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.

 

In the battle of 11.November, about 10.000 French under the command of Marshall Moitier and and Austrian-Russion Army of 24.000 men (under the command of Johann Heinrich von Schmitt and General Kutusow) were involved. The battle started with the French moving forward, as they thought, the Russians had retreated.

A column led by Schmitt and a men called Andreas Bayer who knew the surroundings well launched a flanking assault on the French which caused great confusion among the enemy. Finally, the allied troops won Dürnstein and the French retreated to Weißenkirchen.

In the course of the battle, each side lost about 4.000 men (although reported figures vary significantly), among them Johann Heinrich von Schmitt, the Austrian Chief of Staff.

Chronicles of the Town of Krems in Lower Austria (cited in the book “Niederösterreich Geschichte und Kultur in Bildern und Dokumenten”, Publisher Otto Müller Verlag, 1982) gives the following account:

“In the Village of Oberligen, 60 dead bodies were found, in Unterloiben 500 dead bodies. Several Thousand were washed away in the Danube River, which seemed to be coloured blue for hours due to the uniforms of the dead French soldiers.”

The allied troops won the battle, but the Russian Army nevertheless retreated towards Moravia. On 14.November 1805, the Napoleonic troops marched into Vienna.

Ober- and Unterloiben as well as big parts of Dürnstein were destroyed, the vineyards were burned.

The inhabitants, among them the family Artner

The experience of these days in November must have been horrible for the inhabitants of Dürnstein and Loiben. At first, they were plundered by the French, then by the Russians.  People were killed, Houses were destroyed, Vineyards were burned, supplies were stolen and churches were desecrated.

As the Chronicles of Krems (in “Niederösterreich Geschichte und Kultur in Bildern und Dokumenten”, publisher: Otto Müller Verlag, 1982) mentions on the  11.November in Loiben schildert:

“The inhabitants had to suffer appalling things on the day of the battle, many hid in a cellar of the vicarage in huge fear. Friends and enemies both raged in the same manner, actually the allied Russians were worse than the French. They intoxicated themselves with the wine, destroyed the wine barrels and spilled all the wine.”

Barbara Grünseis, my Great-Great-Great-Great Grandaunt had married Leopold Artner, a bailiff from Dürnstein, on 9.February 1802 im the Village St. Peter in der Au in Lower Austria. After the wedding, the couple lived in Dürnstein and had four children (one of whom died in young years unfortunately).

At the time of the battle, there was therefore the son Karl already born and zwo and a half years old and daughter Theresia was one and a half years. They were living in Dürnstein 43. How did they cope during the Battle of Dürnstein? I can say for sure that there were no deaths in the family in the course of the battle.

(Unfortunately, Leopold Artner died at the age of only 45 due to tuberculosis. His wife seems to have left Dürnstein after his death. So far, I could not establish, where the family went.)

Other inhabitants were not spared by the atrocities of the armies, as one can see in the death records of Loiben and Rothenhof:

On 12.November died Elisabeth Karl, widow of Christoph Karl, winemaker, domiciled in Unterloiben no.16 at the age of 64 years. As cause of death, the following is written: “Shot by plundering Russians”. There is also the note: “Was buried at the Cemetery of Loiben by those burying the bodies of the soldiers who died in the battle”.

In the Village of Rothenhof, Paul Mayr died on 16.December 1805, a “widow, winemaker and juryman“, at the age of 87. According to the death register, he died of “old age and shock of war, as he was plundered lying in bed with illness“.

There are several similar entries in the register of Unterloiben and Rothenhof. Particularly elderly people suffered a great shock from the battle.

Today, commemorative plaques and the “French Monument”, the “Franzosendenkmal” (which was build according to the design of Friedrich Schachner) close to Loiben, remind of the days of the Battle of Dürnstein.

Sources

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Paul Wiesinger, Musician and Dog Breeder in Linz, Upper Austria

Linzer Becken

“Das Becken von Linz mit der Landeshauptstadt” by Eduard Zetsche (1844-1927) from the book “Die österreichisch-ungarische Monarchie in Wort und Bild”, Band Oberösterreich und Salzburg, Wien 1886, Page 17

My Great-great-great-Greatuncle Paul Wiesinger was born on 28. June 1832 in the capital of Upper Austria, Linz, in the parish of St. Mathias. He was the son of the unmarried Josepha Wiesinger, “daughter of a house owner“.

