Valentine Bier Family Overview, or “Hey, you, pay attention!”

Before I continue on with the narrative of the Valentine Bier family, I want to give a brief summary of his progeny and descendants.  I always appreciate a “cast of characters” summary at the beginning of a particularly confusing novel, and this is certainly confusing.  Remember:  you can always refer back to the Valentine Bier Descendants summary page if you ever get confused.  As I’m working on my genealogy, I always like to keep a very brief family tree handy.

Jiru-Bier Women Four Generation Portrait
Johanna Jiru, taken abt. 1904

Not to spoil the surprise, but the whole family eventually made it to the United States.  Also coming along with them was Catherine’s mother, Johanna JIRU.  She appears in a number of family photographs and is mentioned in family diaries.  No matter if everyone else is frowning in a picture, she always has a spunky grin on her face.  She appears to have weighed no more than 80 pounds at any given time.  Two of her sons emigrated around the same time as her daughter, Catherine, did.  Their names were Frank and Florian and they both settled in Janesville, Wisconsin, as well.  I hope to learn more about the Jiru family during our upcoming trip back to Bohemia this summer.

OK, now onto the rest of the family.  Valentine’s parents, as previously mentioned, died in his childhood, and I don’t know about Catherine (Jiru) Bier’s father, and her mother, Johanna is accounted for.  They had ten kids, and a lot of familiar Rock County names spring up amongst their descendants.  Here’s a summary, so share with your friends:


Valentine Bier-Catherine Jiru Family Portrait
Valentine Bier Family, taken abt. 1890. Back row L-R: Charles, Frank, Louis, Anna, Frances, Amalia. Seated L-R: John, Valentine, Catherine, Johanna Jiru. Kids on laps: Emily, Edward, Carrie

This portrait is a copy of a copy.  It was taken about 1890, and in diaries is noted as being the first formal portrait ever created of the family.  Note how Johanna Jiru’s bird-like face bears a smile!  (Aside:  If anyone has the original of this, I’d love a scanned copy.  And, I’m always happy to share my information as well.)

Each of the kid’s story is interesting in its own right and will be summarized eventually.  For now: shorthand.  My goal is to give you a thumbnail sketch of each individual and highlight some descendants’ names in the hope that these families, too, might be directed to the blog.  Here we go:




  1. Edward, John, Louis, Frank & Charles Bier
    John A. Bier. Taken abt 1905.

    1. John Bier was born in Ketzelsdorf and died in Janesville.  He left home at 15 to begin working as a hired hand in order to support the family.  He married Bertha SCHMIDLEY.  They had three daughters whose married surnames were ROETHLE, LANNON & MCCUE.



Jiru-Bier Women Four Generation Portrait
Four generations: Johanna (?) Jiru, Catherine (Jiru) Bier, Frances (Bier) Hanauska, Mary Agnes Bier. Taken abt. 1905 in Janesville, Wisconsin

2.  Frances (Bier) Hanauska was born in Ketzelsdorf and died in Wisconsin.  She married Wenzel HANAUSKA.  Theirs is a good example of families from the same village moving en masse and resuming life in a new location.  Wenzel Hanauska’s family was from Ketzelsdorf as well.  His sister, Anna Hanauska, married Catherina Jiru’s brother, Frank Jiru, and they both died in Janesville.  Frances started working out of the home as a hired girl at the age of 13.  Three years’ wages bought the family’s first team of horses.  Frances always appears serious and somber in photos, and I imagine that a life of hard work has something to do with it.  She and Wenzel had five children.  Two boys carried on the Hanauska name in the area, and I went to high school with one of their descendants–Leigh Hanauska Kelz.  One daughter became a nun, one remained single, and one became a GANSER.



Edward, John, Louis, Frank & Charles Bier
Louis A. Bier, abt. 1905

3.  Louis Bier was also born in Ketzelsdorf and died in Iowa, after farming most of his life outside of Janesville.  My dad remembers him as always speaking with a thick, thick German accent, wearing a bushy mustache, and smoking a pipe.  He married Frances PARR, who was also born in Austria although I need to determine which town.  There are a lot of Parrs around Janesville, and people are always asking me to figure out “how we’re related to the Parrs.”  Well, this is about the sum of it.  Some of the names of their first generation of descendents in addition to Bier include:  MUELLER, PETERS, and KORTH.



Anna Bier
Anna (Sister Veronica) Bier

4.  Anna Bier was born in Ketzelsdorf and died in Oakland, California.  She joined the Little Sisters of the Poor and became Sister Veronica.  She took a vow of extreme poverty, begging on the streets to support the mission, and never returned home after joining the convent.



Edward, John, Louis, Frank & Charles Bier
Frank Bier, abt. 1905

5.  Frank Bier was born in Ketzelsdorf and died in Iowa.  He eventually gave up farming and became a railroad man.  He married Mary KLEIN, who was a great friend to the girls in the family.  Her family lived “in town” in Janesville.  Frank and Mary had 8 children.  Three of the boys became priests, and surnames found in their first generation of descendants include Bier, and RADDENBACH.  Finally, I think that we can all agree that Frank’s cheekbones are ridiculous and that he is a bit of a dreamboat.



Edward, John, Louis, Frank & Charles Bier
Father Charles Bier, abt. 1905

6.  Charles Bier was born in Ketzelsdorf and died in Janesville.  He became a priest, starting off a run of Catholic religious in the family that ended in my dad’s generation because, for some reason, neither he nor any of his cousins really seemed to enjoy the seminary all that much.  Charles’s diaries, when stacked up, are over a foot thick.  His commentary provides much of the color and detail that make this story so interesting.




Charles, Edward, Emily, Frances, Amalia Bier
Amalia (Bier) Bott

7.  Amalia Bier was born in Ketzelsdorf and died in Wisconsin.  She married James BOTT, who promptly died after the birth of their fifth child.  Amalia is the one who caught smallpox as an infant prior to emigrating.  Before getting married, Amalia also worked out of the home as a hired girl and traveled between the homes of her elder brothers helping to care for their wives after childbirth.  In pictures of her as an old lady she always looks just done with it all, and I imagine that all told, she had a pretty rough life.  In addition to one nun, the other children passed on the Bott and SHERIDAN names through marriage.



Valentine Bier-Catherine Jiru Family Portrait
Caroline Bier, abt. 1890

8.  Caroline Bier was the first of the children born in Wisconsin.  She lived at home her entire life and suffered from some  form of epilepsy.




Charles, Edward, Emily, Frances, Amalia Bier
Emily (Bier) Gassert

9.  Emily Bier was born in Wisconsin.  She married Joseph GASSERT and raised a family in Milwaukee.  One of her sons was a priest and the rest of the next generation can be found under the names Gassert, MEULER, REITER.  Of all of the Valentine Bier clan, Emily had the most grandchildren:  26!  Despite this she always smiles benignly in her photos.



Edward, John, Louis, Frank & Charles Bier
Edward A. Bier, abt. 1905

Finally, Edward Bier was the last, and was born and died in Janesville.  He was born when Valentine and Catherine were both 47 and started becoming an uncle to his older siblings’ children shortly thereafter.  In fact his wife, Rosalia ROETHLE was sister to one of John Bier’s daughter’s husbands.  Think about that for awhile!  Ed and Rosalia had 4 boys, one of whom became a priest and the rest of whom scattered Biers including my own family all over the Rock Prairie.  I never met him, but he just always looks so austere in his photos!


Sooooo, that’s it.  Remember, names who might be interested in this topic and should be directed accordingly include:



Do any of you remember anything about any of these original ten?  Please comment below!



15 thoughts on “Valentine Bier Family Overview, or “Hey, you, pay attention!”

  1. Angie: Thank you so much for your latest effort on behalf of the family. One correction to make: the photos of Louis and John should be reversed. Two of Louis and Frances Parr Bier’s grandchildren, myself and Janet Peters VanHorn , probably know as much about the Louis branch as anyone if you need information.Also, in your note regarding John Bier, you mention two priest sons; I believe there were three; my recollection is that they were Robert, Francis, and Joseph. I can recall driving, in one car, Father Charles, Amalia, Edward, and Louis to Milwaukee to visit their sister, Emily Bier Gassert. Finally, as to the Bier-Parr alliance, it’s confusing since Louis Bier (my grandfather) married Frances Parr and her brother (I can’t recall his first name) married a Mary Bier. She was a part of the other Biers around Janesville. That Parr-Bier marriage produced eighteen children among them a priest, a Racine Dominican nun, and an English professor at Marquette. It was lots of fun to visit them at their farm outside Janesville.

