Laurent and Lorentz from Alsace-Lorraine and Rheinland Pfalz

We know the lady at right, pictured in her golden years, as the esteemed wife of Reverend Ludwig Müller. Caroline Laurent was born in Zweibrücken but became a forceful presence in Charleston, South Carolina, where her husband spent fifty years at the helm of St. Matthew's German Evangelical Church. Her familial origins had long been shrouded in mystery and fantasy, but now we know the story of her ancestry as it really was.

The origins of this family have now been traced to the Haut-Rhin region of France, where the earliest individual so far researched is Michel Lorentz, as the surname was then spelled, born about 1610 in the village of Labaroche, also known as Zell. He was a miller by trade.

He was married on February 14, 1637 to Marie Magdalena Luxmann of the nearby village of Ammerschwihr. Click the link at right to see their marriage record. We're fortunate that the bride was from Ammerschwihr and that the marriage, as was customary, took place in the bride's parish, where microfilmed church records go back to 1585. Had the marriage taken place in the bridegroom's village of Labaroche we would never have known about it. Labaroche records are filmed but are available only from 1683 onward.

One of their sons, Claud Lorentz, born in Ammerschwihr, married Johanna or Anna, whose surname is written variously as Esmonet, Lemonete, and Molete. The record books are blank from 1647 until the 1660s, so we lack a copy of their marriage record. Their son Joannis Jacobus Lorentz, whose baptism record we also lack, was an innkeeper at "The Angel" in Ammerschwihr and married Ursule Giselmann in 1689. Their record is at right in the list.

Their son Johannes Laurent, born in 1690 in Ammerschwihr, married Anna Maria Rohmin, daughter of Jacob Rohm, in 1718. No doubt in a tribute to his own father, a son born in 1718 or 1719 was known as Johannes Jacob (or Jacques) Lorentz or Laurent, although the baptism record at right records him as Joannis Lorentz.

Jacques and his wife Anna Margarita Weegbächer of Eguishheim had two sons, Lorenz Dominique (born in 1743) and Joseph Simeon (born in 1747), plus a daughter Anna Margarita (born in 1745). Lorenz was a court clerk and bailiff in Colmar.

Lorenz Dominique, our direct ancestor, had two families in the region. The first, with his fiancee, Susan Barbara Müllerin, produced a son, Emmanuel Friedrich Lorenz Laurent, born in Zweibrücken in 1776. Susanna Barbara may have died before their marriage could take place; the records are not clear. The second family, with wife Maria Barbara Hüber, produced two daughters in 1789 and 1797 in the nearby town of Küsel.

Lorenz Dominique's son Emmanuel Laurent and Emmanuel's wife Catharina Louisa Schmidt had nine children between 1799 and 1814, when they both died within a month of each other in Landstuhl, Pfalz. It's unknown what happened to the younger children, but one son, Philipp Heinrich Laurent, became a bookbinder. For unknown reasons, perhaps a lack of money, Philipp and a laundress called Philippina Jungblut set up housekeeping without benefit of clergy. Their first three children were born before their 1825 marriage, but after the marriage seven more children were born, and the marriage legitimized the births of their previous offspring.

Their first daughter, Philippina Carolina Laurent, known as Caroline, was born on September 15, 1822 in Zweibrücken, also known as Deux-Ponts, Pfalz, Germany. Caroline was confirmed in Zweibrücken and in 1842 married seminary student Louis (known in America as Ludwig) Müller. The couple emigrated to the USA that same year, settling first in Brooklyn and later in Charleston and Walhalla, South Carolina. They had eleven children.

After Ludwig's death in 1898 Carolina lived with her eldest daughter, Helena Melchers (at left with her own daughter Julia about 1885), in Charleston and died in 1910 of natural causes. She was buried at Bethany Cemetery in Charleston next to her husband.

Several of Caroline's siblings emigrated to the United States. Louisa, born in 1827, emigrated to the USA and arrived in New York in 1847. In 1853 Louisa married Julius Edward Stohlmann (usually known as J. Edward Stohlmann), a purveyor of German religious books in Brooklyn. Louisa and her husband had nine children. Julius died in 1910, Louisa shortly thereafter.

Younger brother Christian Frederick, born in 1824, emigrated in 1846 and settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Known as Frederick C. Laurent, he became a partner with Alfred Maron and opened a confectionary business on Walnut Street in 1850. The partnership dissolved and was succeeded by F. Laurent & Sons on Chestnut Street, supporting several generations of Laurent sons. Frederick married Marianna Schaeffer Demme, born in in Philadelphia in 1827, and they had nine children.

Another Laurent sibling may have been Augustus G. Laurent, a druggist who lived in Camden, New Jersey and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His birth month and year (December 1833) matches that for Franz Ludwig August Laurent, one of the children of Philipp Laurent and Philippina Jungblut. If we can verify the connection, this would be a fourth Laurent who emigrated to the New World.

A sister of Philipp Laurent, Franziska Christina (born in 1810), married Georg Eifler, son of Johann Peter Eifler and Catharina Schweyher, in Landstuhl, Pfalz. Their son Albert, born in 1846, came to New York about 1867 and married Margarethe Heymann in New York City, with whom he had five children.