Poor Man

“All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need.”–John Lennon

When first venturing into genealogy, I of course knew my Meintzer family, and quickly learned about the other, “Meintzers without an ‘i’ ” family also living in Northbrook. In the 1980s I discovered we had another branch of the family still living in Alsace. Awesome!

Then I had kids, and genealogy came to a screeching halt. That actually worked out well, because in the meantime, the internet grew up, and databases grew. When I resumed searching in 1996, I found Meintzers living in Pennsylvania and West Virginia that I couldn’t connect to mine. There were also several large trees centered around Karlsruhe, Germany. It’s not very far from Alsace, but I could never make a connection between them and my ancestors in Alsace. I left all those guys alone.

Time marched on, and some time after the millennium, my searches for “Meintzer genealogy” brought up a link to a personal web page hosted at Rootsweb.com, for some Ohio Meintzers.

Ohio? Really? Surely they must be from the Pennsylvania or West Virginia people. Nevertheless, I looked at the page. Imagine my surprise to discover they descended from my 3rd great grandfather, Johann Philippe Adam Meintzer, and his wife, Maria Marguerite Meder!

Adam and Marguerite lived in Volksberg, and had 8 children. Marguerite died 26 November 1817, with Adam dying the following year. Of the children, 2 died prior to their father; 3 are complete mysteries right now. The remaining 3 children were sent to live with other families in different towns (though I haven’t actually located them in the Alsatian census records, to confirm!):

  • Johann Philippe Adam (almost 15)—don’t know where he ended up, but he emigrated to Northfield, Illinois, in 1842, married, and started the “Meintzer without an ‘i’ ” family. He went by “Philip” in the U.S.
  • Christian (almost 12)—moved to Dehlingen, to start my direct ancestors.
  • Johann Georg (3 ½) was sent to Berg. He is the ancestor of the Ohio Meintzers.

I don’t have many details on Johann Georg, but he married Christine Männling 25 April 1839, and they had 3 children:

  • Marguerite (21 June 1840-1925)—she married back into the Ensminger family.
  • Georges (25 September 1843-?)—he married and had at least one child in Berg (1868), but I haven’t researched more than that.
  • Henri George (13 January 1849-5 January 1944)—he’s my “poor man.”

Henri (Henry) fell in love with Sophia Holtzscherer, also from Berg. Marriage law in Alsace at the time required parental permission up until age 25 or 27. He was only 19 or so; permission was not granted. Of course, that didn’t cause Henry and Sophia to suddenly fall out of love!

Here’s where the story muddles, a bit. One version I heard was their Plan B was for Sophie to get pregnant. Presumably they would be given permission, then. So that’s what they did, except it didn’t work as expected. Still no permission granted.

The second version, from Henry’s descendants’ web page (same as above), gave a slight variation:

Henry fell in love with a young girl, Sophie Holtzscherer, also living in Berg, and became pregnant. Yet Henry’s parents did not agree with a marriage because her family was too poor. So Henry decided to go to the USA, make a living there and then come get her and bring her to America.


Slightly different, but essentially the same. With Sophia pregnant and marriage not possible, Henry emigrated to Northfield, Illinois, where his uncle, Philip, had settled. Henry would be starting from scratch. If his parents didn’t approve of a marriage to Sophia, they certainly would not have financed him traveling to America so he could marry her! He probably still “owed” his father work while he was in Alsace, so would have had to pick up odd jobs to earn his passage money.

In the meantime, while Henry was in Illinois, Sophia gave birth¹ to their daughter, Sophie, 22 May 1869, in Berg. No father is listed in the birth register. The date is consistent with Henry knowing she was pregnant before he left. The Ohio Meintzers’ website continues:

Henry came to America and settled in Cook Co. Illinois. He farmed there for 2½ years and then moved to Fremont, OH where he worked 2 yrs in a sawmill and 9 years in an iron mill before locating in Fulton County.


Henry settling near his uncle and cousins made sense. Even if they weren’t able to hire him for work, they would know others nearby needing paid help. They could vouch for him and provide him a place to stay until he was situated.

Unfortunately, I have not located Henry or his uncle and cousins in the 1870 census. Their last name must be extremely mangled in the index, and I didn’t have time to search page-by-page for them. It is on my to-do list! I know they were there, but I’d like to confirm Henry.

