The “John Hancock” of John Hodgkinson

In my last post, I shared my excitement over finding a birth record for my 3x-great-grandmother, Catherine Grentzinger, which was signed by her father, Peter, in 1828. Since ancestors’ signatures are so fascinating (to me, at least!) I decided to create a new category for this blog where I can tag posts that contain such images. In keeping with this theme, one of my favorite documents containing an ancestral signature is the land petition for my 5x-great-grandfather, John Hodgkinson, United Empire Loyalist. Before I present the document, though, let me offer a bit of an introduction to John Hodgkinson himself and provide some historical context.

John Hodgkinson of Clinton and Grantham, Upper Canada

John Hodgkinson was known as a United Empire Loyalist (UEL). This honorific was created by Lord Dorchester, the Governor of Quebec and Governor General of British North America, to recognize those who remained loyal to the principle of “Unity of the Empire” during the American Revolutionary War. John’s name appears with the surname variant “Hodgekins” on the roster of Butler’s Rangers, a Loyalist military unit that fought in the Revolutionary War.1 However, much of his early history is shrouded in uncertainty. There are plenty of family trees out there posted by people who claim to know his date and place of birth, date of death, and parents’ names, and maybe those people know something I don’t. I’m by no means the ultimate authority on the Hodgkinson family, and my research on this family is still a work in progress. However, I, personally, have yet to see convincing evidence for any of that information, so I prefer to focus on what I can state definitively at this point.

The earliest reference to John Hodgkinson’s family that I’ve found occurs in documents contained within the collection known as the Haldimand Papers. This collection consists of  correspondence and other documents of Sir Frederick Haldimand, who served as Governor of the Province of Quebec from 1778-1786. These papers include evidence of families of Loyalists who lived in refugee camps in Quebec and received public assistance from the Crown, after having fled from their homes in the American colonies when those colonies declared their independence. John Hodgkinson’s family was enumerated in one such refugee list, dated 24 March 1783. The list begins on page 111, and the Hodgkinsons appear several pages later, on page 125 (Figures 1a-b).2

Figure 1a: Return of distressed unincorporated Loyalists that are Victualed by the bounty of Government in the Province of Quebec, Agreeable to His Excellency the Commander in Chief’s orders, 24th March 1783, page 111.2John Hodgkinson column headings for Haldimand Papers p 125

Figure 1b: John Hodgkinson household in the document, “Return of distressed unincorporated Loyalists that are Victualed by the bounty of Government in the Province of Quebec, Agreeable to His Excellency the Commander in Chief’s orders, 24th March 1783,” page 125.

John Hodgkinson in Haldimand Papers p 125

This indicates that as of 24 March 1783, the family of Jno [sic] Hodgkinson included one woman, no men or male children, one female child over age 6 and one female child under age 6, for a total of 3 persons who were to receive one and one quarter rations per day. The Hodgkinson family was not noted to be attached to any particular corps, so from this document alone, it is not clear that John Hodgkinson was a member of Butler’s Rangers. John himself seems to be absent from this tally since no men were recorded with the family. However, this may be explained by the fact that Butler’s Rangers did not disband until June 1784 and this document was dated March 1783, several months prior to the signing of the Treaty of Paris on 3 September 1783, which ended the Revolutionary War. So at the time this document was created, John Hodgkinson was presumably still engaged in military service while his wife and two children resided in the refugee camp at Chambly, Quebec.

The reference to two female children in John Hodgkinson’s household is curious. Although his wife’s name was purported to be Mary Moore, nothing is known about her, so it’s possible that the couple did have two daughters who died young, although no daughters are commonly ascribed to them. However, John is known to have had two sons, Samuel and Francis, who are believed to be from this first marriage to Mary Moore. Therefore another possibility — perhaps more likely — is that the two children counted in the tally were boys who were misrecorded as girls. However, this same tally was reported in a similar document dated 24 July 1783 (Figure 2).3

Figure 2: John Hodgkinson household in the document, “Return of distressed unincorporated Loyalists that are Victualed by the bounty of Government in the Province of Quebec, Agreeable to His Excellency the Commander in Chief’s orders, 24th July 1783,” page 142.3John Hodgkinson in the Halimand Papers p 142

Perhaps the individual responsible for the tally cut corners and recopied the data from the list created in March, rather than re-counting everyone? The question of which “girls” were meant by the tally marks in the provision lists will have to remain a mystery. In any case, John Hodgkinson’s only children who have been identified by name are sons Samuel and Francis, who are presumed to come from his first marriage to Mary Moore, and son Robert, whose mother was John’s second wife, Sarah Spencer. Early vital records from Upper Canada are rather sparse, and no marriage or death records have been discovered for Samuel, Francis or Robert which name their parents. Nonetheless, we can be certain of their names and of the fact that John was their father because each of them received a land grant on the basis of this relationship.4

Free Land, You Say?

