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

 

 

 

 

 

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Immigrant #29 ~ Great Great Grandfather Johann Leies, Chicago Saloon Owner and Piano Dealer ~

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My great great grandfather Johann Leies was born in Nuenschweiler in the German Palatinate in 1843 to farmers Johann Adam Leies and Elisabetha Margaretha Pfeiffer.  He came to America in 1867 and became a naturalized citizen of the United States that same year in Wayne County, Ohio.  Before moving to Chicago and running a saloon, he worked as a farmer, a carpenter, in beer and wine dealing, and married a childhood friend from Nuenschweiler in Wooster, Ohio – Immigrant #24 ~~ Great Great Grandmother Emilia Anna Bold Leies~~and had their children, Alexander, my great grandfather, and John Ferdinand.

Uncle John wrote a lot about this immigrant grandfather of his and even visited the Catholic church in Nuenschweiler to obtain a transcribed copy of his grandfather’s baptism.  The village is about 6 miles from the current day border of Moselle, Lorraine, France.  Johann was born at Huber Hof near Nuenschweiler.  Huber Hof was the name of his great grandfather Michael Conrad’s farm.  Hof originally meant temple or hall in Old Norse.  It later was used for courtyard and eventually for a collection of buildings on a farm.  Source:  Wikipedia.

When Johann was born, the farm had already been inherited by his grandmother Gertruda Conrad.  Information on his estate came from a great source: Intelligenzblatt des Rheinkreises, Volume 7, or Google Books!   Johann was the oldest of at least four children.  The baptismal records of Nuenschweiler are missing a few decades which means there may have been more siblings.

Like me, Uncle John did not know the date or location of Johann’s arrival here, although he left a great trail for the researchers that would come after him.  He thinks he may have entered the country in New Orleans.

I wondered why did Johann go to Wooster, Ohio when I read Uncle John’s research.  This past summer when I found a relation of ours (Union Soldier Peter Leies, 1841-1862, born in Nunschweiler, Germany and killed at Antietam), I began looking for more Leies family members in the Civil War.  That led me to two other first cousins of great great grandfather Johann that were drafted during the Civil War in Ohio – Henry and Anthony Leies.  They were brothers.  From what I can tell, they were only drafted and didn’t serve.  Their parents were Heinrich Leies and Barbara Buchheit from Nuenschweiler and all of them had been living in Wooster, Ohio.  Heinrich was the oldest brother of Johann’s father making them aunt and uncle to Johann.

Not only is it apparent at this point in my research that the Heinrich Leies family paved the way for the other Leieses to come to America, but they got here even earlier than our first direct American ancestor Johann Schuttler in 1849.  Heinrich Leies, wife Barbara, and their sons arrived in New York City in 1848.

 

Heinrichship
September 1848 Passenger Manifest of the Nicolas, which sailed from Le Havre, France

 

I do siblings when I count the immigrants in my tree.  Do Heinrich and family count since he was the sibling of Johann’s father?  Definitely.

Back to Johann.  Do you think he lived with Uncle Heinrich or a cousin when he got to Wooster?  It is very likely.  Johann would only have been about 5 years old when his Uncle Heinrich and Aunt Barbara left Nuenschweiler.  Both his Uncle Heinrich and Aunt Barbara were two of his baptismal sponsors, as you can see on the parish record below.

JohannesBaptism
Johannes Leies Baptism, dated April 25, 1843, Catholic Parish in Nuenschweiler

 

Uncle John had a copy of a letter his grandfather wrote to his cousin Johann Leies (a different Johann!) in Massweiler, Germany in 1910 that he translated from German and distributed to his family before his death.  One detail from his life in Germany is written in the letter.  He stated that “When I was 18 years old I worked in Pirmasens near the church not far from Loewenbrunnen for a Jew called Wolf.  He had a bone mill at Nuenschweiler; his son’s name was Alphonse.  He went to America.”  

Important facts about Johann’s years in America were listed in the letter to back home in 1910 in this order:

“I have been in America for 43 years.  I worked as a farmer and carpenter for two years;

Then I worked 7 years in the wine and beer industry in Wooster, Ohio;

Then we moved to Chicago.  Here in Chicago I have dealt in beer and wine for 8 years;

Then for four years in other types of work;

Then for 22 years in the piano business with my son.”

