07 December 2013

Geiszler Family History: Church Participation

Church records can be great resource tools. I am still uncertain how someone would find a church record in the US for their family members. In Canada, the census records list someone's religion, so you would have a good idea where to search for records. In the US, we don't have that luxury. So, I asked my Geiszler cousin how he found the church records for our family members, he told me this:

I obtained photocopies of the cemetery sexton's record because the cathedral deacon basically unlocked the door and turned me loose in the archive room, and there was a photocopier inside.  I doubt anyone in that building had even a clue what was there.  I was well-groomed, polite, and persistent.  I found the cemetery book.  I even found the pew book for Holy Cross, so I know which pews were rented by my Fruend, Deibel and Birkenbach families.  My great great grandfather, stonemason Christoph Deibel contributed his labor in the building of the new church.  An odd assortment of things, like a large storage closet.  No index.  Just stuff no one knew what else to do with, and couldn't just throw it away. 

Now, Holy Cross appears in my family history as my 3rd great grandfather Joseph Geißler was a member of that church. So when my cousin was looking for his Fruend, Deibel and Birkenbach relatives, he also found information about our common ancestor Joseph!

Interior of modern day Holy Cross Catholic Church,
see website Holy Cross Catholic Church


Joseph Geissler was Catholic and a member of the Holy Cross congregation. According to the Holy Cross Catholic Church website, this was the first Catholic church in Columbus, Ohio. The parish was founded in 1833 and dedicated in 1848. I love how the website says this about it's history:

From a handful of parishioners in 1837, when construction began on the city's first Catholic Church with a small number of early German Catholic families, through a burgeoning influx of immigrants from Germany and Ireland after 1848, Holy Cross became the center of Catholic Columbus.


There is no record of Joseph Geißler's marriage to Caroline Mack in 1856 in the Holy Cross records. The reason is that Jospeh and Caroline were from different religions and thus entered into a civil ceremony.  They then attneded church at St. James Lutheran church on the west side of Columbus in Prairie Township. Despite attending the Lutheran church as a family, the children were all baptized at Holy Cross. Joseph died in 1863 and was buried at the Catholic Church of Columbus that was poorly cared for and thus no longer exists.



Modern day St James Church in Columbus, Ohio. See website.

A small group of German immigrants founded  St James Lutheran Church in Norwich Township on the westside of Columbus, Ohio in 1847. Among their articles of confession, they followed the writings of the Evangelic, Lutheran Church.

St James Lutheran Church of Columbus Ohio founding members
Signatures of the founding members of the St James Lutheran Church of
Norwich Township, Franklin county, Ohio.
Yellow box highlights my family members

The highlighted signatures (dated 4 August 1847) are of Joseph Geißler with the note "in the name of his wife Caroline nee Mäck). And then just below that, Heinrich Mäck. Heinrich is Caroline's father and Joseph's father-in-law. (Incidentally, this is one case of Joseph signing his own name, thus this would be the most accurate version of his name. The ß is called es-tset in German, and is correctly transliterated to English as double-s.  Daughter Mary Elizabeth had it right when she used the last name Geissler.  Son Henry Joseph made it Geiszler, making the es-tset into an es-zed, like British English.)


I do have some copies of Joseph and Caroline Geissler's children baptized into the Holy Cross Catholic Church. I do not have records from St. James that showed Caroline's participation in that church. With Joseph dying in 1863 and Caroline marrying Michael Billman at Trinity Lutheran Church the same year (with three of Joseph's children), I doubt I will find more information about this family Holy Cross or St James. I suppose the next step would be to investigate Trinity Lutheran for information Michael and Caroline (Mack) Billman and their children George Thomas and John L Billman (along with Caroline's children Mary Elizabeth Geissler, Catherine Caroline Geissler and Henry Joseph Geissler).

The only trick is to figure out where the old Trinity Lutheran Church records are stored and how to access them.

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