The prospect of cheap land was a significant attraction for immigrants to the New World, and a seigneurial system for distributing land had been in place in the Province of Quebec (which originally included what is now southern Ontario) since 1627. When the British Loyalists from the new United States arrived in Quebec as refugees, they were unhappy with these French laws and cultural institutions, and the result was the Constitutional Act of 1791, which divided the Province of Quebec into Upper Canada (presently southern Ontario) and Lower Canada (presently southern Quebec). Lower Canada retained the French institutions, while Upper Canada practiced English Common Law. To encourage settlement of Upper Canada, and also to reward Loyalists and compensate them for lands lost in the U.S., each Loyalist and each daughter or son of a Loyalist was entitled to a free grant of land. The size of these grants varied from 100 acres to a head-of-household, to as much as 5,000 acres for a field officer.5 A grant of 200 acres was typical for a private like John Hodgkinson.

Library and Archives Canada offers several databases pertaining to Canadian land records. For researching Loyalist ancestors, the first place to search is in “Land Petitions of Upper Canada (1763-1865).”  However, “Land Boards of Upper Canada (1765-1804)” should also be checked, along with  “Land Petitions of Lower Canada (1764-1841)” since some early Loyalist petitions might be found in these collections instead. “Land Boards” refers to the system of granting land that was in place in Upper Canada between 1789-1794, when each individual district (Hesse, Nassau, Mecklenburg, and Lunenburg) had its own administrative board to oversee land matters. A map of these four original districts is here. In 1794, an Executive Council was created as a centralized authority for granting land, and the Land Boards were abolished. It is these petitions to the Land Committee of the Executive Council that comprise the first collection.

Although there’s some variation in the information provided in any given land petition, all of them intended to verify the petitioner’s identity and justify his claim to free land. Samuel Hodgkinson’s petition illustrates this process of identifying the petitioner and justifying his entitlement. He was the oldest of John’s sons, and he petitioned for land in 1806 (Figure 3a).6

Figure 3a: Extract from Land Petition of Samuel Hodgkinson, 16 August 1806 6Samuel Hodgkinson Land Petition page 1

The writing is a little difficult to read in this image, so the transcription of the document is as follows:

“To the Honorable Alex. Grant Esqr. President
Administering the Government of the Province of
Upper Canada &c. &c.,
In Council
The Petition of Saml. Hodgkinson of the Township
of Grantham, shoemaker, Humbly Sheweth —
That Your Petitioner is the Son
of John Hodgkinson of Grantham
is on the U.E. List and has never received any
Land or order for land from the Crown
Wherefore your Petitioner prays
Your Honor may be pleased to grant him two
hundred acres of the west land [sic] of the Crown, and
your Petitioner as in duty bound will ever
pray — Samuel Hodgkinson
Township of Grantham
16th August 1806”

Samuel’s petition includes several pages of affidavits confirming both his identity, and that of his father. My favorite of these is shown here (Figure 3b), written by Rev. Robert Addison, a prominent Anglican missionary who built the first church in Upper Canada, St. Mark’s in Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake).

Figure 3b: Affidavit of Rev. Robert Addison from the Land Petition of Samuel Hodgkinson.7Samuel Hodgkinson Land Petition page 3

Transcription:

“Niagara, 29th Sept. 1803

This is to certify that John Hodgkinson, the father of Saml. Hodgkinson the Bearer, has the name of an industrious and honest Man, and I believe that he deserves it — I have always understood that he belonged to Sir John Johnson’s Corps of Royal Yorkers and I think he is on the U.E. List. He lives about 6 miles from me, and I have known something of the Man this 8 or 10 years. — Robt Addison”

We can perhaps forgive Rev. Addison’s confusion over the particular provincial regiment with which John Hodgkinson served since Sir John Johnson’s Royal Regiment of New York fought alongside Butler’s Rangers in many of the same battles.