Some details from the Ohio Meintzer website conflict with each other, or with records located. I’m trying to sort it out and resolve the issues. There is uncertainty about:

  1. Whether Henry made one or two trips to the U.S.
    • Both 1868 and 1871/72 immigration dates show up in records, consistent with the 2-trip story. I haven’t found passenger lists for either trip to the U.S. (or a trip back to Alsace), but many of them are unavailable. Lacking a specific date (even having the month doesn’t narrow it down much!), it would be hard to find them, not being sure of the port of entry.
    • I’m not sure Henry would have simply sent money back to Sophia. Would he have trusted either set of parents to actually give it to her? I’m not sure I would have, in his shoes! So him returning for her makes sense to me.
  2. What year(s)?
    • See above. July 1871 showed up as the arrival date in Henry’s Certificate of Declaration, Sandusky County, Probate Court, 8 October 1877. It’s possible he misremembered the year (see #3, below).
    • Or maybe it was intentional, needing it to be earlier than July 1872? You had to be a resident for a minimum number of years.
    • Maybe he did make only one trip, and sent for Sophia to come over with their daughter on her own? That 1870 Illinois census is looking more important all the time!
  3. If Henry and Sophia married in Alsace, before leaving
    • It was suggested they married in 1869, and then left.
    • If they didn’t have permission before she was pregnant, it’s unlikely they’d get it afterwards.
    • They were still too young to marry without permission in 1869.
    • Henry and Sophia had a marriage record² dated 1 October 1872, in Cook County, Illinois. If they married in Alsace, they had no reason to redo it. Their names are unusual enough that it’s unlikely that record is for some other couple!
    • The Tables Décenniales 1863-1872 for Berg³ had only 1 male Meintzer marriage in that window—Henry’s brother, Georg. Being underage, I doubt Henry and Sophia could have married in the nearby towns.
    • It seems unlikely they would have waited a year (until 1872) to marry, if Sophia emigrated in 1871.

Returning to Cook County to marry made sense, though, because that was the only family they had. It seems their move to Ohio might not have been too long after that.

The 1880 census placed Henry (with a poorly recorded surname, but all the right kids and ages) in Fremont, Ohio, occupation: engineer. That part of the story matches, as does the remainder, establishing the family in Fulton County:

He bought 106 acres of land in Swancreek Twp Fulton Co. with only about 20 acres cleared and the remainder in brush.  He added farm buildings to the property and cleared much of the land. Also acquired an additional 40 acres of adjacent land and soon had about 100 acres under cultivation.  He was a general farmer and specialized in livestock and dairying.


Despite several fuzzy details in Henry’s story, one thing is clear to me: he and Sophia loved each each other deeply. They both had to endure difficulties for 4 years or so, before they could be together as a family.

It wouldn’t have been easy for Sophia in Berg. She undoubtedly experienced repercussions from neighbors and family for being an unwed mother. Her parents may have pressured her to marry someone else. She kept the faith, though, trusting Henry to come through in the end.

Henry, it seems, worked his tail off to bring his child and would-be wife to America. Why did he move to Ohio, from Cook County? I don’t know. Maybe land was simply too expensive in Illinois. When they married, it was the year after the Chicago Fire. Maybe prices were still inflated, and the cost of living was too high. He figured out an alternate plan, temporarily leaving agriculture for presumably more lucrative pay in the sawmill and iron mill. He saved enough to allow him to return to the land.

Henry may have started out a poor man, but he didn’t stay one.


¹”États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (archives.bas-rhin.fr), Berg, Registre de naissances [birth registers], 1869, p. 4, no. 6, Sophie Hertzscherer, 22 May 1869; accessed 16 November 2019.

²”Illinois, Cook County Marriages 1871-1920″, database, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Family Search Record Search (https://familysearch.org), film number 1030079, Digital GS number 4270000, image number 795, Heinrich MEINTZER and Sophie HULTZSCHER.

³”États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (archives.bas-rhin.fr), Berg, Tábles décennales, Mariages [ten-year tables, marriage index] 1863-1872, p. 6, right side, entry #3, Georg MEINTZER and Margaretha FREY, 19 March 1868; accessed 16 November 2019.


Kissing cousins . . . really! Or maybe not . . .

If I run a relationship report on everyone in my data file, I end up with 141 pages, containing (partially):

  • 12 first cousins
  • 92 first cousins, once removed
  • 11 half first cousins, once removed
  • 120 first cousins, twice removed
  • 191 second cousins
  • 27 half second cousins, continuing on to . . .
  • a 1st cousin 10 times removed
  • an 11th cousin, once removed
  • and plenty of others in between!

Do I know them all? Heavens, no! Many of them have passed away (particularly the “removed” ones born before I was). But I know how they fit on the tree, and they are remembered. Obviously I have lots of potential subjects to write about! I’m bypassing all of them, however, and choosing my great grandfather, Christian Meintzer (Colorful), and his first wife, Elisabetha Weidman (Cause of Death).

It turns out that Christian & Elisabetha were fourth cousins. At least, that’s the conclusion to be drawn from the lineages provided in Dehlingen im Krummen Elsass,¹ by Doris Wesner. The connection is shown most simply with the chart below:

Relationship chart showing Christian Meintzer and his first wife, Maria Elisabetha Weidmann as 4th cousins. Both are shown as 3rd great-grandchildren of Johann Mathias Hemmert and Anna Elisabetha Nehlig.

It seems pretty straight forward, but truth be told, I have not actually confirmed all these connections by looking at the records [online digital images], personally. With so many other loose ends to track down and tie up on the various tree branches, I haven’t forced myself to follow through on that. Ms. Wesner utilized the local parish & civil records in her compilation of the Dehlingen “town genealogy,” and I trust her work. That’s a poor excuse, though, for laziness complacency. I need to check if these connections really pan out. I’ll start with Christian (bottom, left). As always, I’ve linked to the images at the Bas-Rhin Archives, just accepter the terms to view, if you are so inclined.

  • Christian was born in Dehlingen Bas-Rhin, Alsace, on 3 April 1930 [1830, p. 4, #10]² to Christian (Chrétien) Mein[t]zer (age 23) and Christine Isel (age 20).
  • A quick search through the Tables décennales, located their marriage date [1823-1832, p. 7, line 22]³ so I could find the actual record [1829, p. 6, #10] on 24 December 1829).
  • Christian & Christine’s birth dates matched my file records, and Christine’s father was listed as Nicolas. So, far, so good!
  • Back to the birth records, this time for Christine Isel (since I need to follow her line back) [1809, p. 3, #8]. Her parents were listed as Nichel and Katharine, but no ages are given. At this point, I need to follow the same routine:
    • locate the parents’ marriage record to confirm births,
    • locate birth record for the parent I need to follow back,
    • confirm those are the right parents
    • repeat

I won’t include as much explanation as I did above, to make it move faster. But the references will be there. So, continuing with Nicolas Isel:

He (age 28) and Catherine Bauer (age 21) married 24 September 1805 [Tables décennales, An XI-1812, p. 6, entry 2], with his parents listed [2 vendémiaire An. XIV] as Georg Isel and Julianna Margaretha Walther. Nicolas’s 19 October 1777 birth record [1777, p. 6, #36]4 confirms them. I was able to locate Julianna Margaretha Walther’s 12 July 1738 baptism record [1738, p. 50, #383)4. Unfortunately, it didn’t mention her mother’s name—just her father, Franz, and the godparents and other witnesses. The book is supposed to contain marriage records, but all I seem to find are baptisms. That means I’m not quite able to connect Julianna Margaretha to Eva Elisabetha, and at that point the records stop—at least, online. Perhaps I simply missed the 1726 marriage record for Eva Elisabetha, and that would connect her parents, Johann Mathias Hemmert and Anna Elisabetha Nehlig.

Meanwhile, Christian’s wife, Elisabetha Weidmann, was easily found in the 1834 birth register [1834, p. 3, #7]². That pointed her back to her father, Andreas, and more importantly, her mother, Catherine Frenger (age 25). Elisabetha’s parents married 13 October 1832 [1823-1832, p. 7, line 23]³. That record [1832, p. 3, #4] listed Catherine’s mother as Marie Elisabetha Hemmert (age 53). Catherine’s 1809 birth record confirmed their names, but didn’t include ages.

The Parish Registers came through with Maria Elizabeth’s 8 June 1777 birth [1777, p. 5, #27]4 and showed her father to be Georg Hemmert. Unfortunately, no age was given for him. I ran into the problem finding marriages in that register, again. Looking for Georg’s birth, I found a 25 May 1746 record for a Johann Georg, with a father Johann Georg Hemmert, but no mother’s name was listed [1746, p. 64, #475]4. Was that he? It’s hard to say for sure. Again, I reached the end of the online records.

