52 Ancestors: #17 They Didn’t Take The Rags to Riches Journey?!

Week 17 (April 23-29) – Prosper. Which ancestor has a rags-to-riches story? Which ancestor prospered despite the odds?

When my husband’s great-grandmother Margaretha GORGES was 8 months old her parents Johann GORGES and Catharina SCHERFF planned to emigrate to North America with Marguerite and her older brother Johann. It was quite a surprise to me when I found this information in the work of Richard Schaffner who compiled the Family Book for the town of Fell in Germany where the GORGES side of the family came from. Schaffner wrote, “Familie mit den beiden Kindern laut Mergen, Kreis Trier, Seite 96 nach Nordamerika ausgewandert, Antrag vom 12.03.1869.” Translation: The family with both children according to Mergen, Kreis Trier (shortened form of the publication name by Mergen) p. 96 emigrated to North America, application from 12 March 1869.[1]

The labor market in America offered opportunities to earn money to feed the families, improve their positions in life, and maybe even to save for hard times. A promise of rags-to-riches.

A person’s native country is precious. Why would he want to emigrate with his family? How did they know what life would be like in the new country? Did they have relatives who preceded them?

Emigration at that time was a costly hardship. How could a single person who worked as a servant afford to pay for the passage which would amount to two years of earnings? How much would a family need?

The family’s intention to emigrate is documented in this entry from the office of Schweich (Landkreis Trier-Saarburg, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany)

Entry 642: Der Tagelöhner Johann Gorges, geb. 14.2.1838 zu Fell, gegenwärtig in Born, Lux., mit s. Frau Katharina Scherff, geb. 12.10.1836 zu Born in Luxemburg, und den Kindern Johann 30.1.1862 und Margaretha 28.7.1868 nach N. A. “dass er dort einen besseren Arbeitsverdienst zu finden hoffe”. 12.3.1869.[2]

Translation: The day laborer Johann Gorges, born 14 February 1838 in Fell, currently in Born, Lux., with his wife Katharina Scherff, born 12 October 1836 in Born in Luxembourg, and the children Johann b. 30 January 1862 and Margaretha b. 28 July 1868 to North America that he hoped to find better earnings there”. 12 March 1869

Two entries above this is another GORGES couple seeking permission to emigrate to North America six months earlier. Mathias Gorges, born 20 June 1842 in Fell, currently in Mertert, Lux., with his wife Barbara Achten, to North America “that he expected better earnings in America”. 23 September 1868.

Entry 640: Mathias Gorges, geb. 20.6.1842 zu Fell, gegenwärtig in Mertert, Lux., mit s. Frau Barbara Achten, nach N.A. “dass er in Amerika einen besseren Artbeitsverdienst erwarte”. 23.9.1868.[2]

Mathias was Johann’s younger brother according to Schaffner. How do I know these two men were brothers? Did they go to America? There is no mention in the Family Book of Fell that either of the GORGES brothers’ applications for emigration were withdrawn.

Did my husband’ great-grandmother travel to America when she was less than a year old? From my visit to the Red Star Line Museum in Antwerp, Belgium, I have a very good idea of what the emigrants went through to get to their port of departure where they were processed for their journey to their new homeland. What are the probabilities that either of the GORGES brothers went through these hardships to travel to North America?

Marguerite GORGES and her parents were living in Luxembourg when she married in 1891. When did they come back to Luxembourg? Did they ever leave? I followed both of the brothers and their families using the Luxembourg census and civil records and have come to the conclusion that they did not take the rags to riches journey.


Town sign for Born in Luxembourg (24 April 2015). A special “thank you” to my husband who puts up with my asking him to stop to take photos while we are racing through the Luxembourg countryside on our bikes.

Catharina SCHERFF was born 25 October 1836 in Born, Mompach, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Yes, the name of the town where she was born is Born or Bur in Luxembourgish. Her parents were Michel SCHERFF (1792-1865) and his wife Elisabetha CLEMENS (1796-1870).[3]

On 30 January 1862 when Catharina was 25 years old she had a son Johann SCHERFF, born in Born. Michel SCHERFF, the child’s grandfather, was the informant and said the father was unknown.[4]

On 14 January 1868 Catharina SCHERFF, 30 years old and without an occupation, married Johann GORGES, a 29 years old servant (Knecht) in Mompach. Johann was a resident of Born, previously of Fell in Germany. Catharina’s father and Johann’s parents were deceased leaving only Catharina’s mother Elisabetha to give her consent to the marriage. Catharina’s illegitimate son Johann SCHERFF was given all the rights of a legitimate child through his mother’s marriage. Catharina’s only brothers Johann and Peter SCHERFF were witnesses to the marriage. All persons present, except for Elisabetha CLEMENS who could not write, signed the marriage record.[5]

Catharina’s husband Johann GORGES was born on 14 February 1838[1] and baptized on 15 February 1838[6] in Fell, Longuich, Trier, Preußen (Germany). His parents were Johann GORGES (1800-1860) and Anna Maria BOTZ (1808-1863).[1] He lived in Born and worked as a servant in 1864 and 1867 when the census was taken.

Six months after the marriage Catharina and Johann’s daughter Margaretha was born on 27 July 1868 in Born.[7]

As seen above Johann GORGES applied to emigrate on 12 March 1869. At the time the family of four was living in Born in Luxembourg. A little over a year later on 4 June 1870, Catharina gave birth to her second daughter Maria in Born.[8] Was this enough time for Johann and Catharina to make preparations for their departure, a journey to North America and then come back to Europe? I have my doubts.

A third daughter Elisabeth was born on 11 October 1871 in Born.[9] The family of six was seen for the first time on a census on 1 December 1871.[10], [11], [12]

Johann and Catharina’s next son, Peter, born on 16 October 1874 in Born lived only one hour.[13], [14] In 1875 when the census was taken Johann GORGES’ household was made up of 5 persons. The 13 years old son Johann was not with his parents [15], [16], [17] and was not seen with them again on the census listings from 1875-1900. As was often the case, he may have been learning a trade while living with another family.

When the census was taken in 1875 Catharina was 8 months pregnant with daughter Helena born 5 January 1876 in Born.[18] Two years later she gave birth to a son they named Peter on 16 April 1878 in Born.[19] Another son, Mathias, was born on 9 March 1880 in Born.[20]

When the census was taken in 1880 Johann GORGES was working as a quarryman on his own account to support his family which included his wife Catharina, and his children, Margaretha, Maria, Elisabeth, Helena, Peter and Mathias.[21], [22], [23]

On 24 June 1883, at the age of 46 years, Catharina gave birth to a son Johann in Born.[24] Their family was now complete – 21 years after the birth of her first son Johann.

What happened to the first son named Johann? He did not live with his parents from the age of 13 but he did visit them. Unfortunately, it was during one of these visits that a document was drawn up which tells a bit of his story. On 13 November 1885, Johann GORGES declared the death of his 7 months old grandson Mathias GORGES, son of Johann GORGES and his wife Barbara BECHTHOLD. The child died at the home of his grandfather. He was born in Ernz (Ernst), Germany, where his parents still resided.[25] This record shows that Catharina’s firstborn had married before 1885 and lived in Germany.

In 1887 when the census was taken Johann and Catharina had their children ages 3 to 18 living at home. Margaretha 18 and Maria 16 were working as day laborers; Elizabeth 15 did not work; Helena 10, Peter 8, and Mathias 7 were going to school leaving the youngest, 3 years old Jean (also seen as Johann), at home with his mother.[26], [27], [28]

Back sheet of the 1890 Luxembourg census for the Gorges-Scherff family listing persons who were not living at home when the census was taken.[31]
The census taken on 1 December 1890 was very important in terms of the timeline of my husband’s great-grandmother Margaretha as it was the year before she married. The GORGES-SCHERFF household shows their three sons living at home and their four daughters working as maids (Dienstmädchen) and living in other places. Margaretha is in Osweiler where she met and married her husband Johann SCHWARTZ in 1891. Marie is in Herborn, Elisabeth is in Echternach, and Helena is in Mertert. I have not checked these towns to see which families they lived with.[29], [30], [31]

Before the time came for the 1895 census, Johann GORGES’ neighbor Heinrich THIEL went to Mompach to declare a death in the GORGES-SCHERFF family. The daughter Elisabeth died on 6 September 1894 at home in Born at the age of 23.[32]

I had some problems with the 1895 census. I nearly did not find it due to an issue I discovered on FamilySearch for the collection “Luxembourg, Volkszählungen 1843-1900.” This collection is browse-only. While searching for the section of the census taken in Mompach for the town of Born, I saw names of towns not found in the area. Then I realized that the batch for Mompach and for Mondercange had been mixed up. FamilySearch was immediately contacted by email. I have not received a reply but my experience with the support team is very good. I am sure that they are looking into the matter and will give me feedback – they may be able to fix it now or will list it under issues for the collection that will be fixed at a later date.

By 1895 Margaretha was married and Elisabeth was deceased. Only five children remained to be enumerated with their parents Johann and Catharina. Marie was once again living at home and was not working. Her younger brothers Peter, Mathias, and Jean were at home and still too young to work. Her sister Helena had been working in an unknown place for the past three years.[33], [34], [35]

Johann GORGES declared the birth in Born of a granddaughter named Catharina on 1 May 1898. His 28 years old daughter Maria was the mother of the child and no father was listed. In the margin, a note was made that the child was legitimized when her mother married Mathias LEMMER on 30 December 1906 in Mompach.[36] The marriage record confirms this.[37]

Little Catharina was living with her mother Maria in the household of her grandparents Johann and Catharina GORGES-SCHERFF when the census was enumerated on 1 December 1900. Also at home was Maria’s 22 years old brother Peter who was working as a quarryman. Helena, a cook, and Mathias, a waiter, had been working in Rheims (also spelled Reims), France, halfway between Luxembourg and Paris, for the past 3 years.[38], [39], [40] The youngest son of this family, 17 years old Jean, was in the Jean HELFIN household in Born and working as a stable hand (Stallknecht).[41], [42], [43]

More censuses were taken after 1900 but this is the last presently found online at FamilySearch. Civil records help to tell the rest of the story. On 25 May 1906 son Peter GORGES died in Born at the age of 27. His 36 years old cousin Johann SCHERFF, an innkeeper (Gastwirt) was the informant.[44] Peter like his father had been a quarryman. Who was left to help Johann as he was not getting any younger?

Seven months later daughter Maria, as mentioned earlier, married Mathias LEMMER on 30 December 1906 in Mompach. Mathias was 8 years younger than Maria and both of his parents were deceased. Maria’s parents Johann and Catharina were present and gave their consent to the marriage. Catharina GORGES, Maria’s daughter, was legitimized and given the name Catharina LEMMER at the time of the marriage.[37] Did Mathias take the place of Maria’s brother Peter helping Johann GORGES in his quarry work?

The mother of this family, Catharina SCHERFF, died on 2 November 1908 in Born at the age of 72 years. Her son-in-law Mathias LEMMER, a quarryman, was the informant. Her husband survived her.[45]

Mathias LEMMER went to Mompach on 2 May 1913 to report the death of his father-in-law Johann GORGES the previous day in Born. Johann was 75 years old at the time of his death.[46]

This was not the last time that Mathias LEMMER had to report a death in the family he married into. On 30 Jun 1921, his wife Maria GORGES died at the age of 50 in Born.[47]

The longest living person of this family may have been my husband’s great-grandmother Margaretha SCHWARTZ-GORGES. She died 23 October 1938 in Osweiler where she lived her entire married life. Her obituary mentions the Gorges family but no names of living relatives are giving. Is it possible that her siblings Johann, Helena, Mathias, and Jean, who have not been traced, were still living?

A final note concerning Johann GORGES’ brother Mathias mentioned at the beginning. How do I know these two men were brothers? I have both of their marriage records which list their parents as Johann GORGES and Anna Maria BOTZ as well as their respective wives as named in the emigration records.

If Mathias and Barbara made the trip to North America they would have had to return in time for their first child’s birth and Barbara would have been pregnant on both trips. Mathias’ family was found in the civil records in Mertert, Luxembourg, from the time he married Barbara ACHTEN on 30 June 1868[48], through the births of 8 children between 1869-1885, until his death in 1899 and her death 1921.

Imagine the repercussions of one tiny decision. If my husband’s great-grandmother Margaretha GORGES had gone to America with her parents and never returned, she would not have met her husband and had the child who would be my husband’s grandmother. In turn there would not have been a grandson who would be my husband’s father or a great-grandson who would be the father of my children. An entire branch of a family tree changed forever.

[1] Richard Schaffner, Einwohnerbuch der Orte Fell u. Fastrau mit Fellerhof, Fellerburg und den verschiedenen Mühlen im Gemeindebereich, 2008/2009, p. 106-107 family 502 and p. 109 family 510. Citing Kirchenbücher der Bistumsarchivs Trier (church records of the Diocese of Trier archive).
[2] Josef Mergen, Die Amerika-Auswanderung aus dem Landkreis Trier (1855-1910), 1952, p. 96 entry 640 and 642
[3] Luxembourg, Registres d’état civil, 1793-1923 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Mompach > Naissances 1834-1890 Mariages 1797-1814, 1796-1809, 1799-1830 > image 33 of 1393. 1836 Birth Record No. 26. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-267-12131-131830-98?cc=1709358&wc=9RYC-C68:130097801,130406101 : accessed 21 Nov 2014).
[4] Ibid, Mompach > Naissances 1834-1890 Mariages 1797-1814, 1796-1809, 1799-1830 > image 274 of 1393. 1862 Birth Record No. 5. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-267-12131-133581-48?cc=1709358&wc=9RYC-C68:130097801,130406101 : accessed 5 April 2010).
[5] Ibid, Mompach > Mariages 1831-1890 Décès 1796-1814, 1799-1830, 1799-1880 > image 567 of 1480. 1868 Marriage Record No. 1. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-266-12874-12362-9?cc=1709358&wc=M9M6-L4B:1262051718 : accessed 02 Apr 2013).
[6] Deutschland, Geburten und Taufen 1558-1898 (Germany, Births and Baptisms, 1558-1898), index, FamilySearch, GS Film number: 463564, Indexing Project (Batch) Number: C98369-2. “Name: Joannes Gorges; Gender: Male; Christening Date: 15 Feb 1838; Christening Place: Sankt Martinus Katholisch, Fell, Rheinland, Prussia; Father’s Name: Joannis Gorges; Mother’s Name: Annae Mariae Botz.” (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/NPC7-BQW : accessed 05 Apr 2013).
[7] Luxembourg, Registres d’état civil, 1793-1923 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Mompach > Naissances 1834-1890 Mariages 1797-1814, 1796-1809, 1799-1830 > image 337 of 1393. 1868 Birth Record No. 14. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-267-12131-132414-2?cc=1709358&wc=M9M6-LHS:2047330937 : accessed 01 Apr 2013).
[8] Ibid, Mompach > Naissances 1834-1890 Mariages 1797-1814, 1796-1809, 1799-1830 > image 352 of 1393. 1870 Birth Record No. 13. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-267-12131-131283-9?cc=1709358&wc=9RYC-C68:130097801,130406101 : accessed 5 April 2010).
[9] Ibid, Mompach > Naissances 1834-1890 Mariages 1797-1814, 1796-1809, 1799-1830 > image 363 of 1393. 1871 Birth Record No. 21. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-267-12131-130403-13?cc=1709358&wc=9RYC-C68:130097801,130406101 : accessed 5 April 2010).
[10] Luxembourg, Volkszählungen 1843-1900 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Mompach > 1871 > image 119 of 377. Gorges-Scherff household no. 25. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1951-32378-30865-48?cc=2037957&wc=M5GM-K61:345859501,345869501 : accessed 22 April 2015).
[11] Ibid, Mompach > 1871 > image 120 of 377. Gorges-Scherff household no. 25. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1951-32378-30862-51?cc=2037957&wc=M5GM-K61:345859501,345869501 : accessed 22 April 2015).
[12] Ibid, Mompach > 1871 > image 121 of 377. Gorges-Scherff household no. 25. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-32378-29212-24?cc=2037957&wc=M5GM-K61:345859501,345869501 : accessed 22 April 2015).
[13] Luxembourg, Registres d’état civil, 1793-1923 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Mompach > Naissances 1834-1890 Mariages 1797-1814, 1796-1809, 1799-1830 > image 392 of 1393. 1874 Birth Record No. 30. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-267-12131-135359-12?cc=1709358&wc=9RYC-C68:130097801,130406101 : accessed 5 April 2010).
[14] Ibid, Mompach > Mariages 1831-1890 Décès 1796-1814, 1799-1830, 1799-1880 > image 1428 of 1480. 1874 Death Record No. 12. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-266-12874-12384-95?cc=1709358&wc=9RYW-MNL:130097801,130138901 : accessed 22 April 2015).
[15] Luxembourg, Volkszählungen 1843-1900 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Mompach > 1875 > image 58 of 368. Gorges-Scherff household no. 26. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1961-32382-9049-78?cc=2037957&wc=M5G3-N3V:345859501,345870501 : accessed 22 April 2015).
[16] Ibid, Mompach > 1875 > image 59 of 368. Gorges-Scherff household no. 26. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1961-32382-9185-71?cc=2037957&wc=M5G3-N3V:345859501,345870501 : accessed 22 April 2015).
[17] Ibid, Mompach > 1875 > image 60 of 368. Gorges-Scherff household no. 26. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-32382-8969-73?cc=2037957&wc=M5G3-N3V:345859501,345870501 : accessed 22 April 2015).
[18] Luxembourg, Registres d’état civil, 1793-1923 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Mompach > Naissances 1834-1890 Mariages 1797-1814, 1796-1809, 1799-1830 > image 410 of 1393. 1876 Birth Record No. 2. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-267-12131-135504-55?cc=1709358&wc=9RYC-C68:130097801,130406101 : accessed 5 April 2010).
[19] Ibid, Mompach > Naissances 1834-1890 Mariages 1797-1814, 1796-1809, 1799-1830 > image 430 of 1393. 1878 Birth Record No. 13. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-267-12131-130877-9?cc=1709358&wc=9RYC-C68:130097801,130406101 : accessed 5 April 2010).
[20] Ibid, Mompach > Naissances 1834-1890 Mariages 1797-1814, 1796-1809, 1799-1830 > image 447 of 1393. 1880 Birth Record No. 5. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-267-12131-133418-98?cc=1709358&wc=9RYC-C68:130097801,130406101 : accessed 21 Nov 2014).
[21] Luxembourg, Volkszählungen 1843-1900 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Mompach > 1880 > image 92 of 390. Gorges-Scherff household no. 43. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-32391-17167-63?cc=2037957&wc=M5G3-DP5:345859501,345872201 : accessed 22 April 2015).
[22] Ibid, Mompach > 1880 > image 93 of 390. Gorges-Scherff household no. 43. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-32391-17202-76?cc=2037957&wc=M5G3-DP5:345859501,345872201 : accessed 22 April 2015).
[23] Ibid, Mompach > 1880 > image 94 of 390. Gorges-Scherff household no. 43. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1951-32391-17489-45?cc=2037957&wc=M5G3-DP5:345859501,345872201 : accessed 22 April 2015).
[24] Luxembourg, Registres d’état civil, 1793-1923 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Mompach > Naissances 1834-1890 Mariages 1797-1814, 1796-1809, 1799-1830 > image 490 of 1393. 1883 Birth Record No. 18. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-267-12131-131523-2?cc=1709358&wc=9RYC-C68:130097801,130406101 : accessed 5 April 2010).
[25] Ibid, Mompach > Décès 1880-1891 > image 48 of 90. 1885 Deth Record No. 27. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-267-11668-127283-50?cc=1709358&wc=9RY4-DPF:130097801,130097802 : accessed 22 April 2015).
[26] Luxembourg, Volkszählungen 1843-1900 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Mompach > 1887 > image 115 of 380. Gorges-Scherff household no. 28. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1951-32391-4373-99?cc=2037957&wc=M5GH-4WL:345859501,345875201 : accessed 22 April 2015).
[27] Ibid, Mompach > 1887 > image 116 of 380. Gorges-Scherff household no. 28. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-32391-4083-94?cc=2037957&wc=M5GH-4WL:345859501,345875201 : accessed 22 April 2015).
[28] Ibid, Mompach > 1887 > image 117 of 380. Gorges-Scherff household no. 28. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-32391-4205-43?cc=2037957&wc=M5GH-4WL:345859501,345875201 : accessed 22 April 2015).
[29] Ibid, Mompach > 1890 > image 120 of 393. Gorges-Scherff household no. 28. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1951-32391-14244-86?cc=2037957&wc=M5G4-FMK:345859501,345876401 : accessed 22 April 2015).
[30] Ibid, Mompach > 1890 > image 121 of 393. Gorges-Scherff household no. 28. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-32391-13812-80?cc=2037957&wc=M5G4-FMK:345859501,345876401 : accessed 22 April 2015).
[31] Ibid, Mompach > 1890 > image 122 of 393. Gorges-Scherff household no. 28. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-32391-14042-66?cc=2037957&wc=M5G4-FMK:345859501,345876401 : accessed 22 April 2015).
[32] Luxembourg, Registres d’état civil, 1793-1923 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Mompach > Naissances, mariages, décès 1891-1894 > image 108 of 111. 1894 Death Record No. 28. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-267-12165-229666-84?cc=1709358&wc=9RYM-N31:130097801,129717601 : accessed 22 April 2015).
[33] Luxembourg, Volkszählungen 1843-1900 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Mondercange > 1895 > image 76 of 423. Gorges-Scherff household No. 34. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1961-32396-1348-67?cc=2037957&wc=M5GX-JWR:345859101,345878001 : accessed 22 April 2015). Note: The browse path is correct for this record however the collection is mislabelled. It should be Mompach instead of Mondercange. The issue was reported to FamilySearch support on 22 Apr 2015.
[34] Ibid, Mondercange > 1895 > image 77 of 423. Gorges-Scherff household No. 34. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1961-32396-1270-92?cc=2037957&wc=M5GX-JWR:345859101,345878001 : accessed 22 April 2015). Note: see [29]
[35] Ibid, Mondercange > 1895 > image 78 of 423. Gorges-Scherff household No. 34. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-32396-1286-55?cc=2037957&wc=M5GX-JWR:345859101,345878001 : accessed 22 April 2015). Note: see [29]
[36] Luxembourg, Registres d’état civil, 1793-1923 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Mompach > Naissances 1895-1923 > image 32 of 289. 1898 Birth Record No. 7. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-32063-13727-85?cc=1709358&wc=9RT1-W3L:130097801,129648901 : accessed 22 April 2015).
[37] Ibid, Mompach > Mariages 1895-1923 > image 69 of 168. 1906 Marriage No. 10. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-32063-12915-87?cc=1709358&wc=9RT1-W32:130097801,129649201 : accessed 22 April 2015).
[38] Luxembourg, Volkszählungen 1843-1900 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Mompach > 1900 > image 81 of 420. Gorges household No. 27. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1951-32396-11618-33?cc=2037957&wc=M5GX-2J9:345859501,345873901 : accessed 22 April 2015).
[39] Ibid, Mompach > 1900 > image 82 of 420. Gorges household No. 27. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-32396-12061-71?cc=2037957&wc=M5GX-2J9:345859501,345873901 : accessed 22 April 2015).
[40] Ibid, Mompach > 1900 > image 83 of 420. Gorges household No. 27. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1951-32396-11588-54?cc=2037957&wc=M5GX-2J9:345859501,345873901 : accessed 22 April 2015).
[41] Ibid, Mompach > 1900 > image 49 of 420. Jean Helfin household no. 11. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1951-32396-11560-86?cc=2037957&wc=M5GX-2J9:345859501,345873901 : accessed 25 April 2015).
[42] Ibid, Mompach > 1900 > image 50 of 420. Jean Helfin household no. 11. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-32396-11624-41?cc=2037957&wc=M5GX-2J9:345859501,345873901 : accessed 25 April 2015).
[43] Ibid, Mompach > 1900 > image 51 of 420. Jean Helfin household no. 11. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-32396-11605-42?cc=2037957&wc=M5GX-2J9:345859501,345873901 : accessed 25 April 2015).
[44] Luxembourg, Registres d’état civil, 1793-1923 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Mompach > Décès 1895-1912 > image 93 of 143. 1906 Death Record No. 15. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1951-32063-14862-73?cc=1709358&wc=9RT1-4WT:130097801,129657201 : accessed 22 April 2015).
[45] Ibid, Mompach > Décès 1895-1912 > image 111 of 143. 1908 Death Record No. 24. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1961-32063-14001-78?cc=1709358&wc=9RT1-4WT:130097801,129657201 : accessed 27 Sep 2014).
[46] Ibid, Mompach > Décès 1913-1923 > image 5 of 80. 1913 Death Record No. 15.  (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-32045-3913-24?cc=1709358&wc=9RTB-G53:130097801,129622902 : accessed 27 Sep 2014).
[47] Ibid, Mompach > Décès 1913-1923 > image 57 of 80. 1921 Death Record No. 4. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1961-32045-3602-65?cc=1709358&wc=9RTB-G53:130097801,129622902 : accessed 22 April 2015).
[48] Ibid, Mertert > Naissances 1852-1890 Mariages 1813-1890 Décès 1813-1859 > image 958 of 1491. 1868 Marriage Record No. 7. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-266-12125-161445-39?cc=1709358&wc=9RY3-N38:130080101,130192001 : accessed 25 April 2015).

Genealogy Sketch

Name: Johann GORGES
Parents: Johann GORGES an Anna Maria BOTZ
Spouse: Catharina SCHERFF
Parents of spouse: Michel SCHERFF and Elisabetha CLEMENS
Whereabouts: Fell, Germany, and Born, Luxembourg
Relationship to Cathy Meder-Dempsey: husband’s great-great-grandparents

  1. Johann GORGES and Catharina SCHERFF
  2. Margaretha GORGES
  3. Catharina “Ketty” SCHWARTZ
  4. Marcel Mathias MEDER
  5. Cathy Meder-Dempsey’s husband

© 2015 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

52ancestors-2015This is my weekly entry for Amy Johnson Crow’s challenge:
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – 2015 Edition. It was so successful in 2014 that genealogists wanted to continue or join in on the fun in 2015. Be sure to check out the other great posts by visiting Amy’s blog No Story Too Small where she’ll be posting the weekly recap on Thurdays and allowing all participants to leave a link to their post(s) in the comments.

52 Ancestors: #4 The Plumber/Tinsmith and the Seamstress

Week 4, Closest to your birthdayNot too much to think about here. What ancestor has the birthday closest to yours? (I mean in terms of month and day, not the year ;) )

I checked all my ancestors and none were born on the same day as I was. Since name days were at one time more commonly celebrated in Luxembourg than birthdays and I knew that my grandmother Marie Marcelle FOURNELLE’s name day, January 31, was very close to my birthday, January 14, she fit the bill. If she hadn’t, I still would have written about her and her husband this week!

Marcelle and Nicolas’ monogram on their wedding announcement.


Nicolas WILDINGER who was born in Mettendorf,  Eifelkreis Bitburg-Prüm, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany, on 25 August 1906, the third and youngest child of Johann WILDINGER and Katharina PÖPPELREITER.[1],[2]

Nicolas ca. 1909

When Nicolas was 8 years old times were getting harder and harder for his father Johann, a builder. In July 1914 the family moved to Echternach and Johann found a job as a builder in Wasserbillig.

1909 Birth Record No. 41 [3]
Maria Marcelle FOURNELLE was born at 7 o’clock in the morning on the 17 June 1909 in the house called Mühlenacht (Millenoacht in Luxembourgish) in Echternach. Her father Johann Joseph FOURNELLE, 38, a rose breeder (Rosenzuchter), was the informant for the birth of the child born to his wife Catharina FRANTZ, 36 and without an occupation. Peter STEINMETZ and Mathias PRIM were witnesses and Rudolf BRIMMEYR was the mayor and official who recorded the birth.

Marcelle ca. 1917

 Nicolas and Marcelle Become a Couple and Marry

Marcelle and Nicolas in the 1930s.