Samuel Hodgkinson’s land petition was ultimately successful, as indicated by the final page of his petition (Figure 3c).8

Figure 3c: Saml. Hodkinson, Petition & Certificate, Read in Council 16 June 1808.Samuel Hodgkinon Land Petition page 5

In addition to a number of signatures of approval of the petition, it was noted, “The Name of John Hodgkinson of the Home District is on the U.E. List. It does not appear by the Council Books that the Petitioner has received any order for land. SUE [Son of a United Empire Loyalist].”

Since John Hodgkinson was recognized as a United Empire Loyalist, I found it a bit curious that he apparently made no petition for land in his own name. Broad wildcard searches in all three of the databases mentioned previously (both Land Board records and Land Petitions) for first name “J*” (to turn up any matches for John, Jon, or first initial J) and surname “Ho*” or “Hu*” (to turn up matches for any variants such as Hotchkinson, Hodgekins, Hutchinson, etc.) produced only one petition for land which he made in the name of his wife, Sarah Spencer.9 Sarah was the daughter of another United Empire Loyalist, Robert Spencer, and his wife, Catherine Sternberg, and as such she was entitled to her own land grant of 200 acres. John’s petition appears below (Figure 4).

Figure 4: The Land Petition of John Hodgkinson, 27 April 1797.9John Hodgkinson Petition 1797 p 1

A transcription of the text is as follows:

“To His Honor Peter Russell, Esquire, Administering the Government of Upper Canada
&c. &c. &c. In Council
The Petition of John Hodgkinson of Clinton
Humbly shews
That your petitioner is married
to Sarah the daughter of Robert Spencer
a Loyalist U.E. who having never recei-
ved the King’s bounty, to persons of her
description; your Petitioner humbly
prays your Honor would be pleased
to grant him 200 acres of land in
his wife’s behalf and your Petitioner
as in duty bound will ever pray
27 April 1797 John Hogkisson [sic]”

Certainly, John would have been entitled to 200 acres of land in his own name in addition to the 200 entitlement for his wife, and it’s probable that he settled on some land in Grantham as early as 1784 when Butler’s Rangers disbanded. In his site, Niagara Settlers Land Records, Robert Mutrie describes Grantham Township with a quote from the Illustrated Historical Atlas of the Counties of Lincoln and Welland, Ont. Toronto: H.R. Page & Co., 1876:

“The Township was first settled during the year 1784, when members of Butler’s Rangers who were discharged during that year, commenced to clear up land to make homes in the township. Many of those who received land from the Government considered it worth little, or nothing and bartered away their sites for mere trifles, and those who look over the map of Grantham which was made about 1784, or the year after, will notice the large tracts of land which some persons owned, and which, in many instances, were bought for sums almost too low to be called a price.”10

It’s likely, then, that John Hodgkinson’s land petition in 1797 represents a request for additional land to supplement the lands already granted. In a future post, I’d like to share some of the maps I’ve found which indicate where the Hodgkinsons’ land was located. For now, let’s take another look at that signature.

The Real Deal?

Although this document contains the signature of John Hodgkinson, was it actually signed by the man himself? Brenda Dougall Merriman, CGRS, CGL noted, “If the petitioner was educated, he may indeed have written the whole document himself. If an agent wrote the petition on his behalf, this fact is not necessarily stated. Therefore you cannot conclude a signature is truly that of the petitioner unless the body of the petition indicates so, or unless it is compared with other evidence.”11 I’m no handwriting expert, but it appears to me that the handwriting in the body of the text differs from the handwriting in the signature, especially when comparing the letter formation in the signature with John’s name as it appears at the top of the document. The name is even spelled differently in the signature — “Hogkisson,” rather than “Hodgkinson,” although I’ve also seen documents written in the same handwriting throughout which nonetheless include variant spellings of the same surname. The different handwritings may suggest that an agent wrote the body of the petition, but John himself signed it. However, as Merriman noted, it’s impossible to state this definitively on the basis of one document. Perhaps further research will turn up additional examples of John’s signature and we can know for certain whether this was really his. In the meantime, I’ll optimistically hope this is the case, and that this really is the signature of my 5x-great-grandfather, written in his own hand on a document from the 18th century.

