Monday, February 16, 2009

Remembering a French (and German) ancestor

Nearly 188 years ago to the date, on Feb. 13, 1821, Jean Klein was born in the small village of Schmittviller, Moselle, France, to 37-year-old Jean Klein and 33-year-old Marguerite Wuertz. The elder Klein was a shoemaker and passed the profession onto his son who shared the same name. The parents, of mostly German ancestry despite living in France, were married in Schmittviller on Oct. 18, 1816.

Extended family: Jean had one older sister, Jeanne, two and a half years older than him, who died tragically of illness in Schmittviller six days after his ninth birthday. He also had two younger brothers, Jacques and Charles. Charles died just a few weeks after Jeanne as a contagious illness had been passed around the Klein family. It is not known what happened to Jacques, who disappears from records and may have relocated to another village in the region.

Military service: Jean was conscripted into the French Army on July 24, 1842 and served with the 4th Squadron of Artillery Supply Depot. He was discharged Sept. 4, 1844 for varicose veins in his leg, which made him unsuitable for duty. Jean was not married at the time of his service, but he had a child Nicolas the year he was discharged – on Dec. 7 – with a woman named Anne-Marie Dannenhoffer from the nearby village of Kalhausen.

Marriage: Under pressure from their families, Jean and Anne-Mare married on Apr. 18, 1846 in Rahling, Moselle, France. The marriage record from the Roman Catholic parish noted that the couple had a child out of wedlock, but that he would keep the name Klein. Shortly after, Jean and Anne-Marie had their second child, a daughter Anne, on Nov. 17, 1846.

Immigration: As a shoemaker, carrying on the profession of his father, Jean was a skilled worker and thus considered a part of the wide-ranging class of bourgeoisie. As a part of the middle class of that social group, he could not vote, and he had few political rights. The mid-1840’s were a time of political and economic turmoil, and France was also suffering a foot shortage at the time. Many of Jean’s social class were killed in the mid-1840’s in an attempted revolt against the French government. It appears that the political turmoil is the reason for Jean and Anne-Marie’s immigration to the United States in about 1847 or 1848. They settled in Buffalo, Erie County, New York, either just prior to, or as a direct result of, the bloody February 1848 Revolution, after which Napoleon’s nephew Louis-Napoleon gained power.

Work: Upon arrival, Jean set up a shoe-making shop on Elm Street and Batavia Road (now Broadway) in the city of Buffalo. However, in an effort to escape the cholera epidemic – Jean was too familiar with illnesses ruining families when one swept through his family in the winter of 1831 – he moved his family to Williamsville in 1849. There, Jean was proprietor of a prosperous boot and shoe store. He purchased much land in both the village and rural area, and Klein Road is named after him as a result of the property he owned in that area (approximately 80 acres on the north side of Klein Road according to local historians).

Family: Jean and Anne-Marie added to their family shortly after arriving in America with another daughter Maria, born Nov. 15, 1848 in Buffalo. After moving to Williamsville, they had nine more children, including two that died as infants. The children to survive infancy were: John (1850), Margaret (1852), Jacob (1854), George (1856), Phillip (1859), Catharina (1860), Magdalena (1864), and Amelia (1865). Nine of their 10 children to survive childbirth had children of their own, all but Amelia. Jean and Anne-Marie had 67 grandchildren and hundreds of descendants in the Western New York area.

Death: At age 88, during the winter of 1910, Jean walked out of his 10 Spring St. home in Williamsville, slipped on some ice and fell. He broke his hip and four days later he died on Jan. 23, 1910. Ironically, his son George also died after suffering a broken hip, although he lived to be 103 years old. The family was particularly known for good bloodlines and lived long, memorable lives.

Interesting note: Though I descend of Jean through my mother, he is also a blood (though distant) relative of my father. Jean’s great-grandparents were Michael Bender and Christina Lambert of Neualtheim, Germany. Michael and Christina’s daughter Anna Maria (born 1751) is an ancestor of Jean Klein and my mother, while their daughter Maria Magdalena (born 1755) is an ancestor of my father.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Happy Birthday to...

My great-great-grandmother Mary Ann Wallace Kanalley. She was born on this day, Jan. 30, some 131 years ago (1878) in the small lakefront town of Cobourg, Ontario, just across Lake Ontario from Rochester, N.Y.

Mary and her five children while her husband James was serving in World War I overseas.

She was the first-born child of Andrew Wallace, a painter of Scotch-Irish descent, and Catherine Bulger, whose parents came to Canada from Ireland as young adults. Andrew and Kate would go on to have eight more children, four in Canada and four in Brainerd, Crow Wing County, Minnesota, where they died.

Mary married James Kanalley, a poor man 10 years her elder born to Irish immigrants. James' parents Thomas and Rose came to Canada due to the Potato Famine - something none of Mary's ancestors could claim. Her folks were already well established in Canada, coming as early as the 1830's.

Mary's parents disapproved of the engagement, and the couple fled to Cleveland, Ohio, to have the wedding. Neither of her parents attended. They later moved back to Cobourg, but the story goes that James never got along with his father-in-law Andrew. In a bit of irony, James was also a painter, so it is likely Mary met him through her father's business (and her grandfather Daniel Wallace was a painter, too).

Mary and James Kanalley had five children in the early 1900's - Wallace, Catherine, Mary, Marlene, and Ann. Wallace, the eldest, was born Jan. 5, 1902 in Cleveland, and he is my great-grandfather.

James served overseas in France and England during World War I for the Canadian Army. He was wounded and discharged early. Alcoholism and affects from mustard gas meant he was never the same once he returned, and he suffered an early death due to heart disease at age 55 in 1923.

Mary was very independent and a strong woman, and she refused assistance to care for her children from the Canadian government. She worked as a nurse's aid to raise her young family - her youngest was 12 years old at the time of James' passing - and took the family to the Buffalo, N.Y. area in Nov. 1924 in hopes of a better way of life.

She remarried to Nicholas Jacoby in 1929 in North Java, Wyoming County, New York. Mary died in 1940 in Buffalo.

Mary's last surviving child, Marlene, died Dec. 19, 2006 in Fort Erie. However, in 2009, Mary is survived by 11 grandchildren, 29 great-grandchildren, and many more descendants.

On this day, her birthday, she's remembered!

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Mayors I descend of

While nearly half my ancestors I've found to date were farmers or day laborers, a good handful were also mayors.

Through both my father and mother's side, I trace myself back to mayors in Germany and France. Also known as a Schultheiss or Burgermeister, a mayor in Europe was historically the "chief administrative officer" of his jurisdiction and "served as the link between village government and the representatives of the ruling prince," according to "Becoming German" by Philip Otterness.

In some places the mayor was elected and in others he was appointed by the central government. Mayors "needed to be literate," while "many of the villagers he represented could not read or write." Literacy was not common in rural parts of Germany until the late 1700s, according to Otterness.

Here are the mayors I descend of, sorted chronologically by year of birth:

-Nicolaus VON RITTENHOFFEN, born about 1370, Mayor of Saaerbruecken, Bavaria, 18th great-grandfather
-Hans der Junger WANNEMACHER, born 1535, Mayor of Darmstadt, Hessen, 13th great-grandfather
-Hans Marx KLEIN, born 1620, Mayor of Waldfischbach, Bavaria, 9th great-grandfather
-Jean DuPONT, born about 1623, Mayor of Homburg, Bavaria, 10th great-grandfather
-Michael REUTER, born about 1630, Mayor of Medelsheim, Bavaria, 8th great-grandfather
-Jean PLAIDEUR, born about 1640, Mayor of Bierbach, Bavaria, 10th great-grandfather
-Heinrich KLEIN, born 1642, Mayor of Waldfischbach, Bavaria, 8th-great-grandfather
-Andre SCHUVER, born about 1649, Mayor of Wiesviller, Moselle, 8th-great-grandfather
-Claude-Nicolas BENOIT, born about 1662, Mayor of Homburg, Bavaria, 9th great-grandfather
-Adam GRUNDISCH, born 1673, Mayor of Poerrbach, Bavaria, 6th great-grandfather
-Jean-Adam UEBELHOER, born 1743, Mayor of Bremmelbach, Alsace, 6th great-grandfather
-Christien UEBELHOER, born 1769, Mayor of Bremmelbach, Alsace, 5th great-grandfather

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The man with eight daughters: Jean Plaideur

Born about 1640 in Eparcy, Picardie, France, my ancestor Jean Plaideur was a Lutheran living in a predominantly Catholic land. In the late 1650's, the French Huguenot decided to flee religious persecution to a place called Saarland, a war-stricken region that offered cheap land in hopes of repopulating. Best yet, this place did not discriminate against practicing Protestants.

Plaideur found a home here in a village called Bierbach, literally "Beer River." He found a wife, taking 16-year-old Anna Eva Schwarz's hand in marriage after an agreement with her father Wendel. The Schwarz family, also Protestant, was one of just two that survived the Thirty Years' War that devastated Bierbach and Wendel was determined to find a good mate for his daughter. He was impressed by Plaideur, who had a superb work ethic. The man not only farmed, he opened up a restaurant and bar in town less than a year after his arrival.

Plaideur brought new hope to a deserted village and he was one of the key figures in turning the Bierbach economy around. Several other families soon joined the community and Plaideur was elected mayor. He served the people well while fathering eight children with Anna Eva - all daughters.

