This is a written family history, not an oral interview. If/when the Historical Society begins to put written family histories onto its website, this will be moved.
September 26, 2011
A Giffey Family History
Compiled by Ned Giffey
Written by Blake Altman
Family origins are usually very difficult to trace in a time of electronic records and computerized databases of history. Though both of these systems are beneficial to the general keeping of history, tracing one’s family into early history can be difficult. This fact, however, does not hinder the Giffey family in any way. Through years of saving documents, letters, and memorabilia, the Giffeys have accumulated an impressive collection of historical significance that follows their name all the way to 19th century Germany. This history is written using that collection. With the help of family testimonies, genealogies, and records, hopefully this history will be as up-to-date and accurate as a manuscript can possibly be.
James Giffey (1824-1898)
Though there are records of the Giffey name that date back to as early as 1760, little to no information exists pertaining to those generations. The first well-documented generation does not appear until 1824, the birth year of Jochen Jurgen Giffey d.J. (d.J is an abbreviation for “die junge,” or t”the younger”) Jochen, or James was born on August 24, 1824 in Gledeberg, Germany. He spent his early life in the neighboring town of Schnega, found south of Hanover in the northern regions of the country. At this point, not many details are provided about James Giffey as a young man until about 1846, when James and his brother, Heinrich, immigrated to the United States.
James and Heinrich Giffey arrived in Baltimore, Maryland in the year 1846; the exact date is unknown. Upon arrival, the brothers purchased a rifle from a shop that is still held by a member of the Giffey family today. Afterwards, James and Heinrich traveled to Pleasant Township just west of Holgate, Ohio. In 1848 they homesteaded 80 acres along County Road 17 and State Route 18 for three years, the required time for most homesteaders during that period. However, the land was rough and swampy, and very difficult to live on. Once the three years had passed, the brothers traveled to the ridge west of Pleasant Township, where they crossed the river and moved up to the area where Bethlehem Lutheran Church is now located in Adams Township, Defiance County. Once there, they settled with other immigrants who were clearing land for farming. Also, during this period of time the Miami-Erie Canal was being developed, and also railroads were being built through Henry and Defiance Counties. So in addition to clearing land, they also worked on the Canal by furnishing teams of horses and slip scoops for digging. For this work, they were granted another 40 acres to the 80 acre homestead in Henry County. During the summer months they would work for the railroads as forgers, making switches for the rails. During this period of time, James and Heinrich were living on the 90 acre farm they had cleared in Adams Township.
In 1856 James Giffey married Francisca Wiedemeyer-Lockoman, a local widow with one son, John Lockoman. One year later, their oldest son, Anton, was born November 11, 1857. At this point, a slight mystery surfaces as to what happened to Heinrich Giffey. From what the family knows, Heinrich left the Giffeys’ farm for Ft. Wayne, Indiana. After he left, no one heard from Heinrich again. To this day, the family records give no indication as to what might happened to James’s brother.
Over the course of the following years, James and Franisca had 5 more children after Anton: Albert in 1861, Joseph in 1862, Henry in 1865, Mary in 1868, and Karl Frederick in 1871. However, Joseph died at the age of 20 in 1882. James cntinued to work on the cleared farmland and the railroads for over 30 years. James passed away at age 74 in 1899, and Francisca died in 1903. Both of them are buried in Bethlehem Lutheran Cemetery in Adams Township.
Anton Giffey (1857 – 1940)
Though James Giffey had six children, Anton Giffey can be considered the next generation of the Giffey bloodline; therefore, Anton will be the main focus of this section.In 1871 Anton, at age 13 went to work at a brick and tile yard in Defiance, Ohio where he learned the skill of laying the brick arches and roof domes on the kilns. In 1887 he went to Ridgeville Corners, Ohio and worked for the Emery Brothers Tile Yard. On December 15, 1887, Anton married Sophia Schlueter in Ridgeville Corners. In 1888 they moved to Defiance, where he managed the brick and tile yard for his former employer. On Feb 22, 1891, their son Arthur was born and they continued to live in Defiance until 1892 when they then moved back to Ridgeville Corners, and Anton and his brother Albert purchased the Emery Brothers Brick and Tile Yard. This yard was on 17 1/2 acres at the west side of Ridgeville. The house and barn still remain at this location. in 1895, their son William was born. Around that time, Anton bought his brother’s share of the brick and tile yard and became the sole owner. His daughter Amelia was born on July 2, 1897.
For over twenty years, Anton successfully operated the brickyard, which produced bricks, tiles, and building blocks. Anton also used a steam engine to power the brickyard’s machinery, an innovation during this time period. In the early 1900’s, several enine-powered trucks were used by the yard to deliver lumber, bricks, tile, and coal. In order to maintain maximum productivity from the yard, all of the brick and tile operations were done during warm weather, and lumber operations were done during winter weather.
Around 1914 or 1915, Anton Giffey, who was a very community-minded man, arranged to have a hall to be built in Ridgeville Corners. This hall, which was named after him, was to be built entirely from materials from the bickyard, and constructed by his yard employees. In 1916, Giffey Hall was completed. The Hall was built to be supported only by its walls, which meant that the interior was wide and spacious. This unique open span design allowed for the building to be used for many occasions, including basketball, school dances, plays, and even roller-skating. The building even had a rink band machine installed inside. Over the course of the next century, Giffey Hall would remain a main element of the community.
In 1917, World War I broke out. Eleven of Anton’s brickyard employees were drafted, so Anton decided to simply close down his business. After selling the machinery from the brickyard, Anton managed Giffey Hall as a community center of sorts for 23 years. In 1940, Anton deeded the Hall to his daughter Amelia, who operated the Hall as a skating rink for 6 years. The Hall was sold to the Murphy family in 1946, who later closed it as a skating rink. Over several years the Hall was sold to several groups and individuals. The Hall became a packing facility for green tomatoes, a car parts factory, a bar, a pizza place, and finally, a dinner theatre. Today, the Hall still stands in Ridgeville and at the time of this writing, is still used as a dinner theatre today owned by the Archbold Theater Group.
