Friday, February 12, 2016

Introducing My Brick Wall - Joseph Knoch

To be fair, Joseph is just one of many brick walls in the Knoch family. If there's one constant in genealogy, it's the fact that for every brick wall you overcome there will be at least one more lurking behind it. Prioritizing the obstacles, then, becomes key to staying focused, energized, and not throwing your hands in the air in exasperation. Overcoming Joseph's brick wall is key to understanding the German roots of the Knoch family, which is why he's at the top of my brick wall priority list.

So what do I know (or think I know) about Joseph?
  • He was born in the German state of Saxony in 1795.
  • He married a woman named Eva Justine in Germany sometime prior to 1850.
  • He and Eva had four children in Saxony prior 1850.
  • He, his wife, and his four children arrived in New York in April of 1850 aboard the bark Nord America.
  • He purchased 42 acres of land in Springwells Township, Wayne County, Michigan in August of 1850.
  • By 1856, he was dead.
While each of these facts require strong documentation (and for some of them, I already have solid sources that I'll share in later posts), discovering evidence for the first three are key to breaching this brick wall.

Let's start by examining what I know concerning Joseph's birth and death. He first appears in the American record as a passenger - along with his family - on the bark Nord America as it enters New York harbor on 16 April 1850 from Hamburg, Germany. The passenger manifest lists his age as 55, which if it is to be believed would place Joseph's birth sometime between January and April of 1795. The manifest does not have a column for place of birth, but does record each passenger's last residence. For Joseph and his family, the name of the city/village/town that they left for American shores appears to be called Treba. While a significant clue, it doesn't necessarily mean that Joseph was born there. Besides, Treba is itself a mystery - but I'll save that for another post.

The Knoch family as passengers on the Nord America
Jumping ahead in time to the 1860 U.S. census, we find Joseph and Eva (Eve) living together in Springwells Township. There is a problem here, however. Joseph is only 29 years old while Eva is 60. This appears to be Joseph and Eva's son Joseph, as his age matches that of the passenger manifest, but Eva's age shows a 5-year discrepancy. Either the crewman of the Nord America charged with recording passengers or the census enumerator visiting the home in 1860 were given an incorrect age for Eva. In any case, the elder Joseph is nowhere to be found.

Eva and Joseph (the younger) Knoch in the 1860 census
At this point there are any number of reasons for Joseph (senior) to be absent from the census rolls. However, on 11 February 1856 a quit claim deed filed in Wayne County in which Joseph and Eva's son Frederick relinquishes his portion of the original Knoch property to his mother identifies Eva as the widow of Joseph Knoch. That's pretty strong evidence to suggest that Joseph died some time between August 1850 and February 1856. So far I've been unable to discover a death certificate for Joseph which, if found, would pinpoint his date of death and quite possibly shed some more light on his place of birth.

The sources found and discussed thus far haven't given any clues regarding where Joseph was born. For that, I leap ahead in time to the 1880 U.S. census - the first census to record the birthplace of an individual's parents. Looking at the entry for Joseph's son Christian (I haven't been able to locate Eva yet), he declares Saxony to be where his mother and father were born. While it's true that this is essentially hearsay, the entries that I was able to locate for Joseph's other children corroborate the Saxon roots. Still not 100% accurate, but it's the best I have so far.

The Christian Koch family in the 1880 census
In summary, the circumstantial evidence that I've been able to uncover suggests that Joseph was born in Saxony in/about 1795. Where to go from here is a bit of an unknown. I've never before attempted an examination of German records, so it's in more ways than one a foreign world for me. I can read the language fairly well, but knowing where to look is the most frustrating aspect.

In my next post, I'll try to tackle the frustration by examining where that starting point might lie.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Basic Story of the Knoch Family

In the spirit of celebrating the retooling and renewed focus of this blog, how about a bird's eye view of what is known of the Knoch family history so far? This will be a very broad portrait of the family, with many blanks intentionally left unfilled (and in most cases, unexplored) until subsequent posts.

