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200 Years in Germany

Eising Family

The History of the Eising Family - Chapter 1

The earliest traces of the EISING family can be found in birth, christening, and marriage records of the Catholic Church in Germany. “Parish records” were handwritten in Suetterlin script, employing a combination of German and Latin. These valuable documents provide the only reliable source of information about normal working class citizens over the past several centuries in Germany. The Mormon Church has microfilmed many of these parish records and has transcribed key information into a format that is accessible via the Internet. It is, however, important to remember that the ability to locate accurate information from these records is impacted by the handwriting skills of the parish priest who happened to record the original entry, the quality and density of the ink used by the priest, the environment in which the records have been stored for several centuries, and the expertise of the filming and transcription staff. It should not be surprising that many individual entries simply cannot be read or transcribed. 



These Examples provide a typical example of a birth/christening record for Theodore EISING. At a minimum, birth/christening records typically provide date/time of the birth and christening, parents’ names, whether the parents were married, Godparents’ names, and the name of the individual who recorded the information.

St. Ludgerus Catholic Church
The EISING and EISSING surnames first appear in parish records during the mid-1500s in the region which today is between the city of Stuttgart and the “Black Forest”2. By the mid-1600s, the EISING/EISSING families had moved into the northern Rhine River region that is today part of the State of Westphalia. This movement northward was most likely an effort to escape the dangerous political and religious environment associated with the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). During this period the European countries lost more than 7 million people to war and outbreaks of the plague. The German region lost nearly one-third of their total population. More than 95 per cent of those who then lived in the German region made their living directly from the land or herding, so damaged farmland and dead livestock meant the people were starving while living in poverty conditions. At the same time, the political structure of the region consisted of 350 small independent divisions that routinely battled with each other and with outside invaders. Peasants normally leased land from the local aristocrats or the Catholic Church, with no guarantee that the lease would be renewed the following year. Along with the land rent came taxes that constantly increased. If a peasant family could not pay, they were evicted and another family quickly took their place.

Location of Billerbeck on a current map of Germany
By the mid-1700s, the ancestors of the Quincy, Illinois EISING family were recorded in the St. Ludgerus Catholic Church (image above) parish records as living in and around the village of Billerbeck. Billerbeck is today a small, picturesque village in the German State of Westphalia, about 25 miles east of Germany’s border with the Netherlands. It is now a city of 10,300 residents and has a recorded history of over 700 years since its founding in the year 1302. The image to the right shows the location of Billerbeck on a current map of Germany. And the images below provides a glimpse of modern Billerbeck-Kirchstrasse - Church Street & Billerbeck-Marktplatz - Market Place4.

Billerbeck-Kirchstrasse - Church Street  Billerbeck-Marktplatz - Market Place

Generation #1

  • John Theodore EISSING & Ann Christine STEGEMAN (m. 1760s)
  • John Bernard Henry EISSING, son (c. 25 Aug 1769) <<<
  • Ann Gertrude EISSING, daughter (c. 18 Mar 1773)
  • Mary Agnes EISSING, daughter (c. 18 Oct 1776)
Note that in this and subsequent generation charts, an "<<<" & underline identifies the individual that will carry forward to sire the next generation.

Based upon currently identified parish records5, the EISING family history begins with the christening on 5 May 1743 of Ann Christine STEGEMAN at St. Ludgerus Catholic Church in Billerbeck. She was the daughter of Bernard and Ann Wenning STEGEMAN. Sometime in the 1760s, Ann Christine STEGEMAN married John Theodore EISSING. While the record for this marriage has not been found, to provide an exact wedding date, at least three of their children were later christened at St. Ludgerus Catholic Church – John Bernard Henry EISSING on 25 Aug 1769, Ann Gertrude EISSING on 18 Mar 1773, and Mary Agnes EISSING on 18 Oct 1776.

It is interesting to note that this generation of EISSING children were born during the period in which the American colonies declared their independence from England, formed the United States of America, and fought the Revolutionary War. More than half a century later, John Theodore and Ann Christine’s grandson and his family would leave their “Mother Land” to start a new life in America.

