Conrad Heitz (before 1645-1684/1692), “In War Service for the Palatine,” 52 Ancestors #199

The first hint of Conrad Heitz is found in the Miesau, Germany church records on April 17, 1684 when his daughter, Irene Liesabetha, married Michael Muller, a widower. The Miesau records of this time held the records from Miesau, Steinwenden and Ramstein.

Entry No. 23 – 17 April 1684 – Recorded in Miesau parish

Michael Müller, legitimate son of the late Heinsmann Müller, resident of Schwartzmatt in the Bern region with Irene Liesabetha, daughter of Cunrad (Conrad) Heitz, who was at this time in war service for the Palatinate in Churpfalz (Kurpfalz), were married in Steinwenden.

My original assumption was that Conrad Heitz was living in Steinwenden when his daughter was married to Michael Muller there, but after significant analysis by me and my two German experts, it looks like my assumption was probably incorrect.

Conrad Heitz never appears in any Steinwenden (or nearby) record except by reference. In fact, we do not know where he was living in 1684, although Churpfalz would be a good place to look.

What we do know is that Conrad was a soldier, probably a professional soldier.

Conrad Heitz wasn’t found on the 1684 Steinwenden tax list, but that wasn’t terribly unusual because Swiss immigrants weren’t taxed. His absence on the tax list didn’t set off any alarms. Michael Muller wasn’t on that list either and he’s know to be Swiss.

Therefore, because Irene lived in Steinwenden, and as we shall see, so did (at least some of) Conrad’s other children, my assumption had been that Conrad did too. I should have already learned about assuming anything with my German ancestors. They lived in uncertain times, even after the 30 Years War, and they never fail to prove me wrong every time I assume anything is “normal.” My family is NEVER normal.

To be clear, we know that Conrad’s young children lived in the Steinwenden area. We just don’t know if he lived there, and it seems likely that Conrad was an absentee father, although perhaps not willingly, and possibly tragically.

Daughter Irene

Conrad’s daughter, Irene’s story is quite interesting, given that her name seemed to change throughout her life. She was known as Irene Elisabetha, Irene Charitas, Regina Loysa, Regina Elisabetha and maybe a few other variants.

Recently one of my readers who has been transcribing German records mentioned the following:

I recognized the name Irene Charitas and for awhile could not figure out why, but then I remembered that I came across it multiple times in my current project, transcribing entries from the earliest church books of Zweibrücken and Hornbach. It’s not a name you forget! I first saw it in the family of Herr Superintendent Michael Philipp Beuther, who had a daughter baptized Irene Charitas.

In my experience, it was common in Pfalz-Zweibrücken for church officials, administrators, and educators to have their church book entries recorded in a mixture of Latin and German, hence the wild, uncommon names like Irene Charitas. It was by virtue of that family’s prominence that the name spread in Zweibrücken, seeing how Irene sponsored many baptisms.

Since you have a combination of ceremonial Latin and German, it would not surprise me a bit if your Irene occasionally went by a more Germanic name as an adult, or if minister’s made mistakes in recording her name. For example, Irene in German sounds a lot like Latinate “Reina,” derived from Regina, so it’s very possible that a minister assumed that “Rene” or “Irene” was short for a Christian name of Regina. The flip-flopping of the Rufname, though is something to watch carefully. Given the records you’ve provided, I would presume that “Irene Elisabetha” was her preferred German name and that the others are either derivatives or hiccups, but I would keep investigating.

However, it was digging for every detail about Irene by all her names that revealed Conrad Heitz and what we do know about his life. In fact, it was by tracking daughter Irene/Regina, all over this part of Germany that we found evidence of her siblings. That was no small feat, believe me, especially with her periodic name changes combined with social upheaval of the time.

The Hoffman Connection

Irene Heitz’s brother was named Samuel. Given his name and Irene’s, along with other records, it seems that the Heitz family was close to the Samuel Hoffman family.

Samuel Hoffman was probably the first minister of the church in Steinwenden and his wife, Irene Charitas Buether, died in Miesau in 1684. At that time, Steinwenden and Ramstein deaths were recorded in the Miesau church records.

According to the Geneanet site by R. K. Morgenthaler, Samuel Hofmann, husband of Irene Charitas born Beuther, was a minister in Weilersbach, close to Steinwenden, from 1657 onwards. We also know that Samuel Hoffmann and Irene Charitas Beuther married in 1657 in Weilerbach since this is stated in her 1684 burial record.

Weilerbach and Miesau are both equidistant of Steinwenden by about 9 miles in either direction.

We do have a 1684 Steinwenden tax list that shows Samuel Hoffmann residing in Steinwenden which also includes closely adjacent areas. Based on this, we may conclude that Samuel Hoffmann was a minister in Steinwenden in at least 1683-1684, and perhaps earlier. He may thus have been the first minister in Steinwenden after the war. Since Samuel was taxed, he probably wasn’t Swiss.

Given that two of Conrad Heitz’s children were named Samuel and Irene, it’s possible, perhaps even probable, that Samuel Hoffman and his wife, Irene, stood as their godparents and that the children were named in their honor. But when was that, and where?

Where was Samuel Hoffman after his 1657 marriage and before 1670 or so when Samuel Heitz was born? It stands to reason that Rev. Hoffman remained in the Steinwenden area, since he is found there in the 1680s.

In 1684, Irene Charitas Buether Hoffman, born in 1613, died in Steinwenden at the calculated age of 71. That means she had been 44 when she married Samuel Hoffman, probably past childbearing age.

As the minister, Samuel would have recorded church member’s deaths in his own handwriting after he preached the funeral service and comforted the mourners. When the last prayer was said, as the grave was covered, the good reverend retreated into the sanctuary of the church to do one final thing – record the burial date in the church books. Some ministers also recorded the gospel passage they chose to read, or noted that the church bells were rung. Samuel Hoffman wrote the simplest of notes, taking care of business, but nothing more. I have to wonder if he wrote the death record for his own wife into the register after they buried her in the churchyard, sitting alone, surrounded by the stone walls echoing happier times. Both a labor of grief and of love. Such it was in 1684 in Steinwenden.

Samuel Hoffman Remarries

In 1685, Samuel Hoffman, then a widower, remarried. German genealogist, Tom, notes the burial of Herr Samuel Hoffmann recorded in neighboring Konken parish on January 5, 1718. Tom feels that this would indicate that Samuel Hoffmann was probably about 10 years younger or more than his first wife Irene Charitas Beuther and at his death, would have been in his 90’s. If Samuel had been about the same age as Irene, that would put his age at death at 105.

Given his age at remarriage, between 62 and 72, I was quite surprised when Samuel Hoffman began having children with his new wife. I wondered if this Samuel is the son of the original Samuel who married Irene Charitas Beuther, but records confirm otherwise.

Marriage: 13 January 1685

Herr Samuel Hoffman, widower, p.p. (all proper titles assumed) with Maria Magdalena, legitimate daughter of Hans Cunrad Hepp, servant innkeeper? in Winden.

Samuel Hoffmann and his 2nd wife Maria Magdalena Hepp are found in many Steinwenden links to the Muller and Heitz families. Samuel’s new wife was clearly at least three if not four decades his junior.

Samuel Hoffman served as a godparent for a son born to Johann Michael Muller and Irene Heitz in 1687. Clearly Irene Heitz Muller was close to Samuel Hoffman too, not just Irene who had died.

A decade later, Irene Heitz Muller had remarried to Jacob Stutzman and moved to Krottelbach, but returned to Steinwenden to be the godmother of a child born to Samuel Hoffman and his wife Maria Magdalena. At this time, Samuel would have been 70 or older.

Landesarchiv Speyer > Steinwenden > Taufe 1684-1698, Taufe 1698-1738, Taufe 1724, 1738, Trauung 1684-1780, Beerdigung 1685-1780, Konfirmation 1685-1779, Bild 17 www.archion.de

Baptism: Entry No. 221

Child: Irene Elisabeth

Date of Baptism: 3 February 1697

Parents: H(err) Samuel Hoffmann & Maria Magdalena from Steinwenden

Godparents: Irene, Jacob Stitzmantz wife from Brodelbach (Krottelbach); Elisabetha, wife of Balthasar Jolage; Dominicus Stutzman, unmarried.

The baby was named for Irene and if anything happened to the parents, Irene Heitz Stutzman would raise her namesake.

This 1697 record ties Herr Samuel Hoffmann & Maria Magdalena (his 2nd wife) with Irene Heitz Muller Stutzman, Jacob Stutzman’s wife from Krottelbach and with Dominicus Stutzman, Jacob Stutzman’s brother!

At this point, I have to ask myself how Samuel Hoffman knew Jacob Stutzman’s brother, Dominicus well enough to ask him to stand up for his child as a Godparent. Dominic is the Stutzman sibling that never moved to Konken area where Jacob Stutzman lived. Instead Dominic lived and died in Zweibrucken. How did he know the Reverend Samuel Hoffman?

Tom notes that Hoffman may have known Dominic from Zweibrucken which is about 25 miles from Steinwenden, or 32 miles from Weilerbach. Zwiebrucken is where Samuel Hoffman’s first wife, Irene Charitas Beuther was from. It’s also where the Stutzman family was found before 1682. Did the Hoffman, Miller and Stutzman families all know each other from Zwiebrucken?

Furthermore, I would still like to figure out how Cunrad Heitz, a solder from Kurpfalz, near Mannheim, came to name his two children after a minister in Weilerbach, 32 miles distant. There seem to be some critical puzzle pieces missing.

Let’s look at our Heitz records.

Heitz Records

After the 1684 marriage of Irene Heitz to Michael Muller, additional Heitz records begin to be found in 1692 in Steinwenden and continue there except where otherwise noted. Irene’s marriage was the first Heitz record found.

  • June 4, 1692 – Samuel Heitz, tailor along with Irene, Michael Muller’s wife (and others) are godparents to Johann Samuel Lantz, child of Ludwig Lantz and Esther Barbara from Steinwenden.

This tells us that Samuel Heitz is an adult because he has an occupation.

  • Christmas 1692 – Confirmation of Cunrad Heitz, brother of Samuel Heitz, tailor.

This is an important record, because it suggests the age of Cunrad Heitz to be about 12 or 13, so born about 1680. Cunrad was actually born in 1676, so he was confirmed at age 16. It also confirms that these two men are brothers. Conspicuous in this record is the absence of a parent.

  • June 21, 1693 – Elisabeth Catharina, wife of Philip Heintz and Michael Muller of Steinwenden are godparents (with others) for Catharina Margaretha, daughter of Hans Jacob Schmidt and Elisabeth from Dittweiler.

I originally thought that this Heintz record was probably a Heitz record. However, there were no additional records found, and Tom found the Philip Heintz marriage to his wife: “Philip Heintz, son of Jost Heintz (deceased) from Alsenz marries 1687 11 Nov. in Steinwenden to Elisabeth Catharina, dau of Hans Caspar Christman of Schwander?”

  • August 22, 1694 – Samuel Heitz, tailor, godparents (with others) for Johana Agnetha, daughter of H(err) Samuel Hoffmann and Maria Magdalena of Steinwenden.
  • December 12, 1694 – Samuel Heitz, tailor, godparent (with others) to Johan Samuel, son of Hanss Georg Berny and Anna Elisabeth from Obermohr.
  • July 22, 1696 – Samuel Heitz, tailor, godparent (with others) to Johann Samuel, son of Hanss Georg Deysinger & Catharina from Steinwenden.
  • February 5, 1697 – Samuel Heitz, son of the late Cunrad Heitz, from Ramstein marries Catharina Apollonia, widow of the late Michael Schumacher. (Note that on November 10, 1693, Hans Michael Schuhmacher, son of Niclaus Schumacher from Rohrback married Catharina Apollonia, legitimate daughter of the late Burchard Schafer from Turckheim (Bad Durkheim.)

I am unclear whether the “from Ramstein” note refers to Samuel Heitz or the late Cunrad Heitz, but this is not the only reference to Ramstein. Ramstein is less than 2 miles from Steinwenden. This record indicates clearly that Conrad Heitz is deceased by this time.

In fact, the road from Miesau to Weilerbach runs directly through Ramstein. Steinwenden is a side trip, literally, “off the beaten path.”

This record tells us that Conrad Heitz died sometime between April of 1684 when Irene was married and February of 1697. He was probably deceased by the 1692 confirmation, given that he wasn’t mentioned. I wonder why there is no death record for Conrad in the church books. Given that he was a soldier, perhaps he did not die in this region, or maybe because he did not live in this region.

I suspect, based on the entry from 1698 for Conrad Jr. that the reference to Ramstein refers to Samuel, not the deceased Conrad Sr.

  • May 9, 1697 – Samuel Heitz from Steinwenden godparent (with others) to Johann Samuel, son of Johan Simon Fries and Maria Elisabetha from Steinwenden.
  • December 26, 1697 – Johann Adam born to Samuel Heitz and Catharina Apollonia from Steinwenden, Hans Adam Schumacher godfather (with others).
  • January 17, 1698 – Death of Cunrad Heitz, Ramstein, unmarried son of the late Hans Cunrad Heitz, former soldier in Manheim. Age 20 to 23 years. This death of Cunrad Heitz is from Steinwenden church book.

This entry about Hans Cunrad Heitz, where it indicated he is a “former soldier,” meaning that he is dead, and gives the location specifically as Manheim may be more important than it seems. It may actually be giving us Cunrad’s death location.

  • March 1, 1699 – Maria Magdalena baptized, daughter of Samuel Heitz and Catharina Appollonia from Steinwenden. Godparents: Magdelena, wife of Herr Samuel Hoffmann, Jacob Stutzman from Weylach and Anna Maria, daughter of Hans Cunrad Ausinger from Turckheim (Bad Durkheim).

This again ties to Bad Durkheim. What is the connection between Bad Durkheim and Steinwenden? The name Hans Cunrad also makes me wonder about an earlier generational connection. Was Hans Cunrad Ausinger named for Hans Cunrad Heitz, or were they both named for someone else? Are they connected, specially given that Bad Durkheim is not close?

  • September 1, 1700 – Anna Elisabetha baptized, daughter of Johann Samuel Heitz and Catharina Apollonia from Steinwenden.
  • October 9, 1701 – Samuel Heitz from Stenweyler godparent (along with others) to Johann Samuel, son of Simon Wolff and Anna Maria from Steinwenden.
  • June 12, 1702, Kallstadt– Samuel H(eitz) (margin) from Stenweiler im Westrich, Elisabeth, wife of Hanss Michael Schum (margin) from Ramsen, godparents to son of Hanss Jacob Stotzmann, farm administrator at Weilach and his wife Regina Elisabetha.

It appears that Samuel Heitz made his way from Steinwenden to Kallstadt to be a godfather to his sister’s child. Clearly, they were close.

Note that Kallstadt is about a mile north of Bad Durkheim, a name we repeatedly find in these records.

Chris points out that the Ramstein church records are scattered. Reformed records from 1591 to 1657 can be found in the Spesbach church books, from 1657 onwards in Miesau, and only from 1698 onwards in Steinwenden. Tom spread the net further, checking each location, but no additional Heitz records were found before 1684.

The next group of records are again from Steinwenden.

  • August 7, 1703 – Hans Adam buried, son of the local Samuel Heytz.
  • August 14, 1703 – Johann Henrich buried, son of Samuel Heytz.

Every time a see two deaths in such close proximity, I always wonder what happened. Was this a community issue, or just within this family? We don’t have birth records for these children, so it’s possible that they were twins, especially given that the next children we find were born just 11 months later.

  • July 13, 1704 – Eva Catharina baptized, daughter of Samuel Heitz and Catharina Appollonia, godparents Jacob Ringeisen from Reichsbach (with others).

This tells us where Jacob Ringeisen, Michael Muller’s cousin, is living in 1704. Reichenbach is 6 km from Steinwenden, about a 10 minute drive today. I wonder if Jacob’s only connection is as the cousin of Irene’s deceased husband. These families may have a connection from before they settled in this area.

  • October 31, 1706 – Maria Margreth baptized in Steinbruch, daughter of Samuel Heitz and Catharina from Steinwenden (mayor from Steinbruch was one of the godparents).
  • 1712 Confirmation of Maria Madl, daughter of Samuel Heitz, tailor of Steinwenden.
  • September 24, 1713 – Catharina Barbara baptized, daughter of Samuel Heitz and Catharina from Steinwenden, died on October 29th.
  • January 15, 1715, Kallstadt – Catharina, daughter of Conrad Heitz from Ram (margin) married to Johannes Schumacher, legitimate son of Jo (margin) Schumacher from Golding?

This record was certainly a surprise! Another daughter of Conrad?

It looks like Catharina is another sibling of Irene, especially when combined with the following record where Catharina is living on the Weilach estate with Irene/Regina and her husband, Jacob Stutzman.

  • January 7, 1716, Kallstadt – Nicholas Schumacher, cow herder at the Weilach farm and wife Catharina, a young daughter Susanna Elisabeth was born, godparents Regina Elisabeth, wife of the farm administrator and Jacob Stutzman.
  • 1717, Steinwenden – confirmation of Eva Catharina, daughter of Samuel Heitz, censor (church guardian of morals) from Steinwenden.

Note Samuel’s new occupation.

  • April 5, 1721 – Johann Ludwig, son of Johann Michal Muller and wife Susanna Agnesa, baptized. Godparent (with others): Eva Catharina, daughter of Samuel Heitzen, citizen in Stannweiler.

Irene (Regina) and Samuel Heitz are siblings, so Eva and Michael are first cousins. Johann Ludwig is the great-grandchild of Conrad Heitz. Eva Catharina is Ludwig’s first cousin once removed. (Yes, I had to draw a picture!)

  • January 6, 1728 – Catharina Apolonia, surviving widow of the late Samuel Heitz, former master tailor here, Steinwenden. Age 56 years minus 3 months and 6 days.

Irene’s brother, Samuel Heitz, died sometime between April 1721 and January 1728.

  • July 27, 1728, Kallstadt – Eva Catharina, surviving legitimate daughter of the late Johann Samuel Heitz, former resident of Sennweiler, to Johann Nicholaus Schwind, surviving legitimate son of the eldest member of the court, Jost Rudolph Schwind.

Apparently Eva Catharina went to live with her aunt Irene/Regina and Jacob Stutzman in Kallstadt after her parents’ deaths. She would have been age 24 when she married.

It appears that Irene/Regina and Jacob Stutzman had become the anchors of that family.

Ramstein

We find neighboring Ramstein mentioned repeatedly in these records.

Today, Ramstein-Miesenbach is a combined city. Ramstein Air Base now occupies part of what was the city of Ramstein. You can see contemporary and historical photos here.

Ironically, one of my family members was stationed here in the late 1980s and my mother wanted to visit. Had I ANY idea, I would have visited myself – mother in tow. I’m sure that family member had absolutely no idea that they may have literally been on top of our ancestral family home. The population of the base personnel and dependents at about 23,000 dwarfs the population of Ramstein-Miesenbach with about 7,500 residents.

Ramstein is literally a hop, skip and a jump down the road from Steinwenden. Literally walkable.

Ramstein was so small that their church records were incorporated into the Miesau, then Steinwenden records. Remember that in 1684, there were only 9 families in that entire region due to the depopulation resulting from the 30 Years War. By 1802, Ramstein had all of 302 people living there.

Apparently both Conrad Heitz Jr. and Samuel Heitz at some point lived in Ramstein, which suggests that the family may have lived closer to Ramstein than Steinwenden, or maybe between the two, although typically people lived in villages at that time. Farmers tended to walk to their fields and home again at night, with village houses and walls clustered together, providing protection. So there would have been no isolated farms in-between and there still aren’t today.

If the Heitz family wound up in Ramstein and Steinwenden, where did they come from?

Mannheim Baptisms

Tom found two baptism records of Heitz children in Mannheim, although I can’t include the images because they are from Archion who does not allow usage of their images.

The death record of Cunrad Heitz (Jr.) in Ramstein (Steinwenden Ev Ref parish) on January 17, 1698 says his age is 20-23 years, which puts his birth about 1675-1678. The record also gives his deceased father’s name as Cunrad as well, and states that he was a soldier from Mannheim.

The first Mannheim birth record is for Hans Conrad Heitz on August 6, 1676 which would make Cunrad 22 at his death.

1676 6 August

Child: Hans Conrad

Parents: Hans Conrad Heitz, soldier under H(err) Hauptmann Schaben(ger) Company and Anna Margaretha, his lawfully wed wife.

Godparents: Conrad Keller, ?, under said Company and Elisabetha ?

Bild 105 Mannheim Evangelical, Archion image

The second birth record is for a brother, Johannes, although we find no additional records for Johannes in either Mannheim or Steinwenden.

1679 21 May

Child: Johannes

Parents: Hans Conrad Heitz, soldier under Herr Hauptmann Schaben(ger)’s Company & Margaretha, lawfully wed wife.

Godparents: Johann Schwartz, soldier under Herr Hauptmann Schaben(ger)’s Company and Catharina, his lawfully wed wife.

Bild 149 Mannheim Evangelical, Archion image

I wonder what happened to Johannes.

Chris commented:

The entries indicate that Conrad Heitz was a member of Captain Johannes Schabinger’s Company.  Johannes Schabinger was from Bavaria.  He was in Bretten and Mannheim, Baden and probably in other places in Bavaria.  This might help us.

Mannheim is maybe 50 miles from Steinwenden.

Finding information about the “Shabinger Company” might be enlightening, indeed.

Schabinger’s Company

Chris’s search continues:

A web search for “Hauptmann Schabinger” (the two words in combination flanked by ” “) returned one book page, confirming that this Schabinger was from Bavaria.

Furthermore, I found out that there is a small booklet especially about the life of this Johannes/Hans Schabinger, see no. 5 below “Sonderhefte” on the following page: http://wiki-de.genealogy.net/Badische_Familienkunde

There is another publication by the same author: “Freiherr von Schabinger”:

“Der Pfeiferturm. Beiträge zur Heimatgeschichte.” Beilage in Brettener Nachrichten im August 1949: Hauptmann und Kommandant. Johannes Schabinger (1620-1654) von Karl Friedrich Schabinger Freiherr von Schowingen

If these life dates are correct, then Johannes Schabinger seems to have died already in 1654! Accordingly, I am not sure how helpful a search for him would be to locate Conrad Heitz, who certainly was still alive in 1684.

Further research into Johannes Schabinger revealed two baptisms of his children in Bretten in the 1650s, and the death of his wife there in 1671 where she is mentioned as a widow and that he died in 1654.

Ah, the FamilySearch index for the 1671 death of Susanna Schabinger states she was widowed. So Johannes Schabinger was not alive anymore in 1671. Strange enough, the Heitz records make no mentioning of this. It seems possible to me that Johannes Schabinger was famous at least locally at the time and this was the reason that Conrad Heitz having been a soldier below Schabinger was mentioned even after Schabinger`s death.

Tom, our German genealogist, feels that Schabinger was prominent enough that the company was named in his honor, even though Schabinger was deceased at the time.

Unfortunately, searching for more information about Schabinger won’t help with the search for Conrad Heitz. Sometimes you just have to go down the rabbit hole.

Kurpfalz

In 1684, Cunrad is mentioned as being in the service in Kurpfalz. I thought Kurpfalz was a specific place, but according to Wikipedia, Kurpfalz is German for the Elector Palatinate, a fragmented territory that was administered by the Count Palatine of the Rhine. This region stretched from the left bank of the Upper Rhine, from the Hunsruck Mountain range in what is today the Palatinate region of the German federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate and the adjacent parts of the French regions of Alsace and Lorraine (bailiwick of Seltz from 1418-1766) to the opposite territory on the east bank of the Rhine in present-day Hesse and Baden-Wurttemberg, up to the Odenwald range and the southern Kraichgau region, containing the capital cities of Heidelberg and Mannheim. The old map below drawn by Johannes Janssonius in 1650 depicts the Palatine. Mannheim is just slightly below the center and to the right.

Based on the other pieces of information we have gathered, it seems like the most important clue is the mention of Mannheim. In three other documents, we know that Cunrad is mentioned in conjunction with serving in Mannheim.

Mannheim History

The history of Mannheim itself may shed a bit of light on the subject.

The Encyclopedia Britannica provides us with information about what was happening in Mannheim during this timeframe.

The area of Mannheim is marshy, lying at the confluence of the rivers Rhine and Neckar. In the 8th century, the site belonged to the abbey of Lorsch and to the south lay the castle of Eicholzheim.

In the beginning of the 17th century, elector palatine Frederick IV founded a town based on gridded streets where Mannheim sits today, populated chiefly with Protestant refugees from Holland. The strongly fortified castle made the city a target in the Thirty Years’ War and Mannheim was mostly leveled, being five times taken and retaken beginning in 1622. By 1688, Mannheim had recovered from its former disaster, but was captured by the French during what was known as the Rhine Campaign, falling on November 11, 1688 to 30,000 French Catholics, soldiers of King Louis XIV. In 1689, during the Nine Years’ War, Mannheim was burned to the ground. (It’s unclear how some of the church books survived.) Ten years later, Mannheim began to be rebuilt.

Did Conrad die in Mannheim in 1688 or 1689 in the service of the Palatine, protecting protestant religious freedom and defending Germany from the French?

Conrad’s Death

The church books in Steinwenden are maddening silent about the death of Conrad Heitz, Irene Elisabetha’s father. We know from other records that he died between 1684 and probably 1692, but when and where?

We also know that he was a soldier, probably a professional soldier. Chris mentions that many Swiss men were mercenaries for other countries, including Germany. Did Conrad die away from home, buried someplace in an unmarked grave? Was he buried under the rubble of Mannheim in 1688 or 1689?

Were the deaths of men who died away at war recorded anyplace? What records exist of the men killed in the Nine Years’ War? Were the families notified? How were the families even located if they evacuated Mannheim for outlying areas?

Chris found a 1694 death for a Conrad Heitz in Dudenheim.

Dudenheim is no place close to Steinwenden.

Steinwenden is about 50 miles from Mannheim where the 1670s baptisms took place.

Dundenheim is significantly further away, but Conrad was a soldier.

However, further searching by Chris revealed that the burial on January 16, 1694 was for a man who was a shoemaker. A Conrad Heitz was also born in Dundenheim in 1647, so it’s unlikely that this shoemaker was the same man as our Conrad who was a solder.

Rats, another rabbit hole and a wrong rabbit.

Sometimes you have to sniff out a lot of wrong rabbits before you stumble upon the right one.

Where was the Heitz Family From?

The short answer is that we don’t know. The long answer is that there are hints.

The association with the Samuel Hoffman, Stutzman and Miller families might be a clue. Zwiebrucken might be a clue.

Samuel Hoffman was the minister in Steinwenden and also at one point lived nearby in Weilerbach where he married Irene Charitas Beuther in 1657. How Irene Charitas Beuther got from Zwiebrucken to Weilerbach is unclear, but that migration path might be how others from Zwiebrucken arrived in Weilerbach and nearby villages like Steinwenden.

Samuel Hoffman was apparently NOT Swiss, because he was on the 1684 Steinwenden tax list.

We can’t tell if Conrad Heitz was German or Swiss, because we don’t know that he ever actually lived in Steinwenden. His absence from the tax rolls there tells us exactly nothing.

Conrad Heitz was living in or near Mannheim in 1676 and 1679 when two of his children were born. His daughter Irene was probably born in the 1650s or early 1660s, but her baptism is not found in Mannheim.

Given the references to Conrad Heitz being a soldier, in 1676/79 in Mannheim, in 1684 (present tense in Kurpfalz which incorporated Mannheim) and in 1697 (past tense in Mannheim,) 21 years apart, this suggests that he was likely a career soldier. His unit may have moved around, and of course, Conrad and family probably moved with it. The fact that two of his unit members stood as godparents when he baptized his children suggests that the other families in the unit became surrogate family as the unit was uprooted as they moved from place to place. The families most likely to be present to fulfill Godparent responsibilities if something happened to the parents? The families of fellow soldiers, of course. Your fellow military families were the only constant in a continually changing landscape.

If you were in an unfamiliar church, the Reverend himself or his wife might stand up with you as Godparents when you were baptizing your children. What better guarantee if you went to meet your maker early that your children would be raised in the church?

A history of the Shabinger unit would be most helpful, but alas, that isn’t to be found, at least not online.

Originally, Chris found evidence of a Heitz family in Alsace, France which is quite close to Germany. Chris’s own family descends a French Reformed family in Mannheim, so we know that there were French Reformed living in Mannheim, at least in 1712 when Chris’s ancestor arrived.

However, it appears much more likely that Conrad Heitz was Swiss, in part because he is associated with protestant reformed churches and other Swiss immigrant families.

Swiss Heitz Family

Chris found an immigrant Heitz family from Zurich, Switzerland. This find is particularly interesting because this man was a pastor and was of an age to potentially be Conrad’s brother. If indeed, Conrad Heitz was Johannes’ brother, that might well explain why he knew the Samuel Hoffman family well. Chris also wondered if it’s possible that Conrad Heitz was a minister himself, and that’s how he was serving the military.

Johannes Heizius/Heitz 

  • born in Zurich 1 July 1632
  • married in Knonau, Switzerland on 7 September 1659 to Magdalena Wirth (* ca- 1632, daughter of Jakob Wirth)
  • both of them emigrated to Sinsheim, Wurttemberg, Germany in 1659
  • 1659-1661 Johannes Heitz was diaconus in Sinsheim, Wurttemberg, Germany
  • 1661-1667 priest in Waldmichelbach, Hesse, Germany
  • from 1668 onwards priest in Mittelschefflenz near Mosbach, Wurttemberg

Three children of this couple Heitz-Wirth:

1) Anna Elisabeth, baptized 17 August 1661 in Waldmichelbach

2) Johannes, baptized 3 February 1664 in Waldmichelbach

3) Elisabeth, baptized 3 December 1667 in Waldmichelbach

This above information is taken from the book “Schweizer im Odenwald” – “Swiss in the Odenwald region,” page 115.

Chris looked up the three known baptism records in Waldmichelbach, but no other Heitz family member is listed among the godparents so this Heitz family may or may not be connected to the Conrad Heitz in Mannheim.

This site shows the Johannes Heitz family, but doesn’t show siblings for Johannes.

Sincheim is about 50 km from Mannheim.

Chris: At the very least this tells us that the family name Heitz existed in Switzerland in the 17th century! If Irene Liesabetha Heitz who married Michael Müller was of Swiss origin, then this would be enough of a connection for me (same country of origin and same religious belief).

Steinwenden Church and Cemetery

Given that the Heitz family records are recorded in the Steinwenden church, it’s clear that they attended this church. Marriages took place there, baptisms, confirmations and yes, funerals too. Ramstein records are also found in the Steinwenden records from 1698 forward.

The deceased were probably buried outside in the churchyard.

Where was the churchyard in Steinwenden?

During earlier research, my cousin, Richard Miller had kindly provided pictures of an old “bell tower” in Steinwenden that he was taken to. I had questioned whether or not the current church was the old church. How did the bell tower connect, and where was the bell tower?

Chris to the rescue:

Remember, when I sent you that information on the “old cemetery hill” in Steinwenden along with the Google map of its location?

Remember, Roberta, how I was not able to answer, where the “bell tower of the old church” was, that your cousin Richard Miller was guided to?

Well, it is the same location!

