Monday, February 6, 2012

Mystery Monday - Margaret Lanz's Parents

In my family research, it has become apparent that oral family histories only seem to record events as far back as possibly great-grandparents.  In some families even less depending how much the family talked with their children about the "olden days".  Which is why I have encourage my mother and my in-laws to write down any of the family stories that they remember so that can be passed far no luck with that.

Margaret Lanz Reath
My mother-in-law, has a number of stories about her great-grandmother, Margaret Lanz.   Margaret Lanz was born in Bavaria, Germany in December 18, 1847 and came to the US when she was 20 years old in 1867.  My mother-in-law never met her great-grandmother, as she died at the age of 84 in 1932.  However, her mother and grandmother passed down family stories about her.  

Margaret had married Andrew Reath sometime shortly after her arrival.   Andrew Reath died in 1895 and she never remarried.

The story of Margaret's journey to America has been passed down.  She left Europe on a large sailing ship to the US.  During the trip, it was "calmed" from lack of wind for several days, which unnerved and scared Margaret and from that point on she was always afraid of large bodies of water.  So much so that she never learned to swim and didn't even teach her children to swim.  I have not found her immigration records, but it would be interesting to see if I could find if the sailing took much longer than usual.

It appeared that she had arrived with 2 brothers:  John Joseph Lanz and Charles C. Lanz
Margaret was an excellent seamstress.  It must have been in her genes, because there are stories passed down that her daughter, Margaret Reath, would go to the department stores in Utica, NY and look in the windows at the latest fashions and then she would make similar dresses at home from memory for her daughter.  Saving considerable expense.
These stories and a few others have survived the generations.

However, one interesting fact which was never was passed down was whatever happened to Margaret's parents.  Had they made the journey with her or had they stayed in Germany.   I had always assumed (as had my mother-in-law) that they had remained in Germany.  
I recently ordered a death certificate for Margaret Lanz Reath from the City of Utica, NY to see if it might offer any the name of the city she were she was born in Bavarian.  It didn't.  However, it named her father and mother as John Lanz and Caroline Breitenberg Lanz.  Interesting information.  So, if I do find where she was born in Bavaria, it might help me find Germany records.  

While trying (in vain, so far) to look at leads for her German origins, I was reviewing the 1880 US Census records and I noticed a John and Caroline Lanz living next door to Margaret's brother John Joseph Lanz and his family.  Coincidence?  Nope.  I have actually found this quite often in my research where related family members tend to live close to each other, so I do try to look at the census records to see if any potentially "lost" relatives turn up.  

To be sure that they were THE John and Caroline Lanz, I searched to find a death record for John.  I was successful at finding John's obituary (The obit says "Joseph", but that is an error.  It was probably his middle name.  He is listed in the Utica deaths for the year as John and on that date).  John Lanz died November 11, 1893 (the day after he signed his will) at the house of his daughter-in-law, Catherine Louis Lanz.

My mother-in-law was shocked to learn that from all the stories which had been handed down from her mother and grandmother that no one had ever mentioned Margaret's parents moving to the US and living down the street in Utica. 

You never know what you will find when you keep digging.  

Of course, I still haven't found where the Lanz family originated in Bavaria.


  1. One more interesting fact you missed was that Margaret taught herself English using just a dictionary and listening to people speak. Her English was so good that she spoke with almost no detectable accent.

  2. I really enjoyed this story. I actually searched on and saw a picture of Margaret and another of her parents, lovely. My maternal ancestors came from Germany in 1857. I also have a connection to Massachusetts, Florida and Wisconsin. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Kathryn, Glad you liked it. Your comment made me update the blog with a picture of Margaret Lanz. This was probably taken about 1900.