Sunday, January 21, 2024

Putting faces to names - Washington Ritter and Eliza Johnson

Recently my aunt sent me old photos which included beautiful portraits of my ancestors Washington Ritter and Eliza Johnson. This was the first time I had ever seen pictures of them, and I was thrilled to finally put faces to their names.

Washington Ritter about 1860

When these pictures were taken Washington and Eliza Ritter lived in the affluent New York City suburb of Tremont, a neighborhood in West Farms. In the 1860s this was in Westchester County. Years later New York City annexed the area, and it is now part of the Bronx. If you have ever driven on 95 through the city, you have driven very close to where they lived. Sadly the area is now more industrial than residential.

Eliza (Johnson) Ritter about 1860

In Tremont the Ritters lived in a large house on Madison Avenue. They were comfortably well off, and Washington worked as an accountant. Washington was also a savvy businessman and put the house and property in Eliza’s name to avoid any probate expenses when he died.

Washington died in 1867 at the relatively young age of 48. He died from tuberculosis which was common at the time. Because antibiotics were not around, many people slowly wasted away from this disease.

Eliza remained in Tremont for about five years after Washington died. Then she sold the property and eventually moved in with her son William Ritter. William had married Catherine Blackett in Brooklyn, New York, in 1867, just a few months before his father died, and about 1873 moved his family to Boston, Massachusetts, where he worked for the railroad.

Eliza lived with William and his family in Boston and died there in 1876. That was a sad episode in the Ritter family. Eliza’s six-year-old granddaughter Nellie Ritter died of croup on March 1st. Six days later on March 7 Eliza died from heart problems. She was 54 years old. Then on March 29, Nellie’s four-year-old cousin Clara Blackett fell ill. Catherine Blackett’s brother and his family also lived in the Ritter household in Boston. Poor little Clara also died from croup, on April 7, 1876.

Washington and Eliza are buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. I visited the cemetery years ago and discovered their grave does not contain a headstone. It is unclear why there is no memorial as they are surrounded by two of Eliza’s siblings and their families who do have headstones.

The Ritter Family

Washington Ritter was born in New York City about 1819 and died in Tremont, a village of West Farms, New York, on 12 October 1867. He was the son of Henry Ritter, an upholsterer who made cushions for family pew boxes in New York City churches. Henry was born in New York city on 4 October 1792, married Ann Laboyteaux there in 1818, and died in Hoboken, New Jersey, on 25 December 1854. Ann is still a mystery but maybe someday I’ll learn more about her.

Henry was the son of Daniel Ritter, a tailor who kept a shop on Water Street in New York City for many years. Daniel was born in New York City on 16 September 1760, married Elizabeth Hoghland (or Hoagland) there in 1783, and died in New York City on 19 January 1825. Elizabeth was of Dutch descent.

Daniel’s father was Michael Ritter. Michael was born in Staudernheim, Germany, on 5 September 1734. He immigrated to New York with his father and his siblings in 1739. Michael was a merchant and kept a shop on Chatham Street in New York City until his death there on 1 November 1799. Michael married Margaret Brant in 1757.

Michael was the son of Johann Peter Ritter. Johann Peter was born in 1698 near Staudernheim in the Rhineland-Palatinate in southwest Germany, near the present-day border with Luxembourg. Johann Peter died in New York City on 5 January 1747. He married a woman named Marie Elizabeth about 1722.

Eliza Johnson’s Family

Eliza Johnson was born in New York City on 2 July 1821 and married Washington Ritter there on 24 December 1845. She died in Boston, Massachusetts, on 7 March 1876. Eliza was the daughter of Thomas Johnson and Mary Disbrow. Unfortunately, I know very little about Thomas Johnson other than he was a merchant. He probably was born in the 1790s and died sometime after 1840.

Eliza’s mother Mary was the daughter of John Disbrow and Elizabeth Altgelt. Mary was born about 1797, married Thomas Johnson in New York City in 1815, and died there on 4 October 1841. She grew up on North Moore Street in New York City where her father owned six townhouses on the street. This is probably where Mary met Thomas Johnson as he rented the house next door to her.

