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 record; death 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 record; death 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.