Boucher gleanings

W. Boucher Jr. stamp. Click on images to expand them.

Following up on my recent blog post about genealogical memory (“What do you know?”), I took a fresh look at some persistent brick walls in my mother’s family. The blog post – and a 5-generation fan chart template I got from two colleagues – led me to reflect on whether anything more could be gleaned about the background of my great-great-grandfather, William Boucher Jr. (1822–1899) of Baltimore, Maryland.

The answer, I’m happy to say, is “Yes”!

I’ve written elsewhere about William Boucher’s 1845 passport, which, “Brigadoon”-like, keeps vanishing on me. My notes on the passport, though, indicate that Boucher was born in Bielefeld, near Mannheim in Baden, on 12 September 1822. It was on that basis that my father and I made a side trip to Mannheim in the summer of 1981, where a kind city archivist helped me create a rough ancestor table with dates (now also misplaced) for William’s parents and grandparents.

These days, Americans tend to use the term “Junior” to indicate the exact replication of a name: Theodore Roosevelt’s son is Theodore Roosevelt Jr., and so on. Finding that William Boucher Jr. was the son of Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Esprit Boucher, I blithely wrote down his name in my notes as Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Esprit Boucher Jr. I will say that, recently, I’ve had some doubts about the likelihood that someone born in Baden in 1822 was subject to quite the same regime as the twenty-first-century American model, but…

Courtesy Stadtarchiv Mannheim

My first breakthrough, in reverse chronological order, was the appearance in an database (Mannheim, Germany, Family Registers, 1760–1900) of a Gabriel Heinrich Friedrich Wilhelm Boucher, born in Hannover on 12 September 1822. These names are interesting, as is the order, as they reflect the forenames of my William Boucher Jr.’s paternal grandfather (Gabriel Boucher of the City of Brunswick in Lower Saxony), maternal grandfather (Johann Heinrich Förstner of Mannheim), and father (Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Esprit Boucher, living in Mannheim in 1821).

Courtesy Stadtarchiv Mannheim

The document on which Gabriel Henrich Friedrich Wilhelm Boucher’s names and birth date and place appear places him in Mannheim on 9 May 1842.[1] While the names and dates are legible enough, the purport of the document is a bit unclear, although it also mentions the surname and maiden name of my William Boucher Jr.’s grandmother, Johanna Elisabeth Förstner geb. [born] Hoffmann – perhaps it is some sort of a guardianship document, as my notes indicate Frau Förstner died in 1850.

A couple of years ago one of my cousins shared a sensational find with me: the “Memorandum Book of Stocks, Property & Family Records of W. Boucher Jr., Baltimore, May 7th, 1881.” In it, Boucher lists his 24 children (!), only eleven of whom were living in 1881 (three more would be born later), and gives the following account of himself: he was “Born September 12th 1822 in City of Hanover, Germany. Baptized in the Reformed Church of said City.”[2]

I had discounted the place, since my notes – imperfect, I now see! – indicated that he was born in Bielefeld/Mannheim, rather than (as is true) being the son of parents married there and himself a resident there as late as 1845. While I can find no information on his birth and baptism in Hannover at or, the Mannheim, Germany, Family Registers, 1760–1900 database lists Gabriel Heinrich [Friedrich] Wilhelm Boucher twice, both times born 12 September 1822, and the 1842 reference includes the information that he was born in Hannover.

So I feel reasonably confident that this Gabriel, born in 1822 and shown in relation to Frau Förstner geb. Hoffmann, is my great-great-grandfather, known in America as William Boucher Jr.

Courtesy Stadtarchiv Mannheim

Both and have more to offer on Gabriel/William’s parents, Wilhelm Boucher (bp. 1799) and Johanna Sophie Friederike Förstner (b. and bp. 1795). The Deutschland Geburten und Taufen, 1558–1898 database at lists the baptisms of six sons of Gabrielis Boucher and Mariae Spiritus Messager at Braunschweig [Brunswick]: Isidorus Gabriel Boucher, 1 March 1796; Thomas Augustinus Josephus Victor Boucher, 3 September 1797; Joannes Fridericus Wilhelmus Spiritus Boucher, 15 March 1799; Henricus Josephus Boucher, 1 September 1801; and twins Carolus Petrus Franciscus Boucher and Josephus Ludovicus Gabriel Boucher, born 24 and baptized 27 January 1811.[3]

There are two other intriguing Boucher baptisms in the period, for Gabriel August Theodor Julius Boucher (bp. 1819) and Spiritus Georg August Isidor Boucher (bp. 1822), sons of Hermann Karl Friedrich Boucher and Johanna Elisabeth Friederike Schmidt: perhaps Hermann Karl Friedrich was an older son of Gabriel and Marie, born before they arrived in Brunswick.[4]

While I have traced Johanna Sophie Friederike Boucher geb. Förstner’s ancestry for at least two more generations after her parents, thanks to and, for now I think I will leave it here, with the list of Sophie’s brothers and sisters, born and baptized in Mannheim:[5]

  1. Johanna Sophie Friederike Förstner, born 4, baptized 5 November 1795.
  2. Johanna Friederike Magdalena Förstner, born 12, baptized 13 November 1797.
  3. Johanna Jacobina Susanna Förstner, born 10, baptized 11 October 1798.
  4. Friederike Henriette Förstner, born 25, baptized 26 February 1800.
  5. Johann Friedrich Förstner, born and baptized 24 May 1802; he probably died in infancy.
  6. Johann Friedrich Förstner, born 18, baptized 19 September 1803; died 23, buried at Mannheim 25 July 1804.[6]
  7. Johann Wilhelm Förstner, born 14, baptized 16 January 1805; died 29, buried at Mannheim 30 September 1809.
  8. Marie Philippine Förstner, born 26, baptized 28 November 1808; died 12, buried at Mannheim 15 December 1827.
  9. Wilhelmine Rosine Förstner, born 13, baptized 16 June 1811; died 30 June, buried at Mannheim 2 July 1812.

And because this was a prompt for a fresh look at the Boucher and Förstner question, here is a chart showing three more generations of Sophie Boucher geb. Förstner’s forebears.

Continued here.


[1] Mannheim, Germany, Family Registers, 1760–1900.

[2] Boucher, “Memorandum Book,” [p. 6].

[3] Deutschland Geburten und Taufen, 1558–1898, at calls the same data set Germany, Select Births and Baptisms, 1558–1898. William Boucher Jr.’s children included Elizabeth Sophia Boucher (1849–1876), Frederick Vincent Boucher (1850–1856), Francis Xavier Boucher (1853–1927), Victor Emile Boucher (1860–1878), Maria Josephine Boucher (1862–1863), William Maria Boucher (1867–1921), Mary Josephine Boucher (1868–1961), Frances Marie Boucher (1872–1954), Ernest Gabriel Boucher (1876), and Emile Gabriel Boucher (1886–1950) – a daunting list of names associated with the Boucher family of Brunswick (and, to a lesser extent, the Förstners of Mannheim).

[4] Another child of William Boucher Jr. and his second wife was Carlos Herman Boucher (1877–1968), who might have been named for Hermann Karl Friedrich Boucher of Brunswick.

[5] Information on the first five children reflects searches in both Deutschland Geburten und Taufen, 1558–1898, and Germany, Select Births and Baptisms, 1558–1898.

[6] This information, for the last four children, comes from the Baden, Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1502–1985 database at

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward was the founding editor at Vita Brevis; he served as NEHGS Editor-in-Chief 2013-2022. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, Thorndike, and Winthrop families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

15 thoughts on “Boucher gleanings

      1. I have to admit, I am a little puzzled about the lineage of the Boucher family in the article. I am not a regular reader of vita brevis, I found it by accident and maybe we can do a more detailed exchange by email. Bielefeld is far away from Mannheim, actually closer to Brunswick and Hannover. I am not aware of a Bielefeld in the Mannheim region. It may be a coincidence, but In 1840 a August Thomas Boucher (1797-1870) had opened the”Hotel Boucher zum Ravensburger Hof”. It was the best hotel in town and served as meeting point and postal station alike. (Susanne Wambach, Das Hôtel Boucher zum Ravensberger Hof, Ravensberger Blätter 1 (2017), p. 35-40.) His son Friedrich Wilhelm, who was born on May 7, 1830 emigrated to Texas in 1850 ( a favorite goal for Germans at the time). My Boucher family could be of course a different branch, but the mentioning of Bielefeld as birthplace of William Boucher triggered my attention.

