Letter to an elderly cousin

About ten years ago, I visited a distant cousin Alice to tell her of my research in her ancestry. She lived in a quiet neighborhood of Anaheim CA. Orange trees shielded the view of her neighbors' homes. I visited her when she was about 89 years old, shortly after her husband Leo had suffered a stroke. He seemed to be doing pretty well, considering, but he was not very lively.

On the other hand, Alice was very active. Every question I had resulted in her finding another box of family pictures, grade cards, school year books, or other treasures of their life and children's growth.

The visit rekindled my research in her family, and I documented it with a long letter.
I hope my letter finds you well and enjoying the season of Christmas and the New Year, and I hope that 2005 will be a year of joy. It has been two years since my last contacts with you, and I have been fairly successful in my research of the Ohnsat family, both in America and in our ancestors’ European home. 
I believe you told me—or perhaps it was your sister Catherine who told me—that a member of your family once traveled to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania in hopes of finding more information about the Ohnsat family. But that there was no luck in the endeavor. Well, I made a short trip to Pittsburgh this past September, and found baptismal and marriage records that helped greatly in finding the European origins of the Ohnsat family and Salinger family. There are also other researchers I have been in touch with who provide information about your mother’s Streit family.
Let me summarize the information I had for you in October 2002: 
  • My aunt, Sister Edna Louise Kohn, who now lives at the Nazareth Motherhouse in Concordia, remembered that her grandfather Ohnsat was from “Neisse” or “Silesia.” She remembered that her grandmother Salinger-Ohnsat was from “Frankfurt.” Your sister Catherine Bulthaup remembered that her grandfather was a butcher and her grandmother worked as a nurse, but that she had such a bad experience with nursing that she worked to prevent any of her grandchildren from going into nursing.
  • Sister Edna also provided the following birth and death information:
    • John Robert Ohnsat born 18 Sep 1835 in “Neisse” or “Silesia,” died 14 Sep 1897 near Tipton, Kansas.
    • Leopoldine Salinger born 29 May 1839 in “Frankfort, Germany,” died 23 Jul 1919 from dropsy at the home of her daughter near Tipton, Kansas.
    • They came to Kansas in 1878 from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. These dates were corroborated by information from notes provided by my aunt Katherine Cooper, and from information on tombstones, and in published obituaries.
  • City directories of Pittsburgh and its area, dated between 1874 and 1879 locate our family in Pittsburgh residences. The directory of 1876-77 has “Ohnsat Jos, lab [laborer], 16 Twenty-seventh, s s [South Side]” (p. 475). This Joseph Ohnsat is a brother to your grandfather Robert Ohnsat. The directory of 1877-78 has “Ohnest Joseph, butcher, Larimer av, n Broad, e e [East End].” along with “Ohnsat Robert, butcher, Brownsville road, Mt. Oliver, 27th ward.” (p. 464). I believe the name “Ohnest” is a typographic error. 
  • The Naturalization Docket Common Pleas No. 1 - Allegheny County, page 328 includes: “[applicant] Ohnsat Robert [no voucher listed] [no date of naturalization listed] [date of declaration] Feby 7, 1873.” The entry probably indicates that Robert Ohnsat was a resident of Allegheny county since about 1871, since the declaration may occur after two years of residency.
Continuing my research based on what I knew, I used the residences of Larimer Street in South Side, North Broad Street in East End, and Brownsville Road in Mount Oliver in a search for Catholic Churches in these neighborhoods. Then I applied to the Diocesan Archives of Pittsburgh for transcripts of any baptism and marriage records for the Ohnsat family. They responded with the following information:
  • From the St. Michael (South Side) Marriage Records 1849-1878, p. 318: “26 Nov 1872. Robert Ohnsat; age 37; son of Franz Ohnsat and Kath: Shulz of Prussia married to Anna M.L. Salinger; age 33; daughter of Georgius Salinger and Kath: Vogel of Baden. Witnesses: Joseph Ohnsat, Jacob Müller. Father Fredericus.”

    St. Michael Catholic church was at 21 Pius Street. It was deconsecrated and demolished about 1960 
  • From the St. Michael (South Side) Baptismal Records 1866-1878, p. 136, 2nd section: “Franz Joseph, born 19 Oct 1873; baptized 2 Nov 1873; father: Robertus Ohnsaat; mother: Leopoline Sallinger; sponsors: Joseph Weizenhefer, Josephine Höbel. Father Ignatius.” 
  • From the St. Joseph (Mount Oliver) Baptismal Records 1870-1880, p. 145: “Louisam Cath., born 2 Dec 1875; baptized 12 Dec 1875; father: Roberto Ohnsent, Prussia; mother: Leopoldino Sollenger, Baden; sponsors: Joseph Heirenhäfer, Maria Sherene.”

    St. Joseph Catholic church was at 438 Ormsby Avenue. It was deconsecrated and demolished in the late 20th Century. 
  • No record of the marriage of Joseph Ohnsat or of his children's baptisms at St. Michael, St. Joseph (Mt. Oliver), Sts Peter & Paul (East End), or St. Philomena. The only record found was a baptism for Catherine in 1899. Since she was identified as Lutheran prior to conversion, it is most likely that her parents’ marriage did not take place in a Catholic parish. From the St. Philomena (Pittsburgh) Baptismal Records 1895-1908, p. 97: “Catharinam Christinam Dorothea, born 15 Jul 1879; baptized 16 Apr 1899; father: Josepho Onshat, Grüben Falkenberg, Prussia; mother: Elizabeth Rothamel, Grossalmerade, Hessen-Cassell; sponsor: Rosa Crenner. Note in record: newly converted from Lutheranismo, conditional baptismal. Step-father's name Elliott.”
Since this letter, I've been contacted by another descendant of the Elliott family. This contact provided a great deal of fresh information about Joseph Ohnsat, who died in Pittsburgh PA in 1880.

The letter continued...
From the two marriage records, I gleaned the location of Grüben Falkenberg, Prussia for the Ohnsat family and of Baden for the Salinger family. Using catalogs made available on the internet by the Church of Latter Day Saints, I found Church Registers of Grüben in Kreis (county) Falkenberg, a county in the Schlesien district of Ostpreußen (East Prussia). 
The photo shows typical “Sunday clothes” of 19th-Century Schlesien.
Grüben is a small town of about 500 residents today. It is within about 30 miles of the town of Neisse, and within ten miles of the Neisse River. Since the Prussian empire broke up in the early Twentieth Century, and since the eastern borders of Germany were changed numerous times around WW II, the area now is in the south-central part of Poland. The town is named Grabin in Polish, and its county seat is now named Niemodlin. It is in the Polish state of Opole.
I have reviewed the Church Registers of Grüben, and the handwriting in the volumes is very hard to read. With the help of a transcription service, I have identified my 2nd great grandparents (and your great grandparents) : Franz Ohnsat (b. about Jan 1803) and Catharina Scholz (b. about Aug 1806). Catharina’s family name may have been “Schotz,” since the handwriting in the Church Register is somewhat illegible. Franz and Catharina were married in Grüben on 15 Nov 1831. They had seven children I know of: Franz Josef (b. 13 Mar 1833), Johann Robert (b.18 Sep 1835), Franz Anton (b. 10 Dec 1837), Maria Caroline (b. 8 Jul 1840), Joseph August (b. 3 Jul 1842), Carl Anton (b. 13 Oct 1844), and Johann Heinrich (b. 2 Apr 1847). I have not researched the Church Registers for marriages or deaths of these children, so I cannot guess whether only your grandfather and one grand uncle emigrated to the U.S.
Also according to the Church Registers, the father of Franz Ohnsat was Joseph Ohnsat, who had died by the date of Franz’ wedding to Catharina Scholz. Catharina’s father was Johann Scholz, a farmer. Both families were from Grüben, as were the unrelated witnesses to the marriage of Franz and Catharina. By their stated occupations, Johann Scholz owned a fair amount of farmland, but Joseph Ohnsat owned a smaller parcel.
I was contacted recently by a researcher whose 3rd Great Grandmother Johanna Juliana Scholz is a sister to my 2nd Great Grandmother Catharina Scholz. This researcher lives near Heidelberg Germany, and they are familiar with the area of Grüben, as well as other areas of Germany where I pursue research.
At least with online phone directories, there are no German families with the name Ohnsat today. The family name has several variant spellings in the Church Registers, including Ohnsatt, Ohnsath, and Ohnesat. Other variant spellings may include Ohnezeit and Ohneseit, which are more common names in today’s Germany than the spelling Ohnsat. I have contacted several researchers with the names Ohneseit and Ohnezeit, but they have not returned e-mails to date.
I found the European home of your grandmother also: Breisach am Rhein, in Kreis Breisgau-Hochscwarzwald, in the state of Baden (today Baden-Württemberg).
