Name’s the Same

“Five Generations of Williams”

This week, Amy Johnson Crow encourages us to write about a family name that is frequently repeated. In my family we have five generations of Williams, beginning with Conrad Wilhelm Windisch, who Americanized his name to Conrad William Windish when he emigrated from Germany. Conrad was one of the “Forty-Eighters,” a name for immigrants who arrived in the United States around 1848 to escape the devastation following the failed German revolution.

Conrad William Windish (1)

Conrad William was born in the German Kingdom of Bavaria on 12 June 1822 (Find A Grave). We don’t know about his parents or his early life until he immigrated to the U.S. in 1848 through Ellis Island (Ship Passenger List). Conrad appears to have been traveling with a twenty-one year old woman, named M. Windisch, who was also a farmer. It isn’t clear if this woman was his wife or sister or another relation. However, I never found another record with her name on it.

Free Germany Clipart - Free Clipart Graphics, Images and Photos. Public  Domain Clipart.

Conrad and “M” traveled to the port city of Bremen to board a ship called either Fanny (Ancestry.com) or Famal (Ellis Island Foundation) around the first of May 1848. They arrived at Ellis Island exhausted by their voyage. The journey would have been arduous and three years later, the U.S. Congress initiated an inquiry into the “Sickness and Mortality on Board Emigrant Ships,” to investigate the appalling number of people who grew ill and even died on the journey (American Heritage).

It is possible that “M” is one of the thousands who died and was buried at sea, because when Conrad arrived in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania (perhaps to serve his term of indentured servitude in payment for his travel expenses) he was alone (Passenger and Immigration Lists Index).

By 1850, Conrad Wihelm Windisch had Americanized his name. He appears on the U.S. census as Conrad Windish, living in Chester, New Jersey, with several other farm laborers who worked on the Thomas family farm (1850 U.S. Census). One of the other residents was twenty-two year old Louisa Wagner, who had emigrated from Hessen, Germany aboard the S.S. Atlas (1846 Ship Passenger List). Louisa made the transatlantic voyage with her parents, but by 1850, twenty-five year old Louisa was on her own in New Jersey, while her parents were farming in New York.

Conrad and Louisa were married in Philadelphia Pennsylvania in 1852 (Marriage Record), and became naturalized U.S. citizens in 1855 (1900 U.S. census). They raised their children, William, Elizabeth, Georgia, and Frank, in Burlington County, New Jersey.

William Windish (2)

William Windish, the oldest child of Conrad William and Louisa Windish, was born in Burlington County in 1852. William and his siblings were able to attend school (1860 U.S. Census). When he was seventeen, William lived on the Morgan family farm where he and his brother George were farm laborers for part of the year (1870 U.S. Census).

In 1877, William married Alice, the daughter of David and Lydia Vansciver. William and Alice moved to Palmyra in Burlington County, New Jersey, and continued the farming tradition (1880 U.S. Census). Their children, Georgia, Lysia, Dora, William Conrad, and Louisa, were able to get a good education (1900 U.S. Census).

The Windish home on Kossuth Street was in a German neighborhood. Their grandson, Pete, remembers that the neighborhoods of Riverside were divided by nationality (Pete Windish Audio Tape) as more immigrants poured into the area, escaping war and economic depression in Europe. They found plenty of work in New Jersey and the community thrived through the turn of the century and into the early 1900s.

William Conrad Windish (3)

Their son, William Conrad Windish was born on 28 March 1883. William and Alice made sure that their children received an education and had all of the opportunities that life in America could afford. Young William was not a farmer as his parents and grandparents had been. At age 17, he took a job in a local textile mill, knitting socks on one of the big machines that became popular at the turn of the century (1900 U.S. Census). In 1902, he married Jeanette Lillian Baugh, a young lady from across the river in Philadelphia. William found a more profitable job at the Watch Case factory (1910 U.S. Census). They rented a home on Delaware Avenue in Riverside, New Jersey, where they raised three children: William Samuel, George, and Bessie.

Watch Case Building Riverside NJ 062611 | Former Keystone Wa… | Flickr
Watch Case Factory, Riverside New Jersey

William Samuel Windish (4)

William Samuel Windish was born in Riverside, New Jersey in 1903. He was a member of the Greatest Generation, growing up during World War I. He married Mae Agnes Endicott in 1930, just as the Great Depression was beginning and the young couple lived with the Endicott family as they were getting their start in life.

Nelson William Windish (5)

William and Mae were pioneers at heart. In 1932, they moved from their bustling New Jersey city to an isolated cabin in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Northern California. In 1933, Mae gave birth to twin boys– Nelson William and Ike Windish. However, Ike was a frail baby and died due to lack of medical care. The family was devastated and Mae insisted that they move back to the city where her children could benefit from good schools and doctors.

Nelson William’s brother, Pete, told a story of when the boys were young. They had chronic throat and sinus problems, so the doctors suggested both boys have their tonsils out around the year 1945. Their parents checked them in to the local hospital one evening with plans to have surgery early the next morning. However, William and Pete were nervous and since their hospital room was on the first floor, they waited until everyone else was asleep then they climbed out the window and walked home. The next morning their mother found them sleeping in their beds as if nothing was wrong! The doctor said they had to have the surgery, so back to the hospital they went and this time the surgery took place. Both boys felt like they earned all of the ice cream that was served to soothe their sore throats afterward and it did help their chronic illness so it was worth the effort.

When the boys were teenagers, Mae and William moved them back to the Sierra Nevada Mountains where Nelson William worked in one of the last gold mines in California.

There you have it, five generations of Williams, from Germany to California! If you have German ancestry you can learn more about German Immigration at FamilySearch.

Works Cited

1846 Ship Passenger List, The Statue of Liberty—Ellis Island Foundation, database and images (https:// heritage.statueofliberty.org/ : accessed 16 February 2021), “Passenger Record,” for Louisa Wagner, age 20, arrived 1 January 1846 on the Atlas.

1848 Ship Passenger List, The Statue of Liberty—Ellis Island Foundation, database and images (https:// heritage.statueofliberty.org/ : accessed 16 February 2021), “Passenger Record,” for C. Windish, age 25, arrived 1848 on the Famal.

1850 U.S. Census, Chester, Burlington, New Jersey, population schedule, p. 93B, dwelling 137, family 140, Conrad Windish and Louisa Waggoner; database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 10 February 2021); citing NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 443.

1860 U.S. Census, Cinnaminson, Burlington, New Jersey, population schedule, Mount Holly Post Office, p. 961, dwelling 103, family 98, Conrad Windish and William Windish; database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 10 February 2021); citing NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 685.

1870 U.S. Census, Cinnaminson, Burlington, New Jersey, population schedule, Burlington City Post Office, p. 49 (penned), dwelling 397, family 371, William Windish; database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 10 February 2021); citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 854.

1880 U.S. Census, Cinnaminson, Burlington, New Jersey, population schedule, p. 27 (penned), dwelling 241, family 283, William Windish; database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 10 February 2021); citing NARA microfilm publication, roll 772.

1900 U.S. Census, Riverside, Burlington, New Jersey, population schedule, p. 2B, dwelling 31, family 32, William Windish and William Windish; database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 10 February 2021); FHL microfilm: 1240957.

American Heritage

Find A Grave

Marriage Record, Saint Michael’s and Zion Church (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), “Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records, 1669-2013,” Conrad Windisch–Louisa Wagner, 25 February 1852; digital images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 16 February 2021).


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *