Today a brick wall crumbled when I found the birth and baptism of Bruno Kirschstein, my great-grandfather, in the parish records of Rawitsch, Posen, Prussia. I now have his birth and baptism record, and with it, the names of his parents. In addition to having the great satisfaction of finding new generations for my tree, I also overcame my quiet anxiety about working with German records.
For those of you following on Surname Saturday (no, I can’t wait for Saturday to update this!), I’ve been tracking Bruno Kirschstein and the eleven variations of his surname found in other records for nearly three years.
My only clue for some time was the 1930 census saying he was born in Breslau, Germany. It wasn’t until I found him in the Hamburg departure database, Hamburger Passagierlisten, 1850-1934, at Ancestry that I learned that his residence before departure was Rawitsch, a town just outside Breslau, in Posen, Preußen.
I still didn’t know if Rawitsch was his birthplace, but it was the best information I’d found yet. I ordered the parish microfilm at the local Family History Center for 1850-1857.
His birth year of 1851 was consistent in all records, but I was guessing about his date. In the 1900 census in Chicago, the wonderful census taker wrote down not just the month, as directed, but also the date. But I couldn’t quite make out the month – that is until today, where I found Bruno Julius Wilhelm Kierschstein (spelling number 12!) in the Rawitsch Lutheran parish records – born on 25 Mar 1851.
His parents are Friedrich Wilhelm Alexander Kirschstein and Florentine Mathilde Braun. Some more digging on that roll of microfilm yielded three sisters: Selma Helena Ida, b. 27 Jan 1853; Olga Matilde Auguste, b. 2 Jul 1856; and Wally Clara Laura, b. 18 Jan 1858, all in Rawitsch.
The parish registers were in remarkable shape: excellent handwriting, well photographed, easy to read, and after I’d spent two hours searching, I even discovered an index at the end. It doesn’t get any better than this!
I’d known from his divorce papers that he had sisters because he got to keep their photographs in the settlement, but I didn’t know how many sisters or their names.
I need, of course, to keep working on the parish registers before and after the roll I completed today to see if there are other siblings. But I already found a marriage record for his parents and birth and death dates for his mother in the IGI.