November 1 and 2 are two important days in the Roman Catholic tradition—the feasts of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. On All Saints’ Day, November 1, we celebrate the Church Triumphant—all the faithful deceased, known and unknown, who are now saints in heaven with God. On All Souls’ Day, November 2, our focus shifts to the Church Penitent—all the faithful departed whose souls must undergo purification (Purgatory) in order to enter the joy of heaven. We, the living, are the Church Militant, and together with the Church Triumphant and the Church Penitent, we make up the Communion of Saints. The basic premise of the Communion of Saints is that we’re all in this together: the prayers of the living can benefit those in purgatory, and the intercession of the saints can aide those of us who are still struggling through life.
This act of praying for others is so important, that the Catholic Church designates praying for the living and the deceased as one of the seven Spiritual Acts of Mercy. So, on All Souls’ Day, especially, we are encouraged to remember and pray for our deceased family members. Praying for the faithful departed can certainly be done in a general way, but many of us like to remember our family members by name. Consequently, All Souls’ Day is a holiday that Catholic genealogists can really embrace in a big way, since genealogy is all about the identification of our ancestors by name.
While the Rosary is a popular Catholic devotion for prayer and meditation, it occurred to me that its structure could also lend itself to use in offering a spiritual bouquet for All Souls’ Day. For those who might be unfamiliar with the term, a spiritual bouquet is “a collection of private devotional acts and prayers chosen and performed by one person for the benefit of another.”1 For those who might be unfamiliar with the Rosary, it’s a set of prayers that are recited, using a special string of 60 beads as an aid in keeping track of the progression through the prayers. A Rosary consists of opening prayers, then five sets of prayers called “decades,” followed by closing prayers. Each decade consists of an Our Father, followed by the Hail Mary (repeated ten times), and then the Glory Be. While it’s common to meditate on one of twenty Mysteries—events that took place during the life and death of Jesus and His Mother, Mary—while praying the Rosary, it’s also acceptable to focus on the words of the prayers themselves. I think that approach is easier if one is offering each prayer for a different ancestor or ancestral couple.
There are many ways that the Rosary can be adapted to pray for one’s ancestors, depending on where one begins with the family tree. In my Rosary, I wanted to include the souls of deceased members of both my family, and my husband’s. Since my mother is the only one of our parents who is deceased, I decided to offer the “Hail, Holy Queen” prayer (one of the closing prayers) for her, and offer the ten Hail Mary prayers of each decade for the souls of our grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents, as shown below in Version 1. Praying one decade each for my father-in-law’s family, my mother-in-law’s family, my father’s family, and my mother’s family, leaves one extra decade, which I decided to offer for all souls who have no one to pray for them.
As an alternative, I also set up a version focused only on my family (Version 2). In this version, the first decade is again offered for those souls who have no one to pray for them, followed by a decade each for my paternal grandfather and his family, my paternal grandmother and her family, my maternal grandfather and his family, and my maternal grandmother and her family. It’s a little easier to follow when using an example with names, so I’ve created examples for both Version 1 and Version 2, below. However, please note that in both versions, grandparents’ names have been redacted to protect the privacy of the living (my husband’s parents and my dad).
If you, too, are a Catholic genealogist, you can easily adapt one of these strategies to fit your own family tree. I made it easier for myself by printing out a “cheat sheet” with the names on it, but more power to you if you can do this from memory! Since it takes a little more focus, this is the sort of Rosary that lends itself to a quiet time and place, rather than a “Rosary on the run,” that you might say while you’re out walking or in the car.
May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
All Souls’ Day Rosary: Version 1
Opening prayers: As usual.
First decade: All souls who have no one to pray for them.
Second decade: My father-in-law’s family
Husband’s paternal grandfather
Husband’s paternal grandmother
Paternal grandfather’s father, Michael Szczepankiewicz
In my last post, I described my quest to determine the place of origin in Bavaria of my immigrant Murre/Murri/Murie/Murrÿ ancestors, including my great-great-grandmother, Anna (Murre) Boehringer and her parents, Joseph and Walburga (Maurer) Murre. Using Collins-Leeds Method autoclusters of Ancestry autosomal DNA matches to my dad, I was able to identify a cluster of matches that includes documented descendants of Joseph and Walburga Murre, as well as descendants of a Franz/Frank Maurer. Zeroing in on this particular Maurer family, I was able to confirm through documentary research that Franz Maurer was, in fact, strongly connected to the Murre family—part of their FAN club. Although I’d been unable to find evidence for Joseph and Walburga’s specific place of origin in Bavaria, I found evidence that Franz Maurer and his first wife, Franziska Geigand, emigrated from the town of Waldmünchen, along with the family of a Maria Maurer and her two children. The group of travelers from Waldmünchen also included the family of Alois and Josephine Geigand, who were additional members of the Murre family’s FAN club. Logic would suggest, then, that Joseph and Walburga Murre’s family should also be from Waldmünchen, so I arranged to have a professional researcher, Marcel Elias, visit the Regensburg Bischöfliches Zentralarchiv (Regensburg Diocesan Central Archive) for me, in order to find evidence for my Murre/Maurer families in church records from Waldmünchen.
The Emigrants from Waldmünchen
Marcel nailed it! During the course of a one-day trip to the archive, he located documentation to create a tree which included 71 individuals, including the five members of my Murre family who were known to have been born in Bavaria. Thanks to Marcel’s research, so many questions have been answered, and the story of the Murri family has been fleshed out considerably. We now know that Joseph Murri was born 27 August 1827 in Waldmünchen—a date which is reasonably consistent with the date of birth of August 1825 which was stated in the 1900 census.1 His parents—whose identities were previously unknown—were Joseph Murri and Joseph’s third wife, Magdalena Schmaderer. Joseph married Walburga Maurer (or Mauerer, as the name was more frequently spelled in German records) on 5 November 1862. Their marriage record is shown in Figures 1a and 1b.2
In translation, the record describes the groom as Joseph Murri, an unmarried, Catholic, day laborer and a resident of Waldmünchen, born in Waldmünchen on 22 August 1827 to Joseph Murri, a cottager from Waldmünchen, and Magdalena Schmaderer from Grosenkirchen. The bride was Walburga Mauerer, an unmarried, Catholic, carpenter’s daughter, born on 28 April 1834 to Andreas Mauerer and Catharina Weidner, both from Waldmünchen. Joseph and Walburga were married in the church by an officiant whose surname was Beck on 5 November 1862, in front of witnesses Martin Haller, a cloth maker and Johann Baptist Hausladen, a master mason, both from Waldmünchen. The couple’s civil marriage took place before a magistrate on 22 October 1862.
Joseph and Walburga’s three oldest children were known to have been born in Bavaria, and birth records from Waldmünchen indicate that the oldest, Mary Murre, was baptized as Anna Maria Murri, born 16 September 1863.3 Their second child, my great-great-grandmother Anna Murre, was baptized as Anna Francisca Murri, and her date of birth was 27 September 1865, exactly as it was reported on her death record.4 Finally, their son, John Murre, was baptized as Johann Murri, born on 23 April 1867.5
Revealing the Mysteries of the Past
Beyond documenting the German-born members of the Murri family itself, Marcel was able to discover evidence to elucidate the relationships among the Maurers and Geigands who emigrated together on 1 May 1867. His findings confirm that Walburga (Maurer or Mauerer) Murri and Franz Maurer were, in fact, related, as suggested by DNA evidence. They were siblings: two of the eight children born to Andreas and Katharina (Weidner) Mauerer. Moreover, Alois and Josephine Geigand were the parents of Franziska (Geigand) Mauerer, as I hypothesized in my last post. Franz and Franziska’s marriage record is shown in Figures 2a and b.6
Translated, the record states that, on 17 October 1864, an officiant named Sichert married Franz Mauerer and Francisca Geigant (sic) in the parish of Waldmünchen. The groom was an unmarried, Catholic carpenter, who was born on 14 July 1839 in Waldmünchen to Andreas Mauerer, a carpenter, and Catharina Weidner. The bride was unmarried and Catholic, born in Waldmünchen on 25 February 1838. Her parents were Alois Geigant, a mason, and Josepha Lechner. Witnesses were Xaver Mauerer, a carpenter, and Johann Alt, a cottager. The bride and groom, their parents, and both witnesses, were all residents of Waldmünchen. The civil marriage took place at the city office on 27 September 1864.
