Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Leo Herman Kohnen (1888-1976)

Hello everyone. I know it has been a while since my last post (again) but I have been busy. This year I was able to attend RootsTech in Salt Lake City and the NGS National Conference in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I also gave three talks at the Northeast Florida Genealogy Conference in Jacksonville, Florida and had a genealogy booth at Celtic Crazy Festival in Titusville, Florida. In addition to all the genealogy related travel, my job has been very busy. But being busy hasn't stopped me from doing research and starting a few other projects. I started a one name Facebook page for the Westerheide surname and have been busy putting together posts for that. If you are related please ask to join. One of my cousins asked me a question based on some information she was told many years ago about a mystery person named George Homan. She had spent some time trying to find out who George Homan could be with no luck. So I decided to help her out and research it a bit. This research led me to writing this story of a lost link in the family and the convoluted connections I discovered. So, here is the story. CAUTION - this is a long post (but it's mostly pictures) and may be confusing.

If you have been around the genealogy world for awhile you may have heard of the FAN process in researching. FAN stands for Friends, Acquaintances and Neighbors. This research technique includes looking at who is living nearby on the census, investigating associated people on various records and seeing who is listed in newspaper articles about your research topic. The FAN process was important in discovering some hidden connections in the research I include below.

You've probably heard of "Where's Waldo" but have you heard of "Who's Leo"? My story starts with a question from my cousin about George Homan listed as the grandson of my 3rd great grandparents, Francis (Frank) and Elisabeth Westerheide. This information turned out to be from the 1900 US census.

1900 US Census listing Frank and Elisabeth Westerheide and their grandson Leo Kohnan

On the 1900 census I realized that the individual that was supposedly George Homan was actually Leo Kohnan. He is listed as a grandson born in April 1888 and aged 12. With this in mind, I need to take a few steps back and let you know about another "mystery" that had previously been holding back research on this family.

Frank Westerheide immigrated from Germany and arrived in the US in 1857. Based on this information I had expected to find him listed in the 1860 US census but all searches on Ancestry and other sites turned up empty. Why wasn't I able to find him in the searchable indexes? With no luck searching, I decided to revert to the old way of researching, I went page by page looking for the name. Finally, I was able to find him and realized why he wasn't searchable in the indexes. Take a look at the 1860 census entry and tell me what you see.

1860 US Census for Frank Westerheide and family

Do you see Westerheide? I sure don't. This looks like Sisterhiden to me. The indexer for Ancestry had it as Listerhider. Notice his wife Elizabeth, age 30 is listed along with two children, John (age 2) and Mary (age 1 month).

It was no less difficult finding him and his family in the 1870 US Census either. I had to revert to the page by page search again.

1870 US Census for Frank Westerheide and family
This time the family is indexed as Wisterhier. Look at all those children. Now they are up to 8 children, John's name is now listed as Herrod, and Joseph (age 7) is my direct line ancestor. Frank went from 30 years old to 44 between the 1860 and 1870 census and his wife Elizabeth went from 30 years to 43 years old. Aging more that 10 years between censuses isn't a rare event for many fellow researchers, but in this case it is important to watch the ages between each census and to fully investigate each piece of information presented in the census.

The 1880 US census was a bit easier to research. Westerheide is only slightly misspelled as Westerheida. In this census Frank and Elisabeth are both 48 years old, only aging 4 - 5 years since the last census, and they have 8 children in the home with Rosa (age 8) being born between the 1870 and 1880 censuses.

1880 US Census for Frank Westerheide and family
At the bottom of this 1880 census image I have included the next family as a reference. Notice the family is Kohnen, similar to Kohnan that Leo went by. I wonder if there is any relation.

Of course we don't have the 1890 census to research so looking back at the 1900 census we see Frank (age 70) and Elisabeth (age 68). So everything looks right in the world, or does it? Again, who is Leo?

Look a bit closer at the 1900 census. How long have Frank and Elizabeth been married?

1900 US Census listing Frank and Elisabeth Westerheide and their grandson.
If you said 22 years, you would be correct. But in the 1880 census they had a son Gerhard who was 22 years old. Another thing you will notice is that at the end of this line it says 2 2. That means that Elisabeth had 2 children, both of whom are living. But we counted at least 9 children in the previous censuses. So what does this all mean?

Many researches had assumed that the Elisabeth listed in the 1900 census and the 1860 census were the same person since they were of similar ages. But that would have been wrong. The first Elizabeth died in 1871 and Frank married the second Elisabeth in 1878. How do we know there were two Elizabeths? Well one hint is that there are two different burials for Elisabeth Westerheide in the St. Henry Cemetery.

Elizabeth Westerheide (1829-1871)
Elisabeth Westerheide (1832-1917)

Searching all of the children of Frank and Elizabeth(1) you find that none of those children married a Kohnen or Kohnan. What about the 2 children listed for Elisabeth(2)? Did she have 2 children with Frank between 1878 and 1900? That is a possibility since there is plenty of time for them to grow up and leave the house but Elisabeth would have been in her late 40s and Frank in his early 50s if that was the case.