In the baptismal book, no father is indicated, but the godfather, Philipp Klimitsch, a “master brewer in Auhof 1” is interesting, as I could not find any other connection to him. This might be a clue for Paul’s father.
By the way, Auhof is a manor in Linz which was owned by the family Starhemberg. The brewery was under lease in 1832 and was demolished in 1900 (Source: Wikipedia, Entry for Schloß Aufhof (Linz))

Paul’s mother Josepha married Ferdinand Mathias Frey in 1837. Due to this marriage, Paul was referred to as Paul Frey in later documents. The couple had no other children and in March 1863, Josepha Frey died aged 59.

Several months later, on 15.November 1863, Paul (then aged 31) married 39-year-old Juliana Bruckmüller, a maid and the daughter of the master miller Johann Bruckmüller from the “Grubmühle” in Thal. This can be seen in the Marriage Consent Book of the City of Linz as well as from the Marriage Book of the parish of St.Mathias.


„Austria, Upper Austria, Linz, Selected Documents of the Federal State Archive  1485-1894,” images, FamilySearch (accessed 22 May 2014), Ehekonsens-Protokoll 1850-1868 > image 416 of 517;  (Upper Austiran State Archives, Linz).

(Translation: “Name of the groom”-“Paul Wiesinger also known as Frey”, “Born on”-“Linz, 28.1.1832”, “Profession”-“authorized Musician”, “Marriage Status”-“single” and “Domicile”-“Linz 1057”
“Name of the Bride”-“Juliana Bruckmüller”, “Born on”-“Sigharding, 18.6.1824”, “Domicile”-“Linz 1055”, “Note” contains file number)

The profession of Paul Wiesinger is authorized musician which is interesting. The couple seems to have been neighbors, as their addresses are Linz 1055 and 1057.

The entry in the marriage book basically gives the same information as stated above. The witnesses to the marriage are interesting:

  • Johann Hofmeister, piano maeker in Bethlehemgasse 44
  • Simon Danzmayr, musician

I do not have any clue which instrument Paul Wiesinger played, but it could have been the piano!

Klavier

On 16.September 1865 the only child of the couple was born, a daughter named Franziska. At the time of birth, the family was obviously renting rooms/a flat in the house of the carpenters Großpointner in Schulerberggasse 945 in Linz. Franziska Großpointner was the godmother of the child.
Sadly, the baby died 18 days later as she was “too weak to live”.

On 12.February 1867 Paul’s stepfather Ferdinand Frey died of Tuberculosis at the age of 64 years.

Paul Wiesinger is mentioned twice in the newspapers (“Linzer Tagespost”). However, this is not in context with his profession, but relates to dogs:

Auszug aus der Linzer Tagespost vom 25.6.1865, Seite 5, Quelle: Anno der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek

 

At the occasion of a fair in Linz in 1865, Paul Wiesinger/Frey won second place in the category “Hounds and Bloodhounds” („Jagd-, Schweiß und Brackirhunde“) with a Dachshund. (The Count of  Graf Starhemberg won the first place).

Dackel

From the book “Meyers Kleines Konversations-Lexikon”, Seventh Edition, Leipzig and Vienna, 1909; Entry “Hunde”

Possibly Paul Wiesinger was a dog breeder or a huntsman which could also be related to the breeding of hounds. However, I could not find any indication in that context.

In 1882, the following was published:

Thus, Paul Wiesinger also won a price for his dogs in 1881. His address at that time was Donatusgasse in Linz.

Only some moths after the advertisement above was published, Paul Wiesinger died on 25.July1883 due to Tuberculosis at the age of 51. His wife Juliana died four years later on 7.March 1887 aged 61 from senility (“old age”).

By the way, as I realized when writing this post, there is clear message here: Additional information such as witnesses of births or marriages can contain valuable clues for family history research.

Land Registers and Family Research – Family Weihs in Sachsendorf, Austria

As entries in land registers offer a good insight into family history, I would like to write about this topic today.

Introduction of the land register in Austria

Maria Theresia started a first register of houses in 1770 (see also here) which was the predecessor of our modern land register. Land registers contain a lot of information on properties and their owners. Today, I would like to focus on the owners.

