I finally received the pre-1793 parish records for Dannemarie in Alsace, France.  I mentioned this previously (here).  I ordered them from the Centre de Recherches sur l’Histoire des Families in Guebwiller, Alsace.

The package took a month to arrive from France!  Is that normal?  I kind of wonder if the pandemic had an effect.

Anyway, I have them now.  The records are in a transcribed compilation of baptisms, marriages, and burials covering the years 1649-1797 in Dannemarie Parish.  At least, that’s the time span for the baptismal records, which make up about 90% of the records in the book.  Marriages and burials cover a shorter period: 1737-1796.

The compilation is a gold mine, as expected.  When we last left off, I had announced 4 new Alsatian ancestors, the parents of Laurent Wührlin (1796-1870) and Marie Rosine Rist (1801-1890).[1]Laurent and Rosie immigrated to America in 1827, eventually becoming Lawrence and Rose Whaley.  They lived in Princeton, New Jersey; Tarboro, North Carolina; and Saginaw, Michigan, in that order.  … Continue reading  This is the generation that lived through the French Revolution.

Alsatian 5GGs:

  • Anton Wührlin (1764-1835)
  • Ursula Hirtz (1763-1821)
  • Leonard Anton Rist (1754-1837)
  • Anna Maria Baumann (1757-1826)

Pedigree Chart for 3GG Caroline S Whaley (Created by author in Family Tree Maker 2019)

I am pleased to announce 8 additional ancestors, the parents of these four ancestors.

Alsatian 6GGs:

  • Theobald Wührlin (1720-1774)
  • Anna Maria Brunner (abt 1727-1783)
  • Heinrich Hirtz (abt 1725-?)
  • Regina Beck (1719-1790)
  • Franz Joseph Rist (1715-1759)
  • Magdalena Gottenküene (abt 1723-?)
  • Leonard Baumann (1716-1766)
  • Maria Magdalena Frey (1718-1779)

This generation of ancestors all lived and died in the 18th century.  The only monarch many of them ever knew was Louis XV, who reigned for 58 years (1715-1774).  Only one – Regina Beck – lived long enough to witness the beginning of the French Revolution.  (Potentially her husband Heinrich/Henri could have lived that long too, since we don’t know when he died.)

This new set of 6GGs introduces four new surnames: Brunner, Beck, Gottenküene, and Frey.

For purposes of brevity in displaying the chart, I am using German given names for anyone born before 1793.   Alsatians spoke a dialect of German (Southern Low Alemannic German) similar to Swiss German, so that is how the names would have been spoken.  However, it is important to note that the names in the pre-Revolution parish records are actually recorded in vulgar Latin.  For example, Leonard was recorded as Leonardus, Anton as Antonius, Franz as Franciscus, etc.  The chart doesn’t display well when I use the long Latin names, so I went with the shorter German versions.  (After the French Revolution, records began to appear in French – thus, Anton became Antoine and Magdalena became Madeleine, for example.)

The chart displays 8 new ancestors, but I’ve actually gone back even further than that.  Since the big breakthrough two months ago, I’ve added 39 new direct ancestors!  All in Alsace.

Our Alsatian ancestors tended to be middle-class townsfolk (bourgeoisie).  We find merchants, doctors, a baker, and at least two men involved as weavers (textoris) or somehow involved in linen manufacturing.  There were some agriculturists, though, including one ancestor who was a farmer and shoemaker, another described as a peasant (rusticus), and a third man who was a winemaker.  Viticulture has been an important industry in Alsace for a very long time.

Although Alsace had a significant number of Lutherans and Calvinists, I believe all our ancestors were Catholic.  I’ll have to examine that issue more closely though.  My Alsatians may be the only Catholics I have in my entire tree, actually.

In terms of location, the Wührlin, Brunner, Hirtz, and Beck lines all go back to the small village of Hartmannswiller – or to the neighboring villages of Wattwiller and Bottwiller.  Hartmannswiller is identified by the light blue marker in the map above, Wattwiller by the dark blue marker, and Bollwiller by the green marker.

Hartmanswiller, France (Source: visit.alsace.com)

I don’t have the parish records for Hartmannswiller yet.  Instead of ordering a transcription, I’ll just wait until we reschedule our trip to Switzerland and Alsace.  That will give me a reason to visit the archives there.

