Gavanesche Family Project Website- Background



Gabenesch, Gabenisch, Gabennesch, Gafanesch, Gafenesch, Gavanesch, Gavanesche, Gavenesch


Bienvenue sur le
projet de la famille GAVANESCHE. L'information suivante a été compilée à partir d'innombrables heures de recherche se sont réunis à partir de plusieurs sources, y compris:

Willkommen auf der GAVANESCHE Family Project. Die folgenden Informationen wurden von unzähligen Stunden der Forschung aus verschiedenen Quellen gesammelt, einschließlich zusammengestellt:

Welcome to the GAVANESCHE Family Project. The following information was compiled from countless hours of research gathered from several sources including :
  • French Genealogist Marie-Odile PERES,
  • Les Familles de Bining de 1660 a' 1905, Cercle genealogigue du Pays de Bitche, Auteur : Beatrice KIRSCH,
  • Le livre des familles d'Achen et de Kalhausen, Auteur : Jean MEYER,
  • Emil SCHEIBENSTOCK, bien connue, chercheur de l'histoire du Montafon la famille Vallée,
  • Don Heinrich TOLZMANN, PhD., German-American Studies at the University of Cincinnati,
  • Internet and microfilm records from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and
  • Les entrevues et les documents de plusieurs membres vivants de la  GAVANESCH (E), GAVENESCH, GAFANESCH GAFENESCH, GABENISCH, et les familles GABENESCH en Europe occidentale.

I have developed very extensive family trees based on the information provided through the research sources listed above, including many hand-written family trees from personal records of the families in Austria, France, and Germany.  If you are a member of these families and are interested in seeing my records, please contact me at:   Special recognition is warranted for Colette CHRISTIANY nee GABENESCH (daughter of Martin GABENESCH who was awarded the French Legion of Honor medal);  without her unbridled spirit, tireless efforts, and ability to speak French, German, and English - none of this would be possible.

The Goals of this website are:

  • To show through genetic testing and conventional genealogical research methodologies,  that the GABENNESCH, GABENESCH, GABENISCH, GAFANESCH, GAFENESCH, GAVENESCH and GAVANESCH(E) families known to be living in, or have lived in Austria, France, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States - share a common ancestor.

  • To identify GAVANESCH(E), GAVENESCH, GAFANESCH, GAFENESCH, GABENESCH, and GABENISCH families in other parts of the world that also share a common ancestor with us. 

During the Summer of 2007, I was privileged to visit le Pays de Bitche, and meet Beatrice KIRSCH and several of members of the GABENESCH family.  I was honored with a warm welcome from Christian MARTINE, Maire de BINING.  Christian MARTINE's wife is Marie-Reine nee GABENESCH (daughter of Leon GABENESCH).

During the Summer of 2010, I was able to return to Western Europe where I met members of the GAVANESCH, GABENISCH, and GAFANESCH families.  I visited the Montafon Valley, Voralberg, Austria where I met Emil SCHEIBENSTOCK.  His research into the history of Montafon Valley families is maintained in the Montafon Museum in Schruns, along with the work of his predecessor, Ludwig VALLASTER, a well-known Montafon family researcher.

Je suis honoré d'être le secrétaire historique de la famille, et l'administrateur de ce site.

Membres de la famille sont les bienvenus GAVANESCHE pour voir la famille, et des photos sur facebook régionales:


Michael Stephen GABENNESCH
Cincinnati, Ohio USA

Conventional Genealogical Research Results:

Although the "original" surname was GAVANESCHE (the only surname variation no longer in use), it evolved to GAVANESCH, GAVENESCH, GAFANESCH, GAFENESCH, GABENESCH, GABENISCH, and GABENNESCH.

General consensus from current research data, and researchers of the Montafon Valley, is that the family has ancestral roots in Raetia; and that the surname is derived from CAVA NETSCH.  It refers to the gathering of borstgras which is a short, soft grass that grows in the Alps.  One of the things borstgras was used for is bedding.  


According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Raetia, also spelled Rhaetia, was an ancient Roman province comprising Vorarlberg and Tirol states in present-day Austria, the eastern cantons of Switzerland, and parts of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg states in Germany.  Its native inhabitants were probably of mixed Illyrian and Celtic stock.  The area was conquered by Rome in 15 BC and became an important part of the empire, but not for its economic value, which was small; rather, Raetia blocked the most convenient routes for an invader of Italy from the north by its control of a network of highways between Italy and the Danube River and between Gaul and the Balkan Mountains.  Because Raetia was a frontier province, its boundaries shifted in response to pressures from the German tribes.  The northern line was moved north of the Danube to the Neckar River in the 1st century AD, but in the 3rd century intrusions by German tribes forced the western and northern boundaries to be pulled back.  By 450 Rome controlled only the Alpine regions of Raetia.


The GAVANESCH(E) surname changed as the family migrated out of the Montafon Valley, Voralberg (Schruns, Tschagguns, St. Gallenkirch, Gortipohl, Bartholomaberg, and Gaschurn), when the men searched for work.  They were well-known masons and stone masons and records show that they had been in the Montafon Valley since at least the mid-1400's (Schruns circa 1477; Tschagguns circa mid-1500's; and St. Gallenkirch circa late-1500's).  The last family member to live in the Montafon Valley was Maria GAVANESCH, a direct descendant of Adam and Sara (GERBSPACHER) GAVANESCHE  of St. Gallenkirch, circa 1620.  Maria died on September 17, 2006.  All other living members of the GAVANESCHE family with the surname GAVANESCH are direct descendants of Adam / Sara and reside primarily in Alsace, France.

At one time, the Montafon Valley was referred to as "Little France" because so many of the local men worked and lived part of the year in France.  They returned home speaking French, and following French customs - so much so that a priest scolded them for acting as though they were different from the rest of the local population.

Between 1808 and 1825, three GAVANESCHE brothers from Tschagguns (Franz Josef, Jean-Jacques [Johann Josef], and Josef Anton), direct descendants of Georg and Maria (BERTHOLD) GAVANESCHE circa 1640; moved to Bollviller, Alsace, France and their surname changed to GAFANESCH.  In this Region, the letters "V" and "F" were often interchanged with each other; in fact there was a heated debate among residents of the Montafon Valley about whether the spelling should be Montavon or Montafon. 


In 1872, GAFANESCH's who found themselves in territory that was annexed to Germany as a result of the Franco-Prussian War, declared their French citizenship, and they moved deeper into France territory.  Seventeen GAFANESCH's declared French citizenship.  All had been born in Bolviller, France.


Emil GAFENESCH, born in Riedisheim, Alsace in 1859 (grandson of afore-mentioned Jean-Jacques [Johann Josef] GAFANESCH), arrived in the United States on March 8, 1887 on the the four-masted ship, La Gascogne, which had departed from Le Havre, France.  He returned to France, and brought his mother Marie Anne HERISSE to America on February 1, 1897.  She was 65 years old, and listed in census records as being from "Elsass" (German spelling of Alsace).  In 1891, Emil married Lena HARTER from Karlsruhl, Germany in Manhatten, New York and settled in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  He later moved his family to Dayton, Ohio (just 60 miles north of Cincinnati, Ohio) to work at National Cash Register. 

Living members, and descendants of the surname variation GAFANESCH, and GAFENESCH reside primarily in Alsace, France, but can also be found in the Unites States, Australia, and Canada.


Another branch of the GAVANESCH family - Chretien and Anna Marie (MULLER) GABENESCH settled in Kalhausen, Lorraine, France in the early 1700's.  Anna Marie was born in Kalhausen in October, 1690.  This was part of a re-population effort to attract people from Tirol / Voralberg, Austria as a result of the devastation caused by The Thirty Years War (1618 -1648).  An example of the work performed by the GAVANESCH masons can still be seen in this area today.  Around 1737, they built a Castle Farm in the Hamlet of Olferding, an annex of Gros Rederching.  The Farm Olferdinger Hof is an ancient possession of the Duke of Lorraine.  It was given in fief by Duke Leopold I of Lorraine in 1714 to Henri de Mallan, an Irish Knight who had become one of his bodyguards.  See photos at:


In 1777, Christofel (my great, great, grandfather) GABENESCH's  grandfather Jacques (grandson of Chretien / Anna Marie), married Christine GOTTWALLES, and resided in Bining, Lorraine, France which was Christine's hometown.  In the winter of 1847/1848, to escape The Revolutions of France, Christofel emigrated from Bining to Cincinnati, Ohio USA.  About a year later, his wife Elisabeth (LETT) and their daughter followed, with the assistance of Elisabeth's sister Catherine LETT.  Christofel established a business for himself and his family as a tailor and cigar maker in Cincinnati.


In Cincinnati, the surname changed to GABENNESCH with the addition of a second "N" around 1859.  No one with this surname variation lives outside of the United States, and in fact all are directly related to my father Walter Stephen GABENNESCH.