Documents at Familysearch

At Familysearch, there are many Austrian seigneurial records available online (free registration required). To get to the right records, use the menue “Search” and there “Catalogue”.  As location, enter “Austria”. You will get to a long list of different records, where you have to select “Court Records” and there you are:
Austria, seigniorial records = Österreich, Herrschaftsakten, 1537-1920

Family Weihs in Sachsendorf, Lower Austria

Using the example of the family Weihs of Sachsendorf (district Kirchberg am Wagram, Lower Austria), I would like to illustrate the support which a land register can offer for family research.

Mathias Weihs was my Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandfather. So far, I know that he was born in 1724 in Kollersdorf close to Sachsendorf and that he was married to Anna Maria Leuthner (widow of Stephan Kienast). I did not do much more research on his family yet (except for my direct ancestor, his son Paul).

Titel Grundbuch Sachsensdorf, NIederösterreich

Title page of the land register Sachsensdorf, Lower Austria, source citation see end of the blog post

Transcription and Translation: “Land register of the village of Sachsendorf of all properties with houses and all agricultural properties”

Through the above shown land register  („Haus-Überland-Grundbuch Amt Sachsendorf“) which is available online at Familysearch (Source citation see end of the blog post), I found out that Mathias Weihs owned several properties in Sachsendorf.
This was one of them:

 

Titel des Grundbucheintrages, Quellenangabe siehe Ende des Posts

Name/Title of the property, source citation see end of the blog post

Transkription and translation: “Von einem Bauernhaus, dareingehören 3 1/2 Joch Acker” – Of one farm house, including 3 1/2 Joch fields; Joch is an old square measure

From the entry in the land register, one can see the following chain of owners:

Besitzerkette Eintrag Grundbuch Sachsendorf, Quellenangabe siehe Ende des Posts

Owners in land register entry Sachsendorf, source citation see end of the blog post

Thus, the following persons were owners of the farm house:

  • Mathias Weihs and his wife Anna Maria („ux.“ is short for uxoris, wife) as of 1759
  • Franz Weihs, first unmarried as of 1788 and subsequently with his wife Elisabeth as of 1790 (from Sachsendorf, formerly written as Saxendorf)
  • Joseph Weihs, unmarried as of 1817 by acquisition (for 4,000 Gulden, the former Austrian currency, abbreviated as „fl.“)
  • Joseph Weihs und his wife Anna Maria as of 1817 by marriage
  • Johann Weihs, unmarried, living in the farm house- by acquisition in 1849 for 1,200 Gulden

All this information give a good overview and there are enough facts for a more detailed research. As mentioned in the illustration of the scope of the parish Kirchberg am Wagram at Matricula-online, the parish Kirchberg am Wagram includes Sachsendorf until 1784, afterwards, the parish Altenwörth includes the records for Sachsendorf (both are within the Arch-Dioceses of Vienna).

From research in the church books, I found out the following:

  • Mathias Weihs and Anna Maria Leuthner married on 22.7.1759 in Sachsendorf.
  • According to the land register, Franz Weihs married in 1790, which simplifies the search in the book of marriages of the parish Altenwörth:
 On 22.1.1790, Franz Weihs, son of Mathias Weihs and Anna Maria Leuthner married Elisabeth Nesterl. From the entry, one can also deduct the year of birth of Franz Weihs: He was 25 years of age at the time of the wedding, therefore he was born in 1765. It actually was on 27.5.1764, as the baptismal book of the parish Kirchberg am Wagram shows.
  • Joseph Weihs acquired the property from the couple Franz and Elisabeth Weihs (who by the way died in 1830 and 1828 respectively).
 Now it is getting more difficult, as the land register does not give information on the relationship between Joseph and Franz. Brother? Son? Nephew?
    As the next two entries in the land register have both been made in 1817, it can be assumed that it is for the same Joseph, who was married to a woman named Anna Maria in 1817. And there really is a wedding of Joseph Weihs and Anna Maria Entlang on 11.11.1817 in the church book. The church book gives us the information that Joseph was the son of Franz and Elisabeth Weihs and that he was born in 1791.
    By the way, this is the starting point for further research, as I have to try to find the purchase contract between Franz and Joseph. How could son Joseph afford to buy land for 4,000 Gulden which was quite some money at that time?
  • The next and last owner in the land register is Johann Weihs who also acquired the property. He was unmarried.
    During the time in question, there were three baptisms of boys named Johann Weihs. It is most probable that the right Johann is the son of Joseph and Anna Maria Weihs who was born on 15.8.1825. Any doubt can however only be eliminated through looking at the purchase contract.

