In my last post, I wrote about using Elizabeth Shown Mills’ FAN principle with an emphasis on godparents, as a means to extend one’s family history research in the absence of direct evidence. As Mills defines it, “FAN” is an acronym for Friends, Associates, and Neighbors, and godparents fall squarely into that category. Previously, I had analyzed data from the Polish vital records database Geneteka, and discovered a woman named Marianna (née Naciążek) Kowalska, who might have been a cousin or sister of my great-great-grandmother, Antonina Naciążek. To gather additional evidence to substantiate this hypothesis, I examined the godparents of Antonina’s children to see if Marianna Kowalska was named among them. Sure enough, one of the godmothers was a Marianna Kowalska, and even given the popularity of the Kowalski surname, it seems likely that she is the same as the woman I suspect to be my great-great-grandmother’s sister (or cousin, at least), under the circumstances.
This kind of analysis can also be used in reverse, to suggest a possible mother’s maiden name, which is what I’d like to illustrate today. A few years ago I was working on my Schulmerich line which I had traced back to Hillesheim, Mainz-Bingen, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Records are on microfilm from the LDS, but they’re also indexed and searchable online at Family Search. I had worked my way back to my 5x-great-grandparents, Johann Georg Schulmerich and Anna Margaretha Appelmann, who were married in 1797 (Figure 1):
Figure 1: Marriage record from Hillesheim (kr. Oppenheim) for Johann Georg Schulmerich and Anna Margaretha Appelmann, 5 July 1797.1
In translation, this reads, “July. On the 5th day of this [month] were married the honorable widower Georg Schulberich, townsman residing in Hillesheim, with the honorable, upright maiden Anna Margaretha Appelmaenn, surviving daughter of the late townsman Michael Appelmann. [The marriage was] blessed by the Most Reverend Pastor of the parish in Hilsheim before the congregation and in the presence of required witnesses.”
As you can see, the parents of Georg Schulmerich are not mentioned. The record indicates that he was married previously, however, which is a valuable clue. Perhaps his first marriage record contains his parents’ names? A search of indexed records at Family Search suggests that Georg’s first wife was Apollonia Weber, as there are a number of birth records for children of Georg Schulmerich and Apollonia Weber that can be found in the parish records for Weinolsheim, just 5 km north of Hillesheim. Unfortunately, no marriage record for Georg and Apollonia was found in any of the indexed records on Family Search, nor was I able to find one in the microfilmed records for Weinolsheim that the indexers might have missed.
Lacking a marriage record, we can still estimate that Georg Schulmerich married Apollonia Weber circa 1786-1787, since existing birth records suggest that their oldest child was their daughter Anna Maria, and Georg and Apollonia were already “conjuges legitimi” (lawfully married spouses) by the time she was born in October 1787 (Figure 2).2
Figure 2: Baptismal record from Hillesheim for Anna Maria Schulmerich, born 4 (?) October 1787.2
Assuming that Georg was at least 18 when he married, and probably a few years old than that, this suggests a birth year between about 1761 and 1768. Lo, and behold! There’s a birth record that fits perfectly for Johann Georg Schulmerich in in the records of Hillesheim in 1766 (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Baptismal record for Johann Georg Schulmerich, baptized 21 December 1766 in Hillesheim.3
In translation, this record reads, “[On] 27th December in Hillesheim was baptized Johann Georg, [son of] the lawful spouses Philipp and Margaretha Schulmerich, [who was] lifted up by Johann Georg Lindhoff.” The word “levabet” that appears in this record is presumably a misspelling of “levavit,” meaning, “lifted up.” This is a reference to the child’s godfather, who lifts him out of the waters of the baptismal font during the sacrament of baptism. The record even includes Johann Georg’s death date, 20 March 1836, in the marginal note. This is another valuable clue because it suggests that the Johann Georg Schulmerich who was baptized here, remained in the parish until his death, which is consistent with what we know of “my” Johann Georg Schulmerich.
For those who might not be familiar with German genealogy, it’s worth mentioning that the difference in the names used on the marriage and baptismal records, “Georg” on the marriage vs. “Johann Georg” on the baptismal, is not cause for concern. According to German tradition, it was common for all the boys in a family to be baptized with the first name Johann, and then called by their middle name (see this article for more details). So although the names on the records are not a problem, and the date of baptism fits with what we’d expect for “our” Johann Georg Schulmerich, there is still the problem of no maiden name for Margaretha Schulmerich. Maybe it’s recorded on the birth record of one of their other children?
A search in the indexed records at Family Search for children of Philipp Schulmerich and Margaretha, no maiden name specified, results in four birth records, which are summarized in Figure 4.
Figure 4: Summary of Information Recorded in Baptismal Records for Children of Philipp and Margaretha Schulmerich.
From this, we can guess that Philipp and Margaretha Elisabeth were married circa 1765-1766, since Johann Georg appears to be their oldest child. Although the spacing of births is typical, the relatively small number of children suggests that Margaretha died young, assuming that she was in her late teens or early 20s when she began having children. Once again, a search of the indexed records for the Rhinehessen region on FamilySearch failed to produce Philipp and Margaretha’s marriage record or a death record for either of them, nor were these found in a subsequent search of microfilmed records. However, the fact that Johann Georg remained in the parish, as did his sister Anna Elisabeth, suggests an error or omission on the part of the priest keeping the records, rather than a migration out of the area.
