Monday, July 28, 2014

52 Ancestors: #25 Francis/Franz Joseph Henn (1800-1863) and #26 Catharina Phillipina Blank Henn (1805 – 1890) Baden, Germany to Oswego County NY

Climbing My Family Tree: German Immigrants to North America (1853)
German Immigrants to North America (1853)
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 This is my latest post for the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge initiated by Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small blog. For more information about the challenge and links to the other blogs participating in the challenge, please click on the badge in the right margin.

As I have visitors this week, I am doing my two ancestor posts for this week (on my catch-up schedule) in one. #25 Francis/Franz Joseph Henn and #26 Catharina Phillipina Blank Henn are my third great grandparents on my father's father's side (she was known as Phillipina and that is how I will refer to her). In the materials I received from my Dad, Francis and Phillipina Henn, are as far back in this line that anyone had gotten in tracing back our Henn line, and it dead-ended with the knowledge that they came from Baden, Germany. Accordingly, I was absolutely astonished and delighted to find a copy (English translation) of their marriage record information on It had the right names and it was in the same place as Phillipina’s and many of the children’s births were registered (as found on, so I believe it is the marriage record of my third great grandparents.  The record also included some information that wasn’t in Dad’s paperwork: their marriage date, and the names of Francis’ and Phillipina’s parents! Whoo-hoo! I went back another level! Well, I have names….but nothing else ...yet.  

I’ve learned this week that if you are researching a person who lived in Germany before 1876, the best place to look is the church records as civil records of births, marriages, or deaths weren’t kept until after 1876; but everything I’ve read so far says that the church records were reasonably accurate. In some areas of Germany, the records of people of other faiths were kept by whatever the predominant church/worship place was in the area. This perhaps partially due to the fact that “Germany” didn’t exist until the late 19th Century. Instead, the area was made up of smaller areas controlled in a feudalistic system by a hierarchy of royalty (princes, dukes, counts, etc). Farmers were very nearly the bottom rung of that very regimented hierarchy.

Climbing My Family Tree: Unification of Germany 1815-1871, Baden in lower left of  Germany
Unification of Germany 1815-1871, Baden is in lower left of Germany

Franz Joseph Henn was born on or about November 8, 1800 to Melchior and Gertrudt (Grimm) Henn. In the marriage record index, kept by the Catholic (Katholisch) church in Doerlesberg,  Mosbach, Baden, Germany, Catharina Phillipina was listed only as Phillipine; her parents were Georg Michael Blank and M. _ Anna Schulz. She was born on or about November 17, 1805. I don’t know whether they were born in the same towns/areas or not. I don’t know anything about their growing up years. I do know that, according to records kept by the Catholic church in Doerlesberg, Mosbach, Baden, Germany, Franz Joseph Henn and Phillipine Blank were married on August 5, 1827. 

In the Baden-Wurttemberg section of Germany, many of the farmers had a side occupation that they passed down, father to son. As the Henn’s were farmers after they immigrated to the United States, it is logical that they were probably farmers in Germany as well. I know from family documents and a few U.S. Censuses that Franz and Philippine’s sons worked as coopers when they first got to America. That was a skilled occupation passed down through middle class farming families in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. So Franz & Phillipine were likely part of the middle class. They may have owned land obtained by fief (I haven’t established that yet) and were subject to the rules and laws imposed by the fiefholders to whom they would owe a sort of feudal allegiance. In the early 1800’s people had little choice in the persons they married as the marriage was often arranged by their parents as a business transaction in order to gain wealth by combining lands through the marriage. Additionally, the couple had to apply to the lord their family served to get permission to marry. The lord imposed a fee and sometimes the couple didn’t have the money to pay the marriage fee, and so delayed the marriage. This sometimes resulted in children born before the official marriage.

I don’t know yet if this occurred in Franz and Phillipina’s case, but about eight months before the marriage Phillipina gave birth to a daughter, Genofera Blank (later, also known as Genevieve [Henn] Scheer, 1827-1916), on January 2, 1827. The record, kept by the same Catholic Church as the marriage record, did not show a father’s name in the index, but my reading shows that is normal for pre-marriage babies. [The original was not available to view, or I would have.]  I haven’t yet found a birth record for Franz and Phillipina’s daughter Serena Mary [Henn] Dick, but later in the U.S. Censuses she indicated that she was born in July 1828, which would put it nearly a year after the marriage. I did find birth records Franz and Phillipina’s other children: Dorothe/Dorothea [Henn] Snyder (1830-1896);  Andreas/Andrew Henn(1832-1911); Generosa/Rosa (Henn) Strauss (1836-1908); Edmund Henn (1838-1961); my great great grandfather Josephat/John Henn (1842 – 1861); Franz/Frank J. Henn (1843-1928); and Josepha/Josephine (Henn) Schueurmann,  (1845-1877). All were registered through the Catholic Church in Doerlesberg, Mosbach, Baden, Germany, with the exception of the youngest two children who were registered at the synagogue (Israeliten) in, Eubigheim, Mosbach, Baden, Germany.

The area of Baden in which they lived was over-populated and land for farming was hard to come by. In 1817 Baden had become part of a German confederation, which then led to a few decades of political unrest, culminating in an attempted revolution in Baden in 1849, which failed after the Grand Duke of Baden joined with Bavaria in requesting the armed intervention of Prussia, and the armies of Prussia invaded Baden in June 1849 and crushed the rebellion. This couldn’t have made it a comfortable place to try to work a farm and raise a family. In addition, there were repeated years of crop failure and potato blight in the period between 1846 and 1853, making it very had to live and depressing the economy. All of this together perhaps led many farmers to truly view America, with its storied fertile lands and wide, open spaces, to appear to be a shining beacon of hope.

Climbing My Family Tree: Port of Le Havre, France mid-19th Century
Port of Le Havre, France mid-19th Century
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One year after their eldest son went to America in 1852 at age 20 (see Andrew/Andreas’ story), Franz Joseph and Phillipina, immigrated with their entire family to America, joining Andreas/Andrew in Syracuse NY.  The Germans travelling to America in the 1850’s had the money to pay for their own tickets and thus arrived in America without debt. Franz Joseph and Phillipina first travelled to Le Havre France, where they had obtained passage on the ship, Trumbull, to New York City.  The ship’s passenger list (pictured below) inexplicably lists Franz Joseph Henn as “Henn, Fr. Friedrich” from Baden but the age is right, and listed with him are Phillipine and all of the children at the correct ages. So I tend to think that whoever filled out the list – it’s all the same handwriting – just got his name mixed up. 

Climbing My Family Tree: "Trumbull" Passenger List, listing Henn Family
"Trumbull" Passenger List, listing Henn Family
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They would have obtained the tickets in Germany as France required emigrants to show their tickets at the border. In addition to whatever personal property they were bringing with them to America, they would also have brought food – a lot of it – as emigrants were required to bring their own food for the voyage. They travelled in steerage, which would have been crowded and uncomfortable. (To read interesting descriptions of the voyages between Havre & New York in letters sent home by immingrants, click here.) Voyages lasted approximately 45-50 days. They arrived at the port of New York City thirty years before the creation of the Ellis Island processing center. (To read a contemporary story from The New York Times of what it was like for an immigrant to arrive in New York City in 1853, click here.)  

Climbing My Family Tree: Ad shown in Freiburg for package voyage between Le Havre and New York, 1856
Ad shown in Freiburg, Germany for package voyage between Le Havre and New York, 1856
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From NYC they could have taken a steamship or train to Syracuse NY, where they joined Andreas. Sometime thereafter, they each anglicized their names, probably to better fit in in their new country.

Almost immediately, Francis and Phillipina moved the family up to a farming community named West Monroe, NY, about 22 miles north of Syracuse, in Oswego County, on the shore of Oneida Lake. They appeared in the 1855 New York Census in West Monroe, and indicated they had lived in the community for 2 years. Francis was 55 and listed as a farmer.  Phillipina is inexplicably listed as Phebe (one wonders if the census taker couldn’t spell Phillipina), age 49.  Still living at home were: Andrew, Generosa (spelled Russena), Edmund, Joseph (my great-great-grandfather John), Francis (Frank), and Josephine. All were listed as Aliens, so none of the family were naturalized citizens yet.