Finally, I could establish the following facts with the support of the land register:

Ahnentafel Johann Weihs Kopie

Source Citation Familysearch – Land register:
“Österreich Herrschaftsakten 1537-1920,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G9K9-BS3H?cc=1929847&wc=MYCG-BZQ%3A1062206102%2C1047408502%2C1062215703%2C1062215702%2C1062221701 : 20 May 2014), Österreich  \> Lower Austria (Niederösterreich) \> Kirchberg am Wagram \> Herrschaft Grafenegg mit Freihof Etsdorf \> image 13 of 200; Landesarchiv, Österreich (national archives, Austria).

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):

Buffalo Zither Club – Friday’s Faces from the Past

I love old photos. They make history come alive. Names in my family tree get a face. Although, you sometimes may not know all names of the persons in a photo.

I have a photo of my ancestors who emigrated from Austria to Buffalo in 1913. The photo shows my Austrian ancestors Anton Hetzendorfer, Florian Hetzendorfer as well as Ernst August Surborg from Germany playing music together with other persons I do not know.

I would really like to know the names of the unknown members of the music group. The photo must have been taken around 1915 in Buffalo.

I tried to find persons who lived in Buffalo through online databases – without success. Then, I tried searching for „Buffalo“ and „Zither“ (the instrument played in the photo). I found a page http://www.zither.us where a story is told about Buffalo Zither Clubs. There was a photo of such a „Buffalo Zither Club“ taken in 1917 which really showed one of the persons who was also in my photo! I was excited!

And I was even more lucky, the page stated the name of that person:

„Josef Mayerhofer (..) was born in Dingolfing, Germany, in 1875.“

I think, there is also a second Zither player in that picture who is in my photo as well, but no name was given form him.

I would not have thought it possible to identify the people in my photo, but it actually worked!

Historic Austrian Newspapers

A real treasure chest for researchers of family history are historic newspapers. At ANNO (Austrian Newspapers Online, a digitalization initiative of the Austrian National Library) you can search through the text of an enormous amount of historic newspapers and magazines from 1689-1945. ANNO does not only include Austrian Newspapers, but papers from all over Europe, some even in other languages like English, French, Italian or Polish.

Yesterday, I found out through ANNO that the sister of my Great-great-grandfather, Josefa Korinek was the eldest woman in Vienna when she died in 1939, aged 103. I was thrilled to read through the story of her life and there were even two photographs!

1938-korinek-josefa-2

Source: ANNO/Austrian National Library, Illustrierte Kronen Zeitung 6.3.1938, page 6

If you want to try ANNO, go to the ANNO Search page and enter the name you are looking for in the the field “Suche:” (Suche is Search in German). You can use search operators such as:

“First Name Last Name” will search for exactly this expression
“First Name, Last Name”~5 will do a context search where the two words are not more than 5 words apart (I mostly use this search with a family name and the name of a village).

Good luck searching! I hope you will get new information!

 

Leopoldine Hetzendorfer (Hofbauer)

Here is another feature of my blog – I hope, you like it!

I will also use my blog to introduce my ancestors, starting with:

hetzendorfer_leopoldine

Leopoldine Hetzendorfer (maiden name Hofbauer) was born in 1854 in the Northern area of Lower Austria. Age 24, she married Anton Hetzendorfer whith whom she had seven children. In 1904, her husband passed away.

In 1913 (when she was 58 years old), the emigrated with most of her children to the US. From Ellis island records  (Ellis Island Passenger Search) I know, that her ship “Barbarossa” was sailing from Bremen, Germany to New York. The emigrants founded a weaving mill in Buffalo.

Leopoldine Hetzendorfer returned home in 1943, aged 88 where she passed away.

She and her family have introduced me to American genealogical research which is again fascinating, although different from Austrian, as it is more based on census records and civil registration (at least as far as I can tell) whereas in Austria, the main information was recorded in Church books.

Do you also have ancestors who emigrated from Austria? I’d love to hear their story!