Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Family Reunion

In a few weeks, I will be heading to the family reunion in a small town in Indiana. In the last few posts, I have been writing quite a bit about my great-great grandparents, Henry & Sophia Haessig, and Thomas & Anna Hillman.

Today, I am turning the spotlight onto their children...and the following generation that brings us together in October to share our linked heritage.

Henry came to Indiana in 1871, and settled into farm life on the eastern side of Ripley County.  Henry, and his wife, Sophia, would have five children together: Caroline, Henry George, George Phillip, Emile and Louise. Sophia also had a son from a previous marriage, George Jacob (Jake).

Everyday, I am learning new things. But, at this moment, I don’t know much about Caroline, Emile, Louise and Jake.
George Philiip Haessig

George was only a name I saw on a few records here and there, until a reunion several years ago. At that reunion, I was introduced to a whole side of the Haessig family that I am getting to know better all the time. At this reunion, one of George’s sons, Charlie, was able to visit for the first time in decades with his first cousin: my 90-something year-old grandma!

Two of George’s grandchildren have been filling me in on interesting stories and Haessig research recently. I will have to share with all of you some of what I have discovered in future posts. But, suffice it to say, if his granddaughter hadn’t been introduced to my blog, I might not have heard about George and Henry rafting on the Mississippi!

Which brings me to my great-grandfather, Henry George Haessig.


Henry George Haessig
Henry met a neighboring schoolteacher named Carrie Mae Hillman. Carrie was the oldest child of Thomas and Anna Hillman. They were married over a century ago, and we still honor their memory today.  
Carrie Mae Hillman
I wish I had been fortunate enough to meet Henry. I have heard many good things about him, but I am sad to say that I never had the pleasure to meet him.

I know that I was extremely blessed to be able to spend a good portion of my childhood getting to know my great-grandma, and most of her children, well. I have been quite fortunate in knowing these wonderful people, and I will not forget these memories I have of them.

The first reunion began as a birthday party for my great-grandmother, Carrie, when she was 95 years old. I may have been a young girl, but I still remember her being able to visit with her little sister, Maude, who was 90 at the time!!

At past reunions, I have had learned that four of Henry and Carrie’s sons were in World War II at the same time. I have also discovered that one of my dad’s 1st cousins served on the same Army base as Elvis Presley back in the day!  

Most of Henry & Carrie's children (and spouses). Carrie, the
matriarch, is sitting near the middle of the back row.
So, let’s see if I can discover anything new this year!    

And...I would love to hear what you have learned about your family this year! Tell me all about it!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Brushing up on the History of Alsace-Lorraine

If I were to guess, many of you paid just enough attention in your history classes to pass tests and finish assignments. I was not much different. And I am also willing to bet that most of you regret this, once you started researching your family history.

I know I do! I have learned more about German history in the last year than I’ve known my whole lifetime!
Sign posted at Oldenburg, Indiana Freudenfest
And because what I’ve learned may help some of you in your own research, I would like to pass on a little of my findings.

Alsace-Lorraine is an area of a little over 5,000 square miles in France that runs along the present-day borders of Switzerland to the south, and Germany to the east and north.
Map of Alsae-Lorraine region (Encyclopedia Britannica)
In German, Alsace-Lorraine is known as Elsass-Lothringen. I have also seen Alsace written as ElsaB (what resembles a B in English, is actually a German S). If someone could help me elaborate on the German alphabet a bit, I wouldn’t mind the assistance.

As far back as the 800’s, Alsace was incorporated into Lothringen. Through the Treaty of Mersen in 870, it was united with the German territories. And for roughly 800 years, it remained firmly within the German border, and created a centuries-old German heritage by the local residents.

It wasn’t until the 1600’s when the French began to influence that “centuries-old German heritage”.  Between the Wars of Religion, and the Thirty Years’ War, this influence grew to the point of some of the cities requesting help from France. With the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 giving France an “informal protectorate” over Alsace, the French influence was becoming much more than mere influence.

King Louis XIV established full control of the area during his reign, and Alsace was completely incorporated into France by the French Revolution in 1789. The residents of this region continued to speak a German dialect all of their own, known as Alsatian.

For almost seventy years, this was the way of life for the people of Alsace-Lorraine. The residents of this area actively participated in French life, and the use of French continued to spread throughout the region. The centuries-old German heritage, and the language, was still firmly fixed rooted in the people. But many of them also embraced the French culture and language, too.

And at this point in the history of Alsace-Lorraine, the region begins to be at the center of a major tug-of-war between the two countries.  In 1870, Germany goes through a major upheaval and becomes a unified country. Shortly thereafter, in 1871, the two countries go to battle in the Franco-German War. A result of this war is that Alsace becomes annexed to Germany.

With two world wars being fought on these lands, the region was bounced back and forth several times throughout the next several decades. After World War I ended in 1919, the Treaty of Versailles handed Alsace-Lorraine back to the French. Near the beginning of World War II, in 1940, it was given back to the Germans. With the fall of the Third Reich, it was retroceded back to the French in 1945, where it remains to the present-day.

