My grandmother, Margaret Bergmeister Pointkouski, with her children James and Jean in front of their Philadelphia home. Note the spiffy pants on my dad!
Archive for the ‘Bergmeister’ Category
In honor of Father’s Day tomorrow, Randy Seaver chose an interesting topic for this week’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun (SNGF): who was the most prolific dad in your family’s history?
Once again, I rely on my Bergmeister family for the answer (usually because this is the line I know the most about). The most prolific dad, or the man in my ancestry that fathered the most children, is Jakob Bergmeister (20 May 1805 – 18 Sep 1870. He and his wife, Anna Maria Daniel (24 Jun 1812 – 02 Feb 1871), had fifteen children in nineteen years. Most of the children did not survive to adulthood, but it is an awe-inspiring number nonetheless. Personally, I think Anna Maria deserves the honor for this feat – her job was harder.
When the couple married on 02 Jun 1835, Jakob was 30 years old and Anna Maria was almost 23. She bore her first child at the age of 14, and her last at age 43. Jakob was a father for the first time at age 31, and at 50 for the final time. Their children were:
- 1836 Aug 08 – Anna Maria – died Aug 14.
- 1837 Aug 15 – Michael – survived to adulthood. Marries in 1866 and has at least two sons. Each of his sons had a son who died fighting in World War I.
- 1839 Sep 12 – Jakob – unknown if survived to adulthood
- 1840 Nov 22 – Maria Anna – unknown if survived to adulthood
- 1841 Dec 7 – Josef – died Dec 13.
- 1843 Feb 9 – Josef – my ancestor, the father of my great-grandfather Josef.
- 1844 Jan 8 – Johann – died Apr 4 same year.
- 1845 Feb 25 – Castulus – survived to adulthood. Marries and has several children before his death on 01 May 1912. I have met several of his descendants.
- 1846 Jun 15 – Anton – died Sep 3 same year.
- 1847 Oct 22 – Walburga – unknown if survived to adulthood
- 1849 Jun 17 – Anna Maria – unknown if survived to adulthood
- 1850 July 31 – ??? – died Sep 15 same year.
- 1851 Sep 08 – Martin – died Sep 19.
- 1853 Nov 16 – Barbara – died Nov 27.
- 1855 Jun 02 – Kreszens – survived to adulthood. Married Johann Baptist Haeckl on 22 May 1878.
Of Jakob and Anna Maria’s 15 children, 3 boys and 1 girl definitely survived to adulthood, 7 children died in infancy, and the fate of 4 is unknown.
This month’s Carnival of Genealogy celebrates women’s history month with a chance to pay a special tribute to a woman on our family tree – and her timeline in history. This is the story of my great-grandmother, Maria Echerer Bergmeister.
Timeline for Maria Echerer Bergmeister
|February 27 – Maria Echerer is born to Karl and Margarethe Echerer in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria, Germany. She is the couple’s first-born child.|
|August 22 – A sister, Magdalena, is born.|
|June 25 – Maria’s paternal grandmother, Magdalena Nigg Echerer, dies.|
|June 28 – A brother, Karl, is born.|
|February 07 – A sister, Teresia, is born.|
|February 20 – A sister, Cristina, is born.|
|October 04 – Maria’s mother, Margarethe Fischer Echerer, dies at the age of 50. Maria is 20 years old at the time of her mother’s death.|
|November 02 – Maria marries Josef Bergmeister in Pfaffenhofen. Karl Echerer witnesses the marriage (either her father or brother).|
|February 27 – On Maria’s 23rd birthday, her first child is born, a daughter, also named Maria. The family is living in house #331 in Pfaffenhofen.|
|May 03 – Maria’s husband, Josef, sails on the SS Arargonia from Antwerp, Belgium. He arrives in Philadelphia, PA, USA on May 18. Once he arrives, he lives with his sister and brother-in-law, Hilaury and Max Thuman, at 1033 Jefferson Street.|
|June 13 – Maria and daughter Maria sails on the SS Kensington from Antwerp, Belgium. They arrive in New York, NY, USA on June 27. Husband Josef is living at 1500 N. Warnock St. in Philadelphia.|
|April 16 – A son, Joseph Maximilian, is born. He is baptized at St. Peter’s and his godparents are his aunt and uncle, Hilaury and Max Thuman.|
|May 07 – A son, Maximilian Julius, is born. He is baptized at St. Peter’s and his godparents are his aunt and uncle, Hilaury and Max Thuman.|
|June 16 – A son, Julius Carl, is born. He is baptized at St. Peter’s and his godparents are his aunt and uncle, Hilaury Thuman and Julius Goetz (Josef and Hilaury’s half-brother).|
|July 17 – A son, Charles, is born. Charles was premature and only lived for 15 hours.|
|November 05 – A daughter, Laura, is born. Laura was premature and died the same day.|
|April 11 – A daughter, Margaret Hermina, is born (my grandmother). She is baptized at St. Peter’s and her godparents are her aunt and uncle, Hilaury Thuman and Herman Goetz (Josef and Hilaury’s half-brother).|
|February 05 – Maria dies from myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) with bronchial asthma as a contributing factor. She is buried at Holy Redeemer Cemetery on February 8.|
The ancestor I chose for my tribute is my great-grandmother, Maria Echerer Bergmeister. She may seem like an odd choice, because of all the female ancestors I have traced, she has the shortest lifespan. But I recently celebrated my 43rd birthday, and I realized she died just weeks before what would have been her 44th birthday. She was so young – too young to die. But in her short lifetime, she accomplished so much more than I have. I don’t know much about her except from what I have learned from public records, but I do know she did three major things in her life for which there is no comparison in my own. First, she got married. Second, she left behind her homeland – a town her ancestors had lived for centuries – to live in a new country with her husband. Finally, she had five children (and two others who died as infants). Even though Maria died at a young age, today she has over 100 descendants.
I know a great deal about Maria’s ancestry in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm. Her father, Karl Echerer, was a shoemaker turned bricklayer. His father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and second great-grandfather were all shoemakers in the town of Pfaffenhofen. Perhaps the shoemaker trade was not as needed in the mid- to late 1800s as it was in earlier centuries, because Karl was the first Echerer son to find a new occupation. Rather than follow in his father’s footsteps (no pun intended), he took on the profession of his maternal grandfather, Karl Nigg, who was a carpenter and descended from two generations of master masons. The house in which Maria Echerer was born, #214, had been in her father’s mother’s family since 1784 – nearly one hundred years.
Maria’s mother, Margarethe Fischer, came from a small town near Pfaffenhofen called Langenbruck and she was the daughter of a farmer. Although she was only 27 years old when she married Karl Echerer, she was already a widow. Her first husband had been Bartholomew Kufer from Raitbach. I have not learned the circumstances of his death, and it is unknown if she had any children from this marriage.
Through researching church records in Pfaffenhofen, I found the baptismal records for three sisters and a brother. I have not researched further to determine if all of Maria’s siblings lived to adulthood; however, it appears that her brother Karl marries in June, 1897. More research is needed to learn more about Karl, who presumably stayed in Pfaffenhofen when his sister immigrated.
It is likely that Maria met Josef Bergmeister in her hometown of Pfaffenhofen. He was born north of there in the town of Vohburg a.d. Donau, but his family was from a small town close to Pfaffenhofen called Puch. Josef’s ancestors were millers, and the sons became either millers or related trades. His father, also named Josef, was a flour merchant. Josef became a baker, and it is likely that he came to Pfaffenhofen to work for his uncle, Castulus Bergmeister, who operated a bakery in the center of town. Descendents of Castulus still run the same bakery today.
Based on the dates of the records, it appears that Maria was pregnant at the time of her marriage to Josef. Their daughter Maria was born close to four months after the wedding – on Maria’s 23rd birthday.
Little is known about the family’s life in Pfaffenhofen or what prompted them to immigrate to the United States. Josef had a sister, Hilaury, who immigrated to Philadelphia in 1893, and he makes the move first to meet her and her husband. At the time he left Germany, his daughter was only 2 years old.
Maria and her daughter remained in Germany for more than a year before taking the journey to America. Their port of departure, Antwerp, was 460 miles from Pfaffenhofen. In researching Maria’s life, her personal memories, thoughts, and feelings are unknown – she left behind no letters or journals. But I admire her courage. She had not seen her husband in over a year, and she traveled a very long way, alone with a 3-year-old.
Once reunited, the couple re-started their family in earnest. Their first son was born a little more than nine months after the reunion. After two more sons over the next five years, Maria suffered the lost of two infants through premature births. My grandmother, Margaret – perhaps named after Maria’s mother – was nearly premature herself. According to the older siblings, they did not think Margaret would survive because she was so tiny. Fortunately, especially for me, she did survive. Sadly, she would never really get to know her own mother.
According to Josef and Maria’s oldest daughter, Maria was a strong-willed personality who took charge of the family – and her husband. The children remember Maria chastising her husband, who was physically much taller; he always listened. Maria called her husband “Sepp” – the German nickname for “Josef”.
When Maria died, her oldest daughter was weeks away from turning 21 years old. The Bergmeister sons were 16, 14, and 11. Young Margaret was not quite 6. Maria’s husband Josef was greatly troubled by her death. Josef did not take care of his own health afterwards, and he died eight years later – also very young. The children remained close throughout their lives – bonded together in the loss of their parents.
Maria did not live a long life and I do not know much about her. But what little I was able to discover is worthy of admiration. She was a woman of great courage to leave her homeland and her family for a new country in which she did not know the language. What I admire the most about her is something you can not find “recorded” in any document, but I think it is evident from the memories and character of her children. That trait is the love she had for her husband and family. What could be a finer legacy? Thanks, Maria, for your courage and your love.
[ Written for the 91st Carnival of Genealogy: Tribute to Women ]
Genealogists frequently stress the importance of labeling photographs so that future generations know who’s who. This is true even for our own photographs that we take today. But while we may forget who are friends were twenty years later, would we forget a relative? I can now tell you that yes, it’s possible, especially if the photograph in question was taken before you were born.
This past weekend I started a “Bergmeister Family” group on Facebook for all of my cousins. I asked if anyone had wedding photos of my grandmother’s siblings. When my cousin posted this photograph of her grandparents, I nearly fell out of my chair. This is the lovely wedding photo of Joseph Bergmeister and Helen Pardus from 1924:
Why was this so surprising? Because I own a copy of this photo! In fact, I’ve posted this photo on this very blog. And in that post, the photo was not identified as my dad’s uncle and his wife, but as my mom’s aunt and her husband!
I called my mother. “I thought you said that was your Aunt Helen! It’s Dad’s Aunt Helen and Uncle Joe!” Without seeing the photo over the phone, she wasn’t sure what to say. But she did say, “That’s funny, I don’t ever remember seeing a photo of my Aunt Helen.” Perhaps she identified “Aunt Helen” and I assumed it was her aunt instead of my dad’s. Whatever the case, I have had this couple misidentified for years!
Sometimes identification of individuals in a photo is tricky. But my humorous story proves that sometimes you may be wrong even when a relative helps with the identification. The funniest part of this story is that the photo was previously posted in June, 2009 as the Tiernan-Zawodny wedding. Several of the Bergmeister-Pardus grandchildren have visited this blog, but they would not have found the photo of their grandparents since it was listed under the “Zawodny” label, so they didn’t notice the error. What’s even funnier is that I sent the photo to my mother’s cousin who should have recognized – or rather not recognized – the faces. Even though he is around my mother’s age and, like her, was born well after this photo, he is a blood relative to both the Tiernan’s and the Zawodny’s since one brother-sister combination married another (his parents). But even he didn’t set me straight.
Sometimes it pays to trust your instinct…I often looked at this photo and had two thoughts. First, the woman – or rather the woman I thought she was – looked nothing like my grandmother and her sisters. Of course not, because she’s not related to them! And second, the man – who I thought I was not related to – looked rather familiar. Of course he does, because he looks very much like my great-grandfather (his father) and my father (his nephew)!
I didn’t realize I had a “photo mystery” on my hands, but it’s nice to finally find out the truth about this couple! Now I have to, uh, amend my post about the alleged Tiernan-Zawodny wedding!
The word prompt for the 20th edition of the Smile for the Camera Carnival is Valentine! Here’s a photo of a couple who were each other’s valentines for a long time – my grandparents. When the photo was taken, they had been married for 23 years. James Pointkouski first saw Margaret Bergmeister working at a stored owned by her brother. He was friends with the brother, and immediately asked him who she was. Like a typical brother, he replied, “Her? Oh, she’s just my sister” as if that meant she was nothing special. But she was special to “Jimmy” and he immediately pursued her and eventually married her. Her brother didn’t mind!
Submitted for the 20th Edition of Smile for the Camera: Valentine
How is Josef Bergmeister related to “my” Josef Bergmeister?
Our story began when I discovered a reference to a Josef Bergmeister who died fighting for Germany in World War I. This Josef was from Puch, the hometown of my great-grandfather of the same name. The town is very small, so I assumed they were related. Thanks to Ancestry’s release of the Bavarian World War I Personnel Rosters, I learned more about Josef, including when he was born, his parents’ names, and how he died in 1916. In fact, I learned about many other Bergmeister men, too. Although the indexing is not yet complete (see the main search page for more details), there are thirteen Bergmeister men listed. Of these, eight are directly related to my great-grandfather – including Josef whose name was inscribed on the memorial in Puch. With the help of my cousin Armin Bergmeister, I’ve assembled the following tree showing the names of the Bergmeister men up until the World War I timeframe. Click on the image to enlarge.
The soldier Josef and my great-grandfather Josef are first cousins once removed. Josef’s own first cousin, Anton, also died in the war just weeks before him. With their deaths, the Bergmeister family in the town of Puch ended. Other Bergmeister relatives had moved to other towns in Bavaria as well as the United States, but nearly three hundred years of the Bergmeister family in Puch came to an abrupt end. Both Josef and Anton were second cousins to my grandmother and her three brothers that were born in the United States (and their German-born sister).
My great-grandfather also lost two of his second cousins in the war, Sigmund and Hermann. Two of his third cousins (Andreas and Magnus) fought as well as his third cousin’s son, Anton, and his 5th cousin Ignatz.
I chose to focus on the soldier Josef for this story, but each of the soldier’s stories – as gleaned from the rosters – is worth remembering. Unfortunately, we have no photograph of Josef, but thanks to my cousin Armin I can share a photograph of one of these Bergmeister soldiers, Sigmund – Armin’s grandfather. Sigmund died on 15 August 1916 at the age of 31, leaving behind one child. His brother Hermann died less than two years later at the age of 24, leaving behind two children.
There are many men named Josef on the Bergmeister family tree. I am currently familiar with cousins from three distinct lines of descent: 1) my own family’s descent through Josef (son of Josef, son of Jakob, son of Josef), 2) the line descended from Johann (son of Castulus, son of Jakob, son of Josef), and 3) the line descended from the soldier Sigmund (son of Sebastian, son of Simon, son of Josef). In my own American line, the name Joseph Bergmeister was passed on and is currently owned by a handsome young man, my second cousin once removed. He is the sixth straight Joseph/Josef Bergmeister – and would have been the 8th straight if it weren’t for his 4th great-grandfather, Jakob. There is also a current Josef Bergmeister in Germany, my 3rd cousin once removed and a very charitable host along with his brother Hans and their wives. They are both descended from the Castulus line. (See a photo of Castulus as well as my Josef on The Bergmeister Family page!)
So, one mystery was solved. Thanks to the Bavarian military rosters, I now know more about Josef Bergmeister, the previously unknown soldier, as well as many other Bergmeister cousins my great-grandfather left behind when he came to America.
But wait! Now there’s a new mystery…how are we all related to the other five men named Bergmeister listed in the personnel rosters? We already have a hint that the “other” Philadelphia Bergmeister family is originally from the town of Hoerdt and is related to at least one of these men. As to how far back we have to go to connect the two, and who the other four men are, those are mysteries still waiting to be solved!
Need help figuring out relationships and what “removed” cousins are? See The Family Relationship Chart
What happened at the battle that cost Josef his life? How were his American cousins affected by the same war?
In Part 3 we read Josef Bergmeister’s service record and discovered that he died as a result of injuries sustained during the battle of Fleury-Thiaumont in July, 1916. Today’s post will discuss this battle in more detail.
The town names of Fleury and Thiaumont may not be familiar, but surely everyone has heard of the Battle of Verdun, the bloodiest and perhaps the longest battle in history. The Battle of Verdun was a series of battles from 21 February – 19 December 1916 between the German and French armies on the Western Front. The numbers alone paint a picture of what happened there. In the end, an estimated 250,000 men were killed, and another 500,000 were wounded. Approximately 40 million artillery shells were used by both sides during the fight. The battlefield itself was not very large – just a long and narrow piece of land.
During the Battle of Verdun, the town of Fleury changed hands between the German and the French sixteen times. The town was completely destroyed and is uninhabited today. To the German army, the small town was the gateway to Verdun, which in turn would lead directly to Paris. During the month of June, 1916, the Germans fought hard to move into the town. By the end of June, it was reported that it was unbearably hot.
On 23 June, the Germans launched a chemical attack with 110,000 grenades of poisonous gas. Although many French soldiers died from the chemical attack, their gas masks withstood the gas better than the Germans had expected. But the chemical gas, constant bombardment from artillery, and the oppressive heat were all affecting the troops; both sides described the terrible stench from corpses rotting in the heat. Josef Bergmeister’s first cousin, Anton Bergmeister, from the 10th Infantry Regiment, was killed here on 24 June at the age of 19.
By mid-July, the Germans were in control of Fleury, but there were many small attacks in the area in an effort to gain high ground and some fortifications. On 12 July, the French received orders to regain Fleury. A fierce battle was fought from 15-19 July in which each side attempted to gain more ground.
Josef Bergmeister’s brigade (8th Company, 11th Bav. Infantry Regiment, 12th Bav. Brigade, 6th Bavarian Division) has missed the fighting in this area and had been fighting in St. Mihiel. His regiment went into the front lines on 17-18 July and suffered such losses that a telegraph was sent to immediately send 500 replacement troops. Did Josef know that his cousin Anton was killed at Thiaumont just weeks earlier?
Josef was injured by an artillery shell on 18 July in his arm and leg. After being transferred to a hospital, he died on 01 August. His comrades and his enemies continued the fight, and with each battle the area around Fleury and Thiaumont is captured and re-captured over and over with little meaning to the overall war effort. Thousands lay dead on the battlefield.
Josef’s entire division left Verdun on 5 August, and by early September they were fighting another well-known and long series of battles: the Somme. The division again endured considerable losses. The Battle of Verdun continued through December 1916. The final statistics show French casualties at Verdun as 371,000, including 60,000 killed, 101,000 missing and 210,000 wounded. Total German casualties are recorded as 337,000 men. The statistics also confirm that at least 70% of the Verdun casualties on both sides were the result of artillery fire. Men like Josef Bergmeister that were taken from the battlefield to hospitals were given burials in cemeteries, but it is estimated that 100,000 men remain on the battlefield today – buried where they fell.
The site The Soldier’s Burden offers a detailed glimpse into the lives of the soldiers on all “sides” of the war and gives testament to their struggles and losses. On a page recounting the battle in which Josef Bergmeister died, another Bavarian soldier, Hans Heiß of the Bavarian Leib Regiment, describes the battle. I have reprinted most of the description with permission here:
A red streak in the starry night, then another, then another. They burst into red stars. Are they fireworks? A game? No, they are serious, deadly serious. Whizzing over Fleury and Douaumont. The Frenchies had noticed that we were being relieved and had called up an artillery barrage. A barrage meant hell!
Run Comrades, run for your lives!
There is the railway embankment… a ghostly area, keep running. The first salvo comes screaming in… flames, smoke… keep running… move forward. Into the hollow ground beyond… here hell opened up! Whizzing, Howling, gurgling the shells come in. Black earth, smoke and flames shoot up into the air. A wall of death.
Panting, the breath is stilted. Jumping from shell hole to shell hole… through! then FORWARD! Keep running!
Up the embankment, stumbling, falling. The heart beating in the throat…falling, getting up, continuing. Foam on the lips… up there, the large shell crater… get into it! Once there you can get your breath back. Almost there, there where they are all headed for.
Whizz, bang! Flame and smoke… right in the heavy shell hole! Don’t go in, pass it by!
Here they crawl forward, blood stained and blackened by smoke “Kamerad! Kamerad! For God’s sake… help me!” “And me!” “And me!”
Cannot, have to get forward into position… don’t listen, don’t look! Go past! Move… faster!
…. There! There! It is terrible, someone is burning. He tosses his burning backpack away but his uniform is burning. Ha, ha, ha! Laughing, laughing at the sky…he has gone mad.
Burying the head in the sand. See nothing, Hear nothing, think nothing! Think nothing!
Then it was over and we could move forward.
It will be four days in the front line now. Four endless, terrible, desperate days. And four terrible nights. And if we survive… the same road through hell back again.
Two men pass carrying in a wounded man wrapped in a shelter half. A whizz and a bang. Flame and smoke, all three men are swept away, the medics and wounded man ripped apart, gone forever. No! No! No further! Throw it all away, the backpack, rifle, gasmask… and now run! Run! Run far away.. far away from this hell…
Meanwhile, in the United States German immigrants were far from the battlefield, but life was difficult in other ways. The United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. Germans living in the U.S. were warned to obey the law and surrender any weapons, explosives, or radios. Any who did not comply were arrested. Any non-naturalized German that was believed to be aiding the enemy were arrested and interred. By December, 1917, all male Germans in cities with populations over 5,000 had to report to either the post office or police station to register; the same rules applied to female Germans the following May.
Most of these records no longer exist, but I did once see the list of Philadelphia “enemy alien registrations” (now missing). In it were the names and addresses of my great-grandparents, Josef (now known as Joseph) and Marie Bergmeister, and their 20-year-old German-born daughter, Marie. My great-grandfather had not yet declared his intent to become a citizen of the United States, but he had lived in the country since 1900. Their four American-born children were safe from the registration requirements.
The Joseph Bergmeister living in America, despite being considered an “enemy alien” required to register with the authorities, was also required to register for the selective service act. On 12 September 1918, he registered for military service with the U.S. draft board in Philadelphia, PA, but he was never called into service by the U.S. military. Joseph’s brother Ignatz also registered with the draft board in Elizabeth, NJ on the same day.
My relatives left no diaries or letters to reveal what they thought about these regulations, or about the war with their homeland, or if they knew the fate of their cousins in Germany or even kept in touch after immigration. One can only wonder what it felt like to suddenly be considered “the enemy” in the country you called home for so many years.
In Part 5, the final post in this series on the Bavarian Military Rosters, we will discover how closely the two Josef Bergmeister’s are related and see how many Bergmeister men were involved in the war fighting for Germany.
- Histories of Two Hundred and Fifty-One Divisions of the German Army which Participated in the War (1914-1918). Government Printing Office, Washington: 1920, 134-137.
- The Soldier’s Burden
- Wikipedia: Battle of Verdun
- The Battle of Verdun: Phase 5 – The Last German Offensive (23 June – 6 September)
- The U.S. Marshalls during World War I: Protection of the Home Front
- The War Department: Keeper of Our Nation’s Enemy Aliens During World War I
Josef Bergmeister’s WWI Military Record
Who was Josef Bergmeister? How did he die?
In Part 1 of this series on Bavarian Military Rosters, I discovered an “unknown soldier” in the German Army that was likely related to my great-grandfather of the same name. In Part 2, I presented what the Bavarian Military Personnel Record Books, or Kriegsstammrolle, looked like during World War 1. Today we will explore the personnel record of the mysterious Josef Bergmeister – and finally learn the details of his short life and death.
Here is Josef’s personnel record (click on the image – when it appears on the page, click again for a close-up):
Before transcribing and translating the record, there are some sites will offer other researchers some assistance. First, one must be familiar with German handwriting. The best site I have seen on this topic is How to Read German Handwriting. In addition, it may be useful to become familiar with some German military terms. A good resource is the German-English Military Dictionary, which was compiled by the U.S. military in 1944.
First, the transcription of Josef’s record:
1. Iaufende Nummer: 462
2. Dienstgrad: Inf[antrist]
3. Vor- und Familienname: Josef Bergmeister
4. Religion: kath[olisch]
5. Ort (Verwaltungsbezirk, Bundesland der Geburt): Puch, Pfaffenhofen, Oberbayern, Bayern/ Datum der Geburt:19.04.1894
6. Lebensstellung (Stand, Gewerbe): Ökonom / Wohnort: Puch, Pfaffenhofen, Oberbayern, Bayern
7. Vor- und Familiennamen der Ehegattin; Zahl der Kinder; Vermerk, dass der Betreffende ledig ist: ledig
8. Vor- und Familiennamen, Stand oder Gewerbe und Wohnort der Eltern: Johann und Therese Bergmeister, Ökonom, Puch, Pfaffenhofen, Oberbayern, Bayern
9. Truppenteil (Kompagnie, Eskadron: 11. I[nfantrie)-R[egiment], 8. Kp [=Kompanie]
10. Dienstverhältnisse: a) frühere, b) nach Eintritt der Mobilmachung:
b) 1915 1.7. b. II./E. 13. Inf. Rgt. 1. Rekr Depot als Rekrut
1915 12. 7 z. Rekr. Depot III b. A. K Komo F versetzt
1915 30.9 z. 10. I. R. 11. Kp. in Feld
1915 5.11. z. 8./11. I. R. versetzt
11. Orden, Ehrenzeichen und sonstige Auszeichnungen: ./.
12. Mitgemachte Gefechte; Bemerkenswerte Leistungen: 20.09.15 – 15.7.16 Kämpfe auf den Maashöhen; 15.7. – 8.7.16 Kämpfe um Fleury und Zwischenwerk Thiaumont
[Written in the section underneath: ] Pocken- Typhus- und Cholera-Schutzimpfung vorgenommen
Am 18.07.1916 dh. A. G. [= durch Artilleriegranate] am r[echten] Fuß u[nd] l[inken] Arm schwer verwundet u[nd] ins Feldlaz[arett] No. 5 der H.gr. I. d. eingeliefert. Am 20.7.1916 ins Etappenlazarett Pierrepont (:Schule:) überführt und dortselbst am 1.8.1916 nachm[ittags] 6:15 verstorben. Todesursache: Bruch r[echter] Oberschenkel (: Amputation) u[nd]Gasphlegmon. Am 2.08.16 auf dem Militärfriedhof zu Pierrepont beerdigt. Grab No 493. Anerkannt 18.9.1916 Leutnant d[er] R[eserve] u[nd] Komp[anie]-Führer
Rather than translate the record word for word into English, I will sum up the pertinent details. Josef Bergmeister was born on 19 April 1894 in Puch, Pfaffenhofen, Bavaria to Johann and Therese Bergmeister. He was an “economist” in Puch and single. Josef entered the army as a recruit on 01 July 1915. He was originally assigned to the 10th Infantry Regiment as an infantryman, but in November 1915 the regiment was combined with another and became the 11th Infantry Regiment. On 15-18 July 1916 his unit took part in the battles at Fleury and Thiaumont in France. On 18 July, Josef was severely wounded by an artillery shell. He was taken to a field hospital and transferred to another hospital at Pierrepont on 20 July. At 6:15 on 01 August, Josef died. His cause of death is listed as amputation of crushed thigh and gangrene. The following day he was buried in Grave No. 493 at the military cemetery in Pierrepont. He was 22 years old.
With this record, I finally knew who Josef was. Before I could connect him to my own Bergmeister family, I wanted to find out more about the battle in which he died. My knowledge of World War I was poor, and now I was curious to learn more. Part 4 will provide more details about this horrific battle which was part of a series of battles between the German and French armies from February through December of 1916 – the Battle of Verdun. It will also give a glimpse into what life in America was like for German immigrants. Finally, Part 5 will sort out who’s who in the Bergmeister family – how are the “Josefs” related?
Many thanks to my cousin (and Josef’s cousin) Armin Bergmeister for the record transcription and help with the translation into English!
The Bavarian Military Rosters – What were they? What does it say?
In Part 1 – Cousins, Countries, and War – I spoke of the discovery of a German soldier with my great-grandfather’s name – Josef Bergmeister. This particular Josef came from the same town my great-grandfather was born in – were they related? Thanks to a new group of records available on Ancestry.com, I was about to find out. But first, what are these records? What information do they have? And more importantly – what do the German words mean?
The main search page (image shown above) for the Bavaria, Germany, WWI Personnel Rosters, 1914-1918 is found here. Whether you search for a surname or for a particular individual, you will notice what appears to be more than one entry per person in the search results. For example, a search for “Josef Bergmeister” resulted in the following hits:
Based on the birth dates and town names, there appear to be records for two different men named Josef Bergmeister. Why are there several records for each? Because these personnel record books, or Kriegstammrolle, were kept for each military unit. If a soldier was transferred to another unit, he was recorded in the personnel records for the new unit as well as the old. In addition, there is a separate roster for the soldiers who died. To get a soldier’s full story, you should look at each of the search results.
Fortunately, the personnel rosters seem to follow the same format. Each book has two pages with fifteen columns of information. The following images show the column headings and the English translations.
1 – Iaufende Nummer – Seriel Number
2 – Dienstgrad – Rank
3 – Vor- und Familienname – First and Last Name
4 – Religion – Religion
5 – [top] Ort (Verwaltungsbezirk, Bundesland der Geburt) – Location (County, State of Birth)
[bottom] Datum der Geburt – Date of Birth
6 – [top] Lebensstellung (Stand, Gewerbe) – Occupation (literally „position in life“) (Profession, Company)
[bottom] Wohnort – Place of Residence
7 – Vor- und Familiennamen der Ehegattin; Zahl der Kinder; Vermerk, dass der Betreffende ledig ist – First and Last Name of Wife; Number of Children; Note that the person is Single
8 – Vor- und Familiennamen, Stand oder Gewerbe und Wohnort der Eltern – First and Last Names, Occupation, and Place of Residence of Parents
9 – Truppenteil (Kompagnie, Eskadron) – Military Unit (Company, Squadron)
10 – Dienstverhältnisse – Service Relationship
a) frühere – earlier
b) nach Eintritt der Mobilmachung – after mobilization
11 – Orden, Ehrenzeichen und sonstige Auszeichnungen – Orders, Decorations, and Other Awards
12 – Mitgemachte Gefechte; Bemerkenswerte Leistungen – Battles; Remarkable Acheivements
13 – Kommandos und besondere Dienstverhältnisse. Kriegsgefangenschaft. – Commands and Special Service Conditions. Prisoner of War.
14 – Führung. Gerichtliche Bestrafungen Rehabilitierung. – Leadership. Judicial Punishments Rehabilitation.
15 – Bemerkungen – Remarks
Now that we know what the columns mean, how do we actually read a handwritten record?
Coming up in Part 3 we’ll transcribe and translate the service record for Josef Bergmeister. As you can see from the information above, the record will tell us quite about about his life as well as his death.
Who was a German soldier who bore my great-grandfather’s name?
In 1998, I visited my Bavarian great-grandparents’ town for the first time. I was not well-prepared to do any genealogical research because the trip came about as a convenient accident, not through careful planning. While I was in the general area for work-related travel, I knew I had to make a detour to their town, Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm. Back then, I hadn’t traced either family too far back, but through my great-grandparents’ marriage record I knew that he, Josef Bergmeister, was from the nearby town of Puch, and she, Maria Echerer, was from Pfaffenhofen.
Some friends from a different region of Germany met me there – they thought it would be an amusing weekend trip to visit a “foreign” area of their own country and see their American friend. One joked about this tiny town they drove through called Puch. “Wait,” I said, “that’s my great-grandfather’s town! Can you show it to me?” They said yes, but assured me that it was so tiny, there wasn’t much to see.
The next day, we drove a 2-car convoy to Puch from Pfaffenhofen (approximately 8 miles). They drove the lead car and came to a stop in what was presumably the center of town. My friend got out of the car and came up to my window asking, “Is there anything to actually see here?”
I was busy squinting over his shoulder. “Yes,” I replied, pointing beyond where he stood, “there’s that!”
We had stopped directly in front of a war memorial – every European town, no matter how small or large, has one. On this particular monument to the sons of Puch who perished in the world wars, I noticed a familiar name – Josef Bergmeister, who died in 1916. Another Josef Bergmeister from Puch? Surely it was a cousin, or perhaps a nephew! I took a photo of the monument and knew I’d find the answer one day.
My research continued on the Bergmeister line, but I focused on going backward so I never fully investigated the Josef who had died fighting in the war. I eventually even met Bergmeister cousins who still live in Pfaffenhofen, but when I asked about the Puch relatives, they merely replied, “There are no more Bergmeisters in Puch.”
It remained a mystery. I could have looked further into birth and death records to find the answer, but the records available from the Family History Center ended in 1900 and I did not write to the church or town directly for more information.
Josef remained my own personal “unknown soldier” – until now. Recently Ancestry.com added a new set of records to their growing international collection – the Bavaria, Germany, WWI Personnel Rosters, 1914-1918. While my direct ancestors immigrated to the United States more than a decade before the first world war, I was able to find out significant information about the lives and deaths of the cousins they left behind.
