On today’s date in 1629, the witchcraft trial of my 10th great grandfather Martin Heinzen started at Freigericht Ganter, near Glis, Valais, Switzerland because someone in the local populace had sick livestock and other executed witches had implicated him as their accomplice. Martin ended up being tortured for nearly a week in hopes of extracting confessions of sorcery.
Mayor Kaspar Stockaler was the man responsible for routing out witches in the local population. Thirty witnesses had sworn statements against my 10th great grandfather.
Because Ganter didn’t have a torture device, they borrowed one from nearby Brig.
Through his long torture, Martin confessed every sin, and in an article in French on the subject of witchcraft trials in Valais, he confessed every “pecadillo” BUT sorcery. On the 12th of October 1629, friends and relatives of Martin demanded his release. So he was released and ordered to pay one third of the costs of his trial!
When I found this sensational fact about my ancestor, I discovered that the witch trial madness had actually started in Valais, Switzerland in 1428 before it spread to the rest of Europe. You can find headings about this sad phenomena under such headings as “Valais witch trials” and “Swiss werewolf witch trials.” I am still searching for a book in English on the subject.
Martin went on to marry and have my 9th great grandfather Kaspar Heinzen. Of note is the fact that Martin’s wife and Kaspar’s mother – Barbara Andamatten, shared a surname with one of Ganter’s witchcraft judges.
Martin Heinzen’s tale appears in “Das Freigerecht Ganter”and “Notes sur les procèsd’hérésie et de sorcellerie en Valais”because he was an accused sorcerer that walked away from one of these terrible trials with his life.
I suspect Martin may be my 10th great grandfather two times over. I need to do some more digging. Martin is the ancestor of my immigrant second great grandmother Anne Marie Aloisia Heinzen.
Do you have Swiss ancestors accused of sorcery? Have you found European ancestors accused of witchcraft?
Dionys Imesch, “Das Freigericht Ganter”, dans Blätter aus der Walliser Geschichte, Bd 3, 1902-1906, S. 70-100, surtout p. 82-83 (http://doc.rero.ch/record/200661)
“Hexerei im Oberwallis” um 1600 von Hans Steffen
Jules-Bernard Bertrand, “Notes sur les procès d’hérésie et de sorcellerie en Valais”, dans Annales valaisannes, 1921, vol. 3, n° 2-3, p. 151-194, surtout p. 189-191 (en ligne: http://doc.rero.ch/record/6753)
Thank you to the great people in Genealogie Familienforschung Ahnenforschung Schweiz and Genealogy Translations…
On today’s date in 1858, my third great grandparents Josef Anton Heinzen and Regina Anna Maria Cattarina Giuseppa Filomena Gentinetta were married in the Catholic parish in Glis, Valais, Switzerland. They were the parents of Anne Marie Aloisia Heinzen (Anna Heinzen.)
Josef Anton Heinzen was born in 1834 in Ried, Valais to Johann Josef Heinzen and Anna Maria Vollmar.
Regina Gentinetta was born in 1837 in Brig, Valais to Francesco Giuseppe Gentinetta from Lindwurn and Marie Regina Mutter. As the wedding record indicates Regina Mutter was from Niederwald.
Niederwald, Valais is less than 15 miles from Anna Heinzen’s birthplace Brig. It is also the birthplace of famous hotelier Cesar Ritz. An online tree for Cesar Ritz showed his mother’s name as Cresenzia Heinen. I had to laugh because Anna has a sister named Cresenzia HeinZen.
Anna was 1 of at least 7 children born to Joseph Anton and Regina. The others were:
My great grandmother Helen Kirsch Ferraro was a protected witness in a Chicago murder case that involved an international manhunt on 3 continents before she met and married my great grandfather. She had become acquainted with a man that later was wanted for murder while she worked in an Italian “boot-blacking” shop on Clark Street in Chicago. Because she had seen him get in a car near the scene of the crime and the amount of national press coverage the investigation garnered, the Chicago Police Department sent her to Poughkeepsie, NY to identify him with a different name. Below is an oldie and touched-up version of a 2 year old blog post I offer this week for Women’s History Month. The only sources available about the investigation and crime were newspaper articles. The case file has been destroyed.
March is Women’s History Month, making it an excellent time to focus on the ancestresses in my genealogy. I tried a memory exercise off the top of my head going alphabetically listing names of women in my tree. I did pretty well, with the exception of Y and X.
I also listed off the top of my head where they lived. If I could find their profession, station, or husband’s station, I listed that too. All of these women were born pre-1870 and were born overseas.* Only two on my list are immigrants.
