Friday, April 15, 2011

Barbara Thines, a brief biography

In 1844, Luxembourg was a Grand-Duchy within the German Confederation. Far in the northwest of the Grand-Duchy, in the ruggedly picturesque region known as the Oesling, in a small town known as Hachiville, Helzingen, or Helzen—depending on which of Luxembourgs three languages one chose to use—a daughter was born to Hachiville natives Michel THINES and Anna Maria SCHMITT. They named her Barbara. She was their sixth child, and would not be their last; there would be nine children in all.

Birth certificate of Barbara Thines: 5 May 1844

Barbara grew up, as her parents had before her, along with her brothers and sisters in Hachiville. The area is known for its plateaus broken by rocky valleys, formed as the River Sûre and its tributaries flow through the southern Ardennes range. Despite its natural beauty, the soil was thin and acidic, difficult for cultivation. The THINES family (Or THINNES, as it was often spelled), as farmers, would have been very familiar with the difficulties of the terrain.

Hachiville is close to the border of the French-speaking Belgian province of Luxembourg, once a part of the Grand-Duchy, but separated from the rest of Luxembourg after a revolt in 1830. It seems probable that the residents of Hachiville would still have had cultural and family ties across the border fourteen years later.

In 1867, when Barbara was about twenty-three years old, the German Confederation dissolved, and the question of control over Luxembourg nearly resulted in war between France and Prussia. The British served as mediators between the two powers, and the subsequent Treaty of London finally guaranteed independence for the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg.

Four years later, on 4 Aug 1871, Barbara married an eisenhändler, or ironmonger, named Peter STROESSER in Wahl. It is unknown at this time how they could have met, Wahl being separated from Hachiville by 30  kilometers (about 19 miles). That is, of course, not an impossible distance, but it is far enough that it would seem to warrant some explanation.

Marriage certificate of Peter Stroesser and Barbara Thines: 4 Aug 1871. Note that on this certificate, Peter is identified as a hufschmied, or blacksmith. On his children's birth certificates he is identified in the related profession of eisenhändler, or ironmonger, meaning he was in the hardware business.

They began their family in the village of Heispelt, near Wahl. A son, Michael, was born to them in December of 1873, more than two years into their marriage. Their next child, Balthasar, came eighteen months later, followed by Anna in another eighteen months.

Twenty-two months later came another son. The birth certificate gives his name as Johann, but his descendants know him as Harry Henry. Later, he would found the Omaha, Nebraska branch of the STROESSER family.

Following Johann/Henry in 1880 came Johann Nicolas, called Nick. He was the last of the STROESSER children to be born in Heispelt. The family moved to the small village of Schwiedelbrouch by 1881, their five children ranging in age from infancy to seven.

In May of 1881 came the next child known as Johann. It may seem strange to our modern ideas to name a child the same name as a living sibling, but this was not at all unusual. Every child was named after his godfather (or her godmother), regardless of any other children in the family. Therefore, it was not uncommon to find a family with several children sharing a given name. From a practical standpoint, however, it is easy to see how the elder Johann in this family might have come to be known by an entirely different name. Perhaps he had been called Henry from a young age in order to differentiate him from his brother.

The second Johann was followed in January 1883 by Catharina, and January 1885 by Clara.

Barbara died 8 June 1890, at the age of 46, leaving her husband a widower with eight children between the ages of five and seventeen. However, he followed her to the grave only three years later.

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