made the choice to leave is evident. That religious split within the Lord family colored both sides of that family into future generations where the religious battle was fought over and over for generations. Not for Anthony – he simply left.

Anything downriver had to be better than staying.

The Acadians

The Acadians, staunch Catholics, began settling in Port Royal, Nova Scotia about 1603, before Jamestown was founded, but their new homeland wasn’t to be forever. In 1755, some 150 years later, they were forcibly evicted by the English. Originally arriving in Nova Scotia as Catholics seeking refuge, their choice to remain neutral in Canada to maintain peace had backfired. When deported, 6 generations after arrival, it was as refugees once again – stripped of everything, at the mercy of anyone and everyone – families scattered to the winds. The only choice they got to make was whether to try to find their family members, their way back to Canada or attempt to rebuild a life wherever the ship they were herded onto landed.

The Acadian people had both literally and figuratively been herded into the river water.

These brave people risked everything to find family again.  Untold numbers perished.  True grit.

The 1709ers

The 1709ers were another group of refugees who weren’t refugees to begin with but became refugees in 1709 as a result of their decision to leave Germany in search of the elusive dream – free land. Some of the flyers distributed in Germany espousing that alluring “fake news” still exist, encouraging people to travel to America to claim “free land” supposedly being provided by the Queen of England, so we know why these German families made this choice.

We know that the decision was probably made quickly and in an adrenalin-fueled haze – sometimes the decision point to actual departure accomplished within days. What they didn’t know or expect was that they would be stranded first in Rotterdam, then in England for a year or so, then on to America where that “free land” to which they convinced themselves they were entitled never materialized.

Their lives might have been better had they had heeded the colloquialism, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

It’s stories like this that cause me to overthink things today. Am I sure I have every piece of information I need to make the decision?  Is the info all valid?

The 1709ers are a great example of the decisions we fear making – a one-way street where the dream becomes a nightmare that won’t end and from which there is no recovery. Maybe these people were a little too anxious to plunge into that river.

Native Americans

And then, of course, my Native ancestors who are very nearly lost entirely to history in the “settling of America.” Genocide, pure and simple, using the excuse that they were pagans and in need of religious conversion.

There are only remnants of their blood running in my veins today. But their story, their history has never been stronger – even if I don’t know all of their names. Some have been resurrected through the DNA of their descendants. Even if it’s only their Y or mitochondrial DNA that introduces me to them – they are then positively identified as Native and we can honor their sacrifices. They had to make horrific decisions. Akin to “how would you like to die?” Not if, only how. They had no good options. Both sides of their river was filled with deadly, impassible, class VI rapids.

Sometimes, being nice to strangers really isn’t the answer. But, how do you know? Where do the concepts of humanity to others and self-preservation separate?

The River of Uncertainty

Decisions are frightening and difficult.  No hints as to the unknown future.  No peeking around the bend in the River of Uncertainty.

In the end, will we say that we could have missed the pain, but would have had to miss the dance – or will we, like the 1709ers, be irreparably damaged as a result of what was expected to be a choice full of smiles and opportunity. Will we drown in those rapids, nameless, like my Native ancestors? Will we wish we were dead instead, or die a burden to our children?

Or, will we be like the redeemed doubter, George Washington, who said in September 1776, writing to his cousin, after losing New York City to the British in the Revolutionary War, “If I were to wish the bitterest curse to an enemy on this side of the grave, I should put him in my stead with my feelings.” Then, uncertain, feeling inadequate and scared as hell, General Washington mustered the courage of his convictions and went on to win the war – and with it America’s freedom from England, irreversibly changing the course of history for the entire world.  Not to mention changing the life of every single American individually between then and now. He simply dove into the icy water, defying both fear and fate!

How does anyone know what’s down the river and around the bend? How can one best anticipate the future and make the decision with the least harmful outcome?

No one wants to become “that” burdensome ancestor who made a tragic decision.  We all want to be the success story – but none of my ancestors made the decisions they did knowing the outcome.

Therein lies the eternal human quandary. How to make the best choice.

Here I am, once again, having come full circle, in the middle of the river – left wondering what my ancestors would have done. The message I hear, strong and clear, is to consider carefully and then plunge with the courage of your convictions, embracing the opportunity, relishing the journey, and never looking back.

We are all the river and the river is life.

Journey

As you journey through life,
choose your destinations well,
but do not hurry there.

You will arrive soon enough.

Wander the back roads and forgotten paths,
keeping your destination in your heart,
like the fixed point of a compass.

Seek out new voices,
strange sights,
and ideas foreign to your own.

Such things are riches for the soul.

And if, upon arrival
you find that your destination
is not exactly as you had dreamed,
do not be disappointed.

Think of all you would have missed
but for the journey there,
and know that the true worth of your travels
is not where you come to be at journey’s end.

But in who you came to be along the way.

Roberta Estes

Anna Ursula Schlosser (1633-1701) and the Ides of March, 52 Ancestors #181

As we unraveled the story of Irene Charitas Schlosser and her parents, my friend Tom provided critical information that unlocked the name of Irene’s mother, Conrad Schlosser’s wife. I can’t thank Tom enough for his painstaking work and his infinite patience with me!

Conrad Schlosser’s wife is mentioned in a baptism. Her given names are Anna Ursula.

My heart lept into my throat. Another ancestor identified, at least partially.

Anna Ursula.  I rolled her name across my tongue and pronounced her as mine! And I as hers, of course.

Much of Anna Ursula’s life story comes to us through her husband and sometimes by inference. Just when I thought I knew something about Anna Ursula, I discovered in fact that I did not. I love/hate it when this happens!

Introducing Anna Ursula

I thought I knew that Anna Ursula’s life didn’t begin in Steinwenden, because I thought that she and Conrad immigrated as a family to the area about 1684 from Switzerland. At that time Anna Ursula would have been married to Conrad (Cunradt) Schlosser for between 25 and 30 years meaning that she would have spend half a century or so living in Switzerland.

Ummm….no.

After I published Conrad Schlosser’s story, new information came to light from a reader, Chris, who has sent me invaluable information, both before and since. I can’t thank Chris enough either! Between Chris and Tom, I have been truly blessed.

In particular, Chris found the following information in this article:

“Johann Jakob Hauser around 1660 constructor of the “moor mill” in Steinwenden. During the 30 years war, the region Steinwemden, including among others the villages Weltersbach and Steinwenden, was heavily depopulated. It is only in a tax list in 1671, that inhabitants are again listed, among them Johann Jakob Hauser, miller in Steinwenden. [compare the copy from 1800 of a not conserved original; copy printed in: “Weltersbach. Streifzüge durch die Ortsgeschichte”, a.a.O., page 19]. Around 1660, Johann Jakob Hauser and CONRAD SCHLOSSER rebuilt the moor mill. In the 1680s, the mill was owned by Johann Schenkel.”

Wow.  Just wow.

Of course, there are several tidbits of incredibly valuable information here.

First, if Conrad Schlosser was living in or near Steinwenden in 1660, the family clearly did not migrate from elsewhere in 1684.

Second, I need desperately to find the list of families in 1671, because it’s very likely that Anna Ursula’s family is among these people. Conrad would most likely have married a local girl and settled down nearby – which is where they are found in 1685, after the beginning of the church records in Steinwenden in 1684.

And yes, I have already tried to find the book in the library in Salt Lake City library. The German title of the book is Weltersbach: Streifzüge durch die Ortsgeschichte and WorldCat says it’s only available at a library in Munich and another in Frankfurt. Anyone local to either, have the book or know of a resource?

Steinwenden

We do know that Anna Ursula wasn’t born in Steinwenden, the village, in the location where it exists today, because that village and region was entirely depopulated during the 30 Years War, but she could have been born not terribly far distant.  We just don’t know, but we do know that her family had to be in the general vicinity for Anna Ursula to meet and marry Conrad Schlosser about 1660.

An original text in German written in 1980 titled “The History of Steinwenden” by Roland Paul, historian of the Palatine Region of Germany, provides information about the region. Translated and adapted for English by Dr. Claus Kirchner, Eric Dysinger, and Anne Dysinger, they state:

Researchers believe that the name Steinwenden can be traced back to the old Germanic word “winne” (as compared to the village name “Winden” in Southern Rhineland Palatine), which translates to “terrain with pastures.” Such large pastures always existed south of the village in between Steinwenden and Weltersbach, in the valley of the Moorsbach stream. The first part of Steinwenden (“Stein”) most likely refers to the remains of the original Roman estate, located between Wiesental, Bruehl and the present-day Roemerstrasse (i.e., Roman street). The village name of Steinwenden can therefore be explained as “pasture close to stones” (or stonehouse, or stonewalls).

