Hopefully the reader will easily identify the thematic patterns nestled in the documents and notes, and use them as tools of interpretation. The themes keep the book from morphing into a mere genealogical tract or collection of mini-biographies. Rather, the thematic patterns are a contextual matrix for the actors who walk on this stage.
The book’s first theme is the content of the courtship letters and later family letters and documents. Paragraphs above describe the content and importance of these stand-alone source documents.
The book’s second theme is the legacy of the four families that came together when Irwin and Margaret made their marriage vows in Freistatt on September 30, 1920. The nineteenth century patriarchs and matriarchs who built this legacy were the bride and groom’s immediate ancestors in the United States.
Margaret’s maternal grandparents were Andreas Gottlieb Waiss and his spouse Margaretha (Barbara), who came to America in 1864 and operated a dye and cleaning shop in Chicago. The Waiss heritage made distinctive contributions to the newlyweds’ life together.
John Gottlieb Wiedman and his wife Maria were anchors on the side of Margaret’s father. They immigrated to America in the mid-nineteenth century, and John subsequently built wagons and carriages in Allegany, New York. In a speech at a family reunion in 1896 he described the rigors of life in Germany, Buffalo and Allegany (see Appendix B and Appendix C).
Irwin’s paternal grandfather, Johann Groh, landed on these shores in time to fight in the Civil War as a volunteer Union cavalryman. He later married Katharina Raithel, a young lady from the small Bavarian town where he was born. When her life ended prematurely, he became something of a man on the lam.
The Fritz family was Irwin’s heritage on his mother’s side. August Fritz and his spouse Anna were two of the founders of Freistatt and of Trinity Lutheran Church. They made a major impact on village and church.
Irwin and Margaret inherited the family heritage of these four legacy couples and their ancestors. In turn, Irwin and Margaret’s descendants, and other descendants of the four couples, shared family genes, histories, experiences and traits over the years. All four legacy couples emigrated from Germany of their own free will with the exception of Anna Fritz (nee Schoen), who was born in the United States. They shared a powerful spirit of entrepreneurship and openness to the future. Most arrived in the United States shortly before or during the nation’s bloody Civil War, but they did not shrink from making the long voyage from their German homes to raise families in the United States.
The book’s third theme is how Freistatt and its Lutheran congregation were established, and how they matured. This theme is woven throughout the book. Photographs show the development of town and congregation, just as other photos illustrate the four family legacies. I pursued new leads on the geographical origins of Freistatt’s settlers and how the founding families were interrelated (see Appendix A for data on the founders from the 1880 U. S. census for Lawrence County, MO). Other research showed how social and cultural currents affected the village and its church.
The fourth theme of the book is the host of descendants of Margaret and Irwin Groh, and the ancestors and descendants in the four family legacies that came together in their marriage. Appendix D includes short biographies of many of the ancestors and descendants, although the list is not exhaustive.