The journey to “the homeland” has begun in earnest! After soaking up the culture of the Bavaria for the past few days, today we boarded a bus and drove to Prague in the Czech Republic. The purpose of the Munich part of the trip was to get a taste of what our ancestors’ German cultural homeland is like; this second part will investigate their lands from which they physically sprung.
165 years ago, the Bier and Langer strands of my family tree were living what I imagine to have been an uneventful life in Bohemia. In fact, their families lived less than 20 km apart from each other in, essentially, the same county (Pardubice) of the now Czech Republic. For a brief review, here’s a copy of my father, Thomas Bier’s, ancestor tree:
Did the Bier / Jiru and Langer / Janisch families know each other in the old country? Who’s to say. The Langer / Janisch clan emigrated about 30 years prior to the Bier / Jiru family–in 1853. Further, the Langer family settled in a large enclave of German Bohemians in the Watertown area. While Watertown is also in southern Wisconsin, it lies over 30 miles away from the greater Janesville area that attracted the Biers.
Wouldn’t be an amazing story, though, if my Grandpa Vincent Bier and Grandma Mary Alice (Langer) Bier’s families were friends 3-4 generations in advance of their wedding? Some exciting sleuthing into the historical record provides some tantalizing clues that this was, in fact, the case.
Franz Langer was Mary Alice’s Great-Grandfather; he was the one to make the move to the United States with his wife, Barbara Janisch. Valentine Bier was Vincent’s Grandfather and was the emigree. And, according to a brief clipping in the Rock County Recorder Times, Valentine actually served as a pallbearer for Franz Langer at his death in 1894. While the name is actually spelled “Valentine Beers,” it seems reasonable to assume that this was, in fact, Valentine Bier. Both men attended the same church, St. Mary’s in Janesville. The timing also lines up:
Another source that I frequently reference is the Bier Family Journal. This ledger-like document chronicles the daily life of the Valentine Bier family from 1899-1903; most of the Valentine Bier children contributed at some time or another, although Father Charles Bier was the most prolific diarist.
The diary generally concludes each day by enumerating the visitors that stopped by. Take a look at who visited the house in the summer of 1899:
Wed. Aug 16, 1899: Weather is quite agreeable, but rather warm in the afternoon. Father, Louis and Fr. begin to haul manure. Chas sees the great base ball game taking place between Janesville and Milwaukee league teams. The score is Mil 2. Janesville 0. Visitors of the eve at home are Mr. Emil Langer Senior and Junior, Uncle Anton, and cousin Chas. Bier. Fr. Baar, and Fr. Schneider, Jno. and Bertha. Jno. begins tobacco harvesting.
Emil Langer Junior would be Mary Alice’s father. Edward, the youngest of the Valentine Bier clan, was Vincent’s father. At the date of that visit at which they surely met, Emil Langer, Jr., was 14. Edward Bier 10 years old. Their children would marry in just over 47 years.
Wow! Genealogy is FUN!
In a few short days, we will retrace beginning of these families brief separation in time and space…