So it looks like I can’t definitively link Christian Meintzer and his first wife, Elisabetha Weidmann as 4th cousins—at least, not from the online records. Are there other records available locally? Or records that were damaged/lost after 1997? Either one is quite possible. For now, I’ll need to note in my file that I’ve been unable to corroborate the linkage between Christian & his 3rd great grandparents—ditto for Elisabetha. And I’ll keep looking for records that will clarify those relationships.


¹Doris Wesner, Dehlingen im Krummen Elsass: (Drulingen: Scheuer, October 1997), pages 64, 85, 86, 105, 106, 163, 243, 250, 251.

²”États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (archives.bas-rhin.fr), Dehlingen, Registre de Naissances (Birth Registers) various years, pages, record numbers, as indicated after each reference; accessed 22 September 2019.

³”États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (archives.bas-rhin.fr), Dehlingen, Tables décennales, naissances and mariages [ten-year tables, birth and marriage indexes] various years, pages, line numbers, as indicated after each reference; accessed 22 September 2019.

4“États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (archives.bas-rhin.fr), Dehlingen, Registres Paroissiaux 1776-An VII (Parish Registers) various years, pages, line numbers, as indicated after each reference; accessed 22 September 2019.


Mistakes were made?

I spent last week paging through the parish registers for the Alsatian town of Volksberg, in search of records to confirm my 4th great grandfather, Johann Jacob Meintzer, was a teacher. That was a failure. I found no online records that would tell me that. Since I needed to go through page-by-page, I took advantage of the situation and looked (and downloaded images) for records documenting other births, deaths, and marriages I had for that town. The effort wasn’t a total loss.

One item I was particularly looking for, was the marriage record for my 3rd great grandfather, Johann Philippe Adam Meintzer, and Magdalena Mauer. She was the mother of a daughter, Carolina Sophia, born 21 December 1798. Hopefully the couple had married before 1798, and Magdalena died before the record when Johann Philippe married my 3rd great grandmother, Maria Marguerite Meder, 9 October 1800.

They were all missing. I did not find a birth record for Carolina Sophie, a marriage record for Magdalena, or a death record for her. Was that information a mistake?

On image 11 in the Volksberg parish registers, 1772-1803, births section, the last entry is: dbr [December] 21 [baptized] 25, Catr. Sophie, Ad. Munsch [Meinsch?] et Magd? Mani. The child has a small cross below her name, probably indicating she died at or shortly after birth. That’s appeared on other birth records. There’s no record in the section for deaths, but with an infant dying so early, they typically didn’t record it both places. It is very definitely the abbreviation for Catrina or Catharine, and not Carolina.

While Johann Philippe often went by “Adam,” the last name in the record doesn’t resemble Meintzer—the ending is clearly “sch.” The mother’s name is an abbreviation for Magdalena, but the maiden name is Mani, not Mauer. This birth is also recorded in the civil record book, using the French Republican calendar date of 4 nivôse year VII. The records are consistent with each other, as far as the date and child’s name. The parents’ surnames are still a mismatch to the information I was given.

The tentative timeline for Johann Philippe Adam is:

  • was born in Volksberg (1775 record found)
  • married Magdalena Mauer (no proof of that)
  • married her in Volksberg (again, no proof)
  • had a daughter (who may have died very young) in 1798 (only a potential record, but the parents are wrong)
  • IF he married Magdalena, she died before October 1800 (no death record)
  • married Marguerite Meder in 1800 in Volksberg (record found)
  • had numerous children in Volksberg, including my 2nd great grandfather (records found)

The middle points (2-5) are pretty mushy. The choices are:

  • those events didn’t happen
  • the events occurred elsewhere
  • the events occurred, but didn’t get recorded

The third choice seems very unlikely to me. One event might be missed, but four? In a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business, it doesn’t make sense. I can’t simply assume the first choice, though. So I need to investigate the middle option, and search for a Meintzer child born in 1798, and possibly a marriage and death, in the neighboring towns. Off to Google Maps to see what is nearby. My list prioritized towns where Meintzers and other related ancestral names already occupied:

  • Ratzwiller (4.3 miles) no birth, marriage, death
  • Butten (5.9 miles) no birth, marriage, death
  • Dehlingen (10.3 miles) no birth, marriage, death
  • Waldhambach (5.5 miles) no birth, marriage, death—I did find other Munsch records here, but not the names I was looking for
  • Diemeringen (8.7 miles) no birth, marriage, death
  • Lorentzen (8.8 miles) no birth, marriage, death
  • Tieffenbach (5 miles) no birth, marriage, death
  • Puberg (3.7 miles) no birth, marriage, death
  • Rosteig (3.3 miles) no birth, marriage, death
  • Berg (9.8 miles) no birth, marriage, death

You can move the map around, zoom in, or even double click to open it in its own window!

The mileage calculation between Volksberg and each town is based on driving modern roads. Current roads probably retrace older ones, and are sometimes less direct. This is “hilly Alsace,” though, so traveling cross country would involve a lot of going up and down. I’m not sure that’s how anyone would have traveled in the late 1700s. These distances are probably generous. I checked the Tables des naissances, Tables des mariages, and Tables des décès (1792-year X), for each town and recorded the results above, to keep it simple.¹

Other than the Munsch records found in Waldhambach, I didn’t find that name anywhere else. I didn’t find any Meintzer records—a marriage for Philippe Adam and Magdalena, a birth for Carolina Sophia, or a death before October, 1800 for Magdalena—in those towns in the appropriate years. Did I search every possible town in the area? No. BUT, I think the ones I looked at were the most likely.

I did find an Adam Munsch, who died in Volksberg later on, 7 October 1823, age 69 years, 8 months, 24 days. His birth would have been in 1754, so he would have been 44 in 1798, if he was the father of Catharina Sophia. That’s entirely doable, though I didn’t notice an age in her birth record (I didn’t transcribe and translate it fully). Is he the same man as in the birth record? Maybe.

At this point, I haven’t been able to prove that Philippe Adam had a wife prior to my 3rd great grandmother. The evidence still suggests there is a mistake in his history. What’s my next step? I need to email my Alsatian cousins, Isabelle and Elisabeth, (3rd cousins, once removed), to find out more details about where they obtained the information about his first marriage and the child from that. They may have access to a local (not online) source that will clear up the question.

Is this really important? Does it matter? It’s not critical, since the answer doesn’t affect my ancestry. It would change Philippe Adam’s history, though, so it is important. It also matters because it reflects on my tree’s accuracy, and my other research. Is my tree perfect? Certainly not. I’m sure there is at least another error in there somewhere, probably more than one!

But to notice an inconsistency and shrug it off with an, “It doesn’t matter,” or “Oh, well!” casts suspicion on all the rest of my data. If I look at someone’s tree and see a glaring error, I will think very carefully before accepting any of their other information. I may use it for hints, only, and make sure I nail down reliable sources for the information I pull from it.

So, yes, it is worth following up on. We’ll see what the cousins have to say!


¹”États-civil”, database, Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin (archives.bas-rhin.fr), Volksberg and the other towns, Tables décennales, naissances, mariages, décès [ten-year tables, birth, marriage, death indexes] 1793-An X, various entries; accessed 12-15 September 2019.

School Days

You’re never too old to learn!

Anyone who has talked to me about genealogy has heard me say, “I come from a long line of peasants.” Unlike the celebrities on the TV shows, there’s no trace of Charlemagne or Edward Longshanks on my tree, despite an unexplained 25% “England, Wales, & Northwestern Europe” showing up in my DNA. Nor is there any lineage society in my future!

The records confirm that assertion. My great-grandfathers were identified in the US census records as “farmers.” Their ancestors in Germany or Alsace showed up as “Bauer,” “Ackermann,” “Taglöhner,” or “cultivateur,” in various records (German: farmer, farmer, day-laborer; French: farmer). An occasional linen weaver or cheese maker was thrown into the mix. Their occupations and status in town was fairly consistent, until I came upon my 4th great grandfather, [Johann] Jacob Meintzer, “teacher and farmer in Volksberg,”¹ in Alsatian Connections.

Teacher and farmer? That seemed like an odd combination. I took it at face value, though, because the compiler had no real incentive to overstate Johann Jacob’s position in the town. What do I know about him, though?

He was the father of my 3rd great grandfather, Johann Philippe Adam (Reunion), and his siblings, Jacob (Ten) and Catherine. For years, Johann Jacob was the earliest ancestor on my Meintzer line. Our Alsatian cousins recently linked him to Meintzers from Karlsruhe, Germany (less than 75 miles from Volksberg). I need to investigate that possible connection, at some point, to make sure everything lines up.