At the time of the 1880 Census in Wooster, Ohio, Johann’s cousin Henry Leies was running a saloon.  I can’t help but think that Johann may have been working there at some point before he moved to Chicago in the “wine and beer industry.”

The paper trail on Johann picks up in Chicago in 1880 where he is running a saloon according to the census.  I would love to know the name of his saloon – his beer and wine business.  I couldn’t find anything on newspapers.com regarding his saloon.  By the mid 1890s, the hard-working and diligent Johann owned his own piano dealing shop – John Leies Pianos.  Later he brought his son Alexander into the piano dealing business and they became known as John Leies & Son Pianos.

 

LeiesandSonPianos
Chicago City Directory, 1896

 

Johann remarried in 1896, two years after the death of Emilia Bold.  His second wife, Carolina Sickel, was born in New Orleans. The 1910 Federal Census stated that her father was born in France, and that her mother was born in Germany.  She had been put into a home before Johann died in Chicago in 1922.  You can see his Find-a-Grave Memorial here.

Written in Latin above, in the margin next to Johann’s baptism, is his date of death in America.  Uncle John knew his grandfather often sent money home to the parish in Nuenschweiler.  The priest back home either received word of his death from a relative in Nuenschweiler, a relative in Chicago who wrote home, or from Uncle John himself when he visited.  In turn, the church books of Nuenschweiler were photographed by the Latter Day Saints.  I would like to think it was from Uncle John.

Uncle John wrote a fantastic report on this grandfather of his.  Email me if you wish to have a copy.

The Ancestry of Johann Leies (so far)

The great grandmother of Johann was Margaretha Rubly.  It is in this part of Leies line that we descend from The Anabaptist Rubeli of Aeschlen bei Oberdiessbach, Switzerland, religious refugees to the German Palatinate in 1672.  I really enjoyed researching that part of the Leies family.

One of Johann’s ancestors was named Hans Adam Schwartz, born around 1650.  According to the Contwig Reformed Church Records I found, he was a Gerichtsschoffe or Court Alderman in the Zwiebrucken area of the Palatinate.  He was our 7th great grandfather.  His daughter Anna Ottilia married our 6th great grandfather Jakob Johann Wenceslaus Layies-Trauden.  Leies was spelled as Layies at that point in the church records.

Johann also had ancestors born in France like his wife Emilia.  The earliest known of them was Jean Michel Conrad, born December 3, 1697 in Shweyen, Moselle.  I would like to point out that in 1697, parts of the Palatinate were under French rule.  His baptism from the Archives of Moselle is below.  Thank you cousin G. Pfeiffer in France for sharing and emailing many Conrad records to me.

cropped-jeanmichel.jpg

Like some of the ancestry of Emilia Bold, going back to the 1400s in this part of Europe, there are two parts of Johann’s ancestry that “claim” to be able to trace back to the 1400s, and even to the 1300s in a town in the present-day Saarland.  In the 1300s the region of present-day Saarland was part of the Holy Roman Empire.  Emilia’s Helfrich line isn’t a myth right now like Johann’s pre-1600s ancestors are for American researchers.  Maybe those trees on Geneanet are correct, but I can’t prove it!  

Johann’s 1910 letter stated he had a photo album of his family back in Germany.  If that album still exists, it must be a treasure.  

Sources:

Wayne County, Ohio Historical Society

Nuenschweiler, Germany Catholic Church Records

Hornbach Catholic and Protestant Church Records

Intelligenzblatt des Rheinkreises, Volume 7

Cousin G. Pfeiffer, France

Baptemes Loutzviller 1691-1723, Archives 57

Contwig, Germany Church Records 

Weisbach and Massweiler, Germany Catholic and Reformed Church Records

Zur Familie Trauden/Layes von Oberhausen, by Johannes Becherer via L. Broschart in Koblenz, Germany

United States Federal Censuses

Ohio Birth and Marriage Indexes

Uncle John

Chicago Marriage and Death Indexes

Find-a-Grave

Newspapers.com

New York Passenger Lists/Manifests/National Archives

Wikipedia

Google Books

Chicago City Directories

Numerous French and German personal genealogy databases

 

 

–cinziarosagenealogy@comcast.net