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by Jan Kraus

Not everyone has an interest in their forebearers. After all, life is complicated and often difficult enough without taking on searches through the past. But for those of us who enjoy the quest, it is a worthwhile endeavor.

My sister Judy has access to and has uncovered many facts and dates about our family history. and other databases of its kind provide a relatively organized approach to a familial search. Nothing wrong with that!

However, my method of searching for my ancestors has been more haphazard 

and chance. Most of the discoveries I’ve made were accidental, surprising and thrilling because they were so unexpected. When searching for my paternal Great-Grandfather and Great-Grandmother, Gustav and Gertrude Kraus, I followed a path with many starts and stops.

Naturally, the search started with my father, Raymond O Kraus who was the youngest of thirteen children born to Emil H and Elizabeth Kraus.

Three of Dad’s siblings, George, Harriet and Charles died in infancy. My Dad was just three years old when his eldest brother, Emil H Junior, died from a sports related injury at nineteen years of age.

The other eight of my dad’s brothers and sisters survived childhood and lead happy and productive lives. They were, thankfully, a real presence in my life.

I was an infant when my Grandpa Emil H died. I was eight years old when Grandma Elizabeth passed away. When I knew her, she was unable to speak, as she had suffered a serious stroke. So, family stories were few and far between, and those that were told were about my dad’s immediate family, all born in America.

For many years, my paternal ancestors were a mystery.


At one of our annual Kraus family dinners, my cousin Jeannette Rich-Reising shared a typewritten story about Grandpa Emil H and Grandma Elizabeth. The story talks about their parents.

This little history fueled my initial efforts to find my Great-grandparents; Gustav Kraus and Gertrude Brandstetter-Kraus.

I learned Gustav and Gertrude married in Germany before emigrating to America in 1872. On September 24, 1872, Gustav and Gertrude were ‘officially’ married in New York City.


My brother Raymond E Kraus found this marriage certificate.

Gustav was a weaver in Germany. He was also, apparently, an accomplished musician. After emigrating to the USA in the early 1870’s, he played with the Gilmore Band[1] in New York City.

I filed this information away for several years. When I picked up the search again, I became curious about Gustav’s time in the Gilmore Band in New York City.

My Dad, Raymond O, had a lovely tenor voice, and a love of operetta. I inherited his love of music. I am a singer/songwriter and play guitar and piano. We might have inherited our musical inclinations from Gustav.

The history of the Gilmore Band is fascinating in itself. Gilmore and his Band were a really big deal. Gilmore is credited as the father of American Band music. I spent many hours reading through historic documents related to Gilmore and his ensemble.

I learned the Gilmore Band toured Europe, and I wonder if Gustav learned of Gilmore during one of those tours. Perhaps, Gilmore even inspired Gustav to emigrate to America. To date, I have no proof of either of those theories.

I also have no proof Gustav is in the photo above, but it is fun to think he might be there.

In the late 1870’s, Gustav gave up the musician’s life and he and Gertrude left New York. They moved to Rolla, Missouri to try farming. At least three of their children, my Great-Uncle Ed, Great-Aunt Rose, and Grandpa Emil H were born in Rolla.

Apparently, in 1882, Gustav also gave up farming and he and Gertrude moved to St. Louis, Missouri where Gustav had a successful career in cooperage. The couple’s family grew to include three more handsome boys.

Once again, I set my search for Gustav and Gertrude’s histories aside, as other demands of life took precedence.

Several years later, during an evening stroll through the internet, I signed into Find-a-Grave[2]. On a whim, I searched for Gustav and Gertrude. I was surprised to find they are buried very near their son, my Grandpa Emil H and his wife Elizabeth in Sts. Peter and Paul Cemetery in St. Louis.

This cemetery is also where my parents are buried. All my life, Gustav and Gertrude were right there and I did not know it.

Again, I set the search aside.

When I retired, I found more time to devote to writing and research and during the pandemic lockdown, I took great advantage of ZOOM seminars on topics of interest. I attended several events sponsored by the Missouri Humanities, including this event[3], Regenerative Agriculture: The Future of Missouri Farming, on Feb. 17, 2022.

I enjoyed this presentation. When I sit down to a meal, I often think about our vested interest in the challenges farmers face. In this lively one-hour video, Dr. Kelly Robyn Wilson presents concepts of Regenerative farming; Josh Payne speaks of regenerative farming efforts at his family’s Rusted Plowshare farm; and Miranda Duschack speaks of her flower farm Urban Buds, located in South St. Louis City. At the live event in 2022, one of the participants mentioned a Missouri state website that had recently been updated to include the Missouri Farm Census from 1850-1880[4].

This comment captured my attention. Could I find an entry for Gustav in the 1880 census? After all, Gustav and Gertrude had been farmers in Rolla before moving to St. Louis.

I spent the next several hours combing through the 1880 farm census data. First, I determined Rolla was part of Phelps County. Then the effort became tedious. The documents are images, and I did not find a search function. I read names, line by line, page by page. Some of the census takers handwriting is definitely better than others.

