Friday, November 28, 2014

Wassersuppen Valley Villages Today

So, Shan and I continue on our quest to track Wassersuppen immigrants to St. Paul.  We continue to search for new documents, new contacts, and new research.   We received some great feedback and tips from the last blog. Thanks to all who have found the blogs in the past and took the time to respond.

We have been struggling with the complicated history of Bohemia and the Bohemian world of the Kumschiers, their family and neighbors.  We will use the German spelling of the name as Kumschier.  (variants in America Kumsher, Kunschier, Kunshier, Kundschier)  We are looking for reasons why some of the family left for America and some decided to stay behind.  They are all the same people.  

The history of this part of Europe is incredibly complex.  Events happened daily that impacted Kumschier lives in the little valley around Wassersuppen, Bohemia. Trying to keep dates, and names, and wars, and their movements in our heads became mind boggling.  

We decided that the only way to try to understand the sequence of events and the governments under which they lived – the Holy Roman Empire, the Habsburg Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was to create a Time Line.  This is often what is recommended for genealogists. We tried our best to pull together a list of events that we thought had a bearing on our genealogical research.   

The Time Line proved to be very interesting and helpful to us, but it didn't seem to fit into the format of this blog.  It covers over 800 years and 8 pages. Therefore contact us and we would be happy to share our Time Line with anybody who is interested.  We would also be interested in your reactions.   Contact us at with your email address and we will send it to you as an attachment.  

It struck us, how incredibly lucky we are to have ANY documents that shed light on the family's history.  How the Catholic Church Registers in the Czech National Archives survived to be digitized and on the Internet is a miracle.   We are very grateful to the Czech Republic for making these invaluable records so readily available.  

Since early 1800's the Kunshiers (Kumschiers) lived in Neubäuhütten (Novosedelské Hutě), a small town in the parish of Wassersuppen (Nemanice) and the District of Taus (Domažlice), Bohemia. 

Hausbesitzerverzeichnis von Neubäuhütten mit Hausnamen nach dem Ortsplan von K. Gerl 1987. Fettdruck der Nr. Haus steht noch (2012) translation: (Homeowners Directory of Neubäuhütten household name according to the map of K. Gerl is 1987. If in red bold face, house number is still extant in 2012.)

House# Owner                The Historic name of the House
1 Forsthaus
2 Schröpfer Michael               Griesl Michl
3 Geiger
4 Wagner Franz                      Schmiedelweber
5 Danzer Christl                      Müllner Christl
6 Kumschier Johann             Gale Hans (jetzt ein Neubau)
7 Stoffl Franz                          Gide Andreas, früher: Kumschier Michl
8 Kumschier Josef                 Gale Sepp
9 Tiller Andreas                     Tommerl Andresen
10 Ulrich Karl                        Gfreitn Karl, früher: “Beim Guba” (Stoffl, Gasthaus)
11 Schober Heinrich              früher: Mages (Becken Hannes); Gale Nannl
12 Schneider Hans                 Schneitl Hans
13 Pillmeier Franz                 Draxler Franz
14 Ulrich Karl                         Gfreitn Franz, früher: Hartl M.
15 Penl Ludwig                       Ludwigerl
16 Siegl Josef                          Zusl Sepp
17 Wagner Franz                    Schmiedelweber, früher: Ascherl (Bochmotz)
18 Geiger Andreas                 Woutzen Andreas, früher: Werner (Meinerl Seppel)
19 Ulrich Georg                     Gfreitn Schorsch, früher Goich Adl
20 Weidner Franz                  Mühlmichel, früher: Wagner Johann (Schmiedeweber)
21 Dietz Georg                       Schlosser Schorsch
22 Frei Wenzl                         früher: Dietz (Schlosser Girgl)
23 Danzer Georg                    Danzer Girgl, früher: Baumann (Weißen Girgl)
24 Ulrich Fritz                       Gfreitn Fritz
25 Weidner Georg                 Binder Girgl
26 Ring Michael                    Lenzen Mich, früher: Hirtenhaus
27 Gerl Karl                            Bech-Säff („Gasthaus zum ewigen Leben“)
28 Kumschier Franz             Gale Franz, früher Zipperer (Zimmermo)
29 Siegl Josef                         Schaller Sepp
30 Gerl Anton                         Schwenker Toni, früher Becken Christian
31 Kumschier Josef                Gale Sepp
32 Wagner Franz                    Schmiedelweber Franz, früher: Steffl Sepp
33 Knopf Andreas                  Knopf Andresl, früher: Mages (Becken Hannes)
34 Schneider Franz                 Nickl Franz
35 Petz Josef                           Dofen Sepp
36 Zipperer Michael              Zimmermo Michl
37 Knopf Friedrich                Knopf Friedrich
38 Forsthaus „Kapellen“       (Einsiedelei an der Straße nach Frohnau)
39 Eckert Franz                      Schreiner Franz
40 Lang Franz u. Liesl           Weber Franz, Paliwagner Liesl, Pali-Liesl

