Mathias Kersten

Mathias Kersten (my second great-grandfather)

Mathias was born to Daniel and Margaretha Gierten on 24 March 1843 in Manderfeld, now Belgium. He was baptized at the St. Lamertus Parish in Manderfeld. We will explore St. Lambertus in more detail at a later time.

St. Lamberts Church

St. Lambertus Church

In order to understand my family history, I have had to learn about the history of my ancestors. For my ancestors lived through a tumultuous time. The borders are the remains of history and the symbols of the struggles faced.  As I have mentioned before, I am grateful for the research done by my genealogical minded ancestors.

If you look on a map for the Eifel region, you can see that it west of the Rhine River. As we zero in on the Hamlet of Hergersberg and nearby Manderfeld (both are today on the Belgian side), we begin to learn much about our German roots.  The village of Manderfeld  is located in the eastern tip of eastern Belgium.

Mathias had four siblings, Gertrud, Magdalena, Peter (not my grandfather), and Wilhelm. Mathias was the oldest son, and according to “Stockerbenrecht”, (the practice where family property could not be divided and only one son or one daughter inherited the property. According to Agnes Perings (my second cousin, one time removed), “most of them remained single, stayed in the house and went on working with the rightful heir” (p. 7). Or they moved outside of the village. This is one of the reasons people from this region moved to the Ruhr region, where they could work in more urban areas or the mines of Northwest Germany.

Mathias grew up in Manderfeld. It is likely he took over the family farm, as so many of the families did in those days. His older brother Peter immigrated to the United States in 1887 (we will talk more about him in a later post).

Mathias and Anna Maria Kersten

Perings wrote that Anna-Maria and Mathias lived in the house Buresch after getting married, then they build the house of Kersten in 1873 (Perings, 1990). Anna-Maria and Mathias had nine children. Their oldest son Peter (my great-grandfather) immigrated to the United States, followed by his younger brother Hubert. Mathias died in January 1905 at the age of 61. Below are there children:

Margaretha, the eldest daughter of Mathias and Anna-Maria went to the Ruhr Region; she died at the age of 32. She married Aloys Heitkamp

Christoph the second child to Anna-Maria and Mathias died at the age of four.

Peter (my grandfather) immigrated to the United States

Johann Peter died at 13 years old

Maria stayed in the House of Kersten and married Kaspar Perings

Wilhelm-died at age 3

Magdalena married Aloys Heitkamp they went to live in Castrop (Ruhr Region) (not quite sure if this is the same Aloys as her sister married).

Katharina-died at age 9, by diphtheria

Johann-Hubert-emigrated to Chicago married Emma


I plan to write more about these ancestors.  Join me as I continue to Explore Backwards!




Ancestors and descendants of Mathias Kersten and Anna Maria Reiter by Agnes Perings, 1990.




Kersten History

Much of what I know about the Kersten side of the family (my father’s mother side) is from my Aunt Annette.  Annette’s research and her connection with Agnes Perings (my second cousin 1x removed).

I am hoping Annette will add her knowledge as we explore this side, as I have not done as extensive of research.

Below is a type of transcript from Agnes.  Since English was not her first language, I have changed the wording to flow better but not the content.

He was born 24 March 1843 in Manderfield.  He died 13 January 1905 at Hergersberg.  His wife was Anna Maria Reiter, she was born 24 August in Hergersberg and died 31 January 1917 at Hergersberg.  Mathias’s father was called Daniel Kirsthen.  His wife was Margaretha Gierten.  Daniel’s father was named Mathias and his wife was Magdalena Hoffman.

Daniel Kersten (Kirsthen) was born 16 October 1792 at Kleinlangenfeld by Prum.  Due to the change of name from Kirsten to Kersten I think, that there is a connection between his desertion from the army of Napoleon.  At that time Daniel Kirstehn was a soldier with the Napoleon Army during the Napoleon Wars.  Daniel escaped from that country, he came to Belgium by way of Austria and Switzerland.  There he (Daniel) learned the trade dyer and cutter.  He stayed at Manderfeld, married and called himself Kersten.

Napoleonic War Map

Napoleonic War Map


What I have heard about where my ancestors lived was a piece of land that moved into various countries during the wars.

Map of Central Europe from 1814-1923

Map of Central Europe from 1814-1923

Hergersberg is a hamlet in the district Manderfeld located in the Belgian province of Liège So, does this make us German or Belgium?  I am not sure as the history of this area went through a series of transformations.