At 7 o’clock on the evening of 26 July 1935 Mathias SCHAFFNER, the mayor of Echternach, married Nicolas, a plumber (Klempner), and Marcelle, without occupation. Nicolas was 28 and Marcelle was 26. Nicolas’ mother Catharina PÖPPELREITER and Marcelle’s father Johann Joseph FOURNELLE were present and agreeable to the marriage.

Nicolas’ father had been dead 11 years and Marcelle’s mother a little over a year. The marriage banns had been read on Sunday the 7th of July. A marriage contract was signed on the day of the marriage in the presence of the notary Julius REDING in Echternach.

There were no other witnesses present at the marriage and the record was signed by the bride and groom, their parents, and the mayor.

It is interesting to note that Nicolas’ mother signed as Mrs. Wildinger (Frau Wildinger) which is unusual as women in Luxembourg normally sign all legal documents with their maiden name. In the margin, the death of the groom, who predeceased the bride, was recorded. Below this is the official stamp and the date that the copy of this record was obtained from the records office at the city hall.

MRIN01117 1935 Nicolas Wildinger and Maria Marcelle Fournelle marriage 13
1935 Marriage Record No. 13 [4]
As is the case with all bridal couples in Luxembourg, Nicolas and Marcelle were presented with a Family Book.

MRIN01117 1935 Fournelle-Wildinger Family Book 1 MRIN01117 1935 Fournelle-Wildinger Family Book 2 MRIN01117 1935 Fournelle-Wildinger Family Book 3The Couple Marry in a Religious Ceremony

1935 Announcement of Marriage sent out by the parents of the bride and groom.

Nicolas and Marcelle’s parents sent out announcements of the religious marriage of their children who were married in the strictest privacy in the St. Willibrod Basilica Echternach the following day. The witnesses were Nicolas’ brother who signed P. WILDINGER and Marcelle’s father who signed J. FOURNELLE. Jean Pierre KAYSER, the priest, made an entry in the couple’s Family Book to show that the religious ceremony had been performed on 27 July 1935 in Echternach.

Marcelle did not take her husband Nicolas’ German nationality when they married. She made a declaration on 20 August 1935 to conserve her Luxembourg nationality. This was published in the Mémorial du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg No. 48 on 23 June 1936.[5]

Mémorial du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg No. 48.
Mardi, 23 juin 1936.
Page 612
Relevé des Luxembourgeoises de naissance qui ont fait en 1935 la déclaration pour conserver la nationalité luxembourgeoise.
I . Déclaration prévue par l’art. 24 n° 3 de la loi du 23 avril 1934.
Noms et prénoms: Fournelle Marie-Marcelle, épouse Wildinger, Nicolas
Résidence: Echternach
Lieu et date de naissance: Echternach 17. 6. 1909
Date de la déclaration: 20. 8. 1935

Nicolas and Marcelle Become Parents

Ten months later Nicolas and Marcelle’s only daughter was born. Seen here with her father on the front step of their house (left) and playing with her dog on wheels in front of their house (below).

1938 ca. Nic. Wildinger with daughter Josette
Nicolas with his daughter on the front doorstep of their house.
010 Papa (back) et Josette (front)
Nicolas playing with his daughter (front) and another little girl in front of their house.

Nicolas, Plumber and Tinsmith

Nicolas was a master plumber and had his own business. In the 1930s he worked on the gutter of the hospital in Echternach. Little did he know that by the beginning of the next decade he would be a patient in this hospital and it would be the place of his death.

1930s Nicolas Wildinger far right
Nicolas WILDINGER (far right) working as a tinsmith, fixing the gutter of the hospital in Echternach in the 1930s.
Front view of the “Spidol” or Hospice Civil as it is known today. Photo used with permission © Egon Meder.

Nicolas WILDINGER advertised his plumbing (sanitary installations) and tinsmith business on this Sphinx Sanitary Ware ashtray.

MRIN01117 Nicolas Wildinger de Sphinx collage
Photo used with permission © Egon Meder.

Marcelle Becomes a Widow

Nicolas, diagnosed with tuberculosis, did not have many years to play with his young daughterOn 10 May 1940 German troops marched into and occupied Luxembourg. The Germans insisted on the people of Luxembourg changing their names to the German equivalent of their French-sounding names. Marie Marcelle FOURNELLE became Maria Marzella WILDINGER (née FOURNELLE). She signed the death record of her husband Nicolas with this name when she reported his death on 25 October 1941. Nicolas died at 9:40 on the evening of the 24th of October in the Bürgerhospital at Oberhoveleck 2, in Echternach. The civil servant who filled out the death record knew (as noted on the record) Marcelle who said that she was present at the time of her husband’s death. Also seen on the record is the date of marriage of the deceased as well as the number and location of the marriage record. This was cross-referenced in the margin of the marriage record as seen above.

MRIN01117 1941 Nicolas Wildinger death
1941 Death Record No. 49 [6]

Life Continues in German Occupied Luxembourg

Amulette from WWII 1 front
Spéngelskrich or “War of the Pins” amulet

As mentioned earlier, German troops marched into and occupied Luxembourg on 10 May 1940. Nicolas’ widow Marcelle would have been a wonderful subject for last week’s theme – a tough woman. I wrote a short piece on her last year: Fearless Females: Bomi’s Resistance Amulette. This was one of the most interesting times during her life. Please take a few minutes to read more about my grandmother and her Spéngelskrich amulet.

In memory of the evacuation of the city of Echternach on 6 October 1944. Photo used with permission © Egon Meder.

On 6 October 1944, the Germans occupying Echternach announced that the people of Echternach must leave the town at 11:00 in the morning. Everyone was to take the same route towards Osweiler where they were met by American soldiers waiting to move into Echternach. The people of Echternach continued their journey on foot pulling wagons with their belongings or in wagons pulled by horses to Bech. Marcelle WILDINGER-FOURNELLE was traveling with her 8 years old daughter and her 73 years old father Joseph FOURNELLE. They remained in Bech a week or two. From there, families moved on to places where they had relatives or friends in other parts of Luxembourg. Marcelle, her daughter, and her father were in Helmdange for a short period of time and then joined a family who had relatives in the Lorentzweiler area.

Echternach in Ruins But No Longer Occupied by Germans

“During the Battle of the Bulge Dec. 1944 this place was heroically defended by soldiers of E-Comp. 12th Regt. 4th U.S. Inf. Div. Their sacrifice delayed the enemy advance and contributed to the final victory we shall remember.” Photo used with permission © Egon Meder.

They stayed in Lorentzweiler until May of 1945 when they returned to Echternach, a town that lay in ruins. The living room of Marcelle’s home became a reading room for the American officer in Echternach. Diagonally across the street is a plaque commemorating the soldiers.

May 20th was Pentecost and on May 22nd, the following Tuesday, the famous annual religious procession through the streets of Echternach took place. The basilica had been destroyed by the Germans on the 26th of December 1944 so the procession ended in the Peter and Paul Church (alten Pfarrkirche). Marcelle’s daughter and the other children her age had missed making their First Communion on the Sunday after Easter as they had not yet returned to Echternach on the 8th of April. They had to wait until 22 July 1945 to receive the sacrament in the Peter and Paul Church instead of in the basilica which had to be rebuilt. The rebuilding was finally finished on 20 September 1953.

Marcelle, Works as a Seamstress and Runs a B & B

Marcelle with her daughter, ca. 1942.

Life continued after the war. Marcelle worked from home as a seamstress. Later she supplemented her tiny income by taking in tourists. When her husband was still living he had installed sinks in every one of the 6 bedrooms in the house. She would serve breakfast in the living room that had once served as a meeting place for neighbors during the German occupation and later as the reading room for the American officers.

In  1957 her daughter married an American G.I. Fred Roosevelt DEMPSEY stationed at Bitburg A.F.B. in Germany. Marcelle had only her elderly father living with her when the young couple moved to the United States. Although she was only 31 years old at the time of her husband’s death she had never remarried. In 1958, a month after the birth of her first grandchild, her father died. She saw her daughter only when her son-in-law was stationed in Europe.

1975-01-21 Granddaddy, Grandma, Mom, Bomi
Fred and Myrtle DEMPSEY, the day after their 52nd wedding anniversary, with Marcelle FOURNELLE and her daughter at the construction site of the New River Bridge in West Virginia.

Marcelle made one trip to America to visit her recently widowed daughter and her son-in-law’s parents, Fred Rothwell DEMPSEY and Myrtle Hazel ROOP. Her daughter returned to Echternach with her children to be near her mother that year.

1971-05-020 Luxembourg
Marcelle Fournelle in 1971.

Twenty-five Lost Years

And this is where the story becomes difficult and maybe biased as it is from my point of view. Marcelle, my Bomi, had become a very independent woman and had always been set in her ways. It was not easy for her to have her widowed daughter and five children in her home. And it was not easy for her daughter and her children to live with a woman who was used to getting her own way. Although there was plenty of room in the house her daughter made the decision to move into a home of her own.

Bomi cut ties between us, my mother and I, because we had met men we were interested in. I wonder if she may have regretted never having remarried. Bomi, my grandmother and godmother, was a very stubborn woman. My mother and I had no contact with her for 25 years. And we married the men who were indirectly the reason for her refusing to speak to us.

One of my brothers, who had remained in contact with Bomi, was in the military and stationed in Germany in the late 1990s. When he knew that he was to be transferred Stateside he sat down with Bomi. He explained that since she was now over 90 she would have to forget her pride and, after he left, accept help from her daughter and grandchildren who lived in Echternach. She loved him dearly, her favorite grandchild. She said that she would if her daughter would.

