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In early 2013 I've spent time researching the records of FamilySearch.org for clues about the origins of the Gilles family. My starting point was the database of Sr. Catherine Gilles (RootsWeb Gilles tree), who included citations from Tom Pick's transcriptions of German birth and christening records (Tom Pick database) derived from LDS source materials.
The first complete records are for
John (Johannes, Joannis, Joannem) Gilles. [Note: I'm including
the variations of names in the databases because when doing
searches, different information comes up using the different
names, although some information, such as spouse name, might be
in common for the records.]
There is a marriage record for
Joannem Gilles and Margaretha Palms (Gilles-Palms
marriage) who married on July 4, 1806 in the municipality
of Stadtkyll, Rheinland, Germany. This marriage record
also includes the names of the parents of John and
Margaret--Mathiae Gilles and Catharinae Held for John and
Martini Palms and Annae Cremer for Margaret. I've searched
for more information on these parents, but so far have not
uncoverd anything else except the possible presence of another
son, Everhardus (Gilles-Dauben
The marriage record for Everhardus
Gilles and Anna Veronica Dauben indicates they married on Nov.
11, 1806, later in the same year as John and Margaret. The
parents of Everhardus are Mathiae Gilles
and Annae Catharinae Held, and those for Anna Veronica are
Damiani Dauben and Catharinae Gordungs. This wedding was in
the municipality of Glaadt, which is just a few miles east of
Stadtkyll, perhaps indicating the home town of Anna Veronica.
John and Margaret (also sometimes
referenced in some family trees as Marqueret Palmer) made their
home in Schönfeld, Germany, in the southern part of Stadtkyll.
They had a number of children there, nine previously recognized,
and perhaps one more. Marriage records again provide a clue to
another son, Christian. This marriage was between
Christian Gilles and Anna Barbara Peters on Jan. 7, 1841.
Parents of Christian are listed as Joannis Gilles and
Margarethae Palms, and those of Anna Barbara are Egidii Peters
and Margarethae Tielen (Gilles-Peters
From records cited by Sr.
emigration) it is known that
in 1846 sons John Joseph, Thomas, Paul, and Nicholas emigrated
from Antwerp, Belgium through the port of New York to the
Marshfield area of Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin. A
document indicates that John Joseph was 26, Thomas was 24, Paul
was 20, and Nicholas was 18.
There are two documents in the BLM
General Land Office records for a Johan and John Gilles.
The first of these is
dated 1848 and is in the W1/2 of the NW1/4, Sec. 15, T. 16 N.,
R. 18 E. The second
parcel is in the SW1/4 of the NE1/4, Sec. 12, T. 16 N., R.
18 E., and the document is dated 1849. Both of the parcels
are in the Mt. Calvary area of Fond du Lac County,
Wisconsin. There is not definitive proof that the person
or persons who obtained this land is the John or Johan of our
Gilles family, but the circumstances seem to point that way.
In time the brothers moved to
different areas--John Joseph to the Johnsburg, Wisconsin area,
northeast of Fond du Lac, and then to the New Haven, Iowa area;
Paul also to Johnsburg, Wisconsin; Thomas to Plum City, on the
west side of Wisconsin; and Nicholas to the New Haven area of
In my database I have 2,265 known
descendants of these four brothers (not including
spouses). These include about 1,200 males and about 1,100
females. Approximately 82% of the people known are still living,
or I have not yet determined a death date. The average age at
death is 54 years, reflecting the bias of the death data toward
previous generations, and the average number of children is 3,
probably reflecting the smaller families of current generations.
As more tools, such as online death indexes and graveyard
inventories, become more available these statistics probably
will reflect a shift upward in average age at death. My data are
no doubt incomplete because I rely mainly on publicly available
I come from Nicholas' line,
consisting of about 1,500 of the known relatives, and don't know
much about the other families' histories. Before moving to
Iowa Nicholas also lived in Johnsburg, Wisconsin, northeast of
the city of Fond du Lac. There he married Mary Anna Weber in 1853. Mary Anna was born in
Kirsbach, Prussia, about 20-25 miles east of Stadtkyll, in
1834. Her parents were Anton and Anna Catharina (Koenigs)
Weber. She emigrated to this country as a child in 1842 and
grew up in Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin.
Nicholas and Mary Anna continued to live in Fond du Lac County where 14 children were born to them. Their last place of residence in Wisconsin was in the Mt. Calvary area.
About 1884 Nicholas sold the farm for $2,000 and headed to Mitchell County. This was after his son John and Katherina (Hartogh) Gilles had moved to Mitchell County in 1878. Nicholas and Mary Anna bought a farm two miles northeast of New Haven. Their daughter Mary Ann had been born in 1868, in Mt. Calvary, so she was 16 when the family moved.
At about this same time, the Kleckner (Kloeckner) family emigrated from Germany, including Anna and Mathias, and some other brothers and sisters. Mary Ann Gilles caught the eye of Mathias (Matt), who had homesteaded some land in Spink County, Dakota Territory, in 1882. They were married at St. Peter's church in New Haven, Iowa in 1886, when he was 32 and she was nearly 18.
The family first moved to Fargo, North Dakota and then to what is now South Dakota for a few years, and then returned to the New Haven area to farm. Three of their children, Alfred, Ernest, and Gertrude, were born in Dakota Territory. The other 6 children were born at New Haven, including Isabelle, my grandmother.
got some research to do on the rest of the Gilles family, but
have a few facts. Mease Gilles (son of Thomas) was a
nephew of Nicholas, who also moved to the New Haven, Iowa
area. Mease and Anna (Kloeckner) Gilles (sister of Matt
Kleckner) operated the General Store in New Haven for many
years. Their son, Ernie, also owned it for a while, as did son
Guy and Matt Fox and Mert (Gilles) Fox (a daughter of
Mease). Eventually the store was bought by Lorenz
Helfter and Bernice (Gilles) Helfter (another daughter of
Mease) and Henry Carroll. Bernice lived next door to the
site of the store, which was torn down a few years ago, until
her death in 2007.
resident of New Haven was William (Billy) Gilles. He was born
in 1878 in Mt. Calvary, Wisconsin, the youngest child of
Nicholas and Mary Anna, and had moved to Mitchell County as a
young boy. He eventually married Rose Cheney, of
Stillwater, and lived most of his life on a farm on the east
side of New Haven. Billy and Rose were both musically
inclined, he on violin and she on piano, and they formed a
dance orchestra that was in great demand in the area for over
50 years. In addition to his professions of carpentry
and masonry, he was a township clerk, sang in the church
choir, and looked after the church grounds. Rose was the
church pianist. Billy was still on his acreage when I
was growing up, and my cousins and I would go down to his barn
to dig for night-crawlers to go fishing. Billy and Rose
had one daughter, Rosemary (Mrs. Dan McCarthy). Billy
lived until 1968 and Rose until 1974.
Gilles line a list of death locations shows how widespread the
families have become over time. The greatest number is in the
Osage, Iowa area (Condons, Gilleses, and Kleckners), followed
closely by New Haven, Iowa (Gilleses), Ogden, Utah (Junks),
Stacyville, Iowa (Gilleses), and Wahpeton, North Dakota
(Gilleses). In all, there are 70 place names for death
locations for the direct descendants of Nicholas and Mary Anna
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