Why a web site on Newark? I’m asked
that question quite frequently. Maybe it’s because my ancestors
lived there for over 100 years. I don’t really know.
As I noted before, I was oblivious to my roots for most of my
life. My family was very small, the only Geisheimers that I knew
were my brother, mother and father. I had two sets of cousins but
they were my father’s sister’s family and my mother’s
sister’s family, so their names were different. My paternal
grandparents had died previously, leaving only my maternal grandparents.
Four Geisheimers, that’s it. From time to time I would run
across someone who had heard of someone else named Geisheimer, but
I never ran across one. In fact, to this very day, I’ve never
met another Geisheimer face to face.
One day, about 15 years ago, my cousin and his wife came to my
mother’s house to discuss family history. I attended but didn’t
pay much attention. At that time I had my father’s attitude
of let the past lie. It wasn’t until 5 years ago that I became
interested in finding my roots. My cousin’s family had done
extensive research into the Geisheimer name in Germany so there
wasn’t much digging to do there, just read their research.
What I did embark on was researching my father’s roots in
Newark and my mother’s father’s family in Newark and
before Newark. My mother’s maternal side had been in the United
States since at least 1700 and came from Haggerstown, Maryland.
She used to joke that they were a mixture of English, French, Indian
and Hillbilly. I’ve done some research in that area and found
that they were probably mostly German with the exception of a Huguenot
branch. The Huguenots were French Protestants who were members of
the Reformed Church established in France by John Calvin in about
1555, and who, due to religious persecution (including death), were
forced to flee France to other countries in the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries. Some things never change.
Ok, where to start. I decided on the Geisheimers in Newark. I
knew from my cousin that three brothers came to and lived in Newark,
another stayed in Philadelphia. For anyone who has done German research,
you’ve probably run across the problem of every son having
the same first name. In my case it was Frederick. Frederick Hugo,
Frederick Herman, Frederick Otto and in Philly, Frederick Ludwig.
What they did upon arriving in the US was to reverse their names
so everyone had a middle name of Frederick and a different first
The first step was the Newark City Directories. Newark started
to publish directories in 1835/36. The ones from that date until
1850 are on microfiche. The ones from 1851 to 1935 are on microfilm.
The directories go until the 1960’s. The ones after 1935 are
hard to find and a lot of years are missing. You can find these
directories at the Newark Library, New Jersey State Library, Alexander
Library at Rutgers New Brunswick and the New Jersey Historical Society
in Newark. Varying amounts of information can be gleaned from the
directories, such as occupations, addresses, and spouses and in
later ones, moving locations. From these I was able to track where
the brothers lived and their occupations. Herman made segars and
owned a confectionary store on Orange Street. He was also involved
in city government from time to time as a Weights & Measures
officer. Otto made segars and Hugo worked for Ballantine as a driver.
Hugo also had a go at starting a trucking company but he gave that
As I followed my ancestors through the city directories the inevitable
happened, the listing stopped. Of course this meant that they had
died that year or the year before. Where were they buried? That
was easy, my mother said my grandfather and grandmother were in
Fairmount Cemetery. If they were buried there then maybe my great-grandfather’s
brothers were there also, so off to Fairmount Cemetery I went. Luckily,
Fairmount Cemetery is still an active cemetery with over 600 interments
per year. The other two large non-denominational cemeteries in Newark
are Woodland Cemetery and Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Newark had other
cemeteries but they were long closed (see my section on Newark Cemeteries).
Woodland Cemetery is basically abandoned and Mount Pleasant Cemetery
only does a handful of interments per year. What I found at Fairmount
Cemetery took me by surprise. Fairmount Cemetery is very open to
research and I was able to get the alphabetical interment books
and go through them. Geisheimer children and lots of Geisheimer
children, 14 in all. Whose were they? They must have belonged to
Herman and Otto, since I knew that my grandfather only had one son
and a stepson. I did find Otto and his wife there but no Herman
or his wife. Where did they go?