Joseph Knoch (b. 1795, Germany), his wife Eva Justine (b. 1801, Germany) and their children Christian Gottlieb, Joseph, John Frederick Ernst, and Christiane, arrived at the Port of New York from Hamburg aboard the bark Nord America on 16 August 1850. Their last legal residence, as it appears on the ship's passenger manifest, appears to be Treba. Unfortunately, Treba is not a municipality of any sort but is the name of a river in the state of Saxony. This, then, presents a major brick wall. I'll have much more on my thoughts regarding Treba in a later post.

The bark Nord America
On 26 August 1850, less than two weeks after arriving in America, Joseph purchases 42.25 acres of land in Detroit, Michigan, from Alexander Dix. The land was located south of present day Michigan Avenue and west of present day Lonyo street. On the 1860 land ownership map for Wayne County, Joseph's land - bisected by the Michigan Central Railroad  - with the dwelling located on what is now Dix Avenue. I see no other Knoch landowners in the immediate vicinity, though it's obvious from the haste in which Joseph acquires the land that Detroit was his intended destination when leaving Germany.

An 1856 deed concerning a portion of this property refers to Eva Justine as the widow of Joseph Knoch, leading me to believe that he died sometime between 1850 and 1856. A death record for Joseph has yet to be found. Eventually, Joseph's original purchase of land would be divided among his children before ultimately being consolidated again under Christian's ownership in 1876.

Detail of the 1860 Wayne County land ownership map
showing the Joseph Knoch property
Meanwhile, in 1859, Joseph's youngest son John Frederick Ernst (John F.E.) married Emilie Rosalia Zeuner - also of German birth. The couple made their home in Springwells and raised twelve children - including my great-grandfather Frederich.

Frederich Knoch, born in 1869, married Elizabeth (Lizzie) Ochs around 1898. The couple would live in various locations in and around Detroit, raising a family of five children. One, Arthur, I would eventually know as my grandfather.

So there you have it. Short and sweet. Much, much more detail will be contained in later posts but, for now, I wanted to get the basics out there as a point of reference. Cheers!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

So, Where Did It All Go?

For the handful of you who've visited this meager blog in the past, you probably have noticed that several posts have been removed. Sadly, I've been instructed to cease any and all discussion concerning those that I consider to be my maternal ancestors. Although I am a member of the [surname omitted due to privacy concerns] family and genetics can't be erased - no matter how much others wish or pray that they can be - this blog will no longer acknowledge the memories, stories, or presence of my maternal heritage.

As tragic as this situation may seem, it has actually served to motivate me to get this blog back in action. With renewed determination, vigor, and purpose I will be seeking out the story of my family - the Knoch family - and doing my best to share with you what I discover.

Equally as important is the history of my wife's family. After all, our children are as much McGregors as they are Knochs; and although my wife is proud to be a member of the Knoch family, we owe it to our children to share both of our lineages with them.

Stay tuned for plenty of mundane - and a few fantastic - stories of the Knoch family.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

In the Beginning.....

I can't remember exactly what it was that sparked my interest in researching my family history. My earliest research memories are of the conversations that I had with my great-aunt Dorothy (my paternal grandfather's sister) when I was 11 or 12 years old. I remember asking all of the pertinent questions as I dutifully completed - by hand, no less - various pedigree charts and family data sheets. My work would often be delayed as Aunt Dorothy embarked upon one tangent or another, regaling me with stories of this relative who was a minor celebrity or that relative who established the first school in some such territory. As the years rolled by, my interest would wax and wane as new distractions came and went.

When I left home to serve in the military and start my own family, my genealogy work pretty much came to an end. Ultimately, my father took over the reigns and devoted much of his retirement to rooting out the facts of our heritage. He made remarkable progress, tracing both of his lines (as well as getting a good start on my mother's lines) to European shores and fleshing out in great detail the circumstances surrounding our ancestors' early times in America.

Time's cruel hand eventually held my father in its grasp, and he passed from this earth exactly one year ago today. A promise that I made to him during his last hours was to continue the genealogy work that he'd dedicated so many of his twilight years to. It's taken a year for me to be able to bring myself to crack those meticulously organized binders of his and carry on where he left off. As I re-embark on this journey, I'm starting this blog so that the stories of my ancestors can be told to as broad of an audience as possible - and hopefully, someday, lost branches of the family may once again be united.