Searching for Bruno KirschsteinMy first Surname Saturday post is about searching for Bruno Kirschstein, my great-grandfather.

My KIRSCHSTEIN line should be easy and it isn’t. Since the search has taken me down many paths, I thought I’d explore some of them with you today.

The KIRSCHSTEIN (English: cherry stone) surname is from my maternal grandmother’s side of the family. Kirschstein is a German surname through and through – for about five minutes. After that those borders start moving around and KIRSCHSTEIN could be Prussian, German, or Polish. Add in some transcription errors, and pretty soon I’d smacked right into the brick wall.

My grandmother, Edith Matilda Augusta KIRSCHSTEIN, was born in Chicago in 1889.
I knew:

  • her parents’ names
  • they had emigrated from Germany to Chicago
  • they had been divorced.

That was about it. Her father, Bruno KIRSCHSTEIN, was mostly a mystery to me when I started researching this line.

Bruno Kirschstein Cook County Records

Cook County didn’t have a birth certificate for Edith at their website. The rigid search interface at Cook County leaves a lot to be desired. There is no Soundex for starters and a complete inability to search on partial names. But at least it’s better than when Cook County had nothing online at all.  So I assumed for the time being that my grandmother had no birth certificate filed, which wasn’t that unusual in the late nineteenth century.

Then I tried Cook County for a death record for Bruno KIRSCHSTEIN. No joy. So I tried Steve Morse‘s one-step search interface for Illinois’s 1916-1950 Death Index. I searched on first name Bruno and last name beginning with K and there was he was listed as Bruno KIERSCHSTEIN. Since poor Bruno died in the Cook County poorhouse hospital, I figured he must be a relative of mine. According to this death record, he was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1851. (see above)

In 1881, Bruno KIRSCHSTEIN (spelled right for a refreshing change) and Anna Schumann were married in a Lutheran church in Chicago.

Then I checked the city directories in Chicago, which revealed that he changed jobs just about every year. The 1892 Chicago Voter Registration had Bruno KIRSCHSTEIN (also spelled right ) and born in Prussia.

In the 1900 census, he’s Bruno KIRSCHSTZER from Prussia. In the 1910 census, he is missing (or I haven’t figured out how to murder his name the same way the census taker did). But his ex-wife and family appear in the 1910 census as DERSCHETEIN. In the 1920 census, Bruno KIRSCHSTRIN is back and the dear wonderful census taker put down Braslau, Germany [sic Breslau, Silesia, Prussia] for his place of origin. YAY!

Bruno Kirschstein Prussian Records

Breslau is now Wrocław, Poland, and over the centuries, the city has been located in Poland, Bohemia, Austria, Prussia, or Germany. The New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 at Ancestry told me BRUNE KIRSCHSTEIN arrived in New York from Hamburg on 28 Aug 1883, and that he was a merchant from Prussia.

Bruno Kirschstein Cemetery Records

On a trip to Chicago, I found Bruno’s grave at Waldheim and I visited the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court for both naturalization and divorce records. The underlying naturalization records were destroyed and only the final naturalization documents were retained. It cost me $15 to find out BRUNO KIRSCHTEIN  renounced his allegiance to the Emperor of Germany on 16 March 1891.

The divorce records were voluminous, depressing, and offered the tidbits that Bruno had two (unnamed) sisters in Germany.

I was having a lot more luck with my Swedish and Norwegian searches, so poor Bruno languished for a time. And then a few weeks ago I decided to try FamilySearch because I knew they were indexing Chicago records. And there was my grandmother, who was named EIDET KIRCHSTSIN according to Cook County. Sometimes I think they hired people in vital records in Chicago at the turn of the century because they couldn’t spell or write.

What about Edith’s brother, who had died as a child?

Cook County’s interface didn’t have a record, but FamilySearch did: BRUNO HENRY CHRISTIAN KIERCHSTEINS, born 1892 and father Bruno KIERSCHSTEIN and mother is Anna SEHUMANN (SCHUMANN). Again, no death record at the Cook County site, but in FamilySearch I tried Bruno, Chicago, and 1894 and found the death certificate for BRUNO KERSCHSTENE, who was one year, four months, and five days old when he died.

Kirschstein Passenger List

Then I realized that Ancestry has added the Hamburger Passagierlisten, 1850-1934 (Hamburg Departure Database), and I literally held my breath when I searched for Bruno and there he was, departing on 16 Aug 1883.

But the best part was a residence was listed: Rawitsch (town just outside Breslau), Posen (county), Preußen (country). (It’s probably the last time he didn’t have to spell his name to somebody!) I’m overjoyed to finally find this record and now I’m off to research the churches in Rawicz, Poland.

Wikipedia tells me Rawicz has about 21,000 people and “the town was founded by Adam Olbracht Przyjma-Przyjemski for Protestant refugees from Silesia during the Thirty Years War. In the 1800s, it contained a Protestant church and a medieval town hall. The principal industry was the manufacture of snuff and cigars. Trade involved grain, wool, cattle, hides, and timber.”

Stay tuned as I look for:

KEIRSCHSTEIN

KIRSCHSTZER

DERSCHETEIN

KIRSCHSTRIN

KIRSCHTEIN

KIRCHSTSIN

KIERCHSTEIN

KIERCHSTEINS

KERSCHSTENE

KIERCHSTEIN

KIERSCHSTEIN

KIRACHATEIN

KIRSCHSTEIN family in  Rawitsch, now Rawicz.