Friday, December 23, 2011

The Best Christmas Present EVER!

Krescentia Knab

What is the best gift for a genealogist?? Book? Subscription to a research site? They are great, but the BEST thing is KNOCKING DOWN A BRICK WALL!! 

Yup, that's the Holy Grail of family history...

Thanks to a wonderful man, Hagen Kuhn, in Germany, my oldest brick wall went kablooie yesterday! This mystery was born in 1988 when I started researching my family history. My great-great grandmother, Krescentia Knab Enz, came to Philadelphia in 1883. No one knew from where in Germany.  Her death certificate said her father was Georg Knab and birthplace Germany.

Krescentia had a daughter still living in the 80s and she had no idea either. She told me that Kressie's mother had died when she was young, and she had one sister plus  a couple of half-sisters she was fond of from her stepmother. She also told me that Krescentia had sailed back to Germany in 1916 to visit family, so I sent to NARA for a passport application and crossed my fingers.

After a long wait, it arrived, and there was her place of birth: Bottingen! I ran to the LDS and ordered the church records for there. More waiting, then it came in. I read through it with no luck - I was so bummed! Now what? I tried "Bossingen" in case the writing on her app was misread, but again nada.

I put her photo on my nightstand for a long time, asking her "Where ARE you?!" every night.

Fast forward to a year ago...newly back into genealogy and having been found by a bunch of descendants of Krescentia's husband's sister, and 2 descended from Krescentia too. We put our heads together and decided the Archdiocese was our next step. Although they had no record of their marriage, their childrens' baptism records listed her maiden name and birthplace as "Bollingen." I thought that it must be a transcription error with "ll" instead of "tt." So, my last hope was dashed. Krescentia was going to remain a mystery dammit.

About a month ago, a man from Germany (the wonderful Hagen Kuhn) wrote me about one of my ex-husband's family lines that came to Baltimore in the mid-1800s. I hadn't really dug into them in Germany, but did some looking for descendants here for him. He filled me in on several generations in the old country as well!


I mentioned my mysterious gg-grandmother to him, he asked for info on her and was off to the races!! He found out that there were not one but FOUR towns called Bottingen! Not only that, but one of the Bottingens had an area within it called BOLLINGEN!! Holy crap, what are the chances of THAT!?

He contacted a researcher over there named Karl Knab, but Karl didn't seem to have info on a Krescentia, especially from a father Georg. Well, Hagen kept at it, and again asked Karl to check his records for our girl, forgetting the name Georg.

I got an email yesterday saying "HOORAY HOORAY!" Hagen & Karl had found her! Same birthdate, a note of being married in America, father Johannes married twice with 2 girls from first wife and ten from 2nd wife (wow). Karl is descended from Johannes' brother Michael, so he is a distant cousin to me.

Krescentia's (2) birth record in parish family register

Karl has the family back to Krescentia's great-grandfather Knab, but there is more to explore on the female lines. I hope to find out if any others emigrated to America at some point and find descendants here and there.

BEST PRESENT EVER! Thank you Hagen, I'm indebted to you!

Happy Holidays!


  1. Congratulations - the waiting makes the "present" even sweeter!

  2. Nice write up. Loved the picture. I went looking for a photo to use for a upcoming Brick Wall talk at our Genealogy Society meeting in March. I hope that you don't mind if I use your photo giving you credit for it and the link to your blog. Hope you solve more of your brick walls. Pat Skubis

  3. You may use it - thanks for asking!