Maria Regina Teresia de Massu (I’ll refer to her as MRT) is kind of a mystery! Her siblings’ births are in the Beaufort records, but not hers. We’ve seen her birth listed as both Beaufort, Luxembourg, and Düren, Germany. Her marriage record wasn’t in Beaufort or Reuland. And her death record wasn’t in Reuland, Beaufort, or Kruchten; but we knew MRT was noted as deceased in her son Joannes Karl Wolff’s marriage in 1788, and in her daughter Maria Theresia Wolff’s 1789 marriage. Then we discovered that MRT’s husband had remarried in 1787. So we knew she’d died sometime between 1767 (when her last child was born) and her husband’s 1787 third marriage.
MRT is a prime example of why we need to look in more than just the expected places for records. Often, we will look at baptism sponsors and where they are from when we’re having a hard time finding a family member in records. Then we’ll check those locations. In this case, we looked through MRT’s children’s baptism records and noted that her son Joannes Joseph Peter Wolff (who became a priest) had a sponsor named Joannes Peter Massu, a pastor in Schankweiler. MRT had a brother named Jean-Pierre Massu and, according to the Penninger family tree contained in “Manual Des Fondations De Bourses D’Etude” by J P Koltz, Jean-Pierre Massu had become a priest. We started looking through Schankweiler, Germany, church records for signs of MRT or her family members and that’s where we found her 1753 marriage record.
I’m not even sure which parish (outside of Beaufort or Burg-Reuland) we first searched for MRT’s death record in – it’s a bit of a blur. But, I know our first clue to look for her in Basbellain came when we saw her son Joannes Joseph Peter Wolff’s death record stated that he had also been a pastor in Basbellain along with Weweler and Burg-Reuland. Then we began looking through the Basbellain marriage records for MRT’s marriage. Unfortunately, the Basbellain marriage records didn’t start until 1754. Since MRT’s first child was born in June 1754 we knew were probably looking for a marriage record between September 1751 & 1753. I looked through the 1754 records just in case and saw that the Basbellain priest at that time was Joannes Ignatio Klein (probably a relative of MRT’s mother).
At the time we were so focused on looking for MRT’s marriage record that it didn’t occur to me to continue looking through Basbellain for her death. But after we’d “followed the priest” to Schankweiler and discovered her marriage there, we started paying a lot more attention to which parishes family priests were serving in. Priests were very important figures in daily life during this time and because of a priest who died in the 17th century they were even more important to our family.
MRT’s mother Maria Magdalena Klein is descended from a man named Pierre Penninger. Pierre had a grandson also named Pierre Penninger who became a Catholic priest. The younger Pierre donated money during his life and in his will for scholarships to be established at the Jesuit seminary. Pierre’s relatives had first dibs on these scholarships and, as a result, the Penninger family tree was well documented. The Penninger family tree in “Manual Des Fondations De Bourses D’Etude” by J P Koltz has been extraordinarily helpful to us AND the Penninger scholarships have led to many family members becoming priests.
At this point, we were back to following around priests in hopes of finding MRT’s death record when it occurred to us that her son Joannes Joseph Peter Wolff had been assigned to her home parish, BUT not until 1785. We needed to check where he was before 1785 in case MRT’s death record would be there. That led us right back to Basbellain. And, lo and behold, we found her 1782 death recorded in Basbellain, Luxembourg, by her son Joannes Joseph Peter Wolff.
Neither Schankweiler or Basbellain were places we would’ve expected to find MRT until we started following around family priests. We still have not come across her birth record – if you have any ideas or hints please let us know! We’re hoping to hear back on some Düren records that we’ve requested because her marriage and death records say she was from Marcodurum – also know as Düren. In MRT’s daughter Maria Carola Antonetta Wolff’s baptism record there’s a sponsor Maria Magdalena Massu of Düren (probably MRT’s mother). A history of Burg Reuland from the 15th to 18th centuries by Willi Wittrock and K D Klauser entitled “Vom Burgort zur Herrschaft:15.-18. Jahrhundert,” refers to MRT as being from the Düren area.
Maybe the de Massu family moved to Düren after her brother’s 1724 birth in Beaufort. And maybe that is where MRT’s father died. There is also a village called Dürler in the commune of Burg-Reuland. The Dürler/Düren situation has caused some confusion for us – since Durler seems more plausible due to its proximity – but we have ruled out Dürler as MRT’s place of birth.
*Please note that Basbellain, Beaufort, Burg-Reuland, Dürler, Kruchten, and Schankweiler were all part of Luxembourg during this time period. Düren was not part of Luxembourg. Today, Basbellain & Beaufort are part of Luxembourg; Burg-Reuland & Dürler are part of Belgium; and Kruchten & Schankweiler are part of Germany.*