Immigrant #48: Franz Heironimus Emil Gerbing or Frank Gerbing, Chicago Police Sergeant and Mason (52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – #9 At the Courthouse)

Immigrant Frank Gerbing was born in 1831 Vieselbach, Germany to my fourth great grandparents Friedrich Gerbing and Martha Nicolai.  He was their oldest child and the oldest sibling of my third great grandmother Louisa Gerbing.  The Gerbing family left Germany in 1852.  I do not know the date of entry of any of the Gerbings into the United States because they sailed to the port of Quebec City.

This week’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge is At the Courthouse.  I had a lot of options with this prompt!  I decided upon Frank Gerbing.

The first record for Frank in the United States I could locate was for his marriage at St. Paul’s First Lutheran Church of Chicago.  These church records were saved by Reverend Wunder from the Chicago Fire, put on microfilm, and are now online at Family Search.  On January 1, 1856, Frank married Eva Elisabetha Schuttler, daughter of Martin and Anna Katharina.  She was born in Brenzbach, Hesse Darmstadt, Germany.

Frank’s sister, Louisa, my aforementioned third great grandmother, had married German immigrant Johann Schuttler in 1853 in Chicago in the same church.  Johann was born in Wachenheim, about 20 miles from Brenzbach.  Are Johann and Eva Elisabetha related?  How are they related? 

Frank and his wife Elizabeth had 5 children-

Frederick, b. 1856, married Margaret Cronin and Anna Straus

Louis, b. 1857, married Anna Margaretha Wagner

Charles, b. 1860 and d. 1876

Dorothea (Dora) b. 1863, married Jacob Knauss

Elizabeth, b. 1866

Frank shows up in the Chicago City Directory of 1861 as a policeman.  That is when I turned to newspapers.  Frank Gerbing appears in the most newspaper articles I have ever found for anyone in my tree.  I will just touch on some of the highlights and lowlights in the Chicago newspapers.

The Chicago people in my tree were NEVER BORING.

In October 1865, he was listed as a Voting Inspector in the 14th Ward, First Precinct.  In 1867 he was appointed a Republican Committeeman.  On June 5, 1867, he was promoted to Police Sergeant.


Chicago Tribune April 21 1875
The Chicago Tribune, April 21, 1875 – details of the immigrant backgrounds of officers on the Chicago Police Force
Chicago Tribune Oct 4 1877
The Chicago Tribune October 4, 1877

By 1877 Frank Gerbing was Lieutenant of the Lake Street Squad.  While there, he and other members of his squad, according to newspaper articles, were accused of being intoxicated while on duty.   Also in 1877, he was specifically named as being the homosexual lover of one of his ex-subordinates by that ex-subordinate’s ex-wife as part of a blackmail scheme.

While the Lake Street Squad was under investigation for corruption, he was transferred to the Webster Avenue Police Station.  Then in 1879 he was intentionally made to resign from his police duties by then Democratic Mayor Harrison when he went on a firing spree of all of the Republicans on the Chicago Police Force.

In early 1880, Frank was arrested for embezzlement from the Policemen’s Benevolent Association.  Frank subsequently paid the money back and the suit was dropped.  Since Frank was no longer a police officer, he wasn’t on the force during the Haymarket Labor Riot like the other Chicago policemen in my tree.

Frank then worked as a mason like his father Friedrich Gerbing.  He died in 1891 and is buried in Graceland Cemetery, Chicago.  His wife passed away in 1901.

If Frank was my direct ancestor, I believe I would never be able to stop researching his life on the Chicago police force!

Frank’s grandson, Francis J. Knauss (a son of Dora and Jacob Knauss), was born in Chicago, and was a lawyer in Colorado who rose to be the Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court.

Frank and his grandson were likely at the courthouse many times.