You can see the Mohrbach in the aerial view today, beneath the village. Is that where the mill Conrad rebuilt was located?

The name Steinwenden dates to at least 1180 AD but the population living in Steinwenden after the 30 Years War would not have been the descendants of the first settlers because Steinwenden was completely abandoned during the 30 Years War and apparently until about 1660.  That’s likely why the mill was being rebuilt – people were once again beginning to settle in the region.

Quoting again:

Even 8 years after the Peace Treaty of Westphalia, our homeland was in a desolate state as reflected in a 1656 entry in the direct tax book number 12: “Nobody resides yet in the district of Steinwinden [most likely the complete aforementioned area]”. This was due to the fact that the former inhabitants who fled from their homes during the war did not return. The resettlement of the area started around 1660 with, among others, the Swiss immigrants playing a major role in the noteworthy reconstruction that began under difficult circumstances and lasted for decades. The reformed church books contain the names of some of the resettlers: Berny, Buechi (Bichy, Bihy), Brennermann, Freyvogel, Hunzinger, Koller, Kyburtz, Zinsmeister and many more. Immigrants from Germany also moved to the region.

Steinwenden in 1684 consisted once again of six families, totaling approximately 25 residents. More than one hundred years later, in 1791, this number had risen to 305.

This provides us with even more fascinating tidbits. We know that no one lived in Steinwenden in 1656.  We know based on church records that Conrad and Anna Ursula were there in 1685 and that Conrad was in the region in 1660, so it stands to reason that they were one of the six families mentioned in 1684. And I’d bet that they were related to the other 5 households.

We also know that in 1685, Anna Ursula’s daughter had already married one of the Swiss immigrants because they had a child baptized.

What We Do Know About Anna Ursula

We don’t know Anna Ursula’s maiden name, but we do know that her daughter was named for her so we need to be careful not to mistake the daughter for the mother (or vice versa) in the church records.

The mother, Anna Ursula Schlosser, a widow, died on March 15, 1701. According to her death record in the Steinwenden church register, she was born in 1633, during the 30 Years War.  It’s unlikely that she was born in Steinwenden since no one was living there in 1656 and the article states that the earlier residents did not return. It was in 1660 that the rebuilding began.

Burial: The 15th of March 1701, Anna Ursula, surviving widow of the late Cunradt Schlosser, 68 years old.

The church record above indicates that not only Anna Ursula died, but so did her daughter two weeks prior to Anna Ursula’s death, as did her 21 year old son a week later.

Steinwenden Church Records

The Steinwenden Reformed Church records begin in 1684. In those records, we find various records of Anna Ursula and her children.

The historical records tell us that in 1684, just before the Swiss arrived, the village only had 6 families with a total of 25 people. That’s not much, especially for a location that could clearly accommodate more, and had in the past.

I’d guess that in 1684 or 1685 when the Swiss began arriving, they probably had their pick of relatively good land, not to mention that all of the trades would be needed as the village grew. However, Conrad and Anna Ursula who had settled in that area 20+ years earlier surely had already laid claim to the best lands.

The first records for any of the known surnames associated with this family are found in the marriage on April 28, 1685 of Anna Maria Schlosser to Melchior Clemens.

The second record is found on June 5, 1685 when Johann Nicholas Muller, son of Irene Charitas Schlosser and Johann Michael Muller was born and died the next day. I wonder if that was the first burial in the churchyard for this family group. This tells us that Irene became pregnant in about September of 1684. We don’t know where or when they were married, although it’s very likely in the church local to Steinwenden – wherever that was at the time. We know that the Steinwenden church records begin in 1684. The church may have already been established, although with only 6 families, that seems unlikely.

We know that Johann Michael Mueller was born in 1755 in Zollikoffen, Canton Bern, Switzerland.  Between 1755 and 1785, we know that he married the daughter of Anna Ursula and Conrad Schlosser, but in which church is a mystery.  This tells us that the Muller/Mueller/Miller family was in the region by at least 1784.

Michael Muller’s Cousin

A 1689 record mentions that Jacob Ringeisen of Schweitz was “serving for his cousin Michael Muller.”

Records in Steinwenden for Jacob Ringeisen begin in 1686 for Hans Jacob, or simply Jacob Ringeisen and wife Susanna.

A death record is found for Jacob on June 1, 1691, stating he was born in 1654, but no location is given although his occupation is schreiner, a carpenter. I wonder if Jacob Ringeisen was born in Zollikoffen, given that he is listed as a cousin to Michael Muller.

We believe that Johann Michael Miller was born in Zollikoffen, Switzerland in 1655 based on a record in the Reformed (Calvinist) Church there. Zollikoffen is about 161 km from Geneva, the center of the Calvinist faith. Zollikoffen is about 400 km from Steinwenden, much of the way along the Rhine River. The Schlosser family in Steinwenden was Calvinist as well.

Graffschaft Felkenburg

I have often wondered if we compiled all of the earliest church records in Steinwenden and created a family tree that we would find that all of the Swiss families were related in some fashion. I would suspect that these families were interwoven long before they arrived in Steinwenden, and that they arrived as an interrelated family group. If we are ever able to find them in Switzerland, Jacob Ringeisen’s unusual name may be the key.

Hoping to find some clue about the location these immigrants came from, I asked my friend Tom to take a look. The only clue is the following entry in the church records:

28 April 1685 at Steinwenden were married Melchior Clemens, emigrant from Graffschaft Felkenburg with Anna Maria, legitimate daughter of Cunradt Schlosser, the same (place?).

Does “the same place” refer to Steinwenden or Graffschaft Felkenburg? Where was Graffschaft Felkenburg? It’s not locatable on a map today. If any reader has any idea about where to find this village, please let me know.

Chris provided me with yet another document: Fritz Braun, “Schweizer und andere Einwanderer sowie Auswanderer im ref. Kirchenbuch Steinwenden (1684-1780)”
In: Mitteilungen zur Wanderungsgeschichte der Pfälzer 1960, Folge 3/4, S. 17-32

This translates to “Swiss and other immigrants and emigrants in the reformed church book of Steinwenden (1684-1780).” Tom came to my rescue and found the actual document.

Conrad Schlosser isn’t found in this list of immigrants/emigrants. I was initially disappointed, but then again, this article only features families that moved in or moved out – not founder families. Therefore Conrad’s family is omitted, which makes me sad because if the area was entirely depopulated, we know he had to come from someplace – although I swear I do have some mystery ancestors who were born under rocks or brought by storks!

Now I’m wondering if we can infer the names of the “founder families” by comparing that 1671 tax list (assuming I can actually find a copy) and this list of immigrant/emigrant families and the families in the tax list but not in this document are the founder families.  Anna Ursula’s parents would be among those founder families.

This isn’t just back door research, it’s crawling through the upstairs window by shimmying up the trellis!

Recreating the Family

Anna Ursula, the mother, was born in 1633, someplace.

Given social marriage practices of the day, she probably married Conrad Schlosser about 1653 and her first child would have followed about 1654. Those would have been glorious days of young love, assuming that her first child or children lived.

Based on the evidence we have through the church records, it’s possible that her earliest children died, unless of course she married late, in about 1659 when she would have been 26.

Given that the Steinwenden church records don’t begin until 1684, this begs the question of where she and Conrad were married and where her children were baptized.

I’ve created a possible childbirth timeline, based on Anna Ursula’s known children and her birth year, assuming she married about age 20. Notice all the years where there are no children listed, implying deaths.

  • 1654
  • 1656
  • 1658
  • 1660? – Irene Charitas Schlosser born approximately 1660, married Johann Michael Mueller (first child born in Steinwenden in 1685)
  • 1661 – Anna Catharina (never married)
  • Before 1665 – Anna Maria (married Melchior Clemens in 1685)
  • 1664 – Carl Schlosser (began having children in 1701, died in 1731)
  • 1666
  • 1667
  • 1669
  • 1670
  • 1672
  • 1674
  • Probably about 1676 – Anna Ursula (the daughter) was confirmed in 1692 and married in 1696 to Johann Calman Hoffbauer.
  • 1678
  • 1680 – Johannes Peter buried July 21, 1691, age 11
  • 1680 – Johannes, buried March 22, 1701, age 21

There were no children born after 1680 when Anna Ursula would have been 47.  Of course, as luck would have it, the church records began 4 years later.

Certainly there were more children born to Anna Ursula – the question is only if any survived. That’s a lot of blank spots. There would have been even more children born, about a year apart instead of two years, if some of the babies died at birth. The list above presumes the children lived long enough to be weaned, meaning births occurred approximately every two years.

