Finding Catherine Dallas

Written and submitted by Ray DeRousse
Originally appeared in the St. Louis Genealogical Society Quarterly, Spring 2018
Published on with permission from the author.

The family legend held that my great-grandmother, Catherine Dallas, was born on 9 June 1845 aboard ship on the Atlantic Ocean. This information was repeated in her obituary and her Missouri death certificate. My grandmother helped perpetuate that information, having heard it from her parents while growing up and then retelling the story. The surname became Americanized as Dallas, but appears in the French records as Delles or Delesse. For simplicity, I will refer to them as Dallas.

When I started doing research on this family in the 1980's, the first items I had were the obituaries and the 1850 census for Ste. Genevieve County, Missouri, for Catherine's parents, John and Barbara Dallas. John Dallas died on 11 August 1902.1 His obituary stated that he was born on 2 June 1819 in Alsace, France, about eighty-six miles northwest of Strasbourg, France, and that he immigrated about 1850 with his wife, Barbara, and two children, who were born in Germany. It also said that Catherine Dallas and her brother, Peter, were born in Pennsylvania prior to their move to Ste. Genevieve.

Barbara Dallas died on December 1885.2 Her obituary stated that she was born in Humberhoh, Lorraine, where she married John Dallas on 14 January 1845, and that they immigrated about 1847. No birth places were given for any of the children. Book searches did not undercover any place named Humberhoh in the pre-internet days of the 1980s. So I sent a letter to a genealogy society in France and provided the information I had from the obituaries.

I received a very gracious reply from a Jean Fleury.3 He said that the correct name of the town was Hombourg-Haut and that the French pronunciation sounded like Homberhoh. He also gave the correct marriage date for John and Barbara as 21 January 18454 and the subsequent birth dates of their first two children, Jean (John) Junior, born 21 April 1845,5 and Barbe (Barbara) born 29 November 1846,6 both born in Hombourg-Haut. He made no mention of Catherine other than to say that the birth date I provided from her obituary was incorrect. He further indicated there were no other records for the family after the birth of their daughter Barbara in 1846. There is more to come on Jean Fleury later.

When became available, I was finally able to discover the immigration record for the John Dallas family. John, along with wife Barbara and their two children, left France from the port of Le Havre aboard the ship Amulet and arrived in New York on 15 April 1847.7 There was no mention of Catherine on the passenger manifest.

The family showed up in the 1850 census of Ste. Genevieve County which was taken on 13 September 1850.8 It showed two more children born to John and Barbara, Catherine, age two years old, and Peter, age "8/12." Both had their place of birth listed as Pennsylvania. A search of the church records showed that Peter Dallas was baptized in the Church of Ste. Genevieve on 5 May 1850 at age circa three months,9 but nothing for Catherine.

So, Catherine Dallas was born in Pennsylvania somewhere between the immigration arrival of 15 April 1847 and their arrival in Missouri by 5 May 1850. No census was taken in the years between their arrival in Pennsylvania and their arrival in Missouri. Pennsylvania was a large and populated state even in 1850. I searched many places and many years before finding the place where they resided.

Someone suggested that I look to see with whom they traveled. I revisited their immigration record on One of the things you can do there is place a note correcting the spelling of the passenger surnames. Another researcher and a distant cousin, Ryan Grill, noted that there was a Grill family of eleven people on board the same ship as the Dallas family.10 I never would have recognized the writing as Grill, so thankfully he had noted the correct spelling, and I recognized the Grill surname as being another Hombourg-Haut family traveling with the Dallas family. A quick check of the 1850 Pennsylvania census showed the Grill family living in Berks County, Pennsylvania.11 When I checked with Ryan, he had a printed book showing the births and baptisms from Most Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Bally, Berks County, Pennsylvania. And there was the entry for Catherine showing both her birth date of 22 June 1848 and subsequent baptism on 24 September 1848.12 All that was left to do was to call the church and get a copy of the actual record.

Paul Harvey would always say, "And now for the rest of the story." In 2011, we visited Hombourg-Haut and met a distant cousin, Vincent Vion. Vincent is the prototype of the contact with whom we would all like to connect. He speaks French, German, and English, is the local historian for the area, and worked as the tourism director before retiring. In addition to publishing several history and genealogy books on the area, he authored a historical column in the quarterly town magazine called Hombourg-Mag.

