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Chasing the Germans again

“It is easier,” Mark Twain wrote, “for a cannibal to enter the Kingdom of Heaven through the eye of a rich man’s needle that it is for any other foreigner to read the terrible German script.”1

And oh, boy, does The Legal Genealogist ever sympathize.

My entire paternal ancestry is German. My father was born in Germany, my paternal grandparents were born in Germany, my paternal great grandparents were born in Germany, and so on back to where the memory of man runneth not to the contrary.

It’s hard enough chasing ancestors through hard-to-find records.

It’s really hard enough when you’re chasing them through hard-to-find records in a language you struggle with.

It’s way past hard enough when you’re chasing them through hard-to-find records in a language you struggle with and they keep using different names.

But it’s adding insult to injury when you’re chasing them through hard-to-find records in a language you struggle with and they keep using different names that are written in a script that bears no reasonable relationship whatsoever to the cursive handwriting you grew up with.

Johann Gottfried

I just didn’t expect to be dealing with all of that with respect to the ancestor I’ve taken to calling Freddie or, to be more formal, my third great grandfather Friedrich Geissler.

Hard to find records? Check.

German language records? Check.

But his name — with a minor variable in the way the last name appeared (Geissler, sometimes Geisler, sometimes Geißler) — was always the same: Friedrich Geissler.

His name, in the baptismal record of his son Johann Gottlob, is clear as day.

The baptism was recorded in 1819, Johann Gottlob was the first of his children to be baptized in the Lutheran church in Theissen, in what’s now the German state of Sachsen-Anhalt, and the pastor wrote the father’s name as Friedrich Geisler.2

His name in the 1821 baptismal record of his daughter Johanne Rebekka is Friedrich Geißler.3

His name in the 1824 baptismal record of daughter Friederike — The Legal Genealogist‘s second great grandmother — is Friedrich Geißler.4

The family is off the radar until they show up in Ossig in 1833, and daughter Johanne Rosine was the first child baptized there, on the first day of 1834. Her father’s name in the baptismal record: Friedrich Geisler.5

That little girl died when she was just seven months old, and was buried in Ossig. The father’s name in the burial record: Friedrich Geisler.6

This third great grandfather himself was the next recorded in the church books: his name on the entry for his death on 14 November 1835 and burial on the 13th (correction:) 18th was Friedrich Geisler.7

Another son, Friedrich Traugott, died in 1844, and his father’s name was recorded as Friedrich Geißler.8

When Friederike herself married in 1859, her father’s name was recorded as the late Friedrich Geisler.9

And when she died in 1880, her death record named her father as Friedrich Geissler.10

Now… according to that first baptismal record in Theissen, Friedrich and his wife Sophia, maiden name Schumann, had been married in Kayna. Friedrich was shown as age 50 when he died in 1835, so born roughly 1785. Sophia was reportedly between 73 and 74 when she died in 1864, so born around 1790. The boy baptized in 1819 in Theissen was shown as the fourth-born child (first surviving). Put all that together and I figured the marriage should have been no earlier than perhaps 1797 or so (mother age 17) and certainly not later than perhaps 1814 even assuming quick pregnancies.

So I went page by page entry by entry through the earliest available church records, starting in 1799. It was really pretty easy because, except in a couple of years, the person preparing the entries in this duplicate church book helpfully used an easy-to-read block-type script for the names of the brides and grooms. But I couldn’t find it.

And why couldn’t I find the marriage of Friedrich and Sophia in Kayna?

That brings up, first, the “script that bears no reasonable relationship whatsoever to the cursive handwriting you grew up with” part.

You picked up on that “except in a couple of years” comment, didn’t you? And one of the likely years for that marriage, 1813, is one of the years the names weren’t written clearly in that block-type script in the church book.

But how hard could it be, in a year with just 17 marriages, to find or rule out any bridegroom named Friedrich? So I looked at nearby years and entries to find everybody who had Friedrich in any part of their names and got a clear idea of what that name would look like in German script. I carefully studied the first and even middle names of all 17 grooms.

Gottlieb, nope. Christoph, nope. Daniel, nope. Nope nope nope. No Friedrich. On to 1814.

Nope. Not there. Not in that volume at all.

Except … you do remember that “they keep using different names” part?

Friedrich — sigh — apparently wasn’t Friedrich at all. It certainly was his call name — what he was called, what he was known as, throughout his life. But when he got married? He absolutely was not Friedrich.

It was Johann Gottfried Geissler who married Sophia Schumann in Kayna on the seventh day of June 1813.11

And it was Johann Friedrich Geissler who presented his son, another Johann Friedrich, for baptism there in February of 1815.12

Oh, Freddie… not you too.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Oh, Freddie…,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 22 February 2020).


  1. Caroline Thomas Harnsberger, ed., Mark Twain At Your Fingertips: A Book of Quotations (Mineola, NY: Dover Publs., 2009), 149.
  2. Evangelische Kirche Theißen (Kr. Weißenfels), Kirchenbuchduplikat, 1799-1827, baptismal entry for Johann Gottlob Geisler, 20 June 1819; Staatarchiv Magdeburg; FHL microfilm 1190672.
  3. Ibid., baptismal entry for Joh. Rebekka Geißler, 15 November 1821.
  4. Ibid., baptismal entry for Friederike Geißler, 20 June 1824.
  5. Evangelische Kirche Ossig (Kr. Zeitz), Kirchenbuchduplikat, 1812-1857, baptismal entry for Johanne Rosine Geisler, 1 January 1834; Staatarchiv Magdeburg; FHL microfilm 1335488.
  6. Ibid., burial entry for Friederike Geißler, 6 August 1834.
  7. Ibid., burial entry for Friedrich Geisler, 13 November 1835.
  8. Ibid., burial entry for Friedrich Traugott Geisler, 9 December 1844.
  9. Ibid., Kirchenbuchduplikat, 1858-1874, marriage entry for Johann Gottlieb Stecher and Friederike Geisler, 13 February 1859; Staatarchiv Magdeburg; FHL microfilm 1335489.
  10. Haupt-Register (Main Register), Nr. 49, Haynsburg; death record, Friederike Stecher (29 June 1880); Standesamt Droyßiger-Zeitzer Forst. Translation by Ute Brandenburg,
  11. Evangelische Kirche Kayna (Kr. Zeitz), Kirchenbuchduplikat, 1806-1844, marriage entry for Johann Gottfried Geissler and Sophia Schumann, 7 June 1813; Staatarchiv Magdeburg; FHL microfilm 1336088.
  12. Ibid., baptismal entry for Johann Friedrich Geissler, 19 February 1815.
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