Jun 23

Found Shoes, aka Concealed Shoes

We were in an antique store in Shipshewana, Indiana, a couple weeks ago where we had a nice conversation with the owner. He had a little workshop in the back of the store and he was working on a pair of shoes. He was very knowledgeable about shoes and I mentioned the old boots I have that once belonged to my great-great-grandfather Louis Breuninger.

Louis Breuninger boots

My mom always said that Louis brought these boots with him from Germany in about 1838 when he came to this country. For as old as these boots are they are in near pristine condition. In fact, they look so good that I always joked that they must not have fit him very well and thus he hardly ever wore them. But I doubt people back then had a lot of extra clothing like we do today. Perhaps these were his dress boots and if so he probably took very good care of them. Maybe he even had them resoled a couple times. The soles look like new, too.

Louis Breuninger boots

The shoemaker in the antique store started asking me all sorts of questions about the details of the boots. Were they straight on top? Were they left and right or generic for either foot? Where were the seams? What was the stitching like? Gosh! I never really studied the boots that carefully and could not answer most of his questions.

So I told him that I would just bring in the boots on our next trip to Shipshewana so he could examine them himself. We go up there several times a year and I will have to write about his assessment of the boots at a later date.

But one of the questions he asked me was if they were “found shoes.” I had no idea what he was talking about. But he went on to explain found shoes and I found the whole story very interesting. I had never heard of found shoes I and I would like to hear if any of my readers know anything about this custom.

He said that years ago, from the 1300s to the early 1900s, people used to put an old shoe in the walls of a house when they built the house. Usually it was the northwest corner, according to him. The old shoe was placed there for good luck, or to keep bad luck away, and mainly to avoid a broken leg. A broken leg would have been disastrous for anyone in the house back then, but particularly for the head of the household. He said they often put one shoe belonging to each spouse and sometimes a shoe from each of their children.

This was a superstitious custom practiced by several nationalities—Germans, English, French, Americans, and others. Their nationality did not make any difference. He said it was done in the old country as well as in America, and done in America into the early 1900s.

He even had at least one found shoe in his store. It originally had a buckle on it and reminded me of a Puritan’s shoe. It was very worn and the heel was worn down on the outside.

I did a Google search about this superstition read several articles about it. I learned that they are usually called “concealed shoes” and they are pretty much as the store owner said.

Shoes are hidden in the building structure, often found in chimneys, under floors, above ceilings, around doors and windows, and in the roof. People believe they were concealed as magical charms to protect the occupants from evil beings such as demons, ghosts, and witches. Others feel the old shoes could have been an offering to a household deity, which would protect the house, or to bring fertility to a female member of the house.

Concealed shoes have been found in country houses, public houses, a Benedictine monastery, and a Baptist church. The earliest ones found were in Winchester Cathedral, behind choir stalls that were installed in 1308. An index created in 2012 contains 1900 discoveries of concealed shoes found in Great Britain, about half belonging to children. [1]

Other thoughts are that shoes seem to have had a special significance because a shoe is the only item of clothing which takes on the shape of the person wearing it. A single worn shoe was hidden so that a malevolent spirit could not steal it and take away the protection the shoe gave. Finding these shoes today can show us what ordinary people were wearing on their feet hundreds of years ago. I also read that person from Zweibrücken, Rhine Pfalz, found an old pair of shoes in a house built in 1903. [2] That is not all that far from where some of my ancestors came.

I would love to hear from anyone who has heard of found/concealed shoes or has ever found any.

And in the future I will report what the shoemaker has to say about great-great-grandfather Breuningers old boots.


[1] Concealed Shoes, Wikipedia.

[2] Concealed Shoes, Northampton Museums & Art Gallery, blog posted 19 June 2012.

Jun 20

Tombstone Tuesday–Ferdinand & Elizabeth (Herzog) Huffmann

Ferdinand & Elizabeth (Herzog) Huffmann, Kessler Cemetery, Mercer County, Ohio. (2017 photo by Karen)

This is the tombstone of Ferdinand and Elizabeth (Herzog) Huffmann, located in row 5 of Kessler, aka Liberty Cemetery, Liberty Township, Mercer County, Ohio. The marker is inscribed:

Hier ruht
Ferdinand Huffmann
Geb. 7 Mar
24 Apr

Ehefrau von
Geb. 26 Aug
9 Nov 1917


“Here rests Ferdinand Huffmann, born 7 March 1930, died 24 April 1908. Elizabeth, wife of Ferdinand Huffmann, born 26 August 1834, died 9 November 1917. HUFFMANN

This marble tombstone is weathered and very difficult to read. Any inscription once carved onto the face of the stone is not illegible anymore. The inscriptions for this couple are on either end of the marker, Ferdinand’s inscription on the south face and Elizabeth’s on the north.

Ferdinand Huffmann has his own entry in Zion’s familienbuch and that entry gives quite a bit of information about him and his family. It tells us that Ferdinand was born 7 March 1830 in Fechingen, Rhein-Prussia, the son of Jakob and Margaretha (Schmeer) Huffmann. He was baptized and confirmed in Fechingen and he immigrated to America with his parents in 1849. Ferdinand married Elizabeth Herzog in 1852. Elizabeth was the daughter of Johann and Margaretha Herzog and was born 26 August 1834 in Buschendorf, County Court Herzogenauerach, Unterfranken, Bavaria. This church record also gave the names and birth dates of their first eight children. All of their children were born in Liberty Township, Mercer County.

Ferdinand Huffmann married Elizabeth Herzog on 8 August 1852 in Mercer County, Ohio. The couple was married by Rev. J.D. Gackenheimer, a traveling minister from the Van Wert area. Elizabeth’s name was spelled Hartzog on the probate court record. [1] Ferdinand attended St. Paul Liberty and the couple was married there. Zion Chatt was not formed until 1855 and Rev. Gackenheimer was Zion Chatt’s first minister. St. Paul’s records indicate that Ferdinand was from Mercer County and Elizabeth was from Butler County, Ohio.

The couple lived south of Chatt in 1860 and had a Skeels Cross Roads Post Office address. Their household in 1860: Ferdinand, 30; Elizabeth, 26; George, 7; Margaret, 4; John, 2; Elizabeth, 8 months; and Philip, 8 months. Yes, the couple had a set of twins. [2]

Their household in 1880: Ferdinand, 51; Elizabeth, 45; John, 22; Philip, 19; Elizabeth, 20; Katie, 17; Jacob, 15; Frederick, 13; Rose Ann, 5. Ferdinand farmed and their son Philip worked as a carpenter. This enumeration shows that Philip’s twin sister was deaf and was not sent to school. [3]

By 1900 Ferdinand and Elizabeth had been married 47 years. This enumeration indicates that Ferdinand immigrated in 1849 and that Elizabeth immigrated in 1845. Three of their children still lived at home as well as their granddaughter Nora S. The census indicates that Elizabeth had given birth to three children and that they were still alive. However, we know that she had given birth to at least ten children and one was deceased. Someone in the household probably reported the just the number of children still living in their home at that time. Their household in 1900: Ferdinand, 70; Elizabeth, 67; Philip, 37; Isabella, 37; Rosana, 24; and Nora S, 13, granddaughter. [4] This was the last census Ferdinand was enumerated in.

Ferdinand Huffmann, Kessler Cemetery. (2017 photo by Karen)

According to Zion Chatt’s records Ferdinand Huffmann died of dropsy on 24 April 1908, at the age of 78 years, 1 month, and 17 days.  He was buried on the 27th.  Survivors included his widow, 5 sons, and 4 daughters.

In 1910 widow Elizabeth Huffmann, 76, lived with her unmarried daughter Elisabeth, 52. Daughter Elizabeth could not read or write. In this enumeration the mother Elizabeth indicated that she had given birth to ten children and nine of them were still living. They lived a few houses from her son Philip and his wife Etta. [5]

Elizabeth (Herzog) Huffmann, Kessler Cemetery. (2017 photo by Karen)

According to Zion Chatt’s records Elizabeth Huffmann died of old age on 9 November 1917, at the age of 83 years, 3 months, and 14 days. She was buried on the 11th. This record shows that she was survived by her children and other relatives. Her death is recorded as being in Muncie, Center Township, Delaware County, Indiana. She was likely staying with her son John and his wife Samantha (Bebout), who lived in and are buried in Muncie. [6]   

Ferdinand & Elizabeth (Herzog) Hoffmann had the following children:
George (1853-1937), married Sarah R. Dodge
Margaret (1855-1921), married Jacob Bollenbacher
John (1857/8-1942), married Samantha Bebout
Elizabeth (1859-1951)
Philip (1859-1954), married Etta Leistner
Catharine (1862-1913), married Adam Kable
Jacob (1865/6-1939), married Marie Kessler
Freidrich “Fritz” (1867-1940), married Elizabeth Wilhelmine “Lizzie” Hiller; married Callie Brewster
Heinrich (1872-1873)
Anna Rosina (1875-1960), married George J. Zeilinger

I noticed that there were two Ferdinand Huffmanns around Chatt at that time. They were relatively close in age and each had children born about the same time. The other Ferdinand Huffmann was born in Fechingon in 1847 and was the nephew of today’s subject, the son of his Carolyn Huffmann, who married Jacob Huffmann. Today’s subject and Carolyn were brother and sister. The nephew Ferdinand Huffmann was married to a Barbara, Barbara Schott. The church records made it easy to keep the families straight because they always mentioned the first name of the wife, either Elizabeth or Barbara. Also of note is that this surname was spelled a couple different ways on various family members’ tombstones and in other records and was even changed by some branches of the family over the years–Huffmann, Huffman, Hoffmann, Hoffman.

Also interesting that while researching this family I saw two connections to my family. Ferdinand and Elizabeth’s son John Huffman was married to Samantha Bebout, sister to Mary Loverda Bebout (1859-1937). Mary Loverda Bebout was the second wife of my great-great-grandfather Daniel Brewster. And, Ferdinand and Elizabeth’s son Friedrich/Fritz Huffman’s second marriage was to Lucinda Caroline “Callie” (Brewster) Tester (1874-1907), daughter of the above-mentioned Daniel Brewster and his first wife Sarah Fetters. Fritz and Callie were married by Zion’s Pastor August Affeld in 1898 and it was the second marriage for both. Daniel Brewster would have been a father-in-law and a brother-in-law to two Huffmann siblings.


[1] “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” FamilySearch.org, Ferdinand Hoffman & Elizabeth Hartzog, 8 Aug 1852; Mercer Marriages, 1838-1852, Vol. ABC, p.394; FHL microfilm 914955.

[2] 1860 U.S. Census, Liberty, Mercer, Ohio, p.358, dwelling 998, family 1003, Fred Hoofman; Ancestry.com; FHL microfilm 805009, NARA microfilm M653, roll 1009.

[3] 1880 U.S. Census, Liberty, Mercer, Ohio, Ed 188, p.472D, dwelling 27, family 28, Ferdinand Hoffman; Ancestry.com; NARA microfilm T9, roll 1048.

[4] 1900 U.S. Census, Liberty, Mercer, Ohio, ED 85, p.9A, dwelling 166, family 171, Ferdinand Hoffman; Ancestry.com; FHL microfilm 1241304, NARA microfilm T623, roll 1304.

[5] 1910 U.S. Census, Liberty, Mercer, Ohio, ED 119, p.16B, dwelling 352, family 313, Elizabeth Huffman; Ancestry.com; ED 117, p.16B; FHL microfilm 1375227, NARA microfilm T624, roll 1214.

[6] Indiana Deaths, 1882-1920, Ancestry.com, Elizabeth Huffman, 9 Nov 1917; Indiana WPA.

Jun 16

A New Leaf On Our Family Tree

Our family just got a little bigger this past week. We have a new leaf on the family tree–another grandchild, a grandson this time.

James Ryan Bennett, June 2017

I am very happy to announce the birth of James Ryan Bennett, who weighed in at 8 pounds, 12 ounces, and is 22 inches long. James weighed almost as much as his father, Jeff, who was an even 9 pounds at birth.

Grandma holding Jamres

James is simply a sweet, precious, cute, and adorable baby boy. There nothing like holding a newborn baby and we got to hold him about eight hours after he was born.

James Ryan Bennett, June 2017.

Mother and son, as well as father and big sister, are all doing very well. In case you are wondering, big sister Chloe was at her other grandparents’ when we were there to see James.

James was born at home with the help of two midwives. Erin felt very comfortable giving birth at home and said it was a very positive experience.

Jeff and Erin had a little trouble deciding on a name. There were two other names in the running but we think they made a great choice. James Ryan is a good solid name and he looks like a James. They wanted a Biblical name and the name James certainly fits the bill.

Jeff, Erin, and James, a few hours after birth.

We now have three generations of Bennett men whose names begin with the letter J: Joe, Jeff, and now James. Jeff and James share the middle name Ryan and so they also have the same initials.

Joe, Jeff, and James; three generations of Bennett men.

I have mentioned before that there are some very creative names in the Bennett family history. About three generations back Joe’s great-grandfather Henry Brandenburg Bennett and his wife Sarah Milligan named their seven children after U.S. states or territories. Their children were named Nevada, Dakota, Minnesota, Goldsby Alaska, Arizona Landon, Delaware, and Vermont. Vermont was Joe’s grandfather.

