I’d Like to Meet

So many questions . . .


Are you kidding? Everybody! I’ve got questions for them all. Well, that was a quick blog to write . . .

Okay, that really doesn’t cut it, so I’m choosing two: Hans Meyer der Ëinsminger (1575-1621) from Bockenheim (now Sarre-Union), and Hans Adam Gerber Einsminger (1577-1630) from Diemeringen. Despite the similar last names, the consensus is that the two men are not related — at least, not close enough for anyone to figure out how. Both lived in closely spaced villages in Alsace. But record keeping in the 1500s and 1600s allows for potential errors in connections. Meeting with them both (preferably together!) would provide an opportunity to clarify some information.

When I travel up my Meintzer line, as I hit the 1700s and 1600s, I start running into Ensmingers. Or Einsmingers. Or Ëinsmingers. You have to keep an open mind with the spelling, because they certainly did! My great grandfather (Christian–Colorful) is where both lines meet up. Every one of his descendants descends from both Hans Meyer and Hans Gerber.

The similarity of names, and nearness of towns (8-9 km apart, not that far, even by 1600s standards) created the confusion. For a long time, many thought the two men were one. Further research revealed the two separate family groups, resolving some of the issues. In the Bockenheim church books there was a Hans Einssminger, along with another Hans Ensminger found in the Diemeringen records. Some records simply had the Ensminger surname, while others included additional surnames in front—”Meyer der Einsminger” (literally “of” or “from” Insming) or “Gerber Einsminger.” It’s the type of name treatment given to someone moving in from another town. It would distinguish the “new guy” from the “Hans _______” already living in town. It suggests both men were originally from Insming, in Lorraine, though there’s not definitive proof.

My Great-grandfather, Christian Meintzer, is the earliest descendant of both men. This is his line to Hans Gerber, from his mother’s side.

Hans Gerber Einsminger was born in Diemeringen around 1577. While he was born there, it’s believed his father was Peter Gerber, of Insming. The “Einsminger” addition applied to his father apparently stayed with Hans, too. He married Christina Gut, and had at least 6 children. One of those was my 9th great-grandfather, Carl (b. 1605). His wife, Ottilia Bach would eventually be found guilty of witchcraft, and be executed in 1673 (Misfortune). Carl’s great-granddaughter, Anna Ottilia (b. 1696) marries out into the Koeppel family in Dehlingen, ending our Ensminger surname on that side. A couple generations of Bauer and then Isel, and we end up at great-grandpa Christian!

This shows his line through his father to Hans Meyer. The ancestors above the red boxes in both trees have come from assorted Ensminger web pages.

Hans Meyer der Einsminger was born about 1575, presumably in Insming. He had two wives (both Margareth or Margaretha — smart man!), and twelve children between the two of them. All his children were born in Bockenheim, beginning in 1601. While Hans Meyer died in Bockenheim (1621), his sons (or at least my 8th great-grandfather, Hans Georg) moved to nearby Hambach/Waldhambach. Georg’s daughter, Catharina, married Johann Matthias Schmidt, producing two of my 6th great-grandmothers — Anna Catharina and Anna Barbara. The latter married a Roth from Volksberg, leading down to the Philippi and Meintzer families. It finally ended up with my 2nd great-grandfather marrying an Isel from the other Ensminger line.

You can see why a face-to-face with these men would be useful. The scarcity and conditions of the records so far back make it difficult. Obviously they would not be able to supply information on later generations, but they SHOULD know who their parents were, their children, and possibly some — if not all — of their grandchildren. It would be a huge help!

Full disclaimer: I have not personally verified all the parent-child connections between my great-grandfather and either man. My primary source for many of those connections is Alsatian Connections, Volume I¹. In compiling the genealogies of the emigrants from the towns of Butten, Dehlingen, Diemeringen, Ratzwiller, and Waldhambach, Ms. Wesner used church and civil records, C. Schrader-Muggenthaler’s The Alsace Emigration Book, and A. Kunselman Burgert’s Eighteenth Century Emigrants from Northern Alsace to America. While information “coming from a book” doesn’t make it accurate, all those volumes are held in high regard.

Similarly, the connections beyond the red boxes above have been taken from various web pages or other reference books: in particular, Ensminger of Alsace and Pennnsylvania. Again, that’s a somewhat risky proposition, but the reality is the Ensminger descendants who wrote that book have continued to research, collaborate, and update the information. Its current iteration (2018) is a downloadable PDF file, available from numerous libraries, free of charge. The original author, Dr. Bell, has passed away, but while he was still alive, other researchers found the book, and contacted him with questions, additions, and corrections. Reading through the preface, it explains:

  • how Dr. Bell researched
  • how and when the collaborators joined with him
  • incorrect information in the original publication–and the corrections made in this new revision
  • other genealogical compilations for different Ensminger branches
  • mistaken connections in those books, as well as what parts are correct

So while no printed genealogy will ever be “perfect,” I will, for the time being, utilize the information from this book. As I get time, I will personally re-check the Alsatian church and civil records for my direct ancestors’ information to confirm those details. But yes, I’d like to meet Hans Adam Gerber Ensminger and Hans Meyer der Ensminger


¹Wesner, Doris. Alsatian Connections, Volume I. Apollo, PA: Closson Press, 1995.

²Raymond Martin Bell, Brendon R. Wehrung, John Kurt Entsminger, Dale Edward Ensminger, Ensminger of Alsace and Pennnsylvania, 2018 Edition (online) (Middle River, MD, 2018, originally published 1995), Part 2, p. 1. http://www.genealogycenter.info/search_ensminger.php. Alan County Public Library Genealogy Center.


Or more?

When I saw this prompt, I just shook my head. I had no ideas. I finally thought about all the big farm families in my tree. Surely one with ten kids would be easy to find! It turns out, not so much. My Family Tree Maker software didn’t provide an easy way to determine how many children were in each family. The best I could do was display a descendant chart and count children boxes. I found lots of families with eight or nine. And lots with 11 or 12. Finally I located a “ten!”

Jacob Meintzer is a brother to my 3rd great grandfather, Johann Philippe Adam Meintzer (born 9 April 1775). I don’t know if Jacob was older or younger than him, though. Their parents were Johann Jacob Meintzer (born November 1725) and Elisabeth Philippi (born 30 May 1742). The ancestors going from my great grandfather, Christian (My Favorite Photo) to Johann Jacob are spelled out in Doris Wesner’s books, Alsatian Connections, (documenting emigrants from 5 Alsatian towns) and Dehlingen im Krummen Elsass (a genealogy of the town of Dehlingen).

Jacob, however, does not show up in either book, nor does he appear in The Alsatian Emigration Book, by Cornelia Schrader-Muggenthaler. But my Alsatian cousins (yes, there’s still family in Alsace!) always list him, his wife, and their children on the charts. None of them show up in later years. How do eleven twelve people up and disappear?? Let’s see if I can get a better handle on this family.

Jacob and Elisabeth (no birth or death dates for either of them) had the following children (when I started this):

  • Johann Jacob (b. 26 May 1797) birth register
  • Philippe Adam (b. 21 January 1800) birth register
  • Catharina Elisabetha (b.  30 September 1801, d. 1803) birth record
  • Christina Barbara (b. 13 October 1803) birth record
  • Marguerite (d. 20 October 1804) death record could she possibly be Catharina Elisabetha, above? I don’t find her birth, and don’t find a separate death record for Catharina Elisabetha. 1803 was the death year I received for both from Alsatian cousins.
  • Christian (b. 29 October 1805; d. 21 November 1805) birth recorddeath record
  • Johann Anselme
  • Johann Peter (b. 12 January 1807) birth record
  • Chrétien (b. 22 April 1811) birth record
  • Sophie (b. 27 January 1816; d. 8 February 1816) birth recorddeath record
  • Nicholas (b. 11 May 1817) birth record

Who’s that in the dark blue? Well, I found him while searching, and he does belong to Jacob and Elisabeth. It’s a good thing I’m not the accountant in the family . . .

This family isn’t in Dehlingen with my 3rd great grandfather, so where are they? What is the source for these dates? While looking for the backstory for my great-grandmother, Sophia Gaertner (My Favorite Photo) I thought I noticed Meintzers in the Lorentzen census. It’s a starting point.

If you remember when I was looking for Sophia, I used the Archives Départmentales du Bas-Rhin. You can find it here and ask Google to translate it for you. If you want to learn how to search in it, contact me, but to keep it simple, I’ll just include direct links to the images for relevant pages. You will have to accept their Terms of Service, so click the “Accepter” box and it will let you in.

I started with the Lorentzen census records for 1836, 1851, 1856, and 1861. Nothing. Maybe I misremembered which town. I tried the Volksberg (a village known to Meintzer ancestors) census records. They weren’t there, either, but I have a theory. I moved on to the Protestant Parish records in Volksberg, and found Jacob and Elisabetha’s marriage record for 4 February 1796. I then went hunting for the children (their links are above, next to their birth dates). I had birth years for some, death years for others. I wanted to nail those down and be more specific. That’s when Philippe Adam materialized, bumping me to 11.

That name is a problem. Jacob’s brother is Johann Philippe Adam, and each brother named a son that (with duplication of other names, too!). Fortunately, the birth records clearly indicate who the parents are, so I can properly sort the children. I located birth records for all of them, with the exception of:

  • Marguerite/Margaretha–the death record clearly shows her as Jacob & Elisabeth’s child, but does not contain (or I can’t read/translate) an age for her to get me closer to a birth date. As mentioned in the bullet points for her and Catharina, are the two girls the same girl? It’s possible one death was reported and the other not, but that seems unlikely. If anyone can shed more light on this mystery, please let me know!
  • Johann Anselm–I have no years for starting points.  I’ve checked the Tables Décennales (10-year index by record type) and accounted for all the names listed there, as well as the Tables Annuelles (index at the back of each register). I’ve found omissions and errors in each index, so I didn’t rely solely on those and looked through all the birth and death registers/records for him. This family sometimes uses 3 names–should “Anselm” simply be added to one of the existing boys? Maybe. Did I miss his record(s)? Possibly. Again, if anyone runs across a birth and/or death record for him PLEASE let me know! I’m leaving him in the list so I don’t forget about him.

So, back to the question in paragraph 3: How did they disappear? To where? As far as I know, they did not emigrate to America. By the 1831 census, they are not living in Volksberg. Remember the theory I mentioned? I think they emigrated to the Odessa region of Russia, near the Black Sea.

Wow! You probably didn’t see that coming! In the late 1700s, Catherine the Great encouraged Germans to emigrate to areas of Russia. Beginning in 1803, Czar Alexander extended a similar offer to Alsatians.

The Germans From Russia website has a lot of information–some behind their subscription wall. Back in the late 1990s, I found a document there, listing Russians who had left Bessarabia to settle in the Dakotas. Among the names were Meintzers–with one listed as descending from a Meintzer from Alsace.

The Meintzer surname isn’t the most common name, neither is it extremely obscure. My experience with the name in Alsace, though, is that the Meintzers in Alsace are all related to our family one way or another. So while I don’t have a clear paper trail to link Jacob’s family with the Meintzers in Bessarabia, for me it’s a very compelling argument. Jacob’s family is the only one I really haven’t placed.

Before my grandfather, Christoph, died in 1967, he’d received a letter from a Gladys Meintzer living in either North or South Dakota, asking if he knew anything about his family tree (he didn’t). I assume she descended from one of those families that emigrated from Russia. Perhaps DNA testing will some day show us if there’s a connection between our families, though there may be too many generations in between to have success with that.

I’m glad I took the time to  look for these children, even though they are not on my direct line. It fleshed out that family a little more, and gives me a better idea of which people may have emigrated. I found some of the documents applying to my direct line, too, while I was looking. So while all my questions aren’t resolved, it’s a good start, and my tree is in better shape than it was.