Cousin Frank Eckebrecht’s research

Uncle John’s research

Vieselbach, Germany Church Records

Hamburg Passenger Lists

Chicago City Directories

St. Paul’s First Lutheran Church Records

United States Federal Censuses

Brensbach, Germany Church Records

Chicago birth, marriage, and death indexes

Chicago, Illinois Voter Registration Records

Denver City Directories

World War I and II Draft Registration Cards

U.S. Social Security Death Index

Lieutenant Frank Gerbing on Google

Francis J. Knauss on Google


Next: Women’s History Month and the ABCs of My Genealogy Year 2





My Thüringen and Niedersachsen Surnames and Place Lists


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Thüringen, Germany

  • SchwarzburgEckebrecht, Schutz, Grabe
  • Grossmehlra: Eckebrecht, Dorre, Hinse/Heise, Grabe
  • Clingen: Dorre
  • Hohenebra: Seebuss
  • Berka: Beckern
  • Wollersleben: Eckebrecht
  • Koerner: Koppel, Grabe
  • Rothenberg bei Neustadt: Koppel
  • Sondershausen: Koppels, Seebuss, Kronenberg.Krohnenberg, Beckern
  • Vieselbach: Gerbing/Gorbing, Engelbrecht, Wizlaber
  • Obernissa: Korner
  • Niederzimmern: Nicolai

Niedersachsen, Germany

  • Grossen Molzen: Wizlaber
  • Hannover: Kirsch, Fehlig
  • Sankt Andreasberg: Kirsch, Kutscher, Schroder, Geselle
  • Grohnde: Fehlig, Mahlstedt, Wedekin/Widekin(sp?)
  • Borry: Fehlig
  • Marienrode: Fehlig


Louis F. Kirsch, born in Hannover in 1862

Fritz Eckebrecht, born in 1848 in Schwarzburg

Louise Gerbing, born in 1836 in Vieselbach


Thank you for visiting!

Immigrants #41 – 42 ~ Martha Nicolai and Johann Friedrich Gerbing, a Mason and descendant of a Prussian Army Soldier ~

On May 1, 1852, my immigrant fourth great grandparents Martha Nicolai and Johann Friedrich Gerbing sailed from Hamburg, Germany for Quebec City, Quebec with their 5 children on a journey that would have taken approximately three months.  Their city of origin was Vieselbach, Germany (outside of Erfurt).  By the early fall of 1853, they were residing in Chicago, Illinois.

Up until a few months ago, my fourth great grandmother Martha Nicolai was just a shadow on my family tree.  I was not even sure her first name was Martha.  But when a small amount of church records from Vieselbach were mixed in with the Erfurt church records and put on, she became nameless no more.  Wonderfully, the baptisms of her children even contained her town of origin.

Dorothea Gerbing’s was the first baptismal record I found.  I knew I had the right person when the birthdate matched the birthdate we had in America for Dorothea Gerbing.


The first column is Dorothea’s birthday.

The second is her baptismal date.

The third is her full baptismal name: Dorothea Elisabetha Mathilde.

The fourth is the father: Johann Friedrich Gorbing.  Did you notice it is Gorbing?  In Vieselbach it fluctuated between Gorbing and Gerbing in the records.

The last column above is the mutter: Martha geb. Nicolai aus Niederzimmern!

My fourth great grandmother Martha Nicolai was from Niederzimmern!  It is about one mile from Vieselbach.  Sadly, I do not know the names of her parents.


Johann Friedrich Gerbing was born in 1807, according to the Graceland Cemetery record of his burial.  There is a possibility he was born in Vieselbach.  But, Peter Heckert’s website in Germany contains “Zur Chronik der Kirchgemeinde Vieselbach” detailing the church records of Vieselbach.  It specifically contains the surnames listed in the book before 1800.  There are no Gerbings or Gorbings.

On the 1836 baptismal record of my third great grandmother Louisa Gerbing, Friedrich’s occupation was journeyman bricklayer/mason of Vieselbach.  The occupation of bricklayer was also on the Hamburg ship manifest.  See this post: On This Day in 1852…

I suspect Johann Friedrich’s parents were Johann Christoph Gerbing and Anna Martha Engelbrecht.  Johann Christoph was a daylaborer.