Anton Giffey passed away on October 31, 1940, leaving an impact on the community that can still be acknowledged today.
The Giffey Family Today (1940 – present day )
Though Anton had several siblings, the focus of this chronicle is mainly upon Anton and his descendants, specifically on Arthur his oldest son and his offspring.
Arthur, born on February 22, 1891, was raised in Ridgeville Corners. When he was old enough, he began working at his father’s brickyard. He helped build Giffey Hall in 1915 and 1916. In 1917, Arthur married Emma Youngman, and moved to the Giffey farm at Holgate. During his employment at Anton’s brickyard, Arthur had learned how to operate steam engines, which became a very useful skill. It was because of his expertise that he acquired jobs at Holgate’s grain elavator, thrashing rigs, and the tomato plant. Arthur was also heavily involved with the county, serving on both Holgate’s and Henry County’s school boards. He was also Pleasant Township Clerk for a number of years, and was also President of the Holgate Grain and Supply. Arthur and Emma operated the farm for 40 years before retiring and moving back to Ridgeville Corners in 1960.
In 1919, Arthur and Emma had a daughter, Corinne, followed by Carmen in 1923. In 1926 Carol was born. Unfortunately, Carol only lived for 9 months before dying. In 1932, Arthur’s first son, Ned, was born. Gene followed later in 1933. Corinne and Carmen both attended a local country school until 1938, when the school was closed and they finished their education at Holgate High School. All of Arthur’s children eventually graduated from there as well. Arthur died in 1979 and his wife Emma followed in 1990.
Corinne, after graduating in 1938, married Lawrence March on Mqy 29, 1940. They lived on a farm on County Road 17, northwest of Holgate, and had two children and three grandchildren.
Carmen graduated in 1941. Four years later, she married a WWII soldier named Norman Wiechers. They moved to a farm near Okolona, Ohio where they lived and worked for the remainder of their lives. Carmen and Norman had five children and nine grandchildren. Today, Carmen still lives on Gerken Road, in Adams Townhip of Defiance near Okolona.
Ned graduated in 1950, after which he attended Defiance College for 3 years, was then drafted into the U.S. Army in September 1953, and was stationed at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Mansfield. On November 20, 1954, while still in the service, he married Norma Jean Alexander from Ridgeville Corners. He was discharged from the military in September 1955 and then finished his last year of college and graduated in 1956. After graduating, Ned worked for Nationwide Insurance Co. as a resident claims adjustor in Defiance for 3 years, then in Bryan, Ohio as an insurance agent for 3 years. During this period of time, their son Neil was born on March 13, 1957, then Nancy on September 23, 1959. In 1962 Ned accepted an offer to work for Wolverine Transamerica Insurance Co. as field claims adjustor in Toledo, Ohio. In 1966, he accepted an offer to work for Buckeye Union Insurance Co. in Napoleon, Ohio as a resident claims adjustor. Then in 1970 became a claims manager for Underwriters Adjusting Co. until taking early retirement with then in June 1988. In July 1988, Ned accepted a positition as claims manager and Vice President of Claims for German Mutual Insurance Co. in Napoleon. Over the years of insurance work, Ned and Norma traveled throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. He retired in August 2001. They also enjoyed golf and spent many hours on golf courses with family and friends following Ned’s retirement. Ned and Norma purchased a home in Tavares, Florida, where they now spend their winters, and continue to live in Ohio during the summer.
Gene Giffey graduated in 1951. He then worked at Holgate Grain and Supply in Stanley, Ohio for 3 years before being drafted into the U.S. Army and serving 2 years
(1954-1956 ) in Germany. He returned to Holgate and took over the farming operation after Arthur had suffered a heart attack. Gene married Elaine Bunke in 1959, and they had two daughters: Lynette, in 1959, and Linda in 1961. Gene farmed and also worked for ANR Pipeline. In 1969 he sold out his farm equipment and moved to Ridgeville Corners where he continued to work for ANR Pipeline until his retirement. Elaine died of cancer in 1984 and Gene remarried to Donna Schnitkey-Ziegler in 1994. Today they live 5 months of the year in Ridgeville Corners and remaining 7 months in Arizona.
Neil Giffey attended grade school at Hillview Elementary in Sylvania, Ohio and St. Paul Lutheran School in Napoleon and graduated from Napoleon High School in 1975. He then enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1976, and served near Amsterdam, Holland until his discharge in 1979. He then worked in Houston, Texas and also Archbold, Ohio as a long-haul truck driver. In 1985 he took a job with Sauder Woodworking in Archold, Ohio. In 2000 he took a position with German Mutual Insurance Co. in Napoleon as a loss control field representative and is currently continuing his employment with them. On May 31, 1996, Neil maried Annette St. John-Schlosser. They resided in Napoleon raising three children: Eric Giffey, born July 3, 1988, Dale Giffey, born January 18, 1990. and Glen Giffey, born September 12, 1992. All three children graduated from Napoleon High School.
Nancy Giffey attended St. Paul Lutheran School as well, graduating from Napoleon High School in 1977. She then graduated from Owens Technical College in 1979. On June 20, 1987, she married Terry Gasche, and they have two daughters: Lindsey, born August 13, 1991, and Emily, born July 21, 1995. They currently reside in Napoleon, Ohio.
Today the Giffey name is well-known in Henry County, a far cry from what is was when a German immigrant named James traveled here almost two centuries ago. They proudly keep their heritage alive to the time of this writing and hopefully shall continue to do so through future generations.