Late that evening, on Page 113 of the 1880 Phelps County census[5], I not only found Gustav Kraus, but to my absolute surprise, I found Emile M. Kraus his brother, my Great-Uncle, I didn’t even know existed.

Mind blown!


Kraus is spelled wrong with an added ‘e’, but that happens to me all the time. Their first names are mangled too, but I have no doubt it’s them.

I shared my discovery with my fellow history sleuths, my brother Raymond E Kraus and brother-in-law Dean Kassoff. Dean found a confirming entry in the Rolla Herald on Sept 1, 1898[7]. Great-Uncle Emile M had not been able to travel to St. Louis for his brother Gustav’s funeral. Sad, but indicative of the fact that the two brothers remained in contact.

Emile M’s family remained in Rolla when Gustav moved to St. Louis. I searched Find a Grave and found several documents about Emile M’s family, however to-date no evidence of surviving family members in Rolla.

Discovery of Great-Uncle Emile M ties several Kraus generations together.

  • My newly discovered Great-Uncle was Emile M.
  • His nephew, my Grandpa, was Emil H.
  • My Grandpa’s eldest son was Emil H Junior.
  • Emil H Junior’s nephew is my brother Raymond Emil.

It became obvious to me, that my Great-Grandfather Gustav and his brother, Great-Uncle Emile M remained close throughout their lives. It seemed as if the search for Gustav and Gertrude’s story had come to a sort of end.

I set my search aside for about a year. While I was idling, my brother Raymond E took up a search of his own. He subscribed to and traced Gustav’s parentage back in time to Jacobi Kraus who was born around 1696. That’s pretty exciting, but I wasn’t even aware of his findings until my search was reignited.



One day, my cousin Mary Jo Kraus asked my brother Raymond E if he knew where, in Germany, our Kraus ancestors were born. Ray called me and I shared my Find-A-Grave research, which includes Great-Uncle Emile M’s obituary.

It states that in 1842, at age 17, Emile M came to America from Renchen which is very close to Baden, Germany. In 1861, Emile M and his wife of five years, Charlotte, moved to Rolla, Missouri.

Renchen was also Gustav and Gertrude’s home town. I found it interesting that the year Emile M left for America was the year Gustav was born in Renchen. The siblings were 17 years apart.

Some years earlier, my brother Raymond E had bravely contacted the Chamber of Commerce in Split, Croatia on a successful hunt for our Maternal Grandfather, so I challenged him to do the same for Gustav and Gertrude in Renchen.


Ray’s efforts paid off. Through Ray’s contacts in Baden, he found the Baptismal records[9] for both Gustav and Gertrude. Also, he found a Family Book for Gustav, his parents and siblings.

And, most surprising and thrilling of all, he found a detailed family lineage of Gertrude Brandstetter-Kraus. The Gertrude Brandstetter family tree[10] goes back to 1610.

Adding Gertrude’s family line to the lineage my brother Ray had traced for the Kraus family, takes our ancestry back centuries.

Here is the resulting tree, to date. Some dates are lacking, and there are a few entries that still need verification, which I hope my sister Judy’s access to will help us finalize.

The Blue entries highlight Gustav, Gertrude, Emile M and his wife Charlotte.

The green entries, in the middle, are my paternal Grandparents, my parents and my siblings.

The upper section traces the births, deaths and marriages for the Kraus family back to Jacobi Kraus’s father in early 1600’s. The bottom section traces the birth, deaths and marriages for the Brandstetter family back to Christiani Brandstetter in 1610.


Whether you use a tool like,, or my rather slap-dash approach which depends on luck and serendipity, the search for ancestry is a rewarding pursuit.

Finding Gustav and Gertrude provided hours of amusement and amazement for me, my brother, my sister and my brother-in-law. And sharing what we’ve learned has value for our immediate and extended family.

I am in awe of the facts. I feel the tug to know more; to reach further back; to reach deeper into some of the individual histories.

I do not expect to find a history of wealth or fame. Rather, the facts we collect give me a glimpse into the complexities of family life as it existed over the centuries.

 Most of our ancestors had lots and lots of children, and some of the men had children with second, and even third wives. We found infants lost at birth, or who died very young. But, many of the siblings did survive, so it’s likely we have distant cousins living all over the world.

For me, this suggests humanity really is one big family. We should strive to find ways to resolve our disagreements with dignity and consideration, across the globe

I also see evidence that some of my ancestors were bold and brave adventurers, willing to leave their place of birth and travel thousands of miles, by land and by sea to find a place, like Missouri, where there were adventures and new opportunities for themselves and those of us who came after.

Their history inspires me to cultivate some of that courage and conviction in my own life and endeavors.


About the Author Since retirement, Jan Kraus has been writing, drawing and painting. As a singer/songwriter, her song “Space Age” was introduced in the 2019 “It’s Time to Write a Song” album, Kevin Renick producer. She’s had some success in publishing her fiction and non-fiction as well. Most recently, Jan’s short story, ‘Once Upon a Friendship’, appears in the October 2023 Amazon #1 International Best Seller Anthology, “Perfectly I’Mperfect: Remarkable Stories of Ordinary Women Overcoming Extraordinary Circumstances”. Find examples of her writing and art, and follow her through her website: