A Last Photo with the Family before Emigrating to America

At the annual Genealogy and Local History day hosted by my genealogy society Luxracines last month, Nicole gave me two old photographs. They were found at the recycling park and passed on to her as she has an interest in genealogy. As I’ve worked with old photographs and have an interest in researching US families, Nicole thought I might be able to research the family and write a post.

When you jump to conclusions…

On the back of one of the photographs was enough information to identify the family. At first glance, I thought the name of the family was MAMER. We were at the Luxracines event and, as members of the committee, we were both busy setting up and making sure things were running smoothly.

I was really excited to be able to work with these photographs as I have a connection to a MAMER family and know there are descendants of the line in America. These descendants are half-cousins as they descend from my 6th great-grandmother Anna Catharina RONAS who was first married to a MAMER and then to my 6th great-grandfather Nicolas HEITZ. Anna Catharina is one of my matrilineal ancestors.

However, once I got home and had time to sit down and study the photographs, I realized the family name on the back of the photo is MAUER and not MAMER.

About the photographs…

The photographs are nearly identical. The backdrop of the pictures is likely the family home. The same persons are in both photos except for a baby. The woman holding the baby in this photo was probably the mother.

The cardboard frame of the photo above had been cut away while the second one’s frame (below) is the original size making it too large to lay flat and scan completely on my flatbed scanner. It came out a bit blurry compared to the first.

Written on the back of the photo without the baby is the following information:

Etienne Grethen
Marie-Anne Mauer + Kinder Anna + Hélène
mit der Mütter v. M.-Anne Mauer +
Bruder Eugène Mauer
Bruder Valentin Mauer
wahrscheinlich vor der Abreise nach America v.
Eugène + Valentin Mauer
= écriture de Germaine Thill-Steichen de Koerich
décédée le 2 octobre 2008

Translation:
Etienne GRETHEN, Marie-Anne MAUER and her children Anna and Hélène with the mother of Marie-Anne and brother Eugène MAUER and Valentin MAUER probably before the departure for America of Eugène and Valentin.
= handwriting of Germaine THILL-STEICHEN of Koerich who died 2 October 2008.

Also on the back is the photographer’s stamp:

Marcel THILL
19, rue William Turner
LUXEMBOURG

Could Germaine have been the wife of the photographer? Did she include the information for the photographer’s archive? Did she know the family? Was she related to them?

Researching the family in Luxembourg

I started my research into this family with the possible marriage of the mother of the children, Marie-Anne MAUER. She married Etienne GRETHEN on 1 June 1897 in Koerich. Their marriage record included the names of her parents, Jean MAUER and Catherine MERTES.1 Jean and Catherine were married in Hesperange on 21 December 1863.2 As their daughter, Marie-Anne was born in Koerich I checked the Tables Décennales (10-year lists) for births of MAUER children in Koerich for the period 1863-1892. I found a son named Eugène born in 1880 but none named Valentin.

Researching the MAUER brothers who went to America

Before searching for further records for the families in Luxembourg, I checked on Ancestry to see if the two men, Eugène and Valentin, had actually gone to America as noted on the back of the photo.

1920 U.S. Federal Census, courtesy of Ancestry.com

I found Valentin MAUER in the 1920 census with his wife, a son, a daughter, and a boarder named Eugene MAUER. Both men were listed as born in France as were their parents and both immigrated in 1906. Valentin was a naturalized citizen since 1911 and Eugène was an alien. No mention was made of their being brothers or even related.3

Record hits for Valentin consistently showed he was born in France. The 1910 and 1930 census showed he immigrated in 1906 as seen in 1920. A 1921 US passport application gave his place of birth as Ourscanips, France. Obviously a typing error on the application.4 His US World War I Draft Registration Card had his place of birth as Ourscamp, l’Oise, France.5

At the Oise Archives, I located Valentin’s birth record. He was born on 1 August 1887 in Ourscamp, Chiry-Ourscamp. His parents were Jean MAUER age 52 and Catherine MERTES age 46.6

With confirmation that Valentin was born in France and the son of Jean and Catherine, I continued to search in the US records for the Eugène MAUER seen in the 1920 census listing.

Eugene MAUER also filled out a draft registration card in 1918 when he was living in Cottonwood, Idaho County, Idaho. He declared himself an alien from Luxembourg and named Catherine KUHNEN as his nearest relative.7 Per the 1900 census, Catherine immigrated in 1896. She married Andrew KUHNEN in 1897 in California.

Eugene was found on a manifest of alien passengers for the US. He had sailed on the SS Venezuela from San Francisco to Baltimore, Maryland, in June 1921. The information given confirms he was born in Koerich, Luxembourg. He gave Valentin MAUER of San Francisco as his nearest relative. As he was entering a US port he was asked if he had entered the country before, when, for how long, and where. He replied yes from 1906 to 1921 in various places. His purpose for visiting the US was that he was in transit.8 He was likely traveling home to Luxembourg as the next spring he was found marrying Margaretha CLAREN on 30 April 1922 in Folschette.9 They had at least one child, a daughter born in 1923. Birth records are not available after 1923.

Researching the younger generation in Luxembourg

With confirmation that Valentin MAUER and Eugène MAUER found living in San Francisco and Idaho were brothers and the sons of Jean MAUER and Catherine MERTES, I looked into the children of Etienne GRETHEN and his wife Marie-Anne MAUER, also a daughter of the MAUER-MERTES couple.

Etienne and Marie-Anne had a daughter Anna born 3 February 189910, a daughter Hélène Marie-Anne born 30 December 190011, and a son Jean Baptiste born 11 January 1905.12 With these names, I was able to confirm the identity of the persons in this cropped view of the family in the photo with the baby.

Back row left to right: Etienne GRETHEN, Catherine MERTES widow of Jean MAUER, Eugène MAUER, and Valentin Mauer. In the front left to right: Anna GRETHEN, her mother Marie-Anne MAUER holding baby Jean Baptiste, and Hélène GRETHEN.

The baby is a blur in the photograph as he was likely not holding still and it’s impossible to tell his age. As he was born in January 1905 I would estimate the photo was taken later in the year. Valentin stated on his US passport application in 1921 that he sailed from Antwerp, Belgium, about 1906. Passenger lists for ships from Antwerp to America in 1905-1906 may show if Valentin emigrated with his brother Eugène.

Valentin’s 1921 application also includes a passport photo which can be compared with the 1905/1906 photo.

Valentin MAUER ca. 1905-1906 (left) and 1921 (right)

Obituaries were found for Marie-Anne MAUER in 194613 and for her widower Etienne in 1950.14 The obituaries show the children Anna, Hélène, and Jean Baptiste all married and had children. The names of the grandchildren were not included in the death notices.

Is there more to the story of this family?

If the MAUER-MERTES family were one of my families I would have so many questions I’d want answered.

Jean MAUER died in 189215 leaving Catherine MERTES with at least seven children between the ages of 5 and 26 years of age. An 8th child likely died young. A little curious, I checked for her household in the Luxembourg census for the years 1895 and 1900.

In 1895 she had Ann-Marie, Eugène, and Valentin living at home. Two daughters, Marie and Catherine, had been working in Paris for 5 years and son Johann had recently gone to unknown parts of France to work.16

In 1900 Valentin was still at home with his mother and his married sister Barbara had come home with her husband and three children. The children were born in California between 1892 and 1896 which would explain Barbara not being on the 1895 census. Daughter Marie was in her 9th year of service as a nurse in Paris. Son Johann was also working in France while Eugène had been working in Esch-sur-Alzette for a year.17 Marie-Anne was married and in her own household.

In both census listings, the mother Catherine was working to support the family as were all children except young Valentin in 1895.

I have not looked into when Barbara went to America and if, after her family returned to Luxembourg, they remained in Koerich. Nor have I checked if Marie who was working in Paris may have married or even returned to Luxembourg.

Catherine MERTES, the mother of the MAUER children, died in 1914 at the age of 72 years.18

Back to the beginning…

Anna GRETHEN married nine days after her uncle Eugène MAUER on 9 May 1922 in Koerich to Pierre STEICHEN.19 Germaine THILL-STEICHEN who wrote on the back of the photograph was their only (known) child.

I found trees maintained on Ancestry by several descendants of Valentin MAUER and Catherine MAUER. I’ll be getting in touch with them to see if any are interested in receiving digital copies of the photographs or the originals which were saved from the recycling park.

© 2019, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.


