Women’s History Month: A Letter to and from My 9th Great Grandmother Kunigonde (Surname Unknown)

Dear Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Grandmother Kunigonde,

You have the most interesting name in my tree and your last name is not known to those of us researching you.  You were the mother of my ancestor named Michael Kempf.  He lived in a town named Hornbach.   I have discovered that you were Roman Catholic and the historic church in Hornbach contains the bones of St. Pirminius.  You must’ve worshipped there.

I didn’t know Kunigonde was even a name until I found you.  I looked up the meaning and origin.  It is from the Old High German and sometimes spelled as Kunigonda.  The name dictionaries call it a two-element name.  Kunni=the tribe, the clan.  Gund=the fight, the battle.  I really dig the two-element meaning of your name!

Apparently there was a St. Kunigonde and she was the daughter of King Bela of Hungary. She is the patroness of Poland and Lithuania where she is known as St. Kinga.

Was Kunigonde a family name in your family?

Did you know your third great grandson was named Heinrich Leies and he traveled across the ocean to the United States of America in 1848 with his family to have a farm in Wooster, Ohio?  His brother Jacob Leies came three years later to the greatest city in the New World called New York City.  Your fourth great grandson named Peter Leies joined the Union Army during the nation’s Civil War and died at a battle called the Battle of Antietam.  He was only 21 and he was born in Nunschweiler, not far from Hornbach.

Another fourth great grandson followed Heinrich to Wooster, Ohio.  His name was Johann Leies and Heinrich was his uncle.  He was my ancestor.  He ran saloons in Chicago and was a piano dealer.  He had very religious sons.  One became a Roman Catholic priest and died in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

Did you know you probably have thousands of descendants across the ocean in America perhaps due in part to Heinrich’s emigration?

You are named in a book called the Rubenheim Register from Zwiebrucken.  I would love to see that book.  But, what can YOU tell me that the book doesn’t.  What was Hornbach life like?

Sincerely,

One of your thousands of descendants

 

Hornbach1550
1550 Hornbach, via Wikipedia

 

Dear 9th Great Granddaughter,

Females rarely learned to write in my day unless they took a religious order.  My good friend Sr. Marie Radegonde Belina is writing this for me.  What an angel she is too to be able to translate English to our dialect and back to English for me.  She was a half English/half French orphan the good Sisters took in.

Thank you for digging my name.  I don’t know what you mean by “digging.” 

What can I tell you about my life?  I was born at a time of a long religious, political, and terrible war – The Thirty Years War.  We would hear from the priests there was a peace and then another peace.  But it would not end.  Then a few years later there would be word of another peace. 

We did not care about those far away princes fighting for power.  We were more concerned with having food on our tables when the winter was through.  Half the men in my family were gone and another quarter of my family uprooted themselves and were never heard from again.  We just wanted it to end.  

When I married, the war was coming to an end.  My husband (your 9th great grandfather) and I lived near Hornbach at a time the entire surrounding area was almost devoid of citizens and buildings due to the many years of war.  The country-side had been devastated due to famine, disease, and theft.  The old town wall of Hornbach and our church were some of the few things left.

We were ruled by the Duke of Zwiebrucken. 

Before the war, Hornbach was once surrounded by rich vineyards.  Nobody came back to re-plant them.  Instead, after the war, the Dukes invited people from the Swiss Cantons and from Tyrol to our area to farm.  They were rumored to be excellent farmers. 

Some of my descendants married the descendants of the Swiss immigrants.

My husband Johann Kempf and I had a farm.  We had 8 children:  Matthias, Anna Christina, Michael, your 8th great grandfather, twins Kunigonde and Johann, Maria Katharina, and twins Regina and Anna Margaretha. 

Michael was my second born son and he was trained to follow his father as a farmer. 

I died before I could see Michael’s children be born.  

I died before France took control of the Hornbach-Zwiebrucken area in 1680.

Yes, I heard about Heinrich and the others.  Nunschweiler was very tiny in my day. 

Heinrich Layes (that’s how Sr. Marie Gertruda spells the surname) left Germany at a time when liberal nationalists pushed for civil liberties here.  The cost of the war I lived through and cost of that war on our people was ingrained in their minds.  

In 1848, these forward thinking men had to flee their homeland for your country –  a country that had established those ideals when those in power began to silence their democratic plans.

Keep shaking those female branches of my tree in Germany.  You aren’t even close to finding all of my descendants in America.  

Signed,

Your Ahnfrau

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements