Thekla Zepp

I present to you another surname that has not shown up on this blog before. The name is Zepp. I will also add that the surname, Zepp, does not show up at all in our German Family Tree. Then, when you add the fact that the Zepp groom married a bride by the name of Thekla, you end up with the rather unique name found in the title of today’s post.

We start with today’s birthday girl, Ida Maria Thekla Fritsche, who went by the name Thekla, which Germans pronounce as “Teck-la”. Thekla was born on June 30, 1864, making today her 157th birthday. She was the daughter of Karl and Franziska Maria (Engert) Fritsche. Thekla’s mother was one of the original immigrants who came as part of the Gesellschaft in 1839. We find Franziska’s name on the passenger list of the Johann Georg at the age of 4.

Engert names – Johann Georg passenger list – 1839

Thekla’s father, Karl Fritsche, arrived in America in 1854 aboard the Prinz Oscar. As seen on this passenger list, he came to this country by himself.

Karl Fritsche – Prinz Oscar passenger list – 1854

Thekla Fritsche was baptized at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Altenburg. That baptism record is shown here. I find it interesting that there is no Thekla listed as one of her given names.

Ida Maria Fritsche baptism record – Immanuel, Altenburg, MO

Thekla’s father died when she was just 4 years old, so when Thekla shows up in her first census in 1870, he is not found in the entry. The Fritsche’s were listed as living in the household of August Degenhardt, which means they were likely living in the Seelitz area. Thekla is the 5 year-old in this entry. Her name looks like Reda or Beda here.

1870 census – Brazeau Township, MO

In 1880, the Fritsche household consisted of Thekla and her mother, along with Clara Grosse and her daughter, Amalia. Clara was Thekla’s sister, who had married Paul Hieronymus Grosse, who then died in 1877.

1880 census – Brazeau Township, MO

Although I have no documents to display it, I think Thekla became one of those young women who moved to St. Louis to find work sometime after the above census. It was there that she found her husband, George Zepp. Let’s take a look at what may have been his early life.

George Zepp was born on July 5, 1862 in St. Louis. The source for his birthday information is his death certificate, which will be displayed later. That death certificate also states that his father’s name was Philip Zepp. Here’s where a problem arises. Several family histories on Ancestry claim that George Zepp was born in 1857, the son of Jacob and Margaret (Wendel) Zepp. I did find a church record for the marriage of Jacob Zepp and Margaret Wendel. It was found in a binder we have in our research library containing the records of St. Marcus United Church of Christ in St. Louis.

Zepp/Wendel marriage record – St. Marcus UCC, St. Louis, MO

A George Zepp shows up in the 1860 census at the age of 3. His father was a cooper, which fits in with the fact that George, the husband of Thekla, always was employed in a trade working with metal.

1860 census – St. Louis, MO

The Jacob Zepp family is found again in the 1880 census, and it says George was working in a cooper shop.

1880 census – St. Louis, MO

I thought I might be able to find a marriage record for George and Thekla in the records of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in St. Louis, but it is not there. The next document I found for George Zepp and Thekla Fritsche is the birth record shown below which indicates a girl had been born to this couple in May of 1890. The puzzling part of this record is that Thekla is called Emma, but it certainly indicates that she was born in Altenburg.

Lillie Zepp birth record – St. Louis, MO

It appears that George and Thekla had 3 children, one girl and two boys. We find the Zepp household in the 1900 census for St. Louis. George was a tinner. All 3 children are in this entry. This form shows the date of birth for George as July of 1862, making me think that there were two different men with the name of George Zepp living in St. Louis at that time.

1900 census – St. Louis, MO

Next, we find George and Thekla in the 1910 census. George’s occupation is listed again as tinner.

1910 census – St. Louis, MO

The last census in which we find George Zepp was the one taken in 1920. George had no occupation on this form.

1920 census – St. Louis, MO

George Zepp died in 1923 at the age of 61. His death certificate says he died of chronic epilepsy. It also shows his occupation as coppersmith.

George Zepp death certificate

Some family histories on Ancestry say that Thekla also died in 1923. I think I know why. The index for archived obituaries printed in the Post-Dispatch is shown below.

I think the above form just indicates that Thekla’s name is found in her husband’s obituary which was printed in the newspaper that year. A death certificate for Thekla Zepp shows that she died in 1933 at the age of 69. Cancer of the cervix is given as the cause of her death.

Thekla Zepp death certificate

George Zepp’s death certificate indicates his remains were taken to the Missouri Crematory. Thekla Zepp’s death certificate says that she was to be buried at the Sunset Memorial Park in St. Louis, but no entry is found for her there on Findagrave.

This story contains some records that include questionable information about characters that were part of this tale. I tend to think that there were two different George Zepp’s, one born in 1857 and the son of Jacob and Margaret Zepp. The other one was Thekla’s husband who was born in 1862 and had a father named Philip. What makes it harder to come to a more definite conclusion is the fact that census records for a Philip Zepp family in St. Louis were not found…at least not by me.


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