Finding John KOHL (1840-1903)

Early in my genealogy career, I ran into a third cousin (hi, Craig!) who was a gem with sharing information and photographs. This naturally inclined me to pay more attention to our shared line, the TIERNEYs. When I turned my attention to my grandmother’s German lines, I was feeling distinctly intimidated (maybe it was the umlauts). And as my mother reminded me, KOHL is KÖL in German (the city of Cologne begins with this syllable, I’m told) and can be transliterated as COLE or any number of things. Eek! (Need I add that I’ve never studied German?)

I had been reading quite a lot of what Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak had to say, and she mentioned Progenealogists more than once. I was curious about what a pro could deliver, so after doing my due diligence, I engaged them for a four-hour “taster” project, namely, finding John KOHL‘s parents.

I supplied the information I had to that point, which was death certificates for John’s two oldest children, the household’s appearance in the 1880 and 1900 censuses, and (my gem) spotting them on the 25 Jun 1872 passenger list for the Hansa, via All the sources were unanimous in placing them in Hesse Darmstadt, but nothing more specific than that.

The wait for the report seemed endless (but was delivered in the time frame promised; it wasn’t late. Waiting is just hard!) It was educational, both for what was searched, what wasn’t searched that I had found in the intervening weeks, and (best of all) the suggestions for further research.

In short, the strategy was to locate the record of the death of John KOHL. Ohio’s state collection of death certificates, Clark County probate records, county histories, and the available cemetery transcriptions all came up empty. They did find a record of the death of his wife, Gertrude BERG KOHL, and succeeded in narrowing the window for John’s death from 1900-1910 to 1900-1904.

Their recommendations for further research were to look up Gertrude’s obituary and investigate Catholic church records in the hands of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. In the interval, I had found the RB Hayes Presidential Library and their obituary index, and the Clark County library came through with the obits of both John and Gertrude. Alas, no more specific information about their origins came with them. So I turned to their second suggestion, writing the Archdiocese, and after another breath-holding wait, I had a grand pile of photocopies, some quite faint (and annotated with apologies by the archivist). Buried in someone’s baptismal record was my answer:

Kimbach, Darmstadt, Germany.

Speaking of buried in records, those photocopies have found somewhere in my house to hide. I keep slashing at mounds of paper, and the recycling bin gets fuller and fuller, but I haven’t turned them up since I started working through Dear Myrtle’s monthly organizational checklists. I found the empty envelope, today, so I know I’m not just imagining it!

My next stop was where their pointer to navigating the Meyers Gazetteer has me staring at a location in Google Maps and thinking “Hmm!”

But then, there’s a reference in the HESSE-L mailing list that there are four separate Kimbachs in Hessen, so perhaps I’m not done yet.

Edit: I found those papers and turns out my memory was bad. That’s the origin of a different German ancestor! Clearly there’s a new post to write.

Written for the 16th edition of the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy.

2 thoughts on “Finding John KOHL (1840-1903)

  1. I have a Catherina Kohl in my genealogy, my gg-grandmother. She was born in May 1849 in Baltimore, MD, and died in 1906. She married JOHANN EST in Baltimore MD. He was born in Feb 1846 in Hesse Darmstadt. We had always been told our genealogy went back to Hesse Darmstadt. Would appreciate any info you may have on my Catherina. Thanks, Susan

  2. Susan,

    my KOHLs came directly from Hesse Darmstadt to Ohio, so I have no information on any branches in Baltimore. My recommendation to you would be the same as ProGenealogists was to me: investigate Catherina’s death: death certificate, tombstone, published obituaries, and any church records generated during her life, in order to find her parents.

    Keep me posted!

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