Gruber, Markus,: Wassersuppen, Mauthaus, Haselbach: (Nemanice, Mýtnice, Lísková) ; aus der Geschichte der Orte im Böhmerwald und dem Leben der Menschen vom 16. Jahrhundert bis heute (Self Published, M. Gruber, 2012)

Conny has posted a number of her family photos on the FaceBooksite Big family with Kumschier, Kumsher, Kunshier, Konschier.  The following are two of her photos. 

Franz, Wilhelm and Anna Kumschier, Neubäuhütten, House #31, circa 1942

(From Conny Pelz) "In Neubäuhütten there was no school and no church. The children must all go to Wassersuppen for school. The people also had to go to church in Wassersuppen. That was 2 or 3 miles from Neubäuhütten.  After all Germans were expelled from the Czech zone there was no care taken of the church and the cemetery.  It was sometimes used as a cattle shed and was ruined. The cemetery was not mowed and no one took care of the graves of relatives.  No one was allowed across the border.  There was something like an iron curtain.  Later, when the border was opened in 1989 and people were allowed back in the old area of the Sudetenland, a cousin of my mother's, Josef Dirscher from Munich, gathered together his friends.  And with donations and a lot of work, the church in Wassersuppen was renovated.   Today services for the Germans are being held once or twice a month. Then 2 times a year a meeting of the Sudeten Germans is held there organized by Josef Dirscherl."

The valley of Nemanice and all the nearby villages were first purged of German occupants, and then leveled or at best, reduced to barracks for Soviet soldiers patrolling the borders along the Iron Curtain between the Czechoslovakia and Bavaria. What is seen today in Nemanice is the aftermath of both the Sudeten expulsion and the Soviet occupation. This is why there are no family members still living in the Czech Republic.

Wassersuppen Parish Villages: from the Czech Archives 
German NameCzech Name  Eng. TranslationStatus
GibactHerštenjnské Chalupy  NoneRazed
HirshsteinhäuselHerštenjnské Chalupy  NoneRazed
PozorkaHerštenjnské Chalupy  NoneRazed
HenrichsbergJindřichiva Hora  Henry's MountainExtant
KreuzhütteKřížová Hut´  Cross HutExtant
HaselbachLisková  Hazel NutsRazed
MauthausMýtnice  Toll HouseRazed
WassersuppenNemanice  Water SoupReduced
NeubauNovosedly  PondRazed
Nimvorgut Nuzarov  NoneExtant
AlthüttenStará Hut´  Old HutExtant
AngerÚpor  WaterwortRazed
SophienthalČerná Řeka  Black RiverExtant
SchmalzgrubenNemaničky  Lard PitsExtant
NeubahüttenNovoseldselske Hutě  Pond ForgeReduced
FriedrichshütteNová Hut´  Frederick's HutExtant

Cemetery at Nemanice in 1991
Family member, Holly Hayes, visited Wassersuppen (Nemanice) in 2008 but found no evidence of Kunshiers in the village or cemetery. Very possibly the lack of Kumschier (Kunshier) tombstones, and there should have been a great many, was part of the purge. Another possibility is that the stones were removed and used as building material - it happened frequently. Some of Holly's photos of Nemanice can be seen (here). (used with her permission)

"Nemanice is a village and municipality in Domažlice District in the Plzeň Region of the Czech Republic.  The municipality covers about 15 square miles, and had a population of 312 in 2006" (source: Wikipedia)   

As can be seen from many current photos,  many of the buildings are in poor condition. Some seem to be beyond repair.  For Google Map street views see (here).