Join me this week as I explore these records and tell Josef’s story. Today’s introduction is Part 1 of a 5-part series which will include the following:
- Part 2 – The Bavarian Military Rosters – What were they? How do I read one?
- Part 3 – Josef Bergmeister’s WWI Military Record – Who was Josef Bergmeister? How did he die?
- Part 4 – The Great War and the Homefront – What happened at the battle that cost Josef his life? How were his American cousins affected by the same war?
- Part 5 – The Bergmeister Family Tree – How is Josef related to “my” Josef Bergmeister?
1) Pick one of your four great-grandparents – if possible, the one with the most descendants.
2) Create a descendants list for those great-grandparents either by hand or in your software program.
3) Tell us how many descendants, living or dead, are in each generation from those great-grandparents.
4) How many are still living? Of those, how many have you met and exchanged family information with? Are there any that you should make contact with ASAP? Please don’t use last names of living people for this – respect their privacy.
I seem to always use my Bergmeister Family as an example for SNGF, but that is the family in which I have not only had success in tracing ancestors backward, but also success in tracing cousins forward. So for my example of my family’s increase, I will use my great-grandparents Joseph Bergmeister (1873-1927) and Marie Echerer Bergmeister (1875-1919). Their descendants are:
- 5 Children (all deceased) – I only remember meeting 2.
- 14 Grandchildren (8 living / 6 deceased) – I only met 3 of the living and 1 deceased.
- 30 Great-grandchildren (28 living / 2 deceased) – I met 7 and “e-met” 6 more.
- 48 Second great-grandchildren (all living, not counting some adopted and step-children) – I’ve met 9.
- At least 2 Third great-grandchildren so far…
As best I can determine, Joseph and Marie Bergmeister have 99 descendants so far – not bad for a couple that didn’t live long enough to see their youngest child reach adulthood. Marie was just shy of 44 years old when she died. Joseph died at age 54, but he was able to see his first 3 grandchildren before he died.
Research on this branch has been satisfying because of all the second cousins I have come to know, mostly via email. At least one descendant of each of the four other Bergmeister children are in contact with me, and we are beginning to discuss the possibility of a family reunion! Stay tuned here for more details. I still have work to do in getting to know some more of my cousins, but this is by far the branch of the family that is the most interested in our history.
This week Randy’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun asked us to do a scavenger hunt to find a family member in the census. All of my great-grandparents were immigrants, and I’ve found them on the census records long ago to initially start my research (so many years ago that, at the time, the last available census was the 1910). All eight were here for the 1910 and thereafter, and only one, Joseph Bergmeister, was in the US in time for the 1900 Census. Many of their census records were extremely hard to find because the surnames were misspelled or mis-indexed. But I eventually managed to find them as well as their siblings. Five of my great-grandparents had siblings immigrate as well – I’ve found all 15 siblings so far! But there is one strange census-related mystery that continues to bother me…my grandmother is simply not there!
Margaret Bergmeister was born in 1913, so she would be seven years old in 1920 and living with her three older brothers, older sister, and her widowed father – the mother died in 1919. Although the family name is misspelled as “Burgmaster”, the family is relatively easy to find since both names are in the same soundex code. The entire family is living at 1016 Orkney Street in Philadelphia – minus Margaret.1
There is no way to know for sure why she is missing, but my theory is that she was visiting her aunt and uncle on the day of the enumeration. Max and Hilarie Thumann are living at 6078 Kingsessing Street in Philadelphia (indexed on Ancestry as Mat and Halmie)2. With them are Hilarie’s half-brother Julius Goetz and his wife Anna. But no Margaret!
It is possible that Margaret was visiting her aunts and uncles on the day of the enumeration and her father did not tell the enumerator about her because she was literally not home on 07 January 1920. On 08 January, another enumerator arrived at the Thumann’s door, but it is possible they did not mention Margaret because she did not live there. Other possibilities such as adoption are out of the question since Margaret’s birth was verified – not to mention the fact that she looks just like her brothers and sister!
I figured Margaret would be much easier to find in 1930 as a 17-year-old. Wrong again. By 1930 her father is now also deceased. Margaret’s oldest brother, also named Joseph, is 27 years old and married with a son and daughter of his own. They are living at 311 Wildey Street in Philadelphia3 (and on this census page, the enumerator thoughtfully printed each surname in very neat block letters). Living with Joseph are his two single brothers, aged 22 and 21.
It was assumed that Margaret, still a minor, was living with her oldest sister, Marie. Marie was living in the rear apartment at 1302 Germantown Avenue4. She was unmarried with two young daughters, aged 9 and 5. But no sister Margaret to be found.
Was Margaret with her aunt in 1930? The Thumann’s, now 72 and 60 years old, were living at the same house5. Although they have a boarder living with them, their niece is not there. Nor is she listed with her Uncle Julius Goetz, who was living on 1112 Sauger Street.6
So where was my 17-year-old grandmother? It wasn’t imperative to find her in the census – I know her birth date and her parents’ names. But, where is she? It’s still a mystery! For all the genealogical help the census has given me, the simple question of where my grandmother was at ages 7 and 17 is still a mystery!
1Source Citation: Year: 1920;Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 16, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll T625_1618; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 346; Image: 511.
2Source Citation: Year: 1920;Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 40, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll T625_1641; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 1495; Image: 917.
3Source Citation: Year: 1930; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll 2099; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 543; Image: 619.0.
4Source Citation: Year: 1930; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll 2099; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 552; Image: 911.0.
5Source Citation: Year: 1930; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll 2130; Page: 13A; Enumeration District: 223; Image: 111.0.
6Source Citation: Year: 1930; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll 2106; Page: 25B; Enumeration District: 874; Image: 753.0.
No matter where your ancestors were from, chances are that they endured tumultuous events such as famines, epidemics, and wars. In researching my Bavarian ancestors, I’ve tried to immerse myself in the history of their towns and villages to try to understand the customs, beliefs, and society in which they lived. If you dig deep enough, you’ll uncover many interesting events that took place during the lives of your ancestors. There aren’t any records that allow me to fully understand how these events impacted my ancestors in particular, but learning about these historical events helps to imagine what their lives were like.
The town of Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm has a long history dating back to the 12th century. Like most areas of Europe, Pfaffenhofen has witnessed many disasters over the years. In the middle of the 18th Century, a war raged throughout Europe called the War of Austrian Succession. Although it is largely forgotten in history books, it could almost be called the first world war since it involved almost all of the powers of Europe. While war is often considered to be a man’s game, this one all started because of a woman – Maria Theresa of Austria. Her father, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, died without a male heir. Charles hoped to enable Maria Theresa to take his place by persuading the various German states to agree to her succession in 1713 with the Pragmatic Sanction.
After the death of Charles in 1740, King Frederick II of Prussia protested her reign by invading Silesia. Thus began a long war that was a competition among various courts for a male heir with the genealogical claim to the throne to take precedence over Maria Theresa’s rule. Frederick joined forces with France, Spain, Bavaria, and Saxony, while Austria garnered support from several other European forces.
The Bavarian army fought with French forces in both Silesia and Bohemia over the next few years. This war had several campaigns fought in several countries. Throughout, both Austria and Prussia gained allies and lost allies with some countries even switching sides. But the war continued, and the succession issue remained unresolved although several claimed the throne.
By 1742, the war came much closer to home for my ancestors living in Pfaffenhofen. By this time, the Bavarian army was still aligned with the French, and Austria had turned to Hungary for support. The capital of Bavaria, Munich – only 33 miles south of Pfaffenhofen – fell to the Austro-Hungarian army on February 13, 1742. Four days later, Pfaffenhofen and all of the surrounding towns located in the area between the Inn and Lech rivers were under Austrian control.
Some of the Austro-Hungarian forces were Croat mercenary soldiers called the Pandurs. Pandur forces swept through the Bavarian countryside. The Pandurs’ tactics would be known as guerrilla warfare today. They were also known for their lack of discipline in which plunder was more important than their military orders. Histories of Pfaffenhofen do not record all of the details of this invasion, but one notes the “wild hordes of terror” as the Pandurs occupied the area and resorted to robbery, murder, and fire.
All throughout this war, the simple townsfolk of Pfaffenhofen and the local farmers were expected to pay increased taxes to support the armies. If anyone refused to pay, they were arrested.
By the end of 1742, the forces shifted and Pfaffenhofen was no longer occupied by enemy forces. The following year, Bavaria was again invaded in May and occupied through October. But the year of the war that is most remembered in Pfaffenhofen is 1745. By April 12, 1745, the two armies again amassed just outside of the city.
The Franco-Bavarian army was led by General François de Ségur with about 7,000 forces. However, Ségur was unaware that his Bavarian and Hessian reinforcements under General Törring had retreated several miles away, and he was caught off guard when the Austro-Hungarian forces arrived. The Austro-Hungarian army was led by General Karl Josef Batthyány and consisted of 10,000 Austrian and Hungarian forces. Batthyány was aware of Ségur’s isolation, and attacked Pfaffenhofen on the morning of April 15, 1745.
Like most medieval cities, Pfaffenhofen was a walled town with four gates to get in or out of town. The Austrian army, consisting of infantry, cavalry, and artillery units, broke through the town wall and fighting ensued on the streets of the town with the Croat Pandurs engaging in house-to-house combat. The French army defending the townspeople took on heavy casualties, and 300 French soldiers were captured by the enemy.
Outnumbered, Ségur was forced to withdrawn or else his army would have been completed encircled. Some of Ségur’s Palatinate forces panicked, and in their retreat the fierce Pandurs and Hussar cavalry attacked the retreating troops. The French forces hastily retreated with their heavy equipment getting stuck in the muddy fields outside of Pfaffenhofen; when the horses were cut free, they fled as well. Ségur’s retreating army was literally chased by the Batthyány’s forces until that evening when the Austrians gave up pursuit.
Austria, with about 800 casualties, was the clear “winner” of the battle, while the Franco-Bavarian forces lost 2,400. As a result of the defeat, Bavaria’s leader Maximilian III Joseph gave up the war that his father had begun. He made peace with Maria Theresa through the Treaty of Füssen on April 22, 1745. Oh, and Törring, the guy who left Ségur outnumbered? He was fired. The peace treaty took Bavaria officially out of the War of Austrian Succession, leaving Austria with only three other fronts to fight in Silesia, Italy, and the Netherlands. In the end, after years of bloodshed, Maria Theresa’s claim to the throne did prevail when her husband, Francis Stephen of Lorraine, became Emperor on September 13, 1745.
The battle definitely had an impact on the townspeople of Pfaffenhofen. One can only assume that they were all inside the walls of the town when the attack occurred. The only place of refuge nearby would have been the monastery at Scheyern, where it was reported that the monks only escaped the looting of the Pandurs because a wounded Austrian officer being tended by the monks would not allow it. Two brave priests left the walls of the monastery to administer last rites to soldiers dying in the fields.
Most of the accounts of the battle were in German, and I relied on poor translations from online translators. I was able to get the general idea that the invading Army left the town a mess. Some of the town’s court records seem to indicate that residents petitioned the town for assistance after their homes were looted and severely damaged. One resident, Georg Gerhauser, reported that he, his wife, and their eight children could not even attend church services on Good Friday because they lacked the appropriate clothing after Austrian soldiers looted their home. Food was also scarce in the days following the battle.
This battle must have been quite terrifying to the farmers and merchants of the area. The battle took place on the day of the calendar that happened to be Holy Thursday in the Roman Catholic Church calendar that year. This is the feast prior to the day Christ died when Catholics remember His Last Supper and the gift of the Eucharist. As a special feast, this likely would have been a religious holiday in the town in which everyone would have attended Mass – but I doubt their plans went as scheduled that fateful day.
At this time I have several ancestors living in Pfaffenhofen. Bernhard Eggerer, my 5th great-grandfather, was born in 1721 and would have been about to turn 24 at the time of the battle. Did he fight in the army? Did he defend his town as a simple shoemaker? I don’t know, but he did survive this event. He would marry 17 years later and have 8 children before dying in 1778 at the age of 57.
Other ancestors residing in Pfaffenhofen in 1745 include Matthias Kaillinger, a glassmaker, Michael Paur, a carpenter, and possibly Phillip Nigg, a mason. I have not found Philip’s birth record yet, but he marries in town eight years after the battle. One thing is certain – after all of the street fighting and looting, the skills of all three gentlemen would have been put to good use after the battle ended! I also had my Bergmeister ancestor, Johann Paul Bergmeister, living in the nearby town of Puch and running the grain mill. With all of the havoc in the fields, one can only wonder the impact on the family’s business as a result.
In reviewing my ancestral records, I do not appear to have any deaths on that day, so my families were safe after the fighting ended. Now that I have learned about this event, I want to review the death records to see if any soldier or civilian deaths are recorded in the church books. It is apparent in these few accounts I uncovered that although the battle itself was relatively short in duration, the town took a long time to recover from it.
[Written for the 77th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: Disasters Our Ancestors Lived Through]
This month’s theme for A Festival of Postcards is “Main Street”. My entry is connected to my family history in a different way than last month’s entry, which featured a card from a grand-uncle sent to my great-grandparents.
This postcard is from the mid 1990’s, but it shows a vintage photograph of a main street in Munich, Germany. Unfortunately, the card does not indicate the date of this old photograph. Judging by the automobiles in the photo, I’d estimate that it was taken between 1900-1920. This main street is the square known as the Karlsplatz. Although that has been the square’s official name since 1797, it is often referred to as Stachus after a pub that was torn down due to the construction of the square. The gate-like structure in the center-rear of the photo is the Karlstor, the gate that remains of the city’s medieval fortification. If you walk through that gate, you are on a pedestrian-only street that leads directly to the famous Marienplatz, Munich’s central square. The twin steeples you see in the rear of the photo belong to the Frauenkirche , the Cathedral of Our Blessed Lady.
The postcard reads as follows:
Misson accomplished! I think I’ll send 2 though. Guess what! The Goethe Institut isn’t as backward as I thought! I have e-mail capabilities, so you’ll prob. have heard from me before you receive this postcard! Gene Kelly is HUGE here; in every music store! Take care, Rachel P.S. Goethe Ins. attracts MANY HOT GUYS. More later…
Rachel was an e-friend; we bonded over our mutual love for Gene Kelly. She was attending the Goethe Institute to study German, and I told her about my Bergmeister family. In her free time, she took the time to visit my great-grandparents’ home town of Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, about a half hour north of Munich. She sent me photographs of the town, which I had just “discovered” as their place of origin, two years before I was able to travel there myself. But her mission in Munich was to visit the Karlsplatz that is pictured in this postcard – it was the one place in Munich that I knew my great-grandfather Joseph Bergmeister had probably visited. I knew this from his military photograph (featured in this post). The photographer was F.X. Ostermayr with an address on the Karlsplatz. I knew it was likely that Joseph spent his two years of military service in Munich itself, and he and his family possibly lived there immediately prior to immigrating to the U.S. However, I had no proof – except that one day back in 1893 he strolled into a photographer’s studio right on Munich’s main street. There, with his classmates, he had his official military portrait taken. It is the only surviving photo of him that I have discovered.
As I searched through my boxes of “memories” for this new monthly postcard festival, I knew that this was a winner for the “Main Street” category. Not only is it a vintage portrait of a main street – one that looks remarkably the same when I finally saw it, but it is also a street on which my ancestor walked. Perhaps he also stood before the Karlstor and was amazed at how long it had been there and all of the history it had seen. I wonder if, while he was in Munich, he sent a postcard to his family in Puch and Pfaffenhofen? (Lieber freund, the Infanterie Leib Regiment isn’t as backward as I thought… I doubt he would write about the MANY HOT MÄDCHEN he found there though!)
But this postcard was also special because it reminded me of what postcards are all about – friends connecting and keeping in touch while sharing their travel experiences. I had never met Rachel before she took this trip to Germany, but we were friends all the same and she took photos of places that she knew meant something to my history. I did get to meet her when she returned, and it was nice to thank her in person. I can’t remember when we lost touch, but it would be nice to find her again and catch up.
As a side note, in trying to date the above photograph I found two old public domain photos (one is actually a postcard) of the same square. This view is in nearly the same direction as the above postcard:
Perhaps my attempt to date the postcard photograph was incorrect – in 1902 only horse carts are parked on the square! Here is a view in the opposite direction – what you would see as you walked through the Karlstor into the square:
This would have been a postcard for sale at the time my great-grandfather was in Munich! I did make a visit to Munich myself in 1998 and 2006. While fashions and transportation have changed since that time, many of the buildings remain (or, as in the case of the Frauenkirche, were re-built exactly as before they were destroyed in World War II). What does the Karlsplatz look like today? Take a look at this 360° view!
