What was our Ancestors’ Cause of Death ? – Fraisen (infantile convulsions)

„Da krieg’ i ja die Pockerlfras!”

This is an old Austrian saying used when someone is very agitated and starts trembling because of fury.

The word “Pockerlfras” includes the cause of death of many infants in previous centuries: Fraisen (also known as Fraißen, Fraser or Freisen) which were infantile convulsions.

Origin of the term

The word Fraisen derives from the Middle High German term “vreise”, meaning anxiety, fury or horror. (1)

(“Pockerl” is an old Viennese term for turkey, by the way.)

Fraisen was used as for all infant diseases involving convulsions. (2)

Disease Pattern and Cause

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The Battle of Dürnstein – My ancestors in the Napoleonic War

On 11. November, a big battle of the Napoleonic Wars took place in Dürnstein and Loiben in the Wachau in Lower Austria. My Great-Great-Great-Great Grandaunt Barbara Artner was living in Dürnstein (then called “Thirrnstein”) at that time. Reason enough to look closer at this chapter of history and the horrific war experience of the inhabitants of Loiben and Dürnstein.

Napoleon’s rise

Napoleon, born on 15.August 1769 on this Island of Corsica,  made a steep career in the course of the French Revolution due to his military talent. After a coup, he became First Consul of the French Republic, until he declared himself Emperor of the French in 1804.

In April 1805, Great Britain, Sweden and Russia formed a Coalition against France. In August 1805, Austria joined this so-called “Third Coalition”. After Emperor Francis I. of Austria (formerly last Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation as Francis II. and founder of the Hereditary Empire of Austria) sent his troops to  Bavaria (an ally of France) on 8. September 1805, Napoleon declared war on Austria.  The Austrian Army lost several combats around Ulm in Germany, after which the French marched towards Vienna. That was when they arrived in Loiben and Dürnstein three weeks later, where an Austrian-Russian Army had retreated before already.

 

The Battle of Dürnstein and Loiben

On 10. November 1805 the French advance party reached Dürnstein and after skirmishes with some smaller Russian units, won the plain between Dürnstein and Rothenhof. The Russians and Austrians had made the close town of Krems their headquarter.

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Michael Stangerer, “Ship rider”

Today, I would like to introduce you to my 6times Great-Grandfather, Michael Stangerer. He lived in the 18th century and his profession was “Ship rider”. Until I wrote this post, I had no idea what a ship rider was doing. Now I know that he led an exhausting life.

Michael Stangerer was born on the 7th of May 1712 under the baptismal name Johann as son of Georg and Eva (maiden name unknown) Stangerer. They were living in Perg, Upper Austria, at the address “In den Judenleüthen”.

This address is derived from the term „jugent“ which means “Young Forrest”. “Leithen” is a slope. The address therefore describes a slope with a forrest.

On 22nd of September, aged 27, he married Rosalia Rüttner, the 45-year-old widow of Simon Büttner, an inhabitant of St.Johann close to Grafenwörth at the river Danube in Lower Austria.

(Translation: “here, Michael, currently ship rider in Stockerau, legitimate son of Georg Stangerer, dead, in the Judenleuthen from the parish of Perg and Eva his wife, living, with Rosalia, widow of Simon Rüttner, inhabitant of St.Johann”
Transcription in German: „allhier, Michael derzeit zu Stockerau ein SchiffReuther deß Georg Stangerer, sel. in den Judenleüthen auß der Pfarre Perg, Eva dessen Ehewirthin noch im Leben beider ehelich erzeugt hinterlasster Sohn mit Rosalia deß Simon Rüttner gewester Nachbar zu St. Johanns hinterlasstene Wittib“)

This marriage entry gives important information on Michael Stangerer: At the time of the marriage, Georg Stangerer, father of the groom, had died already. The profession of the groom is given as “ship rider” in the town of Stockerau in Lower Austria. The profession of the best men is also interesting: Gabriel Hann and Hans Walleneder were both boatmen in Stockerau.