Breisach am Rhein is on the eastern bank of the Rhein River, at the extreme southwestern corner of today’s Germany. The county that surrounds the town shares borders with France and Switzerland. The county population is about 243.000 residents, and the town itself has 8,644 residents.
I have reviewed the Church Registers of Breisach am Rhein, and the handwriting in the volumes is a bit easier to read than the Grüben records. I have identified my 2nd great grandparents : Georg Salinger and Katherina Vogel. I have not found their marriage record yet, but I have found four of their children: Carl Julius (b. 26 Mar 1833), Anton Herrmann (b.21 Jun 1836), Maria Anna Josepha (b. 21 Mar 1838), and Anna Maria Leopoldina (b. 30 May 1839). I have not researched the Church Registers for marriages or deaths of these children, so I cannot guess whether only your grandmother emigrated to the U.S.
I have researched the Ohnsat family in the U.S. by reviewing censuses of the last twenty years of the 19th Century.
  • In the U.S. Census of 23 Jun 1880, the Robert Ohnsat family lived in Bloom township of Osborne county, Kansas. Robert gave his age as 45 and said he was born in Prussia. His wife Leopoldina gave her age as 34 and said she was born in Baden. Their children’s ages were given as 6 for Frank, 4 for Louiza or Louise, and 2 for Barney. Their neighbors then included the families of Nicholas ARNOLDY, Peter SIMEON, John ARNOLDY, Philip SCHROEDER, Martin OTTLEY, Peter REINERT, Franz RIEDEL, Frank BORDEN, Nicholas RHEINHART, and Nick GASPER. 
  • In the Kansas Census of 1 Mar 1885, the family reported ages of 49 for Robert, 45 for Leopoldina, 11 for Francis, 9 for Louisa, and 6 for Barney. None of the children had attended school within the year, but none were reported as illiterate either. Robert reported owning 320 acres, which were fully in use as farmland, with a value of $1200 for the land and $70 for farm implements and machinery. 50 acres were sown in wheat, 11 in corn, 8 in oats, 0.5 in Irish potatoes, and 1 in millet. He had 150 bushels of corn on hand and 200 bushels of wheat. He had cut 9 tons of prairie hay in 1884.He had sold $5 worth of eggs the previous year, and had made 200 pounds of butter. His livestock included 4 horses, 6 milk cows, 13 other cattle, and 13 swine with a total value of $24. He had 112 peach trees and 6 cherry trees. He had one dog. 
  • The U.S. Census of 1890 was lost due to a fire in a storage area, which was destroyed in 1921. Of the millions of detailed questionnaires completed for the Eleventh Census of the United States, taken in June 1890, only a fragment of the general population schedules and an incomplete set of special schedules enumerating Union veterans and widows are available today. All the records of Kansas were lost. 
  • In the Kansas Census of 1 Mar 1895, the family reported ages of 59 for Robert, 56 for Leopolina, 21 for Francis, 19 for Louisa, and 16 for Bernhart. Only “Bernhart” had attended school within the year, but none were reported as illiterate either. Robert reported owning 320 acres, all “under fence,” of which 100 acres were in cultivation, with a value of $3000 for the land and $75 for farm implements and machinery. 25 acres were sown in wheat, 50 in corn, 5 in oats, 1 in Irish potatoes, and 1 in sorghum for forage or seed. His plans for the next year were 40 acres wheat, 100 acres corn, 8 acres oats, 2 acres Irish potatoes, 5 acres millet, and 1 acre Kaffir corn. He had 200 bushels of wheat on hand. He had cut 25 tons of prairie hay in 1884.He had sold $12 worth of eggs the previous year, and had made 200 pounds of butter. His livestock included 9 horses, 4 milk cows, 60 other cattle, and 53 swine with a total value of $366. He had 2 apple trees and 1 peach tree, and 0.25 acre vineyards; artificial forested area was 1 acre honey locust and 9 acres other varieties. He had one dog.
I have relatively little information about two of the three children of John Robert and Leopoldina Ohnsat. Could you review the information here for you and your brothers and sisters, and help me fill in the missing data?
The letter continued for another four pages, filled with information about Alice's parents, uncles, and aunts. Since they lived into the 20th C, I will provide the information only by private email to family members.
© Thomas G. Kohn, 2013.

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