Surname Saturday: R + Umlaut O + H + RIG = Roahrig

In my research of Kathryn Roahrig Bradford’s family, I came across 8 different spellings which indicated to me that this foreign name included a vowel alien to the English language.  On one side journey I inspected a naturalization document which included the applicant’s signature. ” AHA!” I thought.  There is a German vowel: the umlaut O, the O with two dots over it, the O that sounds like perk or burn.  THAT vowel.  In most cases one would transcribe that letter into English or French with an “o” followed by an “e”, but many, many transcribers have not followed that rule.  Somewhere along the way, my ancestors’ just settled on the spelling R-O-A-H-R-I-G and standardized the family’s name. My ancestors then were probably from an area of Europe that spoke German. That U.S. Federal 1850 census lists Frederick Roahrig as from France; the 1870 census states that he was a native of Alsace.  THAT is the clue.  Alsace is a region of France that borders with Germany, and has been the site of political turmoil for centuries, rocking back and forth between French and German control.  At the time Frederick shows up in Ohio it was considered France.  His family may have spoken French, German or a combination of the languages.

I am exceedingly happy that fellow family historian, Doug Kreis, has shared his Register Reports with me.  THANK YOU AGAIN, DOUG!  For included in his massive projects are obituaries, which have some amazing data sets in aggregate.

Frederick Roahrig’s parents were Jean George and Eve Gerling Roahrig, born in Buhl, Alsace, France at the turn of the 19th century.  They married in Buhl on 31 December 1817 and had six children: Marie Eve, Magdalena, Frederick, George, Salome, and David.  All were born in Buhl before 1835.  I had found Frederick, husband to Elizabeth and father of John in the 1850 census.  Putting this much information together I can conclude that Frederick emigrated from Alsace between 1835 and 1850.

I swept my eyes back over the report again, this time concentrating on obituaries of Frederick, his wife Elizabeth Lapp, and his sister, Magdelena Reiger.  From these three obituaries I pull this data set:

Frederick Roahrig was born in 7 January 1827 in Buhl, Alsace, France.  He came to America with his parents and in a few years married Elizabeth Lapp Roahrig (born 26 August 1832 in Muskingum County) on 6 April 1849 in Muskingum County, Ohio.  Elizabeth died on 4 January 1900 in Muskingum County; Frederick died in Muskingum County on 4 April 1908.  They are both buried in the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church cemetery.

Magdelena Roahrig Reiger was born 22 December 1822 in Buhl, Alsace, France.   She was baptized as an infant and joined the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hatten in 1837.  She emigrated to America in 1847 and later that year married George Reiger. She died in 31 August 1893 in Muskingum County, Ohio, and was buried in the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church cemetery.

Looking into the history of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Muskingum County, Ohio adds one more important detail: it was founded in 1839 by sixteen, German speaking, Alsatian immigrant families.

For now, my family story flows something like this: Jean George and Eve Gerling Roahrig, fed up with the political turmoil of their region and lured by the relative calm of America, emigrated in 1847, with their living children to America.  They landed at New York and came up the Erie Canal to Buffalo, then continued on westward to the open lands of Ohio.   Or they landed in Philadelphia and moved through Lancaster, Pennsylvania before heading out to the German speaking Ohio communities.  There, in Muskingum County, Ohio they were welcomed by the Lapps and the Zimmers, the Mosers and the Kreis’.  The children married, and had children who prospered.  And I am here, six generations later, to tell their story.

Next week: Sing praises for safe travels–in time.  Ahnentafels that will lead me to five ancestral immigrants!!

Surname Saturday: Roahrig the Immigrant

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

My great-grandmother Kathryn Bradford lived 107 years, long enough to hold my baby girl in her lap for a five generation portrait. I remember childhood visits to Coshocton, Ohio,  where Grandma Katie lived with her son Carlos and his wife Betty.  She seemed incredibly old even then, at a mere 80-something, and my Aunt Betty knew that the slow pace of conversation needed to be broken up by a game or two of softball.  Only a few facts filtered through my child’s hood of life:

  • Katie wasn’t bored viewing life through a TV screen and someday I would understand;
  • a young Katie had spied on her elder sister, Sidna, entertaining a beau in the parlor, and had giggled at their stolen kisses;
  • and Katie Bradford’s maiden name was a tongue twister–Roahrig.

Go ahead.  I dare you repeat that three times fast and not giggle.

I have never met anyone else with that name.  I have not run across articles or histories or songs that include that name.  Roahrig.  What ancestor brought this surname to America?

Surname Saturday: Search 2011!

Roahrig, it is.  The first of 12 names that I will trace this year, back to its place of origin.

I started my name-hunt by visiting my Ancestry generated family tree, and ploughed through the fields of census data.  Within a short while I had uncovered 8 spellings for this surname–Rohrig, Rarick, Rayrick, Roehrig, Roarig, Rearick, Rauhrig and Roahrig–with families residing in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana.   I found one path back to 1850 that held particular promise.

A promising line of thought

I had gone backward from Katie to her father and mother, John and Matilda Kline Roahrig of Ohio, and from there I went backward to find John with his parents, Frederick and Elizabeth Lapp in 1870,1860,and 1850, always in Ohio. The 1870 data includes country of origin, and Frederick listed France while Elizabeth and all of their children claimed Ohio.  If this Frederick Roahrig is the grandfather of my Kathryn Roahrig Bradford, then he is also the Immigrant Roahrig .  To gather a bit more about Frederick’s country of origin I returned to the 1880 census, which asked folks to name not only their country of origin was but also their parents’.

Interesting!  Frederick Roahrig states that he and his parents are from Alsace.  Elizabeth states that she is from Ohio, and that her father was from Wurtimberg, Germany, and her mother was from Alsace.

Now it was time for me to verify that this path connects the correct dots from me to the Immigrant.  I expanded my search to include Find A Grave, and was rewarded with confirmation through obituaries and photos!!    Fellow family historian, Doug Kreis, has done some remarkable work, and lucky for me, his research includes the Roahrig family!

Just what sort of name is Roahrig?  German? French? Why did he and his parents immigrate, and what brought them to Adamsville, Muskingham County, Ohio?

I have hunches and a few clues.  Stop back next week to see where they lead.


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