Oct 8, 2012

An Unknown Grandmother of Liszt

The genealogical basics of Franz Liszt's family tree have been established decades ago. This may have been caused by the debated question whether Liszt was a German or a Hungarian composer and by the fact that having been Richard Wagner's father-in-law, his ancestry simply was an important issue in the eyes of purebred Wagnerites and a ministry of propaganda that used Liszt's "Les Preludes" as signature tune of its regular reports from the theater of war. The essential literature on Franz Liszt's ancestry consists of the following four publications:
  • Heinrich E. Wamser: "Abstammung und Familie Franz Liszts", Burgenländische Heimatblätter 1936, vol. 2, 24-33.
  • Eduard Ritter von Liszt: Franz Liszt. Abstammung, Familie, Begebenheiten, (Vienna-Leipzig: Braumüller, 1937).
  • Josef Beatus Klingohr and Wolfgang Huschke: "Zur Herkunft Franz Liszts. Neue Forschungen über die Ahnen seiner Mutter (Lager, Laager)", Genealogie 14, 1965, 422-28.
  • Heinz Schöny: "Neues zu Franz Liszt", Adler. Zeitschrift für Genealogie und Heraldik, (Vienna: Heraldisch-genealogische Gesellschaft Adler), vol. 21, 2001-02, 28-30.

The young Franz Liszt, anonymous oil painting  (Ernst Burger: Frédéric Chopin. Eine Lebenschronik in Bildern und Dokumenten. München: Hirmer 1990, 99)

While the details of Liszt's family's roots have been covered quite extensively back to Liszt's great-grandfather Sebastian List (~1703–1793), including the identification of the complete fourth generation of ancestors, ten of Liszt's sixteen great-great-grandparents still remain unknown. Three generations of the Liszt family are given in the following table by Heinrich Wamser.

The date of the marriage of Liszt's parents, given by Wamser, is wrong. The correct date is 17 January 1811. At times the genealogical literature is a little messy. Liszt's four grandparents ("Generation III"), on whose identity the literature agrees unanimously, are given as follows in Heinz Schöny's 2001 article in the genealogical journal Adler.

It is easy to see that a few things are gravely amiss in the above list and one wonders, who served as editor at the Gesellschaft Adler back in 2001. Liszt's grandfather Georg Adam List was not born on 14 January, but on 14 October 1755. He did not marry in 1715, but in 1775. His first wife Barbara Schlesak was, of course, born in 1753, not in 1853. Mathias Lager was not born in 1815, but 100 years earlier. Lager did not get married in Kirchberg am Wagram on 26 May, but on 27 May 1777 (with Ludwig von Köchel's grandfather Georg Heinrich Köchel serving as his best man), his bride's name was Schuhmann, not Schihmann and the place of her birth was not "Öttinger", but Oettingen in Bayern.

The entry concerning the wedding of Liszt's grandparents Mathias Lager and Franziska Schumann on 27 May 1777 in Kirchberg am Wagram ("ex Kremß dimissa") (Kirchberg am Wagram, Tom. 2/7, p. 51)

At least, Franziska Lager's date of death (9 June 1797) is correct in Schöny's chart, whereas Wamser gives it one month too early. It is also interesting to note that Georg Adam List was not only an organist, but, up into the 1830s, was also in charge of rehearsing the boys' choir in the chapel of Pottendorf Castle.

Liszt's grandfather Georg Adam List (1755–1844), anonymous oil paintig from around 1820

According to the literature, Franz Liszt's grandfather Georg Adam List (he always signed his name just "Adam List") was married three times, namely  to 1) Barbara Schlesak (1753–1798) (Liszt's supposed grandmother), 2) Barbara Weninger (1778–1806) and 3) Magdalena Richter (1780–1856). His late third marriage in 1807 led to his last son Eduard (1817–1879) being actually six years younger than his first grandson, the famous pianist Franz Liszt.

A few days before, on 11 January 1811, in the Hungarian village of Unterfrauenhaid, Franz Liszt's father Adam married Maria Anna Laager. The banns for this wedding had to be published in the two Viennese home parishes of the bride. The sources in Vienna's parish archives concerning Adam List's wedding were previously not acknowledged by Liszt scholarship. The information in these documents regarding the mother of the groom is starkly at odds with what is documented in the genealogical literature. According to the entries in the marriage records of St. Stephen's and the Schottenkirche, which were made on 7 and 8 January 1811 respectively, Adam List's mother was not Barbara Schlesak, but a certain Katharina Baumann.

The section pertaining to the groom in the entry concerning the publication of the banns on 7 January 1811, for Adam List's wedding (A-Wd, Tom. 82b, fol. 325)
d[en] 7t[en] Jänner [1811] / Tit[ulo] H[err] Adam \List/ Rechnungs= / führer beÿm Fürst / Esterhazy zu Raiding / in Hungarn, geb. von / Matterstorf[sic] in Hung= / garn, des Tit. H[errn] / Adam List, Schaf / fers zu Matterstorf / beym Fürst Esterhazy / leb[end] u. der Fr. Kathar[ina] / geb. Baumann, sel[ig] / ehel[icher] Sohn.
January 7th, [1811] Mr. Adam List, head accountant with Prince Esterházy in Raiding in Hungary, born in Mattersdorf in Hungary, legitimate son of Adam List, workman in Mattersdorf at Prince Esterházy's, alive, and of Mrs. Katharina [List], née Baumann deceased.
As a matter of fact, Adam List was not born in Mattersdorf, but in Edelstal. And the fact that List's age is given as 30 (instead of 35, as given in the Edelstal records) might also be of interest, considering his unknown mother that appears nowhere in the Liszt literature. The duplicate entry from 7 January 1811 (A-Wd, Rapular 1810-13, fol. 220) concerning the publishing of the banns at St. Stephen's also presents "Katharina, née Baumann" as mother of the groom.

The duplicate entry in the Cathedral's Rapular concerning the publishing of the banns at St. Stephen's (A-Wd, Rapular 1810-13, fol. 220). This source has never been digitized.

The above-quoted later and definite copy of the "Verkündeintragung" in the Cathedral's records (A-Wd, 82b, fol. 325) also contains new information about the bride: we finally learn for whom Liszt's mother had worked as parlourmaid in Vienna.

The previously disregarded entry in the marriage records of St. Stephen's concerning Anna Laager's employer (A-Wd, 82b, fol. 325)
J[un]gf[er] Mar[ia] Anna / Laager, Stu= / benmagd gew[esen] / beÿ der Frau / v. Kurzbeck, / geb. von Krems, / des H. Mat= / thäus Laager / Bürgers da= / selbst sel[ig] u. / der Fr. Fr[an]z[is]ka / geb. Schuchmann / sel., ehel[iche] Tochter.
Derzeit / Pfarr= / ort zu / Matter= / storf / in Hungarn, / vordem / Pfarr St. / Steph. / Nro 1139. / dann vordem / Pf. Schotten / Nro 235.
22 / d[en] 9t Maÿ 788
The maiden Maria Anna Laager, formerly parlourmaid with Frau von Kurzbeck, born in Krems, legitimate daughter of Matthäus Laager, deceased citizen in said town, and Mrs. Franziska, née Schuchmann deceased. [Her] current parish is Mattersdorf in Hungary, formerly in St. Stephen's parish No. 1139, then in the Schotten parish No. 235. [years of age] 22, [born] 9 May 1788
Unlike the groom, the bride was underage and therefore had to present a birth certificate and a marriage license from the Krems magistrate. On 10 January 1811, the couple also received a dispensation from the other two publications of the banns.

Liszt's mother Anna Liszt, née Laager around 1860 (photography by Sabatier-Blot)

Maria Anna Laager's employer "Frau v. Kurzbeck" was Katharina von Kurzbeck, née Gerold (b. 15 November 1748 in Vienna, d. 19 August 1821 in Baden bei Wien), widow of the printer, merchant and estate owner Joseph von Kurzbeck (1736–1792). The Kurzbeck family is of particular interest because of seven very musical daughters who were acquainted with Mozart and Haydn. These daughters are listed in the 1788 Taschenbuch für den weiblichen Adel in Wien as living at Stadt 1152 (today Bräunerstr. 1), a house that had been owned by Joseph von Kurzbeck since 1775.

