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11 April 2016

Joseph Geissler: Possible Migration Party



For several months I have shared the story of my 3-times great-grandfather Joseph Geißler who immigrated from Baden to Franklin County, Ohio. I firmly believe we have to Stop Researching and Start Writing our ancestor's stories in order to a) make them more enjoyable for those who inherit our research and b) so we can really scrutinize our research and what we still don't know.

Since completing Joseph's biography, that ended with Gone Too Soon, I've analyzed the value of researching surname origin and researching information from Joseph's naturalization records. Now, I'm mulling over the question of "Who did Joseph Travel with?"


I'd love to hear your suggestions on this Brick Wall Ancestor of mine and the theories I present in this post. Do you have other tips or suggestions? Please share them in the comments section below.

What I Know

Joseph Geißler was born about 1836 in Baden. In 1848, the German Revolution stirred up emotions and triggered a major exodus which benefited the United States of America. It is believed that Joseph was part of the migration, but the exact details are uncertain. Joseph is in Franklin County, Ohio purchasing land and marrying in 1856. He completed his naturalization process at the age of 24 in 1858. Sadly, he died in Franklin County in July 1863.

Joseph seems to be the only member of his family in Franklin County, Ohio during this time period. As such, it's believed that he was in Franklin County as early as the age of 17 to meet the general 5-year residency requirement for naturalization which he completed at the age of 22.

What Are the Possibilities?

It's possible that Joseph's family is nearby, perhaps in Cincinnati where a large group of Germans congregated in this time period. Perhaps they are in Pennsylvania where Geislers seemed to have settled as early as the 1780s. Perhaps Joseph's family died in the journey from Germany to America, and he was the only one who arrived in the area they selected before embarking on their journey.

Before I can even attempt to find a passenger list or emigration statement in Hamburg (assuming he didn't leave from Bremen which would be terrible as these records were destroyed), I would do well to analyze potential traveling companions.

If Joseph traveled in the early 1850s, he would be around 14, so he could be migrating with his parents and siblings. If I could take a guess, with some educated plausibility, what names would I likely find?

My fellow researching cousin had some ideas. He thought we should investigate clues for parental names based on the names of Joseph's children with his wife, Caroline Mack. Many cultures had naming traditions, and Joseph and Caroline did employ some of these in their children's names.

Joseph and Caroline had four children:
Charles "Carl" Geisler
Henry Joseph Geiszler
Mary Elizabeth Geissler
Catherine Caroline Geissler

Henry, the second son, received the first name of Caroline's father (Heinrich Mack) and his own father's name for a middle name (Joseph). An interesting note is that Henry passes on his father's name as middle names to his two sons.

The firstborn son does not have a birth record, only a funeral record that provides one name. It's possible Carl has a middle name that would confirm paternal honoring practices. Even so, given that Joseph and Caroline honored her father by naming their second son after him, it's possible that Carl is named after Joseph's father.

With their daughters, the fourth child's middle name honored the wife, Caroline. It's possible that Mary Elizabeth was the name of one of Joseph's relatives.

If this theory holds, then Joseph Geißler could be traveling with a family that had a father named Karl and a mother named Mary or Elizabeth. Catherine or Caroline might also be a name in his family.

Additionally, the last name of Geißler could easily be spelled Geisler, Geiseler, Keisler, Keizler, etc.

What do you think? 

Would analyzing potential names of traveling companions in a family group be helpful or cause more harm than good?

If Joseph was traveling in the mid-1850s, he could well be traveling alone.  As such, the above theory would be pointless. In that case, perhaps looking for other Baden immigrants who arrive in Franklin County, Ohio between 1850 and 1860 could serve me well. Determine who came to Franklin County in the 1853-1858 time frame may prove tough. The county is home to the state capital of Ohio and had over 100,000 people at the time of Joseph's arrival. How feasible is it to investigate all the Baden immigrants hoping to find Joseph Geißler as a tag-a-long?

Advanced genealogy can push our minds to think of creative theories in attempts to find the documents that pertain to our ancestors. We must be very careful with these methods that we don't find what fits the theory but isn't actually our family. It would have been nice if Joseph lived long enough to have a death record that identified his parents and his home town. Or, it would be nice if there was a newspaper article that names his siblings or other nearby relatives. It would have been great if that article had to be preserved and passed down through generations. Instead, I have a story of his death that I'm not sure if I should believe and no records that take him back to Baden, other than his naturalization records.

Is the answer to his brick wall hiding in a possible traveling party that I have yet to mentally assemble? What do you think? Let me know in the comment section below.


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