The Voegele Family

See also (on this website):
     Genealogy Site Map
     Photos of the Voegele Family
     Family Tree of the Voegele Family of Soufflenheim
     Genealogy Entry for the Joseph Voegele (1823-1890)
     Distant Voegele Cousins
     History of Alsace

The Voegele Family from Soufflenheim

VOEGELE was the birth name of my grandmother, Josephine Voegele Staebell.

My Voegele ancestors came to the United States from Soufflenheim, in Bas-Rhin (Alsace), France, in 1847. The earliest Voegele ancestor that I have identified so far is Andreas (Andrew) Voegele. He was a farmer, probably born sometime around 1690. Beginning in 1746, he was mayor of Soufflenheim, a position he held into the 1750's.

In most of the records from his era, the family name is spelled in the German style, as Vögele. I have been told that the name Voegele means "little bird" in German. I suspect that, like many Catholic families in Alsace, the Voegele family came to Alsace from Switzerland during the years following the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). The name surname Voegele appears elsewhere in Alsace and Switzerland besides Soufflenheim. If there is a connection to these other Voegeles and my ancestors, it probably pre-dates 1700 and there may be no surviving documentation of it.

The Sons of Andreas Vögele

Andreas Vögele married Elisabeth Siegel of the nearby town of Surbourg on 13-May-1715. Their marriage is documented in the Surbourg Catholic Church records. There is one later record that gives "Catharina Siegler" as the name of Andreas's wife, but this seems to be a one-time error. Numerous other Soufflenheim Catholic Church records and other Soufflenheim records confirm that Elisabeth Siegel was the wife of Andreas.

Andreas had at least three sons: Joannes Martinus (John Martin), Antoine (Anthony), and Jean (John). Jean Voegele is our direct ancestor.

Antoine is the ancestor of a later Anthony, who came to America and settled in Indiana. The immigrant Anthony had many descendants, including many large families with lots of sons, so that the Voegele name became more common in the Indiana and Cincinnati area than it became in New York. In 1980, my mother was contacted by Bernice Schene of Florida. Bernice, a member of the Indiana Voegele clan, published a genealogy of her family. I don't have a copy of it, but hope to acquire one some day.

My ancestor Jean Voegele married Catherine Meyer, and they had at least ten children. I can't tell you what became of all ten of them, but in those days infant mortality was high, and at least a few probably did not survive childhood.

The First Joseph Voegele

Jean's second son was Joseph (1759-1832). Joseph was the first of a string of five Joseph Voegeles in a row, who carried the name Joseph Voegele from father to son through the generations. The last of the five was my grandmother's brother Joseph Henry Voegele (1896-1948). That very first Joseph Voegele is not the one buried under that very old tombstone in St. Mary's Cemetery in Lancaster, New York, whom we have always called "Joseph Voegele the first." The Joseph Voegele buried in St. Mary's is the second of the line of five.

That very first Joseph Voegele married Margaretha Goetz (or Götz). They had three children: Joseph, who was born in 1788 and died two days later. Another Joseph, born in 1790, who as an adult brought his family to America and is buried in St. Mary's Cemetery, and Margaretha, born in 1793. Then Joseph's wife Margaretha died, perhaps in 1794. It is possible that Joseph and Margaretha fled Alsace during the "great flight" of Catholics from northern Alsace that took place during the period of the French Revolution, and that Margaretha died as a refugee. Joseph, back in Soufflenheim, married again in 1799, had at least four more children, and died in Soufflenheim in 1832.

The Voegeles Come to America

The second Joseph Voegele (1790-1868) married Catharina Miller (or Müller) in 1821. They had eleven children, seven of whom survived to adulthood. This entire family came to America in 1847, on board the sailing ship Exchange. The oldest child was Joseph "the third" (1823-1890), whose age was 23 at the time of passage. He was my great-great-grandfather, and once in America he went to the California gold rush with his younger brother John. The youngest member of the family on board was Margaret, age six. The family settled in Lancaster, Erie County, New York, including young Joseph after his return from California.

Further research shows that Joseph "the third" made the voyage to America twice. He was also on board the ship Catherine in 1843. This 1843 date is confirmed in a biographical entry for him that appears in an Erie County history book. So apparently he came to America in 1843, then returned to Europe to escort his entire family across in 1847.

The Voegeles were not the only family from Soufflenheim on board the ship Exchange. So far I have identified three others: the family of Martin Halter, who settled in Lancaster; and the Zinger and Schlosser families, who went farther on to Canada. The Nuwer family also came to Lancaster from Soufflenheim, but they came over a few years earlier.

The Great Soufflenheim-to-Ontario Migration

It seems to me that most Alsatian immigrants apparently settled in Erie County and elsewhere in upstate New York. Immigrants from Soufflenheim are an interesting exception. Many, maybe most, Soufflenheim families settled in Waterloo County, Ontario, in and near the town called Maryhill today, and which was called New Germany or Little Germany back in the 1800's.

I have been assembling a list of Soufflenheim emigrant families. I have identified dozens of families. About 70% of them settled in or near Waterloo County, about 25% settled in Erie County, and a few (such as the "Indiana Voegeles") settled elsewhere.

Soufflenheim and Stundwiller: Distant Neighbors

Soufflenheim (the home of my Voegele ancestors) and Stundwiller (the home of my Staebell ancestors) are quite nearby to each other, only about ten miles apart. When I first realized this, it occurred to me that there might be a lot of commerce between the two villages. Maybe my Voegele and Staebell ancestors knew one other! Maybe they were friends, or maybe they were related.

After some research, however, I am not so sure. The Soufflenheim records identify people who came from other towns. I've looked at one hundred years of records, and I have found only two or three that mention Stundwiller. And although I have not looked through the Stundwiller records as extensively, I don't expect to find many Soufflenheim residents turning up there.

Why was there so little interchange between these two villages? I do not know for sure. However, I have noticed that maps show a forest between them, the Hagenau Forest. There are no major towns inside the forest, so I assume it is a dense woods. Perhaps two hundred years ago, the Hagenau Forest formed a natural boundary, with little travel between the two sides. So although the Staebell and Voegele families lived only ten miles apart, they had to travel across the Atlantic to America before their descendants could meet and marry.


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