So I continued searching and ran across the 1910 US census.

1910 US Census for Frank and Elisabeth Westerheide

Notice that toward the end of the line it states that Elisabeth had 3 children, 2 of which are still living and also it has M2, indicating that she and Frank had both been married twice. So, maybe one of Elizabeth's children married a Kohnen and was the parent of Leo. But now I need to find out who her first husband was so I can find her children.

Luckily the 1900 census provides us another clue. On the same page of the census that Frank and Elisabeth are listed there is another family of interest. This family is at the bottom of the page, four houses down, Theodore and Elisabeth Kolker and family.

1900 US Census - Kolker family
Notice that there is a step-son named Leo Kohnen in this family. He was born May 1888. The Leo Kohnan listed with Frank and Elisabeth Westerheide was born April 1888. Also, he has a sister named Francis Kohnen, also born May 1888. They would be twins. Is this our Leo? And, if so, who are the Kolkers?

Remember that 1910 census for Frank and Elisabeth Westerheide that we just looked at. Well let's take a closer look and look at the family right next to them.

1910 US Census - Westerheide and Kolker families
The family right before Frank Westerheide is Elisabeth and Theodore Kolker with their daughter Agnes Kolker and son Herman Leo Kohnen. Herman Leo Kohnen is the same person as Leo Herman Kohnen. But Francis Kohnen is missing. And this census indicates that Elisabeth and Theodore Kolker have both been married twice also. 

So, I decided try the obvious source to see who Leo's parents were. I found his obituary and looked it over to see what family members were listed and found that his parents were not included.

Obituary for Leo Kohnen (The Community Post, Minster, Ohio, 4 March 1976)

Maybe Francis will provide a clue if I can find a record for her.

Marriage Record for Mary Frances Kohnen and Fremont Stetler
I was able to find her marriage record which listed her parents as Ben Kohnen and Elizabeth Langenkamp. Now, this means that if Leo is a grandson of Frank and Elisabeth then Mary Frances is also a grandchild. So, how does the link to Bernard Kohnen or Elisabeth Langenkamp occur? Remember that 1880 census that I included previously. Look who is living next door to Frank Westerheide. Notice that it is Bernard and Elisabeth Kohnen. Coincidence? I don't think so. They are Leo and Frances Kohnen's parents!

1880 US Census for Frank Westerheide and family
Ok, so now that I have Leo's parents, how are they connected to Frank and Elisabeth Westerheide? Since Elisabeth(2) Westerheide died in 1917 I was able to find her death certificate which provided a couple clues in my search. By the way, this death certificate is indexed as Westerhigle so it doesn't show up when Westerheide is searched. I had to search with Westerh*. Remember to use the wildcards in your searches.

Death Certificate for Mare Elizabeth Westerheide (nee Holthouse)
With this record I found that her maiden name was Holthouse. This still didn't link her to Elisabeth Langenkamp or Bernard Kohnen but it is one step closer. Since we know that Elisabeth Holthouse was married once prior to marrying Frank Westerheide maybe we can find her marriage record. It could be a difficult search since it was probably sometime in the 1850s to 1870s but it was worth a look.

Marriage Record - John Heinrich Langenkamp and Maria Elizabeth Holthous - 2 September 1853
Elizabeth Holthaus married John Henry Langenkamp. Is this the record I needed to connect to Bernard Kohnen and Elisabeth Langenkamp, Leo Kohnen's parents?

1860 US Census for Henry and Elizabeth Langenkamp and family
After looking 2 pages past Frank Westerheide's family in the 1860 US census I found Henry and Elisabeth Langenkamp with their children Margret and Frank. Margaret is Elisabeth Langenkamp who married Bernard Kohnen. How do I know that Margret and Elisabeth are the same person? Well, the 1870 census lists her as Elisabeth.

1870 US Census for Henry and Elizabeth Langenkamp and family

Oh, and one more thing. Are you still wondering who Theodore Kolker is? Well, Bernard Kohnen died and Elisabeth Langenkamp married Theodore and formed her family with her two children, Leo and Frances Kohnen, and had a daughter Agnes Kolker.

So, were you able to follow the rabbit trail? Let me summarize it for you:

  1. Leo Herman Kohnen (1888-1976) was the son of Bernard Kohnen and Margret Elizabeth Langenkamp.
  2. Bernard Kohnen died and Elisabeth married Theodore Kolker (Leo listed as step son 1900 census).
  3. Elisabeth Langenkamp's parents were John Heinrich (Henry) Langenkamp and Maria Elizabeth (Elisabeth) Holthaus.
  4. After John Henry Langenkamp died Elisabeth Holthaus married Frank Westerheide (Leo listed as grandson in 1900 census).
Well, that wasn't so difficult, now was it?


  1. What a great piece of detective work, using the FAN method and surmounting indexing issues. I enjoyed reading this immensely.