Select Page

Chasing those German cousins

You remember what The Legal Genealogist says about reading every word, right?

Every word, in every record, in every resource, so you don’t miss a critical clue somehow.

Not that The Legal Genealogist would ever miss a critical clue…

Well, okay, so eventually I would have found it.

It’s just that “eventually” turned out to be today.

Today is the 132nd birthday of a woman to whom I am only collaterally related. Erdmute Magdalena Hedwig (Späte) Geissler was no blood relative, but just a name in a database — simply the wife of my granduncle, the woman who married my German grandfather’s brother.

She was born 16 December 1885 in Kayna, Germany1: “a village and a former municipality in the Burgenlandkreis district, in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. Since 1 July 2009, it is part of the town Zeitz.”2

She married Arno Werner Geissler, my grandfather’s only brother, on 9 June 1908 in Gera,3 a city in the modern German state of Thüringen.4

Called Werner, my granduncle was a painter — probably a house painter, rather than an artist of any kind — there in Gera, and was recorded in the Gera City Directory living at Leontinenstrasse 9 in 1909,5 1910,6 1911,7 1912,8 1913,9 and 1914.10

And then came the war.

The next available city directory is for 1917. And Werner isn’t there.

Oh, there’s a Geissler there, all right.

At Leontinenstrasse 9.

But it’s not Werner.

The listing in 1917 is for Magdalena. Shown as “Verw.”11

A widow.

I’ve told Werner’s story before: how he and Magdalena married, how they appeared to have no children, how in 1914 Werner was a reservist in the seventh company, second battalion, of Reserve Infantry Regiment No. 83, part of the 50th Reserve Infantry Brigade and 25th Reserve Division of the German Empire. How in the winter of 1914-15, his unit was sent east, to the fighting along the border of Poland and Galicia. And how his name came to be on a list, published 20 July 1915:

Geißler, Werner. Köstritz. Gera. Gefallen.
Geissler, Werner. Born in Köstritz. Lived in Gera. Killed in action.12

The record goes on, year after lonely year, of the widowed Magdalena, living there at that same address in Gera, Leontinenstrasse 9.

She was recorded there in 1920.13

In 1922.14

In 1925.15

In 1927.16

Even in 1929.17

But that was the last entry. She died even before that 1929 directory was published, on the 18th of December 1928, at the age of 43.18

There is no Geissler on Leontinenstrasse in the 1931 directory.19 No Geissler on Leontinenstrasse in 1934 either.20

Now… more than five years after Magdalena died, at that point, you almost give up going year by year through the city directories.


But not quite.

Because the story changes in 1936. In the city directory for that year, there is a Geissler on Leontinenstrasse. Not just on that street, but living at Leontinenstrasse 9.

His name was Fritz. And he was a tailor.21

Still there in 1939, still at Leontinenstrasse 9, still a tailor.22 And in 1941-42.23

Now Geissler isn’t exactly a unique name in Germany or even in Gera. In the last city directory available, there were 50 entries for people with that name. So it could be a coincidence that a Geissler appears at the same address where Werner and Magdalena lived as young marrieds and where Magdalena continued to live out her life.

Except for one little thing. That one little critical clue you don’t ever want to overlook.

The informant on Magdalena’s death certificate.

Fritz Georg Geissler.


Who lived at Leontinenstrasse 9.

Hot damn, Magdalena! Did you and Werner leave me with a legacy?

Do I really have cousins to chase?

Sure looks that way, doesn’t it?

Oh, boy…


  1. See Sterbeurkunde Nr. 928, Standesamt Gera, Erdmute Magdalena Hedwig Geissler geb. Späte, 18 Dec 1928. Note that her marriage certificate says the 6th, rather than 16th, but there’s a handwritten correction that she was really born on the 16th and not the 6th. Heiratsurkunde Nr. 180, Standesamt Gera, Arno Werner Geissler-Erdmute Magdalena Hedwig Späte, 9 June 1908.
  2. Wikipedia (, “Kayna,” rev. 24 Jan 2017.
  3. Heiratsurkunde Nr. 180, Geissler-Späte, 1908.
  4. Wikipedia (, “Gera,” rev. 15 Nov 2017.
  5. Adressbuch der Haupt- und Residenzstadt Gera 1909 (Gera: Verlag Karl Bauch, 1909), 44.
  6. Adressbuch… Gera 1910 (Gera: Verlag Karl Bauch, 1910), 44.
  7. Adressbuch… Gera 1911 (Gera: Verlag Karl Bauch, 1911), 45.
  8. Adressbuch Gera 1912 (Gera: Verlag Karl Bauch, 1912), 46.
  9. Adressbuch… Gera 1913 (Gera: Verlag Karl Bauch, 1913), 55.
  10. Adressbuch… Gera 1914 (Gera: Verlag Karl Bauch, 1914), 55.
  11. Stadthandbuch der Haupt- und Residenzstadt Gera… 1917 (Gera, Germany : Verlag Karl Bauch, 1917), 54.
  12. See Judy G. Russell, “Death on the Eastern Front,” The Legal Genealogist, posted date ( : accessed 15 Dec 2017).
  13. Handbuch der Stadt Gera… 1920 (Gera, Germany : Verlag Karl Bauch, 1920), 70.
  14. Handbuch der Stadt Gera… 1922 (Gera, Germany : Verlag Karl Bauch, 1922), 68.
  15. Adressbuch der Stadt Gera… 1925 (Gera, Germany : Verlag Karl Bauch, 1925), 76.
  16. Einwohnerbuch der Stadt Gera… 1927 (Gera, Germany : Verlag Karl Bauch, 1927), 73.
  17. Einwohnerbuch der Stadt Gera… 1929 (Gera, Germany : Verlag Karl Bauch, 1929), 82.
  18. Sterbeurkunde Nr. 928 (1928), Erdmute Magdalena Hedwig Geissler geb. Späte.
  19. Einwohnerbuch der Stadt Gera… 1931 (Gera, Germany : Kanitzsche Buch- und Kunsthandlung, 1931), 69.
  20. Einwohnerbuch Stadt Gera… 1934 (Gera, Germany : Kanitzsche Buch- und Kunsthandlung, 1934), 66.
  21. Einwohnerbuch Stadt Gera… 1936 (Gera, Germany : Kanitzsche Buch- und Kunsthandlung, 1936), 66.
  22. Einwohnerbuch Stadt Gera… 1936 (Gera, Germany : Kanitzsche Buch- und Kunsthandlung, 1939), 69.
  23. Einwohnerbuch Stadt Gera… 1941/42 (Gera, Germany : Kanitzsche Buch- und Kunsthandlung, 1941), 70.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email