Mary’s father John Disbrow was born about 1775 and died in New York City on 23 July 1825. I am unsure of exactly who John’s parents were, but DNA evidence supports a possible relationship to Samuel Disbrow and Mary Rich of Mamaroneck, New York. It is possible John was the son of Samuel and Mary. John was a merchant tailor and married Elizabeth Altgelt in New York City in 1797.

Elizabeth Altgelt was born probably in Dutchess County, New York, in 1779 and died in Poughkeepsie, New York, on 11 August 1853. She was the daughter of Jakobus Altgelt and Mary Seyn, descendants of another German family from the Rhineland-Palatinate area.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Anna Elisabeth Mohrmann

My 2nd great-grandmother was named Anna Elisabeth Mohrmann. According to family stories Anna immigrated in 1864 from Germany to Cleveland, Ohio. She was supposedly about 17 and came with other young women from her community to marry men who had preceded them to America. For some reason Anna and her intended husband did not marry. I always wondered what happened. Maybe her betrothed was dead? Maybe he had married someone else? Maybe Anna called off the marriage?

Whatever the case, soon after her arrival Anna met Henry Dauber, a “perfect stranger,” and supposedly married him after three days. The family story ends with the following description, “He was 6'4" and she was 4'10" and they were an odd looking but very happily married couple.” 

Anna about 1890 in Cleveland
The picture was colorized with image software.
Unfortunately, her face was not in focus in the original.

My research into Anna discovered that she arrived in New York on 24 May 1864 with a group of other young women of similar age. However, she was not 17, as the family’s story stated, but instead she was 22. Her final destination was Cleveland as was that of three of the other women.

Anna Elisabeth Mohrmann married Henry Dauber in Cleveland on 28 December 1864. I wrote about Henry before and you can find that post here. He was born in New York City in 1834 but then his family returned to Marburg, Germany, where he grew up. Henry returned to New York in 1860 and a year later became a Civil War soldier. He was mustered out in New York City on 13 June 1864. Family stories stated that after his discharge he went west looking for work and he liked Cleveland and stayed. As far as I have been able to determine, Henry had no previous connections to Cleveland. This means the family story that Anna and Henry were strangers could be true. I am not sure if they married within three days of meeting, but they did marry within six months of Henry’s arrival in Cleveland.

Anna Elisabeth and Henry had three children, Henry J. born in 1867, William Frederick born in 1873, and Anna born in 1878. Anna Elisabeth died on 15 July 1907 and Henry died on 4 March 1911. They are both buried in Woodland Cemetery in Cleveland.

For years I’ve tried to figure out where in Germany Anna was from. However, I could find no record that named her parents or a place in Germany where she was born. The closest I could get was a census record that stated she was from the German state of Hesse, the same area where Marburg is located.

However, recently I had a breakthrough! Anna’s civil marriage stated she was married by the Reverend H.C. Schwan. He was the minister of the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cleveland. Earlier this year I discovered a new volume of Roger P. Minert's German Immigrants in American Church Records had just been published that included the church’s records. I immediately ordered a copy and eagerly turned to the page for Anna and Henry’s marriage. And there it was.

Anna Elisabeth Mohrmann was born in Raboldshausen, Hesse, Germany. No parent names were given but now I had a location in Germany I could search for records.

Annotated map from David Rumsey Historical Map Collection
In Raboldshausen’s church records on Archion I discovered that Anna Elisabeth Mohrmann was born on 26 November 1841 and was the daughter of Jakob Mohrmann, a linen weaver, and his wife Anna Margaretha Paul.

I also found two further confirmations that I was in the right place. Four of the young women traveling with Anna in 1864 also appeared in Raboldshausen church records.

Anna and these four women were also named in a commemorative publication by the village of Raboldshausen. In 1999 the village celebrated their 775th anniversary and published the names of auswanderer (emigrants) who left Raboldshausen between 1854 and 1873. In 1864 five women with the occupation of dienstmagd (maid) were named. They included Anna Elisabeth Mohrmann.

