Children of Austria

My fourth great grandparents on the Fritz branch were born, lived, and died in Austria. Their son, Benedict, is my third great grandfather, and was one of three in his family (as far as I know) that immigrated to the United States.

The life of Benedict was recorded on pages 276 and 277 in the book, “Portrait and Biographical Album of Wapello County, Iowa”, published in 1887. From this account, I have been able to piece together bits about Benedict’s siblings, yet I have been unable to find out anything about these siblings beyond this account.

B FRITZ, …, is a native of Austria, born in the beautiful Province of Tyrol, on the 15th of October, 1826. He is the son of Benedict and Virneck (Yocum) Fritz, the latter of whom died … at the age of about forty years … when her son … was a lad ten years old. … The father of our subject died in his native country in about 1859 …

There’s a wealth of information about Benedict and his siblings here. Virneck would have been about 30 years old when Benedict was born, leaving a lot of room for when elder siblings may have been born. She died in about 1836, and there is not account of the Benedict marrying again. It can be determined that the younger Benedict’s siblings will all have been born between 1827 and 1836.

Benedict and His Siblings

The parental household of our subject consisted of several children, five sons and two daughters.

Both of Benedict’s parents had passed on before this account was written, so this is likely an accurate count of Benedict and his siblngs.

Joseph came to this country with the subject of our sketch, and died in Columbus, Ohio, in 1884; Benedict of this history was the second son; Christian is engaged in farming near Des Moines, Iowa; Anthony, a baker by trade, is in his native land; Priscilla died in the old country in about 1873; the second child died in infancy.

This fills out information on half of the siblings:

Joseph. Immigrated to the United States. As the eldest son, he wsa born before early 1826 (the birth year of the second son, Benedict). He died in Columbus, Ohio.

Benedict. Immigrated to the United States. Second born. At the time of this account, he was still alive, so it’s only known he was born October 15th, 1826. (Elsewhere, the “Iowa Deaths and Burials, 1850-1990” lists his date of death as September 21, 1891.)

Christian. Immigrated to the United States. Left Austria prior to Joseph and Benedict. Born after the first and second sons, so he was born after 1826. He lived in Des Moines, Iowa. His death isn’t mentioned, so either he was still alive when this account was taken, or had passed away and Benedict was unaware of it. The account was published in 1887, but it’s unknown how many years the account was taken before it was published.

Anthony. Remained in Austria. Born after the first and second sons, so he was born after 1826. It’s unknown whether he was alive at the time of the account, as it’s known whether Benedict would know if his brother passed away.

Priscilla. She never left Austria. She died in 1873, when Benedict was about 47. It’s unknown if she was older or younger than Benedict, but because their mother died when Benedict was 10, Priscilla could not be any younger than 37.

There should be a fifth son and a second daughter, but the only remaining mention is about “the second child” dying in infancy. Does this refer to “the second” daughter? Where is the final son?

Mr. Fritz left his native country for the United States in the spring of 1853. The voyage occupied thirty-six days, and after landing in New York City …

It’s known that Joseph traveled with Benedict. The source “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957” lists a Jean and Benedict Fritz traveling from Austria to New York. This passenger list is dated April 5, 1853. The details all match with Benedict’s account, except for the name of his brother. This Jean is two years older than this Benedict. I do not have a birth year for Joseph.

… after landing in New York City he proceeded to Cleveland, Ohio, where his brother Christian had previously located. Upon arriving he found that the latter had left there…

Not only did Christian immigrate prior to Spring, 1853, but he lived in Ohio until before 1853. Eventually he found himself in Des Moines, Iowa. Because this account was published in 1887, it can be determined that Christian may have lived in Iowa for over 35 years. It’s possible he died in Iowa. These give a place to start looking for a death record, but it’s possible he lived at other placed before and after his time in Iowa.

With only United States records available to me, I should be able to find more information on Benedict, Joseph, and Christian. So far, Joseph and Christian have evaded me. The lives and deaths of these two brothers remained a mystery.

Newspapers of Blakesburg

My search for Christian renewed when I happened upon Blakesburg, Iowa newspaper transcripts.

The transcripts cover the “local events” section of the newspaper, and this has been a miniature wealth of information on the children of Benedict Fritz. It also proved to enlighten ever so slightly on the life of his brother, Christian. (He would have been 90-something if he were still alive when these newspaper articles were written.)

From the Blakesburg Excelsior, Thursday, February 26th, 1925:

Mrs. William Shea returned home from Dexter, Iowa, last week, where she had been called to attend the funeral of her aunt, Mrs. Christian Fritz.

Mrs. William Shea is Benedict’s daughter Gertrude. Mrs. Christian Fritz would be the wife of Christian. She must have passed away in February of 1925, perhaps in or near the city of Dexter, but I cannot find any information on this death.

The second piece of information is from the same paper, on Thursday, July 7th, 1927:

Mrs. Christian Fritz and two sons of Norwalk have been visiting at the [Benedict] Fritz home.

Now wait a minute — didn’t she die two years ago? Perhaps Christian had a son named Christian, and this is the son’s wife and kids. If Christian had a son, he likely would be about 60-something years old at the time of this publication. This would also explain the discrepancy between the funeral in Dexter, Iowa and the sons from Norwalk, Iowa.

This information gives a starting place on finding something concrete on the members of Christian’s family. Simply knowing they exist is a good starting place.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *