I spent a number of years searching for records of the wife of my 2nd great grandfather, Frank B Wersel. All of the family information I had indicated she was Mary Ann Wersel; nothing was known about where she came from or what her maiden name had been. Names are funny things; today the 'honor' associated with carrying a family name isn't anywhere as strong as it was in the 19th century. Yet, many of us have had the maddening experience of trying to trace an ancestor who seemingly vanishes only to find them hiding in plain sight with a new name.
In December, 2011 I was blessed to have original materials loaned to me by my Cincinnati cousin so I could digitize them and do a little basic conservation of the old and delicate documents. One of those was this ‘Extrait’:
For those who can’t read French, this is an extract from birth records in Bliesbrucken, Sarreguemines, Moselle, [Lorraine] France which was written in 1844. It’s the birth record of my 2nd great grandmother, Anne Marie Wagner, born 8 May 1842 to Jean Frederic Wagner and his wife Anne Eve Hensgen. A second document explained the ‘Extrait’:
It’s clear this document has seen better days, and at first glance there isn’t anything there to save. This is an interior passport, a document that allowed a traveler to move freely throughout the area. A closer look includes this little bit of information:
It clearly mentions “Wagner, avec sa femme” and also mentions “Gertrude et Anne Marie”. (“Sa femme” means ‘his wife’); it is dated 26 March 1844, the same year as the birth extract. It would appear that the purpose of getting his daughter's proof of birth was to provide it to the authorities when he requested the passport.
While there wasn’t a document showing how the Wagner family came to the United States, there was a Naturalization document, originating in Cincinnati, Ohio and dated 7 October 1850, for Anne Marie’s father, who is now John Wagner.
Then, on the 7th day of April, 1860, Anne Mary Wagner was married to Francis John Wersel in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Not to be confused with Frank B Wersel…that’s another story). I’m not certain, but this may be their wedding photo:
Isn’t she lovely? And he’s quite dashing as well, don’t you think? Anne Marie seems to have chosen her husband well; by 1870 their family included five children (George, Henry, Agnes, Franklin and Charles), Anne Marie’s parents (John and Eve) and a female servant. Of course, she’s no longer Anne Marie, but gave her name as ‘Mary’.
By 1880, the Wersel family had added two children, William and Stella. The entire family, including the Wagners lived at 251 Betts in Cincinnati. By now, Anne Marie was living as the wife of a business man; Frank’s upholstery business was booming and he was doing very well for himself.
The following image was taken some time after 1890, the year the Wersel’s son Henry married Laura Richards. Mary Ann Wersel is flanked by her children with her son Henry and his wife Laura standing behind her.
On 18 July 1897, Mary Wersel died. She is buried, along with her husband Frank, in St. John’s Catholic Cemetery in St. Bernard, Ohio.
From Anne Marie Wagner in Bliesbrucken to Mary Wersel in Cincinnati, Ohio. It wasn't a long stretch, from Anne Marie to Mary, but I was held up in my research, initially, because I didn't think to try a different name. Now, it's the first thing I do.
C’est ci bonne, c’est la vie.