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

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