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In Search of My Great-Grandpa

Updated on December 04, 2016
Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul was born and grew up in Wisconsin. He is married to a Thai and living in Thailand. He has Swiss, German, and Austrian ancestry.

My Paternal Great-Grandparents

My great-grandfather, Carl August Kuehn, and great-grandmother, Bertha Stamminger Kuehn
My great-grandfather, Carl August Kuehn, and great-grandmother, Bertha Stamminger Kuehn | Source

In Search of My Roots

At an earlier age, I wasn't much interested in my ancestry. Perhaps it is because my dad had almost no contact with his uncles and aunt when I was young. I remember dad and grandpa visiting our Kuehn uncles in Door County, Wisconsin, in the early 1950s during one late summer. Dad's relatives certainly weren't very hospitable to us. My pa and grandpa had to sleep outside in a tent while mom, my younger sister, and I spent the night in our cold car. After that incident, mom didn't want anything to do with dad's uncles. That is probably why I never saw them again, and the uncles weren't mentioned in the home.

As I got older, I never asked dad about his uncles and grandpa, my great-grandpa Kuehn. The last time I remember dad talking about his uncles and early life in Door County was in the summer of 1991. That year I drove dad up to Egg Harbor, the town where he was born in Door County. Pa showed me his old grade school, and I remember visiting one of his cousins who had a big cherry orchard. Dad never talked about his grandfather, and I never asked any questions. It probably was because dad's grandpa died in 1899 before he was born in 1916.

My interest in researching dad's grandpa, grandma, uncles, and aunt was awakened in 2012 when my younger sister sent me some old photos of great-grandma Kuehn and her sons and daughter when they were young and living in Germany. In August of 2016, I finally began my ancestry research by joining Ancestry.com.

In this article, I point out my research sources and also share the interesting findings I have made so far of my great-grandfather, Carl August Kuehn.

My Paternal Great-Grandmother and Great Uncles and Great Aunt

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Booklet about the Kuehn Family

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Research Sources

In 2011 I had no resources for researching my paternal great-grandfather. My father and grandpa had never talked about my great-grandpa, and I had never asked them any questions about him.

My first source of information about my paternal great-grandparents came in the form of old pictures furnished by one of my paternal cousins. Bonnie was kind enough to give my younger sister some photos of great-grandmother and her children (some of my great uncles) taken in Germany about 1880. I now knew the name of my great-grandma and the names of some great uncles.

My second source of information started to come after I joined Ancestry.com in August of 2016. I now had access to United States immigration and census records except those for 1890. Futhermore, I could also access census, military, and church baptism records in Germany.

Soon after joining Ancestry, I was able to contact my cousin, Bonnie, who is also a member of Ancestry. I saw Bonnie's findings of my great-grandpa on Ancestry, and she also sent sent me many other facts she had learned about our great-grandparents. Most importantly, Bonnie got me in touch with my second cousin, Margie, who lives in Door County, Wisconsin where great-grandpa died.

My contact with Margie has proved to be very fruitful. At the end of November of 2016, Margie sent me a booklet about our Kuehn family. This booklet was the culmination of what Margie had learned about our great-grandfather Kuehn after visiting his hometown, Chemnitz, Germany, in 2010. The booklet also includes detailed information about all of our great uncles, great aunt and their families. It was significant to learn that the surname Kuehn is spelled Kuhn with an umlaut over the "u" in German.

Research Findings

In the following sections, I touch on my great-grandfather's early life, military service during the Franco-Prussian War, and life in Chemnitz during the 1870s. I then account for great-grandpa's immigration to America in 1881, life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from 1881 until 1886, and then final settlement in Door County, Wisconsin, from 1886 until his death in 1899.

Map Showing Chemnitz in Germany

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Chemnitz in the 1850s

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Early Life

After finding out my great-grandfather's exact name, I learned that Carl August Kuehn was born and grew up in Chemnitz, Germany. I have yet to discover the names of his father and mother, so nothing is really known about great-grandpa's youth in Chemnitz.

Chemnitz is located in the state of Saxony which is in central eastern Germany not far from the Czech Republic border. With a present population of around 250,000, Chemnitz is situated in the northern foothills of the Ore Mountains, and it is part of the Central German Metro Region.