Here we go:
A is for Apolline Weyland, 9th great grandmother, Liederscheidt, Moselle, France, a laborer’s wife
B is for Anna Saveria Barbacone, 5th great grandmother, Rione di San Giovanni, Penne, Pescara, Italy, a contadina
C is for Cecilia “Cilla” Vocciero, 7th great grandmother, Talanico, Kingdom of Naples, unknown
D is for Dorotea Frattarola, 7th great grandmother, Farindola, Pescara, Italy, landowner’s mother
E is for Elisabetha Stauder, 8th great grandmother, Schweyen, Moselle, France, laborer’s wife
F is for Karolina Friederika Wilhemina Fehlig, 3rd great grandmother, Grohnde, Hameln-Pyrmont, Niedersachsen, Germany, master tailor’s wife
G is for Anna Dorothea Maria Grabe, 4th great grandmother, Grossmehlra, Schwarzburg-Sonderhausen, Thuringen, Germany, miller owner’s wife
H is for Anne Marie Aloisia Heinzen, 2nd great grandmother, Brig, Canton Valais, Switzerland, immigrant – dress-maker
I is for Ignota (Italian for unknown), mother of Panfilo Zenone, husband of Maria Giustina Marcella, Panfilo’s mother left Panfilo at the foundling wheel in Penne, Pescara, Italy
J is for Elisabetta di Julio, 6th great grandmother, Farindola, Pescara, Italy, unknown
K is for Kunigunde (No Last Name Known), 9th great grandmother, Hornbach, Sudwestpfalz, Rhineland Palatinate, Germany, unknown
L is for Laisa Girardo, 8th great grandmother, Talanico, Kingdom of Naples, unknown
M is for Marie Louise Koppel, 3rd great grandmother, Koerner, Sonderhausen, Thüringen, Germany, immigrant – miller owner’s daughter
N is for Vittoria Di Norscia, 6th great grandmother, Rione di San Giovanni, Penne, Pescara, Italy, a lacemaker
O is for Odile Kolsch, 8th great grandmother, Vinningen, Germany, wife of the Eschevin de Justice
P is for Veneranda Paolucci, 6th great grandmother, Farindola, Pescara, Italy, a contadina
Q is for Anna Elisabetha Dorre-mother of Quirinus Eckebrecht, 4th great grandmother, Grossmehlra, Sonderhausen, Thüringen, Germany, laborer’s wife
R is for Laura Rosa, 5th great grandmother, Contrada Tavo, Farindola, Pescara, Italy, a contadina
S is for Sandra Dragone, 5th great grandmother, Talanico, Kingdom of Naples, unknown
T is for Tommasina Secondina, 10th great grandmother, Kingdom of Naples, unknown
U is for Ursula Magliulo, 7th great grandmother, Talanico, Kingdom of Naples, unknown
V is for Vittoria Gambacorta, 5th great grandmother, Rione di San Giovanni, Penne, Pescara, Italy, a lacemaker
W is for Caroline Christina Wilhemina Julianne Geselle, 5th great grandmother, Sankt Andreasberg, Goslar, Niedersachsen, Germany, wife of silver mineworks supervisor
X is for all of the women in the tree with no surname. They were in France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy.
Y is for Magdalena SteYer, 5th great grandmother, Huberhof, Nuenschweiler, Rhineland Palatinate, Germany, a farmer
Z is for Anna Apollonia Ziehl, 7th great grandmother, Monbijou, Leichelbingen, Rhineland Palatinate, Germany, farm manager’s daughter
*I only have one female ancestor in my tree that was born pre-1870 in America – Katharina Schuttler Eckebrecht. Her parents were immigrants.
Can you find one for every letter in your tree?
For my next entry this month, I plan to focus on a female ancestor we only know by her first name.
Immigrant Leo Heinzen was born in 1878 to Joseph Anton Heinzen and Italian-Swiss Regina Gentinetta in Brig, Valais, Switzerland. He came to the United States in 1907. He was a younger brother of my great great grandmother Anna Heinzen Kirsch.
Leo first appeared on the radar in the United States on the 1910 Federal Census in Chicago living with his sister Anna, her husband Louis Kirsch, and son Albert Kirsch. He verbalized that he had been living in the United States since 1907, possessed papers (when asked if he was a citizen), stated he was a laborer in any kind of industry, could speak English, read, but could not write.
Next, on September 13, 1918, Leo completed a World War I Draft Registration card in Battle Creek, Michigan. The box was checked on the card for having declared for citizenship as an alien of the United States. According to the information on the card, he was employed at that time as a cook at the Treo Café in Battle Creek. His physical appearance was: brown eyes, black hair, stout build, and medium height. He possessed no physical deformalities to preclude him from service either. His sister Anne Kirsch was listed on the line for nearest relative. Had his age qualified him for service, immigrant Leo Heinzen would have served in the United States military during WWI regardless of his citizenship status.
