Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Learning More about Joseph Willmann

My coworker's great grandfather, on his maternal grandfather's side is Joseph Willmann. After reading the call for submissions for the next Carnival of Genealogy, Research From Scratch, I decided to try to learn all I could about Joseph Willmann through online resources.

I was already told that the son of Joseph Willmann was Lawrence Willmann, who was born in Missouri in 1898, and died in Flint, Michigan in 1982. In a search of Heritage Quest Online, I was able to locate a Lawrence Willmann who was the correct age, residing with Mary and Joseph Willmann in Ward 1 of Charleston, in Mississippi County, Missouri in 1910. In this census record, Joseph was 50 years old, putting his birth year at 1860, and his birthplace was listed as Germany. Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Willmann had four sons, a daughter, and a boarder residing with them. Mr. Willmann's occupation was farmer. Click on the image below for an enlarged view of the 1910 Census listing.

In the 1920 U.S. Census for Mississippi County, Missouri, Joseph's last name is listed as Williams in the index of Heritage Quest, but his wife's name, Mary, and several of the children's names match the family as it was listed in the 1910 Census. In this census year, Joseph states that his birthplace was Alsace-Lorraine, and he spoke the French language. Since Alsace-Lorraine is close to both the French and German borders, ownership of that area varied throughout history.

In the database WorldConnect, I entered the name Joseph Willmann with a birth year as 1860, allowing for a 2 year age range. In the search results, I found a listing which stated that Joseph Willmann was born on March 2, 1860 in Schirrheim, Alsace-Lorraine, France. His father was: Antoine Willmann, born in 1836; and his mother's name was Barbe Dannenmueller, born in 1833. Mrs. Joseph Willmann's maiden name was also provided by the information I found at WorldConnect. She was born Mary Elizabeth Witt in Scott County, Missouri, in 1862.

Just for fun, I entered the name of Joseph's father into Google, along with the place Alsace. After searching in Google for "antoine willmann" and alsace, I was led to this "hit" from Ancestry.Com:

Joseph Willmann, was listed as the son of Antoine Willmann and Barbe Dannnenmueller, and his seven siblings were also listed!

Continuing on in my Google hit list, I came upon this listing.

Not being fluent in the German language, I clicked on "Translate this page." The resulting listing provided the date of the marriage of Joseph Willmann's parent, along with the birth and death date of his mother, with a slight spelling variation in her maiden name.


Danne Mueller, Barbe [11 524]

  • Geboren: 3 Dez. 1833, Schirrheim, , Alsace, France Born: December 3, 1833, Schirrheim, Alsace, France
  • Ehe: Willmann, Antoine [11584] am 26 Apr. 1858 in Schirrheim, , Alsace, France Marriage: Willmann, Antoine [11 584] on 26 Apr. 1858 in Schirrheim, Alsace, France
  • Gestorben: 14 Dez. 1873 im Alter von 40 Jahren Died: December 14, 1873 at the age of 40 years


My local public library offers free access to Ancestry Library Edition, so I entered the name Joseph Willmann in the search box, with a birth date of 1860. After the "hits" were retrieved, I narrowed the search to Immigration & Travel. The first listing in the newly narrowed search came up with a Joseph Willmann, who was born in 1863 from the database New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957. Joseph Willmann appears in the passenger list of the ship Bellona, which arrived at New York on March 30, 1870. Under departure were two cities: Le Havre, France and London, England. The destination for the family was Missouri. Below is pictured a portion of the passenger list of the Bellona. Joseph Willmann, age 7, (which varies slightly from other census and vital records) was on the ship along with his father Joseph and his mother Barbara, and an older brother Louis. Several more siblings are listed on the next page.

Taking a new direction, I decided to enter Joseph Willmann's name in a death certificate index. Missouri death certificates for certain years are available at the Missouri Digital Heritage website.

A search for the name Joseph Willmann in Mississippi County, Missouri retrieved a copy of Joseph Willmann's death certificate. Though there is a slight discrepancy in his birth date, I truly believe that this is the Joseph Willmann who was the father of Lawrence Willmann, and the spouse of the former Mary Elizabeth Witt. Mr. Joseph Willmann was born in Alsace Lorraine, and he died of myocardial failure on October 16, 1931. He was buried at Calvary Cemetery, and the undertaker was located in Charleston, Missouri.

A quick search at Find a Grave, did not come up with a photograph of the tombstone of Joseph Willman, but a photograph of the entrance to Calvary Cemetery in Charleston, Missouri was found.

Another Google search, with the search terms:

"Joseph Willmann" charleston Missouri

pointed to this link:

Included in these text files are details about many persons with the surname Willmann who are buried in Charleston, Mississippi County, Missouri, who were members of St. Henry's Catholic Church. Both Joseph and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Witt Willman are found in these files. To locate their names, just use the "find" feature at the above web address. The website of St. Henry's Catholic Church features a section about the history of the parish, which includes a discussion about the German heritage of many early church members.

As you can see from my research, various records in family history research will often turn up discrepanices in spellings of names, and ages. Don't rule out a source just because the spelling is wrong or the date is off. Compare your records, and see if parents, siblings, or locations match. Doing genealogy research is detective work, and often you have to "think outside of the box."


Carol said...

Great research, and congrats on being the featured author on the COG!

Dorene from Ohio said...

Thanks Carol!
I have a terrific boss, so learning more about his ancestors was a pleasure!

J.M. said...

Congrats on being the featured author on the COG! You wrote a great piece, and my what a sources you used! How long did it take you?

Dorene from Ohio said...

Thanks, J.M.! It was a project I kept going back to, and refining, and I didn't really "clock" the time...but I would guess about between 3 and 4 hours...

Sheri said...

Bravo Doreen! Excellent presentation.

Kerry Scott said...

Wow, nice work! You really did a great job of using a variety of sources.

Cynthia Shenette said...

Doreen, congrats on being selected featured author for this month's COG! Great research and nicely presented. I love how you outline your methodology - so clear and concise. I also love it when I see people use Heritage Quest and the Ancestry Library Edition.

Nancy said...

Great article, Carol. Your organization and visuals made your piece especially nice to read and clarified everything.

JamaGenie said...

I wholeheartedly agree with Nancy! A very well-written post. Bravo!