Making Up For Lost Time

On Thursdays, my mother and I met at the supermarket while doing our shopping. One day Bomi was with her. I came in through the back, they came in through the front, and we met inside. I had been expecting this meeting and my heart was pounding. And what does she say to me after 25 years? “Cathy, I see you won the supermarket contest, 121 bottles of wine. Congratulations!”

What? She had seen a sign in the supermarket with a list of winners when they came in. I had no idea that I had won but it broke the ice. We would meet like this every Thursday, sometimes going back to her house for a few minutes.

Christmas Eve 2001
Christmas Eve 2001

But she did not come to our house until my husband got up the courage to visit her on his own. And he did a good job of pulling her into a plot – removing most of the animosity between them. She loved playing jokes on people. They plotted on surprising us, my Mom and I, by Bomi’s coming to dinner on Christmas Eve at our house. It worked and I believe my husband earned her respect, the respect she should have shown him when they first met.

My children got to know their great-grandmother who they called Bomi-Bomi since my mother was already their Bomi. They loved listening to her tell the stories from the “old days.”

In 2004 Bomi was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus. When she had to be hospitalized the headstrong woman did not make it easy for the nurses caring for her. As she needed full-time care she was put on the waiting list of the nursing home  “Am Schleeschen” in Echternach. It is interesting to note how the home got its name – since it is part of her past. During World War II when the Germans occupied Echternach they had their offices in the old building of the present complex. Christian Stock who performed the duties of mayor (Amtsbürgermeister) proudly said “Das ist mein Schlösschen” or This is my castle.” This reminded me of a story Bomi told us. One night she helped three men hang the Luxembourgish flag on the gates of Stock’s Schlösschen during the German occupation – a grave offense if they had been caught. She would never divulge the men’s names even after they had all passed away.

Marie Marcelle FOURNELLE died in her sleep on 24 January 2005 in the nursing home “Am Schleeschen” in Echternach, where she had been a resident for only a few days, at the age of 95 years, 7 months, 10 days.

MRIN01117 Fournelle grave
FOURNELLE family grave
MRIN01117 Wildinger grave
WILDINGER family grave









[1] 1935 Marriage Record No. 13, photocopy of original page in the marriage book at the records office at the city hall in Echternach obtained 21 Jun 1996.
[2] Commune d’Echternach Nr. 13/1935, Wildinger-Fournelle Family Book. This is an official document given to the bride and groom at the time of their civil marriage. It is used to record births, christenings, and deaths of children as well as the death of one or the other spouse. Scanned copy of the original, in possession of their daughter.
[3] Luxembourg, Registres d’état civil, 1793-1923 (images), FamilySearch, Echternach > Naissances 1903-1923 Mariages 1895-1905 > image 176 of 604. “1909 Birth Record No. 41.” (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-32040-10270-1?cc=1709358&wc=M9M6-2V1 : accessed 15 January 2015), (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg).
[4] 1935 Marriage Record No. 13, photocopy of original page in the marriage book at the records office at the city hall in Echternach obtained 21 Jun 1996.
[5] Mémorial du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, No. 48, pg. 260, 23 June 1936. Online http://www.legilux.public.lu/leg/a/archives/1936/0048/a048.pdf : accessed 23 Jan 2015.
[6] 1941 Death Record No. 49, photocopy of original page in the death register at the records office at the city hall in Echternach obtained 10 July 1996.

Genealogy Sketch

Name: Marie Marcelle FOURNELLE
Parents: Jean Joseph FOURNELLE and Catharina FRANTZ
Spouse: Nicolas WILDINGER
Parents of spouse: Johann WILDINGER and Katharina Pöppelreiter
Children: Living (one)
Relationship to Cathy Meder-Dempsey: Maternal Grandmother

1. Marie Marcelle FOURNELLE
2. Mom
3. Cathy Meder-Dempsey

© 2015 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

52ancestors-2015This is my weekly entry for Amy Johnson Crow’s challenge:
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – 2015 Edition. It was so successful in 2014 that genealogists wanted to continue or join in on the fun in 2015. Be sure to check out the other great posts by visiting Amy’s blog No Story Too Small where she’ll be posting the weekly recap on Thurdays and allowing all participants to leave a link to their post(s) in the comments.

A Visit to the Vereinigung für die Heimatkunde im Landkreis Saarlouis e.V.

logo_klengYesterday I participated in another interesting visit organized by my genealogy society Luxracines. This time we went to Saarlouis in Germany and visited the Vereinigung für die Heimatkunde im Landkreis Saarlouis e.V.

Kreisarchiv im Landratsamt built in 1894-95

Vereinigung für die Heimatkunde im Landkreis Saarlouis e.V., an association formed in 1958, deals with genealogy and history in the district of Saarlouis and surrounding areas. They have several rooms at their disposal in the building of the Kreisarchiv im Landratsamt built in 1894-95.

With a little over 800 members, the association has been publishing a quarterly newsletter “Unsere Heimat” (Our Homeland) since 1976. Members work in groups on general history, archaeology, family history, and new medias with the largest group being that of the genealogists. They correspond and exchange publications with over 60 clubs, archives and libraries at home and abroad (including in France, Luxembourg and USA). Their rich family and local history library, a center for family research in Saarland and beyond, is open to the public during the work week (except Wednesdays) from 2 to 5 in the afternoons.

Photo used courtesy of Rob Deltgen
Photo used courtesy of Rob Deltgen








Hans Peter KLAUCK and Helmut GREIM welcomed our group of genealogists, gave us an overview of the history of their association, and explanations of the club’s collections and publications.

More than 2500 family books of towns in Saarland and Rheinland-Pfalz, a huge selection of Ortfamilienbücher (family books) of the Banat, and numerous books on local history of the area and beyond are available in the library –  a collection of 15,000 publications. Everything that a genealogist needs for researching and writing about family history.

We were able to spent about an hour browsing through the library, pulling family books of interesting, taking notes or photographing entries of interest in this or that family book.

Our hour of research was quickly over and we were then taken on a guided tour of the city of Saarlouis by Hans Peter KLAUCK. Saarlouis was built as a fortress in 1680 by the French King Louis XIV.

Hans Peter KLAUCK was a fantastic guide with great knowledge and passion for the history of the fortress city constructed by Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, France’s famous military engineer.

At noon we took a break from our guided tour for lunch in the restaurantKartoffelhaus” (Potato House“) where specialities of the region were found on the menu card.

After lunch we continued our tour of the city by first visiting the Städtischen Museum (local history museum) where Mr. KLAUCK explained the military importance and functions of the buildings in Vauban’s fortress using the 1726 model of Saarlouis (scaled at 1:625 and built in 1980).

Model of the Saarlouis Fortress ca. 1726 (Scaled at 1:625) in the Städtischen Museum.

Following our museum visit we continued our tour of the city across the Great Market, passing the Saint Louis Church.

The Ludwigskirche (Saint Louis Church) on the Great Market

It was a coincidence that Roland HENZ, Oberbürgermeister der Kreisstadt Saarlouis, was on the market place as Saarlouis’ volunteer fire department, one of the oldest in Germany, were having their yearly exercise in fire fighting. Mayor HENZ took a moment to greet our group and welcome us to Saarlouis.

Roland HENZ, Oberbürgermeister der Kreisstadt Saarlouis (left) and our guide Hans Peter HAUCK (right)

We continued our walk through the Old Town, along the Casemates,

Kasematten (The Casemates)
Kasematten (The Casemates)

through the German Gate,

Deutsches Tor (German Gate)

along the Saar River,

Saar Schleusenbrücke (water gates)

passing the “Ravelin V” park that is currently under construction

“Ravelin V” park (under construction) with the Protestant Church in the background.

before we were back to our point of departure.

The general concensus of the Luxracines participants regarding our visit with the Vereinigung für die Heimatkunde im Landkreis Saarlouis e.V. and tour of the City of Saarlouis was  ~~ Et war e flotten dag!” It was a great day!

Frenn vum Luxracines, et gif mech freen wan dir mir a klengen Kommentar geift hannerlossen. Merci.

© 2014 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

The World War II Exploits of Eugene N. DEMPSEY

Gene was my 1st cousin once removed. We may have also been 5th cousins once removed, sharing Susannah [–?–] DEMPSEY as an ancestor. Susannah’s husband, whoever he may have been, is not the DEMPSEY who passed his surname on to both Gene and me. I’ll leave it at that as it’s another story for another day.

Eugene Noble DEMPSEY, 86, of Ansted, passed away Friday, May 11, 2001, at Hidden Valley Nursing Home in Oak Hill, Fayette County, West Virginia. Gene, as he was known by his family and friends, was born August 23, 1914, in Ansted, and was the son of the late Oscar and Fannie NOBLE DEMPSEY. He was a retired electrician from Alloy Union Carbide, a member of Ansted Masonic Lodge, VFW of Fayetteville, American Legion of Fayetteville, CCC Alumni, and Hopewell Baptist Church of Hopewell.

On January 8, 2001, four months before his death, Gene wrote me a letter giving his permission to use his World War II story on my now obsolete website. On the 13th anniversary of his death I would like to once again share his memories of this world war.

The World War II Exploits of Eugene N. DEMPSEY

By Eugene N. Dempsey

The notice containing the “Greetings” from the White Bearded Uncle came to EUGENE NOBLE DEMPSEY in December 1943. After completing his physical examination at Huntington, West Virginia, he was inducted into the U.S. Army in that same month. Following induction Gene was granted a three week furlough for the purpose of placing his personal and business affairs in order before being sent to Fort Thomas, Kentucky for processing, classification and assignment to a military unit.

