The life of Alois Betz

This page contains a brief narrative of Alois Betz’s life. It may provide enough information to help you decide whether you have a family connection, or whether there is anything else of interest to you here. The story told is necessarily full of conjecture. The basis for these conjectures is explored in the pages dedicated to specific places that he lived. For now the purpose is simply to tell the broader tale in a concise way.

Alois Betz was born in November of 1827, in the tiny village of Enkering in what was then the kingdom of Bavaria, and is now southern Germany. Enkering is situated on the river Anlauter a few miles south of Nuremberg in the district of Eichstatt. The town is a stone’s throw from the larger municipality of Kinding, with which it is now administratively merged. Between the two lies a steep hill on top of which is an ancient ringfort, the Schellenburg, from which the town’s original name of Antkeringa was derived. To the west another ancient castle, the Rumburg, looms. Throughout the period of Alois’ early life the town of Enkering fell under the rule of the court of Kipfenberg, a city to the south, and often the stamp of the regional court there appears on his official documents.

Of Alois’ parents we have only some scattered references to his father in German documents, and my great aunt Marie Boehmer’s recollections as evidence. We know the father’s name was Johann, and according to Marie he died in 1856. She also names his wife as Elisabetha (nee Hollander), died 1855. Of his early life, how his parents earned their living, how many siblings he had, we know nothing at all. In 1843 his parents made the decision to apprentice Alois to a master and he began to learn his trade of cabinetmaking. In 1846 he received his journeyman’s wanderbuch and set out to earn his living.

He plied this trade at least through 1848, accumulating more than forty pages of entries in his wanderbuch. In March of 1849 he either joined or was conscripted into the Royal Bavarian Army, 3rd Chevaliers Regiment Duke Maximillian. He served with the regiment, in what capacity we are not entirely sure, for at least three years and five months of active duty over a six year period. When he was discharged Alois determined to make his way to America, and sometime in 1855 he gathered his documents, paid his fees, received his exit visa and took ship. We have not found any records regarding his arrival in the U.S.

In 1855, in Johnstown, Pennsylvania Alois married Josepha Phaller, who had arrived in Baltimore in the mid-summer of that year with her father Joseph, mother Marianne, and several siblings. In 1856 the couple had a child, Joseph, who died the following year. In 1858 a son William was born. In 1860 another son Frank followed. At this time Alois may have been operating a small retail store in Cambria City, across the river from the Cambria Iron Works where many German immigrants were employed. In February of 1862 the couple’s first daughter Dorothea was born, and my great-aunt’s notes indicate that Alois’ wife died at that same time, with the baby girl following her mother eight months later.

In September of 1864 Alois name may have appeared on a list of draftees for “Lincoln’s Lottery” in Cambria county, Pennsylvania. In 1866 records indicate that his interest in a house on a 1/2 lot in Cambria Boro was sold for non-payment of some five dollars in taxes.

We next hear definitively from Alois in 1873 when he and his second wife Rosina (nee Zweidinger) purchased a property at 37 Marion Street in Cleveland, Ohio from the estate of one Joseph Keller, deceased, who may have been Rosina’s previous husband. Alois was soon engaged in the retail grocery trade in a small store, likely located on the ground floor below the family’s living quarters. The family grew rapidly through the 1870’s. Alois had brought two surviving children to the marriage, William and Frank, and Rosina had also brought two, Matthew and Catherine. By 1876 the couple had added six of their own: Charles, Louis, Joseph, John, Conrad, and Edward R., my great-grandfather.

Alois passed away in 1891 at the age of 63, of bronchitis. He was attended by a Dr. Spenser and interred not far from his home in what was then called Woodland Catholic Cemetery, and is now called St. John’s Cemetery. At his death his estate was worth only a few hundred dollars, which is not surprising given the size of the family he supported. Rosina followed him in 1899, and was presumably buried nearby. We have not yet located either grave, despite one snow-hindered search in January of 2015.

(Update: I returned to Woodland Catholic for a more thorough search in August of 2017, and am now certain that no trace remains above ground of either Alois’ or Rosina’s markers).

In 1900 Edward R. Betz married Lena Schneider, and of that union in 1901 came my grandfather, Edward M. Betz, my great aunts Marie Boehmer (nee Betz) and Elizabeth (Betty) Betz, and my great uncle Gerard Betz. Of the decendants of the other five sons, or the four children of their prior marriages, we know essentially nothing at this point. Edward M. Betz married Lavina Morris of Prince Edward Island, Canada in Arlington, Massachusetts on February 11, 1934 and of that union in 1935 came my father, Edward R. Betz (the second, although never styled as such) of Michigan City, Indiana, and my uncles David and Jeffrey Betz of Ludington, Michigan.

Looking for Louis


4 thoughts on “The life of Alois Betz

  1. Hello
    I was wondering if maybe your family might have some connection with my dads family. My dads fathers name was Norbert Betz. He lived in Albany NY most of his life. My dad passed away when he was 29 I don’t really know a lot about him. His name was William Betz. If you have any info on then please email me. Thank you.

  2. Hi, Colleen. Thanks for stopping by. Our branch of the family has no connections to the Albany area as far as I know. My suggestion would be to start with and look at marriage, birth, death, and immigration records. Best of luck!

  3. Hello,
    My great grandfather was named Alois Betz and was born in the late 1800’s.
    He was the son of John Betz and they lived in St. Louis, MO. Do we have a connection? I have had such a hard time tracking this side of my family. Please lmk your thoughts…
    Kathleen Bonnell

  4. Hi, Kathleen. Thanks for stopping by. While the Betz name was not very common, it was not exactly rare, and among German immigrants the names John and Alois (Louis) were not uncommon either. My great-great-uncle John Betz was born in Cleveland in 1872, so in order to be his son your great-grandfather’s birthdate would have to be no earlier than, say 1890? It’s not impossible. We don’t have a lot of information about John’s life after about 1887. We have a photograph that we believe he took that year, and very little afterwards. It’s not impossible that he moved to St. Louis, and we have other branches of the family in that area. If you have any further information about your John Betz, particularly any information about his siblings, I would be happy to compare it with what I have.

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