Saturday, June 30, 2012

Surname Saturday: Theisen of Meriden, CT

    One of the best ways to learn Luxembourg-American genealogy is practice, practice, practice. This time, my practice focuses on a family from Meriden, CT. Joseph C. Theisen was born c. 1868 in Luxembourg, married in his late 30s, and employed by a local factory. His should be an easy to trace Luxembourg history, but I've already hit a road-block. I'm hoping one of you might be able to break through it. 
   Since I'm not  tracing a specific family, I started with the United State Federal Census. For some reason, the 1880 census is relatively reliable about listing Luxembourgers as born in Luxembourg, not Germany. I used an search of that census with a residence of Meriden, CT (a known Luxembourger settlement) and a birth place of Luxembourg. I got a few hits, including a family I hadn't traced before.
   Joseph C. Theisen and his wife Margaret were life long residents of Meriden.Theisen was born in Luxembourg or Germany, according to the 1910 through 1930 census enumerations. He arrived in the United States relatively young. According to the census enuemrations, the dates vary from 1868-1870.   I'm not sure when either died, but I've been able to trace them in a city directory as late as 1932, using's "U.S City Directories, 1821-1989" database. According to an 1893 directory in the same database, Joseph worked for B & H Manufacturing Company (which made lamps and
   It's in tracing Theisen back to Luxembourg that I run into problems. I have a likely candidate for Theisen on New York passenger manifests. A six year old Joseph arrived on 27 September 1873 with a nine-year old girl named Susanna. Ifs this my Joseph? I don't actually know. I've tried to trace him back further, but I've run into problems. A search of the 1853/1863 decennial tables lists only one Theisen. I searched for Joseph in that town without success. Ideas?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Luxembourg History and Culture Week: Follow Friday, Blogging Luxembourg

   Blogging Luxembourg is somewhat outdated, having ended in 2010. It traces an expat's life in Luxembourg from 2007 and 2010. While much is devoted to the expat's interests, there are some nice profiles on local history and culture. Check out the Schueberfouer post, covering Luxembourg City's largest fair.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Luxembourg History and Culture Week: Those Places Thursday, World War II Memorial Sites

    If your ancestors served in Europe during World War II, they may have passed through Luxembourg. Several groups in Luxembourg have devoted energy to making sure their work was remembered. The General Patton Memorial Museum remembers the commander of the troops that liberated Ettlebruck. The website offers photos of the museum, a summary of Patton's work, and more. A website on historic trails permit you to follow the Battle of the Bulge. Read through, and you may discover far more about the experiences of your ancestors.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Luxembourg History and Culture Week: Luxembourg City Tourist Office

   If your family has any direct connection to Luxembourg City, be sure to check out the website of the Luxembourg City Tourist Office. Run by the city, it includes basic tourist information. It also covers profiles of historic monuments, a video of the city and more. The history profile is fun reading.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Luxembourg History and Culture Week: Tuesday's Tip, National Tourist Office

    One of the ways I discover new links is through hand-searching the website of the National Tourist Office of Luxembourg. Run by the government of Luxembourg, the office offers a list of sites that may be of use to Luxembourg visitors. Some are typical tourist sites, such as a site to book inn reservations. Others provide useful photos and histories. Check out the Luxembourg City Tourist Office.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Luxembourg History and Culture Week: Mappy Monday, Luxalbum

   Designed to showcase Luxembourg's cantons, Luxalbum provides maps and photos of each site. Click through the canton and region to the village. You'll rewarded with a photograph of the site and a map. Be patient and click carefully. The website has pop-up ads linked to each click. If you can avoid them, it's worth a look.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Luxembourg History and Culture Week:

     If you're like me, tracing who had control of Luxembourg - which has an impact on records structure and language - quickly gets confusing. Turns out Luxembourg's government has tried to make this easier! On the website, they've posted a timeline of major events in Luxembourg's history. While most Luxembourg-American families won't attach much importance to the date of the introduction of the Euro, you may be interested in the date of Luxembourg's independence (1815). The "Historical Abstract" is a definitely a nice cheat sheet.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sorting Saturday: websites on Luxembourg food and culture

     I spent part of last night looking back through the websites on Luxembourg's food and culture I'd saved, searching for two things: dessert recipes and cross-stitch. Unfortunately, thus far I'm coming up empty handed. Most of the dessert recipes are too heavy for this time of year (in the middle of a record heatwave) or require off-season ingredients. Although I've been able to find patterns from Alsace, I have yet to turn up Luxembourg needlepoint patterns. The keyword search turns up a huge number of "Jardin de Luxembourg" patterns... End result, I'll have to save the winter recipes in a file and start looking for new ones. Any ideas?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Follow Friday: Sycamore Stirrings Little Differences

   Since I'm on a Luxembourg cultural kick right now, I thought you might enjoy a series on the blog Sycamore Stirrings called "Little Differences." Katy, the blogger, lived in Luxembourg during 2010 and posted about the differences between Luxembourg and American life. I especially loved the stories about "Black Peter." Our family's German/Luxembourg-American community still celebrated with him, even after decades in the United States.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Luxembourg's Old Quarters

   Luxembourg City is on the UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites. The city's old town was surrounded by fortifications for over three centuries. Although they have been partially destroyed, they still provide an impressive view of the older part of the city and the valley they surround.
   If you can't visit or don't know the history off the top of your head, UNESCO's website is worth a look. They have a nice overview, photos, and more.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Workday Wednesday: Luxembourg occupation

   I've talked a lot about Luxembourgers being farmers. While that was true of the families that immigrated to the US, that wasn't true of those who stayed in Luxembourg. I wonder how many of ancestors thought their country would be importing workers? Check out the website Multicultural Netherlands.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Talented Tuesday: Bretzelsonndeg recipes

    My Luxembourg cultural kick continues... I hate to admit it, but I'd never heard of Bretzelsonndeg before today. I stumbled across it while looking for websites on Luxembourger crafts. Apparently it's celebrated the Sunday before Easter.  Read more about it and view a recipe by blogger Katy here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mappy Monday: Historic Luxembourg maps

   I've been doing a lot of reading and trying to learn what I can about Luxembourg's history. Since the country changed hands so many times, it can be hard to follow its history. Maps can be a big help, and I'm slowly finding good images on websites. For maps from the 1500s through the 1700s, check out Luxembourg Antique Maps. The site has images of early maps of Luxembourg as well as maps of Luxembourg City from the same period. It won't illustrate villages, but it is a start. You can also find a few more modern maps on the University of Texas's website. Happy research!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sentimental Sunday: Learning my cultural heritage

    The more research I do on my Luxembourger heritage, the more glad I am of the opportunity to study my family tree. Like many Americans, my family tree is a mix of different cultures and backgrounds. I don't have one ethnic heritage. I have several: Irish, German, Luxembourger, and a few more. They've combined to make me a full person with a great mix of traditions.
    But it's really nice to know where each piece comes from. I've been able to discover that the "Black Peter" stories one ancestor told probably came from the Luxembourger tradition and not from the family's German heritage.  The opening of Christmas presents Christmas Eve could have come from either. A little bit of cultural history goes a long way.
   So, please forgive me for doing a lot of cultural posts. I love learning!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Society Saturday: Courses in Luxembourgish

   I hate to admit it, but for a long time, we weren't aware my ancestor spoke Luxembourgish. We knew he spoke German since he married into a local Bohemian family. We suspected he spoke French, since his children knew words of French. It wasn't until my first trip to Luxembourg that what we knew started to make sense. While he could have spoken French, the Luxembourgish dialect uses words of French. Luxembourgish was the most likely option.
   Of course, realizing that has made me interested in learning Luxembourgish. My options are limited, but if you live in Wisconsin, you may be in luck. The Luxembourg-American Cultural Society offers onsite courses in Luxembourgish. Their contact information is available on their website. Even better, they're planning for an online course. I can't wait!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Follow Friday: More Useful Luxembourg Genealogy Links

I'm adding a few more links to my "Follow Friday" from last week.
1) The Genealogy Surname Navigator: Type in the surname, and you'll be able to search most Luxembourg message boards and a few databases at once. It's a good way to hit passenger lists, the 1880s census, message boards, and more. Be aware: a few links are outdated.
2) "Looking for Luxembourgers": A good - and short - history of Luxembourger migration, this entry gives you an idea of where to start looking for family.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Those Places Thursday: What Luxembourg town is that?

   So you've finally managed to find a reference to the name of your ancestor's Luxembourg town... and it doesn't match anything on a map. Why?  
    Luxembourg used three different languages. French and German weer official, while Luxembourgish served as a dialectic. The name you've found could be a rendering of any of the three languages. Keep in mind that English speaking locals rarely copied foreign languages correctly. You'll need to check any "sound alike" letters, such as switching i for e or y.
     While a map might be helpful in identifying the town, you also have a few other options. The Institut grand-ducal website offers a list of towns in all three languages. Also, search Luxembourg message boards for the town name you have. You should be able to narrow down the location quickly.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Workday Wednesday: What was the occupation of my Luxembourg ancestor?

