I came across Katharina Horneff’s obituary by accident. I wasn’t expecting to find it. Horneff1 is one of the few unique surnames I have and I search it on any new database I find. In this case it was in GenealogyBank which has the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1834-1922. In my results was an obituary for Katharina Horneff from 1911. It stated that the funeral would be at her grandson, Jacob Carman’s house. Seems cut and dry, but I still had to check to make sure it was my Jacob Carman since there were two of the same age in Philadelphia at the time. It took me awhile to be convinced, too, despite the unique name and the grandson being named. The truth was I thought I would never find Katharina Horneff. Indeed, I didn’t even know that was her name.
My grandmother’s grandmother was Catherine2 Horneff Carman and she passed away in 1913. I had no luck in finding her on the Census records3 before she married and only her father was listed on her death certificate. I thought her mother had therefore passed away long before and Catherine’s family had either not met her or had forgotten her name. Not only had they known her, she had passed away only two years before her daughter!
Another new genealogy site, FamilySearch’s Record Search Pilot, brought me more on Katharina Horneff. I found her death certificate which listed her birth date and her parents’ names (Leonhard Faber & Eva Huber). And then, I hit a gold mine. The family I thought I would never get anywhere with, led me straight back to Europe for the first time in my genealogical research.
Record Search has indexed church records from Otterberg, Germany and like a clichéd plot device, that is exactly where my Horneffs happened to be from. I found the Marriage record for Jacob and Katharina Faber Horneff which listed both of their parents. I found Katharina’s christening record with the same birth date as on her death certificate. I found Catherine Horneff’s christening record listing her parents Jacob and Katharina, as well as her full birth date. I had had only the month and year before. I was certain that these were my ancestors.
The Fabers were a bit of a dead end, but the Horneffs were all over the place. I found Jacob’s parents (Georg Peter Horneff and Catherine Cherdron) and grandparents (David Horneff & Susanne Weber and Johann Philipp Cherdron & Margarethe Port). And I found siblings of them all as well.
After doing some googling, I found a book called 300 Jahre Auswanderung aus Otterberg which I was able to get through Interlibrary Loan and which informed me rather mysteriously that Jacob Horneff and his wife and daughter, and later Eva Faber and her son Carl, had emigrated “secretly” from Otterberg in 1846 and 1850 respectively.
This gives me some hope my other dead ends as well: Nicholas & Catharine (Emmering/Emmerling?) Conrad, Joseph & Frances Funston, Charles & Caroline (Brill) Carman, Samuel & Lydia (Burch) Garrison, and more. There will always be dead ends. May they all be temporary.
- Horneff was also found as Hornef
- Mother and daughter, Katharina and Catherine, were found as Katharina, Katherina, Kathrina, Katherine, Catherine, etc. I settled on Katharina and Catherine to help keep them straight.
- I have since found the Horneffs on all the applicable censuses.