The Laborn Family

See also (on this website):
     Genealogy Site Map
     Genealogy Entry for the Family of Carl Laborn and Elise Kührmann
     Niagara Falls
     Names in the Goldberg Microfilm Records
     The Rudolph "Poison Ship" Article
     Rudolph Passenger List

LABORN was the maiden name of my great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth "Libby" Laborn (1841-1907), the wife of Frank Mesker. The Laborn family originated in Mecklenburg, a region of modern-day Germany, and immigrated to Niagara Falls, New York, in 1857.

Tragedy struck the family during its Atlantic crossing on board the sailing ship Rudolph, and Elizabeth's father and step-mother died. The story is told by Elizabeth's youngest sister Fredericka in the Rudolph "Poison Ship" article. Elizabeth, Fredericka, and their two other sisters arrived in America without parents.

Medow and Goldberg

The article states that the Laborn family (the name is misspelled "La Born" and "La Bourne" in the article) lived in Alsace-Lorraine, in a village named Mido near a town named Geldburg. I have discovered that this is not true. The correct name of the village is Medow, and it is near the town Goldberg. More significantly, these communities are located in Mecklenburg, in the northeast corner of modern-day Germany. Alsace-Lorraine is southwest of Germany, and it is part of France, as it was in 1857 and when the article was written in 1923.

Placing the Laborn family in Mecklenburg resolves a couple of questions that arise from the article, points that were hard to explain if the family lived in Alsace-Lorraine. One question is why the shepherd Carl Laborn would travel all the way to Berlin to sell his wool. Berlin is quite distant from Alsace-Lorraine, and in the 1850's such a journey would have involved crossing at least a couple national borders. Surely there were closer cities for selling wool. However, Berlin is reasonably close to Medow. The other question is why the family set sail from Hamburg, Germany. My research indicates that almost everyone who came to America from Alsace-Lorraine during this period departed through the port of Le Havre in France.

With those issues resolved, the big question that arises, is why does the article give Alsace-Lorraine as the home of the Laborns, refer to them as "French," and change the spelling of the German family name Laborn to the French-sounding "La Born" and "La Bourne?" Certainly Fredericka knew that she was a German from Mecklenburg. In the 1880 census she accurately named Schwerin (i.e., Mecklenburg-Schwerin) as her place of birth. My guess is that in 1923, a few years after the Great War, Germany was still unpopular in the United States. By pretending to be from Alsace-Lorraine, a German-speaking woman could claim to be French, and not German.

Carl Laborn (1798-1857)

Carl Laborn, my great-great-great-grandfather, was the father of Elizabeth and Fredericka. On the Rudolph passenger list, his age is given as 59, and so he was born in about 1798. In the time and place that he lived everyone had four or five names, and his full name may have been Christian Carl Heinrich Laborn.

Carl was married at twice: His first wife was Elise ("Lisette") Kührmann. They had at least five daughters and one son, although the son and one of the daughters apparently died young. The remaining four daughters survived to adulthood, and these are the four who made it safely to America in 1857.

Elise Kührmann died in September 1846, less than a month after the birth of her youngest daughter Fredericka. Carl Laborn remarried in October 1847 to Sophia Westphal. Carl and Sophia had one child of their own, who died unnamed as an infant. It was Carl and Sophia who perished on board the Rudolph in 1857.

Carl Laborn and Elise Kührmann were not born in Medow. The names Laborn and Kührmann do not appear in the Goldberg records until the baptism of their third child in 1836. So apparently they moved to Medow from somewhere else sometime before 1836, and after the 1832 birth of their second child.

I do not know the birth place of Carl and Elise, or where they were married. But the Goldberg records offer these clues:

In November, 2002, I received an e-mail message from a person named "Paul" (no last name). Paul had read this web page, and provided the following information about town of origin of Sophia: "The village name is Gorschendorf, and the village is located in Mecklenburg near Malchin." Regarding the birth places of Elise's parents, Paul writes: "The first village is named Hohen Mistorf, and again it is located in Mecklenburg (by Teterow in Kr. Malchin). The second village is named Hagensruhm, and it is also located in Mecklenburg near Teterow (and more importantly, its just a short way from Hohen Mistorf)." Some day I will look at the records of these villages, and I hope to discover evidence there about the earlier generations of this family.

The Laborn Sisters in America

The four Laborn sisters came to America and lived Niagara Falls, New York:

Other Distant Relatives

Besides descendants of the four immigrant sisters, there might be other relatives of the Laborn family alive today.

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