Generation #2

  • John Bernard Henry EISSING & Ann Elizabeth REERS (m. 25 Nov 1792)
  • Catharine Elizabeth EISSING, daughter (c. 15 Nov 1793)
  • John Bernard Henry EISSING, son (c. 8 Jan 1796) <<<
  • Ann Mary EISSING, daughter (c. 1 Mar 1797)
  • John Albert EISSING, son (c. 8 Oct 1799)
  • John Theodore EISSING, son (c. 11 Nov 1808) 
On 25 Nov 1792, John Bernard Henry EISSING (Generation 2) married Ann Elizabeth REERS at St. Ludgerus6. Ann Elizabeth was the daughter of John Herman and Dorothea Kiellers REERS. Elizabeth must have been born about 1768. Her sisters were Ann Gertrude, Ann Barbara, and Ann Mary. It should be pointed out that it was not uncommon to give the same first name to multiple children in the same family, since they would be known by their second name in day-to-day activities. The first name would be used only for formal documents.

John Bernard and Catharine Elizabeth lived in Billerbeck and their children were christened in St. Ludgerus – Catharine Elizabeth EISSING on 15 Nov 1793, John Bernard Henry EISSING (Generation 3) on 8 Jan 1796, Ann Mary EISSING on 1 Mar 1797, John Albert EISSING on 8 Oct 1799, and John Theodore EISSING on 11 Nov 1808. Note that “John” was used as the first name for all the boys in the EISSING family.

Ann Mary would take William GROENING as her husband on 2 May 1819. At some point in her life Ann Mary apparently decided to transpose her first and second names, becoming Mary Ann. In 1836 she would serve as godmother to her older brother’s daughter, Mary Ann EISING (Generation 3).

From an historical perspective, it was during Generation 2 that Napoleon began his rise to power, leading to the French occupation of Western Europe, including Germany. Emigration from Germany was tightly controlled during this timeframe. The War of 1812 between America and England finally stopped all migration to the United States for two years.

Generation #3

  • John Bernard Henry EISSING and Catharine Elisabeth STEINING
  • Mary Ann EISING, daughter (c. 28 Mar 1836 - Germany)
  • Theodore EISING, son (c. 23 Mar 1841 - Germany)
  • Mary Christina EISING, daughter (c. 17 Jan 1844 - Germany)
  • Henry Bernard EISING, son (b. 28 Mar 1848 - Illinois) <<<
  • Catharine EISING, daughter (b. Apr 1849 – Illinois
  • ) Elisabeth EISING, daughter (b. 1850 – Illinois)
  • Francis EISING, daughter (b. 1853 – Illinois) 

The St. Ludgerus parish records7 identify two marriages involving a “John Bernard EISING”. The first wedding is with Catharine Elizabeth THIES on 15 Aug 1820. The second marriage is recorded on 13 May 1821 with Ann Gertrude WALTERMAN. There are no birth or christening records listed from either marriage. It is not known for certain whether either or both of these marriages involved the “John Bernard EISING from Generation 2”, but he would have been in his mid-20s at those times. It seems unusual that he would wait until he was nearly 40 years old to marry. We do know that at on 1 March 1832, John Bernard married Catharine Elizabeth STENING, daughter of Bernard Herman and Ann Catharine Groenin STENING in St. Pankratius Catholic Church in Gescher (a small town about 12 miles southwest of Billerbeck – current population about 15,000). Elizabeth was born on 8 Oct 1813, so she was 17 years younger than her husband.

