In my last post, I shared the tale of how finding the godparents of my ancestor’s children, then researching their naturalization records led me to find the naturalization records of my great, great-grandfather, Vincent Smarsh.
When last we “talked” I requested by email the naturalization records of Anthony Harenrader, Joseph Strousse (godparents) and Vincent Smarsh (ancestor) from the Lancaster County Courthouse.
The Mail Arrived
I can’t tell you how impressed I am with the Lancaster Pennsylvania County Courthouse. Not only did they have the naturalization records indexed online, the archivist responded in minutes to my email inquiry, but I received the paper copies in just a couple of days!
Here’s what arrived in the mail:
- Paper copy from microfilm of Vincent Smarsh’s Naturalization Record
- Paper copy from microfilm of Vincent Smarsh’s Declaration of Intent form, AND what looks like a log or registry entry with the same information as the Declaration of Intent.
- Anthony Harchenrader’s Naturalization Record
- Joseph Strousse’s Declaration of Intent log or registry entry.
- and an invoice for $5.88 to cover postage & copies! That’s it! A steal at twice the price!
What Have We Learned
According to the naturalization records all three gentlemen (Joseph, Anthony & Vincent) were from different countries! Joseph was from the Grand Duchy of Warsaw (Poland!). Anthony was from the Kingdom of Bavaria, and Vincent was from Austria! So much for my theory of co-migration! This also goes to show that the original documents are key to certainty. Vincent said he was from Austria, Bohemia, Germany or Switzerland…depending time and place he was recording the information. I’m going with the naturalization record as as close to definitive as I can get. Note: see updated information below
Even though they didn’t co-migrate, they must have made “quick” friends. Maybe the Germanic roots, similar languages and their Catholic faith were the common denominators that transcended nationalities. Because Joseph is Anthony’s sponsor/witness on his naturalization papers. This also tells us Joseph was the first to arrive. And as mentioned in the last post Joseph and Anthony were Vincent’s children’ s godparents.
The New Clues
Vincent Smarsh’s naturalization record did offer up a couple interesting nuggets of information.
- First, on the same document we see him use both the “old world” and the “Americanized” versions of his name, namely “Wenzeslaus Smerz” and “Vincent Smarsh.” I’ve never seen both on the same document before, and it confirms that they are one in the same person. This also tells me that as early as 1856 (Declaration of Intent) he was using “Vincent Smarsh.” This also gives me first person documentation of his “old world” name and spelling.
- We now know that the Declaration of Intent was completed in 1856. And the rules were that you had to be in country for at least two years to submit this form. This provides further evidence that his supposed year of immigration 1853 – gathered from the census records – is probable.
- And finally, we learn that his sponsor for naturalization was Henry Strunk, to which you may say “so?” I would agree that this would be a “nothing” find if it were an unfamiliar name to the Smarsh history. However, it isn’t. The Smarshes ultimately migrated to St. Mark’s, Kansas (just west of Wichita, Kansas) to help settle that German farming community. Guess what OTHER families settled St. Mark’s? The Strunks. Indeed, the Strunk’s married into the Smarsh family. This can’t be a coincidence.
The Strunks in St. Mark’s are, according to my research, from Germany, and migrated straight from Germany to Kansas. And unfortunately I don’t have a “Henry Strunk” among them. But I’m not giving up on this. There could be another line of the family that stayed in Pennsylvania, or maybe the Strunks of Germany weren’t far geographically from the Smarshes of Austria. Who knows?
And on we keep searching. Isn’t that how it goes? You find one answer and it opens up more questions? That, my friend, is the joy of genealogy.
Since the publication of this post, I’ve learned more about the Austrian Empire from my friend, Robert Bee. He tells me that “Bohemia and Moravia were part of the Austrian Empire from about 1630 to 1917. ”
Really? The Kingdom of Bavaria was part of the Austrian Empire at the time Joseph, Anthony & Vincent migrated. And while Joseph & Anthony referenced “Bohemia” on their naturalization papers and Vincent reference Austria, they could very well be from the same area – the Kingdom of Bavaria WITHIN the Austrian Empire. It makes perfect sense that they would or could have referenced different entities. I tell people I’m from Kansas or the United State depending on the situation.
My friend, Robert Bee, goes on to tell me that during the Austrian Empire the Czech towns were given German names. No wonder it is so confusing! Is the town Austrian, Czech or German?
Until next time…