300 Years in Germany
The History of the Eising Family - Chapter 1
The earliest traces of the EISING family can be found in birth, christening, and marriage records of the Catholic Church in Germany. “Parish records” were handwritten in Suetterlin script, employing a combination of German and Latin. These valuable documents provide the only reliable source of information about normal working class citizens over the past several centuries in Germany. The Mormon Church has microfilmed many of these parish records and has transcribed key information into a format that is accessible via the Internet. It is, however, important to remember that the ability to locate accurate information from these records is impacted by the handwriting skills of the parish priest who happened to record the original entry, the quality and density of the ink used by the priest, the environment in which the records have been stored for several centuries, and the expertise of the filming and transcription staff. It should not be surprising that many individual entries simply cannot be read or transcribed.
These images [Footnote E1-1] provide a typical example of a birth/christening record for Theodore EISING. At a minimum, birth/christening records typically provide date/time of the birth and christening, parents’ names, whether the parents were married, Godparents’ names, and the name of the individual who recorded the information.
The EISING and EISSING surnames first appear in parish records during the mid-1500s in the region which today is between the city of Stuttgart and the “Black Forest” [Footnote E1-2]. By the mid-1600s, the EISING/EISSING families had moved into the northern Rhine River region that is today part of the State of Westphalia. This movement northward was most likely an effort to escape the dangerous political and religious environment associated with the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). During this period the European countries lost more than 7 million people to war and outbreaks of the plague. The German region lost nearly one-third of their total population. More than 95 per cent of those who then lived in the German region made their living directly from the land or herding, so damaged farmland and dead livestock meant the people were starving while living in poverty conditions.
At the same time, the political structure of the region consisted of 350 small independent divisions that routinely battled with each other and with outside invaders. Peasants normally leased land from the local aristocrats or the Catholic Church, with no guarantee that the lease would be renewed the following year. Along with the land rent came taxes that constantly increased. If a peasant family could not pay, they were evicted and another family quickly took their place.
St. Ludgerus Catholic Church, Billerbeck, Germany
Billerbeck, Germany Marketplace [Footnote E1-3]
By the mid-1700s, the ancestors of the Quincy, Illinois EISING family were recorded in the St. Ludgerus Catholic Church (image above) parish records as living in and around the village of Billerbeck.
Billerbeck is today a small, picturesque village in the German State of Westphalia, about 25 miles east of Germany’s border with the Netherlands. It is now a city of 10,300 residents and has a recorded history of over 700 years since its founding in the year 1302.
The image to the right shows the location of Billerbeck on a current map of Germany [Footnote E1-4].
As mentioned above, the EISSING family lived in the village of Billerbeck, Prussia some 300 years ago. The earliest family member that can be directly traced through church records is Gerhard Henricus EISSING, born about 1766. His birth record has not been identified, but on 25 Nov 1792 he married Anna Elizabetha REERS at St. Ludgerus in Billerbeck [Footnote E1-5]. Since Gerhard Henry's birth record is missing, it is not possible to identify his parents. Therefore, it is impossible to trace the family to an earlier generation. Anna Elizabetha REERS was the daughter of Johan Herman and Dorothea Kiellers REERS. Her sisters were Anna Gertrude (born 29 Dec 1760), Anna Barbara (born 15 Nov 1764), and Anna Maria. It should be pointed out that it was not uncommon to give the same first name to multiple children in the same family, since they would be known by their second name in day-to-day activities. The first name would be used only for formal documents.
Note that in this and subsequent generation charts, an "<<<" identifies the individual that will carry forward to sire the next generation.
