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Saturday, January 4, 2014

In Search of Konrad...

My Great Grandfather Conrad Boehler came over from Germany in 1872 according to census records.  I have yet to find his passage on a ship list but will keep looking.  This blog is going to discuss finding Conrad in Germany considering all we had to go on was that he said he was from Baden. First some background on what we already knew about Conrad.

Conrad landed in Lincoln Ill and met my Great Grandmother Amelia Spitley (Spoettle).  Amelia's father, Joseph farmed in Lincoln, Ill and her Uncle Martin Spitley owned the Spitley House there.

*Photo was sent to me from the Logan County Genealogy and Historical Society.

The hotel burned down in 1924 but it is still remembered by a mural in downtown Lincoln.
I was lucky enough to make a trip with my mom last spring to visit Lincoln, Ill.  I took the picture while there.

Conrad married Amelia on the 12th day of January in 1875 at St. Mary's Catholic church.  With Amelia came 80 acres of  farm land as found in the deed books.  A quit claim from Amelia to Conrad was recorded in July 1875.

They remained in Lincoln, Ill until 1878 at which time they moved to Beatrice, Nebraska.  After doing research of the area it seems there were friends from Lincoln, Ill that also moved to Beatrice. Knochel is one of the names found in Beatrice and Lincoln.  Conrad filed an intent to become a citizen in Lincoln, Ill and completed the papers in Beatrice, NE.  It took me 3 trips to the Beatrice Courthouse to finally talk to someone who knew where these records were kept but on that 3rd trip his record of naturalization was found.  
In 1893 Conrad moved his family to Alma, Nebraska and took up farming on land just west of Alma. This land is still being farmed by my dad and brother John and JJ Boehler.
Below is a picture of the house that first resided on this land.
*Picture given to me by my dad.  Although hard to see Conrad and Amelia are seated and all 7 children are in the picture.  

In 1908 Conrad and Amelia retired from farming and built a beautiful house in Alma, Ne.  That house still stands today and is still beautiful.
*I took this picture on one of my trips to Alma.

Conrad passed away on May 20, 1930 from Carcinoma of the Stomach.  Amelia had passed before him from heart disease on November 14, 1926.

Conrad and Amelia had 8 children, one died as an infant, but the others lived to adulthood.  Theodore, Joseph, Mary, Frank, Caroline, George and Edwin. Only two of those children married.  Frank Boehler married Mattie Colgan and they had one son, Clement.  My Grandfather, Joseph Boehler married Loretta "Etta" Fuller and they had 4 children.  Margaret (Peg), Jody, Conrad and John (Jack).  John is my father.

Since Conrad had died in 1930 and my Grandfather Joe died in 1968 when I was in kindergarten there really wasn't anyone to ask about what part of Germany he had come from and what life was like there.  On his death certificate his place of birth was listed as Baden Germany and his parents names were listed as Unknown.  His son, George had given the information so he didn't seem to know much either.

I had been told that Conrad was a stow away on a ship and that he left Germany suddenly.  He had served in the Franco-Prussian War and the "story" was that he was dating a girl and later found it was his superior officer's wife.  Because of this he had to leave Germany in a hurry to avoid the wrath of the officer.  His obituary said that he was the youngest of seven children.  That is about all I had to go on.

As I had become interested in genealogy I had started by researching the other side...the Fuller family.  My cousin, Barb, had done research on the Boehler/Spitly side and for a family reunion she had put together a fabulous book of family group records and pictures that she had collected, but as I became more and more caught up in genealogy I really wanted to know more about where in Germany Conrad came from and more about his family.  

I knew since I had just started out and was still learning that I had to have help.  I got a name of a German researcher from the same friend that has helped me multiple times in my research.  So I contacted her with the only information I had.

Conrad Boehler, born October 16, 1849, in Baden Baden Germany.  The only other thing I had in my possession was a picture that was with my dad's things that had been passed down to him.  It was a picture that listed a Boehler in Germany getting married and the site was listed as Lake Constance, Germany.  I had no idea if this person was related to us or why that picture was mixed in with the Boehler things but it was.

The researcher told me that she would start looking in Baden Baden but that she did not believe any Boehler's were born there.  She searched the records and reported that no Boehler was born that year in Baden Baden.  Next she searched the areas around Lake Constance going from the only hint we had in the picture of Helene Boehler. 

First she found a Conrad Boehler in that area that was born in November 26, 1841 but the year was too far off to be my Conrad.  So she went to looking in another area of Baden where she felt the Boehler family originated from.  I also had asked her to look for an emigration record for Conrad but explained that I believe he stowed away on a ship.  She told me that when they said that they "disappeared in the dark of night" translated to "stowed away" to us, that it meant that he did not ask permission to emigrate to the US.  When someone wanted to leave the principality it was a loss of taxes from this man so they have to pay money to emigrate.  Most people were poor and did not have the amount of money needed for this so they disappeared "by night and fog"!  She told me that he would have still had to purchase a ship ticket as they were very careful to not allow stow aways.  

So she continued to look for my Conrad and one day I received an email that she felt that she had found him!  He was the only Conrad born in that area that year.  The record stated that he was born
October 24, 1849 and he was the youngest of seven children.  I was excited but still unsure due to the birthdate being off.  I felt like everything else fit in.  His father was Sebastian Boehler and mother was Theresia Schey and he was born in a small parish of Riedoeschingen.  Also the distance to Mittelzell, Lake Constance was only 40 there still could be a connection to the picture we had.  She went on to get me lots of information of generations going back many years but I still had that little bit of doubt in my mind.  But how would I ever be sure....

A few months later I had been to a genealogy workshop and they were talking about going back and doing google searches every so often of the people that you are working on because new information is being added everyday and something new could pop up when you least expect it to.  Well my great grandfather was pushing me to check for him that day so I put his name in and I couldn't believe my eyes at what came up.

This is a page from The Bulletin, United States Bureau of Plant Industry that states that my great grandfather had seed from Riedoeschingen Germany that he was growing and developing for them.  This was the confirmation that I needed that he was indeed the Conrad from Riedoeschingen born October 1849.  
Since then I have been told that one explanation for the difference in the day of his birth was that the priest may have been a traveling priest who went from parish to parish to baptize babies and by the time he got back to record births in the books he may have not remembered everything correctly. I don't know but I do believe that my Conrad had been found and with it being in Germany I could never have found the information on my own. 
*Pictures of Conrad and Amelia and a copy of Conrad's intention to become a citizen.

My mom remembers being told that Conrad was spelled Konrad in Germany.  She was right, the books that record his birth have him listed as Konrad Boehler with the "K".  Everything I have found of him in the United States has it spelled with a "C".

We still have not found a connection to the picture of Helene Boehler but I think it must be there. Time will hopefully tell...

1 comment:

  1. Just a side note that I forgot to mention. Conrad's father died within a year after he was born. His mother died in 1870 and Conrad entered the US in 1872. Seems with both parents gone he had nothing tying him to Germany.