By the way, some church books in the parish of Grafenwörth have a very informative idea, including all information of the entry, which makes working with these books very easy:

Sipping on the Danube in the 18th Century

Before the course of the river Danube was regulated, St. Johann was situated at the bank of the river and was a trans-shipment center for all kinds of goods and a resting place for boatmen.

Shipping on the Danube was the most important way to supply the fast growing City of Vienna with wood from the forrest of Bavaria and Bohemia. Also salt was transported frequently on the river.

However, the Danube was never as important as other European rivers as Rhine or Rhone for transportation purposes, as the Danube’s waters flow in the “wrong” direction, away from the trading centers in the West and the North of Europe.

Ships going upstream were tied together and were pulled by horses (up to 60, depending on the size of the ships) which were going on the path beside the river, the “Treppelwege”. The whole process was called “Treideln”.

The chain of ships was built according to a certain scheme, the biggest ship being first in line. After that, smaller ships followed. The chain of ships was accompanied by smaller dinghies.

There were ropes with a length of about 80 meters tied to the mast of the ships. The steersmen had to try to keep the ships away from the banks of the river. In that manner, ships were moving slowly and could only make 4-6 hours per day.

So, what exactly does a ship rider do? The ship rider was the person riding on the horses which were pulling the ships, directing the horses on the path beside the river. Mostly, they were sitting sideways on wooden saddles, thus keeping an eye on the ship and the rope.

Bild: Alois Greil in Die österreichisch-ungarische Monarchie in Wort und Bild, Band Oberösterreich, Wien 1889

Picture: Alois Greil in Die österreichisch-ungarische Monarchie in Wort und Bild, Band Oberösterreich, published in Vienna in 1889

By the way, in 1812 the first steamboat started its operations in Vienna, through which the profession of ship rider lost importance.

Coming back to my ancestor: Through the mentioned marriage, Michael Stangerer no longer had to accompany the ships. His wife obviously has inherited a house in St.Johann from her late first husband. Thus, Michael Stangerer subsequently became an inhabitant of St.Johann and stayed there.

 

He married there four times and had seven children, two of whom died in infancy.

(Translation: Geburt=Birth, Heirat=Marriage, Tod=Death)

On 24th of October 1790, Michael Stangerer died from a lung disease at the age of 78 as widower at the address St.Johann No. 10.

Sources (in German):

What was our ancestor’s cause of death?

What was our ancestor’s cause of death?

This is the start of yet another new series of posts which covers the cause of death in earlier times. The list of causes of death in church books is long and there are many terms and names of diseases which need explaining today. Beside the historic diseases, there are individual accidents, epidemics or other tragedies.

Senility

Today, I start the series with a cause of death which “fortunately” can be found quite often in my family tree, death of old age, senility. In church books, the term “Marasmus senilis” is also used which stands for the decay of body and intellect through age.

As of what age was someone “old”? What was the expected life span in previous centuries?

This table shows the life span for men (in grey) and women (in red) at the age of 60 years in the course of time and thus does not take the high death rate of newborns and children into account. While expectancy for men and women in 1868 was little above 70 years, it is approximately 10-15 years more today. As you can read on Wien.at, in 1856, only 0.7% were elder than 75 years.

I cannot give you a serious statistical analysis of my family tree research, thus I will just give you some special examples of ancestors who reached a high age and died of senility:

  • I already introduced you to Leopoldine Hetzendorfer (born Hofbauer) in another post. She died after an exciting life aged 88 in the year 1943. Her daughter Walburga even was 91 years when she died.
  • Veit Putschögel was born in 1707 and reached an then almost incredible age of 90 years.
  • Mathias Schindl was 88 when he died in the year 1829 due to senility.
    (Transcript/Translation: Name of the deceased: Mathias Schindl, “Ausnehmer”meaning basically a person living at the farm of their children/ religion: catholic, Sex: male, age: 88 years/Illness, Cause of death: of senility)

  • Magdalena Petz (born Weinmayr) died in 1888 aged 86.
    (Transcript/Translation: Petz Magdalena, born, Weinmayer, born in Paasdorf, widow, here, age 86 years, senility according to certification of death no. 7)

  • Katharina Schmölz was 95 when she died in 1950.Bildschirmfoto 2017-03-30 um 18.56.42

What age did your ancestors reach? Did you discover unusual causes of death in your research?