Raboldshausen was and still is a small farming village. When Anna was born in 1841 there were about 850 residents. Today there are about 650. The village is located almost in the middle of Germany, in the modern Neuenstein municipality in northeastern Hesse. It is about 40 miles east of Marburg.

Annotated map of modern Germany from Wikipedia
The village is nestled in the gently rolling Knüllgebirge mountains. This arial view shows the surrounding fields and countryside.

Image from Raboldshausen's Wikipedia page.
Historically the village had the usual assortment of blacksmiths, tailors, carpenters, cobblers, and bricklayers. But a larger number of people worked as linen weavers. Linen was an important commodity. It was used for all types of clothing, bedding, and even ship’s sails.

Linen is made from the fibers of flax but is a labor-intensive process. The flax needed to make the linen was probably grown locally. Once harvested the flax stalks were left to rot in pools of water. When it was decayed enough it was dried out and then pulled through nail-like combs to release the fibers. The fibers were then spun into thread and woven into linen cloth.

Anna’s father Jakob Mohrmann was a linen weaver and would have worked from his home. This painting from a German artist in 1896 gives you a sense of what that may have looked like.

Bernard Winter, Die Webstube, 1896, Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Oldenburg. Used with permission from Maggie Blanck.
Jakob Mohrmann and his wife Anna Margaretha Paul only had 2 children, a son named Valentin and Anna. Valentin stayed in Raboldshausen and had 5 daughters. Sadly only one survived to adulthood. She was also named Anna Elisabeth Mohrmann (my Anna was her godmother in 1857) and in 1882 married Justus Peter. This Anna had 4 children and died in Raboldshausen in 1924. There may be descendants of this Peter family who still live in Raboldshausen today. I’d love to find them someday and reconnect the families!

Jakob Mohrmann was the son of Valentin Mohrmann and Anna Catharina Heinzerling. Jakob was born in Raboldshausen in 1802 and died there in 1876. However, the Mohrmann family was not originally from Raboldshausen. Jakob’s father Valentin Mohrmann was born in the nearby village of Saasen in 1776. His parents were Johann Henrich Mohrmann and Anna Martha Winnefeld.

The Heinzerling family has a long Raboldshausen history. Jakob’s wife Anna Catharina was the daughter of Johann Henrich Heinzerling and Anna Martha Wambach. Johann Henrich was born about 1743 and died in 1808 in Raboldshausen. Anna Martha was born about 1739 and died in 1804 in Raboldshausen.

I still have more research on the Paul family and lots of translating of old German church records to do. Once that is done I’ll know a lot more about these families. But I’m so glad I finally know where Anna Elisabeth Mohrmann was from.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Taking the Train from New York City to Cleveland in 1864

I'm taking Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy's “Sea to Shining Sea: Researching Our Ancestors’ Migrations in America” course this week. We spent a whole day learning about the waterways, roads, trails, and railroads our ancestors used. That made me wonder how my 2nd great-grandfather Henry Dauber may have travelled when he left New York City and migrated to Cleveland, Ohio.

I've written about Henry Dauber before. He was born in New York City on 23 October 1834. In 1861, Henry began a 3-year term of service as a Civil War soldier. He was mustered out of service in New York City on 13 June 1864. Family stories say Henry travelled west looking for work and liked what he saw when he reached Cleveland. He was married in Cleveland on 28 December 1864 and died there on 6 March 1911.

I think Henry probably took a train from New York City to Cleveland. Newspapers advertised trains to Cleveland and points west. This included the Atlantic and Great Western via the Eire Railway.

New York Times, 1 Jun 1864, p. 7, col. 2;

According to a June 1864 timetable for the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad, Henry could have left the city at 7 a.m. and been in Cleveland by 5 a.m. the next morning. Or he could have taken a night train at 6 p.m. and arrived at 6:30 p.m. the next evening. In both cases there was an option for a sleeping car and time for meals.

"Erie Railway and Atlantic & Great Western Railway June 1864 Timetable," Western New York Railroad Archives (

If Henry took this train, he left from the foot of Chambers Street on the west side of lower Manhattan and first took a ferry to Jersey City.

"Map of New York and vicinity," Library of Congress ( Map created in 1867. Highlighting added for this blog.

From Jersey City the train took a route that followed the southern border of New York. It then cut across the northwest corner of Pennsylvania before heading on into Cleveland.

"New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Ohio and Canada, with parts of adjoining statesLibrary of Congress( Map created in 1860. Highlighting added for this blog.

When Henry arrived in Cleveland, he didn't stray far. In 1872 he bought property on Williams St. Today this is East 38th Street. Its location is at the red star.

"Cleveland, Cayahoga Co. From data furnished by City Engineer. 1872," David Rumsey Map Collection ( Highlighting added for this blog.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Henry Dauber of Marburg, Germany

Recently I wrote about my 2nd great-grandfather, Henry John Dauber, and the confusion surrounding his birthplace on the American Ancestors blog VitaBrevis. It turns out Henry was not born in Marburg, Germany, but instead he was born on Pitt Street in New York City on 23 October 1834. This was during a 4-year sojourn in America by his parent’s Heinrich and Katharina (Wick) Dauber. When Henry was four the family returned to Marburg. But there is more to Henry’s story which I would like to write about here.

Heinrich (aka Henry) Dauber grew up in Marburg and became a stone mason, or mauremeister, like his father. Then, at the age of 25 he left Marburg and immigrated to New York City in 1860. Maybe it was wanderlust that spurred his leaving Germany or maybe it was dim memories of his time there before. But many Germans were immigrating to America at this time because of economic and political hardships in Germany.

Marburg about the time Henry immigrated to America, image from Wikimedia Commons

In June 1861, Henry began a 3-year term of service as a Civil War soldier. He enlisted in the 41st Infantry Regiment which was a special German regiment recruited in New York. Germans immigrants were often recruited with flyers written in German and many joined out of a sense of patriotism for their new country. Henry joined Company F of this regiment, but his infantry company was soon armed with artillery pieces and became the 9th Independent Light Artillery. Light artillery batteries were known for their speed and maneuverability. Each one was equipped with six cannons pulled by horses. 

Henry started out as a Private but less than a year later he was promoted to Corporal. His battery served in the defense of Washington, DC, at various forts around the city. However, he did not see any action and his battery only lost 5 men to disease during the war. Henry finished his term of service and mustered out in June 1864, in New York City. 

Family stories say that Henry’s job during the Civil War was to put his finger over the hole at the top of the cannon. This was probably true. In a light artillery battery, each cannon was manned by seven men. To fire the cannon each of the seven men had a specific job. One job consisted of covering the vent hole in the back of the cannon during reloading. This was to prevent hot ash from blowing through the vent while swabbing out the cannon. Flying hot ash could set off the next load of powder. This must have been the job Henry had. He probably wore a leather “thumbstall” on his thumb or finger, but it was hot and dirty work. A well-trained crew could fire their cannon two to four times every minute!

Example of a light artillery unit in 1862 from the Library of Congress

After Henry finished his Civil War service he ended up in Cleveland, Ohio. Family stories say he travelled west looking for work and liked what he saw in Cleveland. Cleveland was already a well-established industrial town by 1864 and had a substantial German immigrant community. It is unclear if Henry knew any family or friends when he arrived in Cleveland, but he probably had heard good things about Cleveland during his time as a soldier.

Henry arrived in Cleveland in the summer of 1864 and on 28 December 1864 he married Anna Elizabeth Mohrmann. Anna was born in November 1842, in the same German state of Hesse where Marburg is located. She immigrated to Cleveland in May of 1864 when she was 22. Family stories say she came to marry her betrothed but for some reason the marriage did not occur. The family lore goes on to say “Anna met Henry Dauber, a perfect stranger, and married him after 3 days. He was 6’4” and she was 4’10” and they were an odd looking but very happily married couple.”

Anna (Mohrman) Dauber circa 1890, colorized in 2020

In Cleveland, Henry began working as a stone cutter and continued in this line of business for the next forty years. Supposedly the Dauber family have been involved in the stone trade from the time of the construction of the University of Marburg in the 1500s. Henry and Anna had three children in Cleveland. Henry J. born on 5 January 1867, William born on 23 March 1873, and Anna born on 6 March 1878. Henry J. became a carpenter and William joined his father in the stone contracting business. Anna married George Grossman in 1906.