The Church of Saint John of Nepomuk

During the occupation by the Soviets, the Wassersuppen church, The Church of Saint John of Nepomuk, was used as a barn.  After the Soviets left the Czech Republic in 1991, the church was restored.

We will list only a few of the books that we found to be helpful.  

For German History, we mostly used A History of Modern Germany, Volume 3: 1840-1945 by Hajo Holborn. (1982, Princeton University Press, Princton NJ) 

Of the books and periodical articles that tell the story of the emigrant's  journey to Minnesota, we suggest the book,  They Chose Minnesota: A Survey of the State's Ethnic Groups, edited by June D. Holmquist (1981, MHS Press, St. Paul, MN)  

Of the personal stories which are set in those perilous times, we suggest Madeleine Albright's memoir,  Prague Winter (2012 HarperCollins, NY) was informative and, we think, fair-minded.  Albright (née Korbelová) was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in 1937.  Her father, Josef Korbel, was a Czech diplomat and democrat who fled to Great Britain with his family following the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938.  

Another personal story is told by Erika C. Stevenson who was born in Bohemia and grew up in Germany.  She was just six years old when, after World War II, soldiers expelled more than three million Sudeten Germans from their ancestral homes. Her memoir is Fighting for Road Apples (2012, iUniverse, Bloomington, IN). 

There are many other stories, including that of  my cousin, Conny (Kornelia) Pelz, the founder of the Facebook site Big family with Kumschier, Kumsher, Kunshier, Konschier.  Conny's mother's family was among those turned out of the country with 24 hours notice in 1946. Conny's quest to find Kumschiers is fueled by these stories.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

St. Paul German-Bohemians (Deutsch-Böhmen)

I begin this blog with as many questions as I have answers.  I also realize the answers that I have now, will not be the answers I have next year, or next month or even next week. As more documents are examined, more books are read, and new contacts are made, this accumulation will need resorting and reinterpreting.  

On October 23-26 2013,  Shan and I attended the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International Conference in Lombard, Illinois.   This conference appeared on our radar while looking for anything that might inform us on my Bohemian ancestry.  A couple of the conference sessions were specifically on German-Bohemians, and we were just beginning to find out about the German-Bohemians.  It also looked like an opportunity to learn some genealogical techniques from some skilled amateurs and professionals. (see that blog here) 

 So one year later, Shan and I have been doing our homework. This is a brief review of what we have read, people we have met, and what we have learned since that conference a year ago.   We are hoping that you can help us discover even more family stories and documentation. 

Like many genealogists, we are interested in the historical and cultural contexts of peoples' lives, as well as their familial connection.  Germans in Western Bohemia originally came from Bavaria where most of them were farmers.  They were ethnic Germans who were settled along the borders by various Hapsburg powers.  They are referred to as German-Bohemians (Deutsch-Böhmen), and are distinguished from Czech, Slovak and Moravian Bohemians. 

