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Josef Schlatter:
One of my
Paternal Great-Grandparents


As a result of digging into my Schlatter family history, my brother John and I may have discovered one of our paternal great-grandparents.  Well, actually, John found him.  Here's the story.

We have found evidence that leads us to conclude that one of our paternal great-grandparents  -- Josef Schlatter -- came to the US in 1896.  We have no information beyond that but as of March 2010 we are trying to track him down.

Our Great-grandfather Josef Schlatter

We know one of our paternal great-grandparents was Josef Schlatter of Switzerland.  Evidence of this is:

Adolph Schlatter's citizenship application.  When our grandfather Adolph Schlatter applied for US citizenship in march 1923, he listed his father as "Joseph Schlatter."

Alfred Schlatter's apprenticeship contract.  At this link is an article about our grandfather's brother Alfred/Frederick/Fred Schlatter.  On that page you will find a link to his apprenticeship contract.  The contract is signed by Alfred's father "Josef Schlatter."  Assuming that our grandfather Adolph and his brother Alfred had the same father, our grandfather's father was Josef Schlatter.

Reinhold Schlatter's military service record.  We know our grandfather had two brothers, one named Heinrich Reinhold Schlatter.  We have Reinhold's military service record that lists his father as "Josef."  Again, assuming that Reinhold and Adolph had the same father, their father was "Josef Schlatter."

How Did We Find Him?

Our grandfather Adolph Schlatter entered the US three times:  1890, 1897, and 1910.  In 1910 he was accompanied by his wife ( my grandmother ) Emma Waldner Schlatter.  They settled in Shaw, MS, and lived there the rest of their lives.

There are three intriguing entries on the 30 June 1897 ship manifest that records Adolph's entry at Ellis Island.

Ship manifest column Entry in column
Final destination in the US Riverhead, NY
Whether going to join a relative; and if so. what relative and their name and address father & brother
By whom was passage paid? Mother

This information tells us that, in 1897, Adolph was bound for Riverhead, LI, NY, to visit his father and brother -- and his mother paid for his steamship ticket.

The brother Adolph was going to visit would have been Alfred, because:

  •  Alfred arrived in the US in 1890.  He would have been here in 1896 when his father Josef arrived and in 1897 when Adolph arrived for his second trip to the US.
  •  When Alfred died in 1905, his landlady wrote to his brother Adolph and stated she was going to Riverhead to retrieve some of Alfred's "things."  Thus, I conclude that Alfred lived in Riverhead, LI, NY, long enough to leave some belongings there.

This evidence led us to conclude that Josef Schlatter, father of Alfred and Adolph, was in Riverhead, LI, NY with his son Alfred at sometime before 1897 when Adolph arrived looking for them.  The evidence also suggests that Adolph's mother -- Josef's wife -- was alive in 1897 when Adolph left Switzerland for his second trip to the US.

Armed with this info, my brother searched the Ellis Island ship manifests for a Josef Schlatter who arrived in the US sometime before 1897.  He immediately found Josef Schlatter listed in a ship manifest -- look at the individual on the second line from the top, #2, Schlatter, Josef.

Second line from the top:  Name:  Schlatter, Josef; Age: 66 yrs; Occupation: shoemaker; Native country: Switzerland; Destination: Riverhead.  He arrived in New York 5 October 1896 on the ship La Bourgogne from Havre, France.

As of mid-March 2010, this is all we know of our grandfather's father, Josef Schlatter.  However, there are some things we can deduce from this and other information.

Great-Grandfather Josef's birth date

If he was 66 years old when he arrived in the US in 1896, he would have been born in 1830.  His three sons -- that we know of -- are:

  •  Adolph; born 1863, Switzerland; died 26 November 1930, Shaw, Mississippi.
  •  Heinrich Reinhold:  born 18966, Switzerland; came to US in April 1892; died of yellow fever in Brunswick, GA, 20 November 1893.
  •  Alfred (Frederick ?); born 1873, Switzerland; came to US in 1890; died in Patchogue, LI, NY, 27 October 1905.

Dates involving Josef Schlatter and his three sons

Date Event

Josef  Schlatter

John Adolph
(1st son; my grandfather)
Heinrich Reinhold
(2d son)
(3d son)
1830 Josef born      
October 1863   Adolf born    
September 1866     Reinhold born  
April 1873       Alfred born
April 1889 Josef signs contract binding Alfred to an apprenticeship for two years; April 1889 - April 1891     Josef signs contract binding Alfred to an apprenticeship for two years; April 1889 - April 1891
April 1890       Arrives in US; apparently he did not fulfill the second year of his apprenticeship contract.
August 1890   Adolf arrives in US, bound for NY    
April 1892    

Heinrich Reinhold arrives in US

February 1893     Entries in Reinhold's bank book show he is in Brunswick, GA  
November 1893     Reinhold dies of yellow fever, Brunswick, GA; buried there, Palmetto Cemetery.  
????   Adolf returns to Switzerland    
5 October 1896 Josef arrives in NY, bound for Riverhead, LI      
30 June 1897   Adolph arrives Ellis Island, NY; destination Riverhead, LI, to see his father and brother.    
1900 No record of Joseph in 1900 federal census No record of Adolph in 1900 federal census (this is strange -- more research required)   Alfred is listed in the 1900 federal census; he lives in a boarding house, occupation listed as "poultryman."

Adolph in Senatobia, MS, operating a bakery

October 1905      

Alfred dies.  All indications are that he lived on Long Island from his arrival in 1890 until his death; worked at various jobs as a laborer; lived in boarding houses.

March 1906   Adolph marries Louise Kleiner    
August-September 1908 to October 1910   Adolph, Louise, and "Baby Louise" depart NY on steamship La Savoie, 6 Aug 1908, returning to Switzerland.  Adolph is in Switzerland with Louise and "the baby" until July-August 1910.
September 1910   Adolph marries Emma Waldner    
31 October 1910   Adolph and Emma arrive in US; by early 1911 they are in Shaw, MS, where they operate a bakery.    
January- June 1911   Adolph files for divorce from Louise in Shelby County, TN, court.  In June, he petitions the court to drop the suit.    
May 1911   John A. Schlatter, first son of Adolph and Emma, born, Shaw, MS.    
August 1915   Joseph A. Schlatter, second son of Adolph and Emma, born, Shaw, MS    
October 1921   Frederick  R. Schlatter, third son of Adolph and Emma born, Shaw, MS.    
November 1930   Adolph dies, Shaw, MS    
May 1948   Emma dies, Greenville, MS    


The Swiss Family Registers

At this point in researching my Schlatter family history, I discovered that Switzerland maintains Familienschien -- family registers.  The register lists families by names of spouses and their children.  The registers include dates of birth, date of confirmation, date of marriage, and date of death.  I also found a website for the Staatsarchiv Des Kanton Zurich State Archives for Zurich Kanton.  I decided I had nothing to lose, so, I wrote to them and asked if they had any information on Adolf Schlatter and his father Josef Schlatter.  I provided the information I had -- names, date and place of birth.

I was surprised and very pleased when I received a reply on 12 April 2010.  Their reply consisted of: 

  • A letter from an individual at the archives.
  • Two pages copied from microfilm:
    • Family register of Josef Schlatter, father of Adolph.
    • Family register of Josef Schlatter, grandfather of Adolph.

These copies of the family registers were gold mines of information.  I discovered the names and dates of birth and death of my grandfather's parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.  Go to this link for a description and photos of the family registers.


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