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

#52Ancestors

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.

Misfortune

“Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune; but great minds rise above them.”—Washington Irving

Every extended family has misfortune of one sort or another, somewhere along the line:

  • failed crops/losing the farm or house
  • illnesses/accidents
  • women dying from complications of childbirth
  • infant/child deaths
  • marital discord
  • loved ones not returning from military service

The family lines I research are no different. As a researcher, it’s my responsibility to record and document what I find. Sometimes, though, the information is of a “sensitive” nature. I’ve learned to put on my “Sargent Joe Friday” hat to record “the facts” and keep my opinions and biases out of it–not get caught up in the drama, and hopefully not create any! It’s certainly not my job to judge. Hopefully I succeed.

But I am not merely a researcher–I usually am part of that family in some way. As such, I must be mindful of the people involved or affected by the event or situation, and not sacrifice feelings or privacy in my zeal for “the truth.” The need to temper how information is handled might be because

  • the event is very recent, and people haven’t healed
  • it might be embarrassing–and the people involved (or very close) are still alive and would feel hurt
  • it really isn’t my story to tell

On occasion I will put notes in a private area, so I don’t lose track of the information, but keep it out of general circulation. More often, I simply record it, but not draw attention to it. If it’s noticed by someone, I can discuss it with them, perhaps providing more explanation and context. Time and distance provide perspective, and as time goes by, the sensitive topic generally becomes less touchy.

While I can find at least one example of each of the misfortunes above, I’m going to drop back 300+ years to Alsace (NE corner of present-day France). That should give us LOTS of perspective! The year is 1673, and Alsace is still comprised of kingdoms, duchies, and whatnot. While my ancestors lived in Dehlingen, Lorentzen, Waldhambach, Berg, and other small villages in Bas-Rhin; Diemeringen was the location of the local lord. As such, it is where trials would have been held, and punishments meted out.

Genealogist Robert Weinland (an 8th cousin, once removed, I believe) put together a web page for his genealogy in the early 2000s. Unfortunately, my original link broke, though the information can still be accessed via the “wayback machine” at Internet Archive: (copy and paste this 2007 link)

https://web.archive.org/web/20070827184109/http://www.robert-weinland.org:80/sorc.php?lang=en

Though further searching turned up his current web page at this address (you may need to run Google Translate on it):

https://www.robert-weinland.org/sorcellerie/

In the section listing the people “beheaded and burned near the gallows” on 16 October 1673, three of the six listed are direct ancestors of mine:

  • Ottilia [Bach], widow of Carl Ensminger,
  • Margaretha, wife of Anstett Hemmert,

and (my favorite, but don’t tell the others . . . ),

  • Walburga/Walpurga [Eberhard], wife of Johannes Koeppel

Two 9th great-grandmothers, and one 10th great-grandmother. Why is Walburga my favorite? She was the first one I learned of. Just like a first kiss or a first love, the first witch is something special. I love Otillia & Margaretha, too, but they are just extra icing on the cake.

Their death record in Diemeringen (transcribed and translated at the bottom of Robert’s web page) simply records the deaths, giving no information regarding the charges against any of them. I don’t know if any court-type records survive in Diemeringen that could shed light on the events leading up to these people being accused and found guilty. All three were older (thankfully, or they would’t be direct ancestors!), and surprisingly had adult children, and husbands (except for Ottilia) alive at the time of their execution. Generally, those accused of witchcraft were more likely to be alone in life and not have close relatives who could protect them. It seems a little odd mine were singled out, despite having family. Interestingly, one of Walburga’s sons was the maire (mayor) of Dehlingen later on, so clearly it didn’t impact his reputation negatively.

The consensus now is the Salem, Massachusetts, witch accusations were baseless–caused by anger, fear, or jealousy, and “confirmed” by atypical behavior by the accused. Some of the behaviors could have simply been eccentricities (hey, some people like dancing naked in the woods during a full moon!), or physical (epilepsy?) or mental (schizophrenia?) illnesses that were unknown, not understood, or treatable at the time. It’s unlikely accusations in the “old world” were much different. I seriously doubt they were casting any spells on people or things.

Am I upset or embarrassed by my witches? Heavens, no! While I am not “proud” of them, I’m certainly not bothered by them, either. They had the misfortune of being out of step in some way with the rest of the local society, and suffered for it. So I love my witches–all of them. Hopefully at some future date, no 9th-great-grandchild of mine will be embarrassed by my eccentricities or (figurative) warts . . .

#52Ancestors