The present Steinwenden reformed church was built in 1852, but the old church was not at the same place (as I assumed, since this is how it is usually done). The old church, which was constructed much earlier and first mentioned in 1377 was located a bit further south [of the new church]. As you can see from the construction date, this church was originally a Catholic church, later changed to one of Reformed belief. While this old church was demolished in 1822, its bell tower remains to date. It is called “Römerturm” – “Roman tower”, although it is certainly not from Roman times, but much later. However, there are remainders of an old Roman building nearby (the so-called “Villa Rustica”) and it is thus speculated that this old church was built on the fundaments of a much older tower from Roman times

Anyway, now I know you would like to see some pictures. In addition to the book – from which I will scan and send pictures later on –  they are available on the internet, if you look for example at the following page: http://www.gemeinde-steinwenden.de/steinwenden.html

Using the browser, Chrome, and Google Translate, I was able to read the text, and is it ever interesting!

If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you find a slideshow of four old postcard pictures.

Look at the first picture: You see the present church in the center and the remaining bell tower (Römerturm) of the older church to the right.

On the second of the four pictures you have an aerial view. The present church is on the top in the center, the old bell tower a bit to the right further down. Here it is easy to see that the old church was located on a hill. On the third of the four pictures you have another view of both church locations.

Thankfully, the aerial allowed me to use Google Maps to locate that area today. The current church is at the arrow near the top and the area that houses the old tower and the cemetery is indicated by the second, lower, red arrow.

In the aerial above, the actual tower is just slightly to the left of the tip of the right red arrow. If you look closely, you can see the tower roof.

I have cropped this image to just about the edges of the original circle which was on the top of a hill, and the square tower roof is clearly visible in the middle.

But Chris wasn’t finished with his research:

When I tried a Google search for “Steinwenden Römerturm,” I also found a coloured picture of this old church tower on a genealogy page in the US: http://www.dysinger.us/genealogy/index.php

Photo of church tower courtesy of Eric Dysinger.

This Dysinger page may be interesting for other reasons as well: On this page you will also find an English translation of a book chapter from the book by Roland Paul: http://www.dysinger.us/genealogy/documents/Steinwenden_History.pdf

I’m so grateful for the Dysinger documents published after Eric’s 2012 and 2013 trips to Steinwenden. In those documents, Eric Dysinger tells us that,” The wall surrounding the former church was used for centuries as a burial place for the dead of the village. At times, it was even used for dead from towns around Steinwenden. After the creation of new cemeteries in Steinwenden and Weltersbach in 1905, funeral services here became sporadic with the last funeral serviced in 1921. In 1955, a de-dedication ceremony was performed on the graveyard and soon after the tombstones were leveled.” I have never heard of a de-dedication ceremony.

As an American, and as a genealogist, this is agonizing to read, but it is the European custom.

Eric also tells us that, “The original Catholic church, mentioned in 1377, probably constructed between 1150 and 1250, became Reformed. The main building of the church was connected to the south side of the tower. The church fell into ruins in 1788 and was demolished in 1822.”

Map courtesy Eric Dysinger.

Also, he has pictures from his visit to Steinwenden in 2012, including an old Steinwenden map: http://www.dysinger.us/genealogy/documents/Steinwenden_Information.pdf

The map Chris refers to above is newer than 1850 and older than 1955. Someplace, in one or some of those houses, our family lived. The Heitz and Muller family, and in that graveyard, shown on the map, at least some of them are buried.

This implies that Michael Müller and the rest of the village would have attended church services in the old church and when their turn came, were buried on the hill in circles slowly radiating out from around the old hilltop church as the bell in the tower rang.

Yes, I understand that leveling old cemeteries is something that must seem very strange for you. I think it is simply a matter of space, since the population density in Europe is much higher and living space is limited.

I still wonder if maybe, maybe, some of these tombstones from the old cemetery in Steinwenden have been conserved somewhere… (No information on this in the book.)

…and even more detailed present-day pictures of the old church tower in the document “Steinwenden – the Return” on the Dysinger page: http://www.dysinger.us/genealogy/browsemedia.php?mediatypeID=documents

Of course, because genealogists never run out of questions, I want to know if Eric, or anyone else has any idea what happened to those tombstones. I suspect my burials are too old to have had tombstones remaining in 1955, but if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

Eric indicated that Roland Paul, the local historian, knew nothing about the fate of the tombstones.

Eric was kind enough to send this snippet from a 1785 map, 100 years after Irene Heitz and Michael Muller married. The old church is shown at left and was still in use at that time, just three years before it fell into disuse. I wonder if the old building simply got too old and cumbersome to maintain.

Courtesy Eric Dysinger

A drawing in the book, 800 Jahre Steinwenden, (800 Years of Steinwenden) by local historian Roland Paul, shows a map of the church interior. I’ve drawn the outline, below, roughly to scale, based on Roland’s research. Apologies for my lack of artistic ability.

The entire church was 6 times the length of the tower, left to right. The width, top to bottom (north to south) seems to be twice that of the tower on the right half, and two and a half times that of the tower on the left half. The tower was tucked into a cranny.

The graves surrounded the original church. After the structure was torn down in 1822, I’m sure that the land that the original church occupied was then utilized for additional burials, but the oldest burials would have been clustered around the original church, probably expanding from near the church outward until the yard was full.

If this church was in use in the 1100s until the 30 Years War depopulated the region in the 1620s-1660s, there would have been a lot of burials. Let’s say, for example that there were 300 people living in the village and surrounding area at any one time, and 4 generations per hundred years. That would mean that there were at least 1200 people buried per century, and probably more when you account for babies born that died. Over a period of 500 years, that would mean approximately 6000 people buried in this churchyard. This explains the European custom of “reusing” graves. In the Netherlands, we found several generations of family members had been buried in the same grave plot. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Move grandpa over and make room.

My ancestor Johann Michael Mueller Sr. (1655-1695), Irene Lisabetha Heitz’s first husband, along with their first 5 children are assuredly buried here. I hope Michael was buried alongside his children and they are resting together for eternity, even if it is under another structure today.

While we know that at least two of Conrad’s children, Conrad Jr. and Samuel, are buried here, and several of Conrad Sr.’s grandchildren, we still don’t know what happened to Conrad himself. But, I have a theory…

Theory

After sifting through these records again and again, I have a theory about Conrad Heitz, his wife, Anna Margaretha and the Heitz children.

We know that the first Heitz record in the region was the 1684 marriage between Irene Lisabetha Heitz, Conrad’s daughter, and Michael Muller, a widower. That marriage took place in Steinwenden and in that record, Conrad is referred to as follows:

“Conrad Heitz, who was at this time in war service for the Palatinate in Churpfalz.”

This says absolutely nothing about Conrad living in or near Steinwenden, although the record does say that the marriage took place there and that Conrad’s service was “In Churpfalz.”

If Conrad is in Chrupfalz, which we’ll interpret to mean near or in Mannheim, based on other information, how did his daughter come to be married in Steinwenden? Typically marriages take place in the bride’s home church.

Given that two of Conrad’s children were named Irene and Samuel, and Samuel Hoffmann’s wife was named Irene Charitas Beuther, we either have a huge coincidence on our hands, or pieces of evidence.

Conrad Heitz’s wife, Anna Margaretha is never mentioned after the 1679 birth of child Johannes recorded in the Mannheim church records.

We know that at that time, Conrad was a soldier and regardless of where he is, his wife is giving birth in close enough proximity to Mannheim for two births to be recorded in the Mannheim church records three years apart. Other soldiers and their wives stood up as godparents, so apparently the unit is stationed here, at least part of the time. Perhaps they were guarding Mannheim from invasion. Clearly, Conrad and Anna Margaretha were in the same place at least occasionally.

Irene and Samuel were the older children, based on the records we do have.

Five years after the last recorded birth in 1679, in 1684, daughter Irene is marrying Michael Muller in Steinwenden, and her father is still referenced as being in the service near Mannheim.

How and why did Irene get to Steinwenden? Young women simply didn’t travel alone then, nor did they have occupations. They either lived with their family members or their husbands after marriage.

Never is the mother from the 1676 and 1679 birth records mentioned in Steinwenden. Nor is Conrad, except by reference.

Were the children taken to Steinwenden for their safety, as their father continued to fight the Nine Years’ War. In 1688, Mannheim fell. Did Conrad perish in that campaign or when Mannheim burned in 1689?

If the wife of a professional soldier died, what happened to the children?

My bet is that they were raised by the Godparents, because a soldier father clearly couldn’t decide to stay home and raise children. And if he wasn’t being a soldier, how would he earn a living? Presumably, he hadn’t been honing other skills.

If two of the Godparents were a minister and his wife, who had no children of their own, it wouldn’t take much speculation to suggest that the minister and his wife would raise all of the children if the mother died, not just the two they stood up with as Godparents.

So far, we’ve identified five of Conrad’s children, all found in Steinwenden or with their siblings.

Name Birth/Baptism Confirmation Marriage Death Other
Irene Lisabetha ~1654/66 1684 Michael Muller 1729 Remarried to Jacob Stutzman in 1696
Johann Samuel Circa 1670 or earlier 1697 1717/28
Johann Conrad 1676 1692 1698 unmarried
Johannes 1679 No further mention
Anna Catharina <1684 1715 Kallstadt

Given that Conrad Heitz Sr. is referred to as a solder in 1676, 1679, 1684 and 1698, I suspect that he was a professional soldier, perhaps a mercenary. Given that any reference to his wife, Anna Margaretha disappears after the 1679 baptism, as does that child, I suspect that they both died. The next time we find any trace of this family, it’s 1684 and Irene is marrying Michael Muller in Steinwenden.

By 1692, we know that Samuel Heitz is a tailor and that Conrad, still a child, is being confirmed in Steinwenden. We don’t discover the existence of Anna Catharine until 1715 when she marries, clearly living with her sister Irene and Irene’s second husband.

My theory is that Anna Margaretha died between 1679 and 1684, and that Samuel Hoffman and his wife, Irene, were raising the Heitz children.

In 1679, if Irene was the eldest, she would have been between 13 and 24. Her brother Samuel was probably a few years younger. Conrad was still a baby, and Catharina’s age is unknown although based on when she gave birth to children, she was likely born between 1677 and 1684.

If Anna Margaretha died, Conrad would have been mostly an absentee parent, and while Irene could care for her siblings, she certainly could not run a household and do everything an adult would have done – especially not with two infants.

Therefore, the family as well as the church would look to the godparents. The godparent of Conrad was also a soldier, so that person might not have been in much of a position to help if he was even yet alive.

If Irene and Samuel were Godchildren of Samuel Hoffman and Irene Charitas, who were childless, it stands to reason that they would have raised all 4 Heitz children – not just the two for whom they served as Godparents.

Hence, the children would have lived with the Hoffmanns in Weilerbach, near Steinwenden, and would have attended the Steinwenden church when Samuel Hoffman began preaching there. We know that Hoffmann was in Steinwenden by 1684 because not only was he on the tax list, but his wife, Irene, died there.

Furthermore, if Irene Charitas Beuther Hoffman was a “foster mother” to Irene Lisabetha Heitz, having raised her for some time, it would be understandable why Irene Lisabetha might be called Irene Charitas in the church records after Irene Charitas Beuther Hoffmann’s 1684 death.

Everyone connected the two Irene’s together, including Samuel Hoffman who was still the minister in the Steinwenden church and probably wrote the records that referred to Irene Lisabetha Heitz as Irene Charitas. Perhaps she reminded him of his wife, and he didn’t even realize he had written his deceased wife’s name.

Can we prove this? Very unlikely. But it’s the most logical explanation for the evidence we have found.

DNA

I know this is really, REALLY a longshot in the dark, but there’s always a chance, right?

Conrad Heitz would have passed his Y DNA down to his sons, who would have passed it on to their sons. If sons continued to descend in a straight line until today, a Heitz male would carry a copy of Conrad’s Y DNA.

Conrad had 3 sons, as best we can tell. We know that Conrad Jr. died without having married. Johann and Samuel could have had sons, although I suspect that Johann died young.

  • Johann was born in 1679 but there are no further records of him. I presume he died, but maybe not.
  • Johann Samuel Heitz, on the other hand, lived in Steinwenden and had several children with wife Catharina Appolonia. They had two known sons who died as children; Johann Adam and Johann Henrich. They also had 5 daughters; Maria Magdalena (1699), Anna Elisabetha (1700), Eva Catharina (1704), Maria Margaretha (1706) and Catharina Barbara (1713).

The birth records are somewhat spotty for Samuel’s children. For example, we have two death records for male children without corresponding birth records.

There is also an obvious gap between October of 1706 and September of 1713. Following earlier patterns, we would expect a child to have been born to Samuel and Apollonia in January of 1708, June of 1709, December of 1710, June of 1712 and then of course the 1713 recorded birth.

Those spaces give us 4 opportunities for unknown male children.

There’s also the potential for Conrad Heitz and Anna Margaretha to have had additional male children that we aren’t aware of today.

If you:

  • Descend from any of the known Heitz children
  • Descend from any of the male Heitz men through all men and carry the Heitz surname today
  • Are a Heitz descended from this area and this time
  • Descend from the Rev. Johannes Heitz and Magdalena Wirth line
  • Descend from the Johann Kasper Heiz (1594-1636) and Magdalena Lavater (1601-1637) line
  • Have an unidentified Johann Conrud (Conrad) Heitz in your family records, born sometime before 1645

I’d love to hear from you.

Acknowledgements

I’d like to thank my friend and cousin, retired German genealogist, Tom, along with our Native speaking German research partner, Chris. This research would not exist without these two amazing men.

I would also like to extend my deep gratitude to Eric Dysinger for sharing the fruits of his labor so that others from Steinwenden can see and better understand our common history.

I’d also like to thank Roland Paul for documenting Steinwenden. While his book is no longer available, I did find one on the used book market and I’m looking forward to translating sections with the help of online translators. Yes, that’s difficult BUT much better than not having the information, right? I’m sure our immigrant ancestors felt equally as frustrated when they arrived on the shores of America not speaking one word of English. I’m sure that our ancestors never anticipated that their descendants would be equally as frustrated with not being able to read their language, especially not when written in combination scribbles, um, I mean script, of German and Latin.

I’d also like to thank my blog commenter for enlightenment on how the names of Irene Charitas, Irene Lisabetha and Regina Loysa might have become conflated.

This isn’t the first time commenters have helped me immensely.

It takes a village😊

The Farm – 52 Ancestors #198

I didn’t grow up on this farm, at least not for most of my childhood, yet it’s still a place of warm memories, comfort and safety – even all these decades later.

When I opened my Mom’s “Suitcase of Life,” I expected to find the photo albums and scrapbooks I had looked through as a child and perhaps a few other things. Mostly items reflective of her life before me. What I didn’t expect to find was a photo of the farm that my step-father owned more than two decades before he and Mom married.

This aerial photo looks a lot like the farm I came to know and love, but on closer inspection, there are several differences.

It’s a “younger” farm than I remember. The giant maples that held the rope swing for my children in the 1970s and 80s are maybe 20 or 30 years old in this picture, to the right of the house.

The well pump tower is visible between the house and the tree outside the back door, minus the windmill. Upon closer inspection, I can see that the tower sported a TV antennae, which answers the question about whether or not the house had electricity. Truthfully, I think the antennae tower simply shielded the pump out back. I only thought it was a “well tower” built for the windmill because there was no antennae by the time I was introduced to the farm – and there was a windmill.

The chicken house behind the garage, had, well, chickens running around, and the chickens were also milling around the garage. A few chickens had taken shelter underneath the propane tank on the north side of the house. It looks like there were chickens everywhere, probably escapees from the chicken yard.

By the time I knew the chicken house, this particular chicken house had been replaced by a much larger one, but chickens were only a memory. The chicken house was used to store “stuff” and ferns were growing under the propane tank known as a “pig,” not to be confused with the pigs that lived in the barn and maternity hog houses in the fields.

The one-car wooden-shingled garage that was barely large enough to hold a car was just like I remembered, some 30+ years later. If you had a passenger, they had to get out of the car before the driver pulled the car into the garage, or you couldn’t get the car doors open. Passenger or driver, your choice, could exit inside the garage – but not both! Actually, that was just as well, because someone had to slide the garage door open, which slid to the right on a track, so the passenger clearly needed to get out of the car anyway.

The outhouse, shown in this 1970s photo, was hidden behind the garage but there was a well-worn path. By the time I lived there, we had an inside bathroom but still used the outhouse for spillover. It wasn’t bad since it was seldom used. There was never any waiting out there and no one cared how long you stayed!

The house itself was built by the Amish as a simple square, maybe 30 by 40 or 50 feet, long before my step-father’s first wife’s father purchased the farm about the time they married. The original front door is still visible and was never removed but was slightly covered over later, both inside and out.

The window to the right of that old door was my bedroom, and the room to the left was my step-brother’s room. The original house was small. I think my room had been the original living room.

It’s difficult to tell if the kitchen I knew had been added in this picture. There appears to be something behind the main roofline, but the chimney is in the wrong place. It could be a small porch. Come to think of it, I don’t know why there’s a chimney in that location at all, because the “stove” that heated the house was elsewhere.

The original part of the house had an upstairs that was “heated” by a simple vent between the first floor and the second. It was sweltering in the summer and freezing, literally, in the winter. The steps going up were extremely steep. No one ever slept there when we lived in the house, but it had clearly been bedrooms at one time. Amish families tended to be large, and I’d guess this large two room “attic” had at one time been the children’s bunkhouse rooms. One for boys and one for girls.

The four original downstairs rooms were the living room, the kitchen, the parent’s bedroom and perhaps a second bedroom, or the living room originally extended the width of the house. It’s difficult to tell what was meant to be a bedroom, because none of the rooms were built with closets. People used chifforobes and dressers. Dad build a closet in his and Mom’s bedroom.

The large addition, probably 15 by 15 feet, extending to the south (right) was the living room and judging from the roof, wasn’t new in this photo. The porch looked the same years later, even down to the white spindles, although by the time I lived there, the porch had shifted with time and listed a lot to left. On farms, the front porch didn’t much matter since the front door was never used anyway – but Mom opened it once a year or so just to be sure it would still open. The old stove used for heating used to sit in the corner that had been the original kitchen, I think, in the “old” corner of the “new” living room.

Dad always used to say that you could tell when farmers had a good year by the room additions.

I don’t know when this house was originally built, but it looks “old” in this photo, labeled October 1955 on the back. When it was originally constructed, there was no inside plumbing or electricity and it had a hand-dug dirt basement under only part of the original house.

Dad concreted part of the basement floor and installed a shower head in the basement wall. If you weren’t afraid of spiders or creepy crawleys, it was a cool place to shower in the summer. The basement had two small ground level windows, and yes, I caught my step-brother’s buddies spying on me once when I was showering. Little did they expect a furious, dripping-wet female to emerge and administer a sound verbal thrashing, threatening to kick their behinds, as they quickly departed running down the road with their tails between their legs. They even left their car behind. Compared to what my Dad did when he found out, that was mild indeed. Hell hath no fury like a man who catches males peeping into his windows at his naked daughter. Let’s just say they never came back and a shower “surround” was installed in the basement. Their disabled, abandoned car sat there for months as a silent reminder to anyone else who might get any bright ideas. Dad finally hauled it, or what was left of it, up to the road with the front end loader, and one night, it disappeared.

The barns and farm part of the photo look much the same as it did when I last saw this place as I drove away for the very last time in 1995. My last good memory was Father’s Day 1993 when I surprised Dad by arriving unannounced. That was just days before our life would change dramatically, once again. After Dad’s death, the auction, and Mom’s move to town, I swore I’d never go back, because the leaving was just too heart-wrenching and painful. Four years later, my step-brother, Gary, would die there, in the kitchen the day after Thanksgiving.

Humble Beginnings

My step-dad, Dean, married his sweetheart, Martha Mae, on July 5th, 1950 and three years later, Gary was born. In October of 1955, when this picture was taken, Gary would have been a rambunctious toddler, in the midst of the terrible-twos, and probably raising Cain. I feel obligated as a typical sibling to say he never really got over that raising Cain part, and maybe not the terrible twos either.😊

As the airplane flew over on that October day, Martha Mae had probably finished feeding the chickens and was cooking lunch, the biggest meal of the day on the farm. Judging from the mist and shadows, it looks to be morning.

It’s fall and harvest had begun. The wagon filled with corn is standing next to the fence in the few rows that have been combined and my Dad’s tractor can be seen in the distance. It looks like he has been out feeding the livestock, perhaps, or doing something in the “back 40.” I’d wager he was riding that same old red International Harvester tractor that he was still patching together and repairing 40 years later. And it wasn’t new in the 1950s!

The hog houses were in the fields in just about the same configuration as I remember them years later. The hog houses and the fields planted in corn and soybeans were rotated. Cows were standing beside the back barn. Dad’s truck was angled into the front barn and even the gas pump and tanks were in the same location.

This photo was taken about 15 years later, in 1969 or 1970, and shows Dad standing by the back door. That extension is the kitchen and mud room.

Little changed on the farm in 40 years – except the people.

The River of Life

In October of 1955, I was just a baby and lived with my parents in town. Mom’s life would come unraveled a few years later and my father would die. In another world, 20 miles away, Dean’s life would lay in tatters too.

In the fall of 1955, Linda Kay, his baby girl had yet to be born. She would arrive in July of 1958 and grace this farmhouse full of love.

Martha Mae was 35 when Linda was born. The family was adamant that “nothing was wrong with Linda,” but she was never able to hold her head up, sit up or function as a normal baby or child. Mother said that judging from the photos that Linda might have had Down’s Syndrome. Linda contracted pneumonia, was taken to the hospital on Christmas Day and died on December 27, 1959, just 17 months old. The day after Dad’s 39th birthday.

My Dad was devastated. Heartbroken. By the 1950s, antibiotics prevented many childhood deaths. No one expected children to die anymore. But his baby girl died anyway.

Gary would have been 6 when they buried his little sister and probably didn’t understand what was happening.

Dad could never speak of Linda without choking up and gave me her little bedspread from her crib when my daughter was born. This is one of the gifts I cherish most – given straight from his heart.

Dad and I always had a special bond. A man of very few words, he once told me that when he married my mother, he got his little girl back.

For the next few years after Linda’s death, Martha Mae became increasingly ill, and finally, in about 1966, she was diagnosed with a rare disease. At that time, very little was known about systemic Schleroderma. For years, Dad carried an article about it around in his wallet. He explained to me that “she petrified from the outside in.” Those years were horrific for him – helplessly watching his wife perish slowly from an unknown demon that he had no weapons to fight.

Just over 40, Martha Mae lived in incredible pain. That’s when Dad added the large indoor bathroom in the corner between the kitchen and bedroom. It was a very early version of a handicapped bathroom, because he built wooden frame “aids” and helped her in and out of the bathtub.

In addition to farming, he also began cleaning and eventually, cooking and taking care of both Gary and Martha Mae too.

The medical profession didn’t understand nor have the drugs to treat the disease, and in 1968, Martha Mae lapsed into renal failure. Dialysis didn’t yet exist, so eventually she became comatose and on July 25th, passed away at 45 years of age, leaving behind a grieving husband and heartbroken 14-year-old son who had spent his childhood witnessing his mother die terribly.

Within a few months of Martha’s death, Gary was hospitalized for what was then called a “nervous breakdown.” That pattern would punctuate the rest of Gary’s abbreviated life. He died younger than his mother, not from the same disease, although Schleroderma does appear to have an autoimmune genetic aspect.

The farmhouse became a place of loneliness and sadness for Dean, haunted with broken dreams. In the space of a few years he had gone from living his dream, down the road from his in-laws on his own farm with his wife and two children, to a widower raising one desperately ill teen.

I’ve often wondered if the disease that took Martha’s life was actually beginning before Gary was born and affected both of her children – the younger child, Linda, the most.

New Beginnings

After Martha’s death and Gary’s institutionalization, Dean joined the Parent’s Without Partner’s Club in town where he met Mom. I met him about 1970 or 1971, and Mom and Dean were married on September 22, 1972, four years and a few months after Martha’s death.

When they married, Mom sold our house in town and spent the money to “update” the farmhouse. Let me translate. She painted, paneled the plaster walls, had central heat installed and the rooms wired with more than a single lightbulb hanging from a wire in the middle of the ceiling. Drapes, curtains, light switches and light fixtures were added. The kitchen had wooden cabinets installed and the metal ones were reused in the mud room where a washer and dryer were installed. The uneven wooden floors were carpeted and linoleum laid in the kitchen, bathroom and mudroom. Mom bought a modern stove and refrigerator for the kitchen. A microwave was considered a luxury and wouldn’t be added until I bought one years later as a gift.

Mom lovingly packed up both Linda’s and Martha Mae’s clothes and things (at Dad’s request) and stored them away for Dean and Gary. Dad just could never do it.

I remember first meeting Dean and how desperately lonely he was. He spent his days farming and the rest of his time volunteering and helping others.

The man who married my mother had changed dramatically. He was happily smiling, beaming with newfound love and welcomed us into his life. So did Gary, who was home again by the time Mom and Dad married. Even Dad’s dog, Spot and our cat, Snowball got along, or at least agreed to ignore each other. Mom and Dean merged lives and homes, including two teenagers. Miraculous that any of us survived, but we not only survived, we thrived. We all needed and wanted a family again, although the transition wasn’t without a few, mostly humorous, bumps in the road.

My Dad had a wicked sense of humor and was the silent prankster, always looking for an opportunity.

Here’s Dad “pregnant” (in orange) at a fundraiser in 1978. Let’s just say Dad wasn’t above wearing a stray bra left behind in the bathroom as earmuffs. That was his tongue-in-cheek, or maybe better stated, ear-in-bra-cup way of reminding you to pick up after yourself. Dad had never lived with a teenage girl before and I had never lived with men.

Happiness had returned to the farmstead in Indiana, although it would be episodically punctuated by crisis’ caused by Gary’s illness. That too, we faced as a unified family.

Fruits and vegetables were once again being canned in blistering summer heat, laundry was hung on the clothesline to dry in the breeze and lunch was being cooked for Dad and whoever else was working on the farm that day. Church was on Sunday.

Family and neighbors came and went up and down the driveways. The family dogs barked both a warning and a greeting. We could often tell who was arriving by the sound of the vehicle and the dog’s voices.

I helped Dad tend the livestock and worked the fields. I loved our solitary time in the barn together, the tractor, and walking the freshly plowed furrows, looking for rocks and arrowheads. He liked the company and showing me how to do things.

The chickens were long gone. I loved the shuffling animal noises and soothing clank clank of the barn. I adored the cats and the critters, along with my Dad’s barn workshop and handiwork. I swear, that man could build or fix anything, generally out of scraps from something else. It might not look great, but was quite functional. On the farm, that’s all that mattered.

I didn’t realize it then, but that time spent alone with Dad was golden. No one ever intruded into our barn world. Few words, sometimes an easy silence – but I’d often catch him watching over me and looking at me dotingly when he thought I wasn’t looking. I would smile and so would he. Pure, unvarnished adoration for each other. There is no truer love.

Soon, Dad walked me down the aisle and I added grandchildren to the mix, as did my half-brother and step-brother.

The winters were cold with mountains of snow, and the summers hot. Dad grilled burgers on the old barrel that served as a charcoal grill, ice cream was cranked and kids played in the hose.

Life was no longer bleak for our blended family. The seasons drifted one into the other.

Life was good and no one thought that it wouldn’t last forever. In the winters, we looked forward to spring. In the spring we looked forward to school being out for the summer. In the summer, we looked forward to carving the pumpkins we planted in the spring and had watched grow, inch by inch, and ripen throughout the summer. In the fall, we looked forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas when our family would gather. Then, we looked forward to the warmth of spring and flowers all over again as the seed catalogues arrived with their tempting pictures of perfect gardens.

The maple trees had grown and once again held a child’s rope swing with a board for a seat, providing shade for peals of laughter. We planted the garden, weeded the rows, then snapped green beans sitting in the shade on the metal glider outside the back screen door. If you let that door slam, the next thing you would hear from Mom inside the kitchen would be, “Don’t slam the screen.” Everyone else laughed, but not loud enough for Mom to hear!

The blue glider and Dad’s chair have long been “retired” on my patio, one of my two purchases at the end-of-the-road auction. Their mere presence makes me smile, reminds me of Dad and brings me comfort – although there was never anything comfortable about sitting on them except that family was sitting right there next to you, equally as uncomfortable. A lot of talks took place in those chairs.

You Can Take the Girl Off of the Farm, But You Can’t Take the Farm Out of the Girl

Martha Mae’s purple Iris, growing beside the garage and driveway had become Mom’s Iris. One of the neighbor boys got too close with the tractor and plowed them into oblivion. Mom was furious, seeing the shredded bulbs laying in the dirt. Dad was sad. I’m sure he remembered far more about those Irises than he said. A little bit more of Martha Mae was gone. I wish I had bought some replacement bulbs and pretended that not all of the Iris had been killed, but I didn’t realize at the time.

Dad’s ferns, plentiful, but not visible in the farm photos, now grow in my garden, as do his phlox plants, below. I’m now passing them on to the next generation as well.

The farm may be a memory now, but a whole lot of the farm lives on in me. Someplace along the way, I became a farm girl – and Daddy’s girl. I will always carry those wonderful sundrenched days on the farm with my Dad etched into my heart.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

Suicide – 52 Ancestors #197


Those.

Those are flashing red neon warning words.

We’ve all been there one time or another. The question is, do we stay there? Is that a momentary thought, or perhaps something that motivates us to create a better life? The abused spouse who leaves, and takes with her the children also condemned to an abusive father. Those end-of-the line words in that situation are actually positive.

But in other situations, they aren’t positive at all.

My Story

Yes, this is my story, that of my father, and the story of other family members too.

I’ve never shared this before, not even with close friends and family. I’ve hesitated over and over before pressing the “publish” button.

Why haven’t I shared?

Because there didn’t seem to be any reason to dig up old dead history. Ironic words for a genealogist, right?

There is a lot of shame, prejudice, embarrassment and misunderstanding about suicide and the process of getting to that point.

If you think, for one minute, that suicide hasn’t touched you, you’re wrong. You may not know. Some suicides are hidden as accidents, either intentionally by the victim or by the embarrassed family. Some suicide attempts fail (thankfully) and are either disguised or simply not discovered. If you haven’t been touched yet, you will be, because suicides are sharply on the rise.

I’m telling my story now because there are ways to help if you recognize the signs – and ways to “not help” too. Sometimes that’s a fine line.

If this story helps even one of you, or your loved ones, it’s worth telling.

There is far too much shame surrounding suicide, which often prevents discussion, so today, I’m telling you these stories in their bare naked truth with the hope that we can lift the curtain of shame and embarrassment, thereby saving people in desperate pain.

Why Now?

Why am I telling this story now?

One of the suicide predictors to watch for is other suicides. Two suicides of famous people have hit the airwaves this week, and people who might be on the edge may be “inspired,” or pushed over the edge by these suicides.

So anyone already at risk is now more at risk.

It’s time to tell this truth.

I hope you’ll take the time to read and listen, because the life you save may be the life of someone you love.

