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From: "IHFF" <>
Subject: [AUSTRIA-L] Senator Kerry´s ancestors in Austria
Date: Sun, 9 Feb 2003 09:48:00 +0100
Senator John Kerry runs for President.
Im Jänner 2003 entschloß sich der Demokrat Senator John Kerry
(http://kerry.senate.gov/ ), für das Amerikanische Präsidentenamt zu
Vom Boston Globe erhielt ich den Auftrag, die österreichischen Vorfahren
von Senator Kerry zu erforschen. Ab dem 2.2.2003 wurden im Boston Globe
laufend darüber berichtet (http://www.boston.com/globe/ ). Den
kompletten Artikel finden Sie untenstehend.
Andere Tageszeitungen übernahmen diesen Artikel:
zB der New Republic http://www.tnr.com/ampc-preview.mhtml?pid=206#top
oder die Tschechische Pravo http://www.pravo.cz/
Ing. Felix Gundacker
professional genealogist for Austria, Bohemia and Moravia
IHFF Genealogie Gesellschaft mbH
Austria, A-1190 WIEN
Tel = +43 1 369 97 29
Fax = +43 1 369 97 30
In January 2003 Senator John Kerry said, that he runs for President.
End of January 2003 I got the order from the Boston Globe to research
parts of the ancestors of Senator John Kerry. Below you will find the
complete article which was published on February 2nd, 2003.
Other Newspapers wrote also about this fantastic story:
for example the New Republic, or the Czech Pravo.
Hier eine kurze Zusammenfassung der Genealogie:
Fritz Kohn wurde am 10. Mai 1873 in Bennisch, heute Horni Benesov, in
Österreichisch Schlesien als Sohn des Brauereipächters Benedikt Kohn und
seiner Ehefrau Mathilde, geborener Frankel aus Oberglogau in Preußen
Seine Geschwister waren Ida (geboren am 26.6.1869 in Bennisch) und Otto
(geboren am 11.5.1876 in Bennisch).
Benedikt verstarb in Bennisch noch vor der Geburt des Otto. Bald darauf
übernahm der Bruder von Benedikt, Bernhard, die Bierbrauerei, und
Mathilde zog mit ihren 3 Kindern (möglicherweise gab es noch einen
weiteren Sohn Max, der ca. 1871 geboren wurde) nach Mödling, wo der
Bruder von Mathilde, Alfred, eine Schuhfabrik eröffnete. Die Familie
lebte vorerst in der Feldgasse 67, heute Friedrich-Schillerstraße.
Ida zog nach Köln und heiratete einen Geheimrath Auersbach. Ihre Tochter
Elisabeth wurde Malerin in Paris, Edith Internistin und Malerin in
NewYork. Ida verstarb 1942 in NewYork.
Die beiden Brüder Otto und Fritz konvertierten 1901, nachdem Ihnen 1897
(Otto) und 1901 (Fritz) die Namensänderung in Kerry bewilligt wurde.
Otto blieb in Wien und schlug eine Militärlaufbahn ein. Als Major war er
in Isonzo maßgebend am Erfolg der Österreicher beteiligt. 1913 heiratete
er Marie Striegl in Wien, zog dann allerdings für ein Jahr nach
Czernowitz in die Bukowina, wo der erste Sohn zur Welt kam. Ende 1914
war er allerdings schon wieder in Wien. Drei weitere Kinder folgten.
Otto studierte Recht und Kunstgeschichte. Eine Legende erzählt, daß er
Erzherzog Karl vor einem Schußattentat rettete; die Kugel blieb bis zu
seinem Tod im Jahr 1933 in Wien in seiner Stirn.
Fritz verblieb in Mödling. Er besuchte dort das Gymnasium, das er 1891
mit Auszeichnung abschloß. Kurz darauf wird er schon als Prokurist der
Alfred Fränklischen Schuhfabrik genannt (neben Franz Haager). Im Jahr
1900 heiratete er in Mödling Ida Löwe, die am 22. Februar 1877 als
Tochter des Siegfried Löwe und der Josefa geb. Löw in Budapest geboren
wurde. Am 26. Februar 1901 wurde der erste Sohn Erich in Mödling
geboren. Kurz nach der Bewilligung der Namensänderung in Kerry wurden
Fritz, Ida und Erich in Mödling am 9.10.1901 getauft.
Ende 1904 wanderten Fritz, Ida und Erich über Triest in die USA aus.
1909 wurde eine Tochter Miltred geboren, Richard, der Vater von Senator
John Kerry, wurde 1915 geboren.