Gerhard Henry EISSING & Ann Elizabeth REERS (married 25 Nov 1792) would have 6 children christened at St. Ludgerus in Billerbeck
Catharine Elizabeth EISSING - daughter born 15 Nov 1793
Joannes Casparus EISSING - son born 1 May 1795
Bernard Heinrich EISSING - son born 8 Jan 1796
Maria Anna EISSING - daughter born 1 Mar 1797
Joan Albert EISSING - son born 8 Oct 1799
Joan Bernard EISSING - son born 28 Dec 1802 <<<
Joan Theodore EISSING - son born 11 Nov 1808
Maria Anna would take Joannes Wilhelmus Henricus GROENING as her husband on 4 May 1819 in St. Pankratius Catholic Church in Gescher (a small town about 12 miles southwest of Billerbeck – current population about 15,000). The couple would have 10 children, the last 4 of which died at an early age [Footnote E1-6]. In 1836 she would serve as godmother to her younger brother’s daughter, Mary Ann EISING (Generation 3).
Joan Albert would marry Catharina Elisabeth Droeger on 10 Nov 1835 in Billerbeck. They would have 4 children.
Joan Bernard would marry Catharina Elisabeth Steining on 1 March 1832 in Gescher. This family will be described in Generation #3.
Joan Theodore would marry Anna Bernadina Langenhorst on 26 May 1840 in Billerbeck. This family would have 11 children.
The St. Ludgerus parish records [Footnote E1-7] identify two marriages involving a “John Bernard EISING”. The first wedding is with Catharine Elizabeth THIES on 15 Aug 1820. The second marriage is recorded on 13 May 1821 with Ann Gertrude WALTERMAN. There are no birth or christening records listed from either marriage. It is not known for certain whether either or both of these marriages involved the “John Bernard EISING from Generation 2”, but he would have been a late teenager at those times. We do know that at on 1 March 1832, John Bernard EISING married Catharine Elizabeth STENING, daughter of Bernard Herman and Ann Catharine Groenin STENING, in St. Pankratius Catholic Church in Gescher . Elizabeth was born on 8 Oct 1813 in Gescher. At the time of their marriage, John Bernard was 29 and Elizabeth was 18. During their marriage, John Bernard and Catharine Elizabeth would have 11 children:
Maria Catharina EISING - daughter born 16 Feb 1833, died 5 days later - Gescher
Maria Elizabeth EISING - daughter born 1 Apr 1834, died 7 months later - Gescher
Maria Anna EISING - daughter - born at 2:00 PM on 27 Mar 1836 in Gescher, christened the next day. Godparents were her uncle, Frank Anthony STEINING and her aunt, Mary Ann Eissing GROENING from Billerbick.
Anna Margaretha EISING - daughter - born 16 Nov 1838, died 20 Jan 1843 at age 4 - Gescher
Theodore EISING - son - born at 1:00 AM on 23 Mar 1841 in Gescher, christened later that day. Godparents were his uncle Theodore EISING of Billerbick and Catharine GROENING of Gross Reeken, died at about age 5.
Mary Christina EISING - daughter - born at 3:00 AM on 16 Jan 1844 in Gescher, christened the next day. Godparents were her aunt, Elizabeth Eising DROCHTER of Billerbeck and John Bernard Paschert, died at age 10.
Henry Bernard EISING - son - born 28 Mar 1848 - Illinois <<<
Catharine EISING - daughter - born Apr 1849, died 18 months later – Illinois
Elisabeth EISING - daughter - born 1850 – Illinois
Francis EISING - daughter - b. 1853 – Illinois
We can only imagine how bad the living conditions must have been for the EISING family. Three of their six children had died in childhood. Decades of war, repeated epidemics of plague, widespread unemployment, overcrowding and a bankrupt economy must have made the stories about life in America seem like fairy tales. Millions of people from all over Europe were seeking a better life across the Atlantic.
The formal record we have of the EISING emigration from Germany is an entry in an 1845 “Application to Emigrate” from Germany to America [Footnote E1-8]:
Joh Bern EISING
Cath Elis Steining EISING, wife
M Christ, child
M A, child
Coming from families that had lived for generations within a few miles of Billerbeck, it must have been a very difficult decision for John Bernard and Catherine Elizabeth to permanently leave their homeland and embark upon a dangerous 7000-mile journey with their young children to a city that had only been carved out of the Illinois wilderness some 20 years earlier. At the same time, it is known that other families were leaving for America from the Gescher area, with the assurance that in the New World everyone would be treated equally. It is likely that some of their friends convinced the EISING family to head specifically for Quincy, Illinois (e.g., many members of the MAAS family relocated from Gescher to Quincy during this period).