The Kurzbeck daughters listed in the 1788 Taschenbuch für den weiblichen Adel in Wien

The most prominent member of the family was of course Magdalena von Kurzbeck (1767–1845), pianist, composer and student of Clementi, Haydn and Andreas Streicher. For a long time she was regarded as Vienna's finest female pianist. Haydn dedicated the printed edition of his piano sonata in E flat major (Hob. XVI/52) and the piano trio (Hob. XV/31) to her. Johann Nepumuk Hummel wrote his Piano Sonata op. 20 for her. Soon after the death of Joseph von Kurzbeck on 18 December 1792 (Wiener Zeitung, 26 December 1792, 3493), his widow Katharina sold the house in the Untere Bräunerstraße for 46,000 gulden, and moved into the so-called Hasenhaus at Kärntnerstraße 8 (then No. 1082, from 1795 until 1821 No. 1139), where about fifteen years later, Liszt's mother was to work as parlourmaid.

Catharina Edle von Kurzbeck ("Großhandl[er]s Wittwe gestorben"), listed together with three of her daughters on a concription sheet from the so-called Hasenhaus, Stadt No. 1073, dating from about 1805 (A-Wsa, Konskriptionsamt, Stadt 1073/3r)

Shortly before the marriage of her maid, Katharina von Kurzbeck must have moved to the house Stadt 235 (today Tiefer Graben 22). Similar records from other Viennese parishes prove that on 7 January 1811, Maria Anna Laager also had to submit a testimony by her employer to the government and the parish priest, regarding her good moral conduct during her service as maidservant.

Katharina von Kurzbeck's seal and signature from 1795 (A-Wsa, Merkantilgericht, Fasz. 3, 1, Reihe, litt. CK, Nr. 4)

There are three different copies of the entry concerning the publication of the banns for Adam List and Maria Anna Laager in Viennese parish archives: a) the entry in the records of St. Stephen's quoted above, b) a slightly shortened copy of this entry (without the the information regarding the Kurzbeck connection) in the series of duplicate marriage records of St. Stephen's, and c) the entry in the marriage records of the Schotten parish which was made one day later, on 8 January 1811. The entry related to Adam List is basically identical with the earlier ones, and Katharina Baumann is given again as Adam List's mother. Only the dates referring to the dispensation from two publications of the banns and the delivery of the certificate ("Ist der Braut den 13. Jänner [1]811 der Verkündschein gegeben worden") have been added. This note and the date "12 [January]" above the entry show that the bride was still in Vienna on 13 January 1811, because (contrary to the information in the Liszt literature) Adam List's wedding in Hungary took place only on 17 January 1811.

The entry concerning the publication of the banns for Adam List's wedding in January 1811 in the Schotten parish (A-Ws, Tom. 41, fol. 109)

Who was Adam List's mother Katharina List, née Baumann? The following explanatory scenarios come to mind.
  • Heinrich Wamser's genealogical chart is flawed, because Wamser overlooked one of Georg Adam Liszt's wives. Adam List the elder did not marry three, but four times. The age given by his son at the time of his marriage in 1811, pointing to 1780 as his year of birth, could be a clue in favor of this hypothesis.
  • Liszt's father Adam List was an illegitimate child and this family secret was already covered up by Liszt's early biographers.
  • Adam List had been provided with false information regarding his ancestry. In times when many people did not even know their own date of birth, such a situation was quite common. On the other hand, the fact that his father was still alive and he was in regular contact with his relatives makes such a lack of information unlikely.
  • Liszt's official paternal grandmother Barbara Schlesak and Katharina Baumann are one and the same person. Different first names bear little significance in 200-year-old sources that sometimes are fraught with errors, caused by faulty readings and flawed transmission. And yet, it is hardly conceivable that the name "Katharina Baumann" as mother of the groom does not appear in the 1811 marriage records of Unterfrauenhaid.
  • The whole "Schlesak-construct" is a fabrication by the fervent Nazi Heinrich Wamser, who discovered that Liszt had a baptized, but originally Jewish grandmother by the name of Katharina Baumann and decided to erase her from the family tree. The Johann Strauss forgery is ample proof that the Nazis did not shy away from falsifying the sources for the sake of "preserving" a composer for the German nation.
Katharina Baumann's existence could remain undetected for over 200 years, because Viennese genealogists, who obviously considered the marriage of Liszt's parents in Unterfrauenhaid an exclusively Hungarian affair, never did any research in Vienna. Based on the newly discovered documents, I consider it very likely that Liszt's father did not make the acquaintance of his bride in Mattersdorf, but actually first met her in Vienna and then made her move to Hungary with his proposal of marriage. A lot of research still remains to be done on a topic that seemed to be covered so exhaustively.

