A Kohn family: lost, found, lost, found, and repeat

The Familienbuch 1 Pfarrei St. Aper Wasserliesch 1752-1899 (the first family book for the St. Aper parish in Wasserliesch, Germany) has a similar notation beside the baptism entries for Matthias Kohn (b. 1829.08.16), Johann Matthias Kohn (b. 1839.01.10), and Michael Kohn (b. 1844.07.19) that reads "nach Nord-Amerika ausgewandert." Before reading this, I had known only of my great-grandfather Johann Matthias as the emigrĂ© from Germany. Afterwards, I knew I had two other emigrĂ©s to account for.

With a bit more research, I found that in addition to my great-grandfather's emigration in 1865 were Matthias Kohn's emigration around 1855 and Michael Kohn's in 1871. Because of information from Irene Streit-Keller, I found evidence of Matthias Kohn's life in La Crosse, Wisconsin quickly. He owned a saloon, which he operated as a restaurant and hotel. He married Josephine Becker, the "oldest settler of La Crosse," (as reported in the La Crosse obituary for her) and had 11 children and adopted 2 children who had been orphaned by a family friend. I found a descendant of Matthias, Cindy Bistodeau, who supplied ever increasing detail about the family and introduced me to the last Kohn family member still living in La Crosse, her grandmother Charlotte Kohn-Troyanek.

But Michael Kohn was apparently lost.

With more detailed research, I found Michael Kohn in La Crosse. He had been a Schreiner in Germany, and he continued his trade as a carpenter in La Crosse. I believe he worked at first for a furnniture maker, but he had a business listing as a cabinet maker in the city directory of 1876-1877. The only other evidence of his life in La Crosse was a marriage in 1874 to Theresa Loerscher, who was born about 1854. And their names were not in the 1880 census of La Crosse.

Again, lost.

Then I happened to find a Michael "Cohen" in the 1880 census. In Beloit, Kansas. So much matched correctly: age 36, occupation carpenter, born in Prussia, parents born in Prussia, wife "Tressa." Her age was given as 27, and they had 3 boys: Theodore age 5, Matt age 3, and Mike age 2. I felt enough matched to have confidence that I had found the Michael Kohn family again.

I asked the Mitchell County Historical Society to request a search of the church records for any baptisms for children of Michael and Theresa Kohn through the next ten years. Nothing. I asked also for a search of city directories and tax records for the next few years. Nothing.

Again, the family seemed to be lost.

Then I searched the 1900 census nationwide for Michael Kohn and his family. There seemed to be matches in Leavenworth, Kansas. I wrote a query on the Leavenworth county message board hosted by Ancestry.com. Within a day, a fellow researcher provided summaries for the state and federal censuses of 1885, 1895, 1900, and 1905. Found again!

But the family seems to have little presence there after 1905. Are they lost again?

Update, 27 June 2013.

Further online research suggests these facts:
  • Wife Theresa Loerscher-Kohn died in Leavenworth on 22 Nov 1891 (age 37).
  • Daughter Gertrude Kohn married Arthur Wales on 26 Dec 1900 (ages 20 and 35). They had at least one child, Millie T, born in 1903.
  • Son John R. Kohn died in Leavenworth on 24 Jul 1905 (age 21).
  • Son Mike Kohn died in Leavenworth on 4 Sep 1905 (age 27).
  • Husband Michael Kohn died in Leavenworth in 1905 (age 61).
  • Son Theodore Kohn died 29 Sep 1924 and was buried at the Ft. Leavenworth National Cemetery.
  • Children Matt, Peter, Leo, and Annie are not accounted for. 

Update, 8 May 2014.

Further online research in the census databases available from the Family History Library suggests these facts:

  • Gertrude Kohn-Wales and her husband Arthur and child Millie are enumerated in the 1910 census. Their address is in Ward 4 (ward locations are not known, not identified in 1878 and 1903 plat maps of the county and city). I note the transcription error "Anthin" for "Arthur.
  • It's unclear whether the Kansas censuses of 1915, 1925, and 1935 exist or whether the enumeration included city residents.
  • Gertrude remarried to a BROWN, who is not enumerated with her and daughter Millie Wales in the 1920 census. Their address is in Ward 1. A changed family name implies that Arthur Wales was divorced from Gertrude or deceased. The name "Brown" could be a transcription error, since no husband is enumerated. I presently feel trying to uncover further linkages is not worth the return.

  • Neither Gertrude nor Millie appears in the 1930 or 1940 censuses.

I have planned a research stop in Leavenworth for May 29-30. At the city library, I will review and photograph entries in the City Directories and their databases of births, marriages, tax returns, school records, and deaths. I plan to visit the Mt. Calvary cemetery to see if more burials are there than the seven reported in the county database of burials. I will take a bike or auto tour of the city's historical locations and the six locations of family homes. Finally, I'll visit St. Joseph Catholic Church and request scans of their sacramental registers for known family dates.

Chronology of the Leavenworth Kohn Family

© Thomas G. Kohn, 2013, 2014.

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