It certainly looks, nonetheless, like my Wührlin, Brunner, Hirtz, and Beck lines all go back at least one or two additional generations in Hartmannswiller, particularly the Wührlin branch.[2]This is based on an online tree that appears to be constructed by someone who had access to the parish records, so I am fairly confident the information is sound.  See “Pedigree Resource … Continue reading  In a couple instances before 1700, Wührlin males marry girls from neighboring jurisdictions: Wattwiller and Bollwiller.

Let’s focus now on the Rist and Baumann families, using the Dannemarie parish records I received.  (The featured photograph at the top of the blog shows the front of a house in Dannemarie today.)

The Rists were long-established citizens of the town of Dannemarie and can be documented there from at least as early as 1679.   (The red marker on the map identifies Dannemarie.)  Three successive generations of men in the Rist family served as surgeons or medical practisioners in town.

  • 5GG Anton Rist (1754-1837) – Health officer, a “doctor” (officier de santé)
  • 6GG Franz Joseph Rist (1715-1759) – Surgeon (chirurgus)
  • 7GG Johann Michael Rist (1679-1759) – Surgeon (chyrurgus)

There’s another family in Dannemarie with the surname Riss; they’re more common even than the Rists.  They may be the same family or have a common origin.  This is something to look at more closely.

The Gottenküene name is a mystery.  Magdalena is the only person in the entire Dannemarie parish with that surname, so she must be from somewhere else.  I found a family named Gottenkieny in Steinbrunn, about 15 miles east of Dannemarie.  (This is identified by the burgundy-colored marker.)  I suspect this is the same family despite the spelling difference.  At times the ie portion of the name appears in the original hand-written French like it was meant to read as the umlaut ü, so possibly the transcription is wrong.  It’s honestly hard to tell which is being written.  I would need to search in pre-Republican parish records for Steinbrunn or possibly other parishes to find Magdalena’s birth record.

Also, while most family names are spelled fairly consistently by the authorities in Dannemarie, Magda’s surname is spelled differently almost every time.  It’s probably another indication that she was from somewhere else.  Here are the spellings:  Goteküne, Goteküen, Gotekuen, Gottenkiene, and Gottenküene.  I’m using the last version because it is the only spelling used twice and is associated with the oldest record.

Like the Rists, the Baumanns were also a well-established bourgeois family in Dannemarie.  Leonard Baumann was a weaver (textoris) and his father Victor Baumann (1693-1760) a merchant.  Maybe the family ran a textile business.

Textile manufacturing has an interesting history in Alsace.  Alsatian Kelsch, for example, is a traditional tartan-like linen originally made by rural farmers on household looms, using simple blue, red, and ecru colors.  You can still buy Kelsch fabric on eBay.  During the Industrial Revolution, Kelsch and other fabrics began to be produced in small factories throughout Alsace.  Textile manufacturing became the primary industry in Alsace and remained so until 1975.

Alsatian Kelsch (Source: Wikipedia)

The Frey family is from Retzwiller, a small hamlet on the western outskirts of Dannemarie.  (This is identified by the peach colored marker in the map.)  Here’s a postcard view from the early 20th century:

Early 20th c. postcard of Retzwiller titled “Alsatian house” (Source: Haut-Rhin Archives)

A lot of agricultural land surrounds this hamlet, so this may have been a farming family.  Magdalena’s parents were Jacob Frey (1690-1754) and Elisabeth Wilhelm (d. 1721), my 7GGs.  No occupation is mentioned for Jacob.  He had three wives, of which Elisabeth was the first.  The couple may have had only two children before Elisabeth died in 1721.  Magdalena had an older brother, Johann Frey, who was born in Retzwiller in May 1716.  Elisabeth Wilhelm’s father, Jacob Wilhelm was a peasant (rusticus).

I’m really enjoying learning the history, geography, and culture of Alsace.  Learning about new places is one aspect of genealogy I love.  It’s not only about the ancestors.  For example, I happened across a liquor specific to the region called Alsatian kirschwasser.  I plan to buy a bottle and test it out.  It’s a cherry brandy that uses morello cherries from the Black Forest.  They say it’s not sweet like one might expect.

Alsatian Kirschwasser



1 Laurent and Rosie immigrated to America in 1827, eventually becoming Lawrence and Rose Whaley.  They lived in Princeton, New Jersey; Tarboro, North Carolina; and Saginaw, Michigan, in that order.  Laurent was a baker by profession.
2 This is based on an online tree that appears to be constructed by someone who had access to the parish records, so I am fairly confident the information is sound.  See “Pedigree Resource File,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 15 March 2020), entry for antoine WUHRLIN; “ascendance filles” file 2:2:2:MMXD-D2L.