Clearly, Anna Ursula dealt with a lot of grief in her life. Since the only death records of Anna Ursula’s children in Steinwenden after 1684 are recorded, she probably buried at least 9 children before the records began. Not to mention her parents and probably siblings and their children too.

Let’s see what we know about Anna Ursula’s children that lived, in approximate age order.

Irena Charitas Schlosser and Michael Mueller Sr.

Irene Charitas Schlosser was married to Johann Michael Mueller (Sr.) probably sometime about 1684 or maybe early 1685 given that she was probably born sometime between 1660-1665, give or take a couple years.

The marriage of Irene Charitas is not recorded in Steinwenden, but the birth of children is duly recorded every couple years in the church records beginning in 1685.

Tragically, Irene only had one child that lived to adulthood unless Irene Charitas Schlosser Muller had a child or children before 1685 that lived, but for whom we find no records at all. Her known children are:

  • June 5, 1685 – Johann Nicholas Muller born and died the next day. Godparents: Hanns Georg Scheimocher; Nickel Stahl; Hans Georg ?, wife.
  • July 9, 1688 – Johann Abraham Muller born and died (within a few months – date illegible). Godparents: Abraham Wochner, tailor; Hans Bergter from Krotelbach; Mar. Magd., H. Hofmann’s wife.
  • April 30, 1687 – Samuel Muller born and died the same day, shortly after birth. Godparents: H Samuel Hoffman and his wife.
  • June 7, 1688 – Catherina Barbara born, died July 21, 1691. Godparents: Maria Catharina, wife of Jonas Schror ………..Samuel Lo.., the tailor
  • April 24, 1691 – Eva Catherine Muller born and died on June 29, 1691, 2 months old, just 5 days after the child above died. Godparents: Eva, wife of Hans Ulrich? Berny, Catharina, wife of Hans Georg Dreysinger; Kilian ?, Michael Frey.
  • October 5, 1692 – Johann Michael Mueller who died in the US in 1771, age 78 years. Godparents: Johann Michael Schuhmacher; Balthasar Jolage; Christina, wife of Hans Bergter (Bergtol) from Krodelbach (Krottelbach). Johann Michael Mueller’s eventual wife was a Berchtol.

Irene Charitas’ husband, Johann Michael Mueller, died on January 31, 1695.

The fate of Irene Charitas is uncertain. She may have died before Michael’s death, or she may not have. There is no church record reflecting her death. However, the widow of Johann Michael Mueller, by the name of Anna Loysa Regina married Jakob Stutzman in the Steinwenden church on September 29, 1695. This, of course, suggests that Irene Charitas died long enough before Johann Michael Mueller for him to remarry before his own death in January 1695. That means that Irene would have died between October 5, 1692 and January 31, 1595, so 2 years and a couple months gap. If this was the case, where is Irene Charitas’ death record or Johann Michael Mueller’s remarriage record? He clearly died in Steinwenden, so there is no reason to think he had moved.

Further complicating the matter, in later records pertaining to Johann Michael Mueller Jr., Jacob Stutzman’s wife is referenced as the mother of Johann Michael Mueller. We know when Johann MIchael Mueller was born, so he had to be the son of Irene Charitas. Needless to say, this is very confusing because the records contradict themselves.

There is evidence pointing in both directions, so for now, I’m going to leave the question of Irene Charitas’ death unresolved. We will visit this topic in the future in a separate article.

At Anna Ursula’s death, she had buried all but one of her daughters and all but one of Irene Charitas’ children. She had also buried her son-in-law and she may have buried Irene Charitas as well.

Anna Catherine Schlosser

Born in 1661, Anna Catharina Schlosser didn’t marry and died March 3, 1701, just two weeks before her mother.

Anna Maria Schlosser and Melchior Clemens

Based on church records, we know that Irene’s sister, Anna Maria Schlosser was married to Melchior Clemens on April 28, 1685 in Steinwenden. What goodies can we dig up about her?

The baptism of Johann Michael Clemens, son of Melchior Clemens & Anna Maria Schlosser is a very important family record, because Michael Muller is a godparent and it confirms the family connection a second time! (Thanks so much to my friend Tom for finding these images and translating the records.)

  • January 31, 1686 – Johann Michael, parents: Melchior Clemens & and Anna Maria from Steinwenden. Godparents: Hans Georg Schuhmacher; Michael Muller and Jacob Orsels wife.

While their first child was born and baptized in Steinwenden, the rest were not. Apparently Melchior was Catholic, because their subsequent children were baptized in a Catholic church. I wonder what kind of a scandal or family rift that caused!

The Thirty Years War that ended in 1648 was a bitterly fought and extremely devastating war that depopulated much of Germany, including Steinwenden. While the issues were not entirely religious, there was certainly a Catholic versus Protestant component.

I’m guessing, but I don’t know, that Anna Ursula was at the baptism of each of her grandchildren regardless of which church, Protestant or Catholic, they were baptized in.

The next two children were baptized in the Catholic Church in Glan-Munchweiler, about 7 miles from Steinwenden.

  • February 17, 1689 – baptized Joes (Joannes) Severinus, legitimate son of Melchioris Clemens & Anna Maria, his lawfully wed wife of Stenweiller. Godparents: Joes (Joannes) Valentinus Brenler; Severinus Clemens, both of Ramstein & Anna Catharina of Stenweiller.
  • August 26, 1691 – baptized Anna Appolonia, legitimate daughter of Melchioris Cleman & Anna Maria, his lawfully wed wife of Stenweiller. Godparents: Jacob Crentz & Anna Margreta both of Stenweiller.

Appolonia’s marriage was also recorded in this church in 1712:

On the 26th of May 1712, no impediments having been found, were married in the church before witnesses the honorable young man Joes (Joannes) Nicolaus Heller, legitimate son of the honorable Thomas Heller & Catharina his wife of Reweiler with the virgin, Anna Appolonia, legitimate daughter of the honorable Melchioris Clemens of Stenweiler.

The rest of the children were baptized in the Catholic Church in Ramstein, about 4 miles in the opposite direction from Steinwenden.

  • May 4, 1694 – the Sunday after Easter was baptized the legitimate son: Joannem Sepherinum Clement, born of the honorable parents: Melchiori Clement & Anna Maria. Godparents from Steinweiler: Sepherinus Clement of Ramstein and his wife, Anna Magdalena, both Catholics & the honorable young man, Carolus Schlosser, Calvinist of Steinweiler.

It’s very unusual to find a protestant acting as the godparent for a Catholic child.

Twenty-one years later, we find this child’s marriage record as well.

On the 22nd of January 1715 were married Severus Clemens of Steinwenden & Margareta Catharina Zinsmeisterin of the same Steinwenden.

  • December 3, 1697 – baptized Reginam Catharinam, legitimate daughter of the honorable married couple Melchioris Clemens, hunter & Anna Maria his wife. Godparents: Joes (Joannes) Jacobo Breull, young man & Regina Catharina Steurin, both of Ramstein.
  • September 29, 1700 – Baptized Anna Christina, legitimate daughter of Melchioris Clemens & Anna Maria, his lawfully wed wife. Godparents: Lady Anna Christina, famous nobleman and the famous Lord Ernesti Schmedding,?

We find Anna Christina’s marriage as well. These children were clearly raised Catholic.

On the 4th of November 1722 were married, Jacobus, legitimate son of the deceased Theodorici Wuest of Obermohr & Christina, legitimate daughter of the late Melchioris Clemens of Steinwenden.

It would normally be unusual that more of Anna Maria’s siblings did not stand up with her children when baptized, but given the religious split, the fact that there were any Protestant godparents at all is rather amazing. What does surprise me is that Anna Maria’s mother wasn’t a godparent, which suggests that the rift between mother and daughter might have been quite wide and deep after Anna Maria’s switch to Catholicism.

I do wonder what the occupation of hunter for Melchior entailed at that time.

On the first of July 1713 died Michael (Melchior) Clemens of Steinwenden and was buried in the cemetery there.

We don’t know how old Melchior was, but if he was about the same age as his wife, he would probably have been about 20 when he married in 1685, so 48-50 at his death. I wonder if his occupation had something to do with his demise.

I also wonder why Michael wasn’t buried in consecrated holy ground, given that he was Catholic. It was noted that he was buried in Steinwenden – and I’m presuming this would have been in the Protestant church cemetery. There was no Catholic church in Steinwenden at that time.

It appears that all 5 of Anna Maria’s children lived, the last being born just half a year or so before Anna Ursula’s death. I wonder what happened to Anna Maria after Melchior’s death. I found no further records.

