Thursday, September 11, 2014

52 Ancestors: #32 Melchior Simon Henn (1774 - ????)

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.
When it was originally set up, the challenge stated “have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor“. This week’s post is about a research problem, my fourth great grandfather, Melchior Simon Henn …and the rest of the family in Germany.

When I was researching my 3rd great grandfather Franz Joseph (later Francis) Henn and his wife Phillipina Blank Henn, I was ecstatic when I found a record of their marriage on which included the names of both sets of parents. Franz Joseph’s parent’s names were listed as Melchior Henn and Gertrudt Grimm. I also found out the names of Franz Joseph’s probable siblings by finding other marriage records which listed Melchior Henn and Gertrudt Grimm as parents: Franz Melchior Henn, Johann Joseph Henn and Serena Henn.

Next I plugged Melchior’s name (with Gertrudt as his wife) into FamilySearch’s search fields and turned up an indexed entry of his christening record (absent the usual digitized copy of the original), which indicated that Melchior Simon Henn was christened on March 4, 1774 in Bronnbach, Baden, Germany and his parents were Joannis Simonis Henn and Annae Margarethe. Using those parental names I also found indexed christening records for found Melchior’s probable siblings: Phillipus Andreas Henn [April 30, 1769], Joannes Buckardus Henn [July 24, 1776], Maria Anna Henn [December 1, 1764], Valentinus Tobias Henn [January 28, 1767] and perhaps Simon Andreas Henn [February 10, 1772] and Dorothea Henn [October 21, 1779] (under the parental names Simonis Henn and Annae Margarethe). All were christened in Bronnbach, Main-Tauber-Kreis, Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany. I may not have found all of Melchior’s siblings but I think that these are his because the same names repeat in our family as the generations descend.

 Etching of the Bronnbach Monastery in the 17th Century
By Caspar Merian (1627–1686) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 

 I stalled out there.  There are oodles of Henn’s listed in the FamilySearch records (and here I thought, all my life, that the name was rare!), but I’ve been unable to find other records, or indexes, I’m fairly sure of because the plethora of (repeating) names is confusing. The records at are in the same boat. In fact, most of them were FamilySearch’s records originally. 
I did a google search on the names and turned up a familytree  on RootsWeb’s World Connect Project, in German [I used Google Translate initially], that appears to take the family back, both paternal and maternal lines, to the early 1600’s/late 1500’s with birth, marriage, death dates and places. Finding it was really exciting but in reality I can’t use it for more than possible clues as none of the facts appear to be sourced to something I can find so I can’t easily verify the work. I trust documentation that is sourced so that I can find the source, and, I really prefer looking at original documents when possible.

About that time I also found another Henn tree on that had a digital copy of what appears to be a baptism record for Melchior Simon Henn, handwritten, in Latin (but no indication of where it came from).  So I sent an email to my Henn-side cousin, Steven Bollinger* (of The Wrong Monkey blog, check it out!), who, I had a vague recollection could possibly read Latin and German, asking him if he could read it  and whether he would be willing to translate it for me.  Very helpfully, it turns out that he can read Latin, Greek, German, French, Italian, Spanish, and bits of other languages, and loves translation, and is willing to translate anything I find in my research. (Yippee! Thank you, Steve!) And he translated the digital copy of the record for me – noting some portions he was 100% sure of and others less so do to handwriting issues. It is a baptismal or christening record. The document appears to mirror the information given in the FamilySearch index, with some bonus information, such as that Melchior was a legitimate son and the name of the person from the Monastery who assisted with the birth, (very cool!)

Steve also translated some paragraphs for me from the RootsWeb pages that Google Translate mangled, on Melchior’s uncle Andreas, which turned out to be quite fascinating, but again unsourced. Like me, Steve is concerned that there was no indication of the source of many of the facts listed in the RootsWeb tree or of the document I found on in the other person’s tree.
I think (hope) that the baptism record came from FamilySearch, because the Index I found had similar family information, including the Latin spelling of the names rather than Germanic. I had noted that the index indicated that FamilySearch has the document on microfilm, and gave the source information of the particular microfilm it is on.  I’ve read that I can have the microfilm sent to a local branch of the FamilySearch Family History Center for viewing and making digital copies of the document (note to self – bring a thumb drive!). I looked it up and there is one in Albany, with limited hours. Yay!

But I think that has to be a project for next year. When I go I want to have requested several records, not just one, since I have to use up a vacation day to do it (not open weekends). So that means some concerted research ahead of time to find several possible ancestors’ documents to request and wait to be delivered to the Family History Center & then go look at.  As long as I'm trying to complete the "52 Ancestors in 52 weeks challenge" I haven't the time for that sort of concerted research, given the long hours I work in my regular job.  Additionally, in the intervening time, I might have the time to read my new book, “In Search of Your German Roots: a complete guide to tracing your ancestors in the Germanic areas of Europe”, 4th ed., by Angus Baxter, which might make searching for the Henn’s in Germany easier.

So I think that this is a good time to move on to start checking out the O’Brien, Wilcox, Currier, and Sharp branches of the paternal side of my paternal family tree, and later the Bennett, Gregor, & and McFarlane lines of my grandmother’s tree, before I end this year with profiles of my own grandparents. I did my Snyder-side grandparents last after going through their family tree and I think it was effective to see what family forces shaped them before profiling them and I intend to do the same with the Henn-side.

(I will go back and profile more of the Henn ancestors later, I just want to be sure that I can reach representatives all the branches this year for the 52 Ancestors Challenge to the extent it is possible.)

*Name used with permission.

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