Gustave’s Prussian War Commendations

A few months back, when searching through my old family photos, I came across four fragile documents with Gustave’s name on them.

They were all in German and appeared to be from the Franco-Prussian war of 1870/71. Unfortunately, google translate didn’t help much. After having them scanned at a high resolution, I sent them off to an old college friend who was born and raised in Germany and here’s what I found.

The first and second, although somewhat illegible due to the handwriting, look like a testament to his service in the field and a certificate of commendation from the major of regional command.

The third states:

“After his royal highness, the great herzog [that’s the next royalty level below a king, like a senior duke] has rested, in order to execute the orders of 1st of April 1871 which call for the issuance of an award for military services with weapons on the field, it is hereby issued to 

Oberst (equal to colonel) Gustav Seidenspinner of Sonndorf
which gives him the right to permenently remember his work and view it as an honorable sign for his services provided in the field under the circumstances, carried and displayed in accordance to the rules described for field service medals/awards. So, to confirm the issuance of said award, this document is issued.
Karlsruhe, 1st of April 1871
Great Dukely Badische War Ministry”


The fourth certificate states:
“On orders of his Majesty, the Kaiser and king, this highly valued war commemorative medal, cast from the bronze of captured cannons, is issued to 
Oberst Gustav Seidenspinner of Sonndorf
In recognition of his dutiful participation in the successful battle of 1870 – 1871,  awarded by the undersigned.
Aschaffenburg, 31st of December 1971″


Pretty neat. Apparently the coin mentioned above was issued to several troops who saw combat and looked something like this:


1871 Medal


Unfortunately, by this point, Gustave’s coin has either been lost, or is with another member of the family, who may not even know where it came from. The certificates do help explain why the names of Gustave and his brother Karl appear on this monument in Wolfach though.


This was one of those random things that makes genealogy fun. It seems like everyone has some kind of interesting story behind them.


Samuel Kirk

Samuel Kirk - Back Was of Scotch ParentageSamuel Kirk (1813 – 1876) – 3rd Great Grandfather

It’s been a long time since I added any updates. Life happens. Fortunately, I’ve still been making progress on my family tree. Most recently I uncovered a letter written by Samuel Kirk to his parents back in England after he arrived in America. It was dated 1844 and copied by his granddaughter Elsie Schultz, likely around the early 1900’s. Using this letter, it looks like I finally uncovered the names of his parents.

pdf. of Samuel’s letter: Samuel Kirk – Death

In this letter, Samuel Kirk mentions leaving Fairfield via a train to Manchester. Then taking another train from Manchester to Liverpool and traveling on a ship called the Tallahassee to New York. Doing some on-line searching, I was able to track down a small community called Fairfield located in Bury, just north of Manchester. According to church records, a Samuel Kirk was christened in the Lancashire cathedral, nearby, on Jan. 22, 1813. His parents were Benjamin Kirk and Margaret Read. According to the 1870 Wisconsin census, Samuel Kirk was born in 1813. Putting these facts together, it’s likely that these Samuel Kirk’s are the same person.

Although alternate census  data gives a later birth date of 1830, the earlier date of 1813 is much more logical. If he were born in 1830, he would have been 14 at the time he left home, which seems much too young. He would also have been approximately 20 years old and three years younger than his wife, Mary Pennington, when they wed. Coincidentally, Mary’s dates of birth on the census forms were incorrect also. In either case, if he were born in 1813, he would have left home at 31 and married at 37, to a woman 14 years his junior, which seems much more logical. A birth date of 1813 would also put his age at 63 when he passed, not 46.

One thing I’m still unsure of is the date on the letter. Elsie had it copied as June 3rd, 1844. In the letter, Samuel is writing to living parents, as if he’d just left recently. However, Benjamin Kirk passed in 1840. I’ve checked the Tallahassee ship log from June of 1844 and there’s no Samuel Kirk listed. It’s likely that he left several years early and the date on the letter was a guess or an error. Once I track down the log with Samuel and his traveling companion Edward Carlisle, I’ll know for sure. It’s taken several years, but it’s nice to finally be so close to an answer.

Ida Oswald (Seidenspinner)

One of the things I personally find interesting is looking at photos of my ancestors as they have aged. The best series of these I have is from my 2nd great-grandmother Ida Oswald. The below sequence shows her aging from a small child, to a young lady, then a mother and ultimately an older woman. You can see the same features and expressions throughout her life. It’s also a kind of solemn reminder that time catches up with all of us eventually:

Beyond the aging illustrated in this series, there are a few other things I find personally amusing. The center top picture of she and Gustave is actually their wedding photo. She looks absolutely thrilled. This lack of enthusiasm is matched only by her expression in the photo directly underneath where she has three children (my great grandfather Alfred is on the left). Candid photos had an entirely different meaning back then…

The Penningtons

Do you know who these two are:

Chances are, probably not. To me, they’re two of the most frustrating people in my family tree, my fourth great-grandparents, Pennington. Based on what’s written on the back of their pictures they’re her parents:


She’s Mary Pennington (Kirk), my third great grandmother, born around 1830 and died around 1868. Somebody decided to just write, “Grandma and Grandpa Pennington” on their pictures and leave it at that. Real helpful. This is her with my 2nd great grandmother Mary Kirk, furthest on right:


Try as I may, I’ve been completely unable to track down her parents names. Usually it’s the other way around, I have names and dates but no pictures. That’s what makes her parents so irritating.

Usually a simple marriage certificate will solve something like this. She was married around 1850 in Fon Du Lac, Wisconsin to Samuel Kirk. Unfortunately, Wisconsin law didn’t require marriage events be recorded with state officials until 1852, two years later. Fon Du Lac county did start recording them in 1844, but it was spotty and after checking with the state, her marriage was not one of the ones that was recorded. Additionally, I have not been able to track down any death certificate for her. If anyone comes across this and can provide me with any additional information, it would be much appreciated. Until then, I’ll keep searching…

Wolfach, Germany

My second great grandfather, Gustave Seidenspinner, left Wolfach, Germany in 1881 to immigrate to America. Before leaving he captured an image of the family home from a nearby hillside. Several months back, I began to search the internet for images of Wolfach today and was surprised by what I found…

Seidenspinner Family Home

The Seidenspinner Family Home in Wolfbach, Germany circa 1881.


The Seidenspinner Family Home in Wolfach, Germany today.

Not only had someone captured an image from almost the exact same vantage point, but the building where Gustave had lived still appears to be completely intact. Visiting this town is one of those things that got added onto my bucket list.