Danger Signs and Resources

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline reports the following danger signs:

  • Withdrawal
  • Alcohol and drug use, both of which are high risk in and of themselves
  • Comments about killing oneself – 50-75% of people say something to someone first
  • Insomnia
  • Losing interest in things that previously interested them
  • Finding ways to kill themselves such as hoarding medicine or buying a gun
  • Other suicides

I would add other things to that list:

  • Illness
  • Self-harm, like cutting
  • Dramatic life changes such as divorce, severe illness or death of a close family member
  • Suicides among peer groups, including online acquaintances
  • Negative self-image activities, such as bulimia or purging

If there is any question in your mind, please seek help or advice for yourself or your friend or family member at:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
  • Veterans Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255 and press 1
  • LGBTQ Suicide Hotline 1-866-488-7386
  • Teen Suicide Hotline 1-800-872-5437
  • Christian Suicide Hotline 1-888-667-5947
  • International Resources

Please read this article, What to Do When a Loved One is Severely Depressed.

Where to Start

I almost don’t even know where to start, because, looking back to the two primary events I’m going to share with you, the beginnings were vastly different. There are many paths.

My father’s probable suicide began years and years before his death with poor choices that led to a life spinning out of control, exacerbated by alcohol addiction.

My own desperation journey began with my former husband’s stroke, which turned my life and that of my children entirely upside down.

Two very different situations, and two very different outcomes.

I probably need to say at this point that I am writing this article with very little editing. I am not a social worker or mental health counselor. I’m sharing my rather raw experiences. They may or may not be politically correct. They are my truth and written in my stream-of-consciousness “unedited voice.” There are sentence fragments and opinions. And yes, I swear:)

Suicide and Depression

Before I sought (and attended) counseling, I thought of depression only in the context of what I was personally familiar with. I thought of depression as something rather temporary, fleeting and “curable” with time. Meaning that one could be “depressed” over something at work, or the loss of a spouse through divorce, but those things are curable by a different job or a different spouse.

In other words, depression was a result of a life event, but escapable in most instances. I was young and depression then wasn’t diagnosed as a disease, per se. Mental health diseases were things like schizophrenia which was somewhat treatable, but not escapable. My former mother-in-law was afflicted with that disease and I had horrible first-hand knowledge.

During the counseling process, I learned that there are two types of depression.

One type of depression, which my counselor termed clinical depression, seems to others and sometimes to the person affected to appear “out of no place” or “for no reason.” It’s a mental health disease. Diseases don’t necessarily have “reasons.” They just are. Depression seems to be genetically linked, but it’s a complex disease with many factors. Regardless of why, it’s horrible for those affected.

Two suicides in the past few years have affected me greatly, for two entirely different reasons.

The first was the death of Robin Williams in 2014. Just ripped my heart out. So tragically sad.

I knew Robin Williams, but not well. Before Robin was famous, he made training videos for Hewlett Packard. He also occasionally participated in training sessions for new employees. That’s how I met Robin Williams. He was funny, warm, genuine and never would I have expected this man to carry the demon of depression. He was inspirational. When someone that inspires you dies by their own hand in such obvious misery, it rocks your boat. Shakes you to the core.

It’s somehow ironic that the comedian who related to so many and made us laugh joyfully was so horribly tortured and unhappy himself. To the point of death. Where death was preferable to torture. No one, but no one, would ever have expected Robin Williams to die by suicide.

The second suicide of a public figure happened earlier today, June 8, 2018 (as I write this) with the death of Anthony Bourdain. I didn’t know Anthony personally, but it seems like those of us who watched Anthony over the years felt like we did. He was incredibly outspoken, the consummate bad boy who had “made it” in spite of what seemed like insurmountable odds. His tough life and substance addition were well known.

While I liked Robin Williams immensely, I connected with Anthony Bourdain on a different level. Anthony seemed like one of us, plus food is always connected with comfort. Food, travel and a non-drama-free mince-no-words unapologetic survivor. Who didn’t want to watch? And watch we did, in droves. Now, we’ve watched his demise too.

Both Robin and Anthony were known to battle depression.

Not all people who are depressed have suicidal thoughts, and not all people who end their life by suicide are depressed.

I know that sounds odd, but it’s true.

Types of Suicide

When a person who has a reasonable expectation of life left to live dies by their own choice, that’s the kind of suicide that might have been preventable. That’s where recognition and prevention efforts need to focus.

The other type of suicide, which I wish desperately was called by a different name is when a person who does not have a reasonable expectation of a quality life left to live chooses their own time, place and way to exit.

In my mind, that’s entirely different. I strongly feel that it’s the epitome of inhumanity to force a person who will die miserably to live through that death when we have other, quick and pain-free choices. And if you’re about to tell me that hospice does just that, I will beg to differ with you until the cows come home. Been there, done that with multiple family members and it’s just not the case. We don’t force our pets to suffer at their end of life, but we subject our family members to torturous deaths.

My step-father somehow mustered enough strength and removed his own ventilator in order to end the misery of a prolonged death. Was that suicide? Probably, technically. He certainly ended his own life on his terms. He removed his first wife’s life support too when there was no hope and she was permanently comatose and brain dead. I guess, technically, that makes him a murderer too.

In reality, he was a humane hero. I would want him at my bedside because I know MY best interest would come first.

I certainly missed him when he died, but he had lived his life to the fullest and prolonging the inevitable was only cruel.

My Father

But that’s not the father whose story I want to tell. My biological father, my Daddy, William Sterling Estes, died in a car accident in 1963. That’s the official story. The one everyone told. The one I believed. Until one day when I was an adult and the accidental truth arrived in separate pieces from different people and the truth dawned on me like an unwelcome storm.

Losing a parent when you are a child is exceedingly difficult. My father was the third close death in as many years. My maternal grandmother and grandfather, followed by my father.

My parents were divorced and my father had remarried. I loved going to visit my father and step-mother, Virgie. She was a lovely woman. She and my mother got along just fine.

I didn’t see my father often, so he was something of an absent hero. I was always extremely excited when he appeared, often bearing some kind of small gift. My mother, of course, who bore the brunt of everything everyday while he was absent was chronically irritated at this turn of events. He was no hero to Mother, in fact, just the opposite, a scoundrel, but their story is one for another time.

As a result of having lived with him for half a decade, ending just three years before his death, it was a piece of information from her that eventually explained part of the answer to the question of why he might have chosen suicide.

The Day Before

How my father came to work at a funeral home is also a story for a full article, but let’s just say that he had previously worked as a physician and apparently dead bodies didn’t bother him. He worked with the local funeral director as needed. At that time, funeral homes were owned by local families. It took two strong men unbothered by death and body fluids to lift bodies, a task which had to be accomplished multiple times between the removal of the body from where they died and the funeral.

At that time in small-town Indiana, the hearse also performed a second duty as an ambulance. If this strikes you as funny today, it did me too. I can just imagine waking up in the hearse after an accident of some sort and not knowing if you were on the way to the hospital or morgue, or worse yet, the cemetery. Dark humor, I know.

My father was backing the hearse into the funeral home garage, the day before his “accident,” and the funeral director asked him why. My father replied, “Because you’re going to need it this weekend.”

I learned of this about 50 years after the fact, in a happenstance conversation. I had called the funeral home to see if they had any additional information about my father’s funeral – not knowing that he was working there at the time – and certainly unaware of the conversation the day before his death. Imagine my shock!

The man I spoke with 50 years later was the son of the director and was present at the time of the conversation. He took over the family business from his father. The son retired shortly after that conversation and sold the funeral home to a corporate interest. I’m glad I accidentally talked to him when I did, because that opportunity was forever gone shortly thereafter.

The man said that at the time, his father had mentioned that my father’s comment was “odd,” but after the “accident” the following day, the funeral director told his son that he believed my father’s death was suicide. That tidbit may not have been shared with anyone else, but when I heard it, and then combined it with additional puzzle pieces, it made sense. Terrible sense.

Although I can tell you, it was one hell of an electric shock wave to learn as an adult that your father actually committed suicide. It changed the death narrative entirely and caused me to ask questions and reflect on the consummate question, why.

And it hurt.

Accidental death and intentional death is very different for the survivors.

The “Accident”

God this is hard to write.

Even all these years later.

My father had a long history of alcohol abuse.

Before you judge him too harshly, he and his siblings were fed alcohol as children. Their father, William George Estes, was a bootlegger, and apparently not a great one or they wouldn’t have wanted for food. When there was no food, they were given alcohol to make their hungry bellies stop hurting and to make them sleep. My aunt revealed these sordid, heartbreaking details in a letter to my step-mother. Then other family members corroborated. I was horrified and hurt terribly for my father as a child. His parents may not have doomed him, but they certainly started him down a terrible path.

My grandmother, Ollie Bolton, eventually left my grandfather after she caught him cheating, but according to various family resources, she didn’t want her two sons who hopped a freight train in Indiana and found their way to their grandparents in Tennessee. And Ollie wasn’t painted as the villain in the story, William George was worse.

I try desperately not to judge my grandparents, neither of whom I ever met.

In any event, my father learned very young that alcohol was the answer to everything and it made you feel better. For all I know, he may actually have been addicted before he was even a teenager. Regardless, it’s horribly sad.

Dad certainly was an alcoholic by the time he was an adult – his drink of choice being whiskey or moonshine. He was also a veteran of two wars, and according to both my mother and my step-mother, he checked himself into VA hospitals more than once to “dry-out,” but then would fall off the wagon again after release. Sometimes the wagon event took weeks or months, but it always happened.

Clearly, his undependability affected his relationships with women and probably with others as well. The exception was my step-mother, Virgie, who knew him when he was young, married him when he was old, and loved him for who he was. It’s somehow ironic that it was in that supportive relationship that he decided to exit the world.

My father’s military records were burned in the National Personnel Records Center fire in St. Louis in 1972. The VA attempted to help me reconstruct them from different records that existed elsewhere, but medical records were entirely absent.

According to Virgie and Mom, Dad had once again checked into the VA hospital in Fort Wayne and dried out. He was dismissed and went back home, once again hopeful and upbeat. All I can say is that my heart aches that Alcoholics Anonymous didn’t yet exist ubiquitously – because he might had stood a fighting chance.

Virgie told me that he was stone-cold sober after his release and at the time of the accident, but years later, her daughter told a different story.

Apparently, either the day before, or the morning of the accident, he was seen in the local park intoxicated. Perhaps he wasn’t. Perhaps he was and Virgie didn’t know. Perhaps she was in denial. Perhaps she wanted to spare me thinking about my father’s last few hours as an alcoholic who had fallen off the wagon again, a drunk in the park.

The stories vary somewhat, but the essence of the situation was that at the time of the accident, he was either going to pick the preacher up to go fishing, or had dropped him off after fishing. My father loved to fish and judging from the time of day, I’d guess they had already been fishing.

My father was also a master of disguising his alcohol use and abuse, and alcohol consumption wasn’t viewed as negatively at that time as it is today. My recollection was that he always had an unobtrusive flask in his tackle box.

About 7:30 that evening, Dad was driving Virgie’s 1960 Rambler, and at a T-road, with a telephone pole at the intersection, he pressed the gas instead of the brake and hit the telephone pole head on, more than 100 feet from the road. That’s a huge distance and he could have easily maneuvered enough to avoid the pole. Instead, he hit it dead on. No skid marks – no evasive maneuvers. Full on throttle.

Genealogists, please note that the relationships are incomplete and my name is incorrect. Virginia Little is a half-sister, not step-sister and other relatives were omitted.

Today, that transmission pole still seems to be in place, to the right of the small grey pin at the left side of the picture below. It pains me to look, but I had to. I bet no one today knows that someone died there in 1963 – 55 years ago this summer.

The official diagnosis was that Dad had an angina attack and accidentally stomped the gas instead of the brake. Until the other pieces of evidence came to light, no one questioned that.

Indeed, the very hearse he had backed into the garage the day before transported him from the accident scene to the hospital, just as he had predicted. Then the next day, it drove him to the funeral home, and then after the funeral, to the cemetery.

He died at Mt. Auburn and Main, he lived on Hickory and he is buried in the IOOF (Oddfellows) Cemetery in the upper left hand corner on the map below, within sight of where he lived – everything within a mile.

A nice tidy bundle. But it wasn’t tidy at all.

Why?

Why would Dad have committed suicide?

Three possible reasons come to mind.

  • He had once again disappointed his spouse by falling off the wagon. Except this time, it wasn’t a spouse who was threatening to leave him if he didn’t sober up, but one that loved him unconditionally. He may have realized that he truly was not in control of his life – that alcohol controlled him and had controlled his entire life. Maybe he was just done trying.
  • Maybe Dad was depressed because of his relapse and could have succeeded if he had tried again. This was his rock bottom, when other rock bottoms hadn’t been rock bottom enough – but he didn’t survive this rock bottom.
  • Maybe Dad knew something else. As Mom aged, she told me things she would never have told me earlier. Dad had consumed alcohol his entire life. He was about 62 when he died. We don’t know exactly which year he was born, because his birth year on his delayed birth certificate and other identifying information varied by what he wanted/needed his age to be at the moment. His liver was very probably a hot mess. Mom thought he had cancer. She told me rather explicit details about the “messes she had to clean up” which certainly do sound like someone with an internal issue.

If Dad knew he had cancer, suspected he had cirrhosis of the liver (which often precedes cancer) and had disappointed his wife once again, maybe Dad decided it was better to just check out. Maybe he knew what was coming and was afraid. Maybe medically, he was worse than anyone, except him, knew. Maybe his drinking by then was to medicate physical pain.

No Goodbye

I never got to say goodbye.

It was bad enough when I thought his death was an accident.

Maybe he couldn’t bring himself to do that, to say goodbye to me. Maybe he wanted to spare me.

Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

So many maybes and no answers.

He did leave a message for me with Virgie when he was in the hospital, before he passed away. According to his death certificate, he died of internal bleeding sometime after midnight, about 6 hours after the accident.

And then, 50 miles away, in my bedroom, a shadowy silhouette of my father sat on the edge of my bed. I felt his weight as he sat down and the mattress moved as he touched me. I woke up, seeing his silhouette with the streetlight behind him – so glad that he had come to visit.

In the morning, I leaped out of bed when I heard the phone ring. I knew that Daddy had arrived late the night before and would be there this morning, drinking coffee with cream and sugar at the kitchen table with Mom, waiting for me to get up. Like so many other times before.

I ran up to mother, who was just hanging up the phone, and excitedly asked her where Daddy was.

I didn’t see him.

Mother didn’t say anything, at first, then asked me what I meant.

I told her that I knew he was there because he came and sat on my bed the night before. I was confused, because I didn’t see him anyplace in the house.

She turned ashen and began to shake.

Mother asked me to come and sit beside her on the couch. She put her arms around me, like she wanted to shelter me.

She explained to me that not only was Daddy not there, but he hadn’t been there and that he would never be there again.

I didn’t believe her.

I cried gulping sobs. Unfortunately, I understood death all too well. I didn’t know what to think. I was just sure that she had sent him away, and I was very angry with my mother. I asked many questions and the only answers she had for me were, “I don’t know.”

The phone call had been Virgie and Mom simply didn’t have any answers yet.

For a change, Mom didn’t seem angry with him. She was crying too. I was very confused. Then I talked to Virgie and I was just heartbroken. I can still feel that searing pain ripping through my little body, sitting here today.

I grieved my father’s death terribly and never obtained closure as a child. I’m still not entirely sure that I ever did, although I finally accepted that he had died. As an adult, I arranged for his military headstone myself and had it set.

I wasn’t allowed to attend his funeral, or those of either grandparent. Children then were “spared” grief as much as possible. That would have helped me a lot – to at least see him one more time, even if it was in a casket.

Death became a thief in the night, a stealer of those I loved. Death was an enemy and without any of the positive benefits of group grieving and comfort. Everything about death and funerals had a very negative connotation. To this day, I abhor funerals.

My Step-Father

A few years later, my mother married my step father, Dean Long, whom I completely adored. He and I had a symbiotic relationship because his daughter, who was about my age had died, and I had lost my father. We healed each other’s wounds and formed a bond that not even death could sever.

I did what kids do. I went to school, made mistakes and got called on the carpet. My Mom was the disciplinarian and my step-father was a quiet man of few words. He didn’t need many. I listened to him without reservation.

It was my step-father who encouraged me to stretch my wings beyond what “girls” were supposed to be able to do back then, and beyond Indiana. It was he who told me I could be and do anything I set my mind to. It was him that told me never to let anyone tell me otherwise.

When I found myself married to an abusive spouse, it was Dad that encouraged me to leave. I use the word “encourage’ loosely. He literally put his life on the line for me, more than once. Abuse is a terribly intimidating cyclic phenomenon and without his support, I don’t know that I would have been able to break free of that cycle alone.

I did, moved and remarried. He saved me, or more succinctly, helped me to save myself.

My Turn in the Hot Seat

Fast forward.

Years later, in 1993, I was in my prime. I had finished multiple college degrees and a few years earlier, left a lucrative professional position in the computer industry to found a consulting company. Things were going well, at home and at work – until Sunday, June 20st.

When I woke up that morning, my husband couldn’t get out of bed and his speech was quite slurred. I knew there was a problem, and immediately called 911. My husband and son were both volunteer firefighters and paramedics, although my son wasn’t home at the time.

I had never been so glad to see those men arrive. They were at the house within a couple minutes. My husband’s best friend was the first to arrive. I had to leave my husband in the bedroom to go outside to explain to Chuck what was happening.

“I think he had a stroke.”

And then I began to sob, because I knew.

That stroke, he might have recovered mostly from, but the devastating stroke that followed a week later destroyed much of his brain.

He was hospitalized for months with complication after complication, hovering near death anew every day.

Needless to say, he not only couldn’t work, he would never be able to work again. I couldn’t be at the hospital managing his daily health crisis and work at the same time. Not only that, but I suddenly needed to make as much money as we both had made together previously. The bills didn’t go down, they went up with his skyrocketing medical bills during his 6 month hospital stay.

I vividly remember the night that I walked into the house after working all day and then going to the hospital to deal with a crisis of some sort and saying to myself, “I need a beer.”

Then I heard what I said, especially the word “need.” I knew in that instant that if I had one beer, I would never stop. I did need that beer. It’s called self-medication – and it’s a hallmark of depression. I didn’t have that beer that day, nor did I allow myself to drink anything alcoholic for several years. Alcoholism clearly has a hereditary component and I knew that I was susceptible. I do occasionally have a drink now, but they are few and far between, and never, ever on a “bad day.”

A few months later, when it was determined that my husband wasn’t going to die, at least not immediately, focus shifted to his hospital release. Our home was not handicapped accessible for a wheelchair. Not only that, but he could never be left alone with his cognitive judgement impairments. Insurance does not pay for home modifications. No one pays for home modifications for handicapped access. Neither does anyone pay for home assistance nor residence in a facility. I had no good options.

By December, we were scheduling his release from the hospital. I had taken a loan to convert the garage into a handicapped bedroom/bathroom and make the kitchen and living room handicapped accessible. I had hired an aide to stay with him while I worked, but in the next few months, I would go through aides like water because he was “difficult” in many ways, including sexually inappropriate.

His “executive function” that prevents normal people from doing things like grabbing women by the genitals had been destroyed in the stroke. I understood that he couldn’t help himself, but understanding and living with the situation are two entirely different things.

Our daughter was a teenager at this time and suffice it to say that this situation pushed her into behaviors that were not healthy for her. That’s her story to tell, not mine, but it was living Hell on earth for everyone involved.

My son, an older teen, couldn’t cope and left the family and would remain estranged for many years. However, my daughter and I were trapped there.

My step-father was in failing health with COPD and would die in September of 1994.

My mother was a wreck between my step-father, my husband’s stoke, me and my children. She wanted to help, but couldn’t leave Indiana to do so.

My step-brother lived in another state and had a host of serious issues. He was in no condition to help anyone, not even himself.

There was no one to depend on, other than my daughter who was too young to have that kind of responsibility foisted upon her.

When you’re in that kind of a situation you learn very quickly who your friends and family are that care. Many you think you can depend on simply disappear into the shadows. Sometimes people you don’t expect step forward too.

Of my husband’s three brothers, two were ministers and they were “too busy” to help. All I can say is “bless their hearts.” You southern people will know exactly what that means.

The third brother, the official “black sheep” of the family, condemned by the ministers, came with his wife periodically to help us. I’ve always liked black sheep.

My husband’s parents were in their 80s and couldn’t really grasp the situation. They thought that if he could talk, he was fine. Never mind that he made no sense. My mother-in-law had advanced Parkinson’s disease and my father-in-law had congestive heart failure. They really couldn’t help much, but they could certainly criticize everything I did, or didn’t do. Both died within a few years.

My half-brother couldn’t be bothered and never offered to help. So much for family.

A couple of my husband’s fire-department buddies came to help from time to time, as did my quilting friends. Chuck was here regularly trying to help me get things in order, but after my husband came home, few could deal with him. I was extremely, extremely grateful, but the need so far outweighed the available resources.

Eventually, I was at the end of my rope – 18 months progressively descending into the fires of Hell.

The Christmas from Hell

It was Christmas 1994.

I had decorated the Christmas tree, not that I cared, but because that’s what I was “supposed to do.” I was still trying to make everything as normal as I could. I sat down and cried, but then I was just too tired and hopeless even for tears. There was no beauty in that tree, no beauty in Christmas, no beauty in life.

I was terribly, chronically sleep deprived and had been for months. I worked in the day, and was my husband’s caregiver the rest of the time. 24X7X365 with no break. His care meant looking after an incontinent 260 pound 2 or 3 year old that is never cute, never grows up and you can’t take anyplace because of his behavior. His weight increased and he was very difficult for me to manage.

My son was gone and had been gone throughout the entire episode. My daughter had run away from home. My step-father had died. My mother was coming the next day, Christmas Eve, and the week after Christmas, we had to take my husband to live in a care facility because I had lost the final aide and couldn’t find anyone willing to take care of him while I worked. My job was hanging on by a thread, through the extreme generosity of my customer, but that wouldn’t last forever. I had to do something and I felt like an abysmal failure on every level.

My husband was going to be crushed that he had to live someplace else. I dreaded trying to explain to someone who couldn’t understand why that had to happen. I dreaded driving away that day. I dreaded every single day.

All of that money spent on handicapped remodeling was for naught. I couldn’t stay home and take care of him, because someone had to make the house payment, pay the utilities, the car payment, buy the groceries, arrange, transport to and pay for his therapy, etc.

When my mother arrived the next day, I was going to have to explain to her what had happened with my daughter, and that she had run away. My mother had born so much heartbreak over the past few months with my Dad’s prolonged death that I didn’t know how she would withstand this final straw.

I didn’t know how I was going to withstand this final straw.

Everything seemed entirely and completely hopeless.

My husband was not a man I knew. He had become abusive and inappropriate as a result of the stroke. In hindsight, I should never have brought him home and subjected me and my daughter to his behaviors, but I didn’t know, and the medical professionals certainly didn’t explain that. I thought I could make it work, and wanted to, but in the end – I couldn’t.

My children were gone. My step-father, whose last words in this life to me were, “I love you. You’ll make it, Honey. I’ve been so lucky to have you in my life,” was gone.

The creditors were calling about my husband’s hospital bills, and if you’ve never spoken to a professional bill collector – you’ve never been bullied. They are professionals at lies, fear and intimidation. May they rot in hell.

I finally learned to turn the tables and I took out my long-pent-up frustration on them when they began their bully routine. One actually had the AUDACITY to tell me my husband was LUCKY to have had a stroke so he didn’t have to pay his bills. Huh? He had the medical bills because he had the stroke. Some people are pure evil. My friend who was also a nurse overheard one of those conversations and bought be a pin that said “psycho bitch from hell.” Let me tell you, I wore it proudly as a badge of honor. It meant that maybe, just maybe, I was mad enough to survive.

Crossing the Line

It was late that December 23rd night or maybe very early morning the 24th by then. I sat down on the couch after I finished decorating the tree. I knew neither my son or daughter would be there for Christmas. I didn’t know where they would be, but it wasn’t at home. I needed to see them, but that wasn’t going to happen. I couldn’t even get ahold of them in the days before cell phones.

My husband was too impaired to realize they were absent, but my mother would be devastated. I was devastated. Christmas would be a day of sorrow, the first holiday since Dad’s death and so much loss. I wanted to sleep through it. I wanted to sleep forever and never wake up.

The Christmas tree was a catalyst. The ornaments handmade in happier times, those hopes and dreams now entirely dashed. No hope. No dreams. Nothing. That life ripped from me. And seemingly, no way out.

I had finally gotten my infant-adult husband to sleep. The house was silent. The lights were out except for the Christmas tree lights, flickering Christmas colors mockingly, and the tree which had been the center of so much happiness and joy for so long represented everything lost forever.

And I thought:

“I can’t take this anymore.”

It wasn’t a shout, but a whisper.

But it was the crossing of a line.

I also realized what was happening.

I suddenly understood that suicide wasn’t about wanting to be dead.

It was about wanting the pain to stop.

The chronic unending pain.

That there was no other way to make stop.

Death seemed far more reasonable and attractive than THAT life.

You don’t hurt after you’re dead.

Three things stopped me.

My love for my mother, my hope and love for my daughter and my responsibility towards my husband, in no particular order.

  • Without me advocating for my husband and watching over him, not to mention paying his bills, he would have wound up in an abusive welfare hell-hole. He was not a nice man, but I remembered the man before the stroke and I couldn’t do that to him.
  • Without me, my daughter, no matter how difficult she was being, would have had no hope of recovery. I wasn’t exactly her best friend at the time, but I was a resource when she was ready.
  • I think my death would have killed my mother.
  • Which would have killed my son.

I couldn’t live and I couldn’t die. It was that simple.

I had to get help. At that moment, death would have been easier, far easier, believe me.

I never told my mother about this. I may have told my children since, but I certainly didn’t tell them at the time. Even if they had been there, I wouldn’t have wanted to burden them. My husband wouldn’t have understood or cared. He had lost all capability to care about anyone but himself.

After Christmas, I found a counselor whose husband was also wheel-chair bound. The difference was that her husband was not mentally impaired as well, but she fully understood the challenges I faced. She saw me weekly, on a sliding scale, for years.

The Uphill Battle

Life improved, slowly. With my counselor’s approval, I declined depression and anxiety medications, because I was concerned about addiction. My family was already too full of that and I knew I had a history with both my father and grandfather.

With my husband living in a specialized facility where he received good care and constant supervision, I was once again able to sleep and work with regularity – which means the bills were much easier to pay. Good thing, because his living situation was extremely expensive.

However, putting him into a care facility came with a huge dosage of guilt, dealt out freely by his family and others who had no clue.

“You put your husband in a home?”

Yep, I did, for his good and everyone else’s too. I finally told anyone who thought otherwise that they were welcome to take him for a day. A couple of people took me up on that offer, and I never, ever heard another word like that out of them again – nor did anyone ever take him a second time. Walking a mile in someone’s moccasins is truly the best teacher.

My daughter eventually recovered, but that took another decade.

My son returned to the family about the same time my daughter recovered.

Healing was slow and difficult for everyone and still isn’t complete.

My step-brother died under “suspicious circumstances” at Thanksgiving in 1999. The case was never closed. That situation caused my mother an extreme amount of grief and anxiety.

My mother moved near my half-brother and passed away in 2006. She never really recovered after my step-father’s and step-brother’s deaths. I’m sure she had undiagnosed depression, but she never told me – just like I had never told her or my children. I found many flyers about seniors and depression in her belongings after her death. I felt just awful. I would have done something had I known.

Keeping depression a secret was a mistake on my part and hers as well. Sometimes the depressed person can’t reach out, so it’s up to the rest of us to reach in.

I became officially single in 2000, remarried in 2003. Those years are scars, not open wounds any longer.

It was a very long, very ugly decade of descent into Hell followed by an uphill battle of gargantuan proportions – but I made it. I would not have made it without my counselor, my friends and the part of my family that actually cared. I found strength in the memory of my step-father that often sustained me in difficult times. I have since added grandchildren, a son-in-law, daughter-in-law and new family-of-heart members to my family that was dwindling.

Needless to say, my life changed in the instant of that stroke. That life was forever broken, shattered into a million unrecognizable pieces and was never whole again. I rebuilt a new life out of a few salvageable pieces, namely my children, but not without a huge amount of pain and effort – on their part as well as mine. Those relationships were indelibly changed too.

Had I exited, my children would have been much more permanently damaged, perhaps irreparably. I’m so glad I didn’t do that in my darkest moment. They were that oh-so-tiny spec of light.

So many times, it was the little blessings from people that told me they cared that meant so much and kept me going. That’s also part of the reason why I make care quilts today and have since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 when my friend and I made quilts for the children and husband of Rebecca Anderson who gave her life rescuing victims. It’s my way of giving back by paying it forward.

If you find someone in a depressing situation, what can you do, even if they won’t admit to depression? I honestly didn’t realize the severity until that December 23rd when I was at the end of my rope.

How to Help

My rule of thumb is that I will make every effort to help someone who is truly trying to help themselves, or who can genuinely not help themselves but would if they could. This means that I’m not interested in high-drama situations where people are looking to benefit from their situation, for attention or to manipulate others. I also draw the line at substance abuse. Tough love. I will help them, but they MUST help themselves too.

For people suffering from clinical depression, meaning depression as a disease that is not related to a specific trigger event:

  • Offer support. Tell them you love them, if appropriate. Love is powerful medicine.
  • Listen, empathize, and ask questions.
  • Tell them you understand and offer helpful suggestions. Don’t begin the sentences with, “Why don’t you…” which implies criticism, or with, “You should…”
  • Do NOT tell them that they shouldn’t feel the way they do – i.e. do NOT say, “But you have such a good life. You shouldn’t be depressed.” Or worse yet, “Just get over it.” You may not mean that as judgmental, but it feels that way and will only drive a wedge between you and depress them further.
  • Encourage or help them to seek appropriate assistance. Assistance could be in the form of counseling, advocating for them to receive some sort of assistance program or in severe cases, intervention if self-harm is a potential issue.

For people suffering from situational depression – like the stroke scenario:

  • Offer support. Tell them you love them, if appropriate.
  • Listen, empathize, and ask questions.
  • Tell them you understand and offer help. Don’t say, “All you need to do is ask” because they may not be able to ask. Asking feels like begging and imposing yourself on other people. It also opens up the opportunity for rejection.
  • Figure out what they need and help make arrangement to meet those needs. My quilt sisters brought food frozen into meal sized portions for months – without me asking. I was so incredibly grateful. My neighbor occasionally brought over a pot of chili. Someone anonymously dropped off Thanksgiving dinner on the porch when my kitchen was torn apart to make it handicapped safe and accessible – bless them. My EGA chapter took up a collection. My brother-in-law and his wife would occasionally come to relieve my daughter and I so the two of us could do something together like shop for clothes. I would have given anything for someone to mow the lawn or plow the snow.
  • Do NOT say things like “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” What I heard was that my husband and family were being punished because I was a strong woman. Secondly, those people NEVER offered to help. I guess from their perspective, God was going to do it all. Well, let me tell you, God doesn’t shovel snow. I thought if I heard that phrase one more time I would explode. Say what you really mean, not that platitude. Trust me, it’s not comforting even though you mean it to be, especially to the person who has heard it hundreds of times and there is no food in the house and the furnace doesn’t work. If you don’t know what to say, say, “I’m sorry. What do you need?”
  • Don’t rely on the person to voluntarily tell you what they need, because no one wants to be THAT PERSON who asks for help and for assistance from others. Especially when you’ve been told over and over that God is supposed to be providing, but you’re still in need. It’s especially difficult for people who have been giving assistance their entire lives. Accepting charity or being in the position that you need to is very embarrassing and often humiliating. It makes people feel weak and vulnerable. It was extremely difficult for me then and even discussing it today, this many years later, is uncomfortable.

If you feel any person is a danger to themselves, call a suicide hotline with them or call 911. Don’t interpret a threat or discussion of suicide as an idle threat. It may not be. You could be dead wrong.

If you live with someone who takes medication for depression or anxiety, watch to be sure they are taking their medication. Often people want to stop when they feel better, but they feel better because they are taking the medication. Then they become too depressed to take their medication. It’s a downward spiral.

Be on the lookout for either words or actions that say:

If you hear those, or see those, be their light. Make the difference.

  • Tell them everything is better in the light of day.
  • Tell them that you are THERE for them, and mean it. Follow through and follow up. Nothing is worse than feeling completely irrelevant and then having someone make hollow promises about how they are going to help you – and then they don’t.
  • Tell them that when you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired, life looks bleak. So HALT.
  • Tell them you can fix hungry, angry, lonely and tired, but you can’t fix gone.
  • Tell them what a bright spot they are in the world and why you believe that.
  • Tell them how much they mean to you.
  • Tell them about the darkness that will replace their light in the lives of the people who love them if they leave.
  • Tell them you will help them and begin the discussion to solve the problem any way other than by leaving permanently. Make a plan.
  • Tell them that you love them, because if you don’t, you may never get the opportunity again.
  • If they have tried before to solve problems like addiction that seem unsolvable, encourage them to try again, with help, one day at a time.
  • Strongly discourage the use of alcohol or drugs, other than under medical supervision. You can’t deal with life’s issues when you don’t face them. You can’t overcome what you don’t confront. You need all of your mental faculties to slay those dragons.

You may not be able to stop them, because ultimately, the choice is theirs, but you can damned sure try. Sometimes trying means the world, and life, to someone who sees only a very dark tunnel and no light.

There is light, but they may need your hand to reach it.

Johann Michael Muller the First was a Widower, 52 Ancestors #196

When I wrote about Johann Michael Muller (the first) as well as his wife, Irene Elisabetha Heitz, I thought his story was complete.

Just when you think there are no more records, nothing else to squeeeeeze out of that turnip – there’s one more thing. And as it turns out, it exposes a VERY important chapter in Michael’s life by deciphering just one word.

This church entry documents Johann Michael Muller’s wedding to Irene Liesabetha Heitz in Miesau, Germany in 1684. When we discovered this record, it was HUGE news, because proved the real identity of Michael’s wife.

But there’s more…

The Turnip Bleeds

As you can see, the script is very difficult. The original translation stated that Michael had married Irene, picking out the evident words, but there was additional information lurking there that would prove to be very important, obfuscated by centuries-old script.

Upon further investigation, and no small amount of sleuthery in terms of trying to decipher the script – it was determined that one of the words was incredibly important.

wuntartzt

Above, an enlarged area from the marriage record.

What the heck is a wuntartzt? Nobody knew. Not Tom, not Chris our Native German speaker, and not another long-time German historical resource.

Tom, my trusty cousin who is also a retired German genealogist, suggested, after much gnashing of teeth because no one knew what a wuntartzt was, that maybe, just maybe, the word was really widower, which in German is “witwer.” German script is extremely contrary sometimes, and of course it’s always the MOST important word that stubbornly resists.

After three knowledgeable people concurred that this word really is witwer, the translated verbiage was evaluated again for context. That’s not always straightforward either!

Chris replied:

So, “son” and “widower” refers to the same person, Michael. The part before “Sohn”: “Heinsmanns Müllers Einwohners zu Schwartz Matt im Berner Gebieth” is put as a genitive, because it refers to Michael`s father Heinsmann.

Which, of course, raises an entirely new question: If Michael Müller was a widower at the time he married Irene Liesabetha Heitz in 1684, who was his first wife then? Did she die in Steinwenden or in the area or rather already back in Switzerland? Maybe it is worth to have another close look at those burials in the Miesau church book from 1681 to 1684 to maybe find her there?

Here’s the retranslated marriage entry as agreed upon by Tom and Chris.

“Johann Michael Muller, widower, son of Heinsmann Muller, resident in Schwartz Matt in the Bern area (Switzerland), married 17 April 1684 in Steinwenden to Irene Liesabetha Heitz, daughter of Conrad Heitz.”

Of course, the blessing or curse of genealogy is that one answer or even a hint always raises many more questions.

And…another gem is unearthed from that script – Michael’s father’s name. Except, of course, as this family always seems to do – that information conflicts with what we thought we knew.

So, let’s evaluate how this puzzle piece fits with the rest of what we actually do know.

For beginners, Michael’s death record in Steinwenden on January 31, 1695 states his age as being 40, which means he was 29 or 30 when he married Irene in 1684. Chances are good (92%) that he had not yet had his birthday in 1695 when he died, which means he was probably born in 1654, and if not, in 1655. He would have become of marriageable age in about 1675, but probably wouldn’t have married yet for a few years, until he could provide support for a family in some fashion. So we are looking for a marriage record for Michael sometime in or after 1675 and of course, before April of 1684. Probably significantly before 1684.

Someplace. But where?

Boltigen

Chris’s continuing thoughts:

What remains interesting to me though is the reported village of origin for the Michael Müller, who married Irene Liesabetha in 1684. As I pointed out he must be from Schwarzenmatt (church records are found in the Boltigen church books), which is in fact really close to Erlenbach in Simmental.

With the two villages being so close to each other, I would think it goes certainly well along with Michael Müller from Schwarzenmatt and Jacob Ringeisen from Erlenbach having been cousins.

Later records in Steinwenden state that Jacob Ringeisen is a cousin of Michael Miller’s and that Jacob is a Swiss from Erlenbach.

Chris goes on to say:

The Boltigen church books: As I read on an internet forum, the church books of the time period around 1650 that would be of most interest for us are lost in a church fire in 1840. You can also see this from the Familysearch compilation:

https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Boltigen_parish,_Bern,_Switzerland

So I fear we are lost guessing here, with the remaining possibility that pedigrees have been made before 1840 and saved somewhere.

Would we be that lucky? But wait…

There is a coat of arms of a Müller family in Boltigen.

Now that’s quite interesting. I can’t help but wonder if this pertains to my Miller line. I wish I knew more about those Boltigen Millers and I surely, surely, wish that one of the male Boltigen Millers, assuming some of them survived to current, would take a Y DNA test. I’d love to confirm that this is the same line. In fact, if you’re a male Boltigen Miller descendant and carry the surname today, I have a DNA testing scholarship for you!

The Original Zollikofen Narrative

It’s disconcerting when new information conflicts with information that has been believed within a family for a long time, even if the family doesn’t exactly know WHY they believe that.

For as long as I’ve researched this family, it’s been repeated that Johann Michael Muller was believed to have been born in Zollikofen, Switzerland in 1655. The age fits and the location fits given that many Swiss were immigrating from that area to Germany. However, there has never been any documentation or record to prove that the Johann Michael Muller born in 1655 in Zollikofen to Johann Jacob Muller and Salome Huber is the same Johann Michael Muller who lived and died in Steinwenden. In fact, I’ve never actually seen that Muller/Huber record either, simply heard repeatedly that it existed.

Researchers, me included, were frustrated for years trying to find this documentation. Had we been able to discover what happened to the child of Jacob and Salome Huber Miller, we could possibly have disproven (or proven) that he was our Michael, but that information too proved elusive.

I did find it worth noting that none of Michael’s children were named either Jacob or Salome. Jacob might not have been remarkable because it’s so common, but Salome is rather unusual. On the other hand, none were named Irene or Regina after his wife, either, nor Heinsmann after his father.

Neither was I able to document Jacob and Salome Huber Miller, the Zollikofen couple that was supposed to be Michael’s parents. Now, that doesn’t matter anymore.

The marriage record for our Johann Michael Muller to Irene gives Michael’s father’s name and location. And it’s not Johann Jacob Muller nor is the location Zollikofen, or even near Zollikofen.

It appears that Zollikofen was a “best fit” by someone using the information they had at the time. Sadly, as a family, we’ve been emotionally married to Zollikofen for decades now, and mistakenly so. One family member, a minister, even preached from the pulpit in Zollikofen, thinking he was in the church where Michael stood. Truth be known, he was about 40 miles away.

So close but so far away.

A Marriage Record

Tom found something quite interesting.

An April 1681 marriage in Boltigen between Michael Muller and Anna Andrist.

Is this our Michael?  It could be. The time is right. But who knows!

This quaint alpine church in Boltigen replaced the church lost in fire in 1840. Is this the location where Michael was first married, in the original church?

By Roland Zumbuehl – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20634682

Boltigen marriages started being recorded in 1662 but unfortunately, no parents are recorded in marriages. How FRUSTRATING!

Deaths began in 1683, so if Michael’s wife died there before the records began, that too has slipped away from us.

Tom looked in the Miesau church records for any sign of Michael’s first wife and of course, didn’t find hide nor hair of her or Michael before his 1684 marriage to Irene.

Switzerland to Germany

What brought Michael to Germany from Switzerland?

From the Boltigen/Erlenbach area to the Miesau/Steinwenden area is a nontrivial trip. Note that on the map below you can see parts of seven different countries; France, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Lichtenstein and Austria . Europe is much more compressed than the US, and while we think of country boundaries as borders, in Europe, they function mostly seamlessly and did then as well. Some boundaries are geographical, like the Alps separating Switzerland and Italy, but in other cases, country lines are politically drawn and have moved and been renamed over time.

Viewed from Boltigen, the Juan Pass.

Beginning at the northern base of the Alps, Michael’s path would have ambled along the Rhine River after crossing more mountains near Basel.

1493 woodcut of Basel from the Nuremburg Chronicle

Did Michael move to Steinwenden because his cousin, Jacob Ringeisen had moved or was moving to the Steinwenden area? Did they make the journey together? Had other family members moved there too, attracted by the Palatinate promise of land and tax exemption?

We know there was lots of vacant land available. The area was entirely depopulated by the 30 years war. A 1656 tax list states that no one lived in Steinwenden. By 1671, inhabitants were once again listed. The 1683/4 tax records show only 6 families and 25 people total – although that list appears to exclude the non-taxed Swiss.

The Hans Berchtol family who settled in Steinwenden, whose daughter Susanna married Michael’s son in 1714, seems to have sprung from this Swiss region too.

Was Michael leaving heartbreak behind, someplace that didn’t remind him of his departed love? Or, did Michael and his first wife leave Switzerland with a family group to start a new life – embarking on a great adventure with the rosy-cheeked promise of newlywed love?

And then, tragedy struck…

Kids? Were There Kids?

If Michael was a widower in 1684 at the time of his second marriage, and his first wife had died, were there living children? If Michael married Anna Andrist mid-April, she could have been having a child anytime from January 1682, assuming she wasn’t pregnant when they married.

There was even time for a second child to have potentially been born.

The only child who lived from Michael’s second marriage to Irene was Johann Michael Muller the second, the last child born in 1692. Michael and Irene would suffer the births and deaths of 5 children after their 1684 marriage and before Michael the second was born. Unbelievable grief, grief stacked upon grief for Michael. How did he survive?

Why were there no more children born to Michael and Irene?

Was Michael or Irene ill between 1692 and Michael’s untimely death in 1695? Why was there no record of another child born about October of 1694, which would have been when the next child would be expected? There are no Muller children’s death records either.

Originally, we thought that Irene had died and Michael had remarried, but she hadn’t. We simply don’t have any answers, except that Irene remarried in 1696 to Jacob Stutzman and subsequently had several more children, the first one arriving 11 months after their marriage.

This is killing me. If Michael married Anna Andrist in April 1681, IF Anna was his wife, the first child could have been born in January 1682. A second child could have been born in mid/late 1683. Anna could have died in childbirth with either child, or neither child. If there were two children, there’s certainly no guarantee that either survived, with or without the mother’s death. What we do know is that by April 17, 1684, Michael was a widower, in Miesau, far from where his father lived, marrying Irene.

Having said all of that, it’s possible that there were children born to Michael’s first marriage that did survive. If so, and if we have identified the correct wife and location, we’ll never know because the baptism records are missing for that time period in Boltigen.

Either:

  • Anna Andrist died before Boltigen death records began in 1683
  • Or they weren’t living there when Anna died
  • Or this is the wrong couple

Tom feels that, “if Michael had young kids, they would be evident in Steinwenden, which they weren’t. I don’t think we will get a handle on this aspect. I believe you are done with this chapter.”

There were other Millers evident in Steinwenden, BUT, Miller is an extremely common surname and there is nothing to tie Michael to any of them. Given the fact that the godparents might well have stepped in to raise any children by Michael’s first wife, especially if the child needed to be nursed, Michael might have been found in Steinwenden without his children. Michael’s children, if there were any and they survived, could have been being raised in Schwarzenmatt or someplace near Boltigen.

Clearly, we are now far into the land of speculation, an endless maze of rabbit holes without any shreds of evidence.

I think Tom is right, at least for now. This turnip really is bloodless and this chapter has closed. But of course, that’s what I thought before too. You never know, maybe one of those Boltigen Miller’s will DNA test and we’ll be bleeding turnips once again!

A huge, huge thank you (again) to Tom and Chris both, turnip bloodletters, without whom I’d still be eyeing Zollikofen longingly. RIP Zollikofen.

A Dozen Years – 52 Ancestors #195

It was a dozen years ago on a rainy spring day that Mom left this earthly realm.

I thought the rain would never stop.

I like to remember her as a young, hopeful, inspired soul, before she was burdened with the concerns and grief of adulthood that awaited her further down life’s road.

She was beautiful then, and in myriad ways throughout her life.

More beautiful in maturity than in youth, with silver hair, a chipped tooth and laugh lines.

All celebrating chapters in her journey.

Souvenirs collected along life’s path.

That’s the woman I knew best.

The soft countenance that comes to mind.

Her spirit left her body and flew through the mists of time, leaving us to mourn her passing, but knowing it was time for her to depart.

I told her in those last hours and minutes, as she struggled to both live and die, that she could go now, that we would all be fine.

I lied, in essence, to free her from the bonds that held her here in her broken body – her brain ravaged, destroyed by strokes.

Blind. Unable to talk, move or eat. Dying by inches. Dehydrating and starving to death. It was time…

The final breath of death was merciful.

One is never “fine” when their parent passes.

Yet, I told her to go, because my love for her was far greater than my pain.

And I know that her love for me transcends time, space and death.

I know she watches over me. I just hope not too closely and not too often.

My choices would not be hers.

I chuckle at the thought.

Assuredly, I would earn a finger-wagging lecture from time to time.

Perhaps daily.

I smile though tears as I compare my brash directness with her consummate lady persona.

Perhaps two sides of the same coin. Genes expressed differently.

She was a tower of strength, forged by life’s misfortunes, her warrior’s sword hidden away until she needed to reveal it just long enough to slay the dragon at hand.

Then sheathed and concealed beneath her smiling Avon-Lady deacon-of-the-Baptist-church veneer, until she needed it again.

She would love you to death.

She would also, without hesitation, slice, dice and rice you if that’s what you deserved.

You never knew what hit you – or what happened to that nice little old lady.

Or, if a fool made the regrettable mistake of crossing someone she loved.

God help them.

Get. Out. The. Way.

We called it “whup-ass” on the farm, a term distinctly not lady-like, according to Mom.

Dad just smiled.

He knew.

I doubt Mom understood the empowering strength of the example she spent her life setting.

Or, how, like the best inheritance, it would be passed on for generations.

I see her in my children.

In the wonderful adults they’ve become.

Standing up, always, for right, no matter how untimely or inconvenient the burden.

I see her in their faces.

The unruly curl of the front lock of my, and my daughter’s hair.

I see her in my grandchildren.

I catch a glimpse of her as they enter the stage in their dance recitals or drama club plays.

Or, as Elsa, as they perform pirouettes in joyful springtime glee outside in the sunshine.

That’s her spirit, and she is there.

I hear her in their voices.

In their laughter.

See her in their smiles.

They are beautiful, talented and smart – oh so smart.

The promise of the future.

She would be proud.

The woman they will never know, but whose lifeblood runs renewed in their veins.

Their roots.

Nourishing them, just as she did me, a generation earlier.

They – they are her legacy.

I miss her this Memorial Day.

I will always miss her.

Honor her.

Thank her.

And love her.

That beautiful, hopeful, young woman so full of life, destined to become my mother.

Johann Michael Muller and Johann Jacob Stutzman – Half Brother Saga, It’s Complicated – 52 Ancestors #194

Long ago in a land far away, in a village called Steinwenden in Germany, there was a young boy, Johann Michael Mueller (the second) who was born on October 5, 1692 and baptized in the local church. He was the sixth child baptized by his parents, the first five having already died during the preceding 6 years. Would this child live?

October 5, 1692 – Johann Michael, parents: “Michael Müller, Irene from Steinwenden”, Godparents: Johann Michael Schumacher; Balthasar Jolage; Christina, wife of Hans Bergter (Bergtol) from Krodelbach (Krottelbach).

It was believed that Johann Michael Mueller’s mother, Irene, subsequently died and his step-mother, Loysa Regina raised him, after his father, Johann Michael Mueller (the first) died on January 31, 1695. At two years and two months of age, this young boy had lost his five siblings and both parents, becoming orphaned. What a rough start in life.

Multiple baptismal and other records prior to Johann Michael’s birth in 1692 showed that indeed, Johann Michael Mueller’s mother’s first and middle names were Irene Charitas, so when the widow of Johann Michael Miller listed by the first and middle name of Loysa Regina remarried to Johann Jacob Stutzman on November 29, 1696 in Krottelbach, it made sense that Irene Charitas had died sometime between Johann Michael Mueller (the second’s) birth in October of 1692 and Johann Michael Mueller (the first)’s death in January of 1695.

Further suggesting this sequence of events, no further children were born to Michael Muller through either wife from October 1692 through his death. At least one more child would have been expected about the end of 1694 or into 1695, or even born after his death. Women generally conceived another child about 9 months after a birth if the child lived.

At some point between October of 1692 and January of 1695, Johann Michael Miller (the first) had apparently remarried. Otherwise, how could his widow be named Regina Loysa and not Irene Charitas? Apparently Michael and Loysa Regina hadn’t been married terribly long, because there was no child born to Loysa Regina either before or after Michael’s death. This all made logical sense. Right?

In November 1696, a year and 10 months after her husband’s death, Loysa Regina married Johann Jacob Stutzman.

Marriage Entry No. 61

Hanss Jacob Stützman, surviving son of Jacob Stützman from Switzerland with Loysa Regina, surviving widow of Michael Müller from Stenweil(er) (Steinwenden). Married on the 29th of November 1696 in Ohmbach.

Source: Evangelisch-Reformierte Kirche Konken (BA Kusel), Bavaria Church records. LDS Familysearch Microfilm No. 193926 item 1.

The names Irene Charitas and Loysa Regina aren’t similar in any way and don’t even sound alike, so they had to be two different wives of Michael Muller.

It was odd, however, that there was no death record for Irene Charitas in the Steinwenden church records, and no remarriage record for Johann Michael Mueller (the first,) even though there are no missing church records during that period.

It was also unusual that Johann Michael Mueller (the second) was raised by his step-mother, Loysa Regina, and his step-mother’s subsequent husband, Johann Jacob Stutzman, which would have been a step-step-father, I guess, rather than by the godparents at Michael’s baptism. After all, in Germany at that time, that was the whole purpose of godparents. They, in front of God and the congregation which meant the entire village, swore that if something happened to the parents that they would take the child and raise the child in the church.

But that’s not what happened in the case of Johann Michael Mueller (the second.) Now, it’s easy to think that Johann Michael’s step-mother had fallen in love with this sweet baby boy that she had been raising as her own. It’s touching to believe that maybe the cooing baby reminded her of her deceased husband, and out of the kindness of their hearts, the church elders allowed Regina Loysa to keep and raise the child. After all, she loved him and perhaps she had no other children.

I say perhaps, because, we know nothing at all about Regina Loysa before she appears in the church record in 1696 marrying Johann Jacob Stutzman. In Germany, in the 1690s, single women didn’t just “magically” appear in a village without an indication of who they are or where they are from. Who was this woman?

Jacob Stutzman and Regina Elizabetha, as she was recorded in the Kallstadt church records, had a daughter on November 26, 1699, almost three years after their marriage, a son on June 12, 1702, another son on January 31, 1704, and finally, son Johannes Jacobus Stutzman on Friday, January 1, 1706. Happy New Year!!!

Now, Johann Michael Muller (the second) would have step-siblings, if that’s what you call the children of your step-mother and her next husband. Regardless, Johann Michael Muller (Mueller/Miller) would establish a life-long bond with his baby “step-brother,” Johann Jacob Stutzman, even though they were 14 years apart in age. They became inseparable, leaving Germany together October 2, 1727 from the port of Rotterdam, arriving in the Philadelphia on the ship “Adventure” where they had to sign an oath of allegiance before disembarking in what was then the colony of Pennsylvania.

Michael Muller/Mueller/Miller and Jacob Stutzman were never far apart in their lives, probably as close as any “real brothers” could have been. They remained a part of the Brethren/Mennonite Berchtol/Ulrich/Miller/Stutzman group that left their motherland and arrived together in 1727, even if they didn’t always live in exactly the same location.

Michael died in 1771 in Frederick County, Maryland which must have pained Jacob greatly.

Two years later, Stephen Ulrich witnessed the will of Jacob Stutzman in 1773 in Cumberland County, PA, so even some 46 years after arrival, these families were still closely allied, trusting into death the same people they had trusted with their lives. I’m sure they reunited joyfully on the other side.

With that, the story of the two step-brothers, raised by the same mother – biological mother to Jacob but in essence an “adopted” mother to Michael comes to a close. The curtain drops.

What a wonderful woman to raise her step-son as her own after his father’s untimely death. Extra special kudos to Loysa Regina, the mystery woman, whoever she was.

Doesn’t this story just tug at your heartstrings? Make you feel warm and fuzzy all over? Well, enjoy that for a minute, because it isn’t true!

Loysa Regina isn’t at all who you think she is, or isn’t.

However, to tell this story properly, we first have to visit the Stutzman family history.

Go and get yourself a nice cup of hot tea, because you’re going to need it for this one!

To quote my German genealogist friend, Tom, who played an instrumental part in the unraveling of this ball of string, “The theory of relativity is probably easier to follow!”

Yes, seriously! It’s complicated.

A Little Background

First, I’ve written a few articles about these people previously, but beginning two or three years ago, new puzzle pieces began to be scattered on the table. We didn’t know if we had all of the pieces for the entire puzzle to be assembled, or if the cats of time had permanently batted a few pieces off of the table, forever missing in the cosmos, along with all of those socks from the dryer. Neither is there a picture on the front of the puzzle box, AND, the genealogy gods have a wicked sense of humor.

So, it has been for months on end.

From time to time a puzzle piece drops into place, causing us to excitedly run around the entire table of pieces trying them all over again. Occasionally, we discover that some piece we thought fit, doesn’t.

I just published a retraction article about Irene Charitas Schlosser, because, ahem, she isn’t a Schlosser – she’s a Heitz. Yes, that’s really embarrassing, but I’m just grateful that my friend Chris discovered the REAL puzzle piece and Chris and Tom together put that section together, because I certainly couldn’t have. Give me genetics any day, not incomplete German records in medieval script!

Steinwenden, the Family Village

Steinwenden, the ancient village at the heart of this story, and these families, was entirely abandoned during the 30 Years War when everything in this part of the countryside was destroyed.

Resettlement occurred slowly. Eight years after the Peace Treaty of Westphalia, according to a 1656 tax list, still no one lived in Steinwenden. In 1660, two men were rebuilding the mill, and Swiss Protestant immigrants, many Calvinist, lured by the promise of no or low taxes began to arrive in family groups.

Piecing together these groups from partial church and other records is quite challenging, especially when trying to find their origins in Switzerland or even nearby France.

In 1684, Steinwenden only had 6 families and 25 residents. By 1791, long after our families left, the population was a whopping 305. Steinwenden has always been a small village where nearly everyone is related – and most probably already were related when they arrived from Switzerland. The challenge is, of course, that we don’t know how.

In 1980, Steinwenden celebrated its 800th anniversary. Historian Roland Paul wrote an article (in German) about the Steinwenden families who emigrated, based on the Steinwenden church books beginning in 1684. Note that families who stayed aren’t mentioned, an incredibly frustrating omission. Neither, of course, are families from surrounding villages.

Farms during this point in history weren’t arranged like farms are today in the US. For protection, farm houses were tightly packed into a small village, often sharing walls with each other, which provided an added measure of protection.

You can see the remnants of that structure in the old part of the village, yet today.

A village or city wall might also have been built around the village, with the fields laying for a mile or two outside the village. Farmers would tend their fields daily, but return home to the village in the evening. This means that it wasn’t unusual at all to look around and see several church steeples in the distance, given that the next village in any direction was probably only two to five miles away.

Relevant Steinwenden families mentioned in Mr. Paul’s book include Berchtold, Muller and Ringeisen.

Berchtold is also Berchtel, Berchtol, Bechtol, Bechtel, and probably more.

Susanna Agnes Berchtol born in 1688 to Hans Berchtol and Anna Christina would marry Johann Michael Mueller (the second) in 1714.

While Muller is mentioned, given that we don’t know where Johann Michael Muller came from before he arrived in Steinwenden, we can’t identify which of these Muller families, if any, are relevant to Michael. Our Johann Michael Mueller (the first) died in Steinwenden in 1695 and his children are listed.

Lastly, Jacob Ringeisen is identified in records as a cousin to Michael Muller. Jacob is from Erlenbach, in Canton Bern, Switzerland. Is Michael from there too? How is he a cousin to Michael? Does cousin literally mean “first cousin,” or should this relationship be interpreted more broadly as “related?”

Conspicuously missing is Johann Jacob Stutzman. He would marry the widow of Johann Michael Mueller in 1696. Where was Jacob? Did the Müllers and the Stutzmans migrate from Switzerland together?

The Stutzman Saga Continues

There’s some great irony here. The people who research the Stutzman line have agonized for years about the Stutzman genealogy in Germany and Switzerland. More than once, I was silently grateful that I didn’t have to deal with that. While my Michael Müller (the second) was raised by Loysa Regina and her second husband, Jacob Stutzman, and their story after their marriage was also Michael’s story – the Stutzman family history really didn’t concern me because Michael wasn’t biologically related to either Loysa Regina or Jacob.

So I thought.

Kind of like karma paying me back for those smug thoughts, the Stutzman genealogy reached out and tapped me on the shoulder. Oh, I tried to ignore it. I graciously wrote an article for the Stutzman family about the various different genetic lines, according to Y DNA. Then, when the Stutzman Y DNA surname project at Family Tree DNA needed an administrator, I decided I could adopt that, honoring Michael Miller’s love for his step-brother, even though there was no blood relation between Michael and Jacob.

Right??

I wasn’t the only one the Stutzman genealogy tagged. Right alongside me, or maybe leading the way, the Stutzman’s also ensnared my retired German genealogist friend and cousin, Tom. I have no idea why he found this mystery so intriguing, but he did. I’m blaming Jacob Stutzman, personally. Bless Tom with his infinite patience and wisdom because I did not receive that trait!

But that wasn’t all. Next came Christoph, my young German friend in Berlin. Jacob Stutzman somehow recruited him too!!!

Obviously, Jacob, Michael and the clan knew I needed help, because I clearly wasn’t going to unravel this maze of confusion on my own.

They were right too. I had absolutely NO PRAYER without Tom and Chris.

So while I’m writing this saga, it’s really Tom and Chris’s story to tell. Tom has been working on this for at least two years now, building on the previous works of other Stutzman researchers, but adding substantial discoveries of his own. Then Chris came along and pretty much knocked our socks off with one gargantuan discovery that would prove us wrong. That took a few days of getting used to, I’m telling you!

When he first began, I wasn’t convinced that there was anything in the Stutzman records that would be of value to the Miller story. I was wrong. Dead wrong.

In fact, Tom unearthed two records that prove the identity of our mystery woman, Loysa Regina.

Let’s go to Switzerland and Germany and visit the Stutzmans, in mostly Tom’s words with additional translations and clarifications by Chris. Colorful commentary by me😊

The Stutzman Clan

Please note that you can click to enlarge any image

By the late 1660’s, the brothers, Hans and Hans Jacob Stutzman, sons of Peter Stutzman of Erlenbach im Simmental, Canton, Bern Switzerland, had migrated from their native village to the Geislautern, Saar region, Germany.

Looking at the map below, the great irony is that I lived in the small village of Versoix, about 5 miles north of Geneva, on Lake Geneva, in 1970, and fell in love with the region. I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t have a clue that my family had also lived nearby in the not-so-distant past.

This journey was not for the faint of heart, crossing mountains and traveling for about 450 km. A trip of 6 hours by car today was a trip of weeks then. Some, but not all of the trip could have been on, or parallel to the Rhine River.

A Hans Jacob Stutzmann, born October 2, 1676 in Geislautern, believed to be the son of Hans Jacob Stutzman born in 1650, was found in research by Gunter Stopka in 1998 in the resource: Stutzmann, Rupp, Carl, Lichti. Schweizer in der ehemaligen Grafschaft Saarbrücken vor 1700 In: Saarländische Familienkunde 31, 1998, S. 318-323.

This Hans Jacob Stutzman, Jr. (born 1676) is believed by us and was suggested also by Francis C. (Bud) Martin, editor in the excellent publication, The Peter Stutzman Family Story by Daniel T. Stutzman, Sr., editor and Francis C. (Bud) Martin, editor, 2011 (available for download at the familysearch.org website,) to be the father of all the early Stutzmann children who married and lived in Konken, Bavaria at the turn of the 17th century.

Hans Jacob Stutzman, Sr. migrated from Geislautern and obviously settled in another village after 1676 and before 1682 when he fathered a child in Birkenfeld, Oldenberg, Germany.

After the death (1685) of Hans Jacob Sr. at the age of 35/40, his children would relocate to the Konken, Bavaria area between 1685-1696.

Hans Jacob Stutzmann Sr.’s brother, Hans and wife Ursula (nee Leuenberger) finally settled in Hinsberg (Hinsbourg, Bas-Rhin (Alsace), France where their family records appear.

Although France sounds far from Germany, it actually isn’t far from Konken.

Both brothers are the sons of Peter Stutzmann and Catharina Burginer of Erlenbach im Simmental, Bern Canton, Switzerland.

Records, Beginning in 1667

Hans Stutzman married Ursula Leuenberger in April 1667.

On Monday, the 22nd of April, 1667, from Bettborn were to be blessed (in marriage), Hans Stutzman, legitimate surviving son of the late Peter Stutzman from Switzerland and Ursula, legitimate surviving daughter of the late Jacob Leuenberger of the Bern region, Switzerland

Source: Evangelische Kirche Finstingen, (Elsass-Lothringen) now called Fenetrange, Sarrebourg, Moselle, France. Film No. 637090, Item 2, Mittersheim, Postdorf, Niederstinzel, Neunkirchen (Kreis Saargemund), Taufen 1658-1685; Heiraten 167401679; Tote 1672-1685.

Hans Stutzmann and his wife, Ursula Leuenberger had a family consisting of:

  1. Christina, born ca 1668, probably in Nassweiler, Saarbrucken according to Gunter Stopka.
  2. Johann Jacob, born ca 1671, probably in Hinsbourg, Bas-Rhin, France.
  3. Magdalena Margaretha, born ca 1680, probably in Hinsbourg, Bas-Rhin, France
  4. Hans Nickel, probably in Hinsbourg, Bas-Rhin, France
  5. Anna Catharina, born ca 1686, probably in Hinsbourg, Bas-Rhin, France.