Carl Schlosser

Born in October 1664, Hans Carl Schlosser, son of late Cunrad Schlosser, married Agnes Hunan in Steinwenden on January 27, 1701, just about 6 weeks before the deaths of his mother, sister and brother. Carl died on January 16, 1731, just 11 days short of his 30th anniversary, aged 66 years and about 3 months.

This is Anna Ursula’s only son who reached adulthood and had children. Carl married late in life, age 37, but at least Anna Ursula had the opportunity to see him married. Unless she was grievously ill, I’m sure she attended.

Unfortunately, Anna Ursula did not live long enough to greet any of Carl’s children:

  • December 18, 1701 – Anna Regina died immediately after baptism, Godparents: Hanss George Deysinger, Anna Christina, wife of Wilhelm Pfeiffer from Weltersbach, Regina, wife of Johann Nickkel Haffner from Limbach.
  • December 24, 1702 – Anna Margaretha Schlosser, was baptized quickly and died soon afterwards. Same Godparents as above.
  • July 29, 1705 – Anna Ursula, Godparents: Johann Wigant, legitimate son of Philipp Dulman, miller in Glan-Munchweiler, Anna Ursula legitimate daughter of the late Andreas Rabe of Stenweiler, Anna Elisabeth legitimate daughter of Wilhelm Pfeiffer of Weltersbach.

Now, of course, I’m wondering about whether or not Anna Ursula Rabe was named after our Anna Ursula, and if those two women are related in some fashion.

Finally, 4 years later, a child lived.

  • August 19, 1708 – Anna Catharina, Godparents: Catharina Barbara, daughter of Philipp Cullmann, miller in Munchweiler; Anna Apollonia, daughter of Melchior Kleemanns (Clemens) from Steinwenden; Wilhelm, legitimate son of Hanss Wilhelm Berny from Steinwenden.
  • March 17, 1711 – Maria Barbara, Godparents: Maria Lysbeth, wife of Simon Friess, smith in Steinwenden; Catharina Barbara, daughter of Philipp Cullmann, miller from Munchweiler; Theobald Lang from Steinwenden.
  • November 12, 1713 – Regina Catharina, Godparents: Margaretha Catharina, daughter of Jacob Zinssmeister from Steinwenden; Regina Elisabeth, Tobias; Johann Michel, legitimate son of Jacob Crentz from Steinwenden. This child died on October 8, 1724 at age 11.
  • November 26, 1716 – Johannes, Godparents: Johannes Schlecht, carpenter from Steinwenden; Samuel Kirch from Weltersbach; Maria Madl., wife of Bartel Deisinger from Steinwenden; Barbara, wife of Theobald Lang of Steinwenden. This child died on March 20, 1720 at age 4.
  • September 24, 1719 – Anna Margreth, Godparents: Anna Margreth, surviving widow of Michel Jung of Steinwenden; Andreas Zinssmeister, son of Jacob Zinssmeister of Steinwenden; Seibert Clemens of Steinwenden.

It appears that 4 of 8 children born lived, or at least we don’t find death records. That mortality rate was normal at the time, but it breaks my heart just to think about losing any children, let alone that many – half.

Anna Ursula Schlosser married to Johann Calman Hoffbauer

Anna Ursula (the daughter) was married on June 26, 1696 in Steinwenden.

  • March 17, 1697 – Baptism of Johan Carl, Parents: Calman/Culman Hoffbauer & Anna Ursula from Steinwenden. Godparents: Hanss Carl Schlosser; Eva Ersabeta Hoffbauerin, ?.

February 13, 1698, Johann Culman Hoffbauer, master shoemaker, age 26, was buried.

Anna Ursula wasn’t even married 2 years before she was left a young widow with a baby who would celebrate his first birthday without his father.

Hans Peter Schlosser

The burial record for Hans (probably Johann) Peter Schlosser on July 31, 1691, Anna Ursula’s son, tells us that he was age 11 at his death. He was one of Anna Ursula’s youngest children, if not the youngest, and would have been born about 1680.

With this child’s death, Anna Ursula may have lost her baby. However, based on the death records, if the years are accurate, Hans Peter and Johannes who died in 1701 the week after his mother may have been twins.

Living Children (When Anna Ursula Died)

Even though Anna Ursula clearly had more children than the records in Steinwenden indicate, it appears that only 7 lived long enough to be recorded in the Steinwenden church.  Of the surviving children, two died in 1701 in the same month as Anna Ursula.

  • Anna Ursula may have buried daughter Irene Charitas as well.
  • The fate of daughter, Anna Ursula, is unknown along with that of Irene Charitas.
  • At Anna Ursula’s death, only daughter Anna Maria is known positively to be alive.
  • Anna Ursula buried her son, Hans Peter, in 1691, three years before her husband’s death.
  • Anna Ursula’s son, Johannes died a week after she did.
  • I strongly suspect the death of her daughter, Anna Catharina, two weeks prior and her son, Johannes, a week later were somehow connected with the cause of Anna Ursula’s death.
  • Anna Ursula’s only other son, Carl, lived until 1731.

Chronology

I wanted to assemble a chronology of Anna Ursula’s life in Steinwenden. Based on the church records, we actually know what she was doing on certain days. I’ve tried to bracket similar events. Happy event rows are peach colored. Sad events are blue. As you can see, a great many are bracketed together with a birth and death following in short order. Yellow rows are the only grandchildren who lived. Of course, those are very happy events!

Putting these events in chronological order made me realize just how difficult and grief-filled Anna Ursula’s life was. The sad fact is that this was probably somewhat “normal” for the time.  Life was extremely difficult for our ancestors. Some days I’m amazed that against the odds, I exist at all.

Anna Ursula’s children are noted in green at the top in the white rows. At Anna Ursula’s death, only two children, in green, were living except for Johannes, at the bottom, who died a week later. At least she didn’t have to bury him. It’s unknown if the two daughters in teal were living at Anna Ursula’s death

Anna Ursula only lived for a total of 16 years after church records began chronicling her life.

In that time, she:

  • Buried her husband in 1694 (grey)
  • Buried her son in 1691 (red)
  • Buried her daughter in 1701 (red)
  • Possibly buried a second daughter between 1692 and 1695 (teal)
  • Buried 2 son-in laws (gold) in 1695 and 1698, seeing one if not two daughters widowed
  • Buried at least 5 grandchildren (light blue rows not otherwise marked)
  • Died perhaps knowing a second son would probably perish as well, which he did a week later (red)

Take a look at July of 1791. In 8 days Anna Ursula’s daughter lost two children, and Anna Ursula lost her own son two days later. Three deaths and burials in 10 days. That’s beyond brutal.

Looking at the death index for 1691, we don’t see an epidemic, so it appears that these three deaths were clustered in this family, and only this family. On June 1, 1691, 6 weeks before the 3 Schlosser deaths in 10 days, Johann Michael Mueller’s cousin, Hans Jacob Ringeysen, died as well at age 37. He may have been living near this extended family group.

During the 16 years in Steinwenden church records, Anna Ursula’s daughter, Irene Charitas buried at least 5 children plus her husband, leaving her, best case, with a 2 year, 3 month old child. Worst case, Anna Ursula’s daughter, Irene Charitas, had also died during that time.

While I’m sure that Anna Ursula was thrilled that her namesake daughter was married on June 26, 1696, and had a child on March 17, 1697, she would have been devastated when her daughter’s husband died 11 months later, leaving her youngest daughter a widow with a small child.

How would Anna Ursula have helped her widowed daughters, given that she was already a widow herself?

Perhaps she depended on her eldest son, Carl, who hadn’t yet married. At this point, in 1698 it’s entirely possible that the following people were living in one household together, simply trying to pool their resources and put food on the table:

  • Anna Ursula, then 65
  • Her oldest son, Carl, then about 35
  • Daughter Irene Charitas in her early 30s (if she was living) with son Johann Michael Muller, age 6
  • Daughter Anna Ursula in her 20s, a widow with an infant boy
  • Daughter Anna Catharina, about 37, having never married
  • Youngest son Johannes, about 18

I cannot imagine this was a happy family under the circumstances.

Anna Ursula’s dance with tragedy didn’t end in 1698 with her son-in-law’s death. She may have been estranged from her only other married daughter, Anna Maria.

Anna Ursula’s daughter, Anna Maria, became Catholic about 1689, which may have effectively left her dead to her mother. There is no way to know today, more than 300 years hence how icy that relationship became, or if it ever thawed. Anna Ursula did not name a daughter after her mother or a son after her father, nor did either parent stand up with her children as a godparent.

Estrangement is also a form of death, sometimes more painful because it is a choice.

What Happened in 1701?

Anna Ursula’s adult daughter, Anna Catharina, died twelve days before Anna Ursula’s death in 1701 and her son, Johannes, a week after her death. What killed these people?