The fact that Josepha Geigand’s maiden name was Lechner clears up another mystery found in U.S. records. While most of the baptismal records for Franz and Franziska Maurer’s Buffalo-born children reported Franziska’s maiden name as Geigand or Geichand, the baptismal record for their son, Michael Maurer, reported the mother’s maiden name as Lechner.7 Since the Maurers and the Geigands all settled in St. Boniface parish, it’s probable that the priest there was well-acquainted with the whole family, making it plausible that he mixed up Franziska (Geigand) Maurer’s maiden name with that of her mother, Josepha (Lechner) Geigand. It’s also worth noting that Marcel’s research did not turn up any evidence that the Geigands were blood relatives of the Murri family. Previously, I’d wondered about that, since Alois and Josephine Geigand were named as godparents to two of Joseph and Walburga Murri’s children. However, thus far, it appears that Alois and Josephine were only related to by marriage to the Murri family, since their daughter Franziska (Geigand) Maurer was sister-in-law to Joseph and Walburga (Maurer) Murri.
There’s more. Maria Maurer who emigrated with her two children, Anna and Johann, was also the sister of Walburga and Franz.8 Georg Macht, who was traveling with them, was the children’s father.9 Restrictive marriage laws in 19th century-Bavaria resulted in a high rate of illegitimate births,10 and it was not uncommon for a couple to have one or more children together prior to marriage. That may explain their speedy marriage, less than two months after arriving in Buffalo.11
As for that relatively small amount of DNA shared between my dad and five of the great-grandchildren of Franz/Frank Maurer—just 10 cM—I’m inclined to chalk it up to the randomness of DNA inheritance through recombination. As I mentioned in my previous post, 10 cM shared DNA would be more typical of a relationship that was more distant than third cousins once removed (3C1R), according to data from the Shared cM Project. However, since Walburga and Franz were, indeed, siblings, Dad and Franz’s great-grandchildren are 3C1R nonetheless.
Deeper Roots of the Murri and Mauerer Families
Although the Murri surname had already disappeared from Bavaria by 1890,12 the surname was readily found in earlier records. Marcel was able to trace the Murri line back five more generations from my 3x-great-grandfather, Joseph Murri, who was born in 1827. In the time allotted for the research, Marcel got back as far as the marriage of Peter Muri and Eva Braun, who were married in Waldmünchen on 4 June 1703.13 Although the mothers of the bride and groom were not identified, Peter was noted to be the son of Blasius Muri, while Eva was the daughter of Martin Braun. This makes Blasius and Martin two of my 8x-great-grandfathers.
The Mauerer family, however, proved to be more difficult to trace. Although Marcel located a baptismal record for Andreas Mauerer, Walburga (Maurer) Murri’s father, the birth record stated that Andreas was illegitimate. Andreas’s baptismal record is shown in Figure 3.
The Latin transcription is as follows, with credit to both Marcel Elias, and to Mente Pongratz (researcher and frequent contributor to the German Genealogy Facebook group, as well as the Genealogical Translations Facebook group) for their assistance and insights:
“Waldmünchen. 25. Nat[us] et a R[everendus] D[ominus] Joanne Nepomuc[ene] Gresser, Supern[umerarius] baptizatus est Andreas, Christinae Lineburgerin, Michaelis Linneburger textoris tibialium filiae, adhuc solutae hic, et ut mater ascerit Conradi Mauerer militis ex legione principis de Taxis hic, fil[ius] illeg[itimus]. Levante Andreas Meixlsperger soluto textore in Hochabrun ejus vices Franciseno Reischl adstans hic.”
In translation, it states,
“Waldmünchen. On the 25th [day of October 1793; the month and date were recorded on a previous page], is born, and by Reverend Lord Joannes Nepomucene Gresser, Supernumerary, is baptized, Andreas, of Christina Lineburger, as yet unmarried daughter of Michael Linneburger, stocking weaver herein, and as the mother asserts, illegitimate son of Conrad Mauerer, soldier in the legion of the Prince of Taxis here. Lifted by Andreas Meixlsperger, unmarried weaver in Hochabrun by his proxy, Francis Reischl, standing here.”
This sounds rather awkward in English, but it helps to know that a Supernumerary was more or less an associate pastor, so Andreas was baptized by Fr. Johann Nepomucene Gresser. The mother was Christina Lineburger/Linneburger/Lüneburger, who stated that the baby’s father was Conrad Mauerer, a soldier. The term “levante,” or lifted, refers to the person who lifted the child out of the waters of the baptismal font—the godparent. In this case, the godfather, Andreas Meixlsperger of Hochabrun was not present, so Franz Reischl stood in as proxy. The “legion of the Prince of Taxis” seems to refer to the Königlich Bayerisches 2. Chevaulegers-Regiment „Taxis“ (2nd Royal Bavarian Chevaulers Regiment “Taxis,”) which was a cavalry unit of the Bavarian Army, belonging to the Prince of Thurn und Taxis. I’m hoping we might be able to get a further glimpse of Conrad Mauerer in military records from the Bayerisches Armeemuseum (Military History Museum of Bavaria), located in Ingolstadt, as it would be nice to know who his parents were, and where he was born. Marcel found no evidence of additional children born to Christina and Conrad in the baptismal records from Waldmünchen, and neither was there any evidence that they ever married each other.
All in all, I’m absolutely thrilled with the results of this latest round of research. Thanks to Marcel, I was finally able to establish definitively that Waldmünchen was the place of origin of my Murri and Maurer ancestors, and identify at least a portion of Joseph and Walburga’s ancestors, going back five more generations. Although each answer has led to to two more questions, for now, I’m content to savor the victory.
1 1900 U.S. Census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo Ward 25, Enumeration District 222, Sheet 2A, Erie County Almshoouse, line 16, Joseph Murri; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 27 July 2022), citing Family History Library microfilm no. 1241033, original data from National Archives and Records Administration publication T623, 1854 rolls; and
Roman Catholic Church, Waldmünchen parish (Waldmünchen, Cham, Bayern, Germany), Bd. 3, “Taufen, 1788-1830,” p 395, birth record for Joseph Murri, 22 August 1827; Bischöfliches Zentralarchiv Regensburg, St. Petersweg 11 – 13, 93047 Regensburg, Germany.
2 Ibid., Bd. 4, “Trauungen, 1831-1867,” unnumbered pages, 1862, no. 6, Joseph Murri and Walburga Mauerer.
3 Ibid., Bd. 4, “Taufen 1831-1867,” p. 383, no. 154, Anna Maria Murri, 16 September 1863.
4 Ibid., Bd. 4, “Taufen, 1831-1867,” p. 413, no. 183, Anna Francisca Murri, 27 September 1865; and
New York State Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, Death Certificates, no. 2064, Anna Mertz, 29 March 1936; Buffalo, New York, City Clerk, 1302 City Hall, 65 Niagara Square, Buffalo, New York.
5 Roman Catholic Church, Waldmünchen parish (Waldmünchen, Cham, Bayern, Germany), Bd. 4, “Taufen, 1831-1867,” p. 442, no. 71, Johann Murri, 23 April 1867; Bischöfliches Zentralarchiv Regensburg, St. Petersweg 11 – 13, 93047 Regensburg, Germany.
6 Ibid., Bd. 4, “Trauungen, 1831-1867,” unnumbered pages in chronological order, 1864, No. 6, Franz Georg Mauerer and Franziska Geigant, 17 October 1864.
13 Roman Catholic Church, Waldmünchen parish (Waldmünchen, Cham, Bayern, Germany), Bd. 5, “Ehen 1628-1735,” p. 636, unnumbered entries in chronological order, Peter Muri and Eva Braun, 4 June 1703; Bischöfliches Zentralarchiv Regensburg, St. Petersweg 11 – 13, 93047 Regensburg, Germany.
The longer I research, the more I am convinced of the unstoppable power of cluster research, combined with autosomal DNA testing, when it comes to breaking through genealogical brick walls. Cluster research is also known as FAN research—genealogical research into an ancestor’s friends, associates and neighbors—and this method has proven to be very successful when the paper trail dries up, and historical records cannot be found which offer direct evidence for parentage or place of origin.
Last autumn, this combination helped me break through a long-standing brick wall, and discover the place of origin of my Causin/Cossin ancestors from Pfetterhouse, Alsace, France. Bolstered by that success, I’ve been attempting to utilize that same magic combination of FAN plus DNA research to discover the origins of my Murre/Muri ancestors, who immigrated to Buffalo, New York in 1869 from somewhere in Bavaria.
From Bavaria to Buffalo: The Joseph Murre Family
Let me start with a brief introduction to my 3x-great-grandparents, Joseph and Walburga (Maurer) Murre. Joseph Murre (or Murrÿ, Muri, Murri, Murrie, etc.) was born circa 1825 in Bavaria, Germany.1 Around 1862, he married Walburga Maurer, who was born circa 1835.2 They had at least three children while in Germany: Maria/Mary Murre, born circa 1863; Anna Murre (my great-great-grandmother), born 27 September 1865; and Johann/John F. Murre, born circa April 1867.3 The Murre family emigrated from the port of Bremen, arriving in New York on 3 April 1869 aboard the SS Hansa.4 Their passenger manifest is shown in Figure 1.
