Engelbert and Eva Erlbacher

This past week, our museum’s printed copy of the German Family Tree was updated as a result of constant work being done by Lynn Degenhardt to make improvements to it. This document is now over 4000 pages long. I have not yet loaded the digital version of that document on my personal laptop, so I am still doing searches on the previous document that is just about 3600 pages long. Since I am writing a story about a man named Engelbert today, and that seemed to me a pretty unusual one for this area, I decided to do a search on that name. I found 18 results. All but one of those results for a person named Engelbert referred to two individuals, Engelbert Erlbacher and Engelbert Engelhart. Those two men were born at about the same time…one born in 1870, the other in 1872. Also, they both lived in the Shawnee Township. I have not written stories about either of these two men, but Engelbert’s name showed up in a story done a few days ago about Theresa Engelhart, Engelbert’s older sister, titled, The Eldest of the Engelhart’s. Today, you will read about the other Engelbert…Engelbert Erlbacher. By the way, Google Translate says that “engelbert” means “angelic”.

Engelbert Erlbacher was born on October 18, 1872, and if he was born on this date, he would be celebrating his 150th birthday today. There is a little doubt about whether he was born in 1872 or 1873 because there are two documents that I found that say he was born in 1873. Engelbert was the son of Balthasar and Genovefa (Kieninger) Erlbacher. He was the last of 6 children listed in the Erlbacher family in the German Family Tree. Starting with the 3rd child born in 1867, the children in that family were baptized at Immanuel Lutheran Church in New Wells, so it appears that the Erlbacher’s arrived in America between 1865 and 1867. Engelbert’s baptism record from the books of Immanuel, New Wells is displayed below.

Engelbert Erlbacher baptism record – Immanuel, New Wells, MO

Engelbert’s confirmation record from that congregation’s books is more evidence that he was born in 1872.

Engelbert Erlbacher confirmation record – Immanuel, New Wells, MO

Engelbert is found in the 1880 census at the age of 7. His father was a farmer in the Shawnee Township.

1880 census – Shawnee Township, MO

We find Engelbert in one more census before he got married. In the 1900 census, he was 26 years old, and he was working on his father’s farm.

1900 census – Shawnee Township, MO

Now, we will turn our attention to the woman who would become Engelbert’s wife. Her name was Eva Welker. I only found one Ancestry family tree that gives March 13, 1888 as her date of birth and her parents named John and “Sis” Welker. The only census in which Eva is found before her marriage was the one taken in 1900. She was a 14 year-old servant in a Wagner household in the Apple Creek Township. That means no census entry is available to assist us in knowing the names of her parents.

1900 census – Apple Creek Township, MO

Engelbert Erlbacher married Eva Welker on March 15, 1908. This was not a church wedding. I found two different documents for this marriage. This first is one that does not give the exact date of the marriage, only the date that the license was filed. Ancestry says this marriage took place on March 15th.

Erlbacher/Welker marriage record – Cape Girardeau County, MO

The marriage license below is rather strange. It gives Eva’s name as Eva Welker, but it gives Engelbert’s name as G.E. Alexander. Despite this different name, I think it is Engelbert’s marriage license because the date is the same. This marriage was done by a Justice of the Peace.

Erlbacher/Welker marriage license

Our German Family Tree lists 4 children born to this couple. The 1910 census shows this couple with 2 children. Engelbert was a farmer.

1910 census – Shawnee Township, MO

In 1910, a church record says that Eva was confirmed at Immanuel, New Wells. Her record is located separately after the other confirmands for that year.

Eva Erlbacher confirmation record – Immanuel, New Wells, MO

In 1918, Engelbert had his World War I draft registration completed. This form says Engelbert was slightly paralyzed in his right side. This is one of the documents that gives the year of his birth as 1873.

Engelbert Erlbacher – World War I draft registration

Next, we find the Erlbacher’s in the 1920 census. This time, there were 3 children in the household.

1920 census – Shawnee Township, MO

One more child was born, a daughter named Bertha, in 1921. Then, when we take a look at the 1930 census, we see a change has been made. Eva is no longer in the Erlbacher household. I first thought that she had died, but I found evidence that points more towards a divorce. First, let’s look at the census entry. It includes only Engelbert and his son, Julius, age 11.

1930 census – Shawnee Township, MO

The 2 oldest daughters had gotten married before this census was taken, so that explains why those 2 are not in this entry. The missing 9 year-old Bertha needed explanation. After quite a bit of searching, I found this 1930 census for Bertha Erlbacher living in Lawrence County, Alabama. She is called the daughter of Thomas Russell, but I think she was a step-daughter. Ancestry does not call the wife in this entry Eva, but I think that is what it says. Eva and Bertha are said to be born in Missouri. All of this evidence points to a divorce and a remarriage.

1930 census – Lawrence County, AL

Engelbert Erlbacher died in 1938 at the age of 64. His death certificate says he was in Cape Girardeau at the time of his death. The confusing item on this form is that it says Engelbert was married to Eva, and there is an option on the form for “divorced”. This is the second document that gives his birth year as 1873.

Engelbert Erlbacher death certificate

Engelbert was buried in the Cape County Memorial Park in Cape Girardeau. His gravestone gives his birth year as 1872.

Engelbert Erlbacher gravestone – Cape Memorial, Cape Girardeau, MO

I was unable to find any information about the death or burial of Eva (Welker)(Erlbacher) Russell. Now you know the story of one of the Shawnee Township Engelbert’s. I’ll be looking for an opportunity to write the story of the other one.


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