Joseph Geissler: Coming to America

The previous post about Joseph Geißler reviewed that he was born in Baden about 1836 and included a brief history of Baden, focusing on the political climate in the 1840s before Joseph’s likely immigration to the United States of America. This post considers the migration process, even though I have yet to discover a passenger list with my relative on it. Perhaps you’ll see why in reviewing this article.

Coming to America

Joseph’s naturalization process was completed in 1858 when he was around 22 years old.i The naturalization process generally took about 5 years from start to finish. He would have been 17 when he initiated the process in 1853. If he, and his family, arrived in America during the early 1850s, he was likely in Baden at the time of the 1848 revolutions and was a part of the migration from the home and.  The only question is where he would go and did he travel alone?

The primary locations where German immigrated during this time period included: the United States of America, England, and Australia.ii Joseph chose the USA. He could have entered at the port in Galveston, Texas, settling there, in nearby Houston, or in the Texas Hill Country. He did not. He could have landed in New Orleans and traveled up the Mississippi River to settle in Missouri, where other Germans congregated. He could have landed on the east coast and found his way to the Ohio River and settled in Indiana, like other Germans of the time. He could have entered in New York and then traveled to Wisconsin, along with many Germans who retained their strong affection for their homeland.iii In all of these possibilities, he did not.

Joseph could have moved with over 30,000 Forty-Eighters to settle in what became called the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati was the final southern destination of the Miami and Erie canal. He did not, or so it seems.

The rebellious Forty-Eighters in Cincinnati vehemently protested the arrival of a Catholic dignitary in Ohio, who had opposed their movement in Baden and started a riot in 1853, which killed several police officers. It’s possible Joseph was there with the large Catholic German contingent but fled to Columbus to escape prosecution. But nothing is definitive.  Yet, his naturalization process begins in 1853 and those who like speculation would certainly ponder the question. However, Cincinnati and Columbus are 100 miles apart. Joseph may have chosen to settle in Columbus and only know about the events in Cincinnati from the German newspapers, if at all.

Of all the options open to him, Joseph appears in Franklin County, Ohio in 1856 as he begins his life as a husband and land-owning farmer.iv, v It is extremely disconcerting that he seems to be the only Geißler in Franklin County, Ohio. Why was a 17-year-old immigrant in this place, at this time, with no other kin to speak of? Did he actually cross the ocean and a vast continent to an unknown place alone?  Was he really a part of the “Forty-Eighters” who fled, was he leaving because his family faced “arrest and persecution at the hands of the German princes”?  Or did his family leave earlier than my projections? Perhaps before the 1848 Revolution?

Columbus, Ohio did have a sizable group of Germans who settled the city and the surrounding Franklin County during this time period. Their founding of German Village on the south side of the city could be linked to the expansion from the earliest German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania, starting as early as the 1680s until the 1820s. 

During the 1840s-1860s, other Germans connected to Joseph arrived including his wife’s family, the Macks and their traveling companions the Pueseckers from Hannover who arrived in 1854. Other Germans who arrived in Franklin County, Ohio during this time period would have children who married Joseph’s descendants included: the Leitschs from Heseen-Kassel; Birkenbacks, Billmans, and Kirchners from Bavaria; and Deibels from the Palatinate.

Something else stands out from the information historians present about the German 48-ers. The typical immigrant during this time period was educated and very political. Joseph was a farmer in Ohio. Was he an exception to the narrative?vi If he was coming as a single man, perhaps farming was all he could manage without family or other means of support. If he was educated and political, would this be frustrating to then work the land?

Without knowing the ship and year Joseph landed in America and the route that he took to Columbus, I am left with more questions than answers.

Stay tuned as I delve into the facts about Joseph that are established, his marriage to Caroline Mack.  

i. Joseph Keizler, certificate of naturalization (1858), The State of Ohio, Franklin Count, Clerk of Superior Court, September term AD 1858, Joseph Keizler, Certified in Columbus, On 11 October 1858. Document in possession of David G. Geiszler of Columbus, Ohio. An electronic copy in possession of Devon Geiszler Lee.
ii. Wikipedia contributors, “Forty-Eighters,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed November 10, 2014).
iii. Family Search Wiki contributors,”Germany Emigration and Immigration.” FamilySearch Wiki, (accessed 13 November 2015).
iv. Family Search, “Ohio Marriages, 1800-1958” database, (http:/ : Entry for Joseph Geissler,  16 February 1856
v. Franklin County, Ohio, 1872 Historical Atlas and plat maps: years 1842, 1856, 1883 Index (N.p.: n.p., n.d.), Available at the Columbus Metropolitan Library, call no. 734842.

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

2 thoughts on “Joseph Geissler: Coming to America

  1. Dana,

    You're so sweet to leave such kind praise. I'm also glad to have introduced you to the immigration of Germans during the early 1850s. And you do never know. Someone from their village or social network may have came over shortly after the 1848 rebellion and paved the way for the family and friends back home to follow.

  2. I have quite a few ancestors who immigrated from Germany to Ohio in the 1850's and 1860's. I didn't know about the Forty-Eighters Thanks for educating me! So far, mine appear to all have come later then 1848, but you never know.

    Also, I love your Geissler Genealogy "badge." And, love how you're telling this story!

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