Anna Ursula would have been 68 years old when she died, a long life for that time in history. Her daughter, age 40 and her son, only 21, also perished in that horrible March of 1701. Did that leave her daughter, Anna Ursula, widowed 4 years almost to the day before her mother’s death, again homeless with her child? Had daughter Anna Ursula remarried and moved on, or died? We simply don’t know.

Checking FamilySearch church records for deaths in Steinwenden in 1701, we don’t find many.

In total, there is one death in January and one on February 21st, 1701 but that woman was born in 1615 and was elderly.

Beware the ides of March.

The next 3 deaths in the church records are the Schlosser family members:

  • March 3, 1701 – Anna Catharina Schlosser born 1661, father Cunrad Schlosser
  • March 15, 1701 – Anna Ursula Schlosser born 1633, widow of Cunrad Schlosser
  • March 22, 1701 – Johannes Schlosser born 1680, father Cunrad Schlosser

Given that these three individuals all died in less than 3 weeks, but no one else in the village died during that time, I’d wager that we weren’t dealing with something like the flu, but instead with something fatal but localized. Dysentery is a virus and highly contagious. Typhoid is bacterial, but is also highly contagious and can be passed from person to person. Cholera is caused by water contaminated by fecal matter and is contagious as well, but perhaps not as highly so as Dysentery and Typhoid. Food poisoning has been suggested as another possibility.

Was this the same thing that struck a decade earlier, in July of 1791, killing three family members in 10 days then as well? I wonder if the church records for other time periods carry similar tales for other families. What was going on in Steinwenden?

I find it very strange that three people in the same household died in less than 3 weeks, including a young (presumably healthy) male age 21, but no other deaths occurred in the community. German farm villages were organized such that the houses were built against each other in the town, generally walls adjoining. Everyone used the same water supply and there was little space between neighbors.

This contemporary photo of Steinwenden, shows the way that houses were constructed at that time on the same street with the Protestant church, which would be located in the historic part of town.

In the above satellite view, the village isn’t terribly large, even today, and the cemetery may well be located behind the church. Note that the older buildings across the street to the right of the church, on the corner, are the same white side-by-side Raisch buildings as pictured above.

The undated photo above of historic Mutterstadt in the early 1900s, a village in the same region of Germany, shows the way that houses were traditionally constructed in villages. Side by side, with the farmers going outside the village to tend their fields each day. It would be very unusual for something contagious to strike only one family.

Were these deaths really just bad luck?  That’s difficult to believe.

The next death in the 1701 church records isn’t until August, and there are only two more for the entire year. The Schlosser family experienced 3/8th or nearly half of the deaths in the entire village that year in March.

Perhaps we don’t know the full story. This makes me wonder about other scenarios. What happened to this family in 1691 and 1701 that didn’t happen to any other family? Sadly, the church records stand stubbornly mute.

Regardless of the cause of death, it was a very difficult time for this family.

Still, I can’t help but wonder what actually happened. I surely wish the minister had recorded a cause of death. A few strokes of the pen would make all of the difference.

Anna Ursula’s Mitochondrial DNA

Anna Ursula’s mitochondrial DNA would be available to us today through her female children through a continuous line of females until the current generation, which can be male.

Did Anna Ursula have any female children that had female children?

Of all of the children born to Anna Ursula Schlosser, only daughter Anna Maria who married Melchior Clemens (Clements) had daughters that lived at least long enough to marry.

  • August 26, 1691 – Anna Appolonia Clemens, Godparents: Jacob Crentz & Anna Margreta both of Stenweiller. In the Catholic church of Glan-Munchweiler.

On May 26, 1712, Joes (Joannes) Nicolaus Heller, son of Thomas Heller and Catharina his wife of Reweiler, with the virgin, Anna Appolonia, daughter of Melchioris Clemens of Stenweiler.

  • December 3, 1697 – baptism of Reginam Catharinam Clemens, Godparents: Joes (Joannes) Jacobo Breull, young man & Regina Catharina Steurin, both of Ramstein. In the Catholic church in Ramstein.
  • September 29, 1700 – Anna Christina Clemens, Godparents: Lady Anna Christina, famous nobleman and the famous Lord Ernesti Schmedding, ?. In the Catholic church in Ramstein.

On November 4, 1722, Christina, daughter of the late Melchioris Clemens of Steinwenden married Jacobus Wuest of Obermohr in the Catholic church of Ramstein.

At least two of Anna Ursula’s granddaughters married, as noted above, increasing the chances of female descendants.

I find no records of these daughters, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Ancestry shows trees that spell Heller as Keller. Three daughters are shown, with daughter Anna Katharina Keller born in 1714 and dying in 1783. Perhaps someone connects.

We have three candidates for maternal lines to carry the mitochondrial DNA of Anna Ursula, and I have a DNA testing scholarship for anyone descended from these three daughters through all females to the current generation. In the current generation, males and females both can test because women contribute their mitochondrial DNA to all of their children, but only females pass it on. Therefore, male children carry their mother’s mitochondrial DNA – and that of their direct line female ancestors.

In Summary

It’s rather amazing how much we discovered about Anna Ursula Schlosser, despite not having any church baptismal records for her or her children. We’re quite fortunate to have Anna Ursula’s death record. Maybe some of Anna Ursula lives on today in the DNA of her descendants!

Leapfrogging: Should We Believe Our Elders? – 52 Ancestors #180

You might notice that weekends are normally when I publish my 52 ancestor stories – and this isn’t exactly a normal 52 Ancestors story – but it pertains. Trust me for a minute.

Halt the Presses

This is what happens when you THINK you have correct information for your ancestor – or any topic really – and for some reason, you discover that you don’t.

Generally, the reasons fall into three categories:

  • New information not previous available
  • Misinterpreted information, sometimes based on incomplete information
  • Incorrect information from “elders”

The reason the 52 Ancestors story I had planned for today isn’t publishing is a result of items 1 and 2.  Fortunately for genealogists today, records previously buried in dusty cellars and church books in tiny villages are now being imaged and indexed along with other information relevant to rebuilding our ancestor’s lives.

While it’s irritating to have written an entire article and THEN discover something new – it’s actually a VERY POSITIVE outcome, because the new information was a wonderful development as the result of their spouses’ article published last week.

So while I need to rewrite this week’s and the original article, I will write with gratitude!

The third situation, incorrect information from elders, is a bit more awkward – and yes, I’ve been tripped up with that one too.

Who Are The Elders Anyway?

In most every culture, the elders are those who have lived long enough to amass wisdom – or they are more focused on a particular subject.  In traditional societies, these might be healers, shamans or hunters.

Today, the genealogical elders might be individuals focused on genealogy, genetic genealogy specialists, or the people in our own family who are literally, older, who know more about our family because they knew their grandparents who passed away long before we were born.

Additionally, because we all begin as novices, book authors and people who already have trees online are perceived as “elders” in this sense, because they have more experience than the novice. This extends to other people on social media, whether they have any expertise at all.  It’s impossible for the novice to tell.

Uncle George – The Good Elder

Let me give you an example.

My father died when I was a child and his family lived in another state 500 miles distant.  I didn’t know any of his side of the family until as a young adult, I decided I wanted to find out if there were any living family members.  I literally called the telephone “operator” and told her to connect me to any Estes in Tazewell, Tennessee. I remember her asking, “But which one, there are several?”  I was excited!

The operator selected an Estes at random and a couple phone calls later, I was talking to Uncle George who everyone assured me knew all about the genealogy of the Estes family. Indeed, he was the family elder I needed to connect with. He told me he had known my grandfather, Will Estes. He refrained from telling me the juicy details. At that time, I didn’t even know there were juicy details about my grandfather. I would learn about those later from one of the crazy aunts.

A few months later, I went to visit Uncle George, who was not my uncle at all, but my first cousin once removed.  The term “Uncle” in that part of the country is a term of endearment showing respect and kinship with someone.

Uncle George was kind enough to share his recollections with me, along with photos, dates and burial locations.  He was the collector of such things, the family archivist.  It’s somehow ironic that Uncle George had no biological offspring, although he was very fond of his second wife’s children.

At this point in my life, I wasn’t a genealogist, or at least I didn’t realize I was.  It’s a sneaky addiction you know! A slippery slope and once you’re there, it’s too late to do anything about it.  If you are reading this article, you very clearly know whereof I speak😊

Leapfrog Knowledge

When I met Uncle George and his brother, Uncle Buster, both of whom I adored, Uncle George was in his 70s and we were separated by almost half a century.

That means that he was in every sense my elder and looked uncannily like my father – so much so that when he opened the door the day I met him for the first time – I stood on the step literally dumbstruck, seeing the ghost of my two decades deceased father.