The parish of Waldhambach, Bas-Rhin, France contains many of the marriage records of these children as well as their deaths.

Johann Jacob Stutzmann (son of Hans Stutzmann, above, not Hans Jacob Stutzman) married in Diemeringen parish nearby. The records of Waldhambach begin in 1683. No baptisms of these five children, above, have been recorded there. They may have been born elsewhere and Hinsbourg (Hinsberg in German) may have only been the place of residence.

Ursula Leuenberger Stutzmann died on January 21, 1729 in Hinsbourg, aged 83 years. Her husband, Hans Stutzmann, died between the years 1695-1700. This is implied by the marriages of Christina Stutzmann who married Hanss Neser (Neeser?) of Schingen, Bern Canton, Switzerland (note: probably the surname Neeser of Seengen, Canton, Aargau, Switzerland). Her father is noted as a subject of Hinsberg. At the marriage of Hanssmann Janss of St. Stephan (Bern), Switzerland and Magdalena Margaretha Stutzmann, daughter of the late, Joh. (Hans) Stutzmann on 17 May 1701, Hans Stutzmann is noted as deceased.

Please note that the Johann Jacob Stutzman, above, the child of Hans Stutzman carries the same name as Johann Jacob Stutzman who married Loysa Regina, son of Hans Jacob Stutzman, but these are two separate men.

Waldhambach, Bas-Rhin, France Records

Translated records found in Waldhambach, Bas-Rhin, France are included in this article, because they provide information that, thread by thread, weaves this family together.

Marriage:

Tieffenbach – Date of Marriage: 1 Feb 1695

Groom: Hanss Neser a journeyman weaver from the village Schingen/Sehingenin the Bern Region (probably village of Seengen, Canton Aargau), son of Friederich Neser from the same place.

Bride: Christina, legitimate daughter of Hanss Stutzmann, presently a subject of Hinsberg.

Waldhambach – Registres Paroissiaux (Avant 1793) – Paroisse protestante (Avant 1793) – Registre de baptêmes mariages sépultures 1683-1720 – 3 E 514/1 – page 129

This tells us that Jacob Stutzman Sr. is still living.

Marriage:

Date of Marriage: 23 February 1700

After 3 proclamations were married Johann Jacob Stutzmann, surviving legitimate son of the former subject in Hinsburg, Lutzelstein Herrschaft with Anna Maria, legitimate daughter of the late Peter Stöcker.

Diemeringen – Paroisse protestante (Avant 1793) – Registre de baptêmes mariages sépultures 1665-1715 – 3 E 94/2 – page 86

Former subject probably tells us that his father, Hans is dead and that his father probably lived in Hinsburg at his death.

Marriage:

Date of Marriage: 17 May 1701

Groom: Hanssmann Janss, unmarried bachelor, legitimate son of Peter Janss from St. Stephan, (Bern), Switzerland.

Bride: Magdalena Margaretha, surviving, unmarried daughter of the late Joh. (Hanss) Stutzmann, subject in Hinsperg (Hinsberg).

Waldhambach – Registres Paroissiaux (Avant 1793) – Paroisse protestante (Avant 1793) – Registre de baptêmes mariages sépultures 1683-1720 – 3 E 514/1 – page 131

This tells us that Hans Stutzman is definitely dead.

Marriage:

Date of Marriage: 11 May1706

Groom: Benedict Janns, unmarried bachelor, surviving legitimate son of the late Peter Janss, citizen in St. Stephan, (Bern), Switzerland).

Bride: Anna Catharina, surviving legitimate daughter of the late Hanss Stutzman from Hinssberg.

Waldhambach – Registres Paroissiaux (Avant 1793) – Paroisse protestante (Avant 1793) – Registre de baptêmes mariages sépultures 1683-1720 – 3 E 514/1 – page 133

Marriage:

Tieffenbach Date: 1707

Groom: Hanss Nickel Stutzmann, surviving legitimate son of Hanss Stutzmann, former resident in Hinsberg.

Bride: Salome, legitimate daughter of Peter Janss, former citizen in St. Stephan, Bern region, Switzerland.

Waldhambach – Registres Paroissiaux (Avant 1793) – Paroisse protestante (Avant 1793) – Registre de baptêmes mariages sépultures 1683-1720 – 3 E 514/1 – page 134

Death:

Hinssberg – Date of Death: 21 January 1729

Decedent: Ursula nee Löwenberger, surviving widow of Hanss Stutzman, former resident. Her age 83 years.

Waldhambach – Registres Paroissiaux (Avant 1793) – Paroisse protestante (Avant 1793) – Registre de mariages sépultures 1720-1772 – 3 E 514/5 – page 120

Death:

Date of Death: 8 July 1729 Hinssberg

Decedent: Anna Catharina, surviving widow of the former resident Benedict Janss of Hinssberg. She died on the 8th of July and was buried on the 9th of July. Her age: 43 years, 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days.

Waldhambach – Registres Paroissiaux (Avant 1793) – Paroisse protestante (Avant 1793) – Registre de mariages sépultures 1720-1772 – 3 E 514/5 – page 121

Death:

On the 30th of November 1736 died, Jacob Stutzmann, the farm steward for the Herrschaft here and on the following day, the first of December was buried. His age 65 years.

Diemeringen – Paroisse protestante (Avant 1793) – Registre de baptêmes mariages sépultures 1716-1778 – 3 E 94/3 – page 224

Death:

Date of Death: 29 November 1739

Died Nicolaus Stutzmann, citizen in Hinsberg and on the 30th thereafter was buried.

Date of Death: 11 December 1739

Died Christina Nesser, legitimate wife of the late Johannes Nesser, former citizen and steward in Tieffenbach and on the 13th was buried.

Tieffenbach – Registres Paroissiaux (Avant 1793) – Paroisse protestante (Avant 1793) – Registre de baptêmes mariages sépultures 1734-1764 – 3 E 491/1 – page 224

Note that the two adult siblings, above, died within 12 days of each other. I wish causes of death had been recorded.

Quote from The Peter Stutzman Family Story:

Dufner lists a Hans Jacob Stutzmann, born 2 Oct 1676 in Geislautern, son of Hans Jacob Stutzmann, Swiss citizen, born 24 Mar 1650 (son of Peter Stutzmann and Catharine Burginer.) There is a Geislautern in the Saar, near Saarbrucken, about 14 miles SW of Ottweiler. Could it be that these two men, one born ca 1676 and the other born 1676, are the same person? I have not included the Hans Jacob (born 1676) of this note in any other place in this genealogy.

Co-editor, Francis C. (Bud) Martin, 2011, “I believe you have correctly connected to the Johann Jacob Stutzman, progenitor with his unknown wife, of the Stutzman family of Krottelbach/Konken. This information ties in well with the information uncovered recently from Birkenfeld, Oldenberg, Evangelische Church not far from Krottelbach, Konken.”

Let’s take a look at the Birkenfeld records and follow the Stutzman family.

Birkenfeld Records

We find the next chapter of the Hans Jacob Stutzman family in the Birkenfeld records with family residing in Einschiedt.

Thankfully, the two sons, Hans Stutzman and Johann (Hans) Jacob Stutzman settled in two different places. Otherwise, I don’t know how we’d ever tell their children apart. Like most families, they recycled the same names, which are surely hints to their ancestors as well…if the early records just existed.

By the way, for those not familiar with German naming patterns, Hans and Johann (Hans) Jacob weren’t really examples of two sons with exactly same name. In Germany at that time, most boys were given two names. The first one was typically, but not always Johann, often called a “saint’s name” and the second name was the name they were called in the family. It’s not at all unusual to see the entire list of boys in any family with Johann as the first name, but with different second names…unless one died then sometimes a second child would be given the exact same name. However, when you see a male with just one official name, Johann or Johannes, that IS his given name. He is often called “Hans,” the nickname for Johann or Johannes.

While Hans Stutzman and wife Ursula Leuenberger settled in HInsberg, and thankfully stayed put, his brother Hans Jacob Stutzman, wife unknown, probably started out in the Geislautern area in 1667 or so, then moved to Birkenfeld in 1682, dying there in 1685. His family except for the apparent oldest son moved on to Konken by 1696, although we don’t know why. I wonder if his widow remarried and moved there, but we found no records to indicate that was the case.

Despite Hans Jacob Stutzman’s young death, he had 7 children who lived, although every record managed to stubbornly avoid the mention of even his wife’s first name!

  1. Dominic (1670-1748)
  2. Johann Jacob Stutzman born 1673/76 (Geislautern) -1739, married Regina Loysa (1654-1729), widow of Johann Michael Muller in 1696 in Ohmbach
  3. Johann Christian born 1682 Birkenfeld married in 1702 in Asselheim
  4. Catharina Ursula born 1684 and found in Konken records in 1698
  5. Johann Philip in 1696 married Maria Margaretha in Ohmbach
  6. Anna Barbell in 1702 married Peter Jacob in Ohmbach
  7. Anna Elisabetha is found in the Konken records in 1697, married in 1750 in Asselheim

Baptism:

Entry No. 235

Johann Christian Stutzman (#3 above)

The 4th of January 1682 Hans Jacob Stutzman, a Swiss, from Einschiedt (Einschieder), a young son was baptized and named: Johann Christian. Godparents were: Catharina Jacobi; Johannes Meyer, Christel, the Swiss, from Nohfelden; Johannes Roth, foreman? in the ironworks, Anna Escherin?, the Swiss.

Source: Evangelische Kirche Birkenfeld (Oldenburg). LDS Microfilm No. 492996.

Baptism:

On the 21st of March 1683, Velten Pfaltzer, …….? and his wife, a young son was baptized and given the name: Hans Jacob. Godparents: Hans Adam Finck from here; Hans Jacob Stutzmann, the Swiss from Einschiedt; Margreth Sch…?, a young lady from here and Anna Liess Numweyler?, young lady, .?

Source: Evangelische Kirche Birkenfeld (Oldenburg). LDS Microfilm No. 492996.

This is the only entry where Hans Jacob Stutzmann or any Stutzmann is found in Birkenfeld as a godparent.

Baptism:

Catherine Ursula Stutzman (#4 above)

The 29th of the same (May) 1684, Hans Jacob Stutzman, the Swiss from Einschieder and his legitimate wife, a daughter was baptized and received the name: Catharina Ursula. Godparents were: Nicolaus Ma..(margin), a Swiss, from Zweybrucken (Zweibrucken); Catharina Schupfflin, a Swiss; ………ookenthal?, housewife and Ursula Stutzmannin, legitimate wife of Hans Stutzman from Feldtling? (probably Völklingen) in Amt Saarbrücken.

Source: Evangelische Kirche Birkenfeld (Oldenburg). LDS Microfilm No. 492996.

This entry above, clearly ties Ursula, wife of Hans Stutzmann of Folkling, (Volklingen) Saarbrucken (about 40 miles from Hinsbourg) to Johann Jacob Stutzmann of Birkenfeld. This would make sense if Hans Stutzmann and Johann Jacob Stutzmann were brothers.

Death:

The 8th of April 1685 was buried, Hans Jacob Stutzman, a Swiss, from Einschiedt (Einschieder). His age about 40 years.

Source: Evangelische Kirche Birkenfeld (Oldenburg). LDS Microfilm No. 492996.

This is Hans Jacob Stutzman, progenitor of the Konken branch of the Stutzman family, so this explains why his death record was not discovered in Krottelbach. Tom searched high and low for that record.

Hans Jacob Stutzmann and his unknown wife, had 7 children before his death. If he married at age 19 or 20, there is enough time after their marriage to account for these children. It is perplexing that the Birkenfeld church books do not record the name of the mother of the child; only the father’s! No death record for Hans Jacob Stutzmann’s wife could be found in Birkenfeld nor a remarriage. She remains a mystery for the Stutzman family to unravel.

Perhaps in time, additional records in Germany, may yet reveal additional information on this extensive migratory family.

The Konken/Krottelbach Stutzman Records

It should be noted from the outset that no death entries were found for Hans Jacob Stutzmann, (the elder’) wife (name unknown) in the registers of Konken. The first record of this family is found in Konken with the 1696 record of Johann Jacob Stutzman (the elder’s) marriage to the widow Muller. It appears that son Dominic never moved to Konken. He would have been about 25 or 26 by the time the family group moved, so old enough to stay behind in Zwiebrucken where he lived and died.

The Konken records are indeed where life begins to get interesting.

Looking at the map, both Steinwenden and Konken are on the road between Zwiebrucken and Birkenfeld.

Konken and Steinwenden aren’t terribly distant from each other – about 18 km or so. However, that’s also not close.

In 1692, when Irene gave birth to Johann Michael Muller (the second,) the Muller family lived in Steinwenden. Johann Michael Muller (the first) died there in 1695, and in 1696, up the road 18 km, Loysa Regina, Johann Michael Muller’s widow, married Johann Jacob Stutzman (Jr.).

How did they meet? How and when did she decide to move from Steinwenden to Konken? Why did the Stutzman clan decide to move to Konken?

Marriage:

Entry No. 61

Hanss Jacob Stützman, surviving son of Jacob Stützman from Switzerland with Loysa Regina, surviving widow of Michael Müller from Stenweil(er) (Steinwenden). Married on the 29th of November 1696 in Ohmbach.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Sonstiges 1653-1729, Bild 100 Mikrofilm 144  

Jacob Stutzman and Loysa Regina weren’t married in Konken, even though the marriage was recorded in the Konken Church. They were married in Ohmbach, a few miles down the road. Jacob Stutzman was 20 years old and the widow who was married to Johann Michael Mueller would have been reportedly about, um, about 42. That’s pretty unheard of, but we have her previous marriage and death record that provides an age.

Her later death record gives an age that subtracts to a birth year of 1654, but could be wrong of course. Let’s assume she was 20 when she married Johann Michael Mueller in 1684, instead of 30. That’s still a pretty big spread – 12 years between Loysa Regina and Jacob Stutzman, but corroborated by the fact that her last child was born in 1706, when she would have been about 42. If she was born in 1654 instead of 1664, her last child would have been born when she was 52. Not impossible, just highly improbable.

While we’re in shock over the age disparity, note that for a 20-23 year old, Jacob Stutzman had a lot of miles under his belt, literally.

We know that the Johann Jacob Stutzman’s wife is the same person who was married to Johann Michael Muller from Steinwenden, because the marriage record tells us. Then, sure enough, on February 3, 1697, the couple was back in Steinwenden for a baptism where the child is named Irene Elisabetha.

Generally, the child was named for the godparents, so Irene made sense, but only if Loysa Regina’s name was actually Irene.

Wait?

What?

That can’t be, because Jacob Stutzman married Michael Muller’s widow, Loysa Regina. Irene was dead and buried, and Loysa Regina and Jacob Stutzman were raising Irene’s baby boy, Michael Miller – right?

If that’s the case, why was Jacob Stutzman’s wife called Irene in her HOME CHURCH? Konken wasn’t her home church and Ohmbach wasn’t her home residence, but Steinwenden assuredly was – where Irene had given birth and buried 5 children between 1685 and 1692. Two in one week and another just a few months before her husband died. Her sixth child, Johann Michael Muller would live to establish the Brethren Mueller/Miller dynasty in the US.

But Irene herself died, right?

Right?

Or did she?

Baptism:

February 3, 1697

Child: Irene Elisabeth

Parents: H. Samuel Hoffmann, Maria Magdalena from Steinwenden

Godparents: Irene, Jacob Stitzman’s wife from Krodelbach (Krottelbach); Elisabetha, Balthasar Jolage wife and Dominicus Stutzman, unmarried.

Steinwenden Evangelische-Reformierte, Kirche. Landesarchiv Speyer > Steinwenden > Taufe 1684-1698, Taufe 1698-1738, Taufe 1724, 1738, Trauung 1684-1780, Beerdigung 1685-1780, Konfirmation 1685-1779, Bild 17 www.archion.de

(Please note that archion.de is a paid archive service but does NOT allow customers to use the images for publication, so, unfortunately, I can’t share them with you unless I can find the image elsewhere.)

If Irene died, then how do we explain this baptism record where Jacob Stutzman’s wife is called Irene, and the child named after her is named Irene as well? It’s clearly not a mistake, not a slip of the pen of an elderly forgetful minister. The Steinwenden minister knew Irene very well. He had buried all of her children and her husband.

OK, back to Konken, where we find our next baptism record. What does it tell us?

Baptism:

No. 201

Hanss Peter

Hanss Jacob Stutzman & Regina Loysa, his lawfully wed wife from Crottelbach on the 22nd of October 1697 was baptized. Godparents were: Pet. Mellinger, censor, Hans Pfauer, a Swiss, and Anna Elisabetha, surviving legitimate daughter of Jacob Stutzman of Switzerland.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Sonstiges 1664-1756, Bild 103 Mikrofilm 114 www.archion.de

Back to Regina Loysa, except her names are switched from Loysa Regina to Regina Loysa.

Baptism:

1 March 1699 at Steinwenden Ev. Ref. Kirche, Bavaria

Maria Magdalena

Samuel Heitz & Catharina Appollonia of Steinwenden

Godparents: Magdalena, Herr Samuel Hoffmann’s wife, Anna Maria, Hans Cunrad Ausinger’s daughter from Turkheim (Bad Durkheim); Jacob Stutzmann from Weylach.

Landesarchiv Speyer > Steinwenden > Taufe 1684-1698, Taufe 1698-1738, Taufe 1724, 1738, Trauung 1684-1780, Beerdigung 1685-1780, Konfirmation 1685-1779, Bild 19 www.archion.de

Look, Jacob Stutzman is back again two years later, in Steinwenden, but now he’s noted as being from Weylach. This tells us that he has moved. He’s also the godfather for the daughter of Samuel Heitz, Irene Heitz’s brother. That would be his wife, Irene/Regina, of course.

As it turns out, Weylach is about 3 miles north of Bad Durkheim. Chris tells me that it in early records, Durkheim was often spelled Turkheim. It’s a fairly long way from Konken to Bad Durkheim. What was Jacob Stutzman doing that he could afford to just pick up and move from one place to another?

Our Jacob Stutzman, with his wife Irene, Loysa Regina or Regina Loysa, whatever her name was, had clearly moved again. But most importantly, Johann Jacob Muller (the second) was with them.

Johann Jacob Stutzman may have moved to Weylach, but his siblings continued to create records in the Konken church records. Let’s begin with Jacob’s brother, Johann Philip and look at the records for each sibling separately.

Brother Philip Stutzman Family of Konken

Marriage:  

IMAGE 99 – Entry No. 54

Johann Philip Stutzman, surviving, legitimate son of the late (blank) Stutzman, from the Bern region with Maria Margaretha, legitimate daughter of Hans Düke, a Swiss. Married on the 6th of March 1696 in Ombach.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Sonstiges 1653-1729, Bild 99 Mikrofilm 144 www.archion.de

Baptism:  

IMAGE 101 – No. 185

Hanss Peter

Johann Philip Stutzman & Maria Margaretha his legitimate wife from Crofftelbach (Krottelbach), a son was baptized on the 9th of February 1697. Godparents were: Hanss Berchtel, a Swiss; Peter Daubert, a Swiss and Anna, Christian Joggi’s surviving widow.

Source: Evangelisch-Reformierte Kirche Konken (BA Kusel), Bavaria Church records. LDS Familysearch Microfilm No. 193926 item 2. Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Sonstiges 1664-1756, Bild 101 Mikrofilm 114 www.archion.de

Berchtel is my line too. Johann Michael Mueller would one day marry Suzanna Berchtel, daughter of Hans Berchtel. Was 5 year old Johann Michael Miller playing with his future wife, Suzanna Berchtel while this wedding was taking place?

Baptism:  

IMAGE 105 – Entry No. 218

Johann Ludwig

Johann Philip Stutzman, a Swiss, from Crofftelbach (Krottelbach) and Maria Margaretha his legitimate wife a son was baptized on the 6th of June 1698. Godparents were: Hanss Jacob Zimmer; Johann Ludwig Dik, a Swiss; Anna Margaretha Morjans, the pastor’s legitimate wife and Elisabetha Stutzman, the late (no name), surviving daughter.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Sonstiges 1664-1756, Bild 105 Mikrofilm 114 www.archion.de

Baptism:  

IMAGE 118 – Entry No. 328

Johann Theobald

Philip Stutzman, a Swiss from Crofftelbach (Krottelbach) and Maria Margar(etha) his legitimate wife, a son was baptized on the 19th of July 1702. Godparents were: Joan. Theobald Dauber, legitimate surviving son of the late Herr Joan. Daniel Dauber; Jacob Ringeisen, from the Bern region; Maria Gartha, legitimate wife of Peter Mellinger, censor from Crofftelbach (Krottelbach); and Margaretha, legitimate wife of Hanss Zimmer, the same (of Krottelbach).

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Sonstiges 1664-1756, Bild 118 Mikrofilm 114 www.archion.de

In another record, Jacob Ringeisen is mentioned as being the cousin of Johann Michael Muller, so this may be the best indication of where Michael Muller was actually from before arriving in Steinwenden, given that Jacob and Michael were cousins.

Baptism:  

IMAGE 132 – Entry No. 488

Johann Christian

Philip Stutzman from Crofftelbach (Krottelbach), a Swiss from the Bern jurisdiction and Maria Margaretha his legitimate wife, baptized a son on the 15th of August 1707. Godparents were: Martin Genpert; Johan Christian Dick; Susanna, legitimate wife of Kilian Kennel, baker from Brücken; and Barbara, legitimate wife of Peter Joggi, all born in Switzerland.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Sonstiges 1664-1756, Bild 132 Mikrofilm 114 www.archion.de

Brother Peter Jacob Stutzman & Anna Barbell Family of Konken

Marriage:  

IMAGE 104 – No. 98

Peter Jacob, legitimate, surviving son of the late Christian Jacob, from Zweysimmen in the Obersiebenthal (Obersimmental), Bern region with the young lady, Anna Barbell, legitimate, surviving, beloved daughter of Jacob Stutzman from Erlenbach in the Obersiebenthal (Niedersimmental), Bern were married on the 12th of January 1702 in Ombach.

Source: Evangelisch-Reformierte Kirche Konken (BA Kusel), Bavaria Church records. LDS Familysearch Microfilm No. 193926 item 1. Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Sonstiges 1653-1729, Bild 104 Mikrofilm 144 www.archion.de

Beloved daughter that grew up without her father. How his heart must have ached to leave her.

Baptism:

IMAGE 148 – Entry No. 623

Hanss Jacob

Peter Jacob, a Swiss from Crofftelbach (Krottelbach) and Anna Barbara, his legitimate wife, a son was baptized on the 28th of March 1712. Godparents were: Hanss Michael Müller from Weylach (Weilach); Henrich Berchtell, legitimate surviving son of Hanss Berchtel; Maria Elisabetha, legitimate daughter of Hanss Zimmer of Crofftelbach (Krottelbach); Anna Margaretha, legitimate wife of Niclos Keyser of Crofftelbach (Krottelbach).

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Sonstiges 1664-1756, Bild 148 Mikrofilm 114 www.archion.de

Here, we find Hans Michael Muller stated as being from Weylach (Weilach), the same location where Jacob Stutzman was noted as being from in 1699. In 1712, Johann Michael Muller would have been 20 years old. By this time, he might have seriously been courting Susanna Berchtel, as they would marry 22 months later, on January 4, 1714, in Crottelbach (Krottelbach).

Susanna’s father has died, and Henrich, her brother, stands up with Michael Muller as the godparents of Hanss Jacob.

I bet Michael made it a point to return often. How I wish we had a photo of this couple.

Death:  

IMAGE 69 -Entry No. 172

Hans Peter

Peter Jacob, a Swiss from Crofftelbach (Krottelbach), a son died on the 28th of May 1713 and was buried on the 29th of May 1713. Joyfully ascending. May the Lord be merciful.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Sonstiges 1653-1729, Bild 69 Mikrofilm 144 www.archion.de

Never, in all the records I’ve seen until these have I seen the comment “joyfully ascending” written in conjunction with any death, let alone that of a child. I’m sure it was meant to bring the mother comfort, but it just doesn’t – let alone three times in 3 weeks.

Death:

IMAGE 69 – Entry No. 173

Maria Susanna, ? (adjective) Peter Jacob’s daughter, on the 7th? of June died and on the 11th of June 1713 was buried in Ombach. Joyfully ascending. May the Lord be merciful.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Sonstiges 1653-1729, Bild 69 Mikrofilm 144 www.archion.de

Death:

IMAGE 69 – Entry No. 174

Hanss Jacob, son of ? Peter Jacob on the 18th of June 1713 died and on the the 19th of June was buried. Joyfully ascending. May the Lord, Jesus Christ be merciful.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Sonstiges 1653-1729, Bild 69 Mikrofilm 144 www.archion.de

The loss of 3 children within 3 weeks is devastatingly heartbreaking. There was no “joyfully ascending.” There was no joy at all.

Baptism:  

IMAGE 158 – Entry No. 705

Maria Christina

Peter Jacob, a Swiss from Crofftelbach (Krottelbach) & Anna Barbara his legitimate wife, a daughter was baptized on 1 November 1714. Godparents were: Hans Peter, legitimate son of Philipp Stutzman; Dominik Stutzman from Crofftelbach (Krottelbach); Caecilia, legitimate wife of Elias Daubert, schoolmaster? in Ombach; Maria Elisabetha, legitimate wife of Christian Zimmer from Crofftelbach (Krottelbach) & Anna Christina, legitimate daughter of Peter Gürtner, a Swiss.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Sonstiges 1664-1756, Bild 158 Mikrofilm 114 http://www.archion.de

Sister Anna Elisabetha Stutzmann of Konken

Baptism:  

IMAGE 100 – Entry No. 182

Anna Elisabeth

Johannes Geyer and Anna Ottilia, his legitimate wife from Crofftelbach (Krottelbach), a daughter who was baptized on the 21st of January 1697. Godparents were: Herr Peter Mellinger, censor; Hanss Jacob Wagner, legitimate son of Johannes Wagner, censor of Ombach; Gertraud, legitimate wife of Hanss Jacob Motzen; and Anna Elisabeth, legitimate surviving daughter of the late Hans Jacob Stutzman.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Sonstiges 1664-1756, Bild 100 Mikrofilm 114 www.archion.de

Daughter Anna Ursula Stutzmann of Konken

Baptism:  

IMAGE 105 – Entry No. 224

Ursula, Hans Nickel Hesse?, cowherder in Crofftelbach (Krottelbach) and Margaretha his legitimate wife, a daughter was baptized on the 11th of December 1698 in Ombach. Godparents were: Peter Mellinger, censor; Jacob Zimmer; Maria, legitimate wife of Wilhelm Grosklos; Ursula, legitimate daughter of late Jacob Stutzman, a Swiss.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Sonstiges 1664-1756, Bild 105

Mikrofilm 114 www.archion.de

Stutzmann Entries in Asselheim, Bavaria:

Marriage:

11 January 1700

Joh(ann) Michael Bernhardt, legitimate son of the master baker, mayor and “bandsetzer”? from here Hanss Jacob Bernhardt.

Anna Elisabetha, legitimate unmarried daughter of the late Hanss Jacob Stutzmann from Erlenbach in the Nieder-Siebenthall, Switzerland.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Grünstadt > Asselheim > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Sonstiges 1666-1743, Bild 171 Mikrofilm 23   www.archion.de

Marriage:

9 June 1702

Joh. Christian Stutzmann, surviving son of the late Hanss Jacob Stutzmann from Erlenbach in the Nieder-Siebenthall, Switzerland.

Maria Margretha, legitimate daughter of Hanss Jacob Bernhardt, daughter of the master baker, mayor and “bandsetzer”? from here were married on a Friday during the praying hour”. (It was noted) they had premarital sex.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Grünstadt > Asselheim > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Sonstiges 1666-1743, Bild 173 Mikrofilm 23 http://www.archion.de

Seriously, did they really HAVE to record in the church record the legacy of their premarital sex? It’s likely that she was visibly pregnant.

The entries clearly establish that the father of the earliest Konken Stutzmann children from the late 17th century is Hans Jacob Stutzmann of Erlenbach im Simmental, Bern, Switzerland.

These records would seem to link him as the son to Peter Stutzmann and Catharina Burginer, born on 24 March 1649/1650. The only other candidate is one Jacob Stutzmann, born 26 July 1657, son of Peter Stutzmann and Christina Koller, who would be too young to be our Hans Jacob who had Dominic about 1670 and Johann Jacob 1673/1676.

Dominic Stutzmann of Zweibrucken

Marriage:

IMAGE 0434563-00178

The 10th of March 1733, Dominic Stutzmann, farm steward, legitimate surviving son of the late Jacob Stutzman, farm steward in Crottelbach, Lichtenberger Oberamt with Catharina, daughter of Burckhard Brändl of Roding (Reutigen), Bern (Switzerland).

Zweibrucken Evangelische Kirche Records online at Ancestry.com.

Baptism:  

IMAGE 0434558-00304 – No. 3159

Johann Jacob

16th December 1735

Dominic Stutzmann, local citizen and his legitimate wife, Catharina, a son. Godparents: Jacob Bergden, councilman in Crottelbach (Krottelbach); Christian Stutzmann, farm steward in Dirmingen; Anna Margaretha Dickin from Aischberg?; Anna Margaretha Jacky from there.

Zweibrucken Evangelische Kirche Records online at Ancestry.com.

There is clearly an unknown link with Krottelbach given that the councilman traveled to Zwiebrucken to stand as the godparent for Dominic’s child.

Baptism:  

IMAGE 0434558-00313 – No. 3345

Christian Carl

The 20th of April 1739 Dominic Stutzmann & Catharina a child. Godparents were His Highness Duke Christian IV and Her Highness Princess Carolina.

Zweibrucken Evangelische Kirche Records online at Ancestry.com.

This is a very interesting record given that the godparents were royalty. Christian IV was the Count Palatine of Zwiebrucken, born in 1722, so would have only been age 17 at this time. His sister, Princess Carolina was born in 1721, so she would have been 18.

The purpose of Godparents was to take the child and raise them, specifically in the church, in the case of the demise of both parents. There were no other godparents, so this begs the question of whether the Count and Princess were actually going to take this child to raise if something happened to her parents.

It’s hard to say if this was a token courtesy, or if this was a genuine committment, especially given the occupation of Dominic, as stated in the following record.

Baptism:

IMAGE 0434558-00336 – No. 3602

Maria Juliana

1 May 1743

Dominic Stutzmann, citizen and daylaborer from here and his legitimate wife, Catharina, a daughter was baptized. Godparents were: Johann Georg Ross, estate cooper; Daniel Gehring, citizen and b.(margin) here; Anna Barbara, wife of Adam Romer, citizen and baker here; Juliana, wife of Balthasar Krullen, citizen and hof….? here.

Zweibrucken Evangelische Kirche Records online at Ancestry.com.

Given that Johann Ross was an estate cooper, I wonder if Dominic too was working on an estate.

Death:

IMAGE 0434559-00373 – No. 4069

29 June 1748

Joh(ann) Dominic Stutzmann, burger (citizen) from here. 84 years old.

Zweibrucken Evangelische Kirche Records online at Ancestry.com. Source: Germany, Lutheran Baptism, Marriages, and Burials, 1564-1938 Ancestry.com

Tom commented:

I would doubt Dominic Stutzmann’s age at death. More likely was in his high 70’s. He was either the eldest child or 2nd eldest.