The trip from Gescher to America in 1845 must have taken several months. They would have had to sell almost all of their possessions before leaving. The family would probably have taken a train southwest to the French port of Le Havre and then found lodging in that city for several days or weeks until passage could be arranged on a sailing ship to America. Bernard’s United States naturalization application [Footnote E1-9] indicates that they left Le Havre on 9 Oct 1845 and arrived in New Orleans in December. We know from later reports [Footnote E1-10] that the EISING family took up residence in New Orleans for two years before proceeding up the Mississippi River to Quincy. It is possible that they needed this time to save money for the final leg of their journey or to fulfill the contract for their passage to New Orleans.
OPINIONS AND FOOTNOTES
It is interesting to note that Gerhard Henry and Anna Elizabeth (Generation #1) grew up during the period in which the American colonies declared their independence from England, formed the United States of America, and fought the Revolutionary War. More than half a century later, their son and his family would leave Prussia to start a new life in America.
From an historical perspective, it was during Generation #2 that Napoleon began his rise to power, leading to the French occupation of Western Europe, including Germany. Emigration from Germany was tightly controlled during this time frame. The War of 1812 between America and England finally stopped all migration to the United States for two years.
Based upon what is recorded in later church and census records, it seems safe to assume that at least John Bernard, Catharine Elizabeth, Mary Ann and Mary Christine successfully completed the arduous trip from Gescher, Prussia to Quincy, Adams County, Illinois and established themselves there by about 1847. There is no known record of four year old Theodore after the German emigration request in 1845. It is therefore assumed that he died some time during the period of 1845 - 1847.
E1-1 From Kirchenbuch (Parish Records for St. Pankratius Catholic Church in Grescher – 1822 to 1853), recorded on Mormon microfilm #0872016.
E1-2 Demographic information on early EISING/EISSING families was obtained from generic searches of the International Genealogical Index, accessed from www.familysearch.com
E1-3 Source: www.cityalbum.de/germany/billerbeck.htm
E1-4 Essential Atlas of the World, Barnes & Noble Books, New York, 2002.
E1-5 Information related to Generations 1and 2 was obtained from Kirchenbuch (Parish Records for St. Ludgerus Catholic Church – 1757 to 1875), recorded on Mormon microfilms #0873116 and #0873117.
E1-6 In 2012 several emails were exchanged with Alfred Weyrich, who lives in Lutherstadt, Germany. He is a great great great grandson of Mary Ann and William Groening. Information provided by Alfred is gratefully acknowledged.
E1-7 Information related to Generation 3 was obtained from Kirchenbuch (Parish Records for St. Ludgerus Catholic Church in Billerbeck – 1757 to 1875), recorded on Mormon microfilms #0873116 and #0873117 and from Kirchenbuch (Parish Records for St. Pankratius Catholic Church in Grescher – 1822 to 1853), recorded on Mormon microfilm #0872016.
E1-8 Friedrich Mueller, “Westfaelishe Auswanderer Im 19.Jahrhundert – Auswanderung aus dem Regierungsbezirk Muenster, Part 1, 1803-1850” (Westphalian Emigrants in the 19th Century- Emigrations from the Governmental District of Muenster, Part 1, 1803-1850).
E1-9 Alien Declaration, dated 4 Nov 1848 in Quincy, Adams County, Illinois, signed by Peter Lott, Court Clerk. Document is available in the Circuit Court Office in the Adams County Court House.
E1-10 Hobart, Biographical History, 1908. Part of historical collection at the Hancock County Illinois Historical Society in Carthage, Hancock County, Illinois.