My maternal grandmother, Margaret AUSTEL, was born in 1894, in Bürglen, Canton Thurgau, Switzerland. She was the last of ten children born to Joseph AUSTEL (1850-1924), and his first wife, Maria GUTGSELL (1857-1895). Joseph was originally from Haindorf, Böhmen, or as it was called in English, Bohemia. After WW II, the town’s name was changed to its Czechoslovakian translation, Hejnice, in the Czech Republic. More than likely Joseph's parents and siblings worshiped at the Catholic, Church of the Visitation to Virgin Mary. Maria was born in Winzenheim, Alsace (France). I haven’t the faintest idea how Joseph managed to meet Maria, as they came from different, essentially opposite, directions in Germany: Joseph from former Bohemia in the East and Maria from Napoleon’s former Republic in the West. In any case, they married in the Catholic Church and settled in Burglen, Switzerland from about 1875 to 1895 during which time their children were born.
Their first child, Joseph, died before he was two weeks old, but according to Parish records now archived at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic church in Sulgen, Canton Thurgau, Joseph was apparently born about five and a half months before Joseph and Maria were married. Though the record show the dates and names, little is known of the situation surrounding these events. However, in the birth entry, there were a few words handwritten in a vintage style known as German Sütterlin, but it was difficult to read. Eventually, my digital photograph of the entry might be enhanced to a point where an expert might be able to make sense of it. That is on my research “to do” list.
I obtained other photos on my research trip to Germany and Switzerland
at the end of summer, 2001. For instance, I located and took photos of
the textile mill where my great grandfather worked over a hundred years
ago. Yes, the “Kammgarnspinneri” was still standing and it was almost
identical to an image of the mill which was depicted on a vintage postcard
which has survived in the family papers.
|The Kammgarnspinneri (textile mill) of Burglen. Place of Employment of Joseph Austel. Postcard sent to Austel family in Braddock from Rosa who had returned to visit Burglen in 1911.||The Kammgarnspinneri at it looked in 2001. The building in now a warehouse and the spinnning operations have been removed to nearby Sulgen.|
Joseph’s first wife, Maria, died about 9 months after my grandmother was born, and two years later, Joseph re-married Rosa Friedrich of Burglen. She was about 25 years his junior. Rosa, a staunch Lutheran, converted to Catholicism before she married. They bore only one child, Paul Austel, who died within a year.
IMMIGRATION TO BRADDOCK, PA, NEAR PITTSBURGH
Joseph and his second wife, along with Joseph’s mother-in-law from his FIRST marriage, Mrs. Margaret Gutgsell, nee. Kessler, and Joseph’s five youngest children (one boy and four girls), boarded the S. S. Finland, at Antwerp, Belgium, on October 1903, to emigrate to America. Two older daughters, Maria and Ida, who were married at the time, remained behind in Switzerland. Eleven days later the family arrived at Ellis Island, New York. The original manifest of passengers shows that the Austel Family was detained on the Island for about a week apparently because the matriarch, Mrs. Gutgsell, was very ill. Moreover, one of the girls, Frieda, was an epileptic and the family was worried that they would be denied admittance if she had a seizure. Fortunately, the seizure never occurred.
Incidentally, Rosa’s younger brother, Walter Frederick, traveled on the same steamer to the new world. His traveling companion was Maria Keller who he eventually married and with whom he had 4 children. Walter, an artist and painter for Kaufman’s department store in Pittsburgh, always remained close to his sister Rosa until his death in 1939.
Eventually, the Austel family traveled from NY to the steel mill town of Braddock, PA. Joseph’s brother-in-law, Louis Gutgsell, who immigrated about 20 years beforehand, was the sponsor of the Austel family. Moreover, Louis and his wife, Josephine, had lost their only child recently and had invited Joseph Austel’s oldest son, Ludwig Austel, to come live with them for a year prior to the arrival of the rest of the family. Ludwig Austel found a job at Westinghouse Electric Company, manufacturer of the vital air brake systems for steam locomotives.
Everything seemed to be going well for the Austel family in Braddock. However, their sponsor, Louis Gutgsell, and his mother who had arrived sick in NY, both died in the following year, 1904. The Gutgsell family is buried in Braddock’s Catholic cemetery (All Saints). The daughters of Joseph got jobs, usually as servants for private families, and soon were married. Rosa, now a devoted Catholic after her conversion, was not pleased when one of her step daughters chose to marry a Lutheran. And she became upset again when her step son, Frank, not only married outside of the Faith, but to a woman who was previously married and divorced. However, Frank was an independent sort. He delayed his marriage until he was 37 years old and after he served at least two enlistments in the army. He served in WW I and also aided in the search for the notorious Mexican bandit, Pancho Villa.
MARGARET AUSTEL MARRIES AND MOVES TO WASHINGTON, DC
In the meantime, my grandmother, Margaret, became friends with another girl of her same age named Mary Gailliot. One of Mary’s older brothers, Charles Gailliot, began to court Margaret and they were married in August 1917, at St. Joseph’s Catholic church. This church was one of eight Catholic churches which once served the various ethnic neighborhoods in Braddock- Irish, German, Slovak, Russian, and others. St. Joseph’s was demolished in the late 1990s.
After their wedding, Charles and Margaret promptly moved to Washington, DC, where Charles began his career as a pattern maker for the Navy Yard. Charles applied his skills in the war effort during the Great War (WW I) and therefore was not drafted. America had joined forces with the Allies to eventually defeat the Axis of Germany and Austria (ironically, the former homelands of my great grandparents). A few months after the 1920 census which coincided with a lengthy steel worker strike, the parents and siblings of Charles Gailliot moved from Braddock to a farm in Alexandria, VA.
Joseph Austel once traveled to Alexandria in the early 1920s to visit his daughter Margaret and the Gailliot in-laws on the farm. Shortly afterwards, he died at the age of 74 years. His widow, Rosa, opened a small grocery in her house in which she sold canned goods and candy. Two years later, Rosa married another widow in the neighborhood, Joseph Poeschl. Rosa and Joseph eventually moved from Braddock to a house they built in the Edgewood community of Pittsburgh.
AUSTEL FAMILIES WHO REMAINED IN EUROPE
Regarding Joseph Austel’s oldest two daughters who never immigrated, Marie married Heinrich Schlumph and Ida married Fidelius Rink. Each couple had small families, perhaps a total of 3 or 4 in the next generation. Because of two world wars and the language barrier, contact with these families gradually fell off, particularly among the first cousins. My mother and I had a chance to visit one of Ida Rink’s daughters, Martina, in Neuhausen am Rheinfall in 1974. About all we could do was hug and cry and write a few notes to each other. I only wish I had grasped the importance of genealogy then as much as I do now. In any case, I discovered about 25 years later that Martina had died a year or so after our meeting.
As far as I know, there may be a single relative still living oversees.
Wolfgang Rink, the nephew of Martina and the son of Paul Rink, may be living
in Berlin with his mother. Long story short: I traveled to an old address
of Paul Rink’s in Lauderauch, Austria, in 2001. The present resident
told me that the shop owner next door might be related to Paul. Turns out
he was the God son of Paul Rink. Like Paul’s only son, he was named Wolfgang;
their fathers became best friends while serving together in WW II. He told
me that Paul Rink was deceased and gave me the address of his widow in
Berlin. This is one genealogical discovery that would not have happened
without me visiting the “Heimat” of our ancestors.
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