He married in his 50’s which is rather old. It is doubtful that his wife or children would have reported his age correctly.

Dominic would have been the son of Hans Jacob Stutzman who died in 1685 in Einscheidt. Konken is another waypoint for the Stutzmann siblings. Our branch moves to Kallstadt and other branches remove to Asselheim and Zweibrucken. They all had the “wanderlust.”

And yes, in case you’re wondering, there is a genetic mutation (DRD4-7r) associated with “wanderlust.”

My Branch of the Stutzmann Clan

The first child of Johann Jacob Stutzman and Regina Loysa was born in Krottelbach and baptized in Konken.

Baptism:

No. 201

Hanss Peter

Hanss Jacob Stutzman & Regina Loysa, his lawfully wed wife from Crottelbach on the 22nd of October 1697 was baptized. Godparents were: Pet. Mellinger, censor, Hans Pfauer, a Swiss, and Anna Elisabetha, surviving legitimate daughter of Jacob Stutzman of Switzerland.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Sonstiges 1664-1756, Bild 103 Mikrofilm 114 www.archion.de

By March of 1699, Jacob Stutzman, his wife Regina Loysa, her son Michael Muller, and their firstborn had moved from Konken to Kallsdtadt where Jacob became the tenant and administator of a manorial farm.

We don’t know for sure what was grown on the farm, but given that this is heavily a wine region, if I had to guess, it would be grapes.

I recent years, Kallstadt has gained somewhat unwelcome notoriety based on the fact that the Heinz family, of ketchup fame, along with the Trump family are both from Kallstadt. Trump’s grandparents immigrated from Kallstadt, but there is no known relationship to the Stutzman or Miller families.

It’s interesting to note the roses planted by the grapevines in the above photo. During my trip to Germany in 2017, I noticed the same thing. The vintners said that roses, which thrive in the same soil and climate conditions as grapevines are an early warning system for vineyards. Roses attract aphids before the vines do and also get fungus before the vines. Mildew isn’t the exact same between the plants, but the conditions that favor rose mildew are the same conditions that favor grapevine mildew. In other words, healthy and beautiful roses means healthy and beautiful grapevines.

Not only that, but roses offer habitat for bees and other beneficial insects and their thorns discourage horses, needed to work the rows, from cutting corners and damaging precious vines. Plus, roses enhance the beauty of the vineyards, as an added bonus.

The Kallstadt Stutzman Families

The church in Kallstadt was the closest church to Weilach, home of Johann Jacob Stutzman, Regina and her son, Michael Muller.

Baptism:

Page 136 Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

Tuesday, the 21st of November, Hanss Jacob STURTZMANN, farm administrator (steward) for the most gracious Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor) in Weilach and his legitimately wed wife, Regina Elisabetha, a young daughter came into the world and on the following 25th Sunday after Trinity, the 26th of November (1699) received Holy Baptism. The Godparents were Maria Catharina, wife of Peter Clonstt??, co-farm administrator for the Manor in Weilach; Maria Eva, wife of Johannes Rauscher?, citizen in Turckh(eim) (Bad Durkheim); Hanss Jacob Bernhard, citizen of Asselheim. The child received the name: Maria Catharina.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 70 Mikrofilm 437 www.archion.de

Tom and I both searched for Turkheim, but Chris is the one who figured out that Turkheim is really Bad Durkheim, today. Of course, it’s right next door, right under my nose.

The earliest documented appearance of the name of Bad Durkheim is in the Lorsch codex of 1 June 778, as Turnesheim. A letter of enfeoffment from the Bishop of Speyer in 946 mentions Thuringeheim. So apparently Turkheim was an amalgamation of today’s Durkheim and the earlier spelling.

This is also the first record of Hanss Jacob Stutzman in Weilach, noted as a steward for Herrschaft, Lord of the Manor.

Baptism:

Page 146 Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

Monday, the 12th of June (1702), Hanss Jacob STOTZMANN, farm administrator (steward) at Weilach and Regina Elisabetha, his lawfully wed wife, was born to them a young son who was baptized on the 1st Sunday post Trinity, the 18th of June (1702). The godparents were: Joh. Michael Be…(margin), citizen from Asselheim, Samuel H..(Heitz?)(margin) from Stenweiler (Steinwenden) im Westrich; Elisabeth, wife of Hanss Michael Schum..(margin) from Ramsen. The Christian name of Johann Samuel was given.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 75 Mikrofilm 437 www.archion.de

Baptism:

Page 150 Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

Thursday evening, the 31st of January 1704, Hanss Jacob STOTZMANNEN, farm administrator (steward) for the most gracious Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor) and his lawfully wed wife, Regina Elisabetha, a young son was born and was baptized on Sunday Estomihi (Quinquagesima Sunday), the 3rd of February 1704 at Weilach. Godparents were: Johann Christian Stotzmann and Matthaeus Krauss from Ungstein and Joh. Daniel Schumacher, citizen from Ungstein and wife, Anna Margretha. The Christian name given was Johann Matthaeus.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 77 Mikrofilm 437 www.archion.de

Baptism:

Page 156 of the Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

Friday, the 1st of January in the year 1706 of the new year, Johann Jacob STOTZMANNEN, farm administrator (steward) of the most gracious Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor) at Weylach and his lawfully wed wife, Regina Elisabetha, a young son was born which on Tuesday, the 5th of January 1706 was baptized. The godparents were: Johann Jacob Schick; son of the honorable master, Johann Georg Schicken, butcher and citizen in Durckheim; Anna Elisabeth Beerin, legitimate daughter of the late Johann Martin Beer. The Christian name given was Johannes Jacobus.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 80 Mikrofilm 437 www.archion.de

Baptism:

On the 29th of January 1708 at 1 am on the fourth Sunday after Epiphany to Franz Ludwig Einde..?, a daylaborer on the Herrschaft of Weylacher Hof from his legitimate wife Anna Clara, two children, twins were born, a daughter and a son who were baptized on the fourth Sunday after Pentecost godparents of the daughter were: Catharina Margaretha, daughter of Johann Wendel Ulm, citizen and innkeeper here; Anna Catharina M(aria) legitimate daughter of Lorentz Lotz and Johann Michael, stepson of Joh(ann) Jac(ob) Stotzman, steward and farm administrator for the Lord of the Manor at Weylacher Hof. The child was named: Catharina Margretha.

The godparents of the son were: Johann Adam […?], wagoner and citizen from here and Johan Philips Schmidt, citizen from here and Anna Veronica, wife of a quarryman from Weylach, Conrad Brüls, who named the child: Philippus Adamus.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 84 Mikrofilm 437 www.archion.de

The most important aspect of this record, for my research at least, is the fact that Johann Michael (Mueller) is noted in 1708 as the STEPSON of Johann Jacob Stotzman, the steward of the manor at Weylacher Hof. Michael would have been 16 years old.

Step-son, of course, tells us that Johann Jacob was married to Johann Michael’s mother, and Jacob Stutzman is recorded as being married to Loysa Regina in Ohmbach, the widow of Michael Muller of Steinwenden in 1696. In 1697, back in Steinwenden, Jacob’s wife is recorded in a baptismal record once again as Irene. In 1699, 1702, 1704 and 1706 in the Kallstadt records, she is recorded consistently as Regina Elisabetha.

She seemed to be very flexible about her name and probably answers to anything that sounded remotely familiar.

The next three entries are from “The Peter Stutzman Family Story by Daniel T. Stutzman Sr. and Francis C. (Bud) Martin, Editors, 2011

77 iii. Anna Regina Stutzmann. Christened, 27 Feb 1706/7, in Asselheim, Grunstadt[119]. Godparents of Anna: Anna Catharina, wife of Johann Nicolaus Trommer; Regina, wife of Johann Jacob Stutzmann, “Hofmann at Weylach”; Zacharias Stein, inhabitant in Albsheim, “married since 1702 to Margaretha Jacobea Bernhardt,” according to Item 2 from Levente Pasztohy.

Daughter of Johann Christian Stutzman of Asselheim (Tom’s note).

78 iv. Johannes Stutzmann. Christened, 13 Mar 1708/9, inAsselheim[120]. Died, 6 Jul 1712, in Asselheim[103]. Godparents of Johannes were: Johann Jacob Stutzmann “Hofmann at Weylicher Hof near Tiirckheim”; Margaretha Jacobea, wife of Zacharias Stein, citizen in Albsheim. In his death record, Johannes is called Johann Jacob.

Son of Johann Christian Stutzman of Asselheim (Tom’s note).

70 v. Johanna Catharina Bernhardt[105]. Christened, 8 Jan 1709/0, in Asselheim, Rheinpfalz. Godparents: Johanna Catharina, wife of Johann Georg Naumann, miller in Asselheim; Catharina, wife of Johann Andreas Schecht, inhabitant in Asselheim; Johann Jacob Stutzman, “Hofmann at Weylich near Tiirckheim.”

Daughter of Anna Elisabeth Stutzman Bernhardt of Asselheim (Tom’s note).

Baptism:

Page 189; Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

Friday morning the 17th of January 1716, Johannes Schumacher, cow herder at the Weilach Farm and from his lawfully wed wife, Catharina, a young daughter was born which on the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany, the 19th of January was baptized at Weilach due to severe cold. The godparents were: Regina Elisabetha, legitimate wife of the farm administrator (steward) of the most esteemed Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor), Jacob Stotzmann; Susanna, wife of Hans Michael Muller, the farm administrator (steward) (refers to Jacob Stotzmann above mentioned), son in Weilach; the master Johann Daniel ?, citizen and smith in Callstadt (Kallstadt). The Christian name of Susanna Elisabetha was given.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 96 Mikrofilm 437 www.archion.de

In this record, Michael Muller is recorded as the son of Jacob Stotzmann, the farm administrator.

I wonder how many workers the estate employed. So far we see evidence of cowherders and dayworkers. Plus the administrtor and apparently his son-in-law and probably his sons as well as they became old enough to work.

In 1714, Johann Michael Muller (the second) married Suzanna Agnes Berchtol of Ohmbach in Krottelbach. Even though the villages of Weilach and Ohmback are distant, these families clearly kept in touch. You can’t marry who you can’t court.

In 1715, they had a son, Johann Peter Muller, baptized in Konken, near Ohmbach, but by 1719, Johann Michael Muller (the second) and his young family had joined his mother and step father on the estate in Weilach. Michael‘s step-father was the farm steward, so assuredly, there was work and probably some level of prestige for Michael as well. Now that we know where to look for him, we can document additional children for Michael, ones only hinted at in the land records of Maryland.

Baptism:

On Wednesday, the 20th of May 1716 was born a young son to Johann Michael M(uller), the co-steward at Weilach and his legitimate wife, Susanna. The son was baptized on Exaudi Sunday (24th May) at Weilach. Godparents: Johann Ja(cob) Stotzmann, steward for the gracious Lord of the Manor at Weilach, the child’s grandfather; Nicolaus Leist from Wachenheim an der Hardt; Catharina, legitimate wife of Andreas Neuer.burger? from Callstadt (Kallstadt). The child was named: Johann Jacob.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 97 Mikrofilm 437 www.archion.de

Here, Michael Muller is listed as co-steward and Jacob Stutzman is listed as the grandfather. Johann Michael Muller was truly lucky to have Jacob Stutzman in his life. This child was clearly named in Jacob‘s honor. I wonder if this child lived to adulthood. We have no further records.

I also wonder why the child was baptized on the farm estate rather than in the church in Kallstadt.

More from Stutzman & Martin, 2011:

81 vii. Margaretha Jacobea Stutzmann. Born, 24 May 1716, in Asselheimf123]. Died, 5 Jul 1716, in Asselheim[103]. Godparents of Margaretha were: Margaretha Jacobea, wife of Zacharias Stein, citizen in Albsheim; Johann Jacob Stutzmann, “Hofmann at Weylacher Hof”.

Daughter of Johann Christian Stutzman of Asselheim (Tom’s note).

82 viii. Maria Felicitas Stutzmann. Christened, 16 Jan 1717/8, in Asselheim[124]. Godparents of Maria were: The honorable Johann Friedrich Bernhard, citizen in Lautern; virgin Maria Catharina, daughter of the honorable Johann Jacob Stutzmann, “inhabitant in Weylich, in the jurisdiction of the Count of Leiningen”.

Daughter of Johann Christian Stutzman of Asselheim (Tom’s note).

Baptism

Baptism: page 194 of the Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

Monday, the 30th of August 1717, Johann Michael Muller, farm administrator (steward) for the Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor) in Weilach and his lawfully wed wife, Susanna Agnes, a young daughter was born and was baptized on the 15th Sunday post Trinity, the 5th of September 1717. The godparents were: Jean (surname in margin), the esteemed Count (margin) at Hardenburg; Regina Maria, wife of Nicolai Ceston, ? from Wachenheim. Johannes Cornelius Neu, citizen in Callstadt (Kallstadt); Maria Catharina, legitimate daughter of Johann Stozmann from Weilach. The child received the name Regina Maria Elisabetha.

This is the first reference to Michael Muller as the farm administrator. He would have been 25 years old.

There is no further record of this child but that doesn’t mean that the child didn’t survive.

Baptism

Page 198 of the Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

Monday, the 24th of April 1719, Michal Muller, farm administrator (steward) for the most gracious Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor) in Weilach and his lawfully wed wife, Susanna Agnesa, a son was born and baptized on the 27th of April. The Godparents were: Regina (margin), legitimate wife of Jacob Stotzmann, Sr., the old steward and the fathers mother(!); Johannes Schumacher, cow herder; Anna Eva, legitimate wife of Daniel ?, smith in Callstadt (Kallstadt); and Johannes (Christian) Stotzmann from Asselheim. The child was given the Christian name of Johannes Michael.

IMAGE: 0488294-00106 Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 101 – Mikrofilm 437 http://www.archion.de

Not only do we find the next child born to Michael and Susanna, we find yet another confirming link between Michael and Regina as his mother, the wife of Jacob Stutzman.

The records later in the US indicate that indeed, there is a Michael Muller the third. This child, or a namesake, clearly lived.

Baptism

Baptism: page 204 of the Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

Saturday, the 5th of April 1721, Johann Michal Muller, farm administrator (steward) for the most esteemed Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor) in Weilach and his lawfully wed wife, Susanna Agnesa, a young son was born and on the following Thursday, the 10th of April 1721 was baptized. Godparents: Johann Samuel Stozmann, legitimate son of Johann Jacob Stozmann, farm administrator (steward) for the most esteemed Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor) at Weilach; Ludwich Stozmann, legitimate son of Philip Stozmann, farm administrator (steward) on the Kohlhoffin, Nassau; Eva Catharina, legitimate daughter of Samuel Heitzen, citizen in Stannweiler. The child was given the name: Johann Ludwig.

IMAGE: 0488294-00109 Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 104 Mikrofilm 437 http://www.archion.de

It appears that the Stutzman’s family may be career farm administrators. Philip Stutzman is the administrator for another farm, the Kohlhoffin. This record also tells us that the name Ludwig or Lodowich as it’s known in the US came from the Stutzman family, not the Miller line directly.

Not only do we next find Lodowich, whose real name was Johann Ludwig, we also find a confirmation as to the real identity of Regina Loysa, aka Irene, aka Irene Charitas.

This record links Eva Catharina, daughter of Samuel Heitz to Michael Muller and the Stutzman families. Samuel Heitz was the brother of Irene Liesabetha (Irene Charitas) Heitz who married Michael Muller, (the first) who died in 1695 in Steinwenden. Yes, Irene Charitas was actually Irene Elisabetha Heitz, who was then known for some reason when she married in a church away from where she lived as Regina Loysa, then Loysa Regina, and then in yet another church in another village as Regina Elisabetha.

Irene Charitas Regina Loysa Elisabetha’s brother traveled all the way to Kallstadt to stand up as her grandchild was baptized. And thank goodness that he made that trip, almost 300 years ago, because it provides us with confirmation of the identify of Jacob Stutzman’s mother.

Johann Michael Muller (the second) is now listed as the farm administrator in his own right in this record.

We are fortunate enough to find one more record for Johann Michael Muller and his wife Suzanna that links him to his next destination.

Baptism: page 206; Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

Thursday evening, the 15th of January 1722, J(ohann) Schumacher, cow herder for the Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor) estate in W(eilach) and from his legitimately married wife, Anna Catharina, a young son was born and which on the 20th of January at Weilach was baptized. The godparents were: Hans Michael Muller, b(….) at Lam(b)sheim, son of Joh(ann) Jac(ob) Stozmann, Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor) farm administrator (steward) at Weilach; Justina Margreth, legitimately wed wife of Master Joh(ann) Ja(cob) Schmiddt, citizen and shoemaker from here; Eva Barbara, legitimate daughter of Joh(ann) Conr(ad) Brül, laborer, and the local ziegelscheder? here, a Catholic. The child was given the name: Johann Mich(ael).

This last record connects Michael Muller with Jacob Stutzman once again, as well as tells us that he is now a Lambsheim resident.

Did these people ever stay put in one place?

Weilach

Beginning in 1799, Johann Jacob Stutzman and his wife, Irene Charitas Regina Loysa Elisabetha (take your pick of names) lived on the estate Hofruine Weilach, owned by the Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor) in Weilach, a member of the Leininger Counts, a noble family. Jacob Stutzman was a steward of the farm, as was Johan Michael Muller who co-administered the estate, and then apparently administered the estate.

In a 1982 article written in German by Otto Gödel about the Weilach Hof, a list of the administrators is given, as follows:

  • 1578 Lampert Ott
  • 1614 Jacob Min
  • 1651 Theobard Klein
  • 1669 Peter Georgens
  • 1684 Christ Ulrich (This name causes me pause, because Ulrich is one of my family names that we find with Muller both in Germany and in the US, and this is the first time I’ve seen it associated with a common location with the Miller line. However, Ulrich isn’t an somewhat uncommon German name.)
  • 1699 Hans Jacob Stutzmann
  • 1716 Hans Michael Muller
  • 1727 Johann Samuel Stutzmann also Mithofmann
  • 1769 Peter Becker and
  • 1785 Johannes Becker

This is interesting, because we know unquestionably that Michael Muller was in Lambsheim in 1721. Where was Jacob Stutzman afer 1716?

Michael Muller probably had only vague memories of living elsewhere. He would have been 4 when his mother remarried and 7 in 1799 when Jacob Stutzman became the farm administrator.

Michael clearly maintained ties with the family near Steinwenden, because he married Suzanna Agnes Berchtol in Ohmbach in 1714. They obviously lived there for a short time given that their first child was born there the following year, but shortly thereafter Michael and Suzanna would return to Weilach and join Jacob Stutzman as a co-administrator of the farm. At that time, Jacob Stutzman (Jr., now referred to as “the elder”) would have been about 38 years old. It occurs to me that Michael was only 14 years younger than his step-father, and he then was 14 years older than his half-brother, Jacob Stutzman (the third, referred to as “the younger”) – exactly half way between father and son. Michael may have been more close friends with his step-father than anything else.

Weilach was Michael’s childhood home, where he grew up with his much-beloved half-brother, Jacob Stutzman (the younger), and where he would begin raising his own family as well.

What do we know about Weilach?

First of all, it was very difficult to find today, becuase it’s in ruins. However, Tom did find these maps from about 1898 where Weilach is actually still shown.

Weilach and Kallstadt maps about 1898, above and below. Weilach is located about half way between Kallstadt and Bad Durkheim.

Weilach was a farm first documeted in 1381 as Weilacher Hof and was in posession of the Leininger Counts. The area is notorious for wet pools and willow trees, and thereby received it’s name. Beginning in 1490, the estate was managed by a series of 10 tenants until 1790 when the farm was burned by a gang of robbers. The steward’s daughter hid in a kennel and recognized one of the miscreants, leading to justice. The farm was never rebuilt, the ruins remaining today in a mountainous area popular for hiking, marathon runs and bicycle racing.

A well was located in the middle of the yard. Opposite the house stood a shepherd’s house.

The wall remains of the ruined courtyard. That wall was extremely thick, so I suspect it was a form of fortification. I do wonder why the holes or indentations were present in the wall.

Here’s a YouTube video of the estate as it exists today, nestled in the forest.

My heart longs to visit, to walk there, to tread where Michael, his wife and his mother stood. I want to trace their footsteps 300 years later – to share their experience and absorb everything possible.

The area is very hilly, located on an outlier of the Haardt Mountains. This photo shows a view of the Upper Rhine Plain from west to east from a vineyard near Neustadt with Mannheim in the background. This is very similar to what Michael would have seen from the landmark hill close to Weilach.

By Myself (user Alex Ex) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1260063

Today, the old Wielacher Hof can be located by first finding the Peterskopf tower, also known as the Bismark tower. There’s a restaurant there, so finding this location shouldn’t be too difficult.

The Peterskopf tower hill lies 3 km northwest of Bad Dürkheim on the eastern edge of the Palatine Forest on the forest estate of the municipality of Kallstadt; the actual village being in the northeast, 4 km away. On the southeastern slope of the hill, 700 metres from the summit, are the ruins of the Weilach farmstead first mentioned in 1381. The River Isenach flows past the Peterskopf to the southwest before entering the town of Bad Dürkheim.

View from the Felsenberg-Berntal Nature Reserve looking southwest over Leistadt to the Peterskopf tower on top of the hill. The manoral farm where Jacob Stutzman was the administrator, raising his family, would have been on the other side of the hill, to the left.

Here’s a video of a beautiful fall walk near the tower and the view from the top of the tower. Another video here and here with amazing views of the countryside and the Rhine.

The tower is marked on the map below with Peterskopf.

Satellite view of the tower.

700 meters translates into 2296 feet, so the Hutte in der Weilach which is a small eatery seems to be located very close to the car park and the ruins themselves. The ruins (former farm) would have been located on a road.

I notice there is a crossroads there, and it looks like the ruins may have been nestled in vineyards, if that’s what the terracing and rows in the photo are. (Excuse me while I go get a glass of wine.)

Being young boys, rest assured that both Michael Muller (the second) and Jacob Stutzman (the younger) climbed that very hill and stood on top, surveying the Rhine River Valley and perhaps dreaming of one day whey they would float away on that distant, barely visible, Rhine river, beckoning them to embark on the adventure of their lives.

A few years later, that dream came true. But first, Michael Miller would go to Lambsheim.

Lambsheim

In the three months after the April 1721 baptism of his son, Johann Ludwig, Johann Michael Mueller and his wife moved to Lambsheim, only about 12 miles distant, where they lived until they left for America in 1727.

The following snippet (#1371) documenting Michael Muller being from Weilach, living in Lambsheim, and leaving for America in 1727 is from this Muller-Familien site in German by Dr. Hermann Muller.

I can’t help but wonder why Michael moved to Lambsheim, because assuredly Jacob Stutzman wasn’t getting any younger and needed help on the farm. The actual estate records are confusing during this time. Perhaps a conflict arose or maybe Jacob Stutzman preferred working his own son who he probably assumed would follow him as the farm administrator.

Jacob Stutzman (the younger), Michael’s brother, now age 15, would have been living at home in Weilach. His half brother Michael moved a few miles away, so they would have kept in touch.

Let’s take a look at what we know about Michael‘s move to Lambsheim.

The city of Lambsheim is in the middle of the wine region, seen here in the distance, across the vineyards.

By The original uploader was Romantiker at German Wikipedia – Transferred from de.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1955104

The middle of the village today. Churches are always someplace near the center of the old medieval villages.

Lambsheim was a fortified city, with the gatehouse still remaining.

Von Joachim Specht – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42061691

This former hunting lodge in Lambsheim was built in 1706, originally as a moated castle with gardens, so would have been new when Michael Miller lived here. He may have climbed those very steps. Today, this is the town hall!

Von Altera levatur – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40964618

You can see more historic and architectural photos here. I am utterly enchanted seeing buildings that I know my ancestors saw with their own eyes, maybe even walked in – connecting me to Michael and Suzanna in some small way through time and space.

An article in Pennsylvania Folklife in the Winter 1973-1974 issue tells us about Lambsheim during the time when Johann Michael Mueller would have lived there.

Lambsheim wouldn’t have looked much different in 1721 than it did when this map was created in 1672. You can see the city wall and gatehouse.

The history of Lambsheim includes an interesting nugget about religion. The town includes Reformed, Lutheran and Catholic families, along with a few Jewish families as well. After 1705, the Catholic and Reformed congregations shared a church building, a rather remarkable arrangement considering that religion had been such an contentious factor in the 30 Years War which had ended only a generation previously.

The town wasn’t large, but it included churches, schoolhouses, inns, bakehouses and more. Michael and Suzanne lived someplace on these few streets.

Looking at the town today, you can see the same map outline, with Marketstrasse the main east-west street and Hauptstrasse the main north-south.

The churches and steeple. I know Michael saw this, every single day, and certainly was inside this building, probably many times.

Gathering Place

The Ulrich, Berchtol, Miller and Stutzman families are all found in the Steinwenden, Krottelbach, Konken and Ohmbach area of Germany beginning in the 1680s when the Swiss migrated and began settling the German lands vacated and abandoned during the long 30 Years War. That’s an entire generation, and few families would be in a position or have the desire to return. The older generation was gone.

This entire driving route is about 17 miles and would take about 35 minutes today.

As we’ve seen, the Swiss/Germans tended to migrate quite a bit within Germany. With no generations deeply rooted, and still no ability to own land outright, there was no reason NOT to go elsewhere and try your hand. After a generation or two, that just seemed normal, I’m sure.

We already know that Jacob Stutzman came from Erlenbach im Simmental, Bern Canton, Switzerland. Many families in this region originated near Geneva, Switzerland. We also know that the Berchtol, Miller and Ulrich families were Swiss before becoming German, although the exact location of their roots has yet to be firmly established.

They all settled in the Konken/Krottelbach/Steinwenden region in Germany, but some of the next generation moved on. In this case, “on” seems to be Lambsheim where we once again find records involving these same families. In some cases, we know it’s the identical family, because we can actually connect the dots, but in others, we’re not so lucky. Lambsheim also seems to be where the Miller family connects with the Ulrich line.

The Pennsylvania Folklife article provides interesting information about some of the Lambsheim residents who immigrated.

In 1727, Jacob Stutzman, Michael Miller, Jacob Bauman, Johannes Ullerich, Christian Ullerich and Peter Rool (Ruhl) arrived in Philadelphia on October 2, on the ship “Adventure.” One Christ Ulrich held the lease on the Weilach estate from 1784 to 1799, just previous to Jacob Stutzman. Is this the same line?

Also immigrating at a later date from Lambsheim was one Maria Katharina Bechtold, widow of Zacharias Bechtold, son of Hans Stephan Bechtold and Anna Elisabetha. Is Bechtold the same as Berchtol? I don’t know. The author seems to think so and provides additional information about Hennrich Bechdolt from Lambsheim arriving as well, in 1738.

Michael Muller is mentioned as having been born at Steinweiler in the Oberant Lautern. When he became a citizen in Lambsheim in 1721, it was stated that he was formerly on the farm property at Weilach which belonged to the counts of Leiningen. There is no question about this being the same Michael Muller.

We don’t know if or how Peter Ruhl was related to the Miller/Stutzman clan, but he too was on the ship “Adventure” with the Lambsheim contingent in 1727. His entry in Lambsheim is interesting because it says that he paid his emigration tax. He was a wineloader and nightwatchman who was a nonhereditary tenant on a farm.

I wonder how much emigration tax cost, and if it had to be paid for every person, or just for the head of household or males of a certain age. Was it meant to dissuade migration, or just one more way to make a few last dollars off of someone who was leaving anyway?

Johannes Ulrich became a Lambsheim citizen on November 10, 1721, a few months after Michael Muller, and one Johannes Ulrich arrived on the same ship with the Miller/Stutzman group. So did Christian Ulrich.

Pietism

I’ve never been clear on when or where Johann Michel Muller and Johann Jacob Stutzman became pietist. They were both very clearly Brethren in the US, documented in both of their family histories along with the Brethren history. Their ancestors were Swiss, then Lutheran or Reformed, but in Europe, not even a hint of Pietism. However, on this side of the Atlantic by 1738 for Stutzman and 1744 for Miller, we know they were pietists, but we don’t know exactly when or how that happened.

I do believe we may have found at least part of the secret, in Lambsheim.

Lambsheim seemed to have a mesmerizing draw in the person of charismatic John Philipp Boehm, born in 1683, a Lambsheim resident who had been an innkeeper prior to becoming a teacher and then a clergyman in the Reformed church. Not without controversy, he is considered the father of the Reformed Church in America.

According to the Pennsylvania Folklife article, in 1702, several men in Lambsheim were accused of pietism, including Matthaus Baumann, another man who would immigrate. Baumann and several followers were convicted in 1706 and sentenced on a subsistence of bread and water to clean out the town ditches (think raw sewage including human and animal waste), at which time most of them took the oath of allegiance. Bauman however, a radical pietist, testified that he had no written confession and that he believed in God alone, with whom he had spoken and who had sent him to call people to repent. Making matters worse, he declared that the clergy of the state churches preached false doctrine.

Many of the men who refused to take the oath were subsequently banished from the town and province in 1709, 1714 and 1719. This was the beginning of the Lambsheim immigration to America. Eventually 1133 people left between 1832 and 1877, and clearly more left between 1709 and 1832. That’s a very large number for a small village, even though the exodus took place over more than a century. It tells us that there are probably a lot of people in the US today descended from Lambsheim.

Baumann was one of the first to leave in 1714, settling in Berks County, PA, where many others would follow and settle in the Oley Valley among other Germans.

Skabat169 – Own work This panoramic image was created with Autostitch

In 1742, both Michael Miller and Jacob Stutzman filed for land grants on the same day in Berks County.

I wonder what the impetus was for leaving Lambsheim in 1727. Jacob Stutzman (the younger) would just have been coming of age. Jacob, the youngest child, of Irene Charitas Regina Loysa Elisabetha was leaving with her oldest child, Michael Muller. Clearly, Irene/Regina knew unquestionably that she would never see them again in her lifetime. She had already buried at least 5 children and now her youngest and oldest were leaving too, by choice.

Irene/Regina was no spring chicken either. In 1727, she would have been about 63, a ripe old age in that time in Germany. I can’t help but wonder if something happened in 1721 when Michael Muller moved to Lambsheim, the same rift that would allow him to leave in1727, taking his brother with him.

Both of those men knew they would never see their mother or Jacob Stutzman again.

On to America!

In 1727, when Johann Michael Muller arrived in Philadelphia, now age 35, his previous place of residence was listed as Lambsheim, Pfalz, Bavaria. He was a resident in Lambsheim from 1721-1727 and became a citizen in Lambsheim on June 4, 1721, listed as formerly residing on the grafl. Leining Hofgut at Weilach. The ship’s manifest reports his birth as Steinweiler Oberamt Lautern and his arrival on October 2, 1727 on the ship “Adventure.”

This means that Michael and Suzanna likely had children born in 1723, 1725 and perhaps 1727 in Lambshein. Unfortunately, Lambsheim church records for this timeframe no longer exist. Nothing prior to 1800.

We know positively that Philip Jacob Miller, son of Michael Miller and Susanna Berchtol, was born about 1726 and there are other possible children as well.

What else do the Kallstadt records tell us?