  From everything I've read, most Luxembourger immigrants were lower middle class farmers when they left Luxembourg - but could move onto very different occupations in the United States. How do you find out what they did? The U.S. census and state census documents are a good place to start, since they list occupations. Make sure you check every census document for your ancestor. Mine had a  stint on the railroad I never would have known about, except for the fact that it was recorded in a state census. Look at death records and obituaries. Most list occupations. And (with thanks to our town historians for the reminder) check the tax lists. You never know what you'll find!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tuesday's Tip: How do I break down my Luxembourg brick-wall?

   There aren't a lot of great options when you hit a brick wall. Few professional genealogists have any experience in the field (my inability to read German causes me problems...). You really have to piece together information from a lot of sources. However, I do have some places to start.
   1. Translation: The APG Directory allows you to search for translators. Have some patience... There's currently no option to search for a specific language.
   2. An American brick wall: Consider contacting the local historical society or town/village historian. You'd be surprised how well they know the local families.
  3. A Luxembourg brick wall: Yes, there are professional historians in Luxembourg. A Google Search will turn up a few names. Disclaimer - I haven't hired anyone.

And you can always ask a question. I'll do the best I can!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Maritime Monday: At which port did my Luxembourger ancestor arrive in the United States?

  The Institut grand-ducal's Pilgrim's Progress site provides a good answer to this question: New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and New Orleans.
   In my experience, New York is probably your best bet. Most immigrants left from Le Havre and arrived in New York. Especially during the Civil War, you would want to head north and across to the Midwest. Of course, there's no guarantee. If your ancestor arrived in the 1840s and early 1850s, be sure to check New Orleans as well. At least you know you can skip San Francisco!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Church Record Sunday: How do I find the American church records for my ancestor?

    I can at least give you a starting point. You're looking for a Catholic church. Most Luxembourgers were Roman Catholic and would either establish their own church or join with an existing church used by German speaking Catholics. The challenge may come in locating the current incarnation of that church. Due to a decrease in the active Catholic population, churches have been closed and offices have been merged. Patience online may serve your purpose. However, you usually have a back up option. The archives of the local diocese may have a copy of the records for the original church.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Surname Saturday: How do I know that my surname is Luxembourger?

   This is a question I constantly ask myself when I consider what it would be like to start from scratch. My family lore gave me their ethnicity, but not everyone is that lucky. So, how do I know that my surname is Luxembourger?
   The answer is that there's no easy answer. Most Luxembourgers immigrated to the United States sometime in the 19th century.  During that century, Luxembourg had used both French and German as official languages. German names are more common, but that's no guarantee.  The census can provide one hint. Look for a "Dutch" or Luxembourger ethnicity in an area with a lot of Germans. These individuals are likely Luxembourger. Remember to check all of the census documents for an individual. Depending on the enumerator, they could be recorded as German all but one time. Theresa Beckers offers some suggestions for reading on her webpage.  The information is a bit outdated. The publications from the National Archives are no longer available. You can access the index to the Tables Decennales online. Consider looking at Luxembourg message boards and family sites as well. Patience will solve most problems.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Follow Friday: Useful websites for Luxembourg - American Research

   I'm stepping away from my typical "Follow Friday" format today. I've spent the last few days looking for new ways to learn about Luxembourger culture and thought you might like to see some of the websites I've turned up:
  1. A page on a site dedicated to America's many cultures, this article provides a good overview of Luxembourg-American culture. I just wish it were cited!

 2. The Stearns County Historical Society gives you a new option for ordering from the Luxemburg Gazette. Even better, they have an index. They also have an index to immigrants to Stearns County.

3. The National Library of Luxembourg has an option for searching its newspapers online. I only found one mention of my family - but it was my ancestor's uncle announcing a plan to immigrate. Cool, right?

Hope they're useful!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Saint Cecilia's, Sheldon, New York