In one of those columns, he told the story of the Grill and Dallas families' immigration to America in 1847 and where both families settled/ That particular story led a fellow genealogist to ask Vincent if he knew of Jean Fleury. When Vincent said he was not familiar with the person, his friend went on to explain that Jean Fleury was president of the Cercle Geanealogique du Pays Messin and died before publishing his book on emigrants from the Alsace-Lorraine area. Jean Fleury left instructions for his widow to give his book to anyone interested in genealogy. Vincent was able to get a copy and sent it to me. There, on page forty-seven, was the emigration information for my Dallas family with a final destination of Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. This was the same Jean Fleury with whom I communicated back in the 1980s, and he got their final destination from our communication! A copy of the book has been donated to St. Louis County Library.13

Catherine (Dallas) Lipp died on 1 April 192314 and was buried in Sacred Heart Catholic Cemetery in Ozora, Ste. Genevieve County, Missouri, on 3 April 1923.15 Information on the Missouri death certificate was provided by my grandmother's sister and included the report that Catherine was born on 9 June 1845 aboard the ship on the Atlantic Ocean. I'm happy to have solved the twenty-five year mystery but saddened to find that the legend wasn't true.


  1. John Dallas, obituary, Ste. Genevieve Herald, Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, 16 August 1902, p. 1, col. 3.
  2. Mrs. Barbara Dallas, obituary, Ste. Genevieve Herald, Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, 12 December 1885, p. 1, col. 4.
  3. Jean Fleury (Metz, France) to "Monsieur Ray DeRousse," letter, 1985, Jean Fleury's response to inquiry about the Dallas family; personal correspondence, 1985; Dallas family collection, privately held by Ray DeRousse, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], St. Louis, Missouri.
  4. Eglise catholique, Paroisse d'Hombourg-Haut (Moselle), "Baptemes, mariages, sepultures (Baptisms, Marriages, Burials) 1821-1861," 21 January 1845, Marriage Record for Delles/Reichert, Family History Library microfilm 1,939,108, item 1, date sequence, 1845 Number 14.
  5. Eglise catholique, Paroisse d'Hombourg-Haut (Moselle), "Baptemes, mariages, sepultures (Baptisms, Marriages, Burials) 1821-1861," 21 April 1845, baptismal record for Jean Delles, FHL microfilm 1,939,108, item 1, date sequence, 1845 Number 53.
  6. Eglise catholique, Paroisse d'Hombourg-Haut (Moselle), "Baptemes, mariages, sepultures (Baptisms, Marriages, Burials) 1821-1861," 29 November 1846, baptismal record for Barbe Delles, FHL microfilm 1,939,108, item1, date sequence, 1846 Number 121.
  7. "New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1897," digital images, ( : accessed 16 March 2017), manifest, Amulet, 15 April 1847, no page number, line 10, J. Delisse, age 28.
  8. 1850 U.S. census, Ste. Genevieve County, Missouri, population schedule, Ste. Genevieve township, p.455 (handwritten, p. 28 penned), dwelling 352, family 366, John Delise; digital images,; NARA micropublication M432, roll 413.
  9. Church of Ste. Genevieve (Ste. Genevieve, Missouri), "Baptisms 1820-1923," 5 May 1850, book E, p. 151, Baptismal Record for Peter Dallas, Family History Library microfilm 1,939,898, Item 2, p. 151.
  10. "New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1897," digital images,, manifest, Amulet, 15 April 1847, no page number, line 18, J. Grill, age 24.
  11. 1850 U.S. census, Berks County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Washington township, p. 46 (handwritten, p. 23B penned), dwelling 8, family 10, Jno Gril, digital images,; NARA micropublication M432, roll 753.
  12. Most Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church (Bally, Berks County, Pennsylvania), Baptismal record for Catharina Deles, 24 September 1848, Book 3, p. 113, no. 4.
  13. Jean Fleury, compiler, Lorrains Emigres en Amerique de 1815 a 1875, (self-published, no date).
  14. "Missouri Death Certificates, 1910-1964," digital image, Missouri State Archives ( : accessed 11 February 2017), entry for Catherine Lipp, death certificate 13755, 1 April 1923.
  15. Mrs. Xavier Lipp, obituary, Ste. Genevieve Herald, Ste. Genevieve, Missouri 7 April 1923, p. 1, col. 3.

Ray DeRousse has been doing genealogy since the early 1980s. He and his wife, Paula, volunteer at the St. Louis Genealogical Society office. Ray graduated from UMSL in 1975 after attending night school, and retired from the May Department Stores Company as Director of IT Operations and Software in 2003. Ray and his wife have traveled to Germany three times and visited the home towns of their German ancestors. In addition to genealogy, Ray enjoys golf, Mizzou sports, Cardinal baseball, and high school sports. Ray and Paula have two children and two grandchildren.

This article is my 239th oldest. It is 1604 words long