Immigrant #37 ~ Leo Heinzen, Chef and Practicing Healer in the Spiritualist Church

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.

Brig, Valais, Switzerland


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  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, 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.


June 9, 1945, Battle Creek Inquirer


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 obit

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?


United States Federal Censuses

World War I Draft Records

Michigan Marriage Records

Michigan Naturalization Records

Michigan Death/Burial Records

City Directories for Battle Creek, Michigan