Joseph Prankl, Blacksmith in Gaming, Lower Austria

Gaming is a village close to the mountain Ötscher in Mostviertel in Lower Austria and is situated on the Iron Trail. The Iron Trail has been an important site for the production and processing of iron since the 16th century. Subsequently, grand forges, but also many smaller hammer mills were built in the area.

Due to the Napoleonic Wars, the region was cut off from trade and from new technologies and could no longer compete with other areas with better infrastructure.

My ancestor Joseph Prankl, was a blacksmith for horseshoes and nails who settled in Gaming. He was married to Anna Maria (nee Eder) from Purgstall. The couple had 16 children. At least five of whom did not survive infancy. The children were born in the time period between 1795 and 1814 in Gaming.

The Viennese newspaper “Wiener Zeitung” published the following article in May 1813 about Joseph Prankl:

In this article, the foreclosure sale of the house of Joseph Prankl with the address Hofstadt in der Au no.7 which he has only built two years before was announced.

The house is described in detail: There were two rooms on the ground floor, a spacious kitchen, a pantry and a cellar. On the first floor, there were seven rooms and a kitchen. There was also a stable for two horses, three cows and a big barn.
Close to the house was the smithy.

Joseph Prankl tried to succeed as blacksmith in Gaming, but it was right at the time of economic downturn of the region. He seems to have overextended himself on the new house and could not repay his liabilities.

So far, I could not find out, where Joseph Prankl came from, nor where he and his family went after the foreclosure.  A brick wall, I still have to overcome!

I do know that two of his sons settled in Gresten, a village nearby and were blacksmiths there.

 

History and Genealogy in Austria – Maria Theresia (1717-1780)

History and Genealogy in Austria – Maria Theresia (1717-1780)

History is an important part of genealogy, as the knowledge about history helps you understanding your family history.

300 years ago, on 13th of May 1717, Austrian Empress Maria Theresia was born in Vienna.

IMG_7771

In 1736, she married Franz Stephan of Lorraine. She and her husband had 16 children, of which 10 survived infancy.

After the death of her father Karl VI in 1740, she assumed the reigns of government of Austria. (She was never officially Empress of Austria, although people did call her Empress.)

Her first years of regency were impacted by a European war, the „Österreichischen Erbfolgekrieg/The War of Austrian Succession“ (1740 to 1748).

Under her regency, many reforms were implemented. Some of those reforms had a clear impact on the daily lives of our ancestors:

  • The empress initiated a reform of state finances which also included the introduction of a uniform income tax for all inhabitants – thus ending the tax privileges of nobility and clergy. The following taxes had to be paid per year (1 Gulden = 60 Kreutzer):
    (Source: „Felix Austria” by Stephan Vajda, published 1980 Verlag Carl Überreuther)

    • Ordinary workmen/farmhands: 4 Kreutzer
    • Day labourers: 12 Kreutzer
    • Farmers: 48 Kreutzer
    • Craftsmen: 1-3 Gulden
    • Lords of the manor: 200-400 Gulden, depending on the size of the property
    • Bishops: 600 Gulden(To compared those amounts: a meal cost about 12 Kreutzer, as stated here.)
  • Maria Theresia also introduced the first paper money in Austria.
  • In 1770, the numbering of houses in Vienna was concluded and other Austrian cities followed.

Maria Theresia also ordered the first census in Austria-Hungary in 1754 which was then called „Seelenbeschreibung“. The Census covered 17,437,181 inhabitants of the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy. She implemented the first form of a land register (then a register of houses) in 1770.

Maria Theresia died on 29th of November 1780 in Vienna.

If you would like to find out more about Empress Maria Thresia, I recommend this link.