Leo is then found on the 1920 census in Battle Creek living as a roomer, and still declaring his occupation as a cook.
Researching Anna’s brother Leo was the reason I found the actual place of origin of Anna and Leo in Switzerland. In fact, the next record I found chronologically for Leo even gave me their parents’ names. On December 26, 1920, in Battle Creek, Michigan, Leo Heinzen married German immigrant Olga Kindt Timmens. Both of their sets of parents were listed on the record as was well as their birthplaces.
Until I found the record stating he was born in Brig, I thought Anna and Leo were born in Berg, because an American death record wasn’t clearly written.
The occupation on Leo’s marriage record was cook and Olga’s was listed as magnetic healer. They were married by the Reverend Anna L. Gillepsie. I thought it was interesting that they were married by a female minister so I looked her up on newspapers.com. She was a well-known spiritualist minister who was often away from Battle Creek in Lily Dale, NY at Spiritualist assembly meetings.
Reverend Gillespie also married Olga to her first husband, Frank Timmens, in 1915. He too was a magnetic healer. I couldn’t resist finding out what happened to Olga’s first husband. I don’t know the circumstances, or when Olga and Frank split, but Frank remarried in 1922 in the Roman Catholic Church, according to Michigan marriage records, and as evidenced by advertisements found on newspapers.com, he continued the magnetic healing occupation.
In 1925, great grand uncle Leo was sworn in as a citizen of the United States.
In 1926, in her own right, and not by the default of the citizenship of her spouse, Olga Kindt Timmens Heinzen was sworn in as a citizen of the United States. She is the only woman I can find on my mother’s side of the family that voluntarily took the oath to become a citizen after they changed the naturalization laws allowing women to take their own oath. I suppose that Elena Ferraro and Gelsomina Ferraro could have become citizens this way too, however, I haven’t found proof of that to date.
I next located Leo and Olga on the 1930 Federal Census. It appears as though he and Olga never had children. Leo and Olga were both listed as magnetic healers on that census. I assume this was part of their practice in the First Spiritualist Church of Battle Creek or a form of alternative healing therapy. Today they use the term energy healer interchangeably with magnetic healing. Have fun looking these alternative forms of healing online!
I found several advertisements for Leo Heinzen as a Spiritual Healer in the classifieds in Battle Creek, Michigan.
There was a tidbit in a 1945 article called “History as News” that did a throwback to 10 years ago in which it stated that Leo Heinzen was the assistant chef at the well-known Battle Creek hotel The Post Tavern for at least three years.
Like his brother-in-law, immigrant Louis Kirsch, Leo, who was born in Brig Switzerland, where Louis studied, was also a chef at a famous Midwest Hotel.
In 1946, Olga passed away due to a months long illness according to her obituary.
Leo passed away in 1962 in Michigan, at age 83, but 81, according to his obituary, which mentions Leo’s healing practice and the fact that he had several nieces and nephews in Switzerland. It didn’t mention his 9 great nieces and great nephews in America.
Leo leaves several intriguing questions. First, I have not found any record of entry for him into the United States. Is this another case of a bad transcription error or a misspelling like all of the censuses I found Leo on? (The transcriptions on Ancestry for Leo’s census records were terrible. He was never an engineer or electrician!) Then there are those questions about his life. Like his sister Anna, as an adult, they didn’t practice the Catholic faith, after being raised in it. Did Leo have a healing gift? Or on the other hand, were he and Olga just taking money? Or was it just part of practicing his faith? Was he drawn to the Spiritualist Church through Olga or was he a member before he met her? Finally, did any of the Ferraros meet him?
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.
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…
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 newspapers.com 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 newspapers.com. 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.
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
Castlegarden.org/New 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…
Great Grandmother Helen Kirsch Ferraro: Witness in the 1906 Murder Case of Mrs. Louise Gentry
Helen Anne Marie Kirsch was born on September 22, 1887 in Chicago to immigrant parents Louis Fritz Kirsch and Anna Heinzen. She had a younger brother named Albert. Before she married Carmen Ferraro and had 9 children she was part of a murder investigation that involved an international manhunt on 3 continents.
Helen was 19 when she worked as a cashier at an Italian “bootblacking” shop near the County building on Clark Street in Chicago when she had become casually acquainted with a frequent customer of the shop – Frank Constantine. According to newspaper articles at the time, the shop was apparently frequented by Italians. Frank Constantine was described in the Chicago papers as “showy type of man with his money and wore a lot of diamonds, and a man with many girlfriends.”
