Monday, November 2, 2015

Wild, Wild West

A Mystery Identified

A few months ago, I stumbled upon a record for a Henry C. Holzgrafen who fought from 1863-1866 during the civil war in Company C of the 1st Cavalry California Volunteer Regiment. Immediately I thought this must be my third great-grandfather's brother, Henry Holzgrafe, who immigrated to the United States in 1845 and settled in Evansville, Indiana. Many questions arose from this hypothesis including, what was he doing enlisting in a California regiment when he had land and a family in Indiana? Does this period of enlistment even coincide with his timeline? Is there any other more suitable candidate who this veteran may be?

After doing a lot more research and going back and forth in who I believed he was, I finally determined that this individual is unique from the Holzgrafe family. Thus far he does not fit in the family tree and may be related to other Holzgraefe families of Northern Germany (there were at least four).

The spelling of his surname, Holzgrafen, is distinct from any other group which came out of Schweicheln to the United States. Yet having an "n" at the end of the name was not abnormal in the older German records. Sometimes surnames in the region would have the final "n" and others would omit it. I understand it as being much like the pluralizing "s" in English. For instance we have two surnames Wood and Woods. They may have originated from the same family, but after being separated for some time, the spellings diverged. So, Henry could still be related.

Cowboys and Indians

Col. Kit Carson in leading his men in the First Battle of Adobe Walls
He was born around 1833 in Germany and probably came to the states before 1849. He probably was a 49'er who ended up enlisting in the military in San Francisco, CA in 1863. He and the California Column traveled thousands of miles on horseback and ended up being led by Colonel Christopher (Kit) Carson through the First Battle of Adobe Walls on November 25, 1864 in which Henry Holzgrafen was listed as having been wounded. The battle took place in the panhandle of Texas along the Canadian River where Kit Carson and his men attacked a Comanche Indian settlement and was eventually forced to retreat when several Comanche and Kiowa settlements banded together and drove out the white men.

Chef Holzgrafen

Blake Street looking towards 15th street, Denver, CO 1866
In 1866, after finishing out his service with the California Volunteer Cavalry in New Mexico, Henry ended up in Denver, CO as proprietor and cook of Billy's Restaurant on 15th Street between Larimer and Lawrence. Denver was just a brand new western town at the time. In January 1867, Henry left his bills unpaid and joined the 7th US Cavalry Regiment at Fort Lyon, CO. Henry's position in the Regiment was cook, though it was not one he had for long. After seeing the terrible conditions of the food and supplies and the way in which Colonel George A. Custer treated his men, Henry and 80+ other men all deserted one night in April 1867 before Custer eventually led his men into the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Miner Holzgrafen

Deadwood, SD 1870's
Henry made his escape and ended up in a small silver mining town called Montezuma, CO. He was listed in the 1870 Census as a cook. A newspaper article about the silver mining town mentions a Holzgrafen, H.C. and Company which made a large fortune from the mines. It must not have worked out, however, because in 1880 Henry can be found as a cook again in the mining town of Deadwood, Dakota Territory (South Dakota).

Finally, Henry appeared in the special census of 1890 for veterans. He was correctly identified in a tiny community called Elliston near Deer Lodge, Montana. No further information has been discovered yet about this man. I would love to find out specifically where he came from and if he fits into the family tree. It would be pretty neat to be related to a real Cowboy and man of the Wild, Wild West!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Cause of Death

Something that has struck me as very interesting for some time now is the timing of the deaths of brothers Ernst (1764-1805) and Otto (1760-1803) Holzgraefe of Schweicheln. In writing a history of the family, I have been looking at the contemporary history of Europe as well. Just after the French Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte rose swiftly to power becoming First Consul in the new French government before becoming an Emperor. The Napoleonic wars began in 1803 and ran until Napoleon's ultimate defeat in 1815. Much of the wars were played out on battle fields in the Holy Roman Empire (modern Germany) between the French and the Austrians, Prussians, and Russians. My theory was that Ernst and Otto may have been killed as a result of these wars! In 1807 after the deaths of Ernst and Otto, the French client state of the Kingdom of Westphalia was organized which was the precursor to the modern German state of Nordrheine-Westphalia. It was ruled by none other than Napoleon's brother Jérôme Bonaparte. Schweicheln was located within this territory which lead me to believe that Napoleon's forces suppressed this area which may have resulted in the death of the Holzgraefe brothers!