In the processing for the military service stage, numerous papers were filled out where such questions concerning the individual’s education, previous military service, work experience, and special skills were required to be answered. Although Gene had previous service in the Infantry branch of the U.S. Army (1933-36), he avoided reassignment to this combat arm because of one seemingly innocent question he answered on his personnel questionnaire regarding his work experience. Here he indicated that he had worked for a short time as a brakeman on an electric motor propelled train which moves coal cars in and about the coal mine. Since at this very moment in time the U.S. Army was in the process of organizing railway operating battalions to be assigned to the newly created Transportation Corps, classification officers had been alerted and directed to assign any newly inducted personnel with experience on railroads to these units. The Transportation Corps is that branch of the Army that is assigned the responsibility for the movement of personnel and materiel over land, sea and in the air. During World War II, this was to and from the European, African, Middle East theater of operations as well as the far flung bases and battlefields of the Pacific.

In January 1944, following five days of classification and processing at Fort Thomas, Kentucky, Eugene N. Dempsey was sent to Camp Plusha, New Orleans, Louisiana. He spent three weeks there in basic training before he and several others were moved to an abandoned U.S. Army Air Force Base on Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans where they continued basic training for three more weeks. In February 1944, after they had completed their SIX weeks of basic training, the group was given a farewell party and dance on the campus of Tulane University in New Orleans before being reassigned to Camp Claiborne, Louisiana for seventeen weeks of technical training on the Missouri Pacific Railroad. Gene was assigned to the Alexander to Monroe, Louisiana Division of the Missouri Pacific where he trained under the regular civilian train crew to be a railway brakeman.

About the middle of June 1944, Gene Dempsey completed his seventeen weeks of on-the-job training as a brakeman on the Missouri Pacific Railroad and was reassigned to Camp Reynolds, Pennsylvania. He was given a seventeen (17) day delay en route before he was to report to his new station on 17 July 1944. After spending several days at Camp Reynolds, Gene and his contingent were moved by troop train via Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester and Albany down the Hudson River to West Point. Then they moved on to Camp Shanks near New York City, the Port of Embarkment for Europe, where they arrived on 22 July 1944. On this day Gene and his contingent became part of a larger group of 15,000 military personnel who boarded the British ship QUEEN MARY in New York harbor from which they departed for the United Kingdom on 23 July 1944. To hopefully avoid German submarines who were prowling the waters of the North Atlantic, the QUEEN MARY with Eugene N. Dempsey and its cargo of other soldiers proceeded to take a zigzag course across the Atlantic. Five (5) days later, on 28 July 1944, the majestic Queen arrived at Glasgow, Scotland.

On the evening of 29 July 1944, Gene Dempsey and his railway buddies left Scotland on a British troop train. They rode through the night in complete darkness, the use of lights of any kind only being an invitation to the German Luftwaffe to bomb and strafe the moving train. (Gott strafe England – God punish England, German propaganda slogan during World War I.) On a cold and rainy morning, they arrived at Doddington Park near Liverpool, England on 30 July 1944. Gene, along with the other military railway unassigned replacements, remained at Doddington Park until 4 September 1944 before being moved to Delmar Park, England. There they remained for only eight (8) days before being stationed at Tidworth Barracks a permanent British Army Base about ninety (90) kilometers south of London. Also stationed here was the 9th U.S. Armored Division and many other military units. On 4 December 1944, Eugene N. Dempsey and other replacements departed for Southampton, England where they were to cross the choppy waters of the English Channel on a L.S.T. arriving in Le Havre, France on 6 December 1944. In Le Havre Gene was to lose his duffel bag which, after thirty-eight (38) years, is still missing and has now been dropped from an AWOL status to that of a deserter.

On 9 December 1944, Eugene Dempsey and several other railway replacements were moved to Ballan Court, near Paris, France, where they remained for eighteen (18) days and where they observed a Christmas that was everything but the usually delightful holidays spent in the States. Many of the replacements, including Gene, were overcome with a bad case of diarrhea. This is an extremely dreadful and distressing malady when one must hike through deep snow to the nearest Straddle Trench, which serves as an outhouse when the army is in the field. At that time, the Labor Unions were not strong enough to require that the U.S. Army provide “Comfort Stations” for their troops in the field. It should be remembered that under these conditions certain tender extremities which are exposed to a low chill factor only add to the pathetic predicament. Even under these unpleasant circumstances, soldier Dempsey was able to mail a box of souvenirs back to West Virginia. Included in this parcel post package was a German steel helmet, which Gene still has.

During December of 1944, the front line combat units were fighting the fierce and bloody Battle of the Bulge (and Cousin Eli Dews was up there with his men pinned down by the grazing fire of the enemy guns). Everyone, including the support units of the Army, was somewhat jittery because the German Army had cracked the lines of the Allies and were rapidly moving toward the English Channel. Under these extremely explosive and unstable conditions, Gene and his group of replacements departed Ballan Court on 27 December 1944. The following day they arrived at Compiègne where the World War I Armistice was signed in a railroad car on 11 November 1918. It was also where Hitler, in June of 1940, added to the humiliation of France by requiring their leaders to meet with him and sign a treaty with Germany during World War II. Here on 28 December 1944 Gene Dempsey’s group was to spend a bitter cold night in tents pitched on a race tract for purebred horses. The following day, 30 December 1944, Gene and his group of replacements were moved by army trucks to Noyon, France a small town several miles northeast of Compiègne. Here Gene and his comrades enjoyed a bath at a public bath house. Here also, Gene Dempsey committed a dishonorable theft when he removed a light bulb from a French Post Office while his buddies engaged the sweet young Postmistress in a conversation of pigeon French. Gene rationalized this shameful act by calling it a “requisition” since the light bulb was removed, he said, from one French government building to another building owned by the same government, that is from the Post Office to the French Army Barracks where they were temporarily quartered.

On 7 January 1945 Eugene Dempsey along with other replacements were moved from Noyon, France to Aulnoye, France where they were assigned to the 716th Railway Operating Battalion. This Battalion was then under strength because several of its members, including the Battalion Commander, were charged and court-martialed with selling to French civilians materials and supplies they were transporting to the troops fighting on the front line. After spending about twenty (20) days at Aulnoye, Gene and his entire Battalion was ordered to Metz, France, where they were quartered in French railway box cars. It was here in Metz that Gene learned of the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt when he heard a French newsboy cry out the headline on his newspaper “ROOSEVELT EST MORT.” With Metz as their home base, Gene along with other members of the 716th Railway Operating Battalion were sent out in groups on detached service and at this time Gene found himself working in a railroad yard in Maubeuge, France, for several weeks. Nearly every morning while at Maubeuge, Gene observed the heavy bombers of the 8th U.S. Air Force in formations which included several hundreds of planes, along with their fighter escorts, passing over on their way to destroy military targets in Germany.

On or about 10 April 1945 Gene was transferred to Thionville, France, which is located on the Moselle River near the border between France and Germany. The Germans called the town Diedenhofen. It was from here that Gene Dempsey rode a street car to Luxembourg City, Luxembourg, where he bought an ice cream cone – the very first ice cream that he had in over two (2) years.

On 5 May 1945, the day of the German surrender and the end of World War II in Europe – Gene left France with his railroad unit. They headed for Kornwestheim a small town northeast of Stuttgart, Germany, where they arrived on 10 May 1945. In this town there was a large shoe factory (Salimander) where Gene traded a package of Lucky Strike cigarettes for a pair of brown slippers. Gene and his train crew continued to use railway boxcars as their living quarters when they crossed the Rhine River near Mannheim, Germany, where they spent seven days before moving on to Esslingen, Germany, on 17 May 1945 where they moved from their boxcars and commenced to live in buildings. For the next fourteen weeks they were quartered in a schoolhouse in Esslingen which is a city of about 50,000 located about ten miles southeast of Stuttgart, a city of about 700,000. The 100th Infantry Division was also stationed in and about Esslingen at this same time. The 716th Railway Operating Battalion to which Eugene N. Dempsey was assigned operated the electric railway from Stuttgart to Augsberg, Germany, a distance of about 110 miles. It was on one of these runs that “One” Dempsey almost made contact with his cousin, Captain Eli “One” Dews who was a rifle company commander with the 44th Infantry Division. The train on which Gene and his crew were operating had made an emergency stop and was blocking the highway over which elements of the 44th Infantry Division were traveling. They were on their way to France in preparation for being re-deployed through the States before being assigned to the Pacific Theater of Operations to continue the fight against the Japanese. Gene was unable to contact his “Cuz” because Eli was still in Ulm, Germany, a city that his Infantry Regiment captured during the fighting.

It was while the 716th Railway Operating Battalion was stationed in Esslingen that they commenced the project of turning the operations of the German railroads back to their German owners and very shortly Eugene Dempsey found himself driving trucks for the Transportation Corps instead or operating railway trains. The war with Japan ended in August 1945 and it was here in Esslingen in late September of 1945 that re-deployment started to wreck the 716th Railway Operating Battalion. Based upon length of service combat assignments, campaigns, decorations, dependents and other considerations, an individual soldier was assigned “points”. The soldiers with the lowest number of points were being reassigned to other military units all over Europe while those soldiers with the larger number of points were sent back to the States for separation from the service Since Gene Dempsey was in the low point category, his service with the 716th Railway Operating Battalion ended. He was shipped, along with several of his buddies, to Hannover, Germany by troop train. Here in the British Zone of Military Occupation, they were assigned to the 741st Railway Operating Battalion. It is reported their duty assignment at this station was somewhat of a “cake walk” and that these combat characters spent more time loafing and “fraternizing with Frauleins” than they did performing military assignments. However, all of this good stuff came to a screeching halt on 4 November 1945 when Gene and others in his train crew departed Hannover, Germany, for duty assignments at Kassel, Germany. They remained in this city of about 130,000 located approximately 100 miles south of Hannover until 23 November 1945 when they were released from assignment with the 741st Railway Operating Battalion. They were then assigned to the 817th Tank Destroyer Battalion at Fürth, Germany, the town where Henry Kissinger was born. Since Fürth is practically an eastern suburb of Nürnberg, Gene had occasion to be near the Palace of Justice where the Nuremberg Trials of war criminals were taking place.