Marriage:

Page 395; Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

Tuesday, the 18th of February 1721, following the announcement of 3 banns were officially married in church: The shoemaker, Johann Adam Schmidt, legitimate son of the master shoemaker and citizen, Johann Jacob Schmidt with Maria Catharina, legitimate only daughter of Johann Jacob Stotzmann, the farm administrator for the Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor) at Weilach.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 201 Mikrofilm 437 www.archion.de

Johann Adam Schmidt would probably assist his father-in-law, Jacob Stutzman (the elder,) as a farm administrator. In 1721, Jacob is still listed as the administrator of the farm, so the records indicating that Michael Miller took over in 1716 are incorrect. It appears they were co-administrators until Michael moved to Lambsheim.

Baptism:

Tuesday morning at 4 a.m. on the 22nd of April 1721 was born to Tobias Schragen, citizen here, a young son from his legitimate wife, Gertraud. On Friday the 25th of April he was baptized. Godparents: Johann Jacob Stotzman, steward for the Lord of the Manor at Weilach; Anna Margretha, legitimate wife of Johannis (Johann Christian) Stotzmann from Asselheim. The child was given the name: Johannes Jacobus.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 104 Mikrofilm 437 http://www.archion.de

Baptism:

Thursday evening [“24 October” added to the right] at about 8 to 9, a young daughter was born to master shoemaker Johann Adam Schmidt, now living on the Weilach manor with his father-in-law Stotzmann, with his lawfully wed wife Maria Catharina, which was baptized on the manor on the 27th, 19th Sunday after Trinity. Godparents were: Master Johann Jacob Schmidt, citizen and shoemaker from here, grandfather of the child, Anna Regina, lawfully wed wife of Johann Jacob Stotzmann, steward for the lord of the manor, grandmother of the child, who gave the child the name Johanna Regina.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 115 Mikrofilm 437 www.archion.de

Irene Charitas Regina Loysa Elisabetha is beginning to see her grandchilden born, being their godmother and witnessing their baptisms.

Baptism:

Thursday, the 9th of October 1727 was born to Johann Samuel Stotzmann, steward for the Lord of the Manor at Weilacher Hof and his legitimate wife, Anna Maria, a young daughter, who was baptized on the 12th, 18th Sunday after Trinity at the Weilacher Hof. The godparents were: Johann Jacob Stotzmann, steward at the manor with his legitimate wife Regina Elisabetha; Anna Elisabetha, legitimate wife of Joh(ann) Adam Walter, steward for the Lord of the Manor in Durckh[eim]. The child was named: Regina Elisabetha.

Johann Adam Walter was also a godfather. (Note added in the row below.)

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 116 Mikrofilm 437 http://www.archion.de

Burial:

Page 515 of the Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

Laetare Sunday, the 27th of March 1729 died in Weilach as a result of consumption, Anna Regina, lawfully wed wife of Johann Jacob Stotzmann, farm administrator (steward) of the esteemed Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor). Aged 75 years and was buried at Callstadt (Kallstadt) with the ringing of (church bells); hymns and a funeral sermon.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 261 Mikrofilm 437 www.archion.de

Clearly, as late at 1729, Jacob Stutzman is stil the farm administrator at Weilach.

If Regina was 75 years old, she was born in 1654, a decade before I thought possible, given that Jacob Stutzman, her husband, was born in 1673/6, making her 22 years older than him when they married. He was age 20 according to his birth record. This would also mean that by 1706 when her son Johann Jacob Stutzman Jr. was born that she would have been 52. That’s certainly not unheard of, but it’s not exactly normal either. Ages given at death are often incorrect. I don’t exactly know what to think about this informatoin.

Irene/Regina is probably buried in the Kallstadt churchyard, carried outside after her sermon. I can hear those churchbells ringing to celebrate her life.

Her first 5 children died young. Her only other Muller child, plus her youngest Stutzman child had departed for America two years before. Irene/Regina still had six children to attend her funeral, her husband and several grandchildren. She may have had surviving siblings as well, along with nieces and nephews. I’m sure the church was packed to the gills that day!

You can view additional photos of Kallstadt here.

I find it unusual that Johann Michael Muller left Germany before his mother passed away. He was her oldest living child. She died just 2 years later. News must surely have reached him by letter, many months later, if ever. Of course, that news would have meant as much to Jacob Stutzman as Michael Muller, then Miller, as she was his mother as well.

The next year, their brother, Samuel, also the farm administrator died too, a few months shy of his 28th birthday, joining his mother in the churchyard. I can’t help but wonder why. Was he injured on the farm?

Death:

Page 515 Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

Saturday, the 4th of February 1730 in the evening died: Johann Samuel (Stutz)mann, son of the citizen and farm administrator for the count of Leiningen-Hardenburg. His age 27 years, 8 months and was buried on Monday the 6th of February in Callstadt (Kallstadt).

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 261 Mikrofilm 437 www.archion.de

Marriage:

Page 401; Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

Tuesday, the 12th of July 1730, Johann Jacob Stotzmann, farm administrator (steward) for the most gracious Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor) at Weilach with Louysa, the surviving widow of master baker and local juror, Tobias Lunge from here after receiving dispensation from …. the mourning period……………

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 204 Mikrofilm 437 www.archion.de

When you’re as old as Jacob Stutzman, if you don’t waive the mourning period and just pay the fee, you just might not live long enough to marry. I don’t know how long that mourning period was supposed to last, but he waited 16 months. Neither Tom nor Chris are familiar with the custom of a fee to waive the mourning period. Neither had even hard of a mourning period? Was the purpose to be sure a merry widow didn’t remarry the next week, or was this a fundraising opportunity for the church?

Jacob is still the farm administrator.

Life marched on with more births to the Stutzman children.

Baptism:

Page 250; Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

The 27th of October in the afternoon was born to Johann Adam Schmitt and his lawfully wed wife from here, Maria Catharina nee Stutzmann(in) a daughter and on the 31st of the same (month) was baptized. The godparents were: Jacob Stutzmann and his lawfully wed wife, Louisa Margaretha. The child received the name Louisa Margaretha.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 127 Mikrofilm 437 www.archion.de

Baptism:

Page 257; Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

Monday, the 4th of February 1737 between 9-10 a.m. was born to Adam Schmitt, local citizen and his wife, Maria Catharina, a son, who was baptized on the 6th [Iof February. The godparents: Jacob Stutzmann, farm administrator (steward) at Weilach with his legitimately wed wife, Louisa Margaretha, the child’s grandparents on the mother’s side. The child was named: Jacob.

Note added:

“During the erection of the church building on 17th of June 1772 he fell down and died.”

I’m presuming here that the note pertains to Jacob who would have been age 35 at that time. I wonder if “fell down” meant from the top.

Jacob is still the farm administrator and is now in his 60s.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 130 Mikrofilm 437 http://www.archion.de IMAGE: 0247601-00355

Death:

6 September 1739 in Friedelsheim-Gonnheim Ev. Ref. Kirche

On the 6th of September 1739 was buried, Jacob Stutzmann, his age 66 years.

Jacob Stutzman Sr. lived for another 9 years after his remarriage. Sometime between February 1737 and his death in September of 1739, if we are to judge by where his death is recorded, he retired from farm administration. Friedelsheim is about 10 kilometers from Weilach.

Someone would have written the sad news to both men in a letter which would have arrived in Pennsylvania weeks or months later, perhaps not until the spring or early summer of 1740.

The story of Michael Mueller (the second) and Jacob Stutzman (the younger) doesn’t end with the death of their mother and the man who raised both his biological son and step-son.

Their bond would continue in America for the rest of their lives.

Meanwhile in Pennsylvania

On October 2, 1742, Michael and Jacob both obtained land warrants for 100 acres each on Saucony Creek, Maxatawney, Philadelphia County, PA, now Berks County. I do wonder if they bought that land with their inheritance from Jacob Stutzman.

This is now Berks County, shown below, within about 5 miles of Allentown, PA.

Maxatawny Township is shown here, with Saucony Creek running through the middle of Kutztown.

The warrant information for Michael Miller says that he vacated this land. I wonder why.

Michael also applied to patent 200 acres in the same location on June 11, 1734, which he also vacated.

The survey for this land can be found in book A84, page 144, although it provides exactly no additional information.

Jacob Stutzman applied for two claims of 100 acres each in 1742 on the same day as Michael entered his second claim. Jacob also abandoned one claim.

According to the Pennsylvania State Archives, one of Jacob Stutzman’s warrants was vacated and replaced by a warrant to Michael Christman (See Berks County Warrant Register, Surnames beginning with “C”, warrant no. 28). The other warrant simply refers to the vacated warrant (no. 128). No further action appears to have been taken with the second warrant. This is rather disappointing, because I was hoping to be able to pinpoint the location of these men during a someone fuzzy time.

I wonder if either man ever actually lived on this land. We found Michael Miller in Chester County for some time, then he begins paying taxes in York County by 1744, involved with the Ulrich group who helped found the Little Conewago Brethren Church. At some point, Stephen Ulrich sold his original Lancaster, then York County land to Jacob Stutzman, but that deed was never recorded. The only way we know about it is due to a transaction another generation later.

In York County, we do find Lodowick Miller who surveyed 250 acres at Mt. Joy and received the warrant on March 22, 1749. That survey wasn’t returned until May of 1864 in his name. No, that’s not a typo.

Was this Ludwig Miller, son of Johann Michael Miller/Muller, born in April 5, 1721 in Kallstadt. He would have been 28 in 1749, so it’s certainly possible. Note that there is also a Lodowick Solomon Miller who warrants York County land in 1769, after our Lodowich is in Maryland. Unfortunately, Miller is a very common surname and the only way we know the Michael Miller in Philadelphia (then Berks) County is our Michael is because Jacob Stutzman registered land at the same time. The chances of those two names appearing together on the same day in the same place, but not being those two men is vanishingly small.

By 1745, this group was buying land across the border in Washington, now Frederick County, Maryland and by 1752 the entire congregation had moved to escape ongoing border wars in that part of Pennsylvania.

This group of German Brethren families established the foundation for the next many generations of Brethren as they moved across the frontiers. Many of these families remain Brethren to this day.

What About DNA?

You might have noticed only the passing mention of genetics up until now.

We have three types of DNA that we can utilize.

  • First, Y DNA, passed only from father to son, is entirely irrelevant to this mystery, because we already know that Johann Michael Muller and Johann Jacob Stutzman don’t share a common paternal line.
  • Second, mitochondrial DNA descended from Irene indeed could under some circumstances be relevant, but because mitochondrial DNA is passed from a mother to all of her children, with only females passing it on, it’s not useful in confirming that Michael Miller and Jacob Stutzman were half siblings. Neither man passed mitochondrial DNA to his children, so that option is off the table.

Mitochondrial would be very interesting if we could find someone today who descends from Irene/Regina through all females to the current generation, which can be male. That would tell us a great deal about Irene/Regina, but not whether Michael and Jacob were half siblings, unless we dug them up, of course. (PS – No, we really can’t because we don’t know where they are buried.)

  • Third, autosomal DNA is inherited by children from both parents – half from each parent. Each parents’ autosomal DNA is effectively halved in each generation, so he child only received part of the DNA of each parent. The child may not receive exactly 50% of the DNA of each ancestor in each generation, but on the average, the following grid shows how much of each ancestor’s DNA you carry back 7 generations in time.

Compare this chart to the pedigree below that shows my descent from Irene:

  • The first issue we have is that the relationship begins as a half-sibling, which means that Jacob and Michael only shared half as much common DNA as full siblings would share.
  • The second problem is that we are two generations beyond the 7th generation where the average amount of DNA drops below 1%. At 9 generations to a common ancestral couple, we would expect to see slightly less than .2%, and with half siblings to begin, that has now dropped to .09%. In other words, to have a large enough piece of common DNA after this many generations beginning with half siblings, we’d have to be extremely lucky several times over. Not impossible, but also not common.
  • The third challenge is that on my side, we have an unknown wife. Magdalena, married to Philip Jacob Miller, sometime around 1751 in either Pennsylvania or about the time they moved to Maryland. Regardless, in true Brethren fashion, the marriage is not recorded. They may have been good Brethren, avoiding any government at all, but those practices drive genealogists nuts!
  • The fourth challenge is that we don’t know who Jacob Stutzman’s wife was, so for all we know, Jacob’s wife and Philip Jacob Muller’s wife could have been sisters or otherwise related. It was, after all, a small Brethren community.

One thing we do know beyond a doubt is that Philip Jacob Miller’s wife, Magdalena would be Brethren, or at least pietist, and so would Jacob’s. So, perhaps Mennonite. Otherwise, the couples would have been excommunicated from the church.

Therefore, it’s certainly possible that Magdalena’s lineage is found in Jacob Stutzman’s descendants, or Jacob’s wife’s line in Philip Jacob Millers descendants, or both. At that early date, about 1750, the number of Brethren families in the Little Conewago congregation was quite small and records were very poorly kept, if at all.

Jacob Stutzman would have married someplace in the US after arrival, but that’s about all we know. His wife might not have been Brethren when he married her, because we don’t know for sure when Jacob became Brethren.

Furthermore, because the Brethren are so closely aligned, eschewing those not of the Brethren faith, they tended to migrate together, as displaced Swiss to Germany, as Germans to the colonies and later, as Brethren marching across the frontiers to new lands. Endogamous groups are defined by intermarriage for many generations, and we certainly see that phenomenon here.

Therefore, if the descendants of Jacob Stutzman had DNA matches to the descendants of Johann Michael Muller/Miller, we would have no way to determine if that match was because of Irene’s contribution, or because the descendants are related through an unknown ancestral line.

Unless by some miracle we can identify both Jacob’s wife and Magdalena’s surname and family, we will never be able to utilize autosomal DNA effectively, with one possible exception. If we can find descendants of Irene’s siblings or family members not descended through Irene, and they triangulate to Irene’s descendants, that too would suffice. Never say never. The stars might align and I might just win the genetic genealogy lottery.

After all, Tom and Chris have pretty much already done the impossible, so why not hope for yet another miracle!

  • If you descend from Jacob Stutzman, but have NO descent from the Miller, Berchtol or Ulrich lines, please let me know. If your DNA matches with a Miller descendant, we might be able to tentatively identify a few segments of Irene/Regina’s DNA, even yet today.
  • If you descend from Regina through one of her Stutzman daughters through all females to the current generation, which can be male, you carry her mitochondrial DNA. I have a DNA testing scholarship for you.
  • I would also encourage any male Stutzman who carries the surname to take the Y DNA test at Family Tree DNA. Additionally for Y test takers, and any other descendants of either gender, please take the Family Finder autosomal DNA test at Family Tree DNA. Then, join the Stutzman DNA project as well as the Miller-Brethren project so you can compare your results to known descendants to see if your DNA matches. Once a project member, you can compare directly to other known descendants within the project.

Descendants of Johann Michael Muller/Miller are encouraged to join as well. After all, thanks to Irene Charitas Loysa Regina Elisabetha, the Millers and the Stutzmans in the US are finally proven to be related by blood.

Hurray!!!

It was complicated, and frustrating, but it’s so worthwhile now.

Acknowledgements:

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Tom who has been working on the Stutsman Saga now for at least two years. Also to Chris who joined our little team in the past year. Tom suggests that Bud Martin deserves the credit for his work on the early Peter Stutzman lineage including the two sons, Hans and Hans Jacob. Tom adds that the superb work of Klaus Dufner and Uwe Porten were tremendously important in sorting through the Stutzman generations. I would like to add that there is a great deal of new information here for the Stutzman cousins, even those not related through Irene Charitas Regina Loysa Elizabetha, or whatever her name really was.

Related Articles

This article provides information not included in the following articles, and corrects some earlier information – for example, the Schlosser family is NOT an ancestor to the Johann Michael Muller/Miller line. However, all of these articles contain relevant historical information pertaining to the area in Germany where all of these families lived before immigration. They also explain how these mistakes arose. I’m hopeful thta leaving the information will prevent it from happening again and allow future researchers to step through the process.

The stories of the individuals involved are contained in their own biographies, listed below:

Miller/Stutzman

Berchtol/Bechtol

Irene Charitas/Schlosser/Heitz

Ulrich

Believe it or not, we aren’t yet finished with this series. I’ll be writing about Irene Heitz’s parents, Michael Muller (the first)’s father and the Ulrich family soon.

Barbara Jean Ferverda (1922-2006) and Her “Suitcase of Life” – 52 Ancestors #193

It’s Mother’s Day, of course. Mother’s Day falls within a week or so of the anniversary of mother’s passing. The year she passed away, I spent Mother’s Day cleaning out her apartment and moving the furniture I was keeping, along with several boxes, home, in a rented truck. Clearly, that was one of the most miserable Mother’s Days ever. Talk about a tough day.

After Mom passed away, as I was cleaning out her closet, I found her old dancing suitcase, the handle cracked with age and hundreds of performances. Mom lived out of this suitcase for years, her ever-present companion.

The metal latches were worn smooth with her fingers, packing and unpacking costumes across the country, needles and pins still clinging to the inside for quick fixes. That sojourning suitcase with all of its secrets, now “retired” and packed full of “stuff” that she had saved for me.

Thanks Mom. Such a wonderful gift.

The Suitcase of Life

Mom called it her “suitcase of life” and after I opened the suitcase, on top, greeting me was a note written on an envelope in her handwriting.

How my heart ached for my mother’s suffering when I saw that.  Had I know about this a few days sooner, perhaps I could have given her some sort of assurance or comfort.

A few days, you ask? A story was unfolding, even as she died, a tragedy that reached back some 65 years.

The first thing that struck me was the apologetic timbre of the note, along with the fact that it was incredibly sad that she felt her life was in any way “bad.”

Mom’s life was difficult. She was an accidental pioneer.

No, her life wasn’t all bad – in fact, it wasn’t’ “bad” at all, but it was anything but easy. She was a soul placed on this earth before her time – seldom in sync with the society and location in which she found herself living, trying to survive, at the time.

Mom often endured criticism for both her own choices and circumstances that dragged her along, over which she had no control. Sometimes when you’re marching on life’s road, the only way is forward, no matter where it leads.

I knew that somehow this gift was a combination treasure chest and Pandora’s box.

What treasures did she leave?

There were certainly some surprises, let me tell you! Things I never suspected. Things I suspected and could now confirm. I’m just as sure that there are secrets I’ll never know – that she took to her grave with her. Secrets too personal, or painful, to leave behind for scrutiny.

One of the best gifts was a treasure trove of photos, with at least a few from her childhood. Let’s start there.

Baby Barbara Jean

In many ways, my mother, Barbara Jean Ferverda, was typical for the time and place in which she was born. The tiny town of Silver Lake, Indiana in 1922 was a conservative Brethren crossroads community in Kosciusko County, Indiana with far more horses than cars. The “town” was all of three blocks wide and about as long, streets were dirt, and a cornfield grew beside their house.

Notice the horse and buggy in the upper left hand side of the photo.

Her parents, Edith Barbara Lore and John Whitney Ferverda owned the last house at the edge of town – the only home they ever owned and where Mom lived her entire life before leaving entirely.

Edith, third from right in front, worked at the local chicken hatchery as a bookkeeper until sometime after 1940.

A working wife was highly unusual and not well accepted. John was the stationmaster at the railroad depot, beginning in 1910, within sight of the house.

That was, until John bought a hardware store in 1916 and then apparently sold the business about 1922. The family oral history says that he went bankrupt during the Depression. I’m not sure which is true, or perhaps some combination of both.

One way or another, by 1930, John had lost the hardware store and sold tractors and trucks at the Ford dealer until no one could afford to purchase tractors and trucks anymore.

Mom remembers that when she walked the 3 or 4 blocks to school as a child, she would go another half block beyond the turn to go to school and ask her father for a nickel for a candy bar. Then, she walked another half block where she would promptly purchase a Hershey bar at the drug store on the corner, beside what used to be her father’s hardware store. Her mother wouldn’t have approved of the candy, but her dad just pretended not to notice. She loved Hershey bars literally until her dying day.

By the 1940 census, the family raised chickens and had a large garden along with fruit trees and berry bushes – which was all that stood between them and hunger during the Depression years. John listed himself as a chicken and fruit farmer.

Mother cleaned chickens and was paid a nickel for each one she cleaned. She hated cleaning chicken as long as she lived – but during the Depression, everyone did anything and everything they could to contribute to the common good.

In some ways, mother was very different from the other children as she grew up. Aside from having a working mother, the major difference being that contrary to her family’s Brethren background, mother danced. You can bet that was the talk of the town – but it didn’t happen in quite the way you might imagine.

Mother’s life seems to have been divided into compartments or chapters, and in many cases, she did her best not to let those compartments intrude into each other. So, I’ll tell her story the same way she lived her life – in sections – starting with life in Silver Lake.

Early Pictures

Mom with her mother in 1923 where Mom looks to be maybe 3 months old or so. She was oh so cute. I’d love to hold and snuggle that baby. Especially today – Mother’s Day.

Mom’s maternal grandmother, Nora Kirsch Lore McCormick, James Martin on trike, her brother Lore Ferverda and Mom in February 1923.

What is it about my family and pixie haircuts for the girls? If Mom hadn’t been wearing a dress combined with a name on the photo, she would look like a little boy in this picture taken in September 1925.

Mom was 2 years and 9 months old in her first portrait.

Photography in the 1920s was very much a luxury. Cameras and film were both rare and expensive. Therefore, we have very few photos of Mom before she began dancing.

This picture, where Mom REALLY looks like a boy, was taken at Tridle’s, her babysitter’s house, playing with or feeding the chickens.

Mom looked every bit as unhappy with her bangs cut to her hairline as I was a generation later when Mom gave me the EXACT same haircut. I think this was an outgrowth of conservative frugality when no one was about to waste money having a child’s hair cut when you could do it easily at home. Mistakes? Don’t worry – they grow out!

One thing that struck me about these photos is that Mom was blonde as a baby. I never knew her as anything but a brunette, until age lightened her hair once again.

Mother had an older brother, seven years her senior, Harold Lore Ferverda, known as Lore, sporting his new bicycle in the photo below.

This series of 3 photos looks to have been taken at the same time. In the photo below, Mom looks to have been crying. Older brothers will do that to you, just saying…

Mom always loved dogs, and Lore probably told her the dog didn’t like her or some other “brotherly” thing meant to irritate his baby sister. It obviously worked.

If Mom looked unhappy above, she looks smug as a bug in a rug below, with her brother, center, and cousin, James Martin at right.

In the photo below, Mom is in front of the house where she grew up in Silver Lake.

It’s somehow prophetic that Mom’s feet are front and center in this photo, because one way or another, they were her focus for the rest of her life. On the day she had the massive stroke, we found her, having crawled somehow into the closet, wearing her dress shoes and little else. Priorities!

Mom with an unnamed friend, but one I spotted in several photos. Her socks are rolled to her ankles. It looks like a warm day and the girls probably got hot.

In the next photo, on a much smaller bicycle, Mom looks to have been 7 or 8. The house on the right is the side of the Ferverda home where Mom grew up and her parents lived for more than 40 years – maybe as long as 50 years. I was about 6 years old the last time I was in that house, but I remember it vividly.

The double set of windows beside my Mom to the right was the music room where the piano lived and my grandmother would play. The floor was hardwood, so dance practice and lessons could easily take place. My grandmother died when I was 4, but I remember her at the piano and the cactus in pots those windows. I managed to get tiny cactus quills in my hand and they burned like fire. The music room was joyful, filled with singing and fun. Well, except for those evil cactus.

School Pictures

The schoolhouse in Silver Lake included students of all ages, so class pictures were really more like school pictures, meaning multiple ages in each photo. In later years, there were enough students to have several classrooms.

Thankfully, tucked into Mom’s “suitcase of life” were a few school photos. I have cropped Mom’s pictures from the larger group pictures, below.

The photo above on left was labeled 1932, so she would have been 9 years old.

On the back of that photo, Mom wrote the names of each of her classmates, along with her own, in her sweet little-girl handwriting.

Of course, there were no years written on most photos, but the last picture appears to be older than the first three.

I have to laugh at Mom’s crooked bangs, because it tells me that Mom obviously inherited her bang-cutting skills from her mother and later, practiced them on me.

In her last class photo, she looks to be 15 or 16.

I think the family bought a camera when mom was about 10 or 11, based on the following photographic record of at least a portion of Mom’s life, thanks to dancing.

Dancing Begins

Dancing. How romantic it sounded to me as a child. Mother had been a ballerina! A REAL ballerina! I saw glittery consumes and stage lights, but I never knew Mom when she danced nor did I have any inkling of the story behind her dancing.

And Mom, well, she wasn’t talking. However, there was a suitcase full of photos and another full of costumes to tell the tale. That tale was far more tragic than I ever knew or could have imagined. In fact, I never knew the details until after her death – and I probably still don’t know them all.

As a child, I could never understand why Mom didn’t teach dancing. She certainly could have. She was imminently qualified. I would only learn much later that she really didn’t like to dance, it wasn’t her passion, and it was not a love in her life. In many ways, it was a forced march, a necessity – one that captured her and refused to let go.

Instead, Mom was relieved to be “past” that stage in her life – to shed it and leave it behind. Indeed, she was somewhat embarrassed by her career, as she tried to fit back into the life and lifestyle that she left. She just wanted to be a “regular” wife and mother. Typical wives and mothers certainly didn’t dance, and neither did well-behaved church women. Discrimination and stereotyped assumptions about dancers plagued mom when she danced and forever after.

We never had any photos of Mom’s dancing years anyplace in evidence when I was growing up. She strove to be a “normal” person, not a dancer or a retired or former dancer. Mom’s dream had been to be a bookkeeper, not a dancer. Dancing claimed her, not the other way around.

Mom was obviously very talented. Most people don’t achieve the level of professional acclaim that she did without a love and passion for the art. But then, nothing mother ever did was done in the normal fashion, or half way, and dancing wasn’t any different.

So how the heck did the daughter of a Brethren man come to be a professional ballet and tap dancer with a renowned dance company?

Rheumatic Fever

Mother never chose to dance. It wasn’t a hobby she selected. Her health demanded it and her parents arranged for lessons. When Mother was someplace between 7 and 9, she developed Rheumatic fever. She recalled that her arms felt too heavy for her body and it hurt her to even hold her arms at her side. She needed to lay them on pillows to relieve the pain. She clearly couldn’t attend school.

Today we know that Rheumatic fever is the result of an untreated streptococcal infection, manifesting itself about 3 weeks after the person has had either strep throat or scarlet fever. Unfortunately, rheumatic fever is much worse and involves the heart, causing congestive heart failure, mitral valve prolapse and a host of other issues including heart murmurs, which mother had. The doctor told her parents that she needed to dance to strengthen her heart which was damaged by the disease. I don’t know if that was accurate or not, but regardless, it set the stage, pardon the pun, for the rest of her life.

Today physicians recommend another 5 years of low grade antibiotic treatment to prevent a relapse which is all too common. It was during this time that Mom began to have recurring nosebleeds which too are a symptom of rheumatic fever, although I doubt she was aware of this because she never mentioned the connection. She likely had a low grade infection for years, until the nosebleeds stopped sometime in her teens.

Mom was lucky to have survived, as many of the early victims before the use of antibiotics did not.

Rheumatic fever is so named because of its similarity in terms of painful joints and extremities to rheumatism. Mother commented several times about how terribly sick she was and the unending, unrelenting pain. She said that she was too sick to be able to read books, which she loved to do, so her father would carry her down the stairs in the morning, position her on the couch so her body was not bearing the weight of her arms and legs, and would read to her to comfort her throughout the long days. Mother always had a very close and special relationship with her father.

Sometimes her recently widowed Brethren grandmother would come to stay and care for her as well.

Buster

It was about this time that Buster came into mother’s life. My grandparents got Buster to help Mom through her illness and with loneliness during the long recovery. Mother loved Buster devotedly and never really got over his passing. Buster was born in 1932 and passed away in 1945 while mother was gone.

Buster’s death was one of three “great griefs” that tumbled one upon the other about that time that would forever shape mother’s life.

Buster was Mom’s constant companion and a full fledged family member.

Mom always felt that her traveling was somehow responsible for Buster’s death, as he grieved so terribly when the suitcases would come out of the closet. Mother’s niece, Nancy, told me when I visited her in 2008 that Buster began drooling and they thought he had rabies, so my grandparents had him put to sleep. Mom kept his photo on her dresser or on the counter in the kitchen throughout her life, literally, until the day she died in 2006 – more than 60 years. That’s devotion! She never stopped missing Buster and I’m glad to know they are reunited now.

The Outhouse

There was no note along with this photo, but Mom loved cats her entire life too. Fluffy was her beloved cat as a teen, and she was heartbroken when Fluffy disappeared. Inside cats weren’t a “thing” at that time like they are today.

I’m not quite sure what was going on in this photo, but I do recognize “the facility” to the left. Homes at that time didn’t have inside plumbing, although by the time I was born, a bathroom had been added on the side of the house in Silver Lake.

Before that, it was a long cold walk to the outhouse in the middle of the night!

The Scrapbooks

Mom kept a scrapbook. Scrapbooks were popular then, and her mother, Edith, probably started it for her. It had wooden covers and leather laces which have deteriorated and are broken now. I scanned each of the pages. The scrapbook held a great deal of dancing related memorabilia. You could tell that her parents were proud of Mom’s accomplishments, and probably relieved as well that she was physically able to succeed. They came close to losing her altogether.

Dancing was the 1930s equivalent of physical therapy in tiny Silver Lake.

Pictures were reserved for special events, as film had to be developed and printed. This 1937 snow storm apparently qualified.

As Mom got older, towards graduation, the scrapbook contained photos of other family events, such as a 1938 trip to Lookout Mountain and Rock City, both in Georgia. I’m not sure Mom went along, because the photos are only of her parents and another couple.

I always wondered about Rock City, having seen the signs for years on barns across the midwest and south, and I finally saw it myself in Mom’s scrapbook.

The family obtained their first camera about this time. I’ve always wondered if it was in trade for chickens. My grandfather took just about anything in payment.

A second scrapbook held mother’s Chicago and professional dancing photos,  newspaper clippings and such, but this article only covers the years before she became a professional dancer when she moved to Chicago, about 1944.

The front of the photo album was actually wood, shown above. The pages inside were thick brown paper, some deteriorating with age.

Dancing 1933

The earliest dancing photograph of mother that I’ve been able to find is the one above, dated 1933. She would have been nine and a half years old and looked rather stilted and nervous. She was probably weak from months of recovery from Rheumatic fever.

The programs from the various dance recitals don’t begin for another 2 years, so she may have switched teachers or perhaps there was no program printed, or it wasn’t saved. Given the costume above, there was obviously a dance recital or performance of some type.

The following photograph is undated, but given her age, it appears to be early.

The Courthouse Lawn Performance

It would have been about this time that my mother’s brother painted her face – black – with paint used to paint the porch screens at the house. By the way, this is back in the day when paint required turpentine and scrubbing to remove – if it could be removed at all and didn’t just have to “wear off.”

I’ll let mother tell this in her own words, written before her passing:

One summer when I was about 9 or 10, I was supposed to dance on the courthouse lawn in Wabash Indiana for a holiday celebration. Every spring, the screens on the front porch were reinstalled for the summer. Lore painted the screens with black paint in the garage. Some kittens came to visit and were annoying Lore. He put black paint on the nose of one of the kittens, at which time, I moved in rather loudly to rescue the kitten and took a swing at my brother who swung back and hit me on one check with a paint brush full of black paint….at which time I went running and screaming to the back door telling mother “Lore put black paint on me!!!”

