The Burning Boller Question… Who is Frederick Boller, and why does his history impact George F. Boller?
Anyone familiar with the work of genealogy knows that you must keep an open mind as you track “branches” on your family tree. One must often play the role of detective as you pick up clues here and there and often, the information you uncover will confirm your suspicions. But sadly, the further back in time you attempt to go with your family history, the more some of the “facts” will end up frustrating your family narrative.
So, it is with the story of my ggg grandfather George F. Boller.
My dad’s 3×5 note card that started it all.
As I’ve been working with Our Boller Story over the last twenty-plus years, so many details about George F. Boller have fallen in place. When my father died in 1994, all the info I had on George was this 3 x 5 index card (above) and these notes (below) scribbled out in my dad’s handwriting…
Today, thanks to the wonders of the internet, we have gathered so much additional info surrounding George and Elizabeth, yet to be honest, I’ve never felt completely comfortable with the way we’ve placed Frederick Boller into George’s story.
1990’s – OMII Genealogy Project Data.
As you know, from reading our website, we have assumed along the way that Frederick was George’s first-born son, born in Hessen-Darmstadt (Germany) on April 15, 1815 to “First Wife Boller,” the unknown lady of the Rhine River Valley. As it is with any family antidote, the accuracy of this particular father/son scenario was substantiated through reliable information published on the internet in the 1990’s by the OMII (Ohio Michigan Indiana Illinois) Genealogy Project which focused on Swiss Mennonite & German Amish descendants, accessing major Amish/Mennonite databases (Kidron and Hostetler) with a total of over 425,000 individuals. This info from OMII set the stage for our Frederick Boller narrative, but quite honestly, after all these years of research, I’d like to propose, on this webpage, another viable option. And in doing so, allow me to give you some of the data research behind it.
Frederick Boller. What do we know for sure? Let’s start with the facts…
Frederick (Fred) Boller was born on April 12, 1815, in Darmstadt, Germany, a small community located in the Rhine River Valley near Mainz. His mother and father were both residents of Darmstadt as well. In 1850, he lived in Green Township/Wayne County, Ohio with John (oldest son of George) and wife, Mary, working as a cabinet maker. He moved to Iowa (Johnson County) by 1852, became an American citizen on July 12, 1860, owned land in Johnson County and Washington County, Iowa (1853-1889), farming there until his death on September 27, 1887, living 72 years, 5 months, 15 days, being buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery near Amish, Iowa.
These facts (above) come from very reliable sources, listed below…
Frederick Boller’s gravestone near Amish, Iowa.
1850 – Wayne County, Ohio Census.
1852 – State of Iowa Census Index.
1853 – Farmland in Washington Township/Johnson County, Iowa.
1854 – Purchase of more farmland south of the Johnson County farm, in Washington County, Iowa.
1860 – Washington Township/Johnson County, Iowa Census.
July 12, 1860 – US Citizenship Naturalization.
1870 – Washington Township/Johnson County, Iowa Census.
1874 – Map of Washington County, Iowa showing Frederick’s additional farmland.
1880 – Washington Township/Johnson County, Iowa Census.
1889 – Map of Boller farmland (Jacob’s & Frederick’s in bottom right corner) in Washington Township/Johnson County.
Pretty impressive, right?
But now, I’d like to present to you two important pieces of evidence that might show us that Frederick was NOT George Boller’s son (born in Germany in 1815 from Unknown Boller Wife #1) but could be:
1) a younger brother of George,
2) a nephew of George, or
3) even a cousin of George,
…who came over to America at a later date (before 1850), settling with the Boller family (John and Mary Boller in 1850) in Ohio before relocating to Iowa (1852) along with his uncle or cousin, Jacob Boller, who came to Iowa in 1853.
Evidence Piece #1: Early Ohio Census Records (1830-1850).
If Frederick came to the US with his father, George, in October 1816 (as a 1-year-old), he most certainly would show up in the earliest census records we have for George.
First of all, let’s start with the 1820 Census, the first US Census taken after George’s arrival in America in 1816. We believe that George, most likely, moved to Mifflin County, Pennsylvania soon after his arrival in the US in October 1816. We also know that it was in Mifflin County where George met his future wife, Elizabeth Zook (born in Pennsylvania in 1790), and was married around 1820 when she was age 30. But thus far, we’ve not located George, as the head of a household anywhere on the 1820 US census. It’s very likely that George, age 26 at the time, did not have a home of his own, and was living under the roof of another Mennonite friend or relative, or even with his father-in-law, John Hans Zook, and their family after marrying his daughter, Elizabeth, that same year.
Next, let’s look at the 1830 Census.
1830 – East Union Township/Wayne County Census.
The 1830 US Census from East Union Township, Wayne County, Ohio for George Boler is certainly the most revealing census we have. First of all, the info shown here is an exact record of what the Boller family demographics would have looked like in 1830, but with NO Frederick, who would have been only age 15 at the time!
Let’s unpack it. We know, for example, that George and Elizabeth Boller had two children in Mifflin County, PA before relocating to Wayne County, Ohio. The birth of Christiana in 1821 and John in 1823 is confirmed in Mifflin County, and we know that their third child, Jacob Boller (my gg grandfather) was born in Wayne County, Ohio (1825), and that two more children were born (Elizabeth – 1826 and George – 1828) after the Bollers moved to Ohio. Their sixth child, Magdalena, came along after the 1830 census (1831).
