Continuing My Search For Ancestors

Hearing from a possible relative is thrilling.  This is how the message begins:

“Hi Ann, Hearing from a newfound family member is always exciting! . . . You and I would be 2nd cousins by marriage.”

Our possible common ancestor was Conrad/us Kirs/ner, father of my great-grandmother, Catherine Barbara Kischner.  Catherine’s children knew her as “Kate”.  This photograph of Kate was taken shortly before her death, on Dec. 28, 1910.  She was living with her daughter, Anna Landes, in Niagara Falls, NY.  My granddad, Frank C. Mesle, Sr., owned the house next door.Kate may have been born June 16, 1850/7.

Our family history, and the 1910 U.S. Census, are consistent that she was born in Germany.  Sources at Ancestry.com, including my newly connected second cousin, disagree, and believe she was born in Glogon, Austria-Hungary.

Glogon (now Glogonj) is currently part of Serbia. Between the mid-1800’s and the present, Glogon has been part of Austria-Hungary, Hungary, Yugoslavia and, now, Serbia.  It is strategically located between what was, in the 1700 and 1800’s, a buffer area between Christian Austria-Hungary and the Moslem world.  Apparently settlers were given free land to entice them to move there to provide a buffer between the two cultures.  It was certainly a bad bargain. They lived a difficult life at best. Apparently death rarely resulted from old age, but instead from disease, starvation or warfare.  By the late 1800’s there was a massive exodus from Glogon to other areas of Europe and to the U.S.

Selfishly, for me, my probable link to Glogon helps explain my DNA test results, that indicates I have DNA markers for Southern Europe and, perhaps, the Caucasus, near the Black Sea.  Obviously Glogon is located far closer to Italy than to the country I had believed to be her home, Germany.

Kate received a series of letters from her family between 1896 and 1911. All were addressed from Germany.  Each includes some tidbit of news pertinent to the family history.  They are as follows:

Letter from C. Kirsch (probably her brother) dated Jan. 22, 1897 from Ludwigshafen (at the Rhein), to the Kaisers German Consulate in Toronto, Canada: He identifies Barbara Kirsch as his sister, states his father’s third wife “died last year” and that his father, who is very weak, will be 76 in March.  He states that of the “brothers and sisters there are , besides myself: a sister, Elise Fromhold, a widow, who lives in Neckargemund.  Elise was Conrad’s daughter by his first wife, as was Kate. A brother Frederick[1] Kirsch, was a teacher in Sonborn, Elberfeld, of the second wife.

Letter from C. Kirsch dated July 16, 1901, from Ludwigshafen to Barbara Mesle, born Kirsch, in Niagara Falls, NY:  He explained he was sending Barbara her 1/4 share of her father’s estate, 2000 marks, ($478.16).  He identified his eldest daughter as Lenchen, and his son as Fredrick.

Letter from Elisa Fromhold dated July 29, 1907, from Neckargemund: It is addressed to “Dear Sister” and  identified her daughter, Marin, as nurse in Mannheim, another child as Jungfer, who lived in  Durtheim (Durbheim?).

Letter from Elise Fromhold dated August 1, 1911, from Neckargemund: It is addressed “Dear Aunt”(?) and was received by the family several months after Barbara’s death. It identified the author’s children, Dina, Karl, Uncle Konrad and Uncle Friedrich.  I assume, but do not know, that this is from a daughter of Catherine’s sister, also Elisa/e.

The correspondence from a possible cousin, who I have never met, is exciting.  She identified another brother of Kate’s, Josephus Kirschner, born September 8, 1855, in Glogon.  He has long been identified on the margins of my notes as a possible relative. Her ability to give me what may well be another piece of my great-grandmother’s history assists me, piece by piece, to trace the history of my family.

Have a great week.

__________________

Frederick is also the name of one of Kate’s sons

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My DNA–What? Surely you Jest!!

Seriously.  I do a little DNA test and what do I get?   Total confusion.  I mean, seriously, who did I think I was?? Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Based on more than 5 years of research relying on Ancestry.com, google, family records, public records, photographs and other research, I expected my DNA results to look something like this:

British Isles: 60%, Western Europe: 35 %, Other: 5 %.

Ancestry.com even includes on its site a clever little circle graph showing the nature of the information that members would receive about their genetic markers.  It seemed so simple.  Once again, wrong, wrong, wrong.

I expected, and found, strong evidence of family roots in the British Isles.  Mom’s family (Harrises, Bayes and Wrights) and my maternal grandmother’s family, (Lewises), all have strong ancestral ties there.  But where I expected my heritage to be dominated by British and Western European ancestors, instead I now understand I have lots of ancestors from Scandinavian countries.  I had not anticipated a single Swede, Dane or Norwegian in my entire family tree.  My Middle Eastern and Southern European roots–seriously, where do they come from. My anticipated heritage is so different from the heritage established by my DNA.  I am intrigued.

The question I raised in my last post about my DNA test indicated I expected to see some data in the “other” column as a result of the somewhat obscure origins of the Lumbee “tribe” of North Carolina.  My ancestor, Morris Teeter, who was born in 1737 and died in 1812, was buried in the Cummings Cemetery near Pembroke, NC.  Apparently, he was a Lumbee or married to a Lumbee.  If that information is correct, then I certainly have no native American DNA indicators.  Perhaps the rumors that the Lumbee are descended from early sailors to the New World (obviously Scandinavian and maybe Persian) is true.  I don’t know.  I don’t want the Lumbee tribe to take my word for it.  But they may want to be DNA tested themselves. Really.

But I digress–kind of!

Where are the Mesle/Kirsch Western European ancestors?  What about the centuries I expected granddad’s family to have lived in Western Europe before moving from Germany to the United States?  Nowhere.  Absolutely nowhere. I have 5 years invested in learning about the migration of the Mesle name from St. Maixent, France, spreading throughout France and into Germany, Belgium.  5 years trying to determine where in the small world of Mesles my own family had its origins before appearing in the record books in Stuttgart, Germany in the early 1800s.  Now, I do not know whether I am, at all, connected by blood to those Mesles.  Maybe they are, as I once read, descended from Vikings. But could they have lived in Western Europe for 800 years without picking up even a hint of German or French DNA markers?  Of course not.

The question, of course, is “Does it matter?”  If my interest is in tracing the religious, ethical and educational history of my family, it may not matter at all.  If my interest is in my blood line, then maybe the most important message is that none of us may be who we think we are.

Now that, is something to chew on!