The People of Pancho

At Play In The Archive

Meet the Lessiacks of Hamburg

Happy Saturday, People. Here in the Bay Area we got a little bit of sorely needed rain this morning. I love waking up to rain.

Allow me to back up a moment and tell you what I know about my great-great grandparents, Anton and Marie Lessiack, and their children other than Leo. It isn’t much, unfortunately, but I’m working to rectify that.

Anton Ludwig Lessiack, born TBD in Steiermark. Date and photographer unknown.

Anton Ludwig Lessiack. Date and photographer unknown.

Henriette Catharina Maria Puhlmann. Date and photographer unknown.

Henriette Catharina Maria Puhlmann. Date and photographer unknown.

My great-great grandfather Anton Ludwig Lessiack was born in Steiermark, Austria on February 10, 1866. To give that date some context, Anton was born one year after the end of the US Civil War and the assassination of President Lincoln, and several months before Austria was defeated by Prussia and Italy in the Austro-Prussian (or Seven Weeks) war. At that time, Steiermark, which is in the southeast part of modern Austria bordering on Slovenia, was part of Germany. After World War I, Steiermark was divided into a northern section (which forms the modern Austrian state) and southern one, which was annexed to Yugoslavia.

My great-great grandmother, Henriette Catharina Marie Puhlmann, was born on August 31, 1868. I have not been able to find out her birthplace (yet). For context, in that year, the fourteenth amendment to the US constitution was ratified. That event was probably not top of mind for Marie’s parents, though, what with all of Prussia’s martial pestering of Europe at the time.

Let me say right here that the rest of this post is a bunch of guessing.

How Anton and Marie met, when they married, and why they ended up settling in Hamburg are all mysteries to me at this time. Based on what I know, and what few photographs I’ve been able to find, I believe that they had five children:

  • Emmi Lessiack Keil, born about 1887
  • Johanna Lessiack Scharpfenecker, birthdate unknown
  • My great-grandpa Leo, born December 17, 1890
  • Wally Lessiack Dammerich, born about 1899
  • Peter Englebert Lessiack (later changed to Pullman), born in June 25, 1902

I came across this photograph, labeled “1897” on the back. I definitely recognize great-grandpa Leo, and assume that the other little girls are Emmi, Johanna, and Wally. (Peter was not born until Leo was 12, so he does not appear here because Leo is obviously younger than that in this shot). However, if Wally is indeed the little girl in the wheelbarrow, then either the date written on the back of the photograph is incorrect, the birthdate I have for Wally is incorrect, or these kids are not, in fact, Leo’s siblings.

The back of the photograph is labeled "1897" The boy on the right is Leo, and I assume  the girls are Emmi (in the back),  Wally and Johanna. Because I don't know Johanna's birthdate, I don't know if she is older or younger than Wally. However, I do have other photos of Emmi, so I'm reasonably sure I've identified her correctly.

The back of the photograph is labeled “1897” The boy in the spiffy straw hat is Leo, and I assume the girls are Emmi (in the back), Wally and Johanna. Because I don’t know Johanna’s birthdate, I don’t know if she is older or younger than Wally.

Here are a few more photos of the Lessiack family.


This one is a little bit confusing, because Leo is now the tallest child. Did he have a growth spurt, are the girls actually sitting, or have I identified the kids wrong altogether?  Date and photographer unknown (This is the image from which I cropped Marie and Anton’s headshots above).

Here’s another shot. The posing of this one amuses me; Leo is smack dab in the center, dwarfing everyone else in size, exactly the place he occupies in my brain these days. There is also an extra girl in this picture. Who is she, I wonder?


Leo’s haircut here just cracks me up. And, who is the extra little girl? I just love the expressions on everyone’s faces here–it’s very hard to get this many kids to sit still long enough to take a decent picture, and I feel like the little girl to Leo’s right is barely suppressing laughter. Date and photographer unknown.

Same photo session, but with a wider frame:


Leo’s hair is really unfortunate in this shot, but who among us does not have at least one hideous childhood haircut? The girl on the far right seems to be enjoying the photo shoot enormously. Date and photographer unknown.


My great-great grandparents, Anton and Marie Lessiack, and either Wally or Johanna, I’m guessing. Date and photographer unknown.

Next up will be Leo’s school days. Enjoy your weekend, People.


14 comments on “Meet the Lessiacks of Hamburg

  1. Amy
    October 25, 2014

    Wonderful photos! My guess is that Johanna was born after Leo, given the huge gap between Leo and Wally, and that the two girls in the second photo standing on either side of Leo are those two younger sisters, ?? and Johanna, with the little girl in the stroller (wheelchair?) the same as the youngest little girl in the third/fourth photos, presumably Wally. Perhaps she died? Or another sister died? Leo looks only about ten in the third picture and the youngest little girl looks about one, so it could be Wally, but given the dates of birth, could there have been two sisters between Leo and Wally, Joanna and another? I assume Emmi is missing in the second photo and is the girl sitting to the far left of the third/fourth photo. What do you think? That would also explain the three girls in the first photo—Emmi, ?? and Joanna.


    • Pancho
      October 25, 2014

      There are later documents that mention the sisters (that story is coming) but you’re correct, there could be others that are not mentioned in my list. There are many later photos of Emmi, so I’m reasonably sure I have her identified correctly. Thanks for helping me think through all this!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Amy
    October 25, 2014

    Sorry, that wasn’t clear. I am thinking that there was another sister between Leo and Wally besides Johanna who died sometime after Wally was born.


  3. starryblackness
    October 25, 2014

    Isn’t his hair cute! Oh dear! But they’re lovely photos 🙂


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