Alsatian Connections only provided

  • Johann Jacob’s occupations (above)
  • that he died before July 1787
  • he married Anna Elisabetha Philippi on 10 May 1768, in Volksberg
  • she was born in Volksberg, 30 May 1742
  • she died in Volksberg, Frimaire 23rd, year 14 (French Republic calendar— translates to 14 December 1805)

That’s a pretty basic sketch. Ms. Wesner used several sources for her compilation:

  • church record books and civil records
  • The Alsace Emigration Book, by C. Schrader-Muggenthaler
  • Eighteenth Century Emigrants from the Northern Alsace to America, by A. Kunselman Burgert

I decided I should try to verify the occupations, so I looked to the trusty Bas-Rhin Archives to hopefully find actual records from Volksberg. It was a good plan, unfortunately, the Protestant parish registers (births, marriages, & deaths) didn’t begin until 1772, with the civil registers even later—1792! Jacob’s & Elisabeth’s marriage in 1768 won’t be there.

Even worse (can it be worse?), the one register was bare-bones. Births have the date, child’s name, parents’ names; no ages, occupations, or birth places of parents. Marriages aren’t much better—date, groom, bride. Deaths have the date, name, age. Parents of young children are the only other people mentioned. Sigh. It makes it difficult to determine if it’s the right person/record. I can’t confirm whether Jacob was born in Karlsruhe or Volksberg from anything in those records. The other register had the paragraph format, but difficult handwriting and poor (or absent) margin notes for who the record was for. Wading through those 35 images would be its own project!

After 3 days of banging my head on the keyboard, what had I actually found? Not what I had hoped!

  • his 1785 April 16 death record, Jo. Jacob Mein[t]zer, 59 years, 6 months (buried the 20th)
  • Philippe Adam’s 1775 birth record
  • marriages for Johann Jacob’s sons (but not Catherine)—but without parents’ names or occupations!
  • numerous births, and several deaths, for his grandchildren. I was able to fill in Catherine’s family quite nicely! It didn’t help with confirming Johann Jacob’s teacher occupation, though.

All in all, it was a frustrating several days. I was grateful for the information I found, but none of it actually clarified the issue of where his “teacher” claim came from. I can only assume other records exist (or existed) locally, that aren’t online, yet. I may need a road trip, but am not sure whether it needs to be to the town(s), or to Strasbourg, where the Archives is located.

Meanwhile, I’ll have to take Johann Jacob’s “teacher” occupation on faith. Last year I finally found time to read my copy of Our Daily Bread: German Village life, 1500-1850, by Teva J. Sheer. I’d picked it up years ago, but hadn’t gotten around to it. I brought it along on a cruise. She created a fictitious town and main character to paint an image of everyday life, based on the research she’d done. The end notes are 23 pages long, and bibliography is 16 pages! She wrote about German towns, but it seems reasonable that Germanic-influenced Alsace might operate in a similar fashion.

I was surprised to discover that the teacher (Lehrer) was considered an official position in the town² (p. 75). Later on, she explained the teacher “enjoyed little status and less income.”² (p. 132) My mistake was thinking about the job in a present-day context. The picture she painted was considerably different:

A large part of his income derived from his collateral duties. He usually served as the church sacristan; as such, his responsibilities included church building maintenance, acting as assistant to the pastor, and serving as the village scribe at court and other village meetings. In addition, he frequently served as choirmaster and organist . . . musical skills . . . were often value more highly than their academic knowledge or teaching experience . . . provided . . . a dwelling with a small garden, but the dwelling also served as the village school . . . received a small monthly payment from the parents of each child . . . Prior to the 19th century . . . schoolmaster was typically a community member with little education himself.

Teva J. Scheer, Our Daily Bread: German Village Life, 1500-1850 (Adventis Press, 2010), p. 132.

That description kind of took me down off my high horse about having a “teacher” in my ancestry! It reminded me, though, not to drag my 20th- and 21st-century mentality and assumptions into earlier centuries. I also need to pull myself out of FamilySearch and Ancestry.com every once in a while for some non-lineage research. That will help me process the evidence I find in the right context and better understand what I’ve found.

Looks like my 18th-century school teacher had one more lesson to teach!


¹Doris Wesner, Alsatian Connections, Volume 1: Family Genealogies of Alsatian Emigrants to America (Apollo, Pennsylvania: Closson Press, 1995), p. 213.

²Teva J. Scheer, Our Daily Bread: German Village Life, 1500-1850 (Adventis Press, 2010).

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.