Anna (Mohrman) Dauber died on 15 July 1907 and Henry John Dauber died on 4 March 1911. They are both buried in the Woodland Cemetery in Cleveland.

Henry and Anna (Mohrman) Dauber circa 1900

Monday, August 12, 2019

Vita Brevis - Where does the time go?

I feel I've been  neglecting this blog recently but that doesn't mean I've stopped blogging. You can also find me on the New England Historic Genealogical Society's blog Vita Brevis. Today I wrote about My little slice of Irish ancestry which detailed the one and only Irish ancestor I've been able to find.

William Jack, born about 1745 possibly in Belfast, died after 1810 in Venango Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania. His life and travels followed a typical Scotch-Irish migration path.

I've also written about a possible mystery ancestor in Who was Magaretha Schmitt? Her cross-stitch sampler has been handed down in my family to me. But we have no idea who she is!

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Flatz Family of Wolfurt, Vorarlberg, Austria, and their journey to Ohio

One of my maternal 2nd great-grandparents was Mary Flatz who was only 4 years old when her family immigrated to Ohio. Mary, the daughter of Franz Xaver Flatz and Maria Anna Geminder, was born at no. 3 Weidach in the village of Wolfurt at 8 o’clock in the evening on 17 June 1848. She was baptized with the name Anna Maria the next day in the local Catholic church. Her father was a village baker and she had two older brothers and one older sister.

Wolfurt, in the Austrian state of Vorarlberg, is located in the far western corner of Austria near the current borders of Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany.

This area, near Lake Constance, is mountainous and hemmed in by the Silvretta Alps which are topped by glaciers. In the early 1800s there was only subsistence farming and little industry or other work available.

The Flatz family were like others in the area who had to produce all they needed to live on. They may have had milk from a single cow, meat from pigs and eggs from chickens. Wheat and bread were sometimes hard to come by and they would have grown vegetables including beets, corn and potatoes. Even the children worked by weaving flax or spinning wool.

Their hard life and the lure of better opportunities in America enticed the family to emigrate. In late winter of 1853 the family began their two-month journey from Austria to Ohio. They left on 18 February 1853 and travelled for five days through Switzerland and part of Germany to Antwerp, Belgium.

Besides Mary’s family, including a new sister only 10 months old, the travelling party also included her uncle Gebhard Flatz and aunt Johanna Flatz, a cousin named John Gephart Sneider, and three other Wolfurt families. It was John Gephart Sneider’s autobiography that provided many of the details for this story.

After reaching Antwerp they purchased tickets on the ship Peter Hattrick and began to buy supplies they were unable to bring with them from Wolfurt. They needed to provide all their own food and bedding on board the ship as well as items they might need in their new life. The ship’s manifest shows the Flatz family brought on board 8 chests, 6 beds and 6 guns. Their Wolfurt travelling companions also brought a 6 chests, 3 beds and 4 guns.

They set sail from Antwerp on 28 February 1853 and were at sea for forty-eight days before finally landing in New York City on 16 April 1853. It is hard to imagine what the eight weeks at sea were like for the 263 passengers. One adult and three very young children died during the voyage.

Once the family disembarked in New York City they immediately set off for Fremont, Sandusky County, Ohio, and arrived there on 24 April 1853. It is likely they were following a route that previous Wolfurt natives had taken before them and knew about the opportunities for good farmland in the Fremont area. Franz and Gebhard bought 40-acres of land east of Lindsey and began farming it that summer.

