Saturday, January 18, 2014

Hillburg or Helbourg

Getting the Metzners back to Germany has been quite a chore.  No family stories have been passed down telling us where the Metzners may have lived Germany.  There are only a few clues from public records -- those are outlined in “Clues from George Metzner” on 1/11/2014.  Based on those clues, I found a family that might work for our German ancestors.  Of course, it is just a theory and certainly up for debate. I welcome others’ thoughts on my findings.

The most significant clue is revealed through George Metzner (1813-1875) and William Metzner (1811-1882), presumed brothers.   It is a place name – Hillburg or Helbourg – mentioned in U.S. census records for these men.  Another clue is found in George Metzner’s passenger record of 1841. It lists Coburg as his German residence.  With that I looked for a Hillburg or Helbourg near Coburg – Coburg being a sizable town in southern Germany. Slogging through old maps of Germany I found a couple places that could be our Metzner homeland.

1890 map of the State of Thϋringen. It neighbors Saxony which is where American records say our German ancestors came from. Saxony's borders changed many times so it's perfectly likely that Thϋringen, at one time, may have been part of Saxony, or visa versa. This map shows Coburg (Koburg) where George Metzner lived prior to coming to America in 1841.   Hildburgh or Heldburg (circled in red) may be a family hometown as noted in U.S. census records for brothers George and William Metzner.     

Next I looked for possible records microfilmed by the Latter Day Saints in the Coburg area.  There were church records from Heldburg but they were too early to do me much good.  There were also records from Hellborn.  I rented those but had no luck.  So what could I do? How would I figure out if our family might have come from either of these places?  

That’s when I decided to write a letter – it was September 2002 and I wrote to the Staatsarchiv Coburg.  They were nice enough to reply – in German – but I got the drift of the letter. They directed me to another repository – the Ev.-Luth. Pfarramt Heldburg-Ummerstadt.  That repository informed me that I would have to wait until January 2004 (nearly a year later!) because the church records for Heldburg were out-of-house being microfilmed and then they would be transferred to the Lutheran Church Archives in Thϋringen.   It was a long year!  In February 2004 I wrote to the Thϋringen archive and it took another full year for them to get back to me. 

Based on the little bit of information I gave them, they responded with a family that is an uncanny match to ours.  I gave them the following data: 

-         Jasper Metzner married Hannah Risanburg, date unknown
-         They had at least 8 children including John (b. 1805), William (b. 1807), and George (b. 1813)
-         The family may have come from Hellburg or Coburg 

Envelope containing records sent by the Thuringen archives.
The day the envelope arrived from Germany was like Christmas, ten times over!  It was so thick I knew there had to be something promising in there.  Also promising was the bill they included – 150€ -- basically $300 including the cost of an international bank transfer. Worth every penny!!!

The archivist sent me all the church records from Heldburg (between 1773-1834) that contained the name Metzner, but she transcribed nothing. It took me weeks to work through the records and understand what I had.  And what I had was a family that seemed to fit.  There were eight children with names similar to those listed in John Metzner’s biography (Biographical & Historical Record of Jay & Blackford Counties, Indiana, 1887) – Rachel, John, William, George, Hannah, Andrew, Nicholas, Mary. The father's and mother’s names were similar to Jasper and Hannah Risanburg Metzner, and Jasper was a “cartwright” – a similar occupation to the brothers John, William, and George who have been variously listed as coach maker, wagon maker, and harness maker. 

There are three records for Jasper and Hannah which follow. It includes my translation, the original handwritten record, and my best guess to the German text.  Note: text in brackets [ ] contain words and phrases that I could not translate adequately and have given my best guess as to their meanings or German spelling:

·         Marriage, 1804-1805                                                     
6. Johann Caspar Metzner.  Citizen and cartwright here, the youngest legitimate son of Johann  Andreas Metzner, cartwright at [Wolamind], and a bachelor, [married to] Johanna Susanna Weissenborn, the oldest legitimate daughter of Johann Conrad Weissenborn, citizen and tanner here; it is her first marriage; banns were posted three times; marriage [on the] 21st August [with something done in Stille i.e., silence]

6. Johann Caspar Metzner. Burger und Wagner allhier, das Meister Johann Andreas Metzner Wagner zu Wolamind, ehelich jungster Sohn ein Junggeselle war das mit Johanna Susanna Weissenbornin, Meister  Johann Conrad Weissenborn Burger und Roth gerber allhier, ehelich altester Tochter er ster Ehe jungfruelichen Standes, auf vorher  [gegengener?] 3 [maliger] Aufgebot das 21 August von der [Betstunde] in des Stille [au pulirl]

·         Death & Burial, 1837                                                                              
No 32.  Johann Caspar Metzner. Husband, citizen and cartwright here, died the11th March in the 4th hour of the morning, and buried the 14th March after midday, [illegitimate church?*], age: 59 years 7 months 23 days; died of emaciation [sometimes defined as tuberculosis].  Survived by 8 children [von k___]  [including] 1 son in America [born here] and 2 married daughters 

