Tuesday, December 20, 2016

How I Discovered the Origins of 6 of My German Immigrant Families

With a lot of help, I now know the German villages of six of my ancestral families. I "discovered" their origins in a variety of ways.

Map showing the origins of six of my "German" families created by Jon R Stewart, Sr.

In Order of Discovery:

March 2014
Kaechle/Köchle family, maternal side, immigrated from Grißheim, Baden, July 1851

Germany, Select Marriages, 1558-1929 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Germany, Marriages, 1558-1929. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013. 

This breakthrough came with Ancestry's "Germany, Select Marriages" index which showed that Thaddae Koechle married Katharina Kern on August 22nd, 1836, in a catholic church in Grissheim, Freiburg, Baden. I ordered FHL film #873353, and discovered many other records for both sides of the family going back to a baptism in 1616. An online site, Ortsfamilienbuch-Datenbank Grissheim, which had transcribed the church records proved invaluable as these old German records were very difficult to read.

May 2014
Karbach/Körbach family, maternal side, immigrated from Ediger, Rhineland-Palatinate, circa 1853

Anton Koerbach and Mary Reuter Marriage Certificate, attached to Anton Koerbach (1818-1886) on Hiltz Web Site on MyHeritage Family Trees, Charles Willke site manager, www.myheritage.com (accessed 20 December 2016).

Finding a marriage record for "Antonius Kehrbach" and Maria Anna Reuter on a distant cousin's My Heritage tree led to discovering the family had once lived in Ediger. It appears the church records for Ediger have only been micofilmed through the late 1700's, so I need to contact this church in writing and ask if they have additional records.

Nov 2015
Franceska Holthoefer, maternal side, immigrated from Serkenrode, Westphalia, September 1856

Five Holthoefer Siblings, circa 1900, Detroit, Michigan
(back row left to right) Franceska (Holthoefer) Adam, Caspar J. Holthoefer, Marianna (Holthoefer) Petri 
(front row left to right) Elisabeth (Holthoefer) Keine, Anna (Holthoefer) Rolf
(Photo courtesy of Mildred Hunt Collection, by Robert Yagley)

In March of 2015, a distant cousin, Robert "Bob" Yagley, contacted me with a correction to my Ancestry tree. In July of that year, he asked me to join him and three other cousins who were writing a book about our Holthoefer family. The cousins were descendants of Franceska's siblings who had also immigrated to America. Bob had traced our Holthoefer's back to Germany and kept their origin a secret until the book was published last November. It was exciting to see not only the information about where the family had come from, but to also see this photo of Franceska and four of her five siblings who had immigrated to America.

Nov 2015
Frank Adam, maternal side, immigrated from Olpe, Westphalia, circa 1845

Michigan, County Marriages, 1822-1940 (Lehi: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016), online database, marriage record of Frank Adam and Francisca Holdhofer [Holthoefer], 4 November 1858, St. Mary's Church, Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, page 636 (accessed 20 December 2016).
Bob Yagley had also discovered the village of origin for Franceska Holthoefer's future husband, Frank Adam, my direct line. Located only about 30 km from Serkenrode, Frank's baptismal record was found in Olpe, Westphalia. [pg 343]

Oct 2016
Peters family, paternal side, immigrated from Bellin, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, July 1859

Evangelisch Kirche [Evangelical Church] Bellin, Kirchenbuch [Church Book], 1650-1873, page 154, item 10, taufen [baptism] of Friedchen Elise Johanna Peters; FamilySearch mircofilm #68993. Cropped. [See original post for the other page of this baptismal record.]

I only recently realized the Peters' family's Hamburg passenger list indicated they came from Bellin. Using Meyers Gazetteer to locate Bellin, I then ordered an FHL microfilm and found the baptismal record of the family's youngest child. Although the family moved around quite a bit, it appears they immigrated to America from Bellin.

Nov 2016
Werther family, paternal side, immigrated from Berka, Thuringia (or Schwarzburg-Sondershausen), May 1869

Although the Hamburg passenger list appeared to say Bergau or Bergan, I couldn't find an appropriate location in Meyers Gazetteer. But, then I realized my great aunt had actually written the church in Berka in the 1990's and had baptismal records from Berka!


There are many ways to trace your immigrant ancestors back to their country of origin. I believe I have now traced all of my ancestors who came over in the mid-1800's - these six from Germany plus the Eastwood family from England. While writing this post, I realized there is still a lot I need to do on several of these lines. I am currently awaiting several FHL microfilms, and I need to write to two churches!

Do we share common ancestors? Do you have any additional information on any of these families? I'd love to talk! Please leave a comment or email me at drleeds@sbcglobal.net.


  1. You've had huge success finding your German immigrants, Dana, I've especially enjoyed hearing about your Bellin family. Here's to many more discoveries in 2017. Wishing you and yours a very happy Christmas.

    1. Thanks, Dara. It has been an exciting year of genealogy! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family, too!


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