Uncle George and me in the back of his pickup truck.

We sat on the couch during my visit, side by side as he pulled one note and photo after another out of “the box” and shared them with me, recounting the story of each one.  I was transported back in time.

He told me that he was quite young, but that he remembered standing at the graveside of his grandfather, my great-grandfather, Lazarus Estes when he was buried in 1918.  He asked, “Do you want me to take you there?”  Now remember, I wasn’t a genealogist yet – but I truly believe it’s right about here in the story that I was infected with this lifelong affliction.

I excitedly said yes, and off we went – to view a grave WITH NO HEADSTONE.

How many of your ancestors’ graves are unmarked? What would it be worth to you to go with someone who had stood at that grave when they were buried and knew exactly where it was located?

This is what I’m referring to as leapfrogging.  That happens when you find someone old enough that they have personal knowledge of incidents and people at least two and sometime three generations before your own available family memories.

In my case, I had no memories available to harvest, except for the Crazy Aunts who we’ll mention in a minute, because my father had died.  Finding Uncle George who had carefully taken notes was a godsend.

His personal knowledge was remarkable.  Of course, I wish desperately now I had asked more questions – so many more questions.

Uncle George is who told me about the cabin that burned, and with it, my father’s brother.  He planted the willow tree on the spot where that cabin once stood.  And where I later stood too, grieving a half century later for my grandparents and that poor child.

Uncle George knew both Lazarus Estes and Elizabeth Vannoy Estes, my great-grandparents.  Granted, they were old when he was young, but he could take me to where their cabin stood, show me where they dipped their water with a gourd from the stream and tell me about what his father told him as well.

Uncle George’s father, Charlie Tomas (yes, it’s really spelled that way) knew his parents of course, but he also knew his grandparents, in particular, his grandmother Ruthy Dodson Estes who died in 1903 when Charlie would have been 18.  It’s because Charlie shared this knowledge with Uncle George that we knew that she suffered terribly from rheumatoid arthritis and had to be carried from her cabin to Lazarus’ when she could no longer care for herself.  It’s through Charlie that we knew where Ruthy’s unmarked grave was located as well.

Ruthy’s husband, John Y. Estes didn’t die until 1895, but he left Tennessee for Texas before Charlie was born, so Charlie would never have known him.

This leapfrogging begins to break down here, but we’ve connected in some tangible way with George acquiring either first or second hand knowledge of people born in 1820.

Furthermore, Uncle George knew that his great-great-grandmother’s name was Nancy Ann Moore.  He was accurate.  How do I know?  Because I found their marriage license in Halifax County Virginia from 1811 some years later. Because Uncle George knew her name, I knew I had the right John Estes in Halifax County and that allowed me to search further and connect back in time to earlier generations – breaking through the brick wall of how my Estes line connected to the descendants of Abraham Estes.

Uncle George’s recorded notes leapfrogged back in time from the 1980s to 1811, an amazing 170 years!

What didn’t Uncle George know?

He didn’t know where the family came from in Virginia, but he unknowingly held the piece of information that allowed me to make that discovery.

He didn’t know where John R. Estes who had died in 1887 was buried, although he presumed it was in the family cemetery.  At least Uncle George TOLD me he was presuming.

This is the important distinction.

I didn’t know enough about genealogy at that point to understand what to ask.  He knew enough to tell me and thankfully, I heard him.

When interviewing elders, it’s important to discern what they know and how, as opposed to what they are inferring based on other knowledge, and it’s critical to record what they say verbatim.  By that time, I had finished college, so note-taking was second nature – thankfully. I find my notes from those conversations that include items I’d forgotten, and I know at the time I thought I’d never forget – but I did.

As I read back over my notes from my visits with Uncle George, I discovered that I had forgotten things that seemed unimportant at the time, but were valuable puzzle pieces later when I had a clue.

To the best of my knowledge, Uncle George never provided me with a piece of inaccurate information.  In some cases, he didn’t know all of the details, which I later discovered, but they never disproved what he had told me.

But then, there were the Crazy Aunts.

The Crazy Aunts

The crazy Aunts were elders too when I met them, about the same time.  They were my father’s sisters.

Uncle George didn’t forewarn me that the aunts were crazy. He didn’t tell me that they um, created or embellished stories with added drama, at will, it seems.

Now, I do have to admit, some of their stories did turn out to be true, and ALL OF THEM were quite interesting. Sometimes far more interesting than the truth.

Of particular interest to me was the “fact” that Elizabeth Vannoy was “half Cherokee through her mother and her brothers moved to Oklahoma and claimed head rights.”

That’s a lot of very specific information.

And guess what?

None of it was true.

I’ve tracked down every bit and disproven that entire statement, piece by piece, including genetically through Y DNA and mitochondrial haplogroups and ethnicity tests of descendants.  Elizabeth Vannoy was not half Cherokee.  Her family wasn’t even living in the right location, to begin with, and the evidence continues from there.

This isn’t the only instance of receiving incorrect information from the aunts.

However, Aunt Margaret did indeed provide me with family photos, none of which I had or would have had without her generosity.

This begs the question of whether Aunt Margaret was conveying something she was told or whether she was playing fast and free with the truth, or maybe conveying the story as she wanted it to be.

I don’t have the answer to that.

What I do know is that I believed it for a very long time.  I know that my father believed it too.

Verifying Elder’s Stories

Stories conveyed by the elders are absolutely invaluable.  However, we have to evaluate every piece of that information individually, divorcing ourselves from the emotions we hold for tellers.

Yes, we know that you love grandpa and you can’t conceive of grandpa every lying to you – but maybe grandpa didn’t tell a Pinocchio.  Maybe he told the truth as he believed it.  Maybe he only modified the facts a tidbit to protect someone – perhaps you.

For example, when I was young, there was a sign in front of our house that said “colored people not allowed.”  Colored meant me…because my father’s family was “dark” and my father firmly believed that he was indeed Indian, attending to Powwows held in secret at that time because they were illegal.

Was he partly Indian?  Yes, I do believe so, based on a variety of evidence.

Was his grandmother half Indian through her mother who was 100% Cherokee?  No, unquestionably not, including mitochondrial DNA evidence that shows her haplogroup as J1c2c! That European mitochondrial haplogroup alone proved unquestionably that her matrilineal line is not Native. Her father’s haplogroup I is also European.

Perhaps that tidbit conveyed by the crazy aunts substituted Native for African.  Perhaps their parents or grandparents, in the early 1900s were trying to explain why they were so dark and trying to protect their family from rampant “zero tolerance” discrimination.

We will never know today.  What I do know, and can prove is that the information provided by the aunts was inaccurate.  I cannot speak to the intention.

Talk, Record, Share, Correct

This brings me back to my commentary about my 52 Ancestors stories.  I need to correct two stories already in print and delay one that was scheduled to be published today – because I need to correct information based on newly discovered facts.

However, those facts would never have come my direction had I NOT published what I had, with sources and references.

I’ve heard a number of people say that they don’t share trees or stories because they aren’t “finished” or they are afraid of perpetuating bad information.  I share that concern, but imagine if Uncle George hadn’t shared what he knew with me.

That information would be gone today, forever irretrievable.

Here’s my advice.

  • Do your best.
  • Verify as much as possible.
  • Share your sources and your research path.
  • Document what you can and state clearly what you do not know, items that need followup or areas where you are suspicious, and why
  • Negative evidence is still evidence. For example, “I checked and John Doe is not in the marriage/death/court/deed/will/probate records in XYZ County between 1850 and 1900.”  That provides invaluable information, even though you didn’t find any documents.  It’s not at all the same as not having checked.
  • Correct the stories or narrative as soon as you discover either an error or something new.

We believe our elders because when we find them, they are more knowledgeable than we are.  They have the benefit of time and sometimes location and there is no reason for us to NOT believe them.  After all, they are the ones we are turning to.

Like everyone, elders, no matter how much we love and respect them, are human, and they convey what they were told.  We can’t go back in time and evaluate why their elders thought or said what they did.  We don’t know if someone assumed that an individual was buried someplace or knew it by standing at their graveside. And we don’t know if they got information from the equivalent of Uncle George or a Crazy Aunt.

We also don’t know what was omitted, or why.

For a long time, I believed that John Y. Estes must surely be buried in the Estes Cemetery too, between his parents, wife and deceased children.  It made perfect sense.  That is…until I discovered quite by accident that he left his family in Estes Holler in Claiborne County Tennessee, walked to Texas (twice) not long after his youngest child was born and was in fact buried in the Boren Cemetery the middle of a field in Montague County, Texas in 1895. Imagine my surprise making this discovery, which, by the way, I verified in person, taking the photo of his headstone myself in 2004.

