Immigrant #4 ~ Anne Marie Aloisia Heinzen, Dressmaker and Grandmother to WWII Veterans


Current day Brig.PNG
Brig, Valais


Immigrant Anne Marie Aloisia Heinzen, my great great grandmother, sailed from Le Havre, France to Castle Garden, New York in 1885.  She was born in the hamlet of Lingwurm near Ried-Brig, Canton Valais, Switzerland in 1862.  Valais is a Catholic canton that is split between French and German speaking regions.  It is in the south of the country that borders Italy.  Brig is in the German speaking region.  Anna (as she was known in America) was the oldest of at least 6 children born to Anton Joseph Heinzen and Regina Anna Maria Catharina Josepha Philomena Gentinetta.

Anna’s baptism from the cantonal Archives of Valais dated September 3, 1862.  She was baptized Anna Maria Aloysia, daughter of Antonii (Latin) Heinzen and Reginae (Latin) Gentinetta, both inhabitants of Ried. Godfather was Joannes Josephus (Latin) Heinzen and godmother was Marianna (illegible to me) m. Heinzen.  I believe that means the godmother was the spouse of a Heinzen.The margin says “548 Heinzen Lingwurm”

Does anyone want to help decipher the surname of her godmother?  I can email a copy of the record to you.  Anna’s grandfather, Francois Joseph Gentinetta was born in Bognanco, Piemonte, Italy.  Perhaps he went by Francesco right, except Bognanco speaks a Germanic dialect…


I have detailed Anna’s trip and landing in America in this older post:  On this day in 1885 at Castle Garden Emigrant Landing Depot, 22 Year Old Great Great Grandmother Anna Heinzen arrived in America.

In the interest of not repeating things, previous posts on the Heinzen and Gentinetta are here and here.  A post about information received from a wonderful researcher in Switzerland pertaining to Anna’s siblings was previously posted around last Christmas and can be read here: Heinzen – Gentinetta Update (Helen Kirsch Ferraro’s Swiss Ancestry).

Now I would like to detail what we know about Anna in America.  Anna had met Louis (Ludwig Fritz Kirsch) in Brig where he had studied to learn how to become a chef.  Louis was already in Chicago when she landed at Castle Garden.  They married before the Justice of the Peace on September 9, 1886.  Anna was Catholic and Louis was Lutheran.  On September 22, 1887, their first child, my great grandmother, Helen was born.  Their son Albert Victor was born in 1891.  Both children were raised as Lutherans. When my great great grandfather naturalized in 1896, Anna automatically became a citizen of the United States as his lawful wife.  Women couldn’t naturalize as independent individuals until after they gained the right to vote.

According to the 1900 Federal Census, Anna said she was a mother of 3 and that only 2 were living.  Anna and Louis had apparently suffered the loss of a child.  Anna’s brother Leo lived with them for a little while when he first arrived in Chicago and worked as a cook like Louis.  Leo’s immigrant story will be featured in a different week.  Leo and his wife were mentioned on several time.

On July 27, 1906, Anna was in the Chicago Tribune when she was interviewed about her daughter, Helen, who was a major witness in a homicide case.  Great Grandmother Helen: Witness in the 1906 Murder Case of Mrs. Louise Gentry.  Publishing the address of a witness in a murder trial is really something else huh?  That was the only reference I could find on Anna Heinzen Kirsch on  We do not have a photo of her either.

After Anna’s children moved out and started their own families, she became a dressmaker.  She lost her husband in 1925 and, since she was alone in the house, she took in immigrant Greek and Italian boarders at her home 46 Linden Place for income. Her daughter Helen passed away in 1927 and in 1931 some of Helen and Carmen’s children came to live with her. By 1940 Anna had moved in with her son Albert, his wife, son and daughter in Downers Grove, Illinois.

Anna passed away in 1948 in Downers Grove, Illinois.  She was 86.  We have no photos of Anna.  Her daughter Helen had green eyes.  According to the World War I draft registration of Albert, he was brown haired, brown eyed and slight with a medium height.  According to her brother Leo’s draft registration, he was black haired and black eyed.


great grandmother Helen
Her daughter Helen, my great grandmother.  She appears to have a dark shade of hair.


Anna’s Son Albert

We already know daughter Helen married Carmen Ferraro and they had 9 children.  Albert Victor married Elva Witzigerrenter, who was born in Wisconsin. Albert was a pressman at a printing company, and by 1940 had been made foreman there.  They had two children that served in World War II.  Lois Kirsch served in the Cadet Nursing Corps. Delbert Kirsch served in the United States Army.  Albert died two years after Anna in 1950.

Notes About Researching the Heinzens

About two years ago I was at a wall with Anna and began to research her brother Leo Heinzen.  It was an American record pertaining to his marriage that led me to Brig, Valais, Switzerland.  About the same time I emailed the archives for the baptismal record of Anna, I had mailed letters to every Heinzen in the Brig area and received help from the sweetest citizens of Switzerland.  Cornelia Heinzen and Hans Heinzen both received my letter.  Neither of them are related to Anna but sent information about the Heinzens.  Another Heinzen forwarded to me a picture of Brig in the valley.  Coincidentally, a knitting friend of mine, JL, also has ancestry from Valais and Northern Italy.  She looked up information on the Heinzen and Gentinetta and sent me information on both families.  Finally, a local historian and author named Renato Arnold received the letter from his father-in-law, a Heinzen.  He went to the archives and researched the immediate family and he forwarded the information on Anna’s brothers and sisters.  I am glad I took the advice of another researcher and sent those letters to the Brig area.

The wonderful staff in the Valais Archives went above and beyond sending me records, censuses, and information on the Gentinetta, and always replying to me in English.  In the future,  I would like to find out what Anna’s father did for a living.  Also, wouldn’t it be something to trace all the way back to that first Heinzen in Brig to 1389?  Eventually the records for Verbano-Cusio-Ossola Province in Italy will be online.


Archives of Canton Valais, Sion

Renato Arnold, Cornelia Heinzen, Hans Heinzen, and others in Ried-Brig

Cook County Marriages, Births and Deaths

United States Federal Censuses York Passenger Lists

United States Veterans Death Indexes

World War I Draft Registration Cards

United States City Directories

World War II Cadet Nursing Card Files

United States Social Security Applications

Louis Kirsch’s naturalization


~Next immigrant: #5 The Disappearing Antonio Ferraro…





3 thoughts on “Immigrant #4 ~ Anne Marie Aloisia Heinzen, Dressmaker and Grandmother to WWII Veterans

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