Eugene Dempsey spent his second Christmas in Europe in the city of Fürth, Germany, and it was here on 18 December 1945 that he had to say farewell to several of his old army buddies. John Shay of Falls River, Massachusetts, who in 1948 supplied him with most of the dates and places used in the preparation of this “after action” report was one of these old army buddies. Since most of his railway buddies were being re-deployed and Gene was left almost alone in strange surroundings he became homesick, dispirited, depressed and extremely melancholic and felt that he needed to do something very soon to overcome this undesirable condition that entered his young life. A solution – take a furlough to England where he at least could be among people who spoke a language he could understand better than he did French and German. Since he felt that he would be re-deployed to the States in the very near future he would be even more depressed if he was in England and “missed the boat” which might return him to the nearest port on the Atlantic coastline of the United States. Gene solicited and received assurances from his first sergeant that there was no possibilities that he would be scheduled for Stateside transportation for several months. Consequently, Gene accepted the 10-day furlough in the United Kingdom which also authorized “necessary travel time.” What a trip!! At 11:59 PM or at 2359 hours on 31 December 1945 he boarded a train in Nürnberg railway station. About daybreak the following morning his train stopped in Strasbourg, France, for breakfast and in the afternoon of 1 January 1946 Gene Dempsey was in Paris, France. Since he had almost unlimited travel time and because things looked VERY interesting in “Gay Parree” ONE decided that there was no great need to hurry on to England. Although there are no witnesses, reportedly he went on a conducted tour of the city where he visited Napoleon’s tomb, the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Palais Royal, Notre Dame, the Louvre, Sorbonne and other educational, artistic and cultural works. One reason to wonder about some of these reported uplifts in refinement of this soldier’s party received in Paris is hazy because seven days of the diary is missing and is believed to have been lost at Place Pigalle. Anyway, Gene left Paris and continued on his journey to the United Kingdom on 7 January 1946 only to arrive at Le Havre, France (Camp Lucky Strike) and find that because of rough seas in the Channel there would be no boat train to England for several days. After three days Gene volunteered to ride in the back of an army truck 50 miles up the coast to Dieppe where crossings to England had not been interrupted even though the seas were high. Along with a large number of military personnel Gene boarded a boat for the 67-mile crossing to Newhaven, England and a few hours later a boat load of sea sick soldiers were met by a train which took them to Waterloo Station in London in 30 minutes. From the train station Gene took the subway to the Columbia Hotel and here he was indeed surprised to meet Forrest Scales a fellow worker at the Alloy Plant in Fayette County, West Virginia. Forrest was the very first person with whom he had worked that he had met since he left there when inducted in the army in December 1943. Gene and Forrest reportedly spent the 10-days together and London, England, has never been the same.

On 16 January 1946 Eugene N. Dempsey left London and headed back toward Germany. As he felt he had not received enough culture in Paris while on his way to England, he decided to make another extended visit on the return to soak up more of the esthetic and intellectual excellence of this refined civilization. The exact number of days he devoted to this chore is not known because in Place Pigalle time stands still. Reportedly this, by now, “soldier of fortune seeker” that some would characterize as a “soldier of fun seeker” also spent a few days at his old stomping ground and watering holes in Esslingen, Germany on his return trip. Although written records of these events have been lost or deliberately destroyed, military history will record that he did not return to his unit until 28 January 1946 and his first sergeant was surprised to see him back so soon.

On 10 February 1946, One Dempsey, the nomadic vagabond soldier, was transferred to the 379th Anti Aircraft Artillery Battalion stationed at Hann Münden, Germany. Here, appropriately, he was assigned to the motor pool as a driver of various purpose army vehicles. This detail as a gasoline cowboy was much preferred over that as a guard on railway supply trains operating from the American Sector of Occupation to the city of Berlin, Germany, which was also being offered as a choice duty assignment. While here Gene was assigned as the driver for a Captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, an Irish national who had never been in the United States. It was while driving for this medical officer that the otherwise unblemished military record of Eugene Dempsey was almost marred, tainted, blemished and tarnished beyond all recognition. One night while they were in Bremen, Germany, this usually circumspect soldier decided to go to a movie – probably a cover story – and placed the army vehicle for which he was responsible for protecting in an unguarded parking lot. Several hours later this red faced soldier returned to find that his vehicle had been stolen – not an unusual happening. The missing vehicle was reported to the military police, the CID and several other military and civilian law enforcement and criminal-investigating agencies but it was never located. Negligence on the part of the custodian-driver of an army vehicle can subject the guilty party to court-martial and could result in his being required to reimburse the Federal government for the depreciated value of the vehicle. This was one hell of an unpleasant predicament for a “lonely” soldier whose primary goal at this point in time was to he assigned to a unit which was scheduled to return to the States for demobilization. After several lengthy investigations and the intervention of several high-ranking officers, Gene was absolved of blame for the lost army vehicle.

It was in March of 1946 that Gene was transferred to the large seaport city of Bremerhaven, Germany, located on the North Sea. Here he was to make contact with the first group of U.S. Marines that he saw during all his travels in Europe. The detail of Marines were guarding the German Liner EUROPA which was anchored in the harbor at Bremerhaven. In addition, it was here on 1 April 1946 – April Fools Day – that One Dempsey received the information for which he had long been waiting. His name had been placed on the roster of those to be returned to the United States and he was placed in the re-deployment pipeline. This pipe line processing can be long and hazardous and often subject to much chaos, commotion, pandemonium, confusion, disorder, disarray and general snafu. Along with a group of others scheduled to return to the States, Gene boarded the boxcars of a troop train and after traveling day and night they arrived in the city of Mannheim on the Rhine River in Southern Germany. Here they were assigned quarters in a tent camp and in order to get to the Post Exchange for “rations” they needed to ride a street car to Heidelberg, Germany located several miles to the southeast. Monotony can become intense when one has nothing to do but lie in the springtime sun for three weeks and that was the occupation which Gene and his fellow re-deployees were doing in Mannheim, Germany during the greater part of April 1946. But, the good news came: “board the box cars boys” and be on your way back to Bremerhaven, Germany on the North Sea was the order which the First Sergeant barked out. Boarding the troop train and riding day and night the rag-tag group arrived at their northern destination where they were moved to a German Luftwaffen hanger which served as their sleeping quarters while waiting ship passage to the States. After about two days here Gene and about 1,500 other soldiers were placed aboard the Victory ship ALHAMBRA for the westward voyage across the Atlantic. They sailed out of the North Sea and into the English Channel where they passed the white Cliffs of Dover before nightfall on the first day of a 10-day trip back to the United States. On the morning of the 10th day the greatest thrill of a lifetime was experienced when they sighted the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor. An unexpected but very moving and touching ceremony was given the troops on the Alhambra Victory before they docked at the 84th Street Pier at 11:00 A.M. on 2 May 1946. They were met near the entrance of the harbor by several tug and fire fighting boats which were spraying water in all directions and every ship and boat in the harbor began to sound their horns. As the troops came down the gangplank a band was playing “I Love You Truly”. Another touching scene was to witness a few returning soldiers drop to their knees at the end of the gangplank and kiss the soil of the good old U.S.A.

From New York the returning contingent was loaded aboard a train for the short ride to Fort Kilmer, New Jersey where they were served a meal of T-bone steaks with all the trimmings. The table waiters at Kilmer were German prisoners of war, which had been captured in North Africa and parts of Europe. After two days at Port Kilmer Gene was sent to Fort Meade, Maryland for processing and discharge after over two and one half years of Wartime service nearly 90% of which was spent overseas. For control and administrative purposes Gene was attached to an Ordnance Battalion for the return trip to the States and he was a little apprehensive that this unit might show on his discharge as his “Wartime” assignment. It did not however and his discharge from the service that he received on 6 May 1946 shows that he was a member of the 716th Railway Operating Battalion.

Immediately upon receiving his final pay and separation papers at Fort Meade, Maryland, Eugene N. Dempsey caught a bus to the Union Station in Washington, D.C. where he got a ticket on C&O train No.3 to continue his westward journey to Wonderful West Virginia where he arrived on 7 May 1946.

This brief military history made by One Dempsey shows his contribution to keep the World free for Democracy. How free? How long? It seems somewhat doubtful that this War has ever ended because there was a continuation in Korea and Vietnam and now it has spilled over to Afghanistan and Poland, Central America and the Middle East.

February 1982

© Eugene N. Dempsey

© 2014, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

The Mystery of James C. Crouse Sr.’s Grave Marker

On 27 April 2014 Ellen Claytor contacted me by private message on my Facebook page to find out where James C. CROUSE 1920-1944 is buried. It was a very short message and I had no idea why she wanted to know this.

She found James in my GEDCOM file which is online at RootsWeb WorldConnect Project and linked to my Facebook page. A few messages were passed back and forth before I found out why she wanted to know.