None of the elders told me that really important tidbit. Could be because they didn’t “know,” but somehow I think it might have had more to do with the “d” word.  Divorce. Or maybe because he left his family. It could also have something to do with the fact that he fought for the confederacy in the Civil War while most of the neighbors and family fought for the north. Or maybe some combination of the two made him easy to forget.

The other glaring omission is that Joel Vannoy, father of Elizabeth Vannoy, who died in 1895 was institutionalized in an “insane asylum” for “preachin’, swearin’ and threatenin’ to fight.”  Lazarus transported him to the asylum in Knoxville, and everyone in “Estes Holler” which connected with “Vannoy Holler” was aware of the situation.  It was no secret at the time, as I later discovered. Uncle George’s father, Charlie clearly knew this, and knew Joel as well.  I surely wish Uncle George had told me.  He was a kind man and didn’t want to speak ill of anyone, alive or dead.

The Crazy Aunts would have told something that juicy in a heartbeat, so I’m going to presume they didn’t know! They weren’t raised in Estes Holler.

The truth is the truth, no matter how flattering or unflattering.  Our ancestors are unique individuals, warts and all.

We hold a sacred duty to the ancestors to tell their stories, the truth, verified where possible by DNA evidence, because now WE have become those leapfrogging elders.

Conrad (Cunradt) Schlosser (1635-1694), Calvinist– 52 Ancestors #179

Thanks to the combined efforts of cousin Richard Miller, my friend Tom, a retired genealogist who works with German records and blog commenter, Karen Parker, we know that Conrad Schlosser is the father of both Anna Ursula Schlosser and Irene Charitas Schlosser through the sisters’ 1689 confirmation record which refers to “Irene Charitas and Anna Ursula, Conrad Schlosser’s daughters from Steinwinden.”

Clearly, I wanted to build this family, so I checked Family Search where I have found several German Church records previously.

I found a record of Conrad’s death in the record search by surname. You can also search by location, date and record type, or a combination. If one doesn’t work, try another. Some indexed records will show up in one type of search, but not another, even though they should.

No record images are available though, as you can see beside the camera icon. Bummer!

But there’s a secret tool. This nifty work-around is thanks to Tom who was working on finding the images of these records before I even found the index.

First, A Secret Trick

Do you see the camera icon where it says “no image found?” Well, that’s not always true and images are often available, even when it says otherwise.

We’re going to use a different tool.

First, if you don’t have an account for FamilySearch.org, create one. You’ll need one in order to sign in.

Then, under the dropdown for “Search” select “Catalog.”

Enter the place name. In this case, I entered Steinwenden and it autofilled the rest of the information.

Click on the blue Search button that you’ll see below the place name.

Next, you’ll see the relevant records for Steinwenden. I’m selecting “Church records.”

I see two options, only one of which includes the dates I’m interested in that begin in 1684. Happy dance! Happy dance!

Click on that link.

Now we can view the actual records by film number, and look, the camera image at the right in the green box indicates that these records ARE imaged. They aren’t indexed, but you can use the information from the regular search to locate the information, then browse the images to find the specific record you seek.

Ok, now back to Conrad.

Conrad’s Death

Conrad, Cunrad or Cunradt, his name is spelled all 3 ways in different records, was buried on February 13, 1694, the day before the Feast of St. Valentine. That typically means he died the day before. Before the days of embalming, people were buried quickly although there would have been no rush in February. According to WeatherSpark, February 9th is historically the coldest say in Steinwenden, and the temperature averages between 29 and 40 F. The ground probably wouldn’t have been frozen, so digging a grave wouldn’t have been a problem.

My friend, Tom, marked the entry with an X. How he reads and deciphers these records is utterly beyond me, but thankfully, he does. Conrad was age 59 at his death and so was therefore born in 1634 or 1635.

Conrad’s Family Revealed Through Death Records

But there’s more.

Next we discover that his wife’s name was Anna Ursula and she outlived him, departing this world on March 15, 1701.

Anna Ursula’s death record is shown above, but there’s more there too. Conrad and Anna Ursula’s daughter, Anna Catherina’s death is recorded just above Anna Ursula’s, passing away March 3rd.

Below Anna Ursula’s death entry we find even more.

Conrad and Anna Ursula had a son, Johannes Schlosser born in 1680 who died 8 days later, on March 22, 1701, never having married. His death entry is the one beneath his mother’s entry, above.

That was one ugly March.

Another son, Carl was born in 1660 and died in 1731.

Carl’s death is recorded in the index, as well as the actual church record, below.  Sometimes deaths appear in the actual records that don’t know in the Family Search indexes.

A third son, Hans Peter, probably Johann Peter, was buried on July 31, 1691, having died at age 11. He would have been born about 1680, probably not long before the family immigrated to Steinwenden from Switzerland. It’s possible that Johannes and Hans Peter were twins, but more likely that the birth year is off because only the general age of death is given in the church record, not the actual birth year.

The 31st of July 1691 was buried in Steinwenden, Hans Peter Schlosser, son of Cunradt, aged about 11 years. Steinwenden Ev-Ref Kirche, BA (Homburg), Bavaria

Unfortunately, none of these records tell us where the Schlosser family originated or the occupation of Conrad.

Church and Graveyard

I would bet that Conrad is buried in the churchyard in Steinwenden. If the graves were marked at the time with more than a wooden cross, one wouldn’t be able to locate them today, because burial plots are reused in Europe. In some cases, family members are simply buried on top of or in the same place as an earlier ancestor. In other cases, the bones are removed to an ossuary to continue to their return to dust, freeing up the grave space for others, perhaps unrelated, to be buried. Customs and actual usage vary by location.

The church today in the center of Steinwenden was built in 1852, long after Conrad died, but the original church was probably located in the same location, and if not, certainly nearby. Keeping in mind that when Conrad and the Swiss immigrants settled in Steinwenden, there were only 6 families in residence, and one of those 6 could have been Conrad since we don’t know exactly when he arrived although it looks like it might have been in the spring of 1685. Six families, 25 people, and a church whose records begin in 1684!

Catholics and Protestants

Speaking of the church, this family has a somewhat unusual religious mixture.

On April 28, 1685, when Conrad would have been 50 years old, his daughter, Anna Maria married Melchior Clemens in Steinwenden. The typical marriage location was the church of the bride if the church of the bride and groom were different – assuming they were both of the same religious sect – meaning Catholic or Protestant.

In this case, the only church in Steinwenden was a protestant church which implies that both the bride and groom were protestant.

Anna Maria’s first child was born and baptized in this church on January 31, 1686, but then the unthinkable happened. Anna Maria apparently converted to Catholicism, because their subsequent children were baptized in the Catholic church in either Glan-Munchweiler, about 7 miles distant, or Ramstein, about 3 miles distant in the opposite direction.

Children cannot be baptized in the Catholic church unless both parents are Catholic.

Typically, the godparents must be Catholic too, given that the duty of the godparents is to raise the child in the event that something happens to both parents, and raise that child in the Catholic religion.

However, in this case, an exception was made for some reason. We have no way of knowing whether the churches in this region were relatively lax, or something else came into play, but regardless, an exception was made.

Ironically, it’s those Catholic church records that provide insight into Conrad Schlosser’s religion.

Calvinists

In 1694, Carl Schlosser, Conrad’s son and the brother of Anna Maria Schlosser Clemens stood up as the godfather in the Ramstein Catholic church for the son of his sister, Anna Maria. Carl is noted in the Catholic church record as “the honorable young man, Carolus Schlosser, Calvinist of Steinweiler.” Carolus is the Latin form of Carl. Honorable in this context probably means that his parents were married at his birth, but still, this record of a protestant standing up for a Catholic child at baptism is quite unusual.

This baptism occurred on May 9th, less than 2 months after Carl and Anna Maria had buried their father, Conrad, recorded for posterity (and grateful descendants) in the Steinwenden church records. Might this recent death have softened the resolve of the priest in Ramstein, or perhaps the reason the baptism took place in Ramstein is because that church was more lenient that the Catholic church in Glan-Munchweiler where the previous three children had been baptized.

At that time in Germany, the protestant church consisted of two branches. Beginning in the 1500s, many Germans accepted the teachings of Martin Luther (1483-1546) and the Evangelical or Lutheran church was formally established in 1531, breaking from the Catholic church.

Another group of protestants who accepted the creed of the Swiss Calvinist reformers eventually became members of the Evangelical Reformed Church which broke with the Catholic church about 1530.

Calvinists were named such by the Lutherans who opposed the sect referring to French reformer John Calvin (1509-1564). It was a common practice in the churches of the day to name what they perceived to be heresy after the founder of the heretical movement. Hence, Calvinism.