Unfortunately, the manifest does not specify a place of origin beyond simply “Bavaria,” and neither have any other records discovered to date been informative in that regard—including naturalization records and church records, which are so often helpful in identifying an immigrant’s place of origin.
Three more children were born to Joseph and Walburga Murre in Buffalo: Josephine, born in 1869, Alois/Aloysius Joseph, born in 1872, and Frances Walburga, born in 1876.5 Walburga Murre—who became known as Barbara in the U.S.—died on 18 September 1886 and is buried in the United German & French Cemetery in Cheektowaga, New York.6 Her husband, Joseph, was living in the Erie County Almshouse at the time of the 1900 census, and he died in 1905.7 He, too, is buried in the United German & French Cemetery in Cheektowaga, albeit in a different plot from the one where Walburga is buried.
While it would oversimplify the situation considerably to state that this summary is “all” that was known about the Murre/Maurer family, the fact remains that thus far, I have not identified any siblings or parents for either Joseph Murre or Walburga Maurer, nor have I been able to identify their place of origin in Bavaria.
Step 1: Use DNA to Light the Way
When faced with a similar research question for my Causin/Cossin line, I believe I missed an opportunity by failing to exploit genetic genealogy methodology early on in the research. Now that I’m older and wiser, I decided to tackle my Murre/Maurer origins question using genetic genealogy methods right from the start. Specifically, I began by examining the Collins-Leeds Method autoclusters of my Dad’s autosomal DNA matches, gathered from all his Ancestry DNA matches who share between 20 cM (centimorgans, a unit of genetic distance) and 400 cM of DNA with him. These autoclusters are created by the DNAGedcom Client, an app available with a subscription to DNAGedcom. The clusters are displayed in a matrix that resembles the one shown in Figure 2.
At the time I ran this autocluster analysis, Dad had 385 Ancestry DNA matches who met the specified requirements of sharing between 20 and 400 cM DNA with him. So, Figure 2 shows only a portion of the matrix, which is set up as a grid with those 385 names along the top and also along the left side. Those 385 people are organized into clusters based on common ancestry, and Cluster 57, indicated by the red arrow, is the cluster to focus on to start. Clicking the popup box, “View Cluster,” brings up the image shown in Figure 3.
The green tree icon (circled in red) indicates a DNA match with a family tree linked to his or her test results; names of matches (in the “Person” column) have been redacted for privacy. By scrolling down through the list of Ancestors in Cluster, or by examining the trees (when available), I was able to determine that two of these DNA matches are descendants of Josephine (Murre) Hummel—the sister of my great-great-grandmother, Anna (Murre) Boehringer. The third match lacks a family tree, so it’s not immediately clear how we are related; however, these initial findings imply that we must be related through DNA passed down from ancestors of either Joseph Murre or Walburga Maurer.
The fourth member of that Cluster 57, whom I’ll call L.O., is even more interesting, because her family tree indicates that she is the great-granddaughter of German immigrants Frank and Matilda Maurer of Buffalo, New York. L.O. is the DNA match who shares 41.5 cM DNA with my dad, in the list of people in Cluster 57 shown in Figure 3. At this point, I did not have any information on Frank Maurer’s ancestry. But the fact that he shared a surname with Walburga Maurer, combined with the fact that one of his descendants shares DNA with three documented descendants of hers, strongly suggested that (a) Cluster 57 is a Maurer DNA cluster and not a Murre DNA cluster, and (b) Frank must somehow be related to Walburga.
Hoping to gather more data, I examined the Collins-Leeds Method autoclusters that were generated from gathering Dad’s DNA matches who shared between 9 cM and 400 cM DNA with him. By dropping the minimum threshold for inclusion in the analysis all the way down to 9 cM, I picked up DNA matches who are related more distantly, and the total number of individuals included in the analysis jumped from 385 to 1,651. The cluster that contains the same individuals found in Cluster 57 of the previous analysis, is now numbered as Cluster 334, shown in Figure 4.
Examination of the new and improved version of that “Maurer Cluster” (Cluster 334) revealed that there’s some overlap with the adjacent Cluster 335, as well as some other DNA matches (336–342) that are more loosely related, creating a supercluster. That supercluster includes all the greyed-out boxes around Clusters 334 and 335.
Inspection of available family trees for people in the 334–342 supercluster produced the following data (Figure 5):
Shared cM with Dad
Granddaughter of Eleanor Maurer, daughter of Franz Maurer & Matilda Grenz
Great-granddaughter of John J. Maurer, son of Franz Maurer & Matilda Grenz
Grandson of Joseph J. Maurer, son of Franz Maurer & Matilda Grenz
Grandson of John J. Maurer, son of Franz Maurer & Matilda Grenz
Grandson of Eleanor Maurer, daughter of Franz Maurer & Matilda Grenz
Grandson of John J. Maurer, son of Franz Maurer & Matilda Grenz
Figure 5: Summary of DNA and family tree data for DNA matches from supercluster 334–342 whose precise relationship to my Dad has yet to be determined.
The DNA matches summarized in Figure 5 were in addition to other DNA matches from that cluster who were already known to me as descendants of Joseph and Walburga (Maurer) Murre.
Most of these matches are in the 10 cM range, with the outlier being L.O., who shares roughly 42 cM with my dad, and this variability may be due simply to the randomness of DNA inheritance through recombination. However, other possibilities exist, such as the possibility that L.O. shares more than the expected amount of DNA with Dad because she’s also related to him in some other way, besides just the Maurer connection. That’s a question for another day, but in any case, there’s ample DNA evidence here to suggest that the genetic link between my family and all these DNA cousins lies in that Maurer DNA. Nonetheless, the precise relationship between Franz Maurer and my 3x-great-grandmother, Walburga (Maurer) Murre, remains unclear. Were they siblings, or perhaps first cousins? If we hypothesize that Franz and Walburga were siblings, then that would mean that Dad and all these great-grandchildren of Franz Maurer would be third cousins once removed (3C1R). While it’s within the realm of statistical possibility for 3C1R to share only 10 cM DNA, according to data from the Shared cM Project, a more distant relationship between Franz and Walburga is more probable.
Step 2: Research Franz Maurer’s Family in Historical Records
Now that we’ve identified a family of interest, who was Franz Maurer, and what evidence can be found in historical records that might offer some clues for our research question? Preliminary research indicated that Franz/Frank Maurer was born circa 1839 in Bavaria, and was married to Franziska/Frances Geigand in Germany. Figure 6 shows the family in the 1880 census.8
Franz was a carpenter, born in Bavaria, and the couple had two children while in Germany: a son, Alois, born circa 1861, and a daughter, Anna, born about 1865. They immigrated in 1867,9 and settled in Buffalo, New York, in the same parish where my Murre family would settle two years later—St. Boniface, formerly located at 145 Mulberry Street. Church records show that another son, Joseph, was born to Franz and Franziska on 18 August 1867, followed by Michael on 21 July 1869.10 Twin boys, Joannes Aloisius and Franciscus (as they were identified in their Latin baptismal records), were born on 2 February 1872,11 but they both died of smallpox that summer, which also took the life of four-year-old Joseph.12 Another son, Frank, was born on 26 June 1873, followed by Henry on 14 July 1876.13 A daughter, Francisca, born 18 August 1880,14 must also have died in infancy, because she disappears from the records. She is not, however, buried in the same cemetery plot as many of the other Maurer children who died in childhood.
On 15 April 1881, Franziska/Frances Maurer died,15 leaving behind her husband and five living children, ranging in age from about 5 years to 20 years old. Four months later, on 22 August 1881,16 Franz remarried a fellow German immigrant, 33-year-old Franziska (Eppler or Ebler) Schabel, a widow whose previous husband, Frank Schabel, died in April 1880.17 At the time of her remarriage, Frances was the mother of two children, Frank Schabel, Jr. (about age 4), and Rose Schabel, who was barely two years old.18 Although Frank Jr. retained his biological father’s surname, Rose was subsequently known as Rose Maurer, and she identified her father as Francis Maurer—not Schabel—on her marriage record.19 Although Frances was still within her childbearing years when she married Frank Maurer, no children from this marriage have been discovered thus far.
The second Frances Maurer must have died before 1888, because Franz Maurer remarried for the third time on 24 January of that year.20 Oddly, there is no evidence for Frances’ death in the Buffalo, New York, death index 1885–1891. However, there may have been a miscommunication with the civil clerks when the certificate was recorded, because there is a death certificate for a Frank Marer (sic) in that time period, which might be that of Frances, despite the masculine version of the given name.21 (Research is ongoing.)
