C19th Emigrants from Dorfprozelten to “America” Part 1

Yesterday I was out on the back deck nearly all day chasing research rabbits down the hole. Today I’m driven inside by the pounding rain –the first of the season. Woo Hoo! (writing this and posting have taken me into yet another day and now it’s just HUMID!).

Translation: If you would like to read this post in a different language you can click here.

It’s been ages since I’ve put my nose to the research grindstone and yesterday involved some new learning as I ventured into the US records properly for the first time. I’ve been dabbling from time to time trying to find my 2x great grandfather’s brother, Philip Joseph Kunkel born 1840, but without conclusive success. Yesterday’s sleuthing started with Chris Paton’s blog alert on the release of New York Naturalisations.

A little background

George Mathias Kunkel’s mother was Eva Catharina (Catherine) Happ, whose family had lived in the village of Dorfprozeltenon the River Main, Bavaria and owned an inn, Das Goldene Fass, there for at least 100 years. Her first marriage was to a man called Georg Jakob Ulrich from nearby Stadtprozelten. They had surviving children Maria Ludovika (died aged 23), Josefa Gertrud (married Haun), Jacobina, Karl (died aged 22) and Jacob August. Three other children had died in infancy as was quite common in the village at the time. Georg Ulrich died quite young, aged only 34, leaving Catharina a widow, again not uncommon.

A postcard of Das Goldene Fass mid-20thC. Kindly provided to me by Georg Veh, local historian.

Das Goldene Fass before its demolition for a bank. Image kindly provided by Georg Veh.

Unusually Catharina did not remarry quickly (a few months later was typical), perhaps because she had more economic autonomy through being the owner of the inn.

Her second marriage was to Adam Kunkel from a village called Laufach in the Spessart Forest region. Their surviving children were Georg Mathias (my ancestor, b 1834) and his brother Philip Josef (b 1840). It’s perhaps worth noting that in this part of Bavaria (very Catholic), baptism typically occurred on the same day as births unless the birth was late in the day.

The Laufach church and a historical Bavarian display. P Cass 2003.

The family story in Australia has always been that one son came here and one (or two) went to “America”. As Philip Joseph Kunkel disappears from the Dorfprozelten church records I’ve assumed (yes, I know!) that he’s the one I’m searching for…far easier today, in theory, than it was in the pre-internet era.

Catharina’s eldest son, Jacob August Ulrich, inherited the family’s inn, Das Goldenes Fass, while my ancestor, Georg Mathias, emigrated to Australia. Jacob married Elisabeth Firmbach circa 1851 (perhaps the impetus for George to migrate?). Thanks to the local history and the generous local historian, Georg Veh, I know their children were Josephine, Georg Jacob (died in infancy), Maria Augusta, a child (of whom more later), Bertha, Ernestine Veronika, Georg Jacob and Karl (died in infancy).

Of these I knew that Bertha had emigrated c1881 to the US where she married a Dorfprozelten man, William Kuhn. Brother Georg Jacob followed her c1882 and married an “Englishwoman”.

Tragedy struck this family in a big way in 1868 when, within months, four of the family died from lung disease (Lungensucht), perhaps TB? Jacob died on 19 June, son Karl on 1 July, Jacob’s wife Elisabeth on 20 August, and his mother Catharina on 15 October. What a terrible time for the remaining family as they lost one loved one after another.

Yesterday’s research revealed a new discovery: Jacob and Elisabeth’s eldest daughter had also emigrated, circa 1873, only five years after her parents’ death. What became of the surviving four children, two still under ten, is unknown, presumably they were cared for by other family members, aunts or uncles since their Kunkel/Happ/Ulrich grandparents were also dead.

What happened to the Happ family’s inn? After Jacob August’s death it was taken over by August Ulrich, possibly Catharina and Georg Ulrich’s youngest son, though the birth dates don’t gel. In 1930 the family sold the inn and for the first time in two hundred years it moved out of the Happ descendancy.

I am greatly indebted to Georg Veh and the other local researchers in Dorfprozelten for the background to this story. If you have Dorfprozelten heritage please leave a comment so I can give you the details on ordering their excellent local histories.

This post looked like being two much to digest unless split into two parts so Part 2 is for the American discoveries.

Next post: Across the Pond: the American connection.