Yes, her name was Birkenstock. But no family connection has surfaced to the comfy shoes that many of us like to wear. Maybe someday a surprise discovery will have us all literally walking in some family shoes. In the meantime, I continue to look into Katherine’s history. (See the link at the end of this post for her descendants.) This story is about finding some brief, but important details of Katherine's life.
There have been occasions over the past ten years when Katherine Birkenstock Kuhn’s footsteps became a little clearer. One event that stands out is how her will was unexpectedly uncovered in a town 60 miles from where she lived the last 15 years of her life. Because her son, Charles’s obituary had a five word comment at the end – “Connersville papers please pick up” – my husband and I made a research trip a few years ago to Fayette County, Indiana, east of Indianapolis. There were many revelations about the Birkenstock-Kuhn family by the time we concluded our sleuthing in the local county library, cemetery and the office of the county clerk. We found obits in the microfilmed newspapers and family tombstones listed in the cemetery transcriptions in the genealogy area of the library. Then we were able to walk through the local cemetery and take photos of the graves, including Katherine’s husband.
Our last stop was at the county clerk’s office because we had learned they had marriage record books available. I was happy to locate several records pertaining to Katherine’s children. By the time our three-day research trip was on its last afternoon, I’ll have to say I was getting a slight bit distracted though. I was browsing the shelves in the clerk’s office and noticed the Probate Records book. Just because it was there, I opened to the index and glanced down at the K’s. Seeing the listing for Katherine Kuhn wasn’t that exciting at first, since Kuhns had been popping up a lot in this county. Then, I saw the column where heirs are listed and read: Wilhelmina Scherrer. Woo hoo! That name matched our Katherine Kuhn’s daughter, the one who had been providing a home for her in Indianapolis for many years and whose plot Katherine was buried in. We were puzzled why a will would be filed in Connersville, 60 miles away from Indianapolis, where she had not lived for 15 years. But I knew that members of the family still lived in the county when their mother died in 1890. And these details were too close to ignore. Of course, I made an inquiry about getting a copy of the will. It turned out that it would take a few days for the staff to find the document in the archives and make a copy. No problem. I left money with the clerk to pay for the copying and postage. I was anxious to see what the will could say about any or all of her seven children.
Fortunately, the copy of the will was in my mail within a week. What a wonderful discovery! This hand-written, brief document that surfaced unexpectedly paints a clearer picture of who Katherine Birkenstock Kuhn was and what her life was like. Yes, it only mentions one heir, her daughter Wilhelmina. But she does state the reason. I’m posting below the portion that includes Katherine’s wishes. The will was written in Indianapolis on the 26th day of January 1888 and states:
….My daughter Wilhelmina Scherer having taken care of me during my life time and having nursed and cared for me since I became blind, it is my will that all that may belong to me at the time of my death be it real estate or personal property whatever the same may be or whatever else may come into my possession as heir or in any other way shall become the property of my beloved daughter Wilhelmina Scherer…
Researching can take us to places we don’t anticipate and bring completely unplanned results. I learned from this experience that I should always keep my eyes open for a piece of the puzzle that may be lurking close by in unexpected locales. I wonder what other details of Katherine Birkenstock Kuhn’s life are out there to be discovered?
Thanks for reading Indiana Ties. If you have comments, or additions to this story, please leave me a message.
Related posts you may find interesting:
1880 and 1900 Censuses in the Neighborhood
Wordless Wednesday – Kuhn Family 1919
Birkenstock-Kuhn Descendant Report
Copyright © 2014 Nancy Niehaus Hurley