In this 1830 census, George reported two boys (George, Jacob) under the age of 5; one boy (John) under the age of 10; George himself, at age 36, checked in the box for between age 30-40; one girl (Elizabeth) under the age of 5; one girl (Christiana) under the age of 10; and finally, Elizabeth, his wife, age 40, in the box for between age 30-40. All of these categories fit the birth years we have for George and his family as it was in 1830. But where is Frederick? As a 15-year old son, he would most certainly have been listed in this census, if he were there.
Now, let’s move up 10 more years to the 1840 Census.
1840 – East Union Township/Wayne County Census.
The 1840 Census from East Union Township/Wayne County, Ohio does nothing as well in proving Frederick’s place in George Boller’s immediate family. If we look at the numbers here (sadly, names were not included in the US Census records until 1850) we find one boy between 10-15 (George); three boys between 15-20 (Jacob, John, and ?); one man between 30-40 (probably George with an error in his age); one girl between 5-10 (Magdalena); 2 girls between 10-15 (Elizabeth, and ?); and three girls between 15-20 (Christiana, and ? and ?). In 1840, we know that Frederick was 25 years old and that George’s wife, Elizabeth, had died. We find no 25-year-old person on the list, and, of course, no 50-year-old woman (Elizabeth). It’s likely here that another family in the Wayne County Mennonite community was helping out the Boller family by sending four older children (cousins?) to help with the household after Elizabeth had passed. But again, no Frederick.
1850 – Green Township/Wayne County Census.
So now, let’s jump over to the 1850 census. Because names are now included, we do find Frederick now living with the extended Boller family: George’s oldest son, John; his wife, Mary; their one-year-old daughter Elizabeth; and John’s younger brother, George (age 21). They still live in Wayne County Ohio but in a different township (Green).
Evidence Piece #2: 1816 Ship Records.
Now, let me introduce to you the second piece of evidence that might persuade you to reconsider Frederick’s place as first-born son in the immediate George F. Boller family.
1816 – Ship Records of the Ceres, which arrived in Philadelphia on October 21, 1816.
Here are the ship records (above) from October 1816 for the ship Ceres, which left Amsterdam, Netherlands on May 9, 1816, arriving in Philadelphia on October 21, 1816. On the right-hand column, note the names: “Frederick Bollier & wife.” On the left-hand column we see the names (bracketed as a family), Berkhard Bollier, Maria Bollier, & daughter.” Now, we know that this listing for “Frederick Bollier & wife” is not our Frederick Boller, since he was only one-year old at the time! But, knowing all the spelling issues at hand (Boller is many times misspelled), and knowing that George’s middle initial was “F”, could this be George Frederick Boller? Hmmm.
1837 – George’s Application for Naturalization (US Citizenship).
We know that George F. Boller signed his naturalization application in 1837, saying he arrived in America in October 1816. We also know from other Boller papers* that George relocated to the northern sections of Germany prior to coming to America in 1816.
*In the early 1990’s a very rich biographical story of the Bollers was provided to me by Heidi Boller, a distant cousin from California. Heidi is a descendant of George Benjamin Boller, younger brother of our Jacob Boller. Her story gave us these wonderful details about George:
“George L. Boller, while still a young man, lived in Schleswig Holstein which at that time was part of Denmark and which Bismark later made a part of the German Empire. When Napoleon raided that section of the country, George was impressed into Napoleon’s Army, but being loyal to his country, he deserted and came to America to Wayne County, near Wooster, Ohio and settled on a farm.”
Amsterdam – just west of Schleswig Holstein in northern Germany.
With that information in hand, Amsterdam would be a very convenient place for George to board his ship to America. And since we know George’s middle initial is F, most likely standing for Frederick, is it possible that this Ceres ship record shows that George Frederick Boller (and his first wife!) were on this ship when it left Amsterdam on May 9, 1816?
Above are the facts from the actual Ceres ship records, as found on Ancestry.com.
So, much remains to be found. The detective work continues, but as of my writings here in 2019, I’m prepared to present a few alternative facts to Our Boller Story.
Might Frederick, born in Darmstadt in 1815, still be living in Germany with other Boller family members (George’s parents? George’s brother/sister? etc?) before coming to Ohio in the mid-to-late 1840’s? In other words, might Frederick be a younger brother, or nephew, or cousin of George, instead of his son from a first marriage? We’ve yet to find any records in Germany to support this idea, and we’ve yet to find any ship records to America to support this, but it’s an interesting option to consider since we have an equally hard time supporting his coming to America as a one-year-old in 1816!
Secondly, if the “Frederick Bollier and wife” on the sailing ship, Ceres, in 1816 are indeed George F. Boller and his first wife, this changes the story of George’s first wife dying in Germany, and now sends us on a search for “Mrs. Boller” who must have died in America sometime between 1816 and George’s marriage to Elizabeth in 1820. The names, “Berkhard Bollier, Maria Bollier, & daughter,” who traveled in the Ceres with Frederick (George?) and his wife, certainly now become “people of interest” to track in the archives. Are these other family members who traveled with George to America? Did they end up in Pennsylvania or Ohio as well?
Thanks for going on this little George & Frederick Boller journey with me. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the one to find out all the answers as we dig ever deeper into Our Boller Family Story!
Humbly submitted in January 2019,