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Arrived to their destination? The life of Christian and Emma Kemmner.

Aktualisiert: Juni 3

This is the English translation of Am Ziel angekommen? Das Leben von Christian und Emma Kemmner.


Christian Friedrich Kemmner was my great-grandfather's brother. He was born on July 30, 1874 in Unterensingen as the first of five sons of Matthäus and Fredericke Kemmner (Evangelical Church Unterensingen, 1874). Three days later, on August 2nd, 1874, he was baptized in the same place (Evangelical Church Unterensingen, 1874). Unterensingen is a tranquil village south of Stuttgart and at that time had about 800 inhabitants (Baden-Württemberg State Statistical Office, 1871). As the eldest son of the farming family, Christian certainly had to work hard so that the family could handle the agricultural tasks. Christian probably attended the local school in Unterensingen. On April 22, 1888, Christian was confirmed with 17 other children (Unterensingen Evangelical Church, 1888), which traditionally ended school (Kemmner, 2019). He then learned the profession of a butcher (Evangelische Kirche Eglosheim, 1906).


At the age of 32, Christian married Emma Schoen in Geisselhardt on October 25, 1906, which is about 50 km north of Unterensingen (Evangelische Kirche Eglosheim, 1906).


The marriage register reveals that Christian lived as a butcher in Backnang, while Emma was a house daughter in Steinbrück (Evangelische Kirche Geißelhardt, 1906). At that time, house daughters were young women who lived with another family for a certain period of time to learn how to do housekeeping (Duden, 2020). The register also shows that the proclamation of the marriage, which is intended to make objections to the marriage possible, was carried out on October 21, four days before their wedding (Evangelische Kirche Geißelhardt, 1906). On October 25, 1906, both the church wedding and civil marriage took place (Evangelische Kirche Geißelhardt, 1906). Instead of an indication of where the family register can be found, it was written: "Handed over to Backnang" (Evangelische Kirche Geißelhardt, 1906).


His wife Emma was born in Steinbrück on May 16, 1879 and baptized in Geisselhardt three weeks later (Evangelische Kirche Forchtenberg, 1879). Emma's parents Karl and Karoline Pauline Schön had six other children (Evangelische Kirche Forchtenberg, 1875). Unfortunately, Emma's mother Karoline died in 1885 (Evangelical Church Forchtenberg, 1885), just a few days before Emma's sixth birthday. Emma's father Karl married again a year after the death of his first wife and had another eleven children (Evangelische Kirche Forchtenberg, 1875). The 18 children were born in a period of 23 years (Evangelical Church Forchtenberg, 1875).

Aus späteren Aufzeichnungen geht auch hervor, dass Christian 178 cm groß war (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1907). Er hatte braune Haare und blaue Augen (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service,1907). Emma hingegen war 168 cm groß und hatte den Angaben zufolge schwarze Haare und Augen (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service,1907). Diesen Angaben entsprechend wurde Emma vermutlich auch als "schwarze Emma" bezeichnet, so hatte mein Opa es ist seiner Jugendzeit gehört.


Later records also show that Christian was 178 cm tall (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1907). He had brown hair and blue eyes (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1907). Emma, on the other hand, was 168 cm tall and reportedly had black hair and eyes (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1907). According to this information, Emma was probably also referred to as "black Emma", which my grandpa could remember hearing in his youth. About a year after their wedding, the young couple traveled to the USA (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1907).


Christian and Emma reported they most recently lived in Backnang (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1907), a small town in Baden-Württemberg, about 30 kilometers northeast of Stuttgart, which at that time had a little less than 8,000 inhabitants (Volkszählungsergebnisse 1900, 1910). Backnang was then characterized by tanneries (City of Backnang, no year). I assume as a butcher Christian had good job opportunities there.


The Backnang station building around 1900.

Tanners' houses on the Murr in Backnang around 1910.

On November 19, 1907 they boarded the ship "Kronprinz Wilhelm" (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1907) in Bremen, a very modern, fast and luxurious ship at that time (Griesinger, undated). The two of them had probably traveled to Bremen by train and had waited several days or weeks for their ship to leave. With them on board were 917 other passengers (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1907).

Christian and Emma traveled to America with the "Crown Prince Wilhelm".

According to the passenger list, Christian had paid for the tickets for the crossing to America himself (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1907). The list of passengers shows that the two traveled in second class (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1907). The cost of this in 1907 was about 190 to 210 marks (Ancestry Information Operations Company, 2007). According to today's value, that would be more than 1,000 euros, a high sum for simple farmers, who certainly had to save a long time for this amount (Matthaei, 2020).

Both indicated Christian’s father Matthäus Kemmner, my great-great-grandfather, as their next relative from the country of origin (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1907). Since I saw this, I've been wondering why Emma didn't name a person from her family. Was a contact person enough in the chaos of the trip, was it normal at the time to just show off the relatives of the man or was there a quarrel between Emma and her family?

Nach nur sieben Tagen, am 26. November 1907, erreichen die beiden New York. Der Passagierliste ist zu entnehmen das ihr amerikanisches Ziel Roxborough, ein Stadtteil von Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, war (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service,1907). Vermutlich träumten Christian und Emma wie so viele andere Einwanderer den "American Dream" und hofften darauf in Amerika ein besseres Lebens zu beginnen. Laut ihren Angaben lebte dort ein Cousin namens Louis Toperzer (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service,1907). Nach einigen Recherchen konnte ich die Adresse als 4203 Manayunk Avenue, Roxborough entziffern (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service,1907).


After only seven days, on November 26, 1907, the two reached New York. The list of passengers shows that their American destination was Roxborough, a suburb of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1907). Probably Christian and Emma, like so many other immigrants, hoped to start a better life in America. According to the information given on the passenger list, a cousin named Louis Toperzer (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1907) lived there. After doing some research I was able to decipher the address as 4203 Manayunk Avenue, Roxborough (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1907).


For a long time I assumed that it was a cousin of Christian Kemmner, because he was entered in Christian’s data as such. Meanwhile I was able to find the connection from Emma to Loui: After Emma's mother died early, she was raised by her stepmother (Evangelische Kirche Forchtenberg, 1875). The daughter of Emma's stepmother's sister was a certain Regina Auwärter who went to America and married a Louis Toperzer from Hungary. So Louis is the man of Emma's step-cousin. One would probably no longer speak of a cousin by today's standards, but this fact shows how family was defined in the past.


Representation of the connection between Christian Kemmner and Louis Toperzer, whom Christian indicated as cousin.

Christian and Emma did not yet have tickets for the onward journey to Roxborough. However, according to the passenger list, they both carried a sum of $ 50 with them. (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1907) Their destination Roxborough is a neighborhood in Philadelphia (Del Collo, 2011) that is approximately 130 kilometers from New York.


Christian and Emma wanted to travel to Roxborough, near the city of Philadelphia (around 1913).

When they enter New York, I lost their traces. What happend to them? Did Christian and Emma ever reach their destination in Roxborough? My grandfather, who was born in 1922, reports that he knew Christian. Christian lived and worked in Stuttgart at the Hofbräu in Stuttgart (Kemmner, 2019). My grandfather never met his wife Emma. Perhaps she was no longer alive? According to these news, Christian might have come back to Germany after emigrating to the USA. But what happened to Emma? A return trip back home was certainly not common at the time, after all, the crossing was expensive. But of course a return was still possible.


My grandpa also remembers an argument between Christian and his relatives (Kemmner, 2019). Maybe that was even the reason for his emigration? None knows now. Fortunately, the dispute was settled. Christian told my grandfather about a property with a garden shed in the Rems Valley that he owned (Kemmner, 2019). The Rems Valley is located north of Unterensingen, near the town of Backnang, where Christian and Emma lived before they emigrated. As already noted in the marriage register, there is an entry for the two in the family register of Backnang under No. 12-140. However, there it is noted: handed over to Eningen in mid-1910 (Backnang City Council, 1906). However, there is no entry of such in Eningen unter Achalm or in Ehningen near Böblingen. Instead, I found an entry online in the Eglosheim family register that now belongs to Ludwigsburg. Unfortunately, no date is noted.


I also found him in the Stuttgart directory from 1919: There is a Christian Kemmner, butcher, listed at Hackstraße 69.2 (Württembergische Landesbibliothek Stuttgart, 1919). In 1928 Christian was listed as a bottle worker in the directory (Württembergische Landesbibliothek Stuttgart, 1928) and from 1934 on as a brewery worker (Württembergische Landesbibliothek Stuttgart, 1934), as my grandfather remembers. My 2nd uncle Martin also remembered that Christian worked at the Dinkelacker brewery. Then Christian moved: In the directory of 1938 his address is now Rotenbergstr. 25 (Stuttgart State Library, 1938). But what had happened to Emma?


When I visited the Ludwigsburg State Archives, I found more information: In 1928, Christian applied for a passport. His application file is available at the State Archives today. At the request, Christian states that he is married and lives in Hackstrasse 69. He has a medium shape and an oval face. His eyes are gray and his hair mixed gray. His nationality is Württemberg and he claims to have lived in Stuttgart for about eight years. This information corresponds to his entry in the directory. The official stamp indicates that Christian has been registered in Stuttgart since July 5, 1919. (State Archives Baden-Württemberg, Dept. State Archives Ludwigsburg, 1928) His 1923 ID is included as proof of his personal details. On this he gives his eye color as blue and his hair as mottled brown. But the most interesting part is his photo and signature. (State Archives Baden-Württemberg, Dept. State Archives Ludwigsburg, 1928)

Unfortunately, I lost trace of them again. My removed cousin Martin could still remember that Christian died in the late 1950s (Kemmner, 2019). He was not buried in Unterensingen, but probably in Stuttgart. So far I don't know his date of death or his place of burial.


The sources used are listed in the following list of sources:

PPP_S1_Quellen_Kemmner Christian und Emm
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