So, I decided to find out for sure. Some time ago I was asking for help translating a German record up in Salt Lake City's Family History Library. The consultants there are very good at what they do. It takes them seconds to read what it would have taken me hours to decipher. One consultant recommended a website for help in translating causes of death:

The "?" should be replaced by the first letter of the cause of death (I haven't gotten "y" to work yet). So, I looked up the death records which have been posted on to see if they might reveal how these brothers died. I found a column on the record which didn't seem to list a place, date, or name so I assumed that this might be the cause of death. After a few minutes of searching using this website as a tool I found it! Ernst had died at the age of 41 of Brustkrankheit and Otto at the age of 43 of Brustfieber! Brustkrankheit, which literally means "Breast Disease", probably meant Tuberculosis and Brustfieber (Breast Fever) probably meant Pneumonia.

So, here I am thinking of all these amazingly historically associated causes of death that would really connect my ancestors to the big picture when in reality...they died of simple preventable diseases by today's terms. It turns out, there probably was no such struggle at all in this area of Germany during the Napoleonic wars. Most of the battles took place in Southern Germany, Austria, and Prussia. The actual battle which resulted in the Treaties of Tilst (ceding much of Prussia's territory to France as French client states including Westphalia) actually occurred over 1,000 Km from Schweicheln in today's Kaliningrad, Russia!

Prussia in 1807 (orange) and its territories lost at Tilsit (other colours).
I am currently taking an Immunology class as well as a Virology class at BYU and learning about these diseases makes me glad to be alive in the 21st century! Ernst's son, Albert (1796-abt. 1845), moved from Schweicheln to a town called Haddenhausen in a different parish, so I do not as of yet have his death information. Albert's son, Friedrich (1828-1867), died at the age of 39 of Diphtheria, a perfectly preventable disease by today's standards. The Diphtheria vaccine was invented in the 1890's just a few decades after his death. Friedrich's son, Henry Louis (1859-1929), lived to the age of 70 and died of "Chronic Nephritis and Myocarditis" (a heart attack) as it states on his death record in Oregon. Henry Louis' son, Wesley (1889-1973) lived to the age of 84 and died in California of "Rheumatic Heart Disease, Atrial Stenosis, and Congestive Heart Failure". Wesley's son, Perry (1921-1994) - my grandfather lived to the age of 72 and died of "Coronary Artery Disease and Miocaridial Infarction" (a heart attack).

So, it seems that I have a genetic predisposition to heart attack, but I should be fine until about 70 or 80. I'm so grateful to be living in this day and age when medical advances can prolong lives up to twice as long! Had Friedrich lived in today's world, he may have been able to live his life two times over! Also, please vaccinate your children!!! Many of the diseases which were lethal at such a young age back in the day are now nearly extinct or easily preventable. Next time you get a runny nose and a fever, count your many blessings! AND GET VACCINATED!!!! :)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Fegel Facts

Well, I'm back from my vacation to Brazil and I'm catching up in all my classes of my last semester here at BYU and I still find time to do some research on the side. I wasn't expecting to find anything, but I was fortunate enough to stumble upon something quite substantial for the Fegel branch of the family.

As a review, Christian Friedrich Fegel (1822-1865) was born in Hille very close to Haddenhausen where Albert (1796-1846), son of Ernst Holzgraefe (1764-1805), had moved to begin his family. Christian married Albert's oldest daughter, Anne Catharine Margrethe Ilsabein (1819-1847) and together they had a daughter named Emilie Ottilie Fegel. His wife died in 1847 and so he remarried to her younger sister, Justine Wilhelmine Caroline (1821-...spoiler alert! 1856). The two of them made their way to Evansville, but Emilie died at sea. They lived near my third great-grandfather there in Evansville and had many children...or so I thought...