So, is this the end of the line? Can we learn anything more about this family? Of course we can! Note that two of the godmothers had the maiden name Hausmann, and one was a Schulmerich. The godmother, Maria Magdalena Schulmerich, might have been either a sister or sister-in-law to Philipp, but the sparsely available records from this time period offer no insight there. However, a search for Anna Elisabeth Hausmann’s birth record turns up a promising candidate: one Anna Elisabeth Hausmann, born in 1744 in Hillesheim (Figure 5).
Figure 5: Baptismal record for Anna Elisabeth Hausmann, baptized 30 October 1744 in Hillesheim.7
In translation, this states, “On the 30th day of October in Hillesheim was baptized Anna Elisabeth, legitimate daughter of the spouses Nicolaus and Christina Haussmann, [she was] lifted up by Anna Elisabeth Schad.”
Nicolaus and Christina Hausmann! Might there be more records for their children, and might these records include evidence for a daughter named Margaretha Elisabetha? Since her oldest son, Johann Georg Schulmerich, was born in 1766, we can guess that Margaretha would have been born circa 1746. And voilà! The FamilySearch index shows nine births to Nicolaus and Christina Haussmann including the births of daughters Margaretha Elisabetha in 1743 (Figure 6) and Maria Charlotta, who was noted as the godmother of Maria Charlotta Schulmerich.
Figure 6: Baptismal record for Margaretha Elisab. Haussmann, baptized 2 January 1743 in Hillesheim.8
In translation, this record reads, “On the 2nd day of January in Hillesheim was baptized Margaretha Elisab., legitimate daughter of the spouses Nicolaus and Christina Haussmann, [she was] lifted up by Margaretha Rudolf, single.”
Taken all together, this is pretty good indirect evidence that Margaretha Elisabeth Haussmann, daughter of Nicolaus and Christina, was the wife of Johann Georg Schulmerich. Paying attention to the names of the godparents paid off, and I was able to push the family tree back one more generation. It should be noted that this information is only available when one views the images of the parish register on microfilm — the FamilySearch index does not include godparents’ names. This is one of many reasons why one should never rely solely on the information found in an online index, which is a common rookie mistake. So the next time you think you’ve hit a brick wall with researching your Catholic ancestors, take a look at the list of people they asked to be godparents to their children. You just might find some clues in there!
1 Roman Catholic Church (Nieder Saulheim [Kr. Oppenheim], Mainz-Bingen, Rheinhessen, Germany), “Kirchenbuch, 1756-1797,” 1797, Marriage record for Georgius Schulberich and Anna Margaretha Appelmaenn.; FHL Film #997333 Item 2.
2 Roman Catholic Church (Weinolsheim [Kr. Oppenheim], Mainz-Bingen, Rheinhessen, Germany), “Kirchenbuch, 1740-1876,” Baptisms, 1787, record for Anna Maria Schulmerich.; FHL Film #949088.
3 Roman Catholic Church (Weinolsheim [Kr. Oppenheim], Mainz-Bingen, Rheinhessen, Germany), “Kirchenbuch, 1740-1876,” 1766, Baptisms, record for Johannes Georgius Schulmerich; FHL Film #949088.
4 Roman Catholic Church (Weinolsheim [Kr. Oppenheim], Mainz-Bingen, Rheinhessen, Germany), “Kirchenbuch, 1740-1876,” Baptisms, 1768, record for Anna Elisabetha Schulmerich; FHL Film #949088.
5 Roman Catholic Church (Weinolsheim [Kr. Oppenheim], Mainz-Bingen, Rheinhessen, Germany), “Kirchenbuch, 1740-1876,” 1770, Baptisms, record for Maria Magdalena Schulmerich; FHL Film #949088.
6 Roman Catholic Church (Weinolsheim [Kr. Oppenheim], Mainz-Bingen, Rheinhessen, Germany), “Kirchenbuch, 1740-1876,” 1773, Baptisms, record for Maria Charlotta Schulmerich; FHL Film #949088.
7 Roman Catholic Church (Weinolsheim [Kr. Oppenheim], Mainz-Bingen, Rheinhessen, Germany), “Kirchenbuch, 1740-1876,” 1744, Baptisms, record for Anna Elisabetha Haussman; FHL Film #949088.
8 Roman Catholic Church (Weinolsheim [Kr. Oppenheim], Mainz-Bingen, Rheinhessen, Germany), “Kirchenbuch, 1740-1876,” 1743, Baptisms, record for Margaretha Elisab. Haussmann; FHL Film #949088.
Featured Image: Pietro Longhi, The Baptism, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, accessed on 11 January 2017.
© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017
2 thoughts on “Thank Goodness for Godparents! Researching my Ancestors’ FANS, Part II”
Thank you for an interesting and well written article, Julie.
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I’m glad you enjoyed it, Chris! Good luck with your research. 🙂