How am I going to figure out all these interments? Birth and death
certificates are the answer. That meant a trip to Trenton. The New
Jersey State Archives there yielded answers. Herman had eleven children,
five survived to adulthood. Otto had 7 from his first wife, all
died and 2 from his second wife, only one survived. These statistics
were not strange to that era in Newark. Of the 7 surviving Geisheimer
children, four were males. I knew of my grandfather but what of
the other 3, where were they now? And where are they and Herman
and his wife interred? How am I going to get those answers?
Herman and his wife were easy to figure out, newspaper obituaries.
Early Newark newspapers did not have many obituaries. It seems that
they started to be universally in fashion towards the late 1800’s.
The Newark Evening News yielded the obituaries and accompanying
articles on their deaths. Herman committed suicide by gunshot to
the head when he was 80 years old. His wife died a more conventional
death 11 years later. They were both cremated. No wonder why I couldn’t
find them in any cemetery.
That left Herman’s children to find, three females and two
males. The articles I found showed that two of the females had married
and the three other children still alive. The 1915 Newark City Directory
showed Herman Jr. moving to Chicago. A friend of mine suggested
trying to find the wills of Herman and his wife. They may yield
some clues. I found both wills at the Superior Court of New Jersey
Records Management Center in Trenton. Herman’s will yielded
no clues but his wife’s unlocked most of the family mysteries.
From that will I was able to figure out that two daughters married
into semi wealthy families, Herman was described as a wayward son,
and Fred was left the bulk of the estate to care for his retarded
Since I could no longer follow Fred in the city directories I
had to figure out how to find his death date. Luckily, he left a
will and it was in Trenton. The will showed his date of death and
while Fred never married (he lived his life taking care of his retarded
sister), he did have a female companion. She was left all of his
estate to take care of his sister and to continue to pay the premiums
on the life insurance policy he had on his brother Herman so in
the event of Herman’s death, the money would be there for
his burial. Did the female companion carry out his wishes, I don’t
know. I haven’t been able to figure out that mystery yet.
Where was Herman Jr.? That and all other information on him from
the time of his moving to Chicago is still undiscovered. What happened
to the retarded sister, I don’t know? These mysteries remain
to be solved. The only thing that I am sure of is Herman’s
line has died out in this area. I don’t know if wayward Herman
Jr. had a family.
Well, if you have gotten this far, you’re probably wondering
what happened to Otto’s family. Otto’s surviving son,
August, had a son that he named August. He, in turn had two sons,
John and Glenn. These two sons are roughly the same ages as my brother
and myself. The strange thing about this is that from all accounts
that I have found, August never knew my father, his second cousin.
But yet they both named their second son, Glenn. It’s strange,
but true. I’ve never met John or Glenn. Hopefully, one day
I can meet John. Glenn passed away in 1994 at the age of 42.
Why did the four brothers come to the US? There’s no way
of really telling. But I did get a clue at Fairmount Cemetery. Otto’s
children were all buried in one plot. The plot wasn’t owned
by Otto, it was owned by a Charles Kolb. Charles Kolb was the brother’s
uncle and came to the US before the brothers. Did he send for them?
I’ll never know.
I’ve put a lot of work into making an Internet presence.
Besides this site, I also have a personal site with genealogical
information on it. It’s been on the net for many years and
in every search engine. Besides the web sites, I’ve hosted
many mailing lists. With all this presence on the Internet, my biggest
break came by snail mail, from a person who doesn’t have Internet
The four Geisheimer brothers who came to the US from Stuttgart,
Germany were part of a family of 19 children. My cousin had traced
all of them but one, a male. We’ve never been able to find
what happened to him(the other males had died in childhood). During
the summer my mother received mail from Germany. It turned out to
be the descendant of the missing male, a German cousin. This brother
remained in Germany when his four brothers came to the United States.