*perhaps means he was not a member of the church 


[nrott:] 32. Johann Caspar Metzner, Ehemann, Burger und Wagnermeister dahier, sterb den 11 Marz fruh 4 Uhr, und ____ beerdigot das 14 Marz, Nachmittag, [unehel_ kirche]  Er war alt: 59 Jahr 7 Monate 23 Tags; und Sterb au Auszehrung.  [Erhietralost] 8 Kinder, [von k___] 1 Sohn nach  Amerika aus [geburtsort] und 2 Tochter verheiratet

·         Death & Burial, 1846                                                                            
23/Johanne Susanna Metzner
born Weissenbornin 8/3 1783 63 years 2 months 22 days
Died 30 May 4th hour of the morning

Widow of  ___ Gr____ citizen and master cartwright Joh. Caspar Metzner; died following [Kuiszawantz__ung], buried [with ceremony?] 

on 2 June before midday. Bell ringing at 10 o’clock. 

23/Johanne Susanna Metzner gbr Weissenbornin 8/3/783  63 J. 2 M.  22 E.)  
das 30 Mai Morgan 4 Uhr.
eine Wittwe das ___ Gr___ Burg. & Wagner meister Joh. Caspar Metzner, ist gestorben in folz [von] [Kuiszawantz_ung] be  gradult [von] De [Ceremon
2 Jun Vormitt.  10 Uhr und Glochen gelaute.

My theory is that Jasper Metzner, identified in John Metzner’s Jay County, Indiana biography, is Johann Caspar Metzner.  Hannah Risanburg, mentioned in the same biography, is Johanne Susanna Weissenborn. They were married on August 21, 1804.

I don’t think it is a stretch to accept Caspar for Jasper.  And Hannah would be an abbreviated name for Johanne. It is her surname that is the most problematic.  How do we accept Weissenborn for Risanburg?  My theory is that John (or perhaps one of his children) provided the information for John’s biography which was published in 1887, one year before his death.  It is almost certain that he spoke with a heavy German accent.  If he was the one conveying the history, with his heavy accent, the person taking the information may have heard Risanburg for Weissenborn.  And perhaps John, in his old age, had other infirmities that caused his speech to be less clear.  Even if his children were conveying the biography, they, all reared in the United States, would have completely different accents than their father and may also have heard Weissenborn as Risanburg.  Someday I’d like to find someone with a good strong German accent to pronounce Weissenborn for me and see if I hear Risanburg. 

I'll let you absorb the above before I outline more clues. There are a few more. The theory continues… 

Auf Wiedersehen

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Clues from George Metzner

If you’ve been following Linnea’s Legacy posts, you’ve read some tall tales of our Metzner ancestors along with “real” life events, beginning with the first generation that arrived in the U.S. to the generation that includes my grandfather, Albert Louis Metzner (1902-1970), and his sister Helen Metzner Kramer McCarthy Kramer (1897-1984). For the most part, that’s where we’ll end our journey of Metzner American roots. Next stop Germany…but before we traipse back further, let’s take one more look at our Metzner lineage in the U.S.:

1st Generation:                              William Metzner       (1811-1882)

2nd Generation:                             Louis N. Metzner      (1872-1930)

Louis N. Metzner, ca. 1890

3rd Generation:                           Albert L. Metzner      (1902-1970)

Albert L. Metzner, ca. 1920
4th Generation:              Gordon L. Metzner   (1930-1970)
                                      Albert J. Metzner      (1932-1984)

5th-7th Generation:         All the rest of us!

One question remains, what is our German legacy?  This blog (and perhaps one or two more) will be devoted to getting to my theory on our German heritage.

I’ve found a few enticing clues within U.S. records, along with a published county history. Let’s begin with an excerpt from the county history. It contains a brief biography of John Metzner (Source: Biographical & Historical Record of Jay & Blackford Counties, Indiana, 1887, pp. 585-586).

John Metzner, one of the old and respected pioneers of Noble Township [Jay County], residing on section 7, was born in Saxony Germany, October 2, 1805. His parents, Jasper and Hannah (Risanburg) Metzner, were born, reared and married in Saxony, Germany, his mother dying there. His father died in 1838 on the ocean while crossing to America. They [Jasper & Hannah] were the parents of the following children—Rachel, John, William, George, Hannah, Andrew, Nicholas and Mary. John Metzner was reared to manhood in his native country, and there learned the wagonmaker’s trade. In the spring of 1838 he immigrated to America, landing at Baltimore, Maryland, where he worked at his trade a year. After living in Baltimore eighteen months he visited Canada, where he lived a short time. He then returned to the United States, stopping at Cleveland, Ohio, where he met his future wife, Miss Catherine Young, to whom he married at Newark, Ohio, November 4, 1839 … For twelve years after his marriage Mr. Metzner lived at Louisville, Ohio, working at his trade, and making a comfortable home for his family.

John is the brother of our William Metzner (1811-1882). John's brief biography provides a wealth of clues: 

-       First, their parents’ names are Jasper Metzner and Hannah Risanburg; 

-       Their siblings are Rachel, George, Hannah, Andrew, Nicholas, and Mary;
-       John’s birthdate is Oct. 2, 1805;

-       John arrived in America through the Port of Baltimore in the spring of 1838 (and his father apparently died on that voyage – more on that later because I suspect that’s not the case); 

-       John married in Newark, Ohio in 1839 and for a number of years resided in St. Louisville, Ohio (both are in Licking County where our direct ancestors lived; in fact, our ancestral grandfather, Louis Metzner, was born in St. Louisville); and finally,

-     There is a possible family tradition of wagonmaking. 

Based on these clues I began a search in the U.S. for each of John and William's siblings, hoping to discover if any of them also came to America.  I only found evidence of a George Metzner arriving in 1841. Records associated with him have, surprisingly, been the most helpful in guiding me back to Germany. 
George arrived through the Port of Baltimore -- the date was June 22, 1841. The ship’s manifest identifies George as a coach maker from Coburg. 

The Clementine's passenger manifest lists Georg Metzner, age 28, a Coach Maker from Coburg. Based on his age in this record, George was born about 1813.
Alone, this information is not that telling, so let’s keep going. Remember, in John’s biography it said he was a wagon maker – now, here is George, possibly his brother, who is a coach maker. Similarly, brother William (our direct ancestor) is listed in the 1870 U.S. census as a harness maker. 

Metzer[sic] Wm, 55, w (i.e., white), Harnessmaker
It’s not unusual for sons to learn the trades of their fathers. We might guess then, that if these three are brothers, the Metzners in Germany were likely in the business of making horse-drawn vehicles and/or related accessories, such as harnesses.

John, William, and George are each found in the 1850, 1860 and 1870 U.S. Censuses. Their birthplaces are listed as Saxony (occasionally Germany); each has worked in an occupation related to horse-drawn transportation; and all have lived in Licking County, Ohio for at least a period of time. These are all very compelling coincidences to link them together.

Then I find the clue that I believe leads us to our ancestors in Germany.  The 1870 Ohio Census of Putnam County identifies George Metzner as being born in Hillburgh, Saxony. Coincidentally, in 1880, William Metzner of Licking County, Ohio identifies his mother’s birthplace as Helbourg, Saxony. 

1870 U.S. Census, Ohio, Putnam County. Mertzner[sic] George, 57, male, white, farmer, real estate value $5000, personal property value $627; his birthplace Hillburgh Germany

1880 U.S. Census, Ohio, Licking County. Top row shows the last 3 columns of data entered for William Metzner.  Far left column is his birthplace: Saxony. Center column is his father's birthplace ------. Right column is his mother's birthplace: Helbourgh Sax.

Okay, Hillburgh – Helbourg. Big difference, right?  Well, I’m not so sure. There are too many similarities between these three presumed brothers, and now to find two of them claiming a connection to German towns that sound incredibly alike – well, it’s mind-blowing! -- at least to a genealogist.  And knowing that census takers were notorious for spelling phonetically, it only makes sense that Hillburgh and Helbourg could be the same place. 

The next step is to find a town of a similar name in Saxony – and perhaps near Coburg, which was listed on George’s passenger record.  That’ll be for another blog.  

Oh, by-the-way, finding clues to our Germany heritage in U.S. records essentially ended with the deaths of John, William, and George.

The first of the men to die was George on June 19, 1875 in Putnam County, Ohio.  According to History of Northwest Ohio: A Narrative Account of its Historical Progress and Development…. Vol. 2, page 884…

Mr. Metzner settled on a farm in Putnam County and lived there for a number of years, his death resulting from a quarrel with a neighbor during which he was struck down without a chance to defend himself.

Next was William, our direct ancestor.  He died on June 8, 1882 in Licking County, Ohio from a condition called dropsy.

And lastly, John, of Jay County, Indiana died on January 10, 1888. The cause of his death is unknown. Travis LeMaster, cousin and fellow genealogist, found this obituary in the Evangelical Messenger for Jan. 24, 1888. It contradicts some of the facts in John's Jay County biography -- I'll examine those facts in a future blog:    
     METZNER. — John Metzner was born in Germany, October 21, 1805, came to America in 1837, located in Licking Co., O., where he continued to live until 1850, when he with his family came to Jay Co. He was married to Catharine Young, Nov. 3, 1839, and to them were born six sons and five daughters, of whom 2 sons and one daughter have gone before him over the river of death. He embraced the Christian religion in 1840, in which he continued to live until his death, and died in the triumphs of a living Redeemer, Jan. 10, 1888.    Father Metzner was a member of the Ev Association, and in his death we lose a brother and a father, but that which is our loss is his gain. Funeral services by the writer, assisted by Bro. H. E. Moser.   

Stayed tuned! Next time we’ll go to Germany!