Mother lost it and was chasing Lore with a broom – she was so livid. It’s funny now but was very serious at the time. The turpentine was in the basement and Lore was trying to get there but he couldn’t get past her swinging the broom.

In the meantime, I was trying to remove the paint with a wet wash cloth. That paint was not water soluble, none was at that time, and the wash cloth smeared it even worse. After a few minutes we got most of the paint off with very little loss of skin.

The neighbors heard my mother a block to the church and across the street. I was able to dance after all was said and done.

Of course, Lore painted the entire side of Mom’s face including her cheek, ear and hair. Thankfully, he didn’t get any IN her eye. And she had to leave to dance in a few minutes.

My grandmother began wiping paint from my mother with her ever-present apron. My grandfather went to find gasoline and busily began removing paint from my mother’s face while my grandmother nearly killed her son. They washed mother’s hair with gasoline or turpentine in the driveway, then in the sink. Performances don’t wait and dancers can’t have paint on their face (unless the role calls for paint) nor can they smell like turpentine or gasoline. They all 3 left in the car with my mother in tears, and without Lore who was in BIG trouble.

My grandfather drove while my grandmother continued to soak my mother’s skin in gasoline to remove the paint which had sunk into her pores. Then, my grandmother applied layers of makeup to cover mother’s bright red (and black) skin on one side of her face.

Mother’s face and eye began to swell, and by the time she was finished dancing, she covered herself with a shawl to hide and went to the car immediately. It was perceived as a celebrity exit, but it was anything but.

I don’t think Mom ever forgave her brother, not just for painting her face, ironically, but for painting poor Fluffy’s nose. Indeed, it made a great story for years and she got mad at him all over again every time she told it. He, on the other hand, desperately wanted to forget the entire episode. I think he came out on the short end of that stick in multiple ways!

Unfortunately, we have no photos of that memorable event.

Dancing 1934

The following photo is dated 1934, and again, no program. Were it not for these dance photos and scrapbook, we would have no photos of mother during this period of time.

Violet Reinwald

Beginning in 1919, the newspapers in northern Indiana begin proclaiming the talent and beauty of Violet Reinwald, mother’s dance instructor. The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette said, “Miss Violet Reinwald, principal among the soloists was a dancer of rare grace and beauty. Miss Reinwald has won Fort Wayne audiences before, but her appearance last night in new numbers has acclaimed her the mistress of her art; her reputation as a danceuse is made.” She is described a few months later as an instructor in interpretive dance. In 1920, she opened a school of “Fancy Dance” and her “Revues” are covered in newspapers for at least the next two and a half decades.

This 1936 program provides additional information about Violet. Her Chicago connection may be the link between mother and her professional career, launched at the upscale Edgewater Beach Hotel there during World War II.

Ironically, Violet herself suffered from mitral valve stenosis, a condition caused by untreated rheumatic fever. She passed away in 1952, at age 50, still listed on her death certificate as a dance teacher. Perhaps her personal experience with rheumatic fever, and unquestionable recovery, is why my grandparents chose Violet as mother’s instructor.

Violet also became mother’s mentor and advocate.

Dancing 1935

Beginning in 1935, when Mom would have been 12, turning 13 the second to last day of the year, we begin to find programs for her performances.

Most years, two performances were given around Memorial Day, one in Huntington, Indiana and one in Fort Wayne, with the Fort Wayne performance seeming to be the larger one. The performances, at least initially, were entirely different. The programs for the Fort Wayne recital appear to be more professionally produced and included ads, which probably meant that Violet had to pay for the theater in Fort Wayne, so had to raise revenue one way or another.

Below, the program for the Violet Reinwald Revue, Huntington – Tuesday, June 11, 1935.

Fortunately, we have photos to go along with the 1935 performances.

With what I’ve heard about my extremely conservative grandmother, I’m totally amazed that my mother was allowed to wear a skirt this short for any reason whatsoever – costume or not!

The Russian act was performed in Fort Wayne, listed in the program below.

This costume was also worn in the recital in Fort Wayne.

Mom truly looks happy in these photos.

Kicking It Up a Notch

In May of 1935, things change a bit and it looks like Violet Reinwald went upscale, scheduling a performance at the Shrine Theater in Fort Wayne, Indiana, complete with professionally printed program and advertising. The stage, above, is where mother would have performed as my grandparents sat in the audience.

The Huntington event was only a couple of weeks later, so Violet’s students would have been practicing two entirely different programs at the same time. That’s an impressive undertaking!

The Shrine Temple in Fort Wayne was constructed at 431 West Berry Street in 1924 with an eye to professional theater production. This building is shown above as it originally appeared and below, as it appears today.

Mother returned to Fort Wayne with me in 1994 to hang a special exhibit at the Allen County Public Library titled “Seven Generations of Hoosier Needlewomen.” She never mentioned to me that she danced in performances, for years, just across the street and down a block or so.

It is ironic that in the spring of 2009, three years after mother’s passing and 70 years after Mom danced in this building, I stayed in a hotel across the street from the Shrine Theater as I taped several segments about DNA for the Allen County Public Library and their cable television station. Little did I know.

Those DNA presentations were open to the public at the library. After I finished speaking, a lady approached me and told me that she knew my mother and had been mother’s dance student at one time. She had no idea when she decided to attend my presentation that it would include my mother, or that she had any connection at all. Talk about a small world. It thrilled me to no end to meet someone who remembered my mother so fondly some 65 or 70 years later. The lady mentioned that mother gave her a costume that mother had once worn, and she would check to see if she still had that costume tucked away someplace.

Dancing 1935

Based on this program, we know where Mom was on Tuesday, May 21, 1935.

The ads in the program are as interesting as the program itself. The phone numbers all begin with a letter plus 4 numbers. Later that letter would translate into digits and ultimately into contemporary 10-digit phone numbers.

In Fort Wayne in 1935, you could get steam permanent waves in your hair by Joseph or could purchase Rosemary butter, Fort Wayne’s favorite. I surely have to wonder about those steam waves. And what was Rosemary butter anyway?

You could go to the Town House for special Sunday Noon dinners from 12-2 or visit their beverage room after the theater. Now that’s a nice way to say “bar.” You could probably order a Berghoff beer, still available today, in the beverage room as well.

Packard Piano was a very large and well-established business, building and shipping both pianos and organs, but they went bankrupt during the depression, as did so many others.

A cab ride to seemingly anyplace would cost you twenty-five cents. Heating was done by coal or coke, and that’s not the drinkable type.

Mom danced two roles during this performance, the Russian and another group dance. It’s fun to see the photos of the costumes she wore.

The ads provide us with a glimpse into life at that time in Fort Wayne.

Of course, while mother danced in Fort Wayne, the family lived 40 miles distant in Silver Lake. My grandmother or grandfather drove Mom back and forth for years, which also meant, of course, that they waited while she took her lessons and practiced. They had only one car, which both adults as well as my uncle shared. Driving a car as well as gasoline was expensive and scarce during the depression which lasted for 10 years, not ending until 1939. The cost of dance lessons and driving back and forth to Fort Wayne must have been a real commitment for this family.

They were probably greatly relieved when mother became good enough to receive even minimal compensation by teaching younger students.

The Double Exposure

You might notice the name of Mary Louise Woerner in the programs. Mary Lu was Mom’s long-time dancing partner and friend.

The following double exposure was one of Mom’s all-time favorite photos and was taken about this time. I wrote about “Mom’s Joyous Springtime “Mistake” and the fond memories of finding this photo in the photo box at my grandmother’s table as a child.

I thought this was Mom hand-standing on her own behind, but Mom said it was her and Mary Lu, goofing around as they practiced in the yard. Yes, they practiced dancing outside in the yard, on sidewalks, everyplace.

Dancing 1936

In the 1936 dance recital, mother was an acrobat and danced in the music segment for the Reinwald Revue. There were two performances, one at the Shrine Theater in Fort Wayne on May 26th and one later in Huntington on June 4th.

In a second performance she was also a gypsy.

This year, Mom appeared in a featured dance duet with only one other person, a notch up from a group performance.

I couldn’t help myself, and had to laugh at this ad.

If my child looked like that, I think she’d need more than glasses. I wonder how they convinced that child to cross her eyes like that. This was before the days of photoshop. Mom always told me if I crossed my eyes, they would stay that way! Maybe this is why.

Note that the students had a contest to see who could sell the most tickets.

Dancing 1937

In 1937, a third recital venue was added. The Reinwald Revue held in Bluffton, Indiana on May 27th was sponsored by the Sigma Phi Gamma sorority.

In this production, Mom danced in the ballet Moonlight Interlude and then danced the role of the Emerald in the jewelry store. I would like to have seen that costume, in color. However, color photography was years distant and I don’t believe there is any photo of her portraying the emerald.

It appears there was a Huntington Revue this year as well judging from the program.

For the first time, Mom is wearing toe shoes, a much-coveted rite of passage for a ballerina. Judging from the look on Mom’s face either the sun is in her eyes or her feet hurt, or maybe both.

Apparently that hedge was a favorite photography location, because Mom’s picture was taken there for years.

I wonder if the Moonlight Interlude is the dance associated with the photos of Mother and Mary Woerner in their identical costumes, below.

Mom would have been about 15 at the time. I notice her hair style is different from the Music photos above too, and Music is also listed as a dance in the 1936 program.

The following photos are of mother’s friend, Mary Lu who passed away in 1961 at age 45, also having been a professional dancer for her entire life.

Mary Lu was 6 years older than Mom, and you can tell that she has been dancing a very long time by looking at the muscle development in her legs.

Below, the 1937 Reinwald Revue at the Shrine on May 25th, two days before the performance in Bluffton. It was a busy time of year for Mom.

I have omitted the program pages that do not include mother.

Dry cleaning deliveries are still free, but now permanents are oil instead of steam and cost $1.

Mother was once again an emerald. A new advertiser is City Light, above. Interestingly, the Light Company was owned by the residents.

Ankle socks in plain or gay stripes are 17 cents or 3 for 49 cents. How could you resist?

The Student Becomes the Teacher

About 1936, Mother began to teach dancing at the ripe old age of 14. Her mother, Edith provided the music in the music room at home by playing the piano and mother gave dance lessons to young students. As the teacher, Mom was responsible for having a “Revue” for her students as well, and indeed in 1937, she held the first Barbara Jean Ferverda Revue, although the location isn’t mentioned. Clearly, it had to be someplace with seating for all of the parents, grandparents and families who would dutifully attend.

How I would love to turn back time so I could attend. Mom must have been so excited!

Mom’s brother, Uncle Lore was even involved, although I’m betting it wasn’t voluntarily. Maybe he was still doing penance for the paint brush incident.

One of Mother’s students sent her the card below and Mom always kept it. This may have been her student who passed away. Mom was crushed when that happened.

Although mother danced a lot, her life did not stand still and she had other interests outside of dancing. Mom also played the piano, as did her mother, who I’m sure taught mother.

Mom’s Best Friend – Frank

Mom had a diverse group of friends including Frank Drudge, literally the boy across the street who was 6 months younger, a cheerleader, a dancer at the same dance school as Mom, and Mom’s best friend.

Frank was being raised by his aunt, Carrie and her husband who had no children. Mother was particularly close to Carrie who became almost like a second mother. I’d wager that the two families shared driving back and forth to Fort Wayne for dance lessons.

I remember when Carrie died in 1963. Mom was visiting friends in Silver Lake after her parents passed away and called Carrie to see if she could stop in and visit. Carrie didn’t answer the phone, which Mom found odd, but she tried again a few minutes later. Mom subsequently discovered that Carrie fell and broke her hip on the way to answer the phone, and a few days later, died. Mom felt terribly responsible, even though she knew logically she didn’t need to. Mom lost both of her parents, Carrie and my father within a 3 year span.

Family

Mom’s Brethren Grandmother was Evaline Louise Miller who married Hiram Ferverda. Hiram died in 1925, but Evaline lived until 1939. Pictured in the 1937 photo above, Evaline (upper left) with her son John Ferverda (lower right), Mom with Buster, and Evaline’s daughter, Chloe standing beside her, with her daughter and husband. This was taken in front of the house where Mom grew up in Silver Lake.

Church

It comes as no surprise, I’m sure, given that Mom danced, that the family was not Brethren, attending the Methodist church just two doors away in Silver Lake.

A much better photo of the church, today.

Mom was baptized here when she was 11.

Epworth Forest

Mom had a group of church friends that she either met or met up with at Epworth Forest, the Methodist Church camp. Epworth Forest still exists today. Mom would have been 15 the summer of 1938

Mom is on the far left in the above photo.

In the next photo, Mom is sitting in front of the group.

I’m surprised at how much she seems to have matured between July and November. She was still almost two months shy of her 16th birthday.

Unfortunately, Mom didn’t tell us the names of her friends. This is the third photo with hose rolled down to the ankles of the girls, so I’m beginning to think this was a fashion statement.

Looks like Frank and Betty just might have been a couple.

The Bicycle

Mom rode a bicycle, literally until she couldn’t anymore. Notice that she is wearing a dress, and her hose or socks are once again rolled down to her ankles. Females simply did not wear pants at that time, and for a long time in her adult life, at least until the 1980s, she refused as well. I was forbidden to wear blue jeans, which equated to poverty for Mom. It wasn’t until she was well into her 70s that she owned a pair of jeans herself – and then only “dress” jeans, NOT Levis.

Dancing 1938

The Reinwald Revue in 1938 was again held at the Shrine Theater. By now, Mother is dancing solo performances, according to the program. She is 15 and obviously coming into her own as a performer and a young woman. In the 1938 Revue Mom danced a solo number as the Beachcomber and with a group doing the Military Toe Dance.

Unfortunately, we have no photos of 1938 or 1939.

There was no Huntington or Bluffton program in those years, but there was something new.

Infantry Recognition Party

Below, the Infantry Recognition Party program from 1938. The beginning of World War II is generally held to have begun on September 1, 1939, but the nation was ramping up and preparing prior to the official date when war was declared.

Mom gave two performances, just shy of age 16.

Boyfriend

You knew this was coming, right?

By 1939, Mom was dating Dan and would marry him 4 years later. She noted in her scrapbook, “One winter afternoon out at Dan’s.”

Dan was Mom’s only known boyfriend. The earliest photos of Mom at Dan’s are in 1939, where she is pictured with his dogs at his parents’ farm. They may have been dating earlier.

Mom would marry Dan in 1943 when he was on leave from the service. World War II changed the lives of many, but the War was also responsible for ending the Great Recession – quite the double-edged sword.

Dancing 1939

The Reinwald Revue was once again held at the Shrine Theater on Tuesday, May 23rd in 1939. While we don’t have any photos of mother, the program tells us that she danced one solo, the Mardi Gras Queen, and one duet, the Moonlight Serenade with Mary Lu Woermer. She also danced a group number called “On Revival Day.”

Dancing and Graduating in 1940

By 1940, Mother was reaching adulthood and graduated from high school on April 22nd at age 17. Tradition held that the girls married the next month, but that wasn’t the path mother chose.

Mom told me she wanted to go to college, or at least business school in Fort Wayne, but she was afraid and no one encouraged her. Of course, her brother Lore had gone to college, but those days were different and it was pretty well expected that women would marry out of high school and start a family, not go traipsing off to college. Her parents told her that they had paid for one college education (for Lore) and they weren’t paying for another one. The Depression was just ending, money was still scarce, and they had already paid for years of dance lessons. Mother couldn’t ask for more. It’s somehow ironic that Mom’s mother, Edith, attended Business School in Cincinnati, paid for by her aunt, before she married Mom’s dad. Edith’s bookkeeping skills are what sustained the family when John was out of work.

I’ve always wondered how far mother would have gone had she followed her dream to college – but that fork in the road was only peered down and longed for. There were no scholarships then, at least not for women. Student loans hadn’t even been dreamed of.

Mother disliked her senior picture, below, but I always thought it was stunning and that mother looked beautiful. There is a photo of me and later, one of my daughter about the same age that are strikingly similar.

On May 28th, just a few weeks after graduation, Mom would once again dance at the Shrine theater in Fort Wayne. No individual photos, but Mom danced a solo, American Melodies.

I suspect that mother is one of the older students in this picture from the program, but I can’t identify her.

Dancing 1941

In 1941, the Reinwald Revue was held at both Fort Wayne and at Huntington High School. The program was the same in both locations, and Mom danced a Moonlight and Roses solo along with a group piece titled Bucking Broncos Tap.

1942 Baer Field Review

Mom, second from right, supported the war effort in June 1942 by dancing for a fundraiser at Baer Field in Fort Wayne.

Mom would turn 20 in December of 1942.

1942 – Dancing Professionally

In 1942, Violet Reinwald’s Shrine program focused on patriotism. The country was backing the war, and our soldiers. Everyone was a patriot and everyone was involved one way or another – there was simply no question about that.

Mother performed 3 solos, Blues in the Night, My Melancholy Baby, United Nation – Russia, and a group number titled Salute to the US Armed Forces.

I would love to have seen these performances. In fact, I would love to have seen mother perform anything, at all, ever.

1942 would be the last year that mother would dance with the Violet Reinwold Revue.

By now, Mom had been dancing at least 9 or 10 years and teaching for at least 6. She was two years out of high school and most of her classmates had married and already started a family. She would turn 20 that December. It was time to do something.

I don’t know why, but Mom chose to branch out beyond Indiana, a decision that was viewed with a great amount of skepticism by those in Indiana. I suspect it may have had to do with the relationship with Dan cooling. For some reason, they had chosen not to marry immediately after high school, as was the local tradition, nor did they marry during the next two years. These choices didn’t follow the expected pattern.

In the summer of 1942, Mom performed in Philadelphia and Atlantic City, as well as other locations on the East Coast with a touring troupe, traveling by train.

In July 4, 1942, Mom was in Atlantic City. There were several pages in her photo album which recorded her day at the beach.

I wonder if the location where they were performing was one of the buildings in the background.

Mom never shared the back story to the photos below. Let’s just say that she was beautiful and single, and the men in uniform weren’t Dan.

That looks positively dreamy.

The legend at the bottom on the photo says that this is “John Shiver, myself, Walt.”

Let’s just say that look definitely qualifies as flirting. I think Walt got left out. In fact, I don’t think John and mom even know Walt is there.

Looking back, I wonder about John Shiver, Charles Sharp and Walt. Did they remember Mom? Was this a chance meeting or something more?

I think Mom liked men in uniform.

World War II and Marriage

The war was escalating, and Mom’s life was about to change, dramatically and forever.

I’m don’t know whose car this was, but Mom looks stunning!

Back home in the fall, Mom was dating Dan again just before he joined the military on October 14, 1942. Below, Dan in uniform but without his shirt.

Mother didn’t know it yet, but when Dan left, she was pregnant. She would make that discovery a few weeks after Dan was already gone. In the photos above and below, I can see my brother and my nephew’s faces so clearly.

Like so many young couples, Dan took a leave from the service as soon as he could, came home, and Mom and Dan were married, not in Indiana, but in Joliet, Illinois. I suspect this location was chosen to cover the fact that their child was “premature” and that the pregnancy predated the marriage. Today, there is little or no judgement about couples living together before marriage, but at that time, this “situation” was embarrassing for everyone involved, with a great deal of condemnation for the young woman.

Would Mom and Dan have married otherwise? I don’t know, but suspect probably not, since they hadn’t already married and seemed to have been living very different lives. Dan stayed at home on the farm and Mom was dancing and touring. She obviously came home to say goodbye to Dan, given the timing involved. Maybe it was the uniform!

Unfortunately, they spent very little time together as husband and wife, because Dan had already shipped out. Mom stayed home with her parents to wait when they received a small bundle of joy in the form of John who was born while Dan was serving his country. Mom continued to live at home with her parents and wait for Dan’s return. His tour of duty wasn’t scheduled to end until October of 1945 – but things would change long before that.

Oh, those garter belts. They were just awful, torturous devices, but if you wanted to wear hose before panty hose came along in the 1970s, this was the only way to do it.

Today, it might look like Mom is posting for a pinup photo, but she probably wasn’t as it would have been considered VERY risqué. Hose were a luxury and a rarity during wartime, so it’s very likely that Dan actually brought Mom these hose and she is showing off the fact that she has hose to wear. I don’t know, but suspect this photo may have been taken when they were married.

1943 – John Arrives

Clearly, Mom didn’t dance in 1943, as she was busy with other things, namely one named John.

Dan and Mom holding John right after he was born.

A Sad Divorce

Sadly for Mom, Dan and John, the stress of being young and apart was too much for the young couple to survive, and their marriage deteriorated before Dan came home from the war, although their divorce was not final until in 1946. In reality, they never had the opportunity to live as a married couple. Perhaps if they had, the outcome might have been different.

When Dan came home on leave shortly after John’s birth, it became obvious that marriage wasn’t the answer. Ironically, mother said very little about this time. However, given the small town grapevine environment, I heard both sides, from multiple people, and let’s just say that being married to each other simply wasn’t going to work.

At that point, Mother knew that she had to go to work because she had a young child to support and she realized no husband was going to be “marching home” from the war. The divorce decree only called for $4 per week child support, and they had been living apart for their entire married life, so child support for John didn’t begin until he was three when his parents’ divorce was final. Otherwise, it fell to Mom and my grandparents.

Dan filed for divorce when he was discharged from the service in 1945, and custody of John was agreed to be awarded to Mom’s parents, John and Edith Ferverda. Mom had already gone to Chicago to dance, the only thing she could do to earn enough to support herself and her son.

The hard feelings and divisions generated between individuals and families during this time never healed.

Dan came home, married his second wife and settled down to farm. Mom continued to dance in Chicago, but a sense of sorrow had inched its way into her heart and she became very sad, missing her child, wanting a life she couldn’t have, and feeling consuming guilt about her parents suffering the consequences of her choices. She couldn’t win, but she never stopped trying.

Regrets 

I asked mother one time if she had any regrets. Her first answer didn’t really surprise me, but her second and third ones did.

Little did I know what a landmine this question would turn out to be. It’s also the perfect, or imperfect, lesson in how things aren’t always as they seem.

The First Regret – Not Enough Time With Johnny

Mom said that she was sorry that she hadn’t been able to spend more time at home with “Johnny” when he was little. She did not want to leave to dance, but it was the only skill she had and she felt that she owed it to my grandparents. I know she felt incredibly guilty, and not without some encouragement from my grandmother about the fact that her parents were burdened with raising her child.

I never knew the rest of the story until I found the papers in her suitcase and John revealed the story he had been told by his father after he found papers in the attic when he was about 10 years old, which didn’t exactly match the story conveyed by legal documents in the suitcase. These two events occurred within about a month’s time of each other, during and after mother’s death. In other words, too late to ask her any questions – but at an incredibly emotional juncture.

It was a shocking revelation, at least to me.

At one time, Mom and Dan jointly agreed to adopt John privately to a physician and his wife in Chicago, but both sets of grandparents petitioned the court, together, to prevent the adoption.

Eventually, the stigma of being a “bad mother,” meaning willing to place her son for adoption, was laid on mother’s shoulders alone. Dan disavowed his part in the decision when approached by John after John found the papers in the attic, claiming that he had no knowledge of the adoption because he was in the service at the time. However, the court papers were in the “suitcase of life.” Dan had been discharged from the service and he, along with mother, JOINTLY agreed, before the court disallowed the adoption, granting custody to my grandparents who subsequently raised John.

Perhaps John’s question caught Dan unprepared. Nonetheless, his answer irreparably damaged both John and his relationship with mother.

Dan lived nearby with his new family, paying $4 a week in child support. Mother danced in Chicago, lived with the dance troupe, in essence with a house-mother in a supervised facility, and sent her money home to her parents for John.

No More Shame

That judgmental mantle of guilt and shame because the parents were willing to place a child for adoption should never have been laid on anyone’s shoulders, and certainly not on mother’s alone. Mother and Dan were doing what they jointly thought best for John under the circumstances. The fact that the grandparents prevented the adoption cast mother in a villainous light and haunted her forever, especially after Dan managed to “forget” his role, leaving mother to suffer alone.

I feel compelled to state unequivocally that placing a child for adoption is not the manifestation of the absence of love – it’s often the demonstration of a greater love for the child. It’s the essence of doing what is right for the child, no matter how badly the mother, or parents, wish that circumstances were different. Unfortunately, in mother’s case, she was condemned for both being willing to place her child for adoption, and for not placing the child for adoption and burdening her parents with that child. John resented her for both choices, but never shared with mother why he was so cold and bitter towards her, while his father was absolved and cast himself in the role of co-victim along with John. Mother was never afforded the opportunity to provide an explanation, or her side of the story. My brother only heard one side, and it wasn’t complimentary towards mother.

Clearly, in retrospect, it would have been better if this chapter hadn’t been kept secret by all parties involved. Mom could have shared the reasons why they thought adoption would have been a better option for John, but how to you explain that adoption doesn’t mean that the child “wasn’t wanted.” Perhaps John could have understood that the choice didn’t reflect that his mother didn’t love him. But then of course, in the telling of that part of the story, the rest of the “shame” story would have emerged – you know – like sex before marriage. Of course, for whatever reason, the majority of the “shame” falls to the female who was sinful and didn’t resist, while desiring sex is “normal” for males in a time and place that still embraced very Puritan thinking.

This part of the story has too long been shrouded in shame. Shame of having sex before marriage. Shame of having to “go away” to get married. Shame of dancing, especially in an extremely conservative community and family. Further shame of going to Chicago and dancing professionally. Shame of being beautiful and NOT being correspondingly demure about it. Shame of, god-forbid, wearing makeup to make yourself even more beautiful and irresistible to men. Shame of having an illegitimate child. Shame of even considering adoption, let alone beginning down that path. Shame of having to have your family “stop the adoption,” and finally, shame of being labeled as “unfit,” alone, with the husband who also agreed to the adoption later utilizing that joint decision to turn the child against the you.

Dan and his wife both encouraged John to have some level of relationship with mother, “because she is your mother,” which probably unintentionally continued the narrative of mother being unworthy. He should continue the relationship even though she didn’t really deserve it.

I’m done with shame. I recognize mother for her brave decisions. She was human. She did the very best she could under the circumstances, for all of the right reasons and continued to do so in the face of insurmountable barriers. I’m sorry she had to live with such toxic judgement and I’m ending that cycle here and now. No more shame. Mother had nothing to be ashamed of. Full stop.

Mother clearly loved John as was evidenced throughout my life. Enough to have him, enough to keep him, enough to choose adoption when she thought that would be best for HIM, not her. Enough to send money home to support him and to spend as much time in Silver Lake as possible, withstanding the wagging tongues of shame that never stopped. Enough to make him things, food he loved, attend his functions and all of the grandma events too. And ultimately, enough to leave him fully half of her estate at her death. She never understood why her affection was not returned in kind, but it didn’t matter – she loved him unconditionally, chalking it up to “John just being John.”

The Second Regret – Not Enough Education

Secondly, Mom regretted that she had not gone to business school or college, and that she had been too fearful to go after high school. She already felt guilty about the sacrifices the family made for her dancing, and didn’t dare to ask for anything more. Mom felt that if she had attended college, then she would have had the skills to be able to stay in Silver Lake with John and would never needed to leave to dance, starting that cascading effect.

It’s amazing to me that the stage didn’t frighten her one bit, but fear of the unknown, of college or “business school” which is what women who insisted on obtaining a higher education were encouraged to attend at that time prevented her from furthering her education. Changing that one decision would have made such a tremendous difference in her life.

Third Regret – Not Trying Harder With Dan

Third, surprisingly, Mom said she was sorry that she and Dan didn’t try harder to work things out. I would say that this regret is tied to the other two.

Mom and Dan were never able to live together to even attempt to have a marriage in anything but name alone. By the time Dan got out of service, their marriage had suffered from separation and youth, and was unrepairable.

According to my grandfather and cousins, Dan had come home on leave and not told Mom he was home. My grandfather was quite surprised to run into Dan, in the company of another female, and the situation deteriorated from there, as one might imagine. I heard Dan’s side of the story from others, and it didn’t resemble the same story at all. His story was focused on Mom going to Chicago to dance, not on what caused her to go to Chicago. Regardless, the situation was quite sad because what began as a high school romance became a classic tragedy. A beautiful ballerina, war, broken hearts, a child, infidelity, a divorce and a tragic death. All the makings of a soap opera.

Except this soap opera was mother’s real life.

The Three Great Griefs

All I can say from the distance of decades and a long generation is that mother was very hurt by what she perceived as betrayal while she waited for Dan to return. She felt terribly vulnerable and alone. While she was the woman shamed for being pregnant out of wedlock, he was a hero fighting for his country. There were no options for single women at that time, except to quickly marry someone, anyone.

I know she loved Dan and truly wanted that marriage to work. Discovering that your husband was home on leave, and you didn’t know, must have been devastating, especially under the circumstances.

The loss of her marriage was one of the three “great griefs” mother encountered between the beginning and end of WWII. The unraveling of her marriage which had at one time seemed so full of hope unraveled the rest of her life along with it, leaving her as a single mother in a time when women had very few viable options. At least she had one – she could dance.

Mom hated the fact that her parents were burdened with raising John, but there was no other alternative. She could not raise John alone in Chicago and there were no jobs in Silver Lake. Her parents had chosen to raise John by stopping the adoption, but proceeded to complain about his behavior, hoping mother could intercede.

Sadly, my brother came to view my mother’s absence as both abandonment and rejection. He dreaded her frequent visits as she tried to convince him to “shape up” for my grandparents. The phrase “wait until your father comes home” apparently had “mother” in place of father at my grandparents’ house. My grandmother complained incessantly to mother about how difficult John was to raise – even though they had petitioned the court for exactly that situation. There were no winners – only losers.

The story conveyed by my brother’s valentine to his mother detailing the myriad ways that he got into trouble sums the situation up pretty well.

The second grief was the death of Buster in 1945, for which Mom blamed herself, and indirectly Dan because she would not have been traveling to dance if her marriage had any prayer of being solvent. Buster was the only “person” to love mom unconditionally and without criticism or judgement.

The third great grief, another death, happened while mother lived in Chicago. Mother found a new love, Frank Sadowski, her hope for the future, who died tragically, fighting for his country just before the end of the war.

You can read about Frank in the following articles:

Frank Sadowski (1921-1945), Almost My Father – 52 Ancestors #73
Frank’s Ring Goes Home – 52 Ancestors #106
Sadowski WWII Scrapbooks, Salvaged From Trash Heap, 52 Ancestors #149Frank Sadowski Jr. – Bravery Under Fire, 52 Ancestors #162

Warning – you’ll need an entire box of Kleenex!

In essence, Mom lost two men to the war, in two very different, tragic, ways. Her son wasn’t adopted, but she lost his love just the same. I often wonder how different John’s life would have been had that adoption been granted. Perhaps he wouldn’t have been so hurt, resentful and bitter. Discovering that his “mother” had tried to “give him away behind his father’s back” colored his perspective, incorrectly, for the rest of his life, and hers.

The Next Decade

Mom never fully recovered from the war years and the three great griefs. She carried her regrets forever, but she put one foot in front of the other and marched forward. That’s who she was. These tragedies helped form that resilient part of her.

Mom continued to dance in Chicago and throughout the eastern half of the country for the next decade before meeting my father.

But first, she would meet and marry a one…nope, nope, I can’t tell you. You’ll have to join me in a future article for Mom’s next decade, as told by the “suitcase of life” and my subsequent genealogical sleuthing.

Believe me, mom’s life was full of surprises!