While the Calvinists and Lutherans were both protestant sects, they viewed each other as heretics and the Catholics thought both sects were heretical.

By SCZenz at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10547367

John Calvin (born Jehan Cauvin in France) preached at the St. Pierre Cathedral, the main church in Geneva. Of course, by the time that Conrad Schlosser was born in 1634, Calvin had been deceased for 70 years and the Schlosser family would have been learning the tenets of the faith from ministers of the Calvinist faith.

This tells us something of the Schlosser family history in the 100 years before Conrad’s birth, since the 1530s. The Schlossers had been separated from the Catholic faith for 100 years or less, about 4 generations.  In that time, someone converted to Calvinism.

Calvinists differ from Lutherans on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, theories of worship and the use of God’s Law for believers. For example, Calvinists of the time believed that Christ is actually present at the Lord’s supper, in spirit, but present just the same, as opposed to those who believed that the supper simply serves as a reminder of Christ’s death. Confession was also a part of the Calvinist faith.

Calvinist religious refugees poured into Geneva Switzerland, especially from France during the 1550s. In Switzerland, protestant churches were typically Calvinist, while Lutherans were found more in northern Germany. This further points to the Schlosser family’s Swiss origins and raises the possibility of French origins before that.

The Calvinists were known for simple unadorned churches and lifestyles, as show in this painting by Emanuel de Witte from about 1661, only a couple decades before our Calvinist Schlosser family is found in Steinwenden.

5 Points of Calvinism

The 5 points of Calvinism, referred to as TULIP, are as follows, according to Wikipedia’s article on Calvinism:

The central assertion of these points is that God saves every person upon whom he has mercy, and that his efforts are not frustrated by the unrighteousness or inability of humans.

  • Total depravity“, also called “total inability”, asserts that as a consequence of the fall of man into sin, every person is enslaved to sin. People are not by nature inclined to love God, but rather to serve their own interests and to reject the rule of God. Thus, all people by their own faculties are morally unable to choose to follow God and be saved (the term “total” in this context refers to sin affecting every part of a person, not that every person is as evil as they could be). This doctrine is derived from Augustine‘s explanation of Original Sin. While the phrases “totally depraved” and “utterly perverse” were used by Calvin, what was meant was the inability to save oneself from sin rather than being absent of goodness. Phrases like “total depravity” cannot be found in the Canons of Dort, and the Canons as well as later Reformed orthodox theologians arguably offer a more moderate view of the nature of fallen humanity than Calvin.
  • Unconditional election” asserts that God has chosen from eternity those whom he will bring to himself not based on foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in those people; rather, his choice is unconditionally grounded in his mercy alone. God has chosen from eternity to extend mercy to those he has chosen and to withhold mercy from those not chosen. Those chosen receive salvation through Christ alone. Those not chosen receive the just wrath that is warranted for their sins against God.
  • Limited atonement“, also called “particular redemption” or “definite atonement”, asserts that Jesus’s substitutionary atonement was definite and certain in its purpose and in what it accomplished. This implies that only the sins of the elect were atoned for by Jesus’s death. Calvinists do not believe, however, that the atonement is limited in its value or power, but rather that the atonement is limited in the sense that it is intended for some and not all. Some Calvinists have summarized this as “The atonement is sufficient for all and efficient for the elect.”
  • Irresistible grace“, also called “efficacious grace”, asserts that the saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (that is, the elect) and overcomes their resistance to obeying the call of the gospel, bringing them to a saving faith. This means that when God sovereignly purposes to save someone, that individual certainly will be saved. The doctrine holds that this purposeful influence of God’s Holy Spirit cannot be resisted, but that the Holy Spirit, “graciously causes the elect sinner to cooperate, to believe, to repent, to come freely and willingly to Christ.” This is not to deny the fact that the Spirit’s outward call (through the proclamation of the Gospel) can be, and often is, rejected by sinners; rather, it’s that inward call which cannot be rejected.
  • Perseverance of the saints” (also known as “perseverance of God with the saints” and “preservation of the believing”) (the word “saints” is used to refer to all who are set apart by God, and not of those who are exceptionally holy, canonized, or in heaven) asserts that since God is sovereign and his will cannot be frustrated by humans or anything else, those whom God has called into communion with himself will continue in faith until the end. Those who apparently fall away either never had true faith to begin with (1 John 2:19), or, if they are saved but not presently walking in the Spirit, they will be divinely chastened (Hebrews 12:5–11) and will repent (1 John 3:6–9).

The Wikipedia article contains a chart comparing Calvinism and Lutheranism. While to the Calvinists and Lutherans, I’m sure the differences were dramatic, today, they seem rather like unimportant details.

Conrad Schlosser might be rolling around in his grave right about now (if he still has one,) given what I just said!

Conrad’s Surname

The German name Schlosser translates to locksmith, fitter or metalworker, in English. This leads me to wonder what a locksmith would have done in the 1600s, in Germany or Switzerland.

Locksmiths were also metalworkers, which could have extended to other types of metalwork, including locks.

However, I did find one incredibly beautiful German lock and key that is about 400 years old.

A German locksmith, Peter Lenlein, has been credited with creating the first watch in the early 1500s, so locksmiths certainly existed by 1635 when Conrad was born. We don’t know when this family adopted surnames although surnames in Germany were in widespread usage before 1500. We will probably never know whether Conrad was a locksmith or not, but clearly at some point in his direct paternal line, someone was either a locksmith or worked with metal of some sort.

Conrad’s DNA

Conrad’s Y (paternal) DNA would have been carried by his sons. Of Conrad’s three sons born, only one lived to adulthood to marry and reproduce.

Carl Schlosser was buried on January 16, 1731, age 66 years and 3 months of age in Steinwenden. This record provides his birth in about October 1664, probably in Switzerland. Unfortunately, few Swiss records have been either transcribed or microfilmed.

Carl’s marriage at age 36 in January 27, 1701 is recorded in the Steinwenden church records, although 36 is somewhat late to marry.

Hans Carl Schlosser, son of the late Cunrad Schlosser of Steinwenden married Agnes, legitimate daughter of the late Hans Peter Hunen von Weisenheim.

Thankfully, Carl did marry, because even though he married late, he had a large number of children, which means there’s a prayer of a male Schlosser descendant for Y DNA testing today.

Carl and his wife set about having children right away, and continued for the next 20 years:

  • December 18, 1701 – baptism of Anna Regina Schlosser, daughter of Carl Schlosser and Agnes, died immediately after baptism. Carl’s sister, Regina Haffner was one of the godparents
  • December 24, 1702 – baptism of Anna Margaretha Schlosser, daughter of Carl Schlosser and Agnes, baptized quickly and died soon afterwards. Same godparents as 1701 child.
  • June 20, 1704 – baptism of Johann Michael Schlosser, son of Carl Schlosser and Agnes. Godparent was Elisabeth, wife of Johannes Muller, but we don’t know who this Johannes Muller was. Given that Irene Charitas Schlosser had married Johann Michael Mueller (deceased in 1694), this Johannes Mueller could be related, although he is probably not a son of Johann Michael Mueller. The only son of Johann Michael Mueller known to to survive was his namesake who was age 12 in 1704. However, the child’s given name was Johann Michael, so maybe.
  • July 29, 1705 – baptism of Anna Ursula Schlosser, daughter of Carl Schlosser and Agnes.
  • August 19, 1708 – baptism of Anna Catharina Schlosser, daughter of Carl Schlosser and Agnes.
  • March 17, 1711 – baptism of Maria Barbara, Schlosser, daughter of Carl Schlosser and Agnes.
  • November 12, 1733 – baptism of Regina Catharina Schlosser, daughter of Carl Schlosser and Agnes. On October 8, 1724, the burial of Regina was recorded in church records at age 11.
  • November 26, 1716 – baptism of Johannes Schlosser, son of Carl Schlosser and Agnes. On March 20, 1720, the burial was recorded in the church records for Johannes, age 4.
  • September 24, 1719 – baptism of Anna Margaretha Schlosser, daughter of Carl Schlosser and Agnes.

Unfortunately, only one of Carl’s sons survived, meaning that son’s descendants are our only prayer of finding a Schlosser male who carries Conrad’s Y chromosome today.

Equally as unfortunately, I can find no trace in the church records or at Ancestry of Johann Michael Schlosser after his birth.

If you descend from Johann Michael Schlosser, or are a male descended from the Schlosser line from Steinwenden or nearby, and can connect your line back to this Schlosser line, I have a Y DNA testing scholarship for you!

Regardless of how you descend from this line, I’d love to hear from you.