With the help of German Cousin, Conny Peltz, we have discovered that my family, the Kumschier's, were living in the village of Neubäuhütten near Wassersuppen (Nemanice) in the Böhmerwald.  Czech Archives' Catholic Records list the (16) villages in the area as belonging to the Wassersuppen Parish. (Wassersuppen is now called Nemanice)

German Name   Czech Name        Eng. Translation            Status

Gibacht                    Herštenjnské Chalupy   None unknown
HirshsteinhäuselHerštenjnské Chalupy   Noneunknown
PozorkaHerštenjnské Chalupy   Noneunknown
HenrichsbergJindřichiva HoraHenry's Mountainreduced
KreuzhütteKřížová Hut´Cross Hutreduced
HaselbachLiskováHazel Nutsrazed
MauthausMýtniceToll Houserazed
WassersuppenNemaniceWater Soupreduced
Nimvorgut NuzarovNoneunknown
AlthüttenStará Hut´Old Hutextant
SophienthalČerná ŘekaBlack Riverreduced
SchmalzgrubenNemaničkyLard Pitsrazed
NeubahüttenNovoseldselske HutěPond Forgereduced
FriedrichshütteNová Hut´Frederick's Hutextant
It is our hope that we can track the people from this parish to St. Paul in much the same way that Robert Paulson and other members of the German Bohemian Heritage Society (GBHS) have tracked their people to New Ulm, and Susan Muehlhaus-Karides' work on Egerland Böhmisch to Milwaukee.  If we can do this, it will give us evidence of a "chain migration."

We have joined the GBHS (German Bohemian Heritage Society).  The organization was founded in 1984 by Robert Paulson for the purpose of gathering information about the immigration and culture of the ethnic German people from Bohemia to Minnesota. Their headquarters are in New Ulm, Minnesota.  They do have a new, much improved,  website. The site can be accessed (here).  Our contact is Wade Olsen, editor of the German-Bohemian Heritage Society Newsletter. Wade is a frequent presenter at GBHS events. 

Bob Paulson and Shan Thomas at Minnesota History Center
We also had a meeting with Robert (Bob) Paulson, founder, and currently Research Committee chair of the German-Bohemian Heritage Society (GBHS). Bob is generous to novice researchers and the acknowledged expert. 

The book German-Bohemians, The Quiet Immigrants was co-authored by LaVerne Ripley and Robert Paulson (1995, St Olaf College Press, MN).   Most of the book is about the large immigrant population in the area of New Ulm, Minnesota, in the counties of Brown, Cottonwood, and Steele.  Other German-Bohemian communities are discussed in this seminal text.  

In the Border People, I found the following quote interesting and helpful. "There was no single 'Böhmisch' way of life in America, because Böhmisch communities in the old world were border settlements. Each ancestral locale had been shaped by shifting winds of power. The German-Bohemian emigrants were classic border people, with one foot walking in each of two conflicting identities. Their home villages were close to the border between Bavaria and Bohemia. Some knew how to speak both Czech and German. Many had learned to change political and religious loyalties rapidly after a new landlord purchased or conquered their lands. Many were expert in bi-cultural commerce. Many traveled on the same ships, and settled in the same towns, as Czech-identified Bohemians who had lived in the neighboring old-world towns. Some were related to these Czechs by marriage. When they chose their new world homes, they were adept at fitting in. The texture of their community life reflected the realities of power and climate in their new settlements." source: Meter, Ken and Robert Paulson, Border People : the Böhmisch (German-Bohemians) in America, Crossroads Resource Center in collaboration with the German-Bohemian Heritage Society, 1993. 

In a 2003 paper presented by Paulson, he  states, "Beginning with the mid 1850's there was also a significant immigration of German settlers from Bohemia to neighboring Minnesota. There was a sizable group of German-Bohemians who settled in St. Paul, the capital of Minnesota, a city made up of a patchwork of ethnic neighborhoods. The first German Bohemians came to St. Paul in the early 1870's and settled in the German ethnic neighborhoods that ring the downtown area of the city and joined the downtown German Catholic parish of the Assumption."  source: Robert Paulson, "German Bohemian Immigration to North America" (June 2003 paper at SVU North American Conference -Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences  

Again quoting Paulson, "As time went on, each of the German neighborhoods established its own Catholic Church. The largest concentration of German-Bohemians in St. Paul was in the 'Frogtown' neighborhood just north of the downtown business district. These German-Bohemians immigrated from small villages in the forested areas of Southwest Bohemia, the Böhmerwald (Sumava). There were many from the small village of Glockelberg (Zad Zavonka)."  Source: Paulson, Robert, "German-Bohemian Immigration to North America",  Heimatbrief: Stories of German-Bohemians, GBHS/Edinborough Press2013.