The handwriting of Franz Liszt's grandfather Adam List the elder

© Dr. Michael Lorenz 2012. All rights reserved.

Updated: 21 February 2023

Additional research in the church records of Edelstal has already been conducted, but the results can only be published as soon as somebody is willing to fund this project.


In his 1937 book Franz Liszt. Abstammung, Familie, Begebenheiten, Dr. Eduard Ritter von Liszt proudly presented a silhouette of Franz Liszt's great-grandfather Sebastian List (1703–1793) that had already been published in 1936, in Werner Füssmann's and Béla Mátéka's book Franz Liszt. Ein Künstlerleben in Wort und Bild (Julius Beltz: Langensalza, Berlin, Leipzig, 1936). This silhouette has nothing to do with Sebastian List. It is a classic forgery from the workshop of the serial fraudster Josef Kuderna (1886–1952).


  1. Another fascinating and enlightening blog entry. What I particularly like about these entries is that although they are packed with names and dates you still make them immensely readable.

  2. Fascinating. Unless I'm mistaken, if Kurzbeck were still at Tiefer Graben 22 in 1815, she would have been Beethoven's neighbor (#8-10).

  3. Very good research, but it is possible, that the parish entries made a mistake and are showing the name of the firt wife of the young Adam Liszt ( as whriten in some literatur) and not the mother.

  4. No, that's not possible. Maria Anna Laager was Adam's first wife. The literature you are referring to is mistaken.

  5. Hi Michael, I found your information very interesting. Maria Anna Lager is my 1st Cousin 6 x removed.

  6. It might be that a DNA analysis of Adam Liszt and one of his siblings would answer the question whether they had a common mother.

  7. You know where exactly these people are buried? Congratulations.

    1. One of Adam Liszt's sisters (or half-sisters), Barbara Liszt (Borbala Liszt, later Borbala Vetzko after her husband) deceased in the small village of Bedegker, Hungary. Some of the villagers might still know her grave place. Adam List's grave is in Boulogne-sur-mer. But you're probably right: it is practically impossible to find their remains.

  8. It is an interesting source, but it is secondary to the registries, and it is full of errors. And the registers contain what Wamser wrote (at least in the Edelstal, Unterfrauenhaid register, I looked at them - It cost 10 euros at https://matriken.at/).
    The use of the source as a sensationalist is unfortunate, let alone a Nazi conspiracy based on it. Rather, you should have browsed everything the way Wamser did, and then you could make theories.

    1. Documents that are so much more detailed and furthermore based on original birth certificates cannot be considered a "secondary source", when being compared to the laconic entries in the Edelstal registers, I looked at the Edelstal books already in 2015, long before they were digitized. The contradiction in the records is a fact. It needs an explanation. You obviously have none.

    2. The documents are certainly not based on original birth certificate, because it should have been issued on the basis of the Edelstal registry, but it is not included in it. It is sure based on call, so I still maintain that it is a secondary source compared to the registry office. The registry was written at the time of birth, and the exemption was issued 25 years later. Since all the information is wrong except for the names of the newlyweds, they may have mixed up the certificates (this is my assumption).
      Let's see your explanations:
      - Georg Adam List was married four times, only Wamser did not find his marriage to Kat. Baumann. The probability is very low, because before Georg Adam List was 19 years old, when he married B. Schlesak (1775), Kat. Baumann should have