I had previously believed that together Wilhelmine and Christian had seven children. Today, as I was randomly searching the internet for more information about the Fegel family, I stumbled upon this website which suggested something entirely different. This shows the marriage dates for three Fegels and their wives. A father, son and grandson. The last two coincided with what I had, but the first, was very different. The record was for the marriage of Christian Fegel to W. Ellermeyer on 6 March 1856. This didn't make sense initially. Christian would have been married to Wilhelmine Holzgraefe still. The more I looked at it, the more it didn't make sense.

Then I stepped back and looked at all the census records over the years which had Wilhelmine in them. I found that in 1850 she was 30, in 1860 she was 30 and in 1880 she was 53 (still haven't found the family in 1870). Now, census records are by no means a primary source and can be very inaccurate, but 10 years? That throws up a red flag. How can she be 30 years old in 1850 and 1860? Now that I was looking at it again, I remembered how weird that was when I first linked these records to her...then it all made sense.

Christian and Wilhelmine Holzgraefe were married in Germany, came to Evansville where they had two children after which Wilhelmeine died around 1856 (no proof of that yet). Then Christian married a third time to a Wilhelmine Ellermeyer in 1856 and they had five more children thus continuing the Fegel line, but not the Holzgraefe line.

So, what does this mean? It means that there are no living Holzgraefe descendants from the Fegel branch of the family as the one son of Christian who married and had children was the son of Wilhelmine Ellermeyer, not Wilhelmine Holzgraefe. This also leaves a few more questions to answer like, who is Wilhelmine Ellermeyer? and how/when did Wilhelmine Holzgraefe die? and where is she buried?

Monday, November 24, 2014

15th Cousins? I have a few.

I recently posted a question on Facebook inviting people to make a guess.

"If two people share the same parents, they are siblings. If they share the same grandparents, they are 1st cousins. If they share the same great-grandparents, they are 2nd cousins. If we assume that everyone has 2 children, how many 15th cousins could I have?"

Unfortunately, no one offered a guess, but you could imagine there would be guesses ranging from 1,000 to 100,000. The correct answer is that I would have 32,768 15th cousins. To give you some prospective, there are about 34,000 people living in Butte, Montana.
Butte, Montana: Pop. =33,854 (2013)
Now, this is also in addition to the 16,384 14th cousins, 8,192 13th cousins, 4,096 12th cousins, 2,048 11th cousins, 1,024 10th cousins, 512 9th cousins, 256 8th cousins, 128 7th cousins, 64 6th cousins, 32 5th cousins, 16 4th cousins, 8 3rd cousins, 4 2nd cousins, 2 first cousins, 1 sibling and a partridge in a pear tree! If we add these all up (including myself) there would be a total of 65,536 living descendants of my 14th great-grandfather who was born around 1500 AD in Schweicheln, Germany. That's about the same as the population of Missoula, Montana. 
Missoula, Montana: Pop.=69,122 (2013)
Now, that would only be for my generation when in reality we would need to include my living nieces/nephew's generation, my parent's generation, my grandparent's generation, and even some of my great-grandparent's generation. This number of living descendants very well could be upwards of 100,000 which is about the population of the state of Montana. 
Montana, USA: Pop.=1,015,165 (2013)
Now, that's assuming that everyone had exactly 2 children who survived to adulthood and had 2 children of their own. In reality many descendants did not live to adulthood, marry, or have children. Many others had up to 12 children! To allow for comparison, if we assume that everyone had exactly 5 children, my 14th great-grandfather would have 30,517,578,125 descendants! That's a little over 4 times the current world population! 

Earth (x4): Pop.=7,276,626,200 (4:14 PM)
Pop. x 4 =29,106,504,800
Perhaps 2 is a better estimate of the average descendants per person on our family tree. 3 would give 14,348,907 (about the size of Illinois) and 4 would give 1,073,741,824 (about the size of India). 