In 1837 Frederic GABENESCH, married Marie Aimee BARROYER from Amance, Aube, Champagne-Ardenne, France and the surname changed to GABENISCH.  Frederic (son of Jacques GABENESCH / Anne [HENRICH] ), was a first cousin of Christofel GABENESCH.    Members of the family with this surname variation can be found in Alsace and Lorraine, France.


About the same time that Chretien/Anna Marie settled in Kalhausen (early 1700's), Christian and Marguerite (KNIDER) GABENESCH settled in Bining, Lorraine, France.  The majority of GABENESCH family members now living in Lorraine, and other parts of France are direct descendants of Christian and Marguerite.


Since Kalhausen and Bining are located within a short distance of each other, and both GABENESCH families were well-known master masons / stone masons - it is strongly believed that the two families are related - but this has not been verified through conventional or genetic genealogical research. 


It's not known when the family settled into what is now Germany, the earliest information available shows Johann Georg and Eva (FISCHER) GAVENESCH gave birth to Anna Catharina GAVENESCH in 1731 at Heimbach, Freiberg, Baden.   Joseph and Madelina (KAUFMAN) GAVENESCH emigrated from Germany to New York around 1850.  About 1860, after their first two children were born, they moved to Hudson, New Jersey (later became Jersey City, New Jersey) where they owned several tenant houses and operated a grocery store.  Others moved to Connecticut.  Members of the family with this surname variation have been found to reside in present day Germany.


Genetic Research Results:

As of April 2011, 37-Marker Y-DNA kits from members of four different surname variations : GAVANESCH, GAVENESCH, GABENISCH, and GABENNESCH have been returned with excellent results.

Each member is in the Haplogroup E1b1a8a with origins from Sub-Saharan Africa.  According to Chris Rottensteiner, Administrator of the FTDNA Alpine Genetics Project:  "I have linked all projects with ties to Alpine origin as I think it is interesting. Your haplotype seems very seldom in Europe and so far I know no connection to your Gavanesche E1b⇾U175⇾P278.1⇾L609+ cluster."


The GAVANESCH, GAVENESCH, GABENISCH, and GABENNESCH Project Members had test results with a genetic distance of no more than 5 from another Project Member on the 37 Y-chromosome STR marker test:


One mismatch (genetic distance of one), at DYS570  between the GAVANESCH Project member and the GAVENESCH Project member demonstrates a 97.21% chance that they shared a common ancester in the last 12 generations.


Two mismatches (genetic distance of two), at DYS576 and CDYa between the GAVENESCH Project member and the GABENNESCH Project member demonstrates a 96.35% chance that they shared a common ancestor in the last 16 generations.

Three mismatches (genetic distance of three), at DYS570, DYS576 and CDYa  between the GAVANESCH Project member and the GABENNESCH Project member demonstrates a 95.85% chance that they shared a common ancestor in the last 20 generations.

Two mismatches (genetic distance of two), at DYS439 and DYS448  between the GABENNESCH Project member and the GABENISCH Project member demonstrates a 97.6% chance that they shared a common ancestor in the last 16 generations.


Four mismatches (genetic distance of four), at DYS 576, CDYa, DYS439, and DYS448, between the GAVENESCH Project member and the GABENISCH Project member demonstrates a 96.44% chance that they shared a common ancestor in the last 24 generations.

Five mismatches (genetic distance of five), at DYS570, DYS576, CDYa, DYS439, and DYS448 between the GAVANESCH Project member and the GABENISCH Project member demonstrates a 90.22% chance that they shared a common ancestor in the last 24 generations.


This Most Likely Estimate (MLE) of a maximum genetic distance of 24 generations (approximately 600 years) coincides with the conventional genealogical research indicating that the Most Recent Common Ancestors (MRCA's) were born sometime in the early 1400's or before.


Together, these two research methodologies (conventional and genetic) show a clear path of the evolution of the surname, and the migratory paths taken by the GAVANESCHE family from the Montafon Valley, Austria > Alsace, France & Germany > Lorraine, France > Unites States of America.



The FTDNATiP™ results are based on the mutation rate study presented during the 1st International Conference on Genetic Genealogy, on Oct. 30, 2004. The above probabilities take into consideration the mutation rates for each individual marker being compared. Since each marker has a different mutation rate, identical Genetic Distances will not necessarily yield the same probabilities. In other words, even though XXXX has a Genetic Distance of XXXX from XXXX, someone else with the same Genetic Distance may have different probabilities, because the distance of 1 was prompted by mutations in different markers, with different mutation rates.