I began this, my own personal Bohemian Rhapsody, back with Ancestor No. 22, Ludwig Licha. And as they say, “If I’d known then what I know now…” Let’s just say, this has been a monumental month, relatively speaking.
I have spent the better part of the past six weeks immersed in a website called Porta Fontinum (www.portafontium.de), utterly and totally obsessed with a virtual stack of old village record books from the Böhmerwald region along the Bavarian-Czech border.
This is one of thousands of marriage records to be found in the Porta Fontium database. And while this wasn’t the first record I found, and not even my most favorite discovery, this was the most gratifying, genealogically.
These migraine-inducing scribbles are in German… when they aren’t in Latin – and in this case, are dramatically clearer than in many other records. (Yes! This is a good one!) Eventually, out of this mishegas, came the following breakthrough bits of information:
- My great-great-grandparents – my Grandma’s grandparents – were married on May 5, 1868, in (most likely) the Church of St. John the Baptist in the village of Plöß, in the Pilsen region of Bohemia.
- His name was Michael Leibl. He did not adopt the additional “e” (Leibel) until he came to America. (Complicating matters is the fact that there was also in these villages a family called LIEBL – and they too came to Minnesota. But they are in fact different families entirely.)
- Her name was Franziska Putzler. She Americanized her name to Frances. All family records I’d ever seen gave her maiden name as Butzler, with a B – but the Putzlers go back several generations in Plöß, so I’m sure this is correct. It’s interesting that since most all of the Putzlers who came to America were women, the name has mostly died out. My point – I spent twenty years looking for Frances Butzler only to find her as Franziska Putzler.
- His parents are given as Josef Leibl, a day laborer in Wenzelsdorf, and his wife Anna Häupler, from the nearby village of Straßhütte.
- Her parents were Andreas Putzler, a farmer from Plöß, and his wife Margaretha, also from Plöß, whose maiden name was Leibl, of all things.
- A bonus – they were related! (Let’s just say their great-grandfathers were brothers. I think that’s correct, but you get the drift regardless.) The relationship was suitably distant to satisfy the Catholic Church, anyway. The two sentences at the bottom of the image (so unceremoniously cut off at the right by yours truly) include a statement by her father as to their consanguinity (common blood), and an official dispensation from the Archdiocese allowing their marriage.
- They were 23-1/2 and 21-1/2 at the time of their marriage, and neither had been married before.
What this record doesn’t tell us, though, is that they’d already had a child, the two of them.
Johann Baptist Putzler was born on January 20th, 1867, and died on the 3rd of June. Franziska is listed as his mother, but there is no information about the child’s father. (This seems to be the rule for “illegitimate” children – even if the father’s identity was common knowledge, if the couple was not married, then all vital records for the child, for the rest of his/her life, would include only the mother’s name.)
Two points about the birth. First, I have been astonished at how common illegitimate births were in this culture at this time. Another old book I found provided actual statistics – solidly one in six or seven births in Bohemia in 1830 was out of wedlock. Many such children were ultimately “legitimized” by marriage, but many were not.
And so, second, I’m assuming the child was Michael’s. They were married almost a year after the baby’s death. And just a matter of weeks after that, they were in Bremen, Germany, preparing to board the good ship Hermann which would deliver them to Baltimore on July 20th. One more relatively quick train trip, and they would be in St. Paul, Minnesota, where Michael’s cow (with one broken horn) had a habit of wandering off.
By 1875, the Leibels had settled in on their farm near Rice Lake, Anoka County, Minnesota. An interesting note: Franziska and Michael made the voyage to America with several relatives, including Franziska’s sister Anna. Anna and her husband Johann “John” Flor would live next door to the Leibels until the wives’ deaths, both in 1907. Mike Leibel lived another 10 years, passing away in 1917.
And finally, a couple fuzzy views of Plöß – my Heimat.
As I mentioned in the earlier post, Plöß was one of dozens of villages razed by the Allies after World War II. The ethnic Germans who’d lived there for centuries were forced out of Czechoslovakia – my people mostly settled in Bavaria, a blessedly short distance away.
On the brighter side, I’ve actually found maps of the towns of Plöß and Wenzelsdorf – and the maps include the location of houses and their house numbers. So with the information found in this marriage record – and so many more like it – I can pinpoint exactly where my ancestors lived as far back as the 1720s.
These Bohemian roots run deeeep!