At least three children were born to Bernard and Elizabeth in Gescher and christened at St. Pankratius Catholic Church:
  • Mary Ann EISING was born at 2:00 PM on 27 March 1836 and christened the next day. Mary Ann’s godparents were her uncle, Frank Anthony STEINING, and her aunt, Mary Ann Eissing GROENING, from Billerbeck.
  • Theodore EISING was born at 1:00 AM on 23 March 1841 and christened later that day. Theodore’s godparents were his uncle Theodore EISING of Billerbeck and Catharine GROENING of Gross Reeken.
  • Mary Christine EISING was born at 3:00 AM on 16 January 1844 and christened the next day. Mary Christine’s godparents were her aunt, Elizabeth Eising Drochter of Billerbeck and John Bernard Paschert.
We can only imagine how bad the living conditions must have been for the EISING family. Decades of war, repeated epidemics of plague, widespread unemployment, overcrowding and a bankrupt economy must have made the stories about life in America seem like fairy tales. Millions of people from all over Europe were seeking a better life across the Atlantic. 

The formal record we have of the EISING emigration from Germany is an entry in an 1845 “Application to Emigrate” from Germany to America:

Cath Elis Steining EISING, wife
Theodor, child
M Christ, child
M A, child

Coming from families that had lived for generations within a few miles of Billerbeck, it must have been a very difficult decision for John Bernard and Catherine Elizabeth to permanently leave their homeland and embark upon a dangerous 7000-mile journey with their young children to a city that had only been carved out of the Illinois wilderness some 20 years earlier. At the same time, it is known that other families were leaving for America from the Gescher area, with the assurance that in the New World everyone would be treated equally. It is likely that some of their friends convinced the EISING family to head specifically for Quincy, Illinois (e.g., many members of the MAAS family relocated from Gescher to Quincy during this period).

The trip from Gescher to America in 1845 must have taken several months. It would probably have included a train trip southwest to the French port of Le Havre, lodging in that city for several days or weeks until passage could be arranged on a sailing ship to America. Bernard’s United States naturalization application9 indicates that they left Le Havre on 9 Oct 1845 and arrived in New Orleans in December. We know from later reports10 that the EISING family took up residence in New Orleans for two years before proceeding up the Mississippi River to Quincy. It is possible that they needed this time to save money for the final leg of their journey.

Based upon what is recorded in later church and census records, it seems safe to assume that at least John Bernard, Catharine Elizabeth, Mary Ann and Mary Christine successfully completed the arduous trip from Gescher, Germany to Quincy, Adams County, Illinois and established themselves there by about 1847. There is no known record of Theodore after the German emigration request in 1845.

  1. From Kirchenbuch (Parish Records for St. Pankratius Catholic Church in Grescher – 1822 to 1853), recorded on Mormon microfilm #0872016.
  2. Demographic information on early EISING/EISSING families was obtained from generic searches of the International Genealogical Index, accessed from www.familysearch.com
  3. Essential Atlas of the World, Barnes & Noble Books, New York, 2002.
  4. Source: www.cityalbum.de/germany/billerbeck.htm
  5. Information related to Generation 1 was obtained from Kirchenbuch (Parish Records for St. Ludgerus Catholic Church – 1757 to 1875), recorded on Mormon microfilms #0873116 and #0873117.
  6. Information related to Generation 2 was obtained from Kirchenbuch (Parish Records for St. Ludgerus Catholic Church – 1757 to 1875), recorded on Mormon microfilms#0873116 and #0873117.
  7. Information related to Generation 3 was obtained from Kirchenbuch (Parish Records for St. Ludgerus Catholic Church in Billerbeck – 1757 to 1875), recorded on Mormon microfilms #0873116 and #0873117 and from Kirchenbuch (Parish Records for St. Pankratius Catholic Church in Grescher – 1822 to 1853), recorded on Mormon microfilm #0872016.
  8. Friedrich Mueller, “Westfaelishe Auswanderer Im 19.Jahrhundert – Auswanderung aus dem Regierungsbezirk Muenster, Part 1, 1803-1850” (Westphalian Emigrants in the 19th Century- Emigrations from the Governmental District of Muenster, Part 1, 1803-1850).
  9. Alien Declaration, dated 4 Nov 1848 in Quincy, Adams County, Illinois, signed by Peter Lott, Court Clerk. Document is available in the Circuit Court Office in the Adams County Court House.
  10.  Hobart, Biographical History, 1908. Part of historical collection at the Hancock County Illinois Historical Society in Carthage, Hancock County, Illinois.