Franz Maurer’s new bride was 34-year-old Matilda Grenz, another German immigrant, and four children were born to this couple: Joseph, on 15 January 1889; Matilda, on 30 April 1891, John, on 21 December 1892, and Eleanor, on 22 January 1897.22 Franz/Frank Maurer, Sr., died in 1910 and is buried in the United German & French Cemetery.23 In 1924, his wife, Matilda, passed away, and she is buried by his side.24
Step 3: Confirm FAN Club Membership
As expected, evidence from Joseph and Walburga Murre’s FAN club confirms the importance of the Franz Maurer family to my quest for the origins of my Maurer/Murre ancestors. Joseph and Walburga Murre named Franz and Franziska Maurer as godparents to their youngest child, Frances Walburga Murre, whose baptismal record from St. Boniface church is shown in Figure 7.25
Interestingly, for both of their other Buffalo-born children, Josephine and Alois Joseph, they named as godparents Alois Geigand and his wife, Josephine. Josephine Murre’s baptismal record is shown in Figure 8.26
Cemetery data from United German and French Cemetery, where Walburga and Joseph were buried, confirm the close relationship between the Maurer and Geigand families. The lot where Walburga was laid to rest was a large one, with at least 20 burials in it, owned by Alois Geigand and Frank Maurer.27 Of the twenty burials, all but four of them have been identified as descendants of Maurer or Geigand families. (Those remaining four burials may also be related, but currently their connection to these families is unclear.) The 1880 census, shown previously in Figure 6, also illustrates the strong links between the families, since they were living in the same house at 240 Locust Street at that time. A detail from this census is shown in Figure 9.
According to this census, Alois and Josephine Geigand were both 68 years old, which implies that they were born circa 1812. These ages suggest that perhaps they might be the parents of Frances (Geigand) Maurer, and I’m hoping that her burial record from St. Boniface might shed some light on that.
This brings us to the Hamburg emigration manifest for these folks, the document that gives me a glimmer of hope that I might be able to discover the origins of my Maurer/Murre family (Figure 10).28
This manifest is irrefutably the correct one for these families. The names and ages of all passengers line up perfectly with data from U.S. records, confirming that 55-year-old laborer, Alois Geigand (indexed as Geigant), and his 54-year-old wife, Josephine, traveled to the U.S. with their two children, 24-year-old Georg and 17-year-old Walbur (sic), aboard the SS Victoria, departing from Hamburg on 1 May 1867. Traveling with them were the family of Franz (indexed as “Fraz”) Maurer, a 23-year-old carpenter; his wife, Franziska, and two children, Alois and Anna. Their place of origin was indexed by Ancestry as Waldmünchen, Bayern—a town in Bavaria, Germany, that’s barely two miles from the Czech border (Figure 11).
It’s always good to get more than one piece of evidence for place of origin before attempting to dive into records from Europe, and in this case, the emigration register from Mainz, Germany, provided that additional evidence (Figures 12a and b).29
Professional researcher, Marcel Elias, provided the following translation of these entries:
“Nr. 394, 24 April 1867, agent’s name Humann, Schiffsvertrag (a confirmation about booked ticket) from 24 April 1867, Names of emigrants:
Geigant Aloys, 55yo
his wife Josepha, 54 yo,
their son Georg, 24 yo
all from Waldmünchen, Bayern, Auswanderungszeugniss (approval for emigration) from Waldmünchen from 27 March 1867, heading to New York, port of departure Hamburg on April 26
Nr. 395, 24 April 1867, agent’s name Humann, Schiffsvertrag (a confirmation about booked ticket) from 24 April 1867, Names of emigrants:
Maurer, Franz, 28yo
his wife Franziska, 26 (or 28 yo)
children: Alois, 4 ¼
Anna 1 ¼
all from Waldmünchen, Bayern, Auswanderungszeugniss (approval for emigration) from Waldmünchen from 27 March 1867, heading to New York, port of departure Hamburg on April 26″
Observant readers may have noticed that there were other emigrants from Waldmünchen recorded on both the passenger manifest, as well as the emigration register. These other emigrants included group 393, consisting of 30-year-old Maria Maurer and her children, Anna and Johann, as well as 42-year-old Georg Macht. They, too, belong to the Maurer-Geigand FAN Club, and I was not surprised to discover that Maria and Georg were married at St. Boniface on 18 June 1867, less than two months after they arrived in Buffalo.30 Ship-board romance or marriage of convenience? Who knows?
Step 4: Seek Evidence for Murre/Maurer Family in Records from Waldmünchen
Unfortunately, my own ancestors, Joseph and Walburga Murre, were not found in the database of Mainz, Germany, emigration registers, which suggests that they registered in another administrative center. (They also departed from Bremen, rather than Hamburg.) So, these two pieces of evidence—the passenger manifest and the emigration register—are my best hope for tracking down my Murre family. You may also note that Ancestry indexed the last place of residence of the emigrant Maurer-Geigand clan as “Waldmühlen,” rather than “Waldmünchen,” based on the “Wohnort” column. However, the place was clearly recorded as Waldmünchen in the “Legitimationen” column in Figure 12b. This discrepancy might be concerning, apart from the fact that I also happened to find a Buffalo Evening News article from 1933 about the 60th wedding anniversary of Joseph and Anna (Pongratz) Geigand, which states that Joseph Geigand was born in Waldmünchen, Bavaria, Germany, and came to the U.S. in 1871.31 Do I know how Joseph Geigand is related to my family at this point? Heck no. Nonetheless, FAN principles would suggest that he’s got to be a part of the Maurer-Geigand FAN Club, and at this point, that’s good enough for me.
Finding my Murre family in records from Waldmünchen sounds pretty straightforward, but it’s not a slam-dunk. It may be that the Maurers were approximating their place of origin to Waldmünchen, when in fact they were from some smaller village in the vicinity. We won’t know until we try. However, trying is not something I can do on my own. FamilySearch has no scans online for Roman Catholic records from Waldmünchen, nor am I sufficiently proficient in my ability to read German. Church records from Waldmünchen are at the Bischöfliche Zentralarchiv Regensburg (diocesan archive in Regensburg), which is an archive that’s quite familiar to Marcel Elias, the professional researcher I mentioned previously. So, I handed the ball off to Marcel, and I’m awaiting his results with bated breath. Stay tuned.
1 1900 U.S. Census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo Ward 25, Enumeration District 222, Sheet 2A, Erie County Almshouse, line 16, Joseph Murri; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 12 July 2022), citing Family History Library microfilm no. 1241033, original data from National Archives and Records Administration publication T623, 1854 rolls.
2 1870 United States Federal Census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo Ward 7, page 73, family no. 603, Joseph Murri household; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 12 July 2022), citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 934 of 1,761 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d; Family History Library Film no. 552433.
3 1880 United States Federal Census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo city, Enumeration District 147, sheet 12D, family no. 120, Joseph Murry household; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : 12 July 2022), citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 830 of 1,454 rolls, Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29, National Archives, Washington, D.C., Family History microfilm no.1254830; and
New York State Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, Death Certificates, no. 2064, Anna Mertz, 29 March 1936; Buffalo, New York, City Clerk, 1302 City Hall, 65 Niagara Square, Buffalo, New York; and
1900 U.S. Census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, West Seneca, Enumeration District 264, Sheet 28A, line 10, John Murra in Alois Klug household; digital image, Ancestry (http://search.ancestry.com : 12 July 2022), citing National Archives and Records Administration, 1900. T623, roll 1034 of 1854 rolls, FHL microfilm no. 1241034.
4Manifest, SS Hansa, arriving 3 April 1869, lines 38-42, Muri family; imaged as “New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 12 July 2022); citing Microfilm Serial M237, 1820-1897; Line 42; List no. 292.
5 St. Boniface Roman Catholic Parish Records,142 Locust St. Buffalo, New York, microfilm publication, 2 rolls (Buffalo & Erie County Public Library : Western New York Genealogical Society, 1982), Roll 1: Baptisms (1849-1912), 1869, no. 542, baptismal record for Josephina Muri; and
Ibid., 1872, no. 977, baptismal record for Aloisius Joseph Muri; and
Ibid., 1876, no. 90, baptismal record for Francisca Walburga Murrÿ.
6 Ibid., 1886, baptisms, no. 124, record for Walburga Barbara Murry. Although it was recorded among the baptisms, the text makes it clear that this is a death record. “Walburga Barb. Murry. no. 124. Die 18a Sept. Walburga Barbara Murri quinqueqinta duos annos nata animam Deo reddidit confesso atque Viatico refecta die 20a b.m. rite sepultum est ejus corpus. Ferdinand Kolb.”; and
United German and French Cemetery Roman Catholic Cemetery, Mount Calvary Cemetery Group (500 Pine Ridge Heritage Boulevard, Cheektowaga, New York) to Julie Szczepankiewicz, Murre/Maurer/Geigand burial data, including record of lot owners for Lot 66, Section S; diagram of plot, and record of burials on lot; burial records for Walburga Barb Murri (1886) and Joseph Murre (1905).