So, why is any of this important? Because with numbers like these, there's bound to be other cousins out there who have done research on their little branch of the family which I could never have hoped to find out myself. I haven't yet determined how much of the family tree I will cover in my book. I've contemplated writing several volumes; one for every major branch since 1700 on my side of the family and have a similar chapter in each about the "ancient" Holzgrafe family from 1500-1700. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Did you marry your 8th cousin?

In a recent post I explained that there is a Holtgraefe family from Joellenbeck and Enger which might be a branch off of the Schweicheln Holtzgraefe tree which is known back to 1500 AD. Where that connection may be is still a mystery and might not be solved for some time as it may require a visit to Germany. Since that post was...posted, I have done a bit more research on this family. The furthest back I was able to get was to a Cord Holtgraeve who was born in Oldinghausen, Enger in 1627 AD.

I then lined him up next to the Schweicheln family tree to see where he could possibly fit in (see image below). He could be a nephew of Jasper Holtzgrafe (1603-1672), or a distant cousin, but he would be in the same generation as Heinrich Holzgraefe (1645-1708). Since he was born in Enger, he is most likely a second, third or even a fourth cousin of Heinrich.

Click to enlarge
Since I was unable to determine the exact relation right away, I turned to the descendants of Cord in both Oldinghausen and Joellenbeck and where ever else the family ended up. Several of his descendants came to America including the Holtzgrafes of Warrick, Indiana and their cousins who ended up in Minnesota. As far as I know, the Holtzgrafe name does not continue from this line in America. There are, however, many cousins by different surnames who came to America including the Harland, the Fehring, Hachmeister, Schmidt, and Merhoff families.

Then I stumbled upon the Wittland family, a very large branch of Cord's tree. While some of these Wittland descendants (the Fehring and Hachmeister families) moved to America, others stayed including Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Wittland (1859-1930) who in 1888 married his 8th cousin (at least), Johanne Wilhelmine Holzgraefe (1868-????) who was the daughter of Caspar Heinrich Holzgraefe (1836-????) and Catharine Marie Klussmann (1838-????). This is an estimate based on the scenario described above where Cord is a nephew of Jasper.

We can all agree that marrying a sibling or cousin is a big no-no, but when it comes down to it, we're all cousins. Geneticists have learned over the years that marrying a close relative can cause severe handicaps in children born to that marriage. I found it interesting that all states in the United States allow marriage of 2nd cousins and some will even allow the marriage of 1st cousins! Here is a list of states that actually allow 1st cousins to marry.

My wife and I found that we're related, but we're 10th cousins twice removed, so I think we're good. You too may have married your 8th cousin without even realizing it! Here's a neat little chart that I find helpful when determining how you're related to distant cousins.

Canon law relationship chart.svg

Monday, November 10, 2014

Lloyd R. Holzgrafe: A Tribute

Lloyd R Holzgrafe (Holzgraf) was born 29 April 1931 to Harold Talmage Holzgrafe and Edna M Kuechel in Santa Ana, California. He passed away 13 years ago today (10 November 2001). This is a lovely tribute to his amazing career as a professional organist (

My most favorite organ song ever as played by my second cousin twice removed, Lloyd Holzgrafe (

Lloyd had no children, but his memory lives on through his Holzgrafe cousins and all those influenced by his music and spirit. Please comment if you have any memories of Lloyd which you'd like to share.

                         Lloyd R. Holzgrafe

Saturday, October 4, 2014


In my research, I frequently will search for records of Holzgraefes who are not yet part of my family tree hoping to one day connect them in and restore them to the family. Doing this has brought large groups of Holzgraefe cousins into the family, but there are still several groups for whom no connection has been found. These groups, like the group that immigrated from Germany to New Braunfels, TX, have been researched back to the 1700s in places outside of the Herford area. That being said, they are most likely very distantly related if at all. Still, there are some, like the group in Jöllenbeck, near Herford, who have not been connected in even though they live so close to Schweicheln. Schweicheln is where the Holzgraefes can be traced back to 1500 through a lineage of Colons or Colonists. These farmers were kinda like land lords except they didn't own the land. They did have inheritance rights to it though. Therefore, the eldest son of a Colon became the new Colon while the younger siblings became a part of the Heurlinge who were like the tenant farmers or surfs, paying rent to the Colon and working for the Colon and only given a small garden with which to subsist.