  1. Luxembourg, Registres d’état civil, 1662-1941 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Koerich > Mariages 1895-1923 > image 21 of 222. 1897 Marriage Record No. 7. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L97V-Q466?cc=1709358&wc=9RTB-2NR%3A129989801%2C129649201 : accessed 31 October 2019). 
  2. Ibid., Hesperange > Naissances 1869-1890 Mariages 1797-1823, 1796-1868 > image 1432 of 1492. 1863 Marriage Record No. 15. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-DKRX-VL?cc=1709358&wc=9RYW-7M9%3A129747201%2C130056301 : accessed 2 November 2019). 
  3. 1920 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C., NARA microfilm publication T625, 2076 rolls, Roll: T625_141, California, San Francisco County, San Francisco District 28, Enumeration District 3000, Page 2B, Lines 54-58, HH #483-35, Valentine Mauer household. (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 31 October 2019). 
  4. “U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925” (index and images), Ancestry, citing Selected Passports at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C., Roll #: 1693; Volume #: Roll 1693 – Certificates: 66376-66749, 18 Jul 1921-19 Jul 1921. Passport application of Valentine Mauer issued 19 Jul 1921. 
  5. “U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” (index and images), Ancestry, citing original data: United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C., FHL microfilm M1509, 4,582 rolls, Registration State: California, Registration County: San Francisco, Roll: 1544256, Draft Board: 08, Valentine Mauer. (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 2 November 2019). 
  6. Archives départementales de l’Oise (60), browsable images of microfilm collection of parish and civil records (online http://archives.oise.fr/archives-en-ligne/), Chiry-Ourscamp, Etat Civil naissances, mariages, divorces, décès 1887-1888, 3E150/23, image 66 of 155. 1887 Birth Record No. 75. (http://ressources.archives.oise.fr/ark:/44803/9b4f7a420970afc4142b20a70bf130c3 : accessed 1 November 2019). 
  7. World War I Draft Registration Cards, Registration State: Idaho, Registration County: Idaho, Roll: 1452216, Eugene Mauer. (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 31 October 2019). 
  8. Baltimore, Passenger Lists, 1820-1964, Ancestry citing The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C., Records of the US Customs Service, RG36; NAI Number: 2655153; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; Record Group Number: 85, Roll Number: 119. (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 1 November 2019). 
  9. Luxembourg Civil Records, Folschette > Mariages 1851-1923 Décès 1894-1902 > image 560 of 659. 1922 Marriage Record No. 4. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G97J-Y6YY?cc=1709358&wc=9RTY-T3D%3A129624801%2C129674001 : accessed 2 November 2019). 
  10. Ibid., Koerich > Naissances 1895-1923 > image 52 of 222. 1899 Birth Record No. 8. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G97V-WF8Q?cc=1709358&wc=9RTB-RMD%3A129989801%2C129648901 : accessed 31 October 2019). 
  11. Ibid., Koerich > Naissances 1895-1923 > image 74 of 222. 1900 Birth Record No. 46. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-897V-WXVS?cc=1709358&wc=9RTB-RMD%3A129989801%2C129648901 : accessed 31 October 2019). 
  12. Ibid., Koerich > Naissances 1895-1923 > image 133 of 222. 1905 Birth Record No. 1. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L97V-WFHG?cc=1709358&wc=9RTB-RMD%3A129989801%2C129648901 : accessed 31 October 2019). 
  13.  Luxemburger Wort, digitized by the Bibliothèque nationale de Luxembourg, http://www.eluxemburgensia.lu (Verlage der St-Paulus-Druckerei, Luxembourg), 18 November 1946, p. 5, col. 3. Madame Etienne Grethen née Marie-Anne Mauer Avis Mortuaire. (http://www.eluxemburgensia.lu/webclient/DeliveryManager?application=DIRECTLINK&custom_att_2=simple_viewer&pid=802390&search_terms=etienne%20grethen#panel:pp|issue:802390|article:DTL636|query:etienne%20grethen : accessed 1 November 2019). 
  14. Ibid., 3 May 1950, p. 7, col. 3. Monsieur Etienne Grethen veuf de Marianne Mauer Avis Mortuaire. (http://www.eluxemburgensia.lu/webclient/DeliveryManager?application=DIRECTLINK&custom_att_2=simple_viewer&pid=829556&search_terms=etienne%20grethen#panel:pp|issue:829556|article:DTL969|query:etienne%20grethen : accessed 1 November 2019). 
  15. Luxembourg Civil Records, Koerich > Naissances, mariages, décès 1891-1894 > image 87 of 122. 1892 Death Record No. 12.  (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-61W9-VTM?cc=1709358&wc=9RY7-C6R%3A129989801%2C129717601 : accessed 2 November 2019). 
  16. Luxembourg, Volkszählungen 1843-1900 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Koerich > 1895 > image 447 of 628. Mauer-Mertes household. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-9971-RNZV?cc=2037957&wc=M5G6-T3D%3A345861701%2C345878001 : accessed 1 November 2019). 
  17. Ibid., Koerich > 1900 > image 55 of 632. Mauer-Mertes household. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L971-Y35Z?cc=2037957&wc=M5GF-7MZ%3A345861701%2C345873901 : accessed 1 November 2019). 
  18. Luxembourg Civil Records, Koerich > Décès 1895-1923 > image 183 of 267. 1914 Death Record No. 15. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-897V-QHDK?cc=1709358&wc=9RTB-2J9%3A129989801%2C129623802 : accessed 2 November 2019). 
  19. Ibid., Koerich > Mariages 1895-1923 > image 208 of 222. 1922 Marriage Record No. 2. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-897V-QCWT?cc=1709358&wc=9RTB-2NR%3A129989801%2C129649201 : accessed 31 October 2019). 