[Written for the 2nd edition of A Festival of Postcards: Main Street]
This is the time of year for graduations! My niece will graduate 8th grade this week, so in honor of the event I’ve posted this photograph of her grandfather graduating 8th grade in 1948. James Pointkouski is in the second row from the top, first person on the left. Also in that row at seventh from the left is Rita Bergmeister, his first cousin. Happy Graduation to all graduates from the Class of 2009!
09 March 2010 – Correction! This couple was mis-identified. It is not the Tiernan-Zawodny wedding. It is the wedding of Joseph Bergmeister and Helen Pardus. For more info on why the identification was wrong, see Why Photographs Should Come with ID Tags.
This month’s Smile for the Camera carnival theme is “Wedding Belles”! Last June for the “Belles and Beaus” theme I submitted a family wedding photo that featured the marriage of my grandmother’s sister – and included my grandmother as the maid of honor. For this year’s wedding theme, I have another great wedding photo that features their sister and her husband!
Helen, the second oldest of the Zawodny children, was the first to get married in 1923. The wedding took place in Philadelphia, PA, most likely at St. Adalbert’s Church. Helen was 17 years old and her husband, John Tiernan, was 22. They would only have one child together, a son they named Thomas after John’s father. Sadly, young Tommy died as a child.
I would like to continue to post photographs of the weddings of all six children of Joseph and Laura Zawodny, but this and the previously posted photo are the only ones I have (I do not even have my own grandparents’ wedding photo). One that I am trying to get from cousins would make an interesting companion to the above photo. In 1934, another Tiernan-Zawodny wedding took place. This time it was Stanley Zawodny, Helen’s younger brother, and Elizabeth Tiernan, John’s younger sister. Stay tuned to see if I can get a copy!
[Written for the 14th Edition of Smile for the Camera: Wedding Belles]
The topic for this edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is The Good Earth, and we are invited to tell about our ancestors’ ties to the land. When I first saw the topic, I doubted I’d have much to say. My immediate ancestors – and myself – are from a very large city, so there are no farmers among us. Even some of my immigrant ancestors came from large cities like Warsaw or Munich, or from industrialized towns like Żyrardów. Even those from smaller towns seemed to have occupations that dealt more with crafts, building, or mercantile goods rather than “the earth”. But, I soon realized that unless you are descended from royalty, you don’t have to go back many generations to find an ancestor who was truly tied to the land in some way. As I looked through my records, I found farmers on all sides of my family. Here is their brief story.
In Poland, the cycles and seasons of family life were deeply rooted in the seasons of the earth and the harvest. Because Poland was a Catholic nation, the harvest and all of the work required for it to happen were also deeply connected to the Church. Harvesting almost always began on July 25, the feast of St. Jacob and would begin with the celebration of the Mass and special prayers. Following tradition, the first stalks of grain that were cut were placed in the sign of the cross, and those first stalks were often cut by the farmer’s daughter.
The days of a farmer were long – from first light to sundown. The day would end with another prayer. After the harvest was over, the final stalks harvested were also of great importance with one area always left unharvested no matter how small the plot of land. Great celebrations were held after the harvest was over in thanksgiving, often involving the entire community. Most of the harvesters were not land-owners, but peasants who worked for them. It is difficult to tell from vital records if the term “farmer” implies that the man owned land or merely worked on another’s. but many farmers worked as day laborers on other’s lands.
Among my Polish ancestors, I have found several farmers or day laborers including my 3rd great-grandfather Józef Ślesiński (c.1821 – 30 Nov 1866), my 2nd great-grandfather Wawrzyniec Zawodny (c.1853 – 13 Dec 1917), and my 4th great-grandfather Karol Zakrzewski (c.1800 – c.1858).
The agricultural life in Bavaria, Germany, was very similar to Poland in both the religious connection as well as the fact that there were different classes of farmers. Even after the Protestant Reformation swept through Germany, Bavaria remained devoutly Catholic. The religious customs related to the harvest are remarkably similar to Poland’s customs and included prayers and festivals. The harvest was a community event even in large towns where the majority of residents were not involved in agricultural labor. After all, the farmer’s successful harvest meant that the shoemaker could buy food at the market to feed his family. Even today Germans take special pride in their farmers. The photo below is not from Bavaria, but the Tirol section of Austria. Both regions have similar traditions and celebrate the harvest with parades and traditional costumes.
Bavaria had more class distinctions for farmers than in Poland where you were either a land-owner or you worked for someone else. In Bavaria, the different designations were mainly for tax purposes. A bauer owned a whole farm, a halbbauer owned half, and a viertelbauer owned a quarter. Then there was the söldner, who owned either 1/8, 1/16, or 1/32 of a farm. That may sound small, but there is even a lower designation – a poor häusler owned a house, but not the land on which it sat.
I first came across these farmer names when I discovered my 4th great-grandfather, Wolfgang Fischer (1775 – 1820) from the small town of Agelsberg. In the birth record for his son Franz Xaver, who was born in 1813, Wolfgang’s occupation was listed as söldner. It was an unfamiliar term, and according to my German dictionary it meant mercenary. Mercenary? As in a soldier of fortune, perhaps hired out to neighboring countries? I quickly discovered the Bavarian meaning of the word in addition to its other definition. A sölde is a small house with a garden, and as I indicated above a söldner owned either 1/8, 1/16, or 1/32 of a farm. My mercenary was a poor farmer!
Wolfgang is the only farmer I have found in my Bavarian ancestry so far, but there is another family that made a living off of the “good earth” – the Bergmeister family of millers. As owners of a mill in the town of Puch, the family would have had a higher economic and social standing than the poor famer; however, his entire operation was dependent upon the success of the farmers’ harvest. The earliest record of the family’s ownership of the mill is around 1700. Ownership was passed to the oldest son for many generations. I lost track of who owned the mill in the mid-1800’s because I am descended from that generation’s second son, but the second and third sons continued in related businesses – one was a flour merchant, the other a baker.
Farming is back-breaking work – work that is often taken for granted today. In my ancestors’ times it was likely even harder work without the assistance of machinery and motorized tools. The closest I come to such labor of the earth is mowing my lawn – and though I do use machinery to assist me, I still complain about the manual labor. Next time, I’ll try to remember all of my farmer and miller ancestors who worked long days tilling the earth and growing food for their lords, families, and neighbors.
Sources used in this article:
Dieter Joos, “A Brief Description of a Typical Southern German Village in Past Centuries”, (Ueberlingen, Germany, 1999). Available online at http://geisheimer.org/info/germ/village.htm
Sophie Hodorowicz Knab, Polish Customs, Traditions, & Folklore, (New York, Hippocrene Books, 1993), 145-157.
John Pinkerton, A General Collection of the Best and Most Interesting Voyages and Travels in All Parts of the World, (London, 1809), 30-33. Google Book Search. Retrieved on May 27, 2009.
[Written for the 73rd Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: The Good Earth]
In the Roman Catholic tradition, the month of May is usually the time of “First Communion.” On Saturdays and Sundays in early May, you can still see processions of children dressed in white as they enter church to receive Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time. The age for this event varies, but it usually occurs in the second or third grade. In the past, as you will see in the “vintage” photos below, First Communion occurred in first grade. In celebration of May and First Communions everywhere, here are some photos of my father’s First Communion Day – May 11, 1941. Today boys don’t usually wear shorts and knee socks!
There are several photos of the procession of children into the church, St. Peter’s, located at 5th & Girard Avenues (today the church is also the national shrine of St. John Neumann). In the first photo below, you can see my father as the fourth child from the left in the row closest to the nun. He appears to have noticed the photographer! The photo that follows shows him walking out of the photo’s range. The final photo shows the girls in the procession – and since I’m sure that the rules did not change by the time I made my communion in 1975, the children are likely lined up in alphabetical order. Therefore, one of those gals is likely my dad’s first cousin, Rita Bergmeister.
I rarely have time to even read Randy’s Saturday Night Fun Challenges on a Saturday night, much less respond to them. But tonight, I do have some time, and this one is not so challenging for me to answer! If Randy had chosen any other line, it would have been harder.
The challenge is this: Provide a list of your paternal grandmother’s patrilineal line. Answer these questions:
* What was your father’s mother’s maiden name?
* What was your father’s mother’s father’s name?
* What is your father’s mother’s father’s patrilineal line? That is, his father’s father’s father’s … back to the most distant male ancestor in that line?