Climbing My Family Tree: Oswego County, NY (about 1902)
Oswego County, NY (about 1902), West Monroe is on North shore of Oneida Lake
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The 1860 Federal census found Francis and Phillipina still farming in West Monroe, Oswego County, New York. Still living at home were John (previously Josephat), Frank, and Josephine, Also there that day was a 1 year old boy, Jepa Cottel – I wonder if Phillipina or Josephine was babysitting that day? Francis indicates that he can read and write English (or rather, does not indicate that he cannot do so). The main population census showed that Francis owned $700 worth of real property and $300 worth of personal property. This was back when farming was done mostly by hand and/or with the help of a mule or horse. People could not work huge farms, without a lot of help then. He also was surveyed for the 1860 Federal Census Non-Population schedule on Productions of Agriculture. That survey indicated that he had 30  (or 80 – it’s hard to tell whether the handwriting is a 3 or an 8) acres of improved land and 20 acres unimproved. Here he states the cash value as $900 and the value of farm implements and machinery as $50. He owns 1 horse and no mules, but he has 30 (or 80) milk cows, 2 working oxen, and 2 other cattle. He owns 3 sheep and 2 swine. He estimates the value of his livestock at $173. During the year ending June 1, 1860, the farm produced 40 bushels of rye, 40 bushels of “Indian corn”, 50 bushels of oats, 9 pounds of wool, 50 bushels of “Irish Potatoes”, 5 bushels of buckwheat, 5 tons of hay and 300 ( or 800 - again hard to tell whether the handwriting is a 3 or an 8) pounds of butter. He indicated that the value of animals slaughtered during the year was $35 (or $85 – the handwriting problem is consistent.) 

In 1861, their son, Edmund died. He was only 22, and unmarried. I don’t know how he died. Or, for that matter, where he was in 1860.

Francis died two years later, at age 62, on April 20, 1863. I haven’t been able to find out why he died but he evidently knew he was dying because he drafted his will on the same day he died. (I found a copy through the collection of NY Probate records, 1629-1971, for Oswego County, and plan to transcribe it, as best I can, in a separate post later this week.) He was buried in St. Francis Cemetery in Oswego County, NY.

Climbing My Family Tree: Grave of Francis (Franz Joseph) Henn (1800-1863)
Grave of Francis (Franz Joseph) Henn (1800-1863), originally posted on ancestry,com by Reckinger
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After her husband died, Phillipina saw two of her sons, Andrew and John, go off to fight in the Civil War in 1864, and, thankfully, return in 1865.  In 1870, the U.S. Census shows that Philipina is living with John Philip Henn, son of Serena Mary Henn Dick in West Monroe; she is “keeping house” and he, at age 15, is farming. The census indicates that she doesn’t own any real property and that her personal property is valued at $100. In 1871, acting as Executrix, Phillipina probated Francis’ will, in an action to prove his will filed October 12, 1871 The Court on, November 27, 1871, acknowledged the sworn statements of the witnesses to the will and declared it proved to be written by Francis when he was in a sound mind, on April 20, 1863. It left her his real (land) and personal property. I don’t know yet why she waited until seven years after her husband’s death to try to probate his will.

I then lost Philipina for about 20 years. I cannot find her in the 1875 New York Census, or in the 1880 U.S. Census. The person who wrote her entry at said that “She lived on a farm in West Monroe, Oswego County, until after 1870 and then in Oneida, NY with one of her daughters until her death.” That would indicate that she probably lived with Serena Mary Henn Dick, even though I could find nothing showing that Phillipina lived with Serena and her husband, Jacob, and nothing showing that Serena’s family had lived in Oneida NY prior to 1900 (I have seen the 1875 NY Census, as well as the 1880 Federal Census, for Serena and her family and her mother isn’t listed with them). On the other hand, Serena and her family did live in Lenox, Madison County, NY through, at least 1892, and Lenox NY and Oneida NY are only about 4.5 miles apart. Phillipina, perhaps, just wasn’t in the house on the dates of the censuses, or perhaps lived close by but not with them.

Phillipina  died on August 5, 1890, at age 84, and was buried in St. Francis Cemetery in Oswego County NY.

Climbing My Family Tree: Grave of Phillipina Blank Henn (1805-1890)
Grave of Phillipina Blank Henn (1805-1890), originally posted on ancestry,com by Reckinger
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------------------------------------------;;;  "New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1891", index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 10 Jul 2014), Joseph Henn, 1853; ; ; ;; ;  1855 & 1875 New York State Census; 1860 & 1870 US Census and 1860 Non-Population Schedule, Agriculture Production; "New York, Probate Records, 1629-1971," images, FamilySearch (,214485401 : accessed 27 Jul 2014), Oswego > Wills 1865-1872 vol J-K > images 522 & 523 of 717;

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