So, naturally there are more records for the Colon than for the Heurlinge. The Heurlinge siblings or cousins would often move to another farm where there was a vacancy and became a Colon or the women would marry a Colon of another farm. As far as I know this was not documented too well back in the day. So, the Holzgraefe family could have spread out from Schweicheln in many directions prior to 1700 without us knowing about it.


Evidence linking the Jöllenbeck Holtzgraefe to the pre-1700s Schweicheln clan can be found in the spelling of the surname. Prior to 1700, we tend to see the name spelt with a "t": Holtzgraefe. This "t" was dropped in Schweicheln later on, but remains in the Jöllenbeck name to this day. The spelling, of course depended on the priest or recorder in the church where the records were created. Our Holzgraefe ancestors were more than likely illiterate and could not write. Therefore, the spelling was decided by the clergy. There was a separate parish in Jöllenbeck with separate clergy. Hence the spelling difference.

Warrick, Indiana, USA

While researching my ancestors in Indiana, I would often search for "Hol*gr*e" in Indiana records. The * indicates a wildcard in the search so that it encompasses many misspellings of the name. I came up with a plethora of records, but not all of them belonged to my ancestors. Specifically, there was a Holtzgraefe family living in Warrick and later Gibson counties, Indiana. I began piecing this family together, but it didn't look like they connected to my least not in America and I couldn't seem to find how they got to Indiana.

That was almost three years ago. A couple weeks ago, I was doing a similar search on and found another family in Warrick by a similar name. I began researching them and it became apparent that these were the grandparents of the family I had researched almost three years earlier! I quickly did more searches, but still couldn't find how they came over from Germany. Then I found German records on FamilySearch that were, without a doubt, for this family. The records came from a town called Schieldesche and before that, Jöllenbeck. I love how things come full circle sometimes.

So, I researched the Jöllenbeck Holtzgraefe family and pieced them together on (see my "Holzgraefe Histories" tree). Then I pulled up this website which I had saved years ago which lists a ton of old records from Jöllenbeck online. This website was created by genealogists in the Jöllenbeck area and is very reliable. I was able to find that this Warrick Holtzgraefe family was related not only to the Jöllenbeck group, but also the Minnisota group! There was another small Holtzgraefe family that settled in Sibley, MN which, I found, also came from this same Jöllenbeck group.


The website was able to get me all the way back to about 1700 in Jöllenbeck, but I was not able to go any further than that. The Holtzgraefes in Jöllenbeck were Heurlinges and there aren't too many records for them (like tax records). So, I did more random searches for other Jöllenbeck Holtzgraefes not yet connected. I found possible candidates for siblings or first cousins of the furthest back Holtzgraefe ancestor. One of these was recorded as Heinrich Holtzgraefe Aus Dem Kirspiel Enger or Heinrich Holtzgraefe of the Enger parish. Enger is a town which is even closer to Herford and Schweicheln. Another potential sibling married a Luebcke at some point as recorded in the birth records of their children. I found a marriage record for a Holtzgraefe by the same name marrying a Luebcke in Herford in 1725. The record came from the Enger parish.

Piecing all of this together, it looks like the family I found in Warrick, Indiana and Sibley, Minnesota came from Jöllenbeck and the Jöllenbeck clan most likely came from Enger. The question still stands...Did the Enger Holtzgraefe family branch off from the Schweicheln family some time in the 1600s? Records back then do not include family of the individual on the record so it is nearly impossible at this point to connect the two families. Still, I am trying to reach out to my German contacts who are specialists in the area who may be able to find more information on the matter. Stay tuned!