How does this affect your family research?

Depending on the time that your ancestor lived in the “old country”, that “old country” may have changed hands once or twice. This would then affect what nationality they were at that time, and where those records might be kept.

For example, my cousin, David, has records of our shared ancestor living in Merkwiller-Pechelbronn, in the Alsace-Lorraine area. He left this area, I presume, in 1871. My presumption being that he is recorded as boarding a ship in Hamburg, Germany in June 1871. His name is recorded as being Henri, and nationality as French. His residence listed as ElsaB (Alsace).

In other records, you will find his name as Heinrich. Nine years after he arrived in Indiana, he was already an Americanized “Henry” in the 1880 census. What is interesting is his place of birth on the two census records. According to the 1880 census he was born in Prussia; and the 1900 census, it was Germany.

So, in my family research, knowing all of this history of Alsace-Lorraine helps tremendously.  He was born in 1846; however, I am not sure if he was born in Merkwiller-Pechelbronn. If he was born west of the Rhine River, he would have been born in France.  Born east of the Rhine River, Prussia would be correct. Germany, as a unified country, did not exist yet.

The Germania - the ship that took my 2x-great grandfather to America
He sailed to America in June of 1871. Although I am not aware of the exact date that Alsace-Lorraine was annexed to Germany, but it was in the year of 1871. So, he very easily could’ve been a French citizen that was born in Prussia, when he boarded that ship in Hamburg, Germany.

Although I know all of this may seem as clear as mud. And, if you have no family ties to the Alsace-Lorraine region, or even to the country of Germany itself, this whole post will make you feel like you are back in world history class trying to stifle a yawn.

To any of my readers whose family trees take them back to this part of Europe, I sincerely hope that my post has helped at least a little.  Now that I even have a little more understanding of the history, I have a lot more questions for David at the family reunion next month regarding old Henri, Heinrich, Henry!!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Henry, Heinrich, Henri...Still a Haessig!

Henry, by any other name, is still a Haessig, right? (To slightly paraphrase Shakespeare! Lol) 

I think that I have procrastinated researching this side of my family tree, because I thought it might be a little harder than some of the others.  Honestly, who wants to start with doing the hard work!

But I am so glad that I have started looking into the Haessigs.  Although, first, I had to start by looking into a little bit of German history, and specifically the Alsace-Lorraine, area. Today's post will focus more on the Haessig family. But, I do plan on getting into more of that in a future post, because it is quite interesting.  It kept changing hands between France and Germany, and this affects some key details in your research.

I have to apologize a little here for just a moment. I have just moved, and have much of my paperwork still in boxes. But I can fill you in on what I have in one handy binder that I kept close to me in the move.  

The following picture is of my 2x-great grandfather, Heinrich, Henri, or Henry, Haessig (depending on what records you find!) and his family.  He was born in the Alsace-Lorraine area, and imigrated to the United States in 1871.  

The Haessigs-(seated) Sophia Anna Kuntz Haessig, Heinrich (Henri) Haessig. Standing - (L. to R.) George Philip Haessig, Caroline H. Haessig, Henry George Haessig, Smile Salome Haessig, George Jacob Eperle (stepson).
I was lucky enough to not only find the passenger list from when he landed in New York, but also from his departure in Hamburg, Germany.

Henri Haessig in the Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934

New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957, for Henri Haessig

"Henri's" info from N.Y. Passenger List
In these records, he is listed as Henri. In other records that must still be tucked into my boxes, I have found him listed as Heinrich. Later, after living in Indiana for several years, census records will list him as Henry. I am so very glad that they chose to name their son (my great-grandfather) Henry!

I am also very fortunate that my research has lead me to other descendents of Heinrich "Henry" Haessig that I had never met until just the last few years. 

  • Charlie Haessig ~ son of George Philip Haessig. Among many accomplishments, Charlie was also a survivor of the bombing at Pearl Harbor. I was lucky to get to know this man at one of our Haessig Family Reunions.
  • His four children are all wonderful, too. One of his sons has delved much deeper into the Haessig family history, and has been a godsend as I research our shared history.  (These are living relatives, and I will only add there names as I have permission.)
  • I was also introduced to another of George Haessig's grandchildren recently because of this blog.  The "Haessig Researcher" cousin mentioned just above had told his first cousin to check out my blog.  I am glad that she did.  She has written me about some wonderful memories she had of her grandfather, and also filled me in on our family's quilting heritage.
As I started this blog, I had hopes of meeting new relatives as I discovered my heritage.  It looks like I am starting down the right path!  I hope that I meet many more!!

(As I unpack my other papers, and am in touch with more of my Haessig researchers, I will hopefully fill in a few more of the blanks within this post.

Next up, a quick lesson on general German history, and specifically the Alsace-Lorraine area!  Stay tuned!!