The Flatz family thrived in Ohio and Franz and his wife, now going by Mary Ann, soon had three more children. Mary Ann (Geminder) Flatz died on 14 January 1878 and was buried in a local Catholic cemetery. Franz Flatz later became Lutheran and died on 13 March 1908. Mary Flatz met James Michael Yeagle, who was living in nearby Rice Township, and they married on 1 January 1871. After having 6 children, Mary (Flatz) Yeagle died on 12 February 1921 in Clyde in Sandusky County.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Four generations of the Blackett family from Leeds, Yorkshire, England

My 5th great-grandfather was John Blackett. He was born in Leeds, Yorkshire, England, in 1767 and evidence suggests he was the son of William Blackett and Jane Lodge. He married Elizabeth Whitely in nearby St. Peter’s Cathedral in Bradford, Yorkshire, in 1786. He and Elizabeth were required to marry in the Church of England, to make their marriage legal, but they were non-conformist Methodists. They were members of the Ebenezer Street, New Connexion Methodist church in Leeds. New Connexion Methodists felt Wesleyan Methodists gave too much authority to ministers over laity and split off in 1797.

John was a cloth presser and worked in the woolen textile industry which was thriving in the Leeds area. This was before the industrial revolution and the age of factories. Instead, he worked in a domestic household, often a cottage, and was probably employed by a local clothier merchant. For years, the family lived in the rural area of Quarry Hill in what was then the outskirts of Leeds. Today this area is an inner-city neighborhood.

In Leeds between 1787 and 1801, John and Elizabeth (Whitely) Blackett had eight children. However, two died in infancy.  About 1805, John and Elizabeth, along with their six children, immigrated to Albany, Albany County, New York. John died in Albany about 1812 and Elizabeth later married William Galloway. She did not have any children from this second marriage and died in 1828.

John and Elizabeth’s youngest sons, John and William, moved to New York City about 1830 and ran a successful hardware and locksmith business for over 30 years. They also employed other family members who moved from Albany to New York City as well. William eventually sold his business share to his brother and moved his family to Clermont, Fayette County, Iowa, where he died in 1879. John died in 1868 and his contested will has provided many pages of interesting details on the New York area Blacketts.

My 4th great-grandfather was James Whitely Blackett, son of John and Elizabeth (Whitely) Blackett. He was born in Leeds in 1787 and remained in Albany after his family immigrated there. He married Mary Colling in Albany in 1810. James began his career as a German flute teacher. Maybe he could not make a living teaching the flute as he later ran a cloth dying business on the corner of Hudson and Green street for many years. James and Mary (Colling) Blackett had five children between 1811 and 1818 but it appeared only two survived to adulthood. James and Mary died before 1868 but I am still searching for information on the exact dates and places of their deaths.

William Colling Blackett, son of James and Mary (Colling) Blackett, was my 3rd great-grandfather. He was born in Albany in 1812. He moved to New York City about 1835, possibly to work for his uncle in the hardware store. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy by 1845 and served as an Ordinary Seaman. In 1849 he was discharged and later worked as a clerk in the Brooklyn Navy yard. In New York City about 1836 William married Emma Withington. Emma, the daughter of Thomas and Susannah (Bratt) Withington, was born in Birmingham, Warwickshire, England, in 1819. She immigrated to New York City with her parents and siblings in 1827.

William Colling and Emma (Withington) Blackett had four children in the New York City area between 1837 and 1849. Their youngest child, Catherine Louise Blackett, is my 2nd great-grandmother. Sadly, soon after Catherine’s birth, Emma (Withington) Blackett died from consumption [tuberculosis] in 1851. William then moved himself and his children into his brother’s household in a new suburb of New York City. Tremont, a village in West Farms, Westchester County, was a recently developed area where many moved to escape the congestion of New York City. William lived in Tremont with his brother, John Blackett, until John died in 1863. William later lived with his daughter and died in New York City in 1872. West Farms was annexed by New York City in 1874 and is now part of the Bronx. William was buried, along with his wife Emma, in Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn. He was a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and was buried in the I.O.O.F. section of the cemetery.

While living in Tremont, Catherine Louise Blackett met William Crook Ritter. William’s parents, Washington and Eliza (Johnson) Ritter had also recently moved out of New York City and built a house in Tremont about 1856. William Ritter and Catherine Blackett were married in 1867. They had four children in New York, Massachusetts and Ohio between 1867 and 1889 and eventually settled and remained in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio. In 1876 they had a fateful month in Boston which I wrote about in "It Started with a Cough: A Month of Mourning for the Ritter and Blackett Families Living in Boston Highlands, Massachusetts."