According to “Zur Chronik der Kirchgemeinde Vieselbach,” there are many Engelbrecht’s living in Vieselbach before and after 1800.  It also recorded that Anna Martha Engelbrecht left Vieselbach’s Lutheran school in 1796 and received a hymnal.  Engel means angel in German…

A wonderful genealogy angel retrieved Anna Martha’s baptism from the Vieselbach records available at Family Search to members of the LDS.  Her parents were Johann Andreas Engelbrecht and her mother was from Obernissa and named Barbara Magdalena Korner.

Without the retrieval of that record for me, I’d likely still be stuck at Johann Friedrich and I would not have located an incredibly interesting church record in the Vieselbach records available on  The Lutheran marriage record of Anna Martha’s parents Johann Andreas and Barbara Magdalena from 1780, stated that, Anna Martha’s grandfather Heinrich Wilhelm Korner (my 7th great grandfather), was a Corporal in the Prussian Army, in the service of the Prince-Electorate of Mainz.  This meant he served in the powerful army of King Frederick the Great of PrussiaPlease note the surname Korner contains an umlaut over the o.  The Prince-Electorate of Mainz was a Catholic Bishop and in 1780 was Friedrich Karl Joseph von Erthal.  Anna Martha’s parents were marrying in the Lutheran Church.



Friedrich and Martha in the United States

Little is known of Friedrich once he was in the United States.  The spouse of a descendant of Martha and Friedrich’s son Christian Gerbing shared the Family Burial Card from a Graceland Cemetery file on  It shows that Fred Gerbing (Friederich) was deceased on March 11, 1858 and was buried in Christian’s plot on July 20, 1865.  Thank you KStockmar46!  

Why the delay in years of placing Friedrich in the plot?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Apparently though, Friedrich was moved into the plot the same day as an infant child named Christian Gerbing, deceased in 1857, and an infant child named George Joseph? Lincoln Gerbing.  Immigrants Christian Gerbing and wife Anna Bauer, named their infant after the assassinated President of the United States, who was shot and killed in April of that year.  Perhaps Patriotism was also on their minds when they also named him George.

Sadly, nothing else is known about my immigrant 4th great grandfather Friedrich Gerbing in America right now!  

Likewise, little is known about Martha in the United States beyond the fact that she was widowed and living with her youngest daughter Maria (Mary) in 1860.  The census taker wrote their surname down as “Garvin.” Wow that’s a new one.  The records of Graceland cemetery (where the Schuttlers of my family are also buried) list that she was deceased on August 2, 1869.  That makes two records in America that mention my immigrant fourth great grandmother Martha Nicolai.

The following children of Martha and Friedrich came with them to the United States (with their full baptismal names):

Franz Heironimus Emil, emigrated at age 20 (Frank) m. Elizabeth Schuettler

Christian Georg Istoph Edward, emigrated at age 18 (Christian) m. Anna Bauer

Louisa Anna Elisabetha, emigrated at age 15 (Louisa) m. Johann Schuttler – my ancestors

Dorothea Elisabetha Mathilde, emigrated at age 13 (Dorothea) m. John Schieferstein

Maria Ernestina, emigrated at age 6 (Maria) m. Louis Weick

Martha and Friedrich had a son in 1843 named Karl Wilhelm.  He only lived 7 days and was buried in Vieselbach.

I have been slowly tracing the lives of their children and trying to place the numerous descendants of all of Friedrich’s and Martha’s children so the siblings of my ancestress Louisa Gerbing can be memorialized here in the future.  I think Franz is my favorite so far.  There is no other person in my family tree mentioned in that many newspaper articles in Chicago.  He was a police sergeant and his grandson sat on the Colorado Supreme Court.  


Hamburg Passenger Lists

Vieselbach, Erfurt, Thuringia Lutheran Church Records at

“Zur Chronik der Kirchgemeinde Vieselbach” via Peter Heckert


1860 United States Federal Census

Records of St. Paul’s First Lutheran Church from Chicago via Newberry Public Library and Family Search

Johann Schuttler’s Graceland Cemetery File

KStockmar46 at (Christian Gerbing’s Graceland Cemetery File)

A Ravelry Knitting Genealogist (the genealogy angel)