Fritz verstarb am 23.2.1921 in den USA durch Selbstmord, seine Frau Ida
Mathilde Kohn zog nach der Emigration des Fritz nach Wien, wo sie
verarmt am 24.5.1935 verstarb. Mathilde konvertierte nicht.
(C) copyright by IHFF 2002, Ing. Felix Gundacker
Artikel im Boston Globe, 2. Februar 2003
SEARCH FOR KERRY'S ROOTS FINDS SURPRISING HISTORY
Author: By Michael Kranish, Globe Staff Date: 02/02/2003 Page: A1
Librarian Richard Pennington of the Globe staff contributed to this
report. For years, US Senator John Forbes Kerry had sought to know the
true story of his immigrant grand father, Frederick A. Kerry, the
patriarch who established the family in Boston and then mysteriously
took his own life.
The senator searched phone books and the Internet and quizzed his
cousins, but he was only able to learn fragments of family history.
The story, it turns out, began in a small town in the Czech Republic
that once was part of the Austrian empire. Birth records there show that
Frederick A. Kerry was born as Fritz Kohn to Jewish parents, according
to a genealogy specialist hired by the Globe. Kohn changed his name to
Kerry around 1902 and emigrated to the United States in 1905, eventually
moving to Boston.
In 1921, Frederick Kerry went to the Copley Plaza Hotel, entered a
washroom, and shot himself in the head. It was front-page news. His
filing in Probate Court listed him as practically broke.
While Senator Kerry said he knew his grandfather had committed suicide,
he said he knew no details until he was shown a copy of a 1921 article
"How many times have I walked into that hotel . . ." said an emotional
Kerry, his voice trailing off. He said it was the first time he had
talked publicly about the suicide.
Kerry said he learned about 15 years ago that his grandmother was
Jewish. That led to years of unsuccessful efforts to learn more about
his grandfather's roots and his own.
"This is amazing; that is fascinating to me," Kerry said, in reference
to the ancestral records. "This is incredible stuff. I think it is more
interesting; it is a revelation."
"It has a big emotional impact, because it obviously raises [questions]:
I want to know what happened, why did they do this, what were they
thinking, what was the thought process, and why, once they got over
here, why they never talked about it," he said.
As Kerry runs for president, he is in many ways on a voyage of
self-discovery. He said he had expected there would be intense interest
in his life, going beyond the usual curiosity about his Boston Brahmin
maternal roots in the Forbes and Winthrop families, two of New England's
most prominent clans.
Kerry acknowledged that some voters in Massachusetts, the nation's most
Irish-American state, may have had the impression that he had Irish
roots. He said that he knew of no Irish ancestry and that he had always
tried to correct misstatements whenever he learned about them.
Numerous publications, including the Globe, have stated that Kerry is
"I'm sure some people see the name and say, `Hey, I think it's this or
that,' but I've been clear as a bell," Kerry said. "I've always been
absolutely straight up front about it."
Kerry spokeswoman Kelley Benander said the senator has corrected any
misstatement he became aware of. When she was read three examples from
Globe clippings in which the senator was misidentified as
Irish-American, she repeated that Kerry had corrected misstatements when
he read or heard them.
Kerry "has never indicated to anyone that he was Irish and corrected
people over the years who assumed he was," Benander said.
"It is certainly an understandable misimpression," she said. "His name
was Kerry, he represents Massachusetts, and he attended the St.
Patrick's Day breakfasts, like everyone else in public life in the
Kerry is a practicing Catholic who said he disagrees with his church on
some issues, such as abortion rights.
He said he learned from a relative about 15 years ago that his
grandmother, born as Ida Lowe, was Jewish, a fact, he said, that had
intrigued him and that he had shared with dozens of people.
But he said he had no knowledge about his grandfather's origin, other
than the vague idea that he was from Austria. He said he had long tried
to learn more, at one point stopping in Vienna and trying to reach
Kerrys listed in the phone book, in a fruitless effort to trace his
Kerry's genealogy was traced through a variety of means: immigration
records from Ellis Island, naturalization records on file in Illinois,
death and probate records in Massachusetts, and a birth registry from
the former Austrian empire.
The immigration records showed that Frederick Kerry arrived in the
United States in 1905, and the naturalization records showed that he was
born in the town formerly known as Bennisch, in the Austrian empire,
which today is Horni Benesov in the Czech Republic.
FELIX GUNDACKER, director of the Institute for Historical Family
Research in Vienna, was hired by the Globe to examine the Austrian
records, which he translated from the original German. He found that
birth records for Bennisch include a notation for a person named Fritz
The birth record says: "In the year 1873, on May 10th, was born Fritz
Kohn, a legal son of Benedikt Kohn, master brewer in Bennisch, House
224, and his wife, Mathilde, daughter of Jakob Frankel, royal dealer in
Oberlogau in Prussia." The record has a notation that Fritz Kohn changed
his name to Frederick Kerry on March 17, 1902. That record does not
mention a baptism. But the family says Frederick Kerry was a Catholic,
and he is buried at a Catholic cemetery in Brookline.
Frederick Kerry's 1921 death certificate in Boston lists his parents as
Benedict Kerry of Austria and Mitaldia Franckel of Austria, the same
parents as listed in Fritz Kohn's birth record, although the father is
called Kohn in Austria.
GUNDACKER said he was "1,000 percent certain" that Kerry was born to a
Jewish family, because of the way the birth was listed in the church
records, on an addendum page listing Jewish families.
GUNDACKER´s methodology was supported by Robert Friedman of the Center
for Jewish History's Genealogy Institute in New York City. Friedman said
that it was common for Jewish births to be recorded in Catholic records
during that time.
"The Jewish rabbi would keep records, but they were not necessarily
officially recognized by the government, until the advent of stricter
supervision over Jewish record keeping," Friedman said.
"There was a time when the Jewish records would be entered by the
Catholic authorities," he said. "Assimilation and conversion were common
in Austria-Hungary during that time period."
Upon hearing about his grandfather's birth records, Kerry brought up his
grandfather's suicide. "My father, when I asked about him about it, said
my grandfather took his own life," he said. "This suddenly may shed some
light on that in some ways." Kerry said he knew nothing of the death,
beyond the basic fact that Frederick Kerry committed suicide.
Unbeknownst to the senator, the story was front-page news in many Boston
papers, including the Globe, the Telegram, and the Transcript. Kerry was
shown a copy of the Globe story from Nov. 23, 1921 with the headline:
"Shot Himself in Copley Plaza - F. A. Kerry, Merchant, Died Very Soon."
The story described how Kerry, "a man prominent in the shoe business,"
walked into the Copley Plaza Hotel at 11:30 a.m., went into a washroom,
pulled out a revolver, and shot himself. "Only one bullet was fired, and
the man died instantly," the story said.
Given a copy of the article, Kerry studied the story for several minutes
in disbelief. "God, that's awful," he said. "Oh, God, that's awful. That
is kind of heavy."
A few minutes later, Kerry said: "That explains a lot. It connects the
dots. My dad was sort of painfully remote and shut off and angry about
the loss of his sister and the lack of a father." His father's sister
had polio and cancer.
After seeing the newspaper story, Kerry said, he understood better why
his father, the diplomat Richard Kerry, may have been so angry about the
circumstances of Frederick Kerry's death.
Articles from the Globe and other newspapers from 1921 included
speculation about the reason for the suicide. A number of articles noted
that Kerry suffered from severe asthma, while one suggested the
possibility of financial difficulties.
Kerry said he found it difficult to believe that asthma would prompt a
suicide, adding that he has always believed that his grandfather left
behind money for his grandmother, which partly formed the basis for some
of the family's wealth. His grandfather, he said, was a prominent
businessman who "helped reorganize Sears, Roebuck."
But some records suggest he had fallen on hard times. On Nov. 15, 1921,
Frederick Kerry wrote his will. Six days later, he killed himself. A
Probate Court record provides the most intriguing clue. It said that
Frederick Kerry left behind a Cadillac, some clothes, two stock shares
worth $200 from the Boston Chamber of Commerce, $25 in cash, and "shares
of stock in J.L. Walker Co. and Spencer Shoe Manufacturing Co. -
worthless.." Newspaper stories from the time said that Kerry's business
ventures included Spencer.
Moreover, the records show that Frederick Kerry's debts nearly equaled
his meager assets. While that would suggest that Frederick Kerry was
broke at the time of the suicide, Senator Kerry said through his
spokeswoman that he nonetheless believed that his grandmother may have
received an inheritance, which could have been transferred to her before
the suicide. By whatever means, the senator said, his grandmother was
The senator's brother, Cameron, a Boston lawyer who converted to Judaism
in 1983 upon marriage to his Jewish wife, said the information was
especially ironic, given his two decades of immersion in the faith.
Friedman, the genealogist at the Center for Jewish History, said he
hoped the Kerry family experience would be informative for the country
in a positive way.
"Everyone would like to be in touch with their heritage," he said. "In
the past, people were informed in a prejudicial way."
Now, he said, he hoped that people will see their heritage "as
multicultural, a mosaic, to appreciate diversity."
All content herein is © Globe Newspaper Company and may not be
republished without permission. __ Michael Kranish Boston Globe
Washington Bureau 202-857-5119
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