Saturday, January 15, 2011

Surname Saturday - Theisen

Theisen is my wife's maiden name.  For many years I was only researching my own lines, and hitting brick walls fairly often.  I thought about following and recording her lines to fill the time while I was probing for cracks in my own brick walls, but her family never seemed interested, or to have much knowledge to get me started, so I put it way on the back burner.  Maybe someday.

Forward about 20 years, and my in-laws are getting older.  Maybe I'd better follow up on their side if I'm ever going to get any information at all.  So I started asking the basics, what they knew about their parents and grandparents, places they'd lived, etc.  It turned out they could tell me a surprising amount of information, even if they could not document it all.  I asked about old photo albums, and oh yes, we have some old pictures in a box upstairs somewhere, we should dig those out someday and look...  If there's a lesson in any of this, it's DON'T WAIT TO ASK!  If you need ideas about what to ask, look for interview questions, there are many lists out there.

Okay, now we're at least started, but everyone says no one is really doing family history much.  I think so and so did a family tree back in school, maybe they still have it.  Oh, and Aunt such and such has a notebook she's been using to collect some information...  So it turns out some of the legwork has been done for me while everyone is telling me no one has the information.  GIMME!  Patience, Dan, we need to avoid spooking them before we get the data...  This Theisen family is of German descent, fine Roman Catholics.  What does that mean?  LARGE families.  My father-in-law is one of FOURTEEN, of which three died in infancy.  His father (my wife's paternal grandfather) is one of nine.  With numbers like these, I'm glad I have computers and software to keep track of it all!

Okay, living memory does pretty well, reaching back to the 1930's.  The Theisens are located in Stearns County, Minnesota, a rural farming area southwest of St. Cloud.  They're farmers.  Tales are told of life on the farm, amenities the farmhouse didn't have.  Parents, aunts and uncles.  All of this information, and probably more that's now forgotten.  Should have asked way back when.  Now I have enough data to look on the Internet and be reasonably sure I'm finding the right people.  And I get hits!  Turns out the Theisens are connected via marriages to a couple of other lines who do have active family historians with some fairly extensive lines posted.  Documentation isn't always there, or sufficient, but then I look at my own documentation and decide I can't complain too hard.

My father-in-law is Marvin Henry Theisen.  (b. 24 Jun 1933 in Luxemburg, Stearns County, Minnesota, married Ladonna Marie Hengel 22 May 1956).  Marv and Donna are still with us, for which I am thankful!  I could not have asked for better in-laws.

His father is Peter Adam Theisen (b. 06 May 1893 in St. Nicholas, Stearns County, Minnesota, d. 23 Dec 1971, married Caroline S. Keppers 13 Feb 1917).  I have located and photographed his grave marker, which will surely be the subject of a Tombstone Tuesday in the future.  He's also the first to show up in the Social Security Death Index.  He registered for the Draft in World War I, but his registration card failed to note physical details such as height and build, hair and eye color.  His marriage is documented in the Minnesota Marriage Certificate Index.  His obituary was very helpful in providing and corroborating names, and was the subject of a previous Sunday Obituary entry.

Peter Adam's father is Peter J. Theisen (b. 22 Aug 1866 in Cold Spring, Stearns County, Minnesota, d. 22 Mar 1947, married Maria Theresia Theis 30 Apr 1889).  I have found Peter J. in the 1880 United States Federal Census. 

Peter J.'s father is Peter Theisen (that's three Peters if you've lost count...) (b. 17 Apr 1827 in Girst, Rosport, Luxembourg, d. 01 Dec 1908 in Cold Spring, Stearns County, Minnesota, married Margrethia Reuter 12 Apr 1858).  Peter J. Theisen is the immigrant ancestor of the line. I have located and photographed his grave marker, which will also be the subject of a future Tombstone Tuesday.  Peter's father's name was reportedly John Theisen, but my data on him is extremely sketchy, so I'm not comfortable extending the line further without more solid documentation.

I've got far more information than I was lead to expect to find when I started.  But there is so much more to do on this line!  I need better documentation on most of the members (as I suspect most of us do on all too many of our ancestors) and I would love to be able to extend the line further back.  A genealogist's work is never done!