Welcome to the world and welcome to our family, James Ryan Bennett.

Jun 13

Tombstone Tuesday–Heinrich Hoffmann

This is the tombstone of Heinrich Hoffmann, located in row 8 of Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Chattanooga, Mercer County, Ohio. The marker is inscribed:

Sohn of
Ferd &
2 Febr 1873
8 m. 20 t.

“Heinrich, son of Ferd & Elisabeth Hoffmann, died 2 February 1873, aged 8 months, 20 days.” A little lamb is carved into the top of the monument, symbolizing youth and innocence.

According to Zion Chatt’s church records Heinrich Hoffmann was born 11 May 1872 in Liberty Township, Mercer County, Ohio, the son of Ferdinand and Elisabeth (Herzog) Hoffmann. He was baptized on 16 June 1872 with Wilhelm Betzel and Katharine Gugel serving as his sponsors.

Heinrich’s father Ferdinand was born in Fechingen, Rhein-Prussia, and his mother Elisabeth was born in Buschendorf, Bavaria.

Heinrich was the ninth of ten children born to Ferdinand and Elisabeth Hoffmann. The family lived in Liberty Township and attended Zion Lutheran Church in Chattanooga, Ohio.

Heinrich Hoffmann died 2 February 1873 at the age of 8 months and 20 days. He was buried on the 3rd.  The records do not indicate what he died of. He was born between census enumerations so very little is known about him.

Heinrich’s parents are buried a few miles away in Kessler Cemetery, Liberty Township.

The Ferdinand Hoffmann family is included in Zion Chatt’s familienbuch which gives quite a lot of information about the family. More about the Ferdinand Hoffmann family in next week’s Tombstone Tuesday.

Jun 09

Two Ancestral Homes in the Old Country

I am fortunate to have photos of two of my ancestors’ homes. They are not just photos of old homes on this continent. These photos are special because they are from the Old Country–from Germany. I have a photo of a house on my paternal side and several photos of a house on my maternal side. And the homes were not all that far away from each other.

The Rueck house is on my dad’s side of the family and the Schumm house is on my mom’s side.

Christena Rueck (1858-1945) was my great-grandmother. She married Jacob Miller (1843-1918) in 1882 and they were the parents of my grandfather Carl Miller (1896-1973). Carl was my dad’s father.

Rueck home in Appensee, Wuerttemberg.

The Rueck home shown in the photo above was in Appensee, Baden-Württemberg, and was built in the 1500s, according to what is written on the back of the photo. It was razed in the 1980s. Fortunately all of that information is written on the back of the photo along with the names Louise and Ursula Rossle, Karlsruhe. I am not sure who Louise and Ursula were.

I do not know how many generations of Ruecks lived in this home or if my great-grandmother Christena Rueck ever lived there. Perhaps her father Jacob Rueck lived there before immigrating.

Christena Rueck immigrated to America in about 1880 with her parents Jacob and Regina Rueck and Jacob’s two Rueck nephews. They lived in Ohio for a short time until most of the family moved westward, some to Oregon and some to Oklahoma, but Christena remained in Ohio.

John George Schumm home, Ruppertshofen, Wuerttemberg.

The Schumm home shown in the photo above was in Ruppertshofen, Baden-Württemberg, and was built about 1814. My mother was a Schumm and we descend from immigrant John Georg Schumm (1777-1846) who immigrated with his 4 sons and one daughter in 1833. John Georg’s wife died in Germany about 10 years before some of the family immigrated. The John Georg Schumm family lived in Holmes County, Ohio, for a few years before moving to Van Wert County, Ohio, where they established the village of Schumm and the Lutheran church there. I descend from John Georg’s son Johann “Louis” (1817-1855), his son “Louis” John (1851-1938), and his son Cornelius Louis (1896-1986). Cornelius was my mom’s father.

John George Schumm home, Ruppertshofen, 2002.

John George Schumm home, Ruppertshofen, 2002.

I am not sure if the Schumm home is still standing. Over the years several Schumm descendants have visited our ancestral town of Ruppertshofen and they took these photos.

Both the Rueck and Schumm houses look a lot alike. And they look large. Particularly the Schumm home. Perhaps that was the standard type of house built in Württemberg at that time.

Both Appensee and Ruppertshofen are in Baden-Württemberg and are about 27 miles apart.

Location of Appensee and Ruppertshofen, Wuertemberg. [1]

Yes, I feel very fortunate indeed that my family saved these old photos, giving us a look back into the past.


[1] Google.com search, distance between Appensee and Ruppertshofen, Wuertemberg.

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