How DNA Results Helped Discover Luxembourg Emigrants

Earlier this year I wrote about my 4th great-grandparents Jacob FRISCH and Regina HUBERTY in 52 Ancestors: #45 Missing Parish Records in Mamer Leave Unanswered Questions. As the title suggests there were things which were left unresolved in the article. No trace was found of their son Franciscus “Franz” FRISCH  born in 1796 after the 1849 census nor of their son Nicolaus FRISCH born in 1798 after his birth. Franz married and had a family as seen in the census but Nicolaus was completely off the radar.

One of Franz’s sons, Peter John FRISCH was known to have come to America in 1854 as seen in Sandra L. Hammes’ From Luxembourg to La Crosse And Beyond 1851-1910, however, I did not find a birth record to connect him to his parents Franz and Magdalena.

Last month I found a DNA match with a FRISCH ancestor in her family tree. This post is about how I discovered the match, which new website I used to confirm relationships, and how both helped me to prove the missing brothers of my 3rd great-grandmother Elisabeta FRISCH emigrated from Luxembourg to America on the ship Pauline which departed from Le Havre, France and arrived in the port of New York in May 1854.

“New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1891,” (database with images), FamilySearch (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), NARA microfilm publication M237, 140 – 23 May 1854-11 Jun 1854 > images 131 thru 134 of 651. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939V-55J8-K?cc=1849782&wc=MX62-X3X%3A165779201 : accessed 12 October 2018).

DNA Match Labeling

It all began in mid-September when Blaine Bettinger announced his Chrome extension DNA Match Labeling was now available in the Chrome Web Store. This extension lets you use eight colored dots to label your AncestryDNA matches. Michael John Neill wrote an interesting post Label Your AncestryDNA Matches stressing the necessity of giving thought to how to use these on the thousands of matches we have. I decided to use them to label ONLY the paternal matches of the test results I manage.

Different tools used to sort and analyze matches on AncestryDNA

An example of several matches which have been labeled with the red dot:

Matches labeled with the red dot for the line back to William A. W. DEMPSEY

Why not the maternal matches? Our mother is Luxembourgish and all of her ancestors were from Luxembourg or the surrounding regions of Germany, France, and Belgium which were once part of Luxembourg. Compared to the number of paternal matches, the maternal ones are few and far between. The top maternal match is a 4C1R (4th cousin once removed) on page 3 (50 matches per page) with 44 cMs. Since there are so few at this time, I’m using Ancestry’s star feature for maternal matches because it lets me pull up all of these matches and sort them by date or relationship. The colored dots, which I am saving for paternal matches, are only visual aids and cannot be sorted.

Kate, a new match, starred to indicate possible Luxembourg ancestry and Shared DNA amount information open in black box.

While starring the matches, I checked the Shared Matches of the highest maternal cousin and found a new match with a great-grandmother named Anna Katrina FRISCH. Unfortunately, there were no dates and places of birth, marriage, and death in the tree and no parents for this FRISCH young lady.

Kate’s privatized Ancestry tree with the in common with surname: FRISCH.

The new match, Kate in honor of her great-grandmother, is a Shared Match of Mary, a 4C1R who descends through my 4th great-grandparents Jacob FRISCH and Regina HUBERTY. Mary had first gotten in touch with me in 2009. We have been in touch about the DNA match but she has not uploaded to GEDMATCH. This is important to note as shared matches do not necessarily share the DNA on the same segment of a chromosome. The only way to determine this is to do a comparison using a chromosome browser which at this time is not available on Ancestry.

Building Kate’s Family Tree

Building out a DNA match’s family tree is like playing connect the dots. The first run through is all about piecing together hints and bits of information for a temporary tree which can later, if it turns out to be the correct family, be filled out with care and sourced.

