On Wednesday, 30 July 1817 my fourth great-grandparents Michel and Catherine met at the city hall in Pétange in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg with two other couples. Michel was 39 years old and Catherine was 42 years old. At 8 o’clock the first couple was married, followed by Michel and Catherine at 9 o’clock, and the third couple at 10 o’clock. Michel witnessed the first and third marriage. This in itself is unusual but there is more to the story.
The first bride to be married the same day as my fourth great-grandparents is also a part of my family tree. The bride Elisabeth MAMER was my first cousin six times removed. Elisabeth’s father Dominique MAMER was the half-brother of my fifth great-grandmother Agnes HERTZ. Agnes and Dominique were children of Anna Catharina RONAS, my most distant ancestress on my direct matrilineal line.
There may be another connection to Elisabeth MAMER as her mother’s parents were a BURKEL and a BERKIN, both surnames shared with my ancestors. But it is not the connections to the first couple which is so interesting. What did else did these couples have in common? The newlyweds – all three couples – had children who were legitimized at the time of marriage.
Michel and Catherine’s Marriage Record
Michel and Catherine’s record marriage record had notes in the margin showing they had children: 1. Marguerite, 2. Catherine, 3. Anne, and 4. Jean Pierre, all born prior to marriage. These were not the only children born to Michel and Catherine. They had had eight children in eighteen years, the last born in 1814. Only four were living at the time of their parents’ marriage in 1817. The marriage must have been blessed by the church in a religious ceremony at least eighteen to nineteen years prior to the civil ceremony in 1817. It must have so been believed to be legal by the civil servants who recorded the births of seven of the children as being born to a lawfully wedded couple.
In 1795 the Duchy of Luxembourg became the Département des Forêts following its surrender after a siege of over seven months by French Revolutionary troops. The anti-religious policy of the new government is one of the reasons a marriage record may not be found for a Luxembourg ancestor during this time period.
The people rebelled against the new laws continuing to be married by their priest, even if it meant having the ceremony performed in the kitchen, and refusing to have a civil record of the marriage recorded. When the Napoleonic Code was introduced in 1804 all persons were required to be married in a civil ceremony. Couples who had only been wedded by a priest since the introduction of civil records around 1796 had to be married in a civil ceremony to legitimize their children’s births. The children’s names were listed on the civil marriage record following the line in which the groom and bride were joined as husband and wife. Often the list was so long that it had to be continued in the margin of the marriage record. (see image above)
Michel PHILIPPART, the son of Jacques PHILIPPART (1749-1823) and Catherine SINGER also known as Catherine KETTER (1743-1835), was born and baptized on 16 October 1777 in Rodange. His godparents were his paternal uncle Michel PHILIPPART of Rodange and Nanette KETTER of Bettingen. His relationship to his godmother is still under investigation. [I couldn’t resist. Bettingen or Bettange-sur-Mess is a new parish for me and so far I have only found one SINGER/KETTER sibling named Barbara.]
Catherine MEUNIER, the daughter of Henri MEUNIER and Margaretha KILBOUR, was born in 1775 in Rodange. A birth/baptismal record has not been located. Catherine’s father was from Rodange and her mother from Esch-sur-Alzette where they married on 21 December 1774. Both Rodange and Esch parish records were checked for Catherine’s birth without results. Her 1775 year of birth was found on her 1817 marriage record without a month or date which suggests the officials also had difficulties finding a record for her. Variations of her year of birth (calculated from age at the time) on the census records in 1843, 1846, 1847, and 1849 and her 1851 death record ran between 1768 and 1780. The 1849 census had her date of birth as 5 June 1774. This is not reliable as the three other persons in the household had dates of birth which did not come close to being correct.
Michel was the oldest of four children while Catherine may have been an only child. Her father died before the 1 December 1793 as her mother remarried on Tuesday, 17 December 1793. The marriage banns were published before the marriage to André DOMANGE on three consecutive Sundays (1st, 8th, 15th) dating the death of the first spouse at before the first bann.
Michel and Catherine’s children
As mentioned Michel and Catherine had all of their children before their legal civil marriage ceremony. Their oldest daughter Marguerite was born about 1800. No record of birth was found for her. When the census was taken in 1849 her birth date was listed as 11 August 1802 which cannot be correct due to the date of birth of the next two children. Marie Catherine, my third great-grandmother, was born on 8 November 1801 and her brother Henri on 1 December 1802.
UPDATE (10 December 2017): My genealogy friend Linda (who has helped me out several other times with my families in Luxembourg) found the birth record of Michel and Catherine’s daughter Marguerite. She was born on 19 Nivôse in the year VIII (9 January 1800) to Catherine Meunier. The birth was reported by the grandmother Margaretha KILBOUR. No mention is made of the father. This helps to date the possible religious marriage of Michel and Catherine at between 9 January 1800 and 8 November 1801 when Marie Catherine was born to a legally married couple.
Daughter Anne was born 17 December 1804, followed by two sons, Jean Pierre on 25 October 1808 and Jean Baptiste on 29 January 1810. Jean Baptiste lived only a little more than a month dying on 2 March 1810. Their seventh child, Catherine was born on 17 April 1812. Before the birth of their last child, their oldest son Henri died on 9 August 1813 at the age of 10.
Michel and Catherine named their youngest child Michel when he was born on 2 June 1814. He lived a little over a month and died on 15 July 1814. His death was followed by the death of young Catherine on 20 November 1814 at the age of two years.
By 1817, when Michel and Catherine were legally married, they had lost four children while Marguerite age 18, Marie Catherine age 16, Anne age 12, and Jean Pierre age 10 were thriving. Michel was supporting his family working as a shoemaker or cordonnier.
The children are grown
Nearly four years later Catherine’s mother Margaretha KILBOUR died on 4 April 1821 at the age of 80.
Two years later the first of the four children married. My third great-grandmother Marie Catherine PHILIPPART married André FOURNELLE (1799-1866) on 23 April 1823.
Jacques PHILIPPART, the father of Michel, died on 23 March 1824 at the age of 75 years.
The second of four marriages took place on 20 September 1826 when Anne, the youngest daughter, married her first cousin once removed Jean Baptiste PHILIPPART (1798-1828). Jean Baptiste died on 6 April 1828 and his widow Anne gave birth to a son she named Joseph on 29 May 1828.
The oldest daughter Marguerite married her first cousin once removed, Joseph PHILIPPART (1801-1864), brother of Jean Baptiste, on 12 September 1828. Jean Baptiste and Joseph were the sons of Joseph PHILIPPART and Susanne SCHMIT. The men’s grandparents Jacques PHILIPPART and Elisabeth BURKEL were the great-grandparents of their wives, Anne and Marguerite.
Catherine’s step-father André DOMANGE died on 17 December 1833 at the age of 69 years.
The last of the children to marry was the youngest and only son Jean Pierre PHILIPPART. Until I began to review and research this family for this post I had no idea if Jean Pierre was still living or had married. I found his marriage in my genealogy society’s database for Luxembourg marriages for the years 1796-1923. It is still a work in progress and not yet online but as a member of the board of Luxracines, I have access to the beta version.
Jean Pierre was working as a border guard in Stadbredimus when he married Barbara GOVERS (also seen as GOUVERS) on 27 February 1834.
A year later Catherine SINGER, mother of Michel PHILIPPART, died on 9 February 1835 at the age of 91.
Michel and Catherine likely did not expect to outlive any of their remaining children. However, their daughter Marie Catherine, wife of André FOURNELLE, died on 20 July 1843 at the age of 41 years. She was the mother of eleven children, the last having been born only nine days earlier. André, my third great-grandfather, was left to raise the children on his own. He never remarried.
Michel PHILIPPART died at the age of 71 on 23 September 1849. His death was reported by Joseph PHILIPPART who was erroneously listed as his son instead of his son-in-law. Three months later Joseph reported the death of his wife Marguerite, daughter of Michel, who died on 31 December 1849 at the age of 50.
Catherine MEUNIER, Michel’s widow, died on 24 May 1851 at the age of 76 years. Once again it was Joseph who reported the death and was seen as her son and not son-in-law. She left two living children, Jean Pierre and Anne.
Jean Pierre and his wife had a daughter born in Osweiler in 1837. This event in the commune of Rosport gave Jean Pierre, his wife, and child an entry in Thomas Webers’ family book for Rosport. The daughter’s marriage was included – an event which took place in Namur, Belgium in 1862. This tiny tidbit along with her date and place of death was enough to trace the family further. The marriage record included the date and place of death of the bride’s father. Jean Pierre died on 21 October 1861 at the age of 52 in Hondelange, Province of Luxembourg, Belgium. He was a Belgian customs employee or employé des douanes belges, sous brigadier. He left a wife and a son who was the informant for his death. With each new record, a new clue was found and I learned he had at least five children and his widow was still living in 1875.
By 1861, after Jean Pierre’s death, the only living child of Michel and Catherine was their daughter Anne who was also known as Nanette. As mentioned earlier her husband died while she was pregnant with their son Joseph who was born nearly two months later. But Anne and her father Michel PHILIPPART left a puzzle I have not been able to figure out.
On 30 September 1832, Anne gave birth to a male child who was given the name Jean HOUTTEN (seen as HOULTEN on the index). Michel PHILIPPART, the grandfather, was the informant and named Jean HOUTTEN of Robelmont in Belgium as the father and his daughter Anne as the mother. They were not married. No trace of this male child has been found after the birth. In the census records, as early as 1843, Anne is seen with her son Joseph and a daughter named Catherine. This daughter married twice and both times she was listed as born on 25 September 1832, five days before the male child. Only her mother Anne PHILIPPART was named on her marriage records. No father’s name was given. Was an error made at the time of birth? Was the child born to Anne in 1832 a daughter and not a son? Are there any other possible scenarios?
Anne died on 24 January 1871 at the age of 66 years. Her death was reported by her son Joseph and her son-in-law André HILBERT, the second husband of her daughter Catherine.
I found many new records for this family group while reviewing my database. I added several generations to the PHILIPPART and MEUNIER branches of the family tree as I discovered marriage records for Catherine MEUNIER’s parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Nearly all the families who lived in the area during the 1700s appear to be related to each other and to my families of Rodange. Lots of loose ends to tie together. But they will have to wait for now as this ends my visit to Rodange – next stop will be Vianden.
Sources: I’m taking the easy way out this week. I’ll be uploading my updated GEDCOM file to RootsWeb a.s.a.p. All sources have been found and can be referred to by clicking on the names in the box below.
© 2017, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.