In the 1990s I began to do some genealogical research on my great great grandparents. The only facts I had to work with were those that I gleaned from my great grandfather William Theler’s death certificate: (1) that his parents were named Frederick Theler and Agnes Kimmel; (2) that they were both born in Germany; and (3) that William was born in New York. For many years all of these hours of research were to no avail.
I subscribed to the Kimmel-L Rootsweb list and discovered a zillion Kimmels, most of whom were related to each other. But no Agnes. I also scoured all over the country for sightings of Thelers and found a few pockets, the largest being a large family who lived in and around Cincinnati, Ohio. One member of this family even had the same name as my great grandfather although he was born a generation later.
Then one day I stumbled on a marriage record from St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in New York City, dated September 1, 1847. The marriage was between two people who were both born in Germany and their names were Johann Friedrich Theler and Agnes Kuemmelmann. Frederick and Agnes had Anglicized their names!
I immediately pounced on this new info and began anew my quest to find my great greats. The marriage record also contained the dates and places of baptism for both Frederick and Agnes. Frederick was baptized in Hunteburg in 1822 and Agnes was baptized in Schalkau in 1811. This seemed rather odd that Agnes appeared to be eleven years older than Frederick but I nevertheless pushed on and found both places on a map of Germany. Getting close!
I then decided to contact one of the Cincinnati Thelers to see if they had any information that could tie my Johann Friedrich to their family. My contact informed me that one branch of his family had relocated to Utah and his uncle’s wife was a member of the LDS Church and had commissioned a genealogical study of the Theler family. He even sent me a copy of the final report. Wow!
From this report the Cincinnati Thelers were able to trace back their lineage to a family that owned and operated a farm (#12) in Hedem, a small town in the Westfalen area of northwest Germany not far from the city of Osnabruck. For several generations this family worshipped at the Evangelical Church in Alswede a few miles east of Hedem and most of the report contains baptism and marriage records from this church. One branch of this family moved in the early part of the 19th century to a farm near Meyerhofen a few miles northwest of Hedem and this family worshipped at the Evangelical Church in Hunteburg. Alas, there is no record of a Theler baptism in 1822! Well, we didn’t want this research to be too easy, did we?
It seems that there was only one family named Theler who lived near Hunteburg and attended the Hunteburg Church. The name of the husband / father in this family was Christian Ludewig Theler. Christian and his wife Anna Maria Dinckelmann had a baby just about every year but 1822. Christian is the direct ancestor of the Cincinnatti Thelers. The family left the Hunteburg area around 1825 and Anna Maria and some of her children arrived in Cincinnati in the early 1830s. Christian died somewhere along the way. My job now is to uncover some evidence that will definetly tie our Johann Friedrich to the family of Christian and Anna Maria Theler.
I still have not found any birth record for William nor any death record for either of his parents. Frederick does not show up on any US Census and I have not found any of my Thelers on the 1850 or 1860 census. I thought Agnes may have divorced and remarried but then I found her on the 1870 census living on Staten Island, New York under the name of Thailer. I have discovered that “Theler” is pronounced “teh-ler” in German and may be spelled in a variety of ways, most notably Tehler, Taegeler, Tegeler, Tegler, Tailer, Teiler, Thailer, Theiler, Thile, Theile and, of course, Theler. They are probably hiding under another spelling variation I haven’t discovered yet! I hope it’s not Taylor — there are too many of them!
And so the major facts concerning my great great ancestors remain elusive. I still have more research to carry out regarding Agnes Kuemmelmann’s birthplace which is in eastern Germany. Also, I would like to be able to answer these two major questions: (1) Did Frederick and Agnes divorce or did Frederick die rather young? and (2) Did Frederick and Agnes know each other before they came to New York? Lately I have made some progress in putting some of these loose ends together regarding William, Frederick and Agnes by researching another member of the family. In Part Three of My German Heritage I will relate the story of William’s sister Elise.