7 Ibid., and
1900 U.S. Census, record for Joseph Murri.
81880 United States Federal Census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo city, Enumeration District 147, page 31C, family no. 305, Frank Maurer household; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/1716337:6742 : 12 July 2022), citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 830 of 1,454 rolls, Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C.
9 Manifest, SS Victoria, departing 1 May 1867 Hamburg to New York, p328, nos. 46-49, Franz Maurer family (indexed as Fraz); imaged as “Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : 12 July 2022), citing Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Volume: 373-7 I, VIII A 1 Band 021 A; Page: 327; Microfilm No.: K_1712.
15 Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/79956024/franziska-mauerer : accessed 12 July 2022), memorial page for Franziska Mauerer (28 Feb 1838–15 Apr 1881), Find a Grave Memorial ID 79956024, citing United German and French Cemetery, Cheektowaga, Erie County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Phyllis Meyer (contributor 47083260).
171880 U.S. Census, Erie County, New York, mortality schedule, Buffalo city, Enumeration District 141, sheet 1, line 19, Frank Schabel, died April 1880; imaged as “U.S., Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 12 July 2022), citing New York State Education Department, Office of Cultural Education, Albany, New York; Archive Roll No. M10.
181880 United States Federal Census, Erie County, New York population schedule, Buffalo city, Enumeration District 141, Sheet 93A, household no. 249, Francis (sic) Schabel household; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 12 July 2022), citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 829 of1,454 rolls.
19Roman Catholic Church, Our Lady of Lourdes parish (Buffalo, Erie, New York, USA), Marriages, 1883-1907,1903, no. 22, Joannes C. Bauer et Rosa K. Maurer, 17 June 1903; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G928-9NHL : 12 July 2022), “Church records, 1850-1924,” Family History Library film no. 1292741/DGS no. 4023115, image 1048 of 1740.
21 City of Buffalo, Buffalo, NY, Death Index, 1885-1891, p. 486, Marer, Frank, unknown date (bet. 1885-1891), Vol. 10, p 62; digital image, Internet Archive (https://archive.org/ : 12 July 2022), image 549 of 990.
22 “New York Births and Christenings, 1640-1962”, database, Joseph Maurer, born 15 January 1889; and
“U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007,” database, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 12 July 2022), Matilda Catherine Maurer, born 30 April 1891, SSN 058342914; and “New York Births and Christenings, 1640-1962”, database, Martinam Maurer, born 30 April 1891. Matilda’s baptismal record identifies her as Martina, with the same date of birth, but I believe they are the same individual.
“New York Births and Christenings, 1640-1962,” database, Johannem Maurer, born 21 December 1892; and
“New York Births and Christenings, 1640-1962”, database, Elleonoram Maurer, born 22 January 1897.
31Buffalo Evening News (Buffalo, New York), 21 April 1933 (Friday), p 21, col 2, “Married 60 Years,” anniversary announcement for Joseph and Anna (Pongratz) Geigand,” digital image, Newspapers (https://www.newspapers.com/ : 12 July 2022).
Like many of the genetic genealogists out there, I’ve come to love DNA Painter as a tool for getting the most out of my DNA test data. So, today I want to share how I use it to help me better understand my DNA matches.
In order to keep this post fairly short and sweet, I’m going to assume that anyone reading this will have some familiarity with the basic concepts in genetic genealogy. If you don’t, you might want to read about using your match list at Ancestry, or check out some of my advice for beginners, relating to DNA testing, or visit one of the many other blogs or Facebook groups out there that are geared toward genetic genealogy.
DNA Painter is a fantastic tool for many reasons, but I especially love it because it gives me one place to keep all my segment data from the various test companies (Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage, and 23&Me) or third-party applications (GEDmatch) that provide it, visually identifying which segments were inherited from which ancestors. Why is this helpful? Here’s an example.
Let’s say I have a match at 23&Me who is entirely unknown to me. We’ll call him K.C. (All initials of living individuals have been changed in this post.) He has no information in his profile on 23&Me regarding where he lives, when he was born, or any surnames he’s researching. Half his ancestry is Northwestern European, and the other half is Ashkenazi Jewish, so we’re almost certainly related on the Northwestern European side. His breakdown within that category isn’t especially helpful; we’re both a mix of British & Irish, French & German, and Broadly Northwestern European in varying proportions, which represents my paternal side. I don’t know where he lives or when he was born, and his name is sufficiently common that standard internet search techniques (e.g. searching for death notices in which he’s named as a surviving relative, or searches of databases such as Ancestry and Newspapers) don’t offer any clues. He’s pretty much a mystery.
An examination of Relatives in Common offers some insights, however. 23&Me reports that K.C. and I have relatives in common, which include E.T., E.S., and K.M., and that we all share DNA overlap, which is typically an indication that a particular segment of DNA was passed down to each of us from a common ancestor. Unfortunately, the situation with the latter two matches is not much better than it is with K.C. There’s not much information to go on in their profiles, and I don’t know how I’m related to them. However, I do have one glimmer of hope that I can leverage: E.T. is my second cousin. In “View DNA Details” at the 23&Me site, I select, “Compare with More Relatives,” and take a closer look at Chromosome 7, where we all share DNA, using myself as the base comparison (Figure 1).
In the diagram above, the underlying gray represents my paternal Chromosome 7. The purple segments are where my second cousin, E.T., shares DNA with me on that chromosome. As per the key, the orange segment represents shared DNA that I share with K.C., the yellow is shared DNA with E.S., and the blue is shared DNA with K.M. The areas where the colored regions stack on top of each other are areas of triangulation, where we all match each other, presumably because we share a common ancestor. But which ancestor might that be?
While my match list at 23&Me doesn’t provide any clues in that regard, my ancestral chromosome map from DNA Painter does. My ancestral chromosome map represents a visual summary of all of my known DNA match data from any test company or third-party application which provides segment data. Each time I’m able to document a genealogical relationship between myself and a living relative whose DNA data are found at one of those websites, I can “paint” the segments of shared DNA onto my ancestral chromosome map, and assign those segments to the common ancestral couple from whom that DNA match and I both descend. The more complete I can make my map, the more useful it is at informing my understanding of unknown DNA matches.
Let’s take a look at my paternal Chromosome 7 on my map from DNA Painter (Figure 2).
The map consists of a number of colored bars of varying lengths. Each bar represents a segment of DNA shared between me and a living DNA match. I’ve removed the names of the matches in most cases, although the colored bars that are relevant to this discussion are identified by black bars on the right, labelled with the pseudo-initials of the DNA match.
The key tells us that my ancestral map of my paternal Chromsosome 7 consists of DNA segments that can be traced to one of three ancestral couples: Wenzeslaus Meier and Anna Goetz (my great-great-grandparents), Katherine Walsh and John Frank Roberts (my great-grandparents), and Robert Walsh and Elizabeth Hodgkinson (my great-great-great-grandparents). Figure 2a shows a family tree, for reference.
We know that my paternal copy of every autosome (Chromosomes 1-22) will contain DNA inherited from both my dad’s mother, Marie Boehringer, and my dad’s father, Harry Roberts. We can take this a step further. Any DNA which I inherited from my paternal grandmother, Marie Boehringer, must have been given to her by either her father, John Boehringer, or her mother, Anna Meier. Similarly, any DNA which I inherited from my paternal grandfather must have come from either his father, John Frank Roberts, or his mother, Katherine Walsh. So each and every one of my paternal autosomes could be said to be a mixture of Roberts, Walsh, Boehringer, and Meier DNA. Bear in mind that the same pattern would be true for the chromosomes I inherited from my mom; those chromosomes must represent the four surnames of her grandparents.)
Going back now to the chromosome map, the map gets further refined as I am able to identify DNA matches with whom I share more distant ancestry. As mentioned, there’s a green segment on the map that represents DNA inherited from my great-great-great-grandparents, Robert Walsh and Elizabeth Hodgkinson. They were the grandparents of Katherine Walsh, so it makes sense that this green segment of DNA would necessarily overlap with the royal blue DNA segment that I share with a Walsh/Roberts descendant. If it somehow overlapped with the light blue of the Meier/Goetz line, it would be an indication that I’d made some errors in assigning segments to ancestors. That green segment now helps me refine my understanding of my DNA in that region. When I only have the royal blue segment to consider, I know only that either John Frank Roberts or Katherine Walsh contributed that DNA. However, thanks to the additional data—that green segment—I know that the portion of the royal blue “Roberts/Walsh DNA” that overlaps with the green “Walsh/Hodgkinson DNA” in Figure 2 must have come from Katherine Walsh and not John Frank Roberts.
Now let’s see how this map can give me a starting point for understanding how I’m related to those unknown DNA matches, K.C., E.S., and K.M. As mentioned, E.T. is the only one of these DNA matches shown in Figure 1 to whom I know how I’m related; she’s my second cousin. So let’s start by focusing only on the segments of Chromosome 7 where I match her (Figure 3).
Since there’s a lot going on, visually, in the ancestral chromosome map shown in Figure 2, I’ve marked with stars those three segments where E.T. matches me, so it’s a little easier to focus on them (Figure 4).
As you can see in Figures 1 and 3, there’s a break between the segments of DNA that I share with E.T., represented as that gray region disrupting the purple regions, that runs from (approximately) position 32,356,335 to position 55,601,336. This represents DNA that E.T. and I do not share. This break is highlighted in the zoomed-in, side-by-side comparison of the chromosome map from 23&Me with the ancestral chromosome map from DNA Painter (Figure 5).
Notice that the first half of that gap corresponds to that 13 cM segment of DNA, colored in green, that I share with I.N., whose common ancestors with me were Robert Walsh and Elizabeth Hodgkinson. So, this tells me that in the first part of the gap region where I don’t share DNA with E.T., I inherited my DNA from the Walsh line. That’s important, because when we go back to Figure 1, the first part of that gap is where I share DNA with those unknown DNA matches, K.C., E.S., and K.M. So this tells me that it’s very likely that the common ancestors from which all of us descend are from the Walsh/Hodgkinson line (Figure 6).
At this point, you may be saying, “Who cares?!” But I think it’s incredibly cool and powerful that I can go from having no information at all about three of my DNA matches on 23&Me, to suddenly knowing that we must be related through some common ancestor of either Robert Walsh or Elizabeth Hodgkinson, even when I have no matches in the 23&Me database to cousins with whom Robert and Elizabeth are the most recent common ancestral couple. Thank you, DNA Painter!
Please note that DNA Painter also offers the option to paint segment data from unknown matches directly into one’s chromosome map, so I could have made this same observation about my relationship to K.C., E.S., and K.M. that way. However, my personal preference is to keep my chromosome map “clean” and not add segment data until I determine how the match is related to me. In the end, it doesn’t matter so much how we make these observations; the point is that we have the tools that make the observations possible. Going forward, I can write to these matches to see if they’ll give me further information about their family trees, I can look for clues in the family trees of additional shared matches, and I can play the long game and see what other matches are added to the test company databases over time that might shed some light on the situation. Ultimately, DNA matches can offer fantastic clues to help answer genealogical questions and identify unknown ancestors, so it’s worth taking the time to explore those matches.
Yesterday was a bittersweet day for me. We closed the sale of my parents’ home, the home they custom-built in 2004 with an in-law apartment for my Grandma, Helen Zielinski, so she could live with them after Grandpa died. There were a lot of memories in that home, although (mercifully) not so many as there would have been had they lived there all their married lives. Nonetheless, cleaning it out prior to the sale was an enormous task, and one that fell entirely to my husband and me, since my mother passed away last October, my Dad was unable to participate due to his own health concerns, and my only sibling was unable to travel due to the pandemic. Since Mom and Dad’s home was located in Western New York, it was a solid 440 miles away from where I live in Massachusetts, necessitating a dedicated trip and a week of vacation days to go back and deal with the clean-out. Fortunately, my husband still has family in that area as well, so my sisters-in-love, Kristi and Kerri, generously made time to help with the sorting, shredding, donating, unpacking, and repacking that go with the job.
If you’ve ever cleaned out a house before, you know how overwhelming the task can seem. Mom and Dad had a very large basement that was packed with furniture, antiques, holiday decorations, unused home furnishings, and family treasures, all carefully organized in plastic storage bins and cardboard boxes. Mom had all of the boxes neatly labelled regarding their contents, but she and Dad saved everything. Pretty much every greeting card ever received, every report card, college notebook, every drawing made by a grandchild—it was all down in that basement, in rows of boxes stacked along the walls around the perimeter of the basement. It reminded me of that final scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark. And it wasn’t just Mom and Dad’s stuff. There were things in that basement from my grandparents and great-grandparents on both sides of the family, as well as my Mom’s maternal uncle, Joseph “J” Zazycki, whom she cared for in his final years. Grandma and Grandpa Zielinski’s entire bedroom set was there, with bed, mattress and both dressers, along with Grandma’s sewing machine, which I have vivid memories of watching her use when I was a child. There were the paintings that used to hang in their living room, the glider that once stood in front of their garage, the photo album that Grandma made with all the photos from her honeymoon, and the lamps that I remembered from the spare bedroom where my sister and I shared a bed during sleepovers at Grammy and Grandpa’s house. There was the old greeting card box that Grandma repurposed for storing crayons so my sister and I could color pictures when we came to visit. Grandma was from the generation that wasted nothing, so the box included some of the free crayons given out by restaurants so small diners could color their paper menus—crayons that were not discarded after the meal, but carefully and lovingly preserved by Grandma. The smell from that box of crayons immediately took me back to Grandma’s kitchen table circa 1973. Love, care, and memories were packed into every box and every corner.
It wasn’t just the basement that needed going through. Although I’d moved some of their furniture and belongings out of the house when I moved Mom and Dad into an assisted living apartment near me, there were living areas that remained untouched, including Dad’s office. My mother was a first-rate bibliophile, and she had at least a thousand books, many of which were beautifully bound, gilt-edged, hardcover editions of literary classics that were precious to her, still filling the shelves on either side of the fireplace. I wish I could have kept all of it, but where? My own attic and basement are already full from the accumulation of treasures that accompanies years of raising children, and we don’t have as much storage space as my parents did. What does one do with all this stuff? As the old saying goes, “You can’t take it with you.” I had to get in touch with my inner Marie Kondo and make some hard choices.
Some things ended up being easier to let go of than others, like the school desks. My mother had gone to elementary school at Our Lady of Częstochowa in North Tonawanda, New York, and at some point in the 1970s when the school was modernizing, they sold off the old-fashioned student desks. My parents decided to purchase two pairs of the desks, and Dad painstakingly refinished the wood, painted the metal legs, and mounted them on wood runners, after which my parents displayed them in the family room of our home in Cincinnati when I was growing up. My sister and I used to sit at them and play “school” when we were little, but I can’t see where they’d fit into my home today. Similarly, my Great-Grandpa John Boehringer’s fishing tackle box didn’t even make the “donate” pile, as it was all full of rusted fishing hooks and lures that seemed like a bad case of tetanus waiting to happen.
As a family historian, I hoped to balance the need for getting the job done quickly and efficiently, with the need for careful preservation of the family history. I’m not sure I was entirely successful in that regard, and I may live to regret some of the things that were donated, discarded, or sold at the estate sale. I prioritized saving photographs and any documents with historical value, although I decided to let go some of the newspapers they saved over the years, such as the last issue of Buffalo’s newspaper, the Courier-Express that was printed in 1982. (Probably half the population of Buffalo has a copy in their basement.) I saved the oak porch swing that Dad made that used to hang in front of the rose trellis at their house on Patton Place, but I said goodbye to the old Cardinal phonograph that my parents bought when we lived in Cincinnati.
Our old Fisher-Price toys had to go, as did the cedar chest, but I saved the afghans made by my Mom and by Nana Boehringer, my mother’s journals, and my Dad’s flight log books from when he obtained his commercial pilot’s license in 1971. Many of the documents from my Dad’s youth, such as his old report cards, were charred by the house fire that largely destroyed my paternal grandparents’ home in 1978 while they were vacationing in Florida, and I discovered all the documentation—insurance records, building receipts—related to rebuilding that house after the fire, which had been carefully saved by my grandfather.
As I sifted through the ephemera of half a dozen lifetimes, I was struck not only by what people chose to save, but also by how these things were saved. The heart-shaped wreath of roses that adorned her father’s casket was preserved by my mother with such care that not a petal was lost. All of her school report cards were organized into neat little packets. Uncle J’s wallet, address book, check registers, and vital records were all boxed together with his collection of family photos. My Dad, on the other hand, had a whole pile of letters and postcards from family, stashed in the bottom of his duffel bag from Vietnam, buried underneath his boots and flight suit. His Air Force dress uniform, on the other hand, was hung neatly in a wardrobe box, with all of his medals and ribbons still attached to the coat. My paternal grandfather’s wallet was intact, with all his credit cards, driver’s license, and precisely $37 in cash, exactly as he left it when he passed away in 1996. The money is worth less now than it was then, thanks to inflation, and one wonders why it was never removed. The wallet was tucked safely within a steel lockbox that previously belonged to his father-in-law (Grandpa John Boehringer), which also contained stock certificates from the 1930s from companies which no longer exist, and property tax receipts dating back to the 1950s for my grandparents’ home on Grand Island.