Sources:

Featured image: Extract from Smyth, David William. “A Map of the Province of Upper Canada, describing all the new settlements, townships, &c. with the countries adjacent, from Quebec to Lake Huron. (1st ed.) Compiled, at the request of His Excellency Major General John G. Simcoe, First Lieutenant Governor, by David William Smyth Esqr., Surveyor General. London, published by W. Faden, Geographer to His Majesty and to H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, Charing Cross, April 12th 1800. Accompanied with a topographical Description. Price 10s. & 6d,” David Rumsey Map Collection, http://www.davidrumsey.com/maps3638.html : 8 September 2018), Licensed for reuse under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

1 Van Deusen, A.H. “Butler’s Rangers.” The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record 31(1900). Online archives. FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSVT-6RJM?cat=161380 : 5 September 2018), images 374-377 of 690. Image 375.

2 “British Library, formerly British Museum, Additional Manuscripts 21804-21834, Haldimand Paper,” citing John Hodgkinson in, “Return of distressed unincorporated Loyalists that are Victualed by the bounty of Government in the Province of Quebec, Agreeable to His Excellency the Commander in Chief’s orders, 24th March 1783,” LAC reel H-1654, Returns of Loyalists in Canada, n.d., 1778-1787, MG 21, 21826, B-166, accessed as browsable images, Héritage (http://heritage.canadiana.ca : 3 September 2018), images 730-748 out of 1240. Images 730 and 745.

3 “British Library, formerly British Museum, Additional Manuscripts 21804-21834, Haldimand Paper,” citing John Hodgkinson in, “Return of distressed unincorporated Loyalists that are Victualed by the bounty of Government in the Province of Quebec, Agreeable to His Excellency the Commander in Chief’s orders, 24th July 1783,” p. 142, LAC reel H-1654, Returns of Loyalists in Canada, n.d., 1778-1787, MG 21, 21826, B-166, accessed as browsable images, Héritage (http://heritage.canadiana.ca : 3 September 2018), images 749-764 out of 1240. Image 762.

“Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865),” 1806, no. 18, Land Petition of Samuel Hodgkinson, Vol. 226, Bundle H-9, Reference RG 1 L3, Microfilm C-2046, Government of Canada, Library and Archives of Canada, accessed as browsable images  (http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca : 4 September 2018), Microfilm C-2046 > images 329-334 out of 1042; and

“Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865),” 1815, no. 77, Land Petition of Francis Hodgkinson, Vol. 227, Bundle H-10, Reference RG 1 L3, Microfilm C-2046, Government of Canada, Library and Archives of Canada, accessed as browsable images, (http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca : 4 September 2018), Microfilm C-2046 > images 1109-1111 out of 1042; and

“Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865),” 1815, no. 78, Land Petition of Robert Hodgkinson, Vol. 227, Bundle H-10, Reference RG 1 L3, Microfilm C-2046, Government of Canada, Library and Archives of Canada, accessed as browsable images (http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca : 4 September 2018), Microfilm C-2046 > images 112-114 out of 1042.

5 “Ontario Land Records (National Institute),” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : 5 September 2018), section 6, “Loyalist Land Grants.”

6 Land Petition of Samuel Hodgkinson, image 330.

7 Land Petition of Samuel Hodgkinson, image 332.

8 Land Petition of Samuel Hodgkinson, image 334.

9 “Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865),” 1797, no. 32, Land Petition of John Hodgkinson, Vol. 224, Bundle H-3, Reference RG 1 L3, Microfilm C-2043, Government of Canada, Library and Archives of Canada (http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca : 6 September 2018), accessed as browsable images, Microfilm C-2043 > images 766 and 767 out of 990.

10 Mutrie, Robert. “Grantham Township, Lincoln County,” Niagara Settlers Land Records, (https://sites.google.com/site/niagarasettlers2/grantham-township-abstracts : 6 September 2018).

11 Merriman, Brenda Dougall, CGRS, CGL. “Loyalist Petitions for Land Grants: Part Two.” Global Genealogy (http://globalgenealogy.com/globalgazette/gazbm/gazbm059.htm : 8 September 2018).

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2018

Getting By With A Little Help From My Friends

One of the things I love about the genealogical community is its generosity. Whether it’s time spent in indexing records, volunteering assistance in Facebook groups, or helping novice researchers at a Family History Center, many family historians are eager to share what they’ve learned and contribute their expertise in ways that benefit the community as a whole. It’s probably safe to say that anyone currently engaged in family history research has benefited from the assistance of others at some point, and I’m no exception. I was reminded of this recently, when I obtained the birth record of my great-great-great-grandmother, Catherine (née Grentzinger) Wagner. The acquisition of this document was relatively simple and straightforward, but this is only thanks to the years of research and generosity of a few individuals.

I became interested in genealogy in my mid-20s, around the time that my husband and I married. By that point, my aunt, Carol Fischer, had already been actively researching my Dad’s side of the family for at least 10 years. Since Aunt Carol was working on Dad’s side, I figured I’d start my research with my Mom’s Polish side. Polish research techniques also served me well in documenting my husband’s family, since all of his grandparents were of Polish ancestry. All this research kept me pretty busy, so it wasn’t until about 2006 that I started poking around in records on my Dad’s side, and serendipitously discovered the ancestral village of our Ruppert ancestors through indexed records at FamilySearch. Aunt Carol’s original intention was only to document our family back to the immigrant generation in each surname line, so from that point on, we arranged a loose collaboration in which I would try to determine our immigrant ancestors’ places of origin and trace the lines back to the Old Country, while she would continue her thorough documentation of more recent generations, locating living relatives throughout the U.S.

My great-great-great-grandmother, Catherine Wagner, was one of those immigrant ancestors whom I hoped to trace back into the Old Country, but there were some research obstacles that we needed to surmount. By October of 2012, according to my research notes, we still had not determined Catherine’s maiden name. What we knew from census records and from her death record was that Catherine was born circa 1830 in Germany or France, she married Henry Wagner circa 1855, they were the parents of two children, John and Mary Elizabeth, and that Catherine died 25 November 1875.1 The fact that her place of birth was recorded as “France” in the 1860 and 1870 censuses, and “Germany” in her death record from 1875, suggested that she was born somewhere in Alsace-Lorraine, a territory which belonged to France in the first part of the 19th century but was ceded to Germany in 1871 following the Franco-Prussian War. No marriage record had been discovered at that point for Catherine and Henry — I didn’t find that until just last year (see here for the story). Neither did we know specifically where Catherine was born.

Aunt Carol and I both realized that church records from the parish the Wagners attended in Detroit would be required for further research into this family. In particular, we hoped that the baptismal records for Catherine’s children, John and Mary Elizabeth, might indicate where their parents, Catherine and Henry, were born. Those baptismal records were also likely to mention Catherine’s maiden name. Although we could have written to the church in Detroit to request copies of those baptismal records, we had a substantial amount of research to do in Detroit church, cemetery, and newspaper records for both our Wagner and Roberts families. It seemed to make more sense to gather all the records at once during several days of onsite research in Detroit, or else hire a local professional researcher to obtain the records for us. Since both of us had other research we could do in records that were more readily available, we put the Detroit research on the back burner.

Fast forward to January 2015. At some point around this time, I chatted about my Detroit research interests with my friend and colleague, Valerie Koselka. Since Valerie lives in the Detroit metropolitan area, she kindly offered to do a little searching for me. Among the documents she was able to locate were the long-coveted baptismal records for Mary Elizabeth Wagner and her brother, John Wagner, who was baptized as Augustinus (see this post for more information). Thanks to Valerie’s generosity, we finally had evidence for Catherine Wagner’s maiden name and place of birth (Figures 1 and 2).

Figure 1: Extract from baptismal record for Augustinus Wagner, born 3 May 1856 in Detroit.2Augustinus Wagner 1856 p 1marked

Figure 2: Extract from baptismal record for Maria Wagner, born 10 July 1860 in Detroit.3

Maria Wagner 1860 page 1 marked

Catherine’s place of birth was recorded on one document as “Oberelsau,” (i.e. Oberelsaß, the German term for Upper Alsace, or Haut-Rhin) and on the other it appeared to be “Heinsalz, Alsatiae.” I couldn’t find any village called “Heinsalz” that was in Haut-Rhin,  but I didn’t search too hard at that point, choosing instead to focus on the other key bit of information revealed by this record: Catherine’s maiden name. The birth records revealed that her maiden name was Granzinger, which immediately reminded me of the 1870 census, in which Henry and Catherine Wagner’s household included a laborer named Peter Grenzinger (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Extract of 1870 census showing Henry Wagner household.4

henry-wagner-household-1870

Although I’d wondered previously if Peter might be some relation to Catherine since he was also reported as born in France, there was no real evidence for that prior to the discovery of this baptismal record. Now, suddenly, he was almost certainly a relative, and quite possibly a brother. Immediately, I was hot on the trail of a Peter Grenzinger, born circa 1832 in France, who immigrated to Detroit. As expected, I found various spellings of the Grenzinger/Grentzinger/Granzinger/Grantzinger surname, and as I sifted through the possible matches in online records, I discovered the Find-A-Grave memorial for Elizabeth Eckert Granzinger, “wife of Peter.”5 According to her grave marker, Elizabeth was born in 1800, which would make her the right age to be the mother of Catherine and Peter (both born circa 1830). Moreover, her husband, Peter, shared a given name with Catherine Wagner’s putative brother, which was highly suggestive as well. Could this, then, be the grave of my 4x-great-grandmother?

As I dug deeper into the records at Ancestry, I discovered a family tree posted by a woman named Constance (Connie) Keavney, which brought all the pieces of the puzzle together.6 It included the family group of Peter Grentzinger, born 6 April 1802 in Steinsoultz, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France, and Elizabeth (née Eckerd) Grentzinger, born 21 July 1801 in Steinsoultz. They were the parents of three children: Marie Anne Grentzinger, born 6 December 1824; Catherine Grentzinger, born 8 January 1828; and Peter Grentzinger, born 15 March 1830. The dates of birth were very consistent with the dates of birth for my newly-discovered Detroit Grentzingers, and the names matched perfectly with existing evidence, confirming my hypotheses about the relationships. On closer inspection, the village of “Heinsalz” mentioned on the baptismal record was clearly “Steinsoultz,” too.  In Connie’s tree, Peter Grentzinger’s family disappeared from the records in Alsace. She did not know that they immigrated to Detroit, Michigan, until I contacted her and shared my research with her. Her own branch of the Grentzinger family was descended from Francis Joseph Grentzinger, the older brother of Peter (Sr.) Grentzinger. Francis Joseph married Madelaine Hänlin in Steinsoultz and they immigrated with their children to Irondequoit, New York.

Connecting with a new cousin is usually a thrill for us genealogists, and Connie has been a delightful person to get to know. In a bizarre twist of fate, I realized as we chatted that I was already acquainted with her son Chris and his family, having met them several years earlier on a camping retreat attended by both Chris’s family and mine. (Little did we know we were 5th cousins once removed!) Connie did her research into the Grentzinger family decades ago, in microfilmed records for Steinsoultz available from the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library and through onsite research at Saint-Nicolas church in Steinsoultz, so she was unable to share images of her documents with me. However, in recent years these records have been made available online through the Departmental Archive of Haut-Rhin.

This brings us full circle, to the baptismal record for Catherine Grentzinger which I recently located with ease using the date of birth Connie provided in her family tree (Figure 4).6

Figure 4: Birth record of Catharine Grentzinger, born 8 January 1828 in Steinsoultz, Haut-Rhin, France.6Catherine Grentzinger birth 1828

The record is in French, which I studied in high school, so I was able to translate most of it despite the rustiness of French language skills. However, credit goes to Monika Deimann-Clemens of the Genealogy Translations Facebook group for her assistance in deciphering the parts that confounded me. The translation is as follows:

“In the year one thousand eight hundred twenty-eight, on the eighth day of January at four o’clock in the evening, before Us, Jean Walburger, mayor and officer of the civil state commune of Steinsoultz, canton of Hirsingue, Department of Haut-Rhin, appeared Pierre Grentzinger, having twenty-six years of age, farmer and resident of  this commune, and presented to Us a child of the female sex, born this day at eight o’clock in the morning, daughter of the declarant and of Elisabeth Eckerd, age twenty-seven years and his wife, and to whom he declared that he wanted to give the name Catharine. These statements and presentations were made in the presence of Jean Keppÿ, age thirty-five years, farmer and resident of this commune, and Pierre Mißlin, age forty-four years, farmer and resident of this commune; and the father and witnesses have signed with us the present Birth Record, after it was read to them.”

This document made an impression on me for several reasons beside the fact that it was the birth record of my 3x-great-grandmother (which makes it inherently cool). First, it’s the first document I’ve discovered for my family to date that was recorded in French, rather than Polish, Russian, Latin, German, or English. Despite this, the style in which it was written was very familiar to me because it followed the format prescribed by the Napoleonic Civil Code, which was used in the Duchy of Warsaw and the Kingdom of Poland (i.e. Congress Poland or Russian Poland). This document was also signed by my 4x-great-grandfather, Pierre/Peter Grentzinger (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Extract from birth record of Catharine Grentzinger, 8 January 1828, showing signature of her father, Pierre Grentzinger.Signature of Peter Grentzinger

I always get a special thrill when I find a document that my ancestor signed with his own hand — especially when the signature is of an ancestor for whom I have no photographs. Even though I may only be looking at a digital image of the document, it’s still amazing to see that unique piece of personal history.

I find tremendous satisfaction in building a family tree on a solid foundation of documentation, but genealogy research is hardly a solitary pursuit. It’s only because of the research done by Aunt Carol and Connie, and the gift of time and talent given by Valerie, that I have the pleasure of discovering the Grentzinger family through the records of Steinsoultz for myself. For me, it’s a gift to be able to peer into my family’s past, but if I can see a long way back into the mists of time, it’s only because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.

 

Sources:

1860 United States Federal Census (population schedule), Detroit (Third Ward), Wayne, Michigan, page 173, Henry Wagner household, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : 30 October 2017) original data from NARA microfilm publication NARA Series M653, roll Roll 565; and

1870 United States Federal Census (population schedule), Detroit (Ward 6), Wayne, Michigan, Catharine Wagner in Henry Wagner household, Ancestry (subscription database, https://www.ancestry.com : 26 August 2018) Roll: M593_713; Page: 333A; Image: 232072; Family History Library Film: 552212; and

Michigan, Death Records, 1867-1950, database with images, record for Catherine Wagner, died 25 November 1875, 6th Ward Detroit, Wayne, Michigan, Ancestry (subscription database, https://search.ancestry.com : 26 August 2018).

Roman Catholic Church, Old St. Mary’s Parish (Greektown, Detroit, Michigan), Baptisms, 1856, #116, p. 219, record for Augustinus Wagner. “[Record number] 116, [date of baptism] 4 Maji, [date of birth] 3 Maji, [child’s name] Augustinus, [father and place of birth] Henricus Wagner Roßdorf ChurHessen, [mother and place of birth] Catharina Grenzinger, Steinsolz, Alsatiae, [[godparents] Augustinus Wagner et Gertrudis Wagner, [residence] Detroit, [minister] P. Beranek.”

Roman Catholic Church, Old St. Mary’s Parish (Greektown, Detroit, Michigan), Baptisms, 1860, #148, p. 359, record for Maria Wagner. “[Record number] 148, [date of baptism] Julii 15, [date of birth] Julii 10, [child’s name] Maria, [father and place of birth] Henricus Wagner Roßen ChurHessen, [mother and place of birth] Cath. Granzinger, Oberelsau [Oberelsass], [[godparents] August Wagner Maria Wagner, [residence] Detroit, [minister] P. Nagel.”

1870 United States Federal Census, ibid.

Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 27 August 2018), memorial page for Elizabeth Eckert Granzinger (1800–5 Aug 1854), Find A Grave Memorial no. 108389561, citing Assumption Grotto Cemetery, Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, USA; maintained by Jackson County Genealogical Society – Michigan (contributor 47614392) .
“Our Beloved Mother
Elizabeth Eckert
Wife of Peter Granzinger
Born in the Year 1800
Died Aug 5 1854
Aged 54 years.”

6 Officier de l’état civil (Steinsoultz, Altkirch, Haut-Rhin, France), Naissances, 1797-1862, 1828, #1, birth record for Catharine Grentzinger, 8 January 1828, accessed as browsable images, Archives départementales du Haut-Rhin, (www.archives.haut-rhin.fr : 27 August 2018), Steinsoultz > Naissances, 1797-1862 > image 194 out of 391.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2018