    Richard R. (Dick) Bier
    Bloomington , Indiana

    1. Charlie and Mary Parr are my grandparents. Raymond was the priest, Rosemary the nun and Roger the professor at Marquette. My dad was Jerry Parr (16th of the 18 children.) From oldest to youngest – Charles, Eddie, Allen, Raymond, Harold, Leo, Roger, Maurice, Rita, Frances,Carroll, Rosemary, Kenneth, Ralph, Eugene, Jerry, Jean and Ronnie. My mom was Joan Cronin, her dad George owned the Cronin Dairy/Janesville Pure Milk. Company.
      George Parr
      Antelope, CA

      1. My connection here is my immigrant great-grandparents, who were also born in and near the Biers’ hometown of Ketzelsdorf. I also have a Parr link that isn’t strictly family, but close. My grandmother, Elizabeth Snyder Fanning, and Mary Bier Parr were close life-long friends. My mother and her two siblings were also close friends of their Parr contemporaries, and we have extensive photos of the two families, which I would be happy to share if you are interested. In recent years I have started to wonder how the family backgrounds of Liz and Mary were connected. Do you know just where your Parr ancestors came from in the old country? Were the Parrs also part of the Janesville area immigrant clan from Ketzelsdorf and thereabouts that included families named Bier, Huschka, Hanauska, Schneider/Snyder, and several more? An old-country ancestral chart prepared by a cousin of mine 30 years ago includes the variant Paar.

      2. Hi Ken,
        From a family document I have, Charles Parr’s parents were Frank Paar and Appolonia Striegel (of Ketzeldorf) and Mary Bier Parr’s parents were Frank Bier and Louise Fiedeler.. Not sure were they were from, but I was told that Mary Bier was German, not Austrian. Years ago my dad mentioned that the name was probably originally PAAR and maybe became PARR when they came to the United States.
        I have a photo of Charles and Mary and Louis and Frances (wedding day of Charlie and Mary).

      3. Hi again Ken,
        My original reply is labeled anonymous – I forgot to log in before posting…
        George Parr

      4. The pedigree chart prepared by a Schneider/Snyder cousin 30 years ago of our branch’s Austria/Bohemia/Moravia ancestors includes the names Paar and Strigl, as well as Bier and Huschka. There are very likely complex relationships there. I am very much interested in getting a handle on the full extent of the immigration occurred from that cluster of villages to Rock County. The people who could have told the full story are unfortunately long gone, and reconstructing it is not easy. Along those lines, I would join in asking Angie to give us the state of the art on what she knows about how Mary Bier’s father, apparently Frank Bier (1843-1931), connects to the other Biers.

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Dick! As for the number of priests that Frank Bier begat, I must admit that I miscounted, so that’s an easy fix to make. As for swapping the pictures–I’ll have to change a lot more, as I have attributed their likenesses accordingly based on one photo of the five Bier boys with penciled in names on the back. I’ll have to fix that tonight when I get back home. When it comes to focusing on Louis’s story, maybe you or Janet would like to be a guest blogger???

  3. Angie, You are just so awesome! Loving your storytelling. Can’t wait to share with my kiddos.

  4. I am related to this same group of families, and very much interested in sharing information about them. My maternal grandmother was a Schneider/Snyder from a Ketzelsdorf family. Our ancestral charts include Biers and Huschkas. My grandmother was a close lifelong friend of Mary Bier Parr (married to Charlie Parr), mentioned by Richard Bier in his comment. I have also wondered whether and exactly how the Parrs were related. There were indeed several families that immigrated to the Harmony and Johnstown areas from a cluster of villages north of Vienna, now in the Czech Republic. This includes the surnames you mention, and maybe one or two more. It is my assumption that the families were thoroughly interrelated, but I am not aware that anyone ever documented that systematically. I would welcome an opportunity to exchange information.

  5. I am Mary Catherine Bier, born in Janesville, WI. Please email me at I have memories and pictures and more. Some missing pieces. I was named after my great grandmother from Austria. Died at 98 or 99 in WI. I would like to fill in some of the “blanks”.

  6. Wow, what a find! I am a Bott, Amalia was my Great Grandmother. Thank you for all of this and the work, dedication and time. Simply incredible.

  7. I enjoyed the recent comments from two members of the Charles and Mary Bier Parr family. Thank you. The Louis Bier branch, of which i am part, is tied in closely to the Parrs. George Parr’s grandfather was my great-uncle and my grandmother, Frances Parr Bier, was his great-aunt. Charles’ wife, Mary Bier, was not part of the Valentine and Catherine Ten. So, who are those Biers? In fact, Angie Bier, our magnificent leader, solved the mystery of the connection. Perhaps, she could post the results of her research. When Charles Parr married Mary Bier and Louis Bier married Frances Parr, things got a bit confusing for us descendants.

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