I found Joe and Anna DAVIS in Sanborn County, Dakota Territory, in 1885 with a daughter named Lena. I continued to find them in the same county in the state of South Dakota from 1900 to 1930. These helped me to determine I was on the right track and these were Kate‘s great-grandparents. Anna K. as she was seen in the census was born in Iowa with parents born in Germany. This is in conflict with my FRISCH family being from Luxembourg.

Working backwards I searched for Anna K. FRISCH born about 1861 in Iowa and found a promising family group. John and Lena FRISCH in Johnson County, Iowa. They had a Catherine born about 1858 and a Kate born about 1859. In 1860 and in 1880 the father John was seen as born in Luxembourg while in 1870 Holland was listed. The most interesting census listing was the 1860 where the young family was in the household of Francis FRISH (sic), a 60 years old farmer born in Luxembourg. Was this Franz who I had not been able to locate after the 1849 Luxembourg census? When did Franz and his son Jean come to America? Perhaps at the same time as Peter John FRISCH mentioned in the La Crosse book?

A search for a passenger list with FRISCH individuals who arrived in America in the 1850s turned up the list featured at the beginning of this post. Two family groups with the surname FRISCH were on the Pauline in May 1854: François, Pierre, Jean, and Angelique as well as Nicolaus, Catherine, Paul, Canada (sic), Marie, and Catherine. Had I found both of my 3rd great-grandmother Elisabetha FRISCH’s brothers?

Members of my genealogy society Luxracines have been working on a project to index the marriages from the 10-year tables of the civil records of the Luxembourg municipalities and former municipalities for the years 1797 to 1923. Using this new online database (available to members only)  I found Nicolaus FRISCH married Catherine WESTER in Reckange-sur-Mess in 1825. I searched the birth and death records in Reckange and found nine children, five of whom died by 1853 leaving four living: Paul, Jeanette, Maria, and Katharina. All names with the exception of Jeanette (Canada on the list) matched the passenger list.

What about Franz FRISCH? Where was his wife? I found she’d died in 1850 in Capellen. Their oldest son Franz was found marrying in 1851 in Steinsel to Margaretha REUTER. [This is a recent find and I have not spent much time searching for more information on this couple and their children, if they had any.] 

This left two unmarried sons, Pierre and Jean, whose names matched those on the passenger list. But who was Angelique? Pierre married Angelique TRINKES on 4 September 1856 in Dubuque, Iowa, according to the La Crosse book. No marriage record has been found to confirm this date and place. Is it possible she came over with the FRISCH families or did Pierre marry her before their arrival in America?

Matricula Online

Not all of the dots have been connected. The church records are missing on FamilySearch for the parish of Mamer and the affiliated villages. A family register for the parish of Mamer was found on FamilySearch over two years ago when I worked on Elisabeta FRISCH’s family. Would I ever be able to find records to confirm the information in the handwritten register?

This past July the Catholic church records for Luxembourg went online on Matricula Online. Included in this new database are Mamer’s missing church records. The baptismal record of Petrus FRISCH, son of Franz FRISCH and Magdalena MORRET was found on Matricula Online. He was born 25 May 1830 in Capellen.  This is not the date found in the La Crosse book (29 Oct 1832), in the Mamer register (25 March 1830), or on the 1849 census (30 May 1830). I can only hope Peter married his first wife Angelique in Luxembourg as the record would include his correct date of birth. But I feel confident the Pierre seen on the passenger list with François is Petrus found in the baptismal record and Peter who lived in La Crosse County.

The Incomplete Story

Franz and his brother Nicolaus came with their families to America in May 1854. By 1860, everyone was in Jackson County, Iowa. Franz’s son John had married Lena WEBER and was the father of two young girls. Peter had married Angeline TRINKES and did not have children. Nicolaus was with his wife Catherine, son Paul, and daughter Maria. Their daughter Jeanette had married Jean FORRET. They had two children as well as Jean’s mother and two siblings in their household. Nicolaus’ daughter Catherine is the only person from the passenger list who has not been located.

Nicolaus died in 1862 leaving everything to his son Paul. His widow Catherine died in 1872. Franz died in 1867. John was widowed in 1877 and followed his brother to La Crosse County, Wisconsin, after the 1880 census.

Now that I know there are descendants of my 3rd great-grandmother Elisabeta’s brothers living in America, I will continue to fill in the family tree and check for new DNA matches. I looked for Jeanette’s married name and found two matches! Messages have been sent. I can’t wait to see these on my chromosome map.

© 2018, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.