An article co-authored
by Linda Therkelsen and Robert Paulson is worth reading. It appears in  Heimatbrief: Stories of German-Bohemians,  (GBHS/Edinborough Press, 2013) titled "German-Bohemian Immigration to St. Paul, Minnesota".  They discuss the reasons for emigration and life in the new country with extensive coverage of the Frogtown community. 

Another book we have consulted is They Chose Minnesota, edited by June D. Holmquist  (MHS press, 1981)  German-Bohemians are mentioned in the context of the over-all German migration to Minnesota.  It appears that the value of this book to us may be it's substantial bibliography. 

These are just some of the best English language resources.   There are many German resources that we are just learning about through Cousin Conny Pelz.  GBHS has a research library at their headquarters in New Ulm. (see a list here

In addition we maintain our membership in the CSGI.  It offers excellent educational opportunities and  a library. 

Tour check-in by Paul Makousky
On October 24, 2014, we took a guided tour, sponsored by the Czech Genealogical Society International (CGSI), of the 'Saintly City' (St. Paul) exploring its Czech and German-Bohemian heritage.  The guide for the tour was Jim Sazevich, 'The House Detective' aided by Linda Therkelsen "who have collectively spent more than a half-century studying Czech and German-Bohemian history in the state, and the city of St. Paul". source: "Tour of St. Paul's Bohemian Roots" CGSI web site. 

Robert Paulson, Linda Therkelsen and Robert Schuler have done research on St. Agnes.  Church of St. Agnes, St. Paul, Minnesota: Ethnic Origins in Marriage Records, 1887-1897 (Park Genealogical Books, Roseville, Minnesota) Introduction and transcription by Linda Therkelsen. The History of the Church of St. Agnes 1897-1987 by Robert Schuler.  Reading both of these records makes us think the family were not members of St. Agnes. 

We need more research in Catholic Church Records for the three German Catholic churches in St. Paul; Assumption, Sacred Heart and St. Bernard's.

Sacred Hearth Catholic Church  ca. 2014
Sacred Heart Catholic Church was founded for German immigrants in 1881.  The Church is located in the Dayton's Bluff Neighborhood of Saint Paul at 857 6th Street East. The church is about ten blocks from the location where Anna Kumschier and her husband, Andreas Irber, lived and kept store.  I wrote about them in an earlier blog. (see that here

I do know that members of the Schotl family, including my Grandmother Rose and my Schotl aunts and uncles, were members of the St. Bernard's Catholic Church in the Rice Street area of St. Paul.  Some also attended St. Bernard's Catholic Elementary and High Schools connected to the church.  

The earliest records are in Assumption and we will attempt to get access.  The Archdiocese of St. Paul usually does not allow the public to see their ministerial records so this may not be possible.

What we would ultimately like to do is track Wassersuppen immigrants to St. Paul, similar to what we did to discover the Burgenland associations in Columbus Township in Anoka County.  That was done with census records and supplemented with Ancestry searches. 

We already know that the immediate Kumschier family and in-laws represent five of the villages in the Wassersuppen Parish.  Can we - with others help - account for all the immigrants from this valley to St. Paul?  Could we compile a master list of sur-names from the villages similar to what Susan Muehlhaus -Karides did for her Egerlanders in Milwaukee?  Stay tuned.  

Grandma Rose and her Geese
After my grandfather Frank Schotl died in 1941, my grandmother Rose nee Kunshier Schotl purchased a house on Jackson Street in St. Paul. The house was small, no running water except for a pump at the kitchen sink. The outhouse was around the back. If you followed further down the path you would come to her large garden and the chicken house. She was pretty self-sufficient and like her German-Bohemian ancestors, she tended a garden, kept chickens, and a gaggle of geese.  From what we have been reading, Rose, although born in America, would have fit right into village life in Neubäuhütten.