The Gapsch family are Terry's ancestors, his father's mother's people.
We know the "Gapsch" spelling was found in the villages of Collmen, Mittweida, Rößgen, and Taura,1,2 as well as the villages surrounding Leisnig where our Gapsch family lived. These places are all just east of Leipzig, Königreich Sachsen (Kingdom of Saxony), in what is now the eastern part of Germany. Other spellings found in the area include Kabsch, Gappisch, and Cappisch, which all sound very similar in the Saxon dialect and are likely related. According to research at the University of Leipzig, the name Gappisch seems to refer to the regional origin of the family, meaning "der aus Käbschütz kommt" (the one who originates from Käbschütz).3 Käbschütz is about 20 miles east of the villages where the Gapsch spelling is known.
Our record starts with Edward W. Gapsch and his wife Sophie Herfurth, who immigrated in 1881 with three sons and a daughter from their native Saxony to St. Louis, Missouri. Once there, they had at least two more children, one son living to adulthood.

Robert Edward, Terry's great-grandfather, soon moved west, to Portland, Oregon, where he married, and later moved across the Columbia River to Washington, where he left many descendants. The daughter and the remaining three sons married in the St. Louis area, and they were blessed with a large number of descendants, most staying in that area to this day. The immigrant Edward and his sons were all farmers, and apparently successful ones. The later generations gradually followed more diverse career paths.

Edward and Sophie's Ancestors

Research has recently begun to uncover Edward and Sophie's ancestry. Thus far a handful of his ancestors, and some of their siblings, have been identified. Sophie's parents have likewise been identified. Research continues in an effort to learn more about the family.

Careful analysis of the nuances of meaning recorded in the church records is providing a fascinating insight into the lives of these ancestors.4 The records include terms describing both the status in the community and occupations of men when they appear as fathers, bridegrooms, or godparents. In most records the status of the men in our Gapsch family recorded as Hausgenosse, meaning "tenant" or "lodger." That means they were not land owners, and thus were not farmers, but obliged to work for others to support their families.

In most records, the term describing the occupations of men in the Gapsch family is Handarbeiter, literally "hand worker." But that term is not to be confused with the similar term Handwerker, which has the same literal translation. The latter term means "craftsman" while the former, the one applied to our family, is used for those who work by hand for others, receiving payment on a daily basis.5 It is better translated as "day laborer." We can also observe that family members seem to have moved from village to village in the area rather more often than we might have expected for the time (see map). That would seem consistent with the need to move from time to time in search of work.

Some Reasons for Their Immigration

From this we might draw some conclusions about why Edward and Sophie immigrated to the U.S. Many years later Edward told is granddaughter Alvina that he left Germany so "the Kaiser wouldn't get my sons in his army."6 This may well be at least part of the reason. With the unification of Germany in 1871, Königreich Sachsen (Kingdom of Saxony) was no longer an independent state, but now part the Deutsches Reich (German Empire), and Saxony's armies were now subject to the direction of the German Emperor, Wilhelm I. There had been a long history of military conflict in the region. In fact the 1813 "Battle of Leipzig," in which Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated in what is considered the largest battle in Europe prior to World War I, had over 500,000 troops engaged less than 40 miles from where the family was living.7 It would have been easy to foresee future military conflicts in the offing.

But considering the family's situation, being landless and working at unskilled occupations, the prospects of moving out of what seems to have been a life of poverty where the were would have been remote. The promise of a better life in America would have to have been appealing. And, in fact, that promise was delivered for the family. While they lived modestly by today's standards, Edward and his sons all became farmers on their own farms in the U.S., and some of their descendants became even more prosperous.

Reading More About Them

To read their stories you can begin with Edward or Sophie, click on any person in the photo above. If you prefer, you can look for specific people in the Index on the left or explore the family in Edward and Sophie's Descendants Chart or Ancestors Chart.

Viewing Maps of the Family

There are a number of Maps showing the principal locations where the family lived. In addition, many of the places mentioned in the narratives about each person contain this icon, which is a link to display that place in Google Maps. For more information about these links see the Map Links section on our main page.


  1. [S1994] Nagel, "GAPSCH search," e-mail to author, 12 Mar 2008, citing correspondence with Mr. Thomas Liebert, reported the "Gapsch" spelling found in Collmen, Mittweida, Rößgen, and Taura in his experience.
  2. [S1418] Max R. Gapsch, Passport Application (3 May 1893), shows he was born in Leisnig.
  3. [S1993] Menzel, "Gutachen zu Herkunft und Bedeutung des Familiennamens Gappisch,."
  4. [S225] I am much indebted to my colleage, Vera Nagel, for her patient efforts to help me understand the subtle meanings of the terms recorded in the records.
  5. [S2110] Nagel, "Citation for interpretation of "Handarbeiter"," e-mail to author, 30 Nov 2008.
  6. [S1457] Interview, Alvina Myers, 2 Jun 2008.
  7. [S1265] Wikipedia, online, articles titled "German Empire", "Kingdom of Saxony", and "Battle of Leipzig," accessed 16 Jan 2009.