Frank Constantine was boarder in the home of Mr. Arthur and Louise Gentry on LaSalle Street and was always borrowing money from the Gentrys. While Mr. Gentry was at work on January 6, 1906, Frank Constantine slashed Mrs. Gentry’s throat in a motive involving money. Fleeing the scene of the crime he ran into a neighbor and asked for a hat, to help hide his identity. The neighbor ran inside to get a hat and encountered the dying Mrs. Gentry.
Constantine didn’t wait for a hat. He ran down the street and hailed a cab. Helen just happened to be going to dinner and stepped outside to see Constantine drive away in the cab and remarked to her friend that “Mr. Constantine must be leaving town.”
The neighbor of the Gentry’s rang the police. Even though the police were stationed on street corners leaving the city, and at the train station to look for Constantine, he was able to hawk one of his diamonds for cash, purchase a new hat and disappear. With the help of his mother he was hidden in Brooklyn.
Great grandmother Helen and several other witnesses identified Frank Constantine as the murderer. A grand jury indicted him.
A nationwide manhunt ensued for anyone having an “Italian/Jewish face,” and a trademark gold tooth like that of Frank Constantine’s, according to news articles from those days. Illinois newpapers detail country-wide witnesses giving false leads, false arrests, including a story of a local priest that feared he gave the murderer $5 when he was just trying to help a stranger on the road.
In actuality Constantine was probably not even in the area anymore. Local Chicago headlines joked “You may be arrested for murder today…” because of the number of false arrests around Chicago.
In July, 1906 while visiting a sweetheart near Poughkeepsie, NY, Frank Constantine was apprehended by the local Sheriff. Assistant Chicago Police Chief Schuettler, purportedly a friend of the Kirsch family, as the Tribune made it seem, because Schuettler and Kirsch were both German, had hidden Helen’s identity from the press. They had been calling her Helen Schrieber for months. Assistant Chief Schuettler sent Helen “Schrieber” to Poughkeepsie alone to identify him.
Unfortunately, the press ended up discovering Helen’s true identity while she was there, because she dropped a receipt for a prescription in her hotel in Poughkeepsie. The Chicago press went to the Kirsch’s home and pestered Helen’s family. The following is an excerpt from The Chicago Tribune dated July 27, 1906 in which her mother Annie Heinzen Kirsch gives a statement:
Click on the excerpt to make it bigger and easier for reading.
The Kirsches ended up leaving their home in the care of a neighbor to stay on the other side of the Chicago while the press surrounding Constantine’s capture calmed down.
Positive he was who she thought he was, Helen identified him as Frank Constantine. The next day she sent a telegram to Chicago authorities stating: “There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the man under arrest here is the man who killed Mrs. Gentry. I know Frank Constantine too well to be mistaken. It is he.” (The Inter-Ocean, July 27, 1906.)
Authorities were prepared to bring him back to Chicago until his roommate at the Gentry house gave him an alibi. Constantine was released. His mother sent him back to her hometown in Italy anyway. There was even a story that Constantine’s mother had him kidnapped to Europe to keep him safe during the previous year.
Meanwhile, new evidence came to light in an older, similar murder in Colorado. Chicago police finally decided to re-apprehend Constantine when a man that had been on a ship with him while they traveled between Europe and America came forward saying he confessed to the murder of Mrs. Gentry.
Over a year after the murder of Mrs. Louise Gentry, and after Constantine had travelled between three continents spending time in Italy and Argentina with the help of his mother, a girl he had loved and left in Brooklyn gave him up to the police. Constantine was apprehended on the docks minutes before he could board a ship to Italy with a ticket his mother had bought for him.
Assistant Chief Schuettler went to NY to bring him back to Chicago himself. The case had gained so much nationwide attention that passengers on the train Schuettler and Constantine boarded in New York to head to Chicago asked for Costantine’s autograph! He refused.
After several more delays, Constantine trial’s started in September, 1907. Helen was one of the witnesses to testify as to the identity of the killer. Constantine took the stand and testified on his own behalf saying Mrs. Gentry committed suicide because she was in love with him and he was leaving. According to newspaper articles, testimony proved the wounds were too severe to be self-inflicted.
The actual criminal case file has since been destroyed by Cook County so no transcript of this case exists. After 2 and ½ hours of jury deliberations, Constantine was found guilty. In 1908 he committed suicide in prison according to this New York Daily News Article.
Helen probably met Carmen around the middle of 1907, based on the photo dated in August of 1907 that she gave to him. It is possible it was at the shoe shine shop frequented by Italians…