        1. Thanks, Michael! Let’s correspond by email. As I mention above, some of the confusion here derives from the fact that I undertook this research decades ago, and my memory of that work is, it seems, imperfect. Bielefeld and Mannheim were the locations I had in the family papers then in my possession, so that is where I started. Thanks to the internet, and all the material now available to us, I see that the Boucher family in Germany is quite complicated. (Mercifully, the Hoffmann sides seems to have stayed put in Mannheim.) It could well be that the August Thomas Boucher family is (closely) connected — but so far as I can tell the Boucher family of Baltimore (and Iowa and Utah) quickly fragmented and stayed in casual touch, at best.

  1. I knew that your study of German reluctantly pursued would be helpful to you. I had forgotten about our trip to Manheim that summer. The blog is always a pleasure to read. Dad

  2. Fabulous story! Did you find the German records via searching the indexed records … or browsing (since you already knew the dates and places)?

    Is the Memorandum Book available on or If not, how/where did your cousin find it?

    1. No, the Memorandum Book is a book in my cousin’s possession — passed down from her parents.

      And thanks! This was all as the result of searches, although I knew the general outline for my great-great-grandfather and his parents.

  3. Very interesting bit of research, and a good reminder to us not to attribute modern usage to our ancestors’ lives. I see that the list of children shows lots of children named Johanna and Johann. Several of the Johanns died, but you don’t show death dates for the Johannas. I have worked on a family in which EVERY boy was Johann and EVERY girl was Maria, and they didn’t die. The only way you tell them apart is by their second names, so Johann Friedrich was Friedrich. The only boy called Johann was Johann Johannes. I learned that just because a later born child had the same first name, that child didn’t necessarily die before the other child was born.

  4. very interesting my surname is BUCHNER , i have seen this BOUCHNER spelling before , i wonder if we could be related . i will look and see . keep me posted, thanks

  5. Interesting reading! My maternal grandfather, Peter Bausher/ Bousher was born in Frankfort, Germany in 1849. He spent many years in the U.S. Army, from 1875 – 1889, in Nebraska and Kansas, finally retiring from the 20th Infantry in Fort Warren, MA in 1889. His marriage license to Mary Hennessey lists his father’s name as Andrew and his mother’s name as Rosina. Dead end. I don’t read German but would love to learn more. Any ideas? Many thanks, Claire

  6. The 4 first names drives me crazy! Especially when they use a different call name at different times. And all the women are named Minnie? I guess it’s only fair if all the men are Wilhelm. Or John! I nearly missed my ggrandfather the year he was Carl with a wife and children matching John in the same location where John lived the 10 years before and after.

  7. I am actually a little puzzled, the city of Bielefeld is not in Baden, nor is it near Mannheim. There was actually a Hotel Boucher in Bielefeld Westphalia which was run by August Thomas Boucher, so I don’t get the Mannheim connection

    1. Michael, the papers associated with my great-great-grandfather mention Bielefeld as well as Mannheim, and it was my understanding on a visit to Mannheim that Bielefeld was a smaller town/village in the neighborhood — one then swallowed up as Mannheim expanded. The papers I’ve quoted here don’t mention Bielefeld at all, it would seem — and this whole discussion speaks to doing research in a language one understands imperfectly!

      On the other hand, if Bielefeld in Westphalia has a population of Bouchers, that seems like an excellent place to look for connections to the Bouchers and the Forstners (who were of Mannheim).

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