Such careful preservation serves as a silent testimony to each person’s values and circumstances. We come to know and understand our loved ones better through the cherished things they left behind.
Here are a few additional photos of some of my favorite finds:
It’s going to take me quite a while to sort through all the boxes of photos, papers and sentimental artifacts which I brought home from New York. Nothing is promised, but I hope to live long enough to organize the photos and documents in such a way that my kids will have a cohesive family history collection to preserve and pass on, or to dispose of as they see fit. Although family history is my passion, I don’t know if any of my kids will eventually take up the torch, and I know first-hand how material goods can quickly become burdensome if they were precious only to someone else. In the end, our greatest legacy is the love we show to our families, and the memories we make with them. The “stuff” is secondary; yet within those collections, there are stories waiting to be told.
Not so recently, genealogy blogger James Scobbie wrote a post which created quite a buzz in the Facebook genealogy world. He proposed that each of us should know or learn the eight surnames of our great-grandparents, and be able to recite them with ease, since this is a manageable amount of family history for anyone to carry around in his or her own head. Moreover, these surnames convey a more complete picture of who we are—insofar as our identity is determined by the people we come from—than does our surname alone, or even our surname plus mother’s maiden name.
I really liked this idea, and I find myself thinking about it still, long after the buzz has died down. I grew up with a surname, Roberts, that created misconceptions about my family’s origins. The surname is typically British, but in fact, my Roberts forebears were German immigrants with the surname Ruppert, who changed the name to Roberts upon settling in Detroit in the 1850s. Back then, German Catholic immigrants were among the groups targeted by the anti-immigrant “Know Nothing” party, so I’m sure it made sense for my Ruppert ancestors to keep their heads down and assimilate as quickly as possible. Despite this German heritage, which was repeated on Dad’s maternal side of the family (Meier/Boehringer), I didn’t grow up with any German traditions. I always believed that was because Dad’s family settled in America much earlier than Mom’s did, but as I look at their immigration dates more closely (Figure 1), I don’t think that explanation is entirely satisfactory.
Figure 1: Timeline for immigration to North America in my family.
As evident from the table, my German ancestors Anna Goetz and Wenzeslaus Meier both arrived in the U.S. around the same time that my Polish ancestors Andrew Klaus and Mary Łącka arrived from Galicia, and just a few years before my Polish ancestors John Zazycki and Veronica Grzesiak arrived from the Russian Empire. Perhaps my German ancestors were simply less sentimental? More likely, anti-German sentiment during World Wars I and II played a role. The result was a loss of German traditions and culture in my family, even despite my mother’s best efforts to give equal time to those traditions by teaching my sister and me to sing “O Tannenbaum” in German along with all the Polish Christmas carols. Even the favorite recipes were lost, for the most part. I have just one of Nana Boehringer’s recipes, for her bread dumplings, but I’ve had to try to recreate her famous fruit kaffee kuchen for myself, based on Dad’s fond recollections.
And so it was mostly the Polish traditions, songs, and foods from Mom’s side of the family that became part of my cultural identity. It could not possibly be Christmas without celebrating Wigilia on Christmas Eve, breaking the opłatek with my family, and feeling the love, peace and contentment that overflowed as we wished each other health, happiness, and all good things. Easter meant Święconka breakfast with ham, kiełbasa, hard-boiled eggs, and Grandma’s placek, with its plump raisins and butter-crumb topping. Spending time at Grandma and Grandpa Zielinski’s house meant visiting with Grandma in the kitchen while hearing Grandpa playing “Góralu, czy ci nie żal,” on the piano in the living room, or listening to the Sunday afternoon polka fest on the radio. The Polish-American traditions were so close to my heart that it felt problematic to have a surname which conveyed no hint of this heritage. Whenever conversations would turn to ethnic traditions and I would enthusiastically mention the Polish customs in my family, people would raise their eyebrows and say, “Roberts? That’s not Polish!”
This dual Polish-German ethnicity comprises the bulk of my eight surnames, but there’s one additional ethnic component that was largely glossed over as I was growing up. I think I was already an adult by the time I realized that my great-grandmother, Katherine Walsh Roberts, was actually born in Canada. I was dimly aware that her ancestry was a mixture of English, Irish and Scottish, but I’d somehow supposed that they were all 19th-century immigrants to Canada. It wasn’t until 2006 that I discovered that Great-Grandma Roberts’ lineage included not only 19th century immigrants to Canada, but also United Empire Loyalists with roots deep in the American colonies. The knowledge of that ancestry seems to have been buried in the family history, perhaps when my great-great-grandfather Henry Walsh decided to move his family back over the Canadian border, to Buffalo, New York.
If little remains of German cultural identity in my family, even less remains of English, Irish or Scottish ethnic identity. Such is the nature of assimilation, I suppose, and the day may come when that Polish ethnic identity which has always been so important to me, is just a distant memory for my descendants, buried as deeply as our ancestral English, Irish and Scottish origins. When my Polish grandparents passed away, the Polish language disappeared from my family as well—an inestimable loss, since shared language is the most fundamental characteristic of a culture. My son Daniel studied the Polish language at the University of Buffalo and even at Jagiellonian University during a summer program in Kraków, so perhaps his efforts will aid in preserving Polish heritage for future generations of my family. Yet I can’t help but wonder what eight surnames will be included in the lists of my great-great-grandchildren, assuming I have any, and what ethnic traditions they’ll celebrate. I won’t be here to meet them, of course. By then, I hope to be “hanging out” in the next life with all those ancestors who are presently my “brick walls” in the family tree, finally getting answers to all my questions.
Here, then, are my Eight Surnames, representing ancestors who may have originated in Poland, Germany, and Canada, but whose descendants are now as thoroughly American as apple pie.
What are your Eight Surnames, and what’s their story?
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of leveraging social media for genealogy, and Facebook genealogy groups hold a special place in my heart. One group that is very informative, and also just plain fun, is the group “GAA (Genealogy Addicts Anonymous)” where Admin Claudia D’Souza recently posted the following question to the members of the group: “Imagine you wake up and you are in the year 1899! Who are you going to visit, & what are you going to find out?” I had quite a bit of fun thinking about that question, so here’s my game plan for my hypothetical time travel to July 24th, 1899. I’ve also created an interactive map of the places I’ll be visiting on my journey.
My Paternal Grandfather’s Family
I’ll begin my travels in my hometown of Buffalo, New York, where I’ll visit the home of Charles and Nellie DeVere at 1567 Niagara Street. I’ll want to meet Nellie’s mom, 81-year-old Elizabeth (née Hodgkinson) Walsh, who was living with Charles and Nellie per the 1900 census. Elizabeth, whose photos appears in Figure 1, is my 3x-great-grandmother, so I’ll be anxious to see if she can tell me where in Ireland her late husband Robert Walsh was from and what his parents’ names were. While I’m interviewing her, I’ll be sure to ask about her mother’s maiden name as well, since Elizabeth’s mother is known to family historians only as Christiana Hodgkinson. There are rumors that she may have been a Laraway, but this is still unproven. Anything else that she can tell me about Christiana’s family—where they came from, her parents’ and siblings’ names—will be a bonus, since she’s nearly a complete mystery to me.
Elizabeth was 14 years old when her grandfather, John Hodgkinson, died, so she probably knew him and may be able to tell me something about his family. I know that John Hodgkinson was a United Empire Loyalist who served in Butler’s Rangers during the American Revolution. He married his second wife—my 5x-great-grandmother, Sarah Spencer—after the death of his first wife, Mary Moore, but the timeline is not clear to me. What year did Mary die, and what year did he marry Sarah? Were there other children from his first marriage besides Samuel Hodgkinson, who was baptized in Schaghticoke, New York in 1776? I wonder if his marriage to Sarah a happy one, or merely a marriage of convenience, since young Samuel needed a mother, and since John was already acquainted with Sarah’s family, having served with her father, Robert Spencer, in Butler’s Rangers.
After my delightful visit with Elizabeth Walsh, I’ll take the street car that runs down Niagara Street to travel about 2.5 miles north to 73 Evelyn Street in Buffalo, the home of my 2x-great-grandparents, Henry and Martha (née Dodds) Walsh, to meet them and their children, including 16-year-old Katherine Elizabeth Walsh, who will be my great-grandmother.
Figure 1: Four generations of the Walsh family. Image retouched by Jordan Sakal. On the far left, Elizabeth (née Hodgkinson) Walsh (1818-1907). On the far right, her son Henry Walsh (1847-1907). Next to Henry is his oldest daughter, Marion (née Walsh) Frank (1878-1954), and next to her is her daughter, Alice Marion Frank.