* Can you identify male sibling(s) of your father’s mother, and any living male descendants from those male sibling(s)? If so, you have a candidate to do a Y-DNA test on that patrilineal line. If not, you may have to find male siblings, and their descendants, of the next generation back, or even further.
Here are my responses:
My father’s mother was Margaret Bergmeister (1913-1998), born in Philadelphia, PA.
- My father’s mother’s father’s name was Joseph Bergmeister (1873-1927), born in Vohburg a.d. Donau, Bavaria, Germany.
- His father was also named Joseph Bergmeister (1843-unknown before 1885), born in Puch, Bavaria, Germany.
- His father was Jakob Bergmeister (1805-1870), born in Puch, Bavaria, Germany.
- His father was Joseph Bergmeister (1763-1840), born in Puch, Bavaria, Germany.
- His father was Johann Paul Bergmeister (1721-1784), born in Puch, Bavaria, Germany.
- His father was Martin Bergmeister (ca 1689-1752), born in Puch, Bavaria, Germany.
- His father was likely Jakob Bergmeister / Permeister but this info is still being researched.
My grandmother Margaret Bergmeister had three brothers –
- Joseph Bergmeister (1902-1986), who had three sons: Joseph, Robert, and Carl. There are three males descended from Joseph and Robert, and Carl had no children.
- Max Bergmeister (1905-?) had no sons.
- Julius Bergmeister(1907-?) had no sons.
Even if I did not have three male second cousins with the Bergmeister surname (two of whom I have been in touch with so far) and therefore candidates for the Y-DNA of my grandmother’s patrilineal line, I am also in touch with fourth and fifth male cousins with the common ancestors of Jakob (b.1805) or Joseph (b.1763) shown above. I haven’t looked into any kind of DNA testing, especially for this line, because there are plenty of Bergmeister men – both in the genealogical records and in my email in-box! Thanks, Grandmom, for having an easy patrilineal line to research! Click on the Bergmeister Family tab above for more info on this line.
One of my more popular posts has been Philadelphia Marriage Indexes Online. As that post indicates, the FamilySearch site’s collection of Philadelphia Marriage Records is great online tool for searching for marriage information. The collection is a listing of marriage licenses issued in Philadelphia from 1885-1951. While these records are technically an “index” they are not searchable – to find a particular person, you must browse through the records. This is easy for the years 1885 to 1938 because the list is alphabetical. For the remaining years, the last names were entered in the order of application, so it takes some manual searching to find a particular person.
In my previous post, I lauded the availability of these records – not only can we search online, but they are free! But I’ve also come across some comments on mailing lists and message boards from some disappointed individuals who were unable to find their ancestors’ marriage records in this index. When you know a couple lived in the city, and you have an approximation of when they married, why can’t they be found in the index of Philadelphia marriage license records? Simply put, many Philadelphia residents went elsewhere to get married. This occurred mostly due to marriage laws that differed from state to state. These laws that govern how marriages may be entered into and officiated are at the state level, not federal, so the rules vary.
For this reason, some couples married out of state, or at least outside of the borders of the city of Philadelphia. The Pennsylvania rules that they may have been circumventing usually involved age or the waiting period. In the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a law was passed on October 1, 1885 that required marriage licenses to be obtained prior to a couple marrying. The county clerk of the orphans’ court was required to keep the records. At this time, the information required by the couple was rather simple and included the names of the couple, birth dates and places of birth, occupations and current residences, any previous marriage(s), and if the parties are related or not.
On September 11, 1885, the New York Times printed a short article about the new law that was excerpted from The Philadelphia Times:
Some of the interrogatories will be embarrassing in special cases, but the law is inexorable and they must be answered. The clerk of the court will be liable to fine if he fails to enforce the law to the letter, and parties answering falsely will be subject to the penalty of perjury.
One of the requirements of this new law made the marriageable age 21. For anyone under 21, the consent of the parents was required. Suddenly, an out-of-state marriage market was born!
One of the earliest locations for Philadelphians to marry was one of the closest and easily reached: Camden, New Jersey, located directed across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. By 1888 the newspapers were complaining that Pennsylvania’s marriage license law was creating a “knot-tying business” for “love-sick couples” in Camden, “where impertinent questions are not asked, and where the performance of the marriage ceremony is not hedged about with restrictions.”
By 1891, Camden was called “the Gretna Green of the Union”. Gretna Green was a small town in Scotland known for runaway weddings. A New York Times’ article explains that those “unable or unwilling to procure a license” in Philadelphia simply traveled to Camden for a quick and quiet marriage. The statistics cited in the article show that only 634 marriages were performed in Camden in 1885, the year that Pennsylvania changed their law. By 1890, the entire state of New Jersey had 15,564 marriages with one-third performed in Camden – “although the population of that city is less than one-fifteenth of the population of the State.
My great-grandparents were Philadelphia residents who contributed to the booming marriage trade in Camden. In 1910, Louis Pater celebrated his 17th birthday on August 24th. Three days later, he married Elizabeth Miller. On the marriage certificate, Louis’ age is listed as 22. Elizabeth is listed as 20 although she would only turn 19 in another three months. Elizabeth’s parents were in Poland – she had only immigrated the previous year – but her brother Emil served as a witness. It is assumed that Louis did not think his parents would approve of the marriage at his young age.
Although Ancestry.com has marriage records from “Camden County, NJ, 1837-1910” it is likely that these are moreso county records than those from the city of Camden. Not only did I not find my great-grandparents’ marriage in this database, but it consists of only 6,000 records. Given the marriage boom in Camden after 1885, it is assumed that the city of Camden’s records are not included here.
The city of Camden’s web page indicates that “Birth, Death, and Marriage Certificates can be aquired (sic) for anyone that was born, died, or married in the City of Camden. These certificates can be picked up in room 103 of City Hall or mailed directly to you.”
Another town famous for out-of-state marriages was Elkton, MD. Located in northern Maryland, the town is situated close to Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Until 1938, there was no waiting period required between the marriage application and the ceremony, so the town became known for “quick” weddings similar to Las Vegas decades later. The following sign recognizes Elkton’s role in the history of marriage in the Northeastern US:
I do not have any direct ancestors who got married in Elkton, but I’m sure there are some collateral relatives who did. If you can’t find a marriage record, try Elkton. Records can be searched through the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cecil County, Maryland. See their site for more information.
Other Pennsylvania Counties
It makes sense to travel across state lines to marry if Pennsylvania had “restrictive” laws regarding the marriageable age and a waiting period. However, there was another option – the couple simply didn’t tell the truth on their applicatoin. But, sometimes they did not want to lie about their ages in the city of Philadelphia. In my own family history, both sets of grandparents got married in Delaware County – despite the fact that it is in Pennsylvania and therefore governed by the same laws as the city of Philadelphia. Perhaps they were afraid that the city could “look it up” and discover their fib? All I know is that both towns are a bit out of the way for me today and I have a car and highways; my grandparents did not.
In the Pater family, history repeated itself with another 17-year-old groom. My grandfather, Henry Pater, was two months shy of his 18th birthday when he traveled to Broomall, PA with his intended, Mae Zawodna. On the license application, Henry lists his birth year as 1907 instead of 1912, therefore making himself almost 23 years old. Mae, who actually was born in 1907 and was five years older than Henry, listed her birth year as 1908 – making herself appear to be 21 rather than 22 and a half. Neither family looked kindly upon the wedding, and in fact in the 1930 census a few months later they are each enumerated with their own parents – living a few doors away from each other. Eventually they told their families they were married, and in June of the same year their marriage was blessed in a Catholic church.
My other grandparents traveled to Media, PA for their wedding in 1934. James Pointkouski accurately reported his age as 23, but Margaret Bergmeister makes herself one year older – reporting her age as 21. In reality, she would turn 21 a few months later. She also provides an address for her parents; however, both had been deceased for some time. They may have feared someone in Philadelphia confirming her birth record, which would have made her ineligible for marriage without the consent of her guardian. But they also did not want to wait an extra few months – their son would be born seven months later.
Couples had many reasons to marry in seemingly unlikely places. If the law required parental consent, a waiting period, or even proof of either a divorce or death of a prior marriage, some couples traveled to avoid the hassle. Or they traveled to the next county to avoid the neighbors seeing the marriage notice published in the newspaper. This was by no means unique to the Philadelphia area – Elkton, MD received couples from up and down the East Coast, and other states have similar “Gretna Green” locations such as the Kentucky and Ohio River Valley border. If you have trouble finding Grampa’s marriage record – look around the neighboring counties or states!