I descend of Jean Plaideur in multiple ways - through his eldest daughter Johanna (married Wannemacher), his daughter Anna Catharina (married Koerner), and his daughter Anna Eva (married Moser). I actually descend of Anna Eva twice - through both her son Peter and her son Jacob.

Just one man, but one with a very interesting story, who helped repopulate and turn around a village that was devastated during the Thirty Years' War. Since I go back to him through four different lines of my ancestry, I've always found him fascinating. May he be remembered.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Irish records going digital

Great news for those of Irish descent!

The Irish Family History Foundation is busy at work digitizing millions of birth, marriage, and death records, as well as census and land records. The project is in progress, though some 6.9 million births have already been indexed, as well as 3.5 million marriages and 1.2 million deaths across the island.

From Northern Ireland's Co. Antrim to the Republic of Ireland's Co. Cork, a number of counties north, south, east, and west are already on the Web. Just 10 are not, at the moment, but more records are added all the time.

The site with all of these records is A simple, free registration allows you to conduct free searches of the index. Then, the full records can be instantaneously viewed via the site for an affordable five Euros each. One way to increase your chances of a match are to enter your person's name with their father's name (if you know it of course). You can also search for a name by parish.

I'm particularly excited about these new records in that I've already had success with them. I found the baptism record of my 4th-great-grandfather Thomas Bulger and learned that he was born Mar. 10, 1825 in Ballinabarney, Parish of Killaveney, Co. Wicklow. I also found baptism records for his siblings John (1826), Mary (1828) and Michael (1832) in the same townland and Ellen (1842) in nearby Glenphilipeen. I confirmed it was them through their parents' names, James Bulger and Judith Kealy, which I had through Canadian records.

And I also found the baptism of my girlfriend's 3rd-great-grandfather John Hendrick. He was born in May 1843 in Raheen, Parish of Rosbercon, Co. Wexford (previously we knew nothing more than just "Ireland"). Again, I confirmed it was him through parents' names, which I had before (Charles Hendrick and Ann Byrne). Very interestingly, I then learned that Raheen is only about five miles away from Dunganstown, Co. Wexford, where President John F. Kennedy's family originated.

If you have Irish roots, and especially if you're searching for an uncommon name, give the site a look. With Irish records so lacking, due to the great Dublin Fire, war, and famine, this effort is literally a goldmine.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Where we might be related

If you go back far enough, you can usually find any two people with European ancestry to be related.

I found my parents to be 6th cousins, once removed - their common ancestors marrying in Germany in 1737. To date, due to our common royal ancestry, my girlfriend Nicole and I are something like 28th cousins. But we're likely related much more closely.

First, I take a look geographically.

I have many ancestors from the village of Bremmelbach, France. Nicole has many ancestors from the village of Oberseebach, France. They are just FIVE MILES apart. There's a good chance we connect at some point due to this; families often intermarried in Europe and they often married into families from neighboring/nearby villages as well.

Then, here's some common families we share and where they lived. I've ordered them from closest geographically to furthest apart.

(C) Molschbach, Germany
(N) Dudenhofen, Germany
(distance) 56 km

(C) Waldfischbach, Germany
(N) Schifferstadt, Germany
(distance) 68 km

(C) Homburg, Germany
(N) Schifferstadt, Germany
(distance) 90 km

(C) Neualtheim, Germany
(N) Schifferstadt, Germany
(distance) 103 km

(C) Waeschenbeuren, Germany
(N) Schifferstadt, Germany
(distance) 146 km

(C) Waeschenbeuren, Germany
(N) Schifferstadt, Germany
(distance) 146 km

(C) Grossdeinbach, Germany
(N) Seebach, France
(distance) 158 km

(C) Bierbach, Germany
(N) Wirtheim, Germany
(distance) 202 km

(C) Epping, France
(N) Sedan, France
(distance) 220 km

(C) Darmstadt, Germany
(N) Hochdorf, Germany
(distance) 264 km

I think it's most likely our Hoffmann, Wahl, and Bender families are one in the same if you go back far enough. I'd say the same for Kuhn, except I have evidence my Kuhn's originated in Belgium and Nicole's were from Germany.

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Common families

Something fun about researching two family trees at the same time is trying to find links between them.

Here's a list of families that my girlfriend and I both descend of. However, I've yet to find any definite links between the two sets (meaning they're unrelated, as far as I know, for now), some are miles and miles apart, and some are common surnames.


(Also LANG, but her Lang family was in England and mine was in France so probably no connection.)

I'll post another blog entry soon looking at these families a bit closer. I'll see which ones are closest geographically and where we're most likely to connect if you go back far enough. Certainly at least one of them, we probably connect.

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