Her son had recently bought a house and in the garage, he found a flat marble marker:

James C. Crouse Sr.
P.F.C. 424th Inf. – 106th Div.
World War II
Jan. 2, 1920 – Dec. 18, 1944

I already had the following information and went on to find several newspaper articles about his burial to answer her question.

A Short Biography of James C. CROUSE


James Carlton CROUSE Sr. was born 2 January 1920 in Lochgelly, Fayette County, West Virginia, to Samuel Joseph CROUSE and Cora Lee BABER. He was my 5th cousin once removed (5C1R) through two sets of 5xgreat-grandparents:
1. William JOHNSON and Amy NELSON and
2. James SIMS and his first wife Phebe [–?–].

James had been an only child for seven years when his sister Margaret Ann was born in 1927. He attended Fayetteville High School and was a Methodist.

On 26 July 1941 in Fayetteville, Fayette County, West Virginia, James C. CROUSE, age 21, married Eugenia Lee WISE, age 18, daughter of William and Lucy Lee WISE. [line 24]

James and Eugenia became the parents of a son, James Carlton CROUSE Jr., on 17 August 1942.

World War II Young American Patriots, 1941-1945 (Ancestry.com : accessed 29 Apr 2014)

On 2 December 1943 James enlisted in the U.S. Army “for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law.”

He began his service at Camp Blanding in Florida and then went to Europe where he served in England, France, Belgium, and Germany. He died serving his country.

His death was recorded in the Register of Death for Fayette County. [line 40] On the West Virginia Veterans Database of West Virginia Memory Project, maintained by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, we find his record with more details. His cause of death is listed as DOW (died of wounds) in Belgium while his death record in the register has killed in action (KIA) in Germany. He was awarded the Purple Heart.

A little over four years later the body of Private First Class James C. CROUSE of Fayetteville was re-interred in Huse Memorial Park in Fayetteville on Sunday, April 24, 1949.

1949 James C. Crouse burial
Beckley Post Herald > Thursday, April 21, 1949 > Page 2

Publication: Beckley Post Herald (West Virginia)
Published: Thursday, April 21, 1949, Page 2
FAYETTEVILLE, April 20 – Pfc. James C. Crouse of Fayetteville, who was killed in action in Germany, December 18, 1944, will be buried in the Huse Memorial Park here on Sunday, April 24.
There will be a brief ceremony at the home Sunday afternoon at two o’clock with Rev. R. T. Mallory of Mt. Hope in charge. Graveside services will be in charge of the American Legion, LaFayette Post, 149, Fayetteville. The body will be removed from the Dodd Mortuary here to the home of his parents, Saturday at 5:00 p.m. where it will remain until time for the services.
He was aged 24 years, 11 months and 11 days, and is survived by one son, James Culton (sic, Carlton) Crouse, Jr., his wife; his parents, Mr. and Mrs. S. J. Crouse of Fayetteville; one sister, Mrs. Margaret James of Oak Hill.

1949 James C. Crouse obit
Charleston Gazette > Saturday, April 23, 1949 > Page 2

Publication: Charleston Gazette (West Virginia)
Published: Saturday, April 23, 1949, Page 2
Headline: Rites for Pfc. Crouse Slated in Fayetteville
Service for Pfc. James C. Crouse of Fayetteville, who was killed Dec. 18, 1944, in Germany, will be held at 2 p.m. tomorrow at the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. S. J. Crouse of Fayetteville.
Rev. R. T. Mallory of Mt. Hope will officiate and burial will be in Huse Memorial Park at Fayetteville with LaFayette Post No. 149. American Legion, in charge of graveside rites.
Pfc. Crouse, 24, was born at Lochgelly, Fayette county.
Surviving besides his parents is a sister, Mrs. Margaret James of Oak Hill.
The body is at Dodd mortuary in Fayetteville and will be taken to the house of his parents at 5 p.m. today.

James C. Crouse’s location at the time of his death

The 424th Combat Infantry Regiment of the 106th Infantry Division landed in France on 5 December 1944. They crossed into Belgium on 10 December 1944 and were stationed at Winterspelt (Germany). On 16 December 1944, the German Army unleashed its Ardennes Counteroffensive (The Battle of the Bulge). After Action Reports show that the 424th was in Belgium on 18 December 1944. KIA or DOW, whichever is correct, one could place him in Belgium and the other in Germany. His military records may shed light on this question.

And this is where the mystery comes into the story

Ellen wanted to know why the marker was in her son’s garage and what they could do to get it back where it should be.

I posted the “problem” to the Fayette County West Virginia Genealogy group on Facebook. They are a wonderful group of genealogist and always ready to help.

Anita McClung was able to confirm both James C. Crouse Sr. and Jr. are buried at Huse Memorial Cemetery. Her source is the Fayette County Cemetery Records, Vol. VI, published by the Fayette & Raleigh Counties Genealogy Societies in October 2006. She was one of the persons who participated in reading the cemeteries.

Sandra Humphries Raedel was able to furnish a missing piece of the puzzle. On Find A Grave she found James’ listing with the application for the marker. “It ‘does’ appear that a flat memorial marker was ordered for James C. Crouse Sr., but…it was to be shipped to High Lawn Memorial Park.”

I hadn’t thought to check Find A Grave as I’d already located the newspaper articles. If I’d looked there first I might not have gone on to search for the burial notices which would have caused further problems. The contributor Jeff Hall had entered the name of the cemetery seen on the application. I notified Jeff of the discrepancy and he corrected the cemetery name. 

The story of James C. Crouse’s marker continues:

After the body was returned to West Virginia and buried in Huse Memorial Cemetery, his father S. J. Crouse applied for a flat marble marker with a Christian emblem for the unmarked grave.

James C. Crouse marker application (Ancestry.com : accessed 29 Apr 2014)

James was buried on the 24th of April and his father made the application three days later on the 27th of April. Several different handwritings are seen on the card. The name of the cemetery was penciled in. On the card, we see Highlawn Memorial Park in Oak Hill as the place of burial. As seen in the cemetery book and the newspaper articles this is incorrect.

Reverse side of application (Ancestry.com : accessed 29 Apr 2014)

On May 10th C. S. Wilson, superintendent or caretaker of the cemetery, certified that the marker would be permitted on the grave. The information was verified in Green Mountain, VT, on May 17th.

The question is, was C. S. Wilson from the Huse or High Lawn cemetery?

Shock, surprise, and goosebumps

I quickly found James’ granddaughter Marian Crouse Walraven on Facebook and sent her a message. I don’t like to do this as the message will go to the person’s Other folder if you are not “friends.” I hardly ever have success getting in touch with people this way. I sent a friend request, just in case, and was surprised to get a quick response. In a private message, I explained what was going on. She was shocked to hear about this marker and confirmed that both her grandfather and father are buried in Huse Memorial Park in Fayetteville.

By the time replies came in from Anita and Sandra from the Facebook group, I was chatting with Marian, and sending messages to Ellen — three conversations at one time.

Marian was shocked that I was getting in touch with her about her grandfather’s marker and that it had been found in someone’s garage. It was news to her as she has seen his marker on his grave but does not have a photo to compare with.

She was excited to learn not only are we related through her father and grandfather but also through her mother’s paternal line. We are 6C1R on JOHNSON and SIMS lines mentioned earlier (both her father and mother descend from these lines)  and we share John KINCAID Sr. and Elizabeth Hannah GILLESPIE at the same level.

Then it dawned on me that Ellen had contacted me exactly 65 years to the day that Samuel Joseph CROUSE had filled out the marker application for his son’s grave. I shared this <goosebumps> with both Ellen and Marian. Ellen wrote, “I believe that things like this happen for a reason. My son says to use the photo. He wants to do whatever he can to find the proper place for the marker.”

The mystery hasn’t been solved. Was the marker delivered to the wrong cemetery? Was the family contacted? Did they request a new marker when the one they applied for did not show up at the cemetery of burial? Was the home that the marker was found in previously owned by a member of the Crouse family?

Photo of the marker courtesy of J. Claytor

One last <goosebumps> note:

My part in this story began on the 65th anniversary of the application for the marker. James’ story spans two continents, my part in the story also spans two continents. What are the chances that a mother in Ohio would contact a genealogist in Luxembourg — one of the countries that the Battle of the Bulge took place in?

There will be a follow-up on this mystery. I have a couple of people checking things out. Mostly, I can’t wait to hear from my new cousin Marian about how this story ends.

Update (21 February 2018):
See link at the bottom of The Mystery of James C. Crouse Sr.’s Grave Marker – Part 2

© 2014, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Luxracines on Tour 2013 – Part I

logo_klengSaturday I’m going on a genealogy field trip! The genealogy association I belong to in Luxembourg, Luxracines, has organized a trip to Neumagen and Wittlich (Germany).

Starting with a cruise of the Mosel River on a Roman ship, followed by lunch at a typical German “Gasthaus”, and a tour of Peter Daus’ private library, in Haus Daus. The library is made up of about 2000 family books for localities in Rheinland-Pfalz, Pfalz, and Saarland.

In comparison, the Beda Bücherei (library) in Bitburg has a collection of about 150 family books for the Eifel area and the Bistumsarchiv (diocese archives) of Trier has about 1200 family books.

A family book (Familienbuch) is compiled from the parish and civil records (church books and town registers) – kind of like an index to where you can find the original records.

Unfortunately, Mr. Daus’ holdings are being disposed of so this will be my last chance to see this amazing collection.

Time is precious so I’ve made up a list of ancestors on my maternal grandfather’s branch and a few little twigs in my husband’s family tree that reach into Germany.

Don’t know how much research I can do but I’ll be prepared.

© 2013, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.