In the early 19th century, Chemnitz was known as a textile center. After the end of World War II and following the Soviet occupation, Chemnitz became part of East Germany and was renamed Karl Marx City, a name which it would have during the period 1950-1990. After reunification, the Chemnitz residents voted to rename the city Chemnitz in accordance with its original name. Information about Chemnitz is taken from Wikipedia.

Kingdom of Prussia

The Kingdom of Prussia is in red.
The Kingdom of Prussia is in red. | Source

Military Service 1870-1871

Carl August Kuhn served in the Prussian Army during the Franco-Prussian War from July 19, 1870 until May 10, 1871. Up until 1918, the Kingdom of Prussia was a German Kingdom that included parts of present day Germany, Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Denmark, Belgium, and the Czech Republic. The Franco-Prussian War was a conflict between the 2nd French Empire of Napoleon III and the German States of the North German Confederation led by the Kingdom of Prussia. The end of the War was hastened when Paris fell to the Prussian Army on January 28, 1871.

According to my cousin, Bonnie, my great-grandfather entered Paris with the Prussian Army. I have also found out through an Ancestry.com record that Carl August Kuhn was wounded in the War. Information about the Franco-Prussian War was taken from Wikipedia.

Chemnitz, Germany Today

Chemnitz Apartment Building

My great-grandfather lived in this apartment building in the 1870s.
My great-grandfather lived in this apartment building in the 1870s. | Source

Life in Chemnitz in the 1870s

Since my great-grandfather's oldest child, Techla, was born on February 27, 1871, Carl August Kuhn most probably married my great-grandmother, Bertha Stamminger, before May of 1870 and being conscripted into the Prussian Army. After the War ended, Carl August returned to Chemnitz and worked as a wagonschriber. According to my second cousin, Margie, great-grandpa Kuhn was responsible for registering wagons at the railroad station in Chemnitz. During the 1870s, four other children, all sons, were born. They included great uncle Carl Adolph Gustav born in 1873, Otto born in 1874, John in 1876, and Frederick Arthur born in 1878. By the end of the 1870s, my great-grandfather had decided to immigrate to the United States. According to a minister at the Lutheran Church in Chemnitz which Carl August attended, my great-grandpa probably thought his life was poor and he worried about his sons being conscripted into the Prussian Army.

Milwaukee in the 1890s

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Life in Milwaukee 1881-1886

On April 26, 1881, my great-grandfather immigrated to America, landing by ship at New York Harbor. Carl August Kuhn's wife and children remained in Chemnitz, but would later join him in 1882.

Great-grandfather initially settled in Milwaukee and took up the cigar making business. He undoubtedly got into this business because 1878-1915 was the Golden Age of Cigars. In 1880 cigar consumption rose to six billion, and tobacco tax accounted for a third of the U.S. Federal Revenue. These facts are taken from Wikipedia.

While living on the northside of Milwaukee with his wife and five children, my grandfather, Charles August, and his twin, my great uncle George were born on September 13, 1885.

Door County, Wisconsin

Door County taken from the 1895 U.S. Atlas
Door County taken from the 1895 U.S. Atlas | Source

Life in Door County 1886-1899

Based on Margie's research, Carl August Kuehn moved with his family from Milwaukee to the Door County Peninsula in northeastern Wisconsin in 1886. He had purchased land on County T in Jacksonport and soon built a homestead there. Two more children were soon born to Carl August and Bertha. They were Herman born in 1887 and Paul born in 1889.

During the last 13 years of his life, great-grandfather was a farmer and attended the Zion Lutheran Chuch in West Jacksonport. It was widely known that when the pastor couldn't be at the church service, Carl August filled in and delivered the sermon.

At the age of 52, Carl August Kuehn died of an appendicitis on July 30, 1899.

Summary and Future Research

Through my research, I have learned very much about my ancestors, Chemnitz, Germany, Milwaukee, and Door County in the 19th century. Unfortunately, I have still not been able to discover Carl August Kuhn's mother and father who would be my great-great-grandmother and father. I plan to continue my active research on Ancestry.com and also hope for more assistance from my second cousin, Margie, and other cousins and second cousins. Probably during 2018, I plan on making a trip to Chemnitz to follow up on the research which Margie did there in 2010.

© 2016 Paul Richard Kuehn

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