In 1899, Henry is a 52-year-old teamster who has been living in Buffalo for the past 12 years, having moved his family there from St. Catharines, Ontario, in 1887. He and Martha are the parents of 9 children, including baby Gladys Mildred Walsh, who was just born in April. I’m sure they’ll also want to tell me about their first grandchild, Alice Marion Frank, who was born in March of 1899 to their oldest daughter, Marion, and her husband, George W. Frank. Martha Walsh is a busy 40-year-old mother and homemaker, so I’ll offer to help her in the kitchen while she tells me about her mother, Catherine Dodds, who died in 1872 when Martha was just 13. Can she tell me Catherine’s maiden name? Was it Grant, or Irving, since both of those names have been recorded, or something else? Was one of those names the name of a previous husband she may have had prior to her marriage to Robert Dodds? What can she tell me about Catherine’s parents? Were they Scottish immigrants to Glengarry, Ontario who arrived in the early 19th century, or was their Scotch ancestry more distant, originating with Scottish highlanders who settled first in upstate New York in the mid-18th century, only arriving in Canada after the Revolutionary War?
It may be that Martha is unable to answer my questions, so I’ll take a train to St. Catharines to pay a visit to her father, Robert Dodds, my 3x-great-grandfather. In 1899, Robert is living on Niagara Street with his daughter, Hannah Carty, and her husband James. In addition to asking him about his late wife, I’ll be eager to ask him about his own family history. Where in England was he born, exactly? Documentary and DNA evidence suggest the region around Northumberland and Durham, but solid evidence has been slim. When did he come to Canada? How and where did he meet his wife Catherine, and where and when did they marry? Who were his parents? Did he have siblings, and did any of them come to Canada, or did they remain in England? When my visit with Robert is finished, I’ll head back to Buffalo to meet my great-great-grandparents, Michael Frank (generally known by this time as Frank Michael) Roberts and Mary Elizabeth (née Wagner) Roberts and their family (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Frank M. Roberts (1858–1930) and Mary E. (née Wagner) Roberts (1860–1946) with their four sons, unknown date. From left to right, John Frank Roberts, Frank M. Roberts, George A. Roberts, Mary E. Roberts, Harry Michael Roberts, Bert Fred Roberts.
In 1899, Frank Roberts was a 41-year-old architect, artist, and the father of four sons, living at 439 Vermont Street. According to a biography published in the Buffalo Artists’ Directory in 1926, Frank trained under Gordon Lloyd, an architect of some prominence in the Detroit area where Frank was born. He and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Wagner, were the children of immigrants from Germany and Alsace, and I know a fair amount about their family histories, with the exception of Frank’s mother’s ancestry. Frank’s mother was Mary Magdalena (née Causin, Casin or Curzon) Roberts, and she remains a mystery to me. She was born in Buffalo, New York circa 1832 to parents who were most likely Alsatian, but their names were not recorded on her marriage or death records, nor have I been able to find a promising match for a baptismal record in the records from St. Louis Church, which was the only Roman Catholic parish in Buffalo at that time. So I’ll be eager to ask Frank all about her. Did she have siblings? What prompted her move to Detroit, where she was married in 1857? Were her parents already deceased by that point? How did she meet her husband, Michael Ruppert or Roberts, a German immigrant from Heßloch in the Alzey-Worms district of the Rhineland-Palatinate?
When my interview with Frank is finished, I’ll have more questions for Mary Roberts, my 2x-great-grandmother, and 16-year-old John, who will be my great-grandfather. I’m curious about Mary’s maternal grandparents, Peter and Elizabeth Grentzinger, who immigrated to Detroit from the village of Steinsoultz in the Haut-Rhin department of Alsace. Where and when did Peter die? There is evidence that Elizabeth Grentzinger remarried Henry Diegel after Peter’s death, but curiously, her grave marker states only that she was the wife of Peter Grentzinger, never mentioning the second husband who paid for the grave. If Mary seems open to discussing it, I may delicately inquire as to whether her mother, Catherine (née Grentzinger) Wagner, ever spoke of her first husband, Victor Dellinger or Dalmgher. Catherine and Victor had two children, John and Elizabeth, born circa 1847 and 1849, who must have died along with their father before Catherine’s second marriage to Henry Wagner in 1855. I’ll finish my time in the Roberts home by asking young John if he happens to know a nice girl named Katherine Walsh from Evelyn Street. I think she might be just his type.
Although Frank Roberts’s parents are both deceased by 1899, Mary’s father, Carl Heinrich (“Henry”) Wagner, is still living in Detroit with her brother, John, and his family at 270 Beaubien Street. I’ll take a train to Detroit to visit him next. Since I already know quite a bit about his ancestry, what I’ll want to learn from 3x-great-Grandpa Henry is what it was like to come to the U.S. as a young man of 24 in 1853. What was it like, growing up in the small German village of Roßdorf? What were his parents like as individuals? How about his late wife, Catherine? After our chat is finished, I’ll head back to Buffalo to visit my paternal grandmother’s family, starting with the family of my great-great-grandparents, Wenzeslaus and Anna (née Goetz or Götz) Meier.
My Paternal Grandmother’s Family
In 1899, Wenzel and Anna Meier are living in a two-family home at 225 Mills Street with their three daughters, 4-year-old Anna (who will be my great-grandmother), 2-year-old Julia, and baby Marie, who was just born in May. They don’t know it yet but they will eventually add 10 more children to their family. Wenzel is a 28-year-old German immigrant from the village of Obertrübenbach in Bavaria, who has been living in Buffalo for nine years and works as a butcher. His parents are still alive in Germany, so I’ll ask how they’re doing, and if he’s had any recent correspondence with them. I’ll also ask about his siblings back in Germany—Anna Maria, Franz Xavier, and Eduard—whose fates are unknown to me. Wenzel’s wife, 22-year-old Anna, is busy with the children, but her parents, Carl and Julianna (née Baeumler or Bäumler) Goetz, occupy the second home in the dwelling, so I seek them out.
Figure 3: Three generations of the Baeumler/Goetz/Meier family circa 1903. Image retouched by Lesley Utley. Front row, left to right, Julianna (née Bäumler) Götz (1838-1905); her grandchildren, Anna Meier, Julia Meier, Marie Meier, and Frances Meier; her husband, Carl Götz (1853-1933). Back row, Wenzeslaus Meier (1871-1942) and Anna (née Götz) Meier (1877-1949), holding baby Margaret Meier.
Carl Goetz is a 46-year-old German immigrant from the village of Leuchtenberg in Bavaria. He and his wife, 62-year-old Margaretha Juliane (known as Julianna or Julia), came to Buffalo in 1883, following in the footsteps of Julianna’s son, John Baeumler, who was already settled here. John’s birth record states that he was illegitimate, born to the unmarried Julianna Baeumler, but it’s interesting to note that after his birth, Julianna married her first husband, Johann Gottfried Baeumler, who happened to share a surname with her. Johann Gottfried was a 64-year-old widower when he married 27-year-old Julianna in 1864 in the village of Plößberg in Bavaria. Were they distant relatives? And was Johann the father of John Baeumler? Johann and Julianna had been married for just three years when he died in 1867. Julianna lived as a widow, raising her son alone, until her marriage to Carl in 1875, when she was 38 and he was 22. In an era and culture in which marriages were contracted for more practical reasons than romantic love, such marriages as Julianna’s may not be unusual, and for that matter, it may be true that their marriage was a love match. But I will be interested to observe the dynamic between Carl and Julianna. I hope they have found some measure of happiness and contentment together.
The last family to visit on my Dad’s side will be the family of my great-grandfather, John Sigismund Boehringer. In 1899, Anna (née Murre or Muri) Boehringer is a 33-year-old widow and mother of four children, living at 555 Sherman Street in Buffalo. Her oldest son, Edward, is just 13, and the youngest, John—who will be my great-grandfather—is seven. John was not quite three years old when his father, John G. Boehringer, passed away in November 1894. Anna works as a tailor, but it’s been difficult to provide for her family. John will always remember days in his childhood when they were so hungry that they trapped and ate sparrows for food. I’ve made some headway with researching John G. Boehringer’s family—I know, for example, that he was born in Buffalo in 1861 to Jacob and Catherine (née Rogg or Rock) Boehringer, German immigrants from the region around Lenzkirch in the Black Forest—so I’m confident that further progress simply requires time and effort. However, research into Anna Boehringer’s family has been more difficult.
Figure 4: John G. and Anna (née Murre) Boehringer on their wedding day, 29 April 1885, Buffalo, New York.
Anna Murre was born in Bavaria in 1865, the second child of Joseph and Walburga (née Maurer) Murre. She immigrated to Buffalo with her parents and two siblings in 1869, but so far U.S. records, including church records, have offered no evidence of specific place of origin. Where was she born, and what can she tell me about her parents and grandparents?
Having finished with my paternal side of the family, I’ll visit my maternal relatives in my next post. Stay tuned!