    Thanks to Barbara Durfee for today's post. It teaches all of us a little more about life in Sheldon.
   St Cecilia's Roman Catholic church was the first Catholic parish in Wyoming County, NY. Father John Neumann was the inspiration to the twenty plus members to build a church. The first church was built on the land donated by the Pochel and Loreaux family (where the south cemetery is located)  in about 1830 to 1840. This was a log church, which soon became too small for the Belgians, Luxembourgers, French and Germans. The second church was of wooden construction.And in 1889/1890, a stone church was built at that site, at a cost of about $13,000. The stone was quarried from less than a mile away at the Almeter farm. The stone blocks were hauled by horse and wagons to the site and cut there.  Most of the work was volunteer, and  men of talent went to work - Constant Daniel, Peter Gabel, Almeters, Georges, Kehls, Jacoby, Dominesey, Jungers to name a few. The church is still called St Cecilia's , but with the merging of parishes, the parish is called  Fr John Neumann Roman Catholic parish.
    The original table that Fr Neumann used to say mass on, pray from and preach to the crowd, is now housed in the closed school house. Fr John Neumann has been canonized a saint, and there has been a dedication to name the church and place a bronze statue of him in the gardens there.   
   The nuns ran the school back then and lived there as well. They had a residence on the third floor. 
   There were several sheds built in 1915/1916 to house the horses and buggies in bad weather. According to an old East Aurora newspaper, there could be as many as 100 horse teams there on a Sunday for church services.I`m sure there was not enough room for all of them in the sheds.The churchgoers needed to get there early for that.
   The church bells are the original bells that rang for services. The only update is that there was an electric starter installed instead of the hand pulled clappers.
Sincerly submitted by Barbara Durfee  Sheldon Town Historian

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: Write Down Those Oral Histories

    I've been juggling a few too many projects for the last few days, including the decision of how to restructure my blog (Yes, that is why my posts keep getting put up late!). In the process, I've thought about some questions that I would have had to answer if I had started my Luxembourger research from scratch. I can think of two big ones: where was my family actually from and how did they get the United States?
   I didn't have to answer these questions. I have my family's starting village - and, though it took me a few extra steps, what port they came through. Why? Because my family had a strong oral tradition that indicated both. There was a bit of confusion. We'd been told that my ancestor came up the Mississippi before settling in the Dubuque area. This was true of one of my ancestor's uncles, but not true of my direct line (who came through New York). However, the story gave me the basic roots and made research a lot easier.
  I was lucky. The story was passed down basically intact from generation to generation. Combine that with the ancestors who were smart enough to write things down, and I had what I needed to do my research. For that reason, I wanted to recommend one thing. If you have an oral history in your family, write it down. You may not be able to make sense of it now. Eventually someone will.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tech Tuesday: Suggestions for blog "improvement"

 My apologies for the late blog posts this week! I'm juggling a few too many projects at once. One of them is planning for the future of the blog. I've run to the end of the Insitut grand-ducal's "Settlement" list that I was using to create my blog planning. It's time for a new direction. What would you like to see next?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mappy Monday: Wyoming County Maps, New York

  Sheldon, New York is located in Wyoming County. Since it was only created in 1841, it lacks early maps. A few historic maps can be located from the 19th century. The Wyoming County, New York Genweb site offers one map, dating from 1895. New York Public Library's Digital Gallery  also offers some great maps of the state. Patience should yield you what you need.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Church Record Sunday: St. Cecilia's, Sheldon, NY

  St. Cecilia's Roman Catholic Church was home to Sheldon's Luxembourger population. We'll be discussing the church's history more on Thursday, but I wanted to share where to find the records. Cemetery inscriptions have been digitized and are available online at several local sites, including Betty's Genealogy, Find A Grave, and Barbara Dufree's website. Contact with the church should help locate records.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Society Saturday: Sheldon (New York) Historical Society

  So, we've hit the last of the Institut grand-ducal's list of Luxembourger settlements: Sheldon, New York. Sheldon was founded in 1804, although Luxembourgers did not arrive until the 1830s. All the references I can find to the town refer to it as a German settlement. It sounds likely that the Luxembourgers merged - and intermarried - with local Germans, as they did in many non-Luxembourger settlements.
   The Sheldon Historical Society has a very small footprint on the web. Their website, with a few histories of the town, county, and museum, has not been fully undated since sometime around 2004. For recent information, you have to be very careful to click on their landing page. Go off that and you'll find yourself lost. Their Facebook page shows only one post since 2010.
   Despite that, I've managed to learn a bit about the Historical Society. Their primary focus is a museum run out of a former school house. They rotate exhibits in conjunction with an annual yard sale. The topics change annually. Meetings are scheduled regularly with breaks over the winter. Locals may have a good knowledge of the area's history, even though the group doesn't maintain a research library. Contact them for more information.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Follow Friday: Grosvenor Room Genealogy & Local History Blog

 The above local history and genealogy blog is run by the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library. While much of the blog is devoted to the resources of the Grosvenor Room, some of the posts are priceless for anyone researching the county. A December 2011 post traces sources for land records. Only a few sources are online, but the blogger also explains how to access those that aren't. A September 2011 post offers suggestions for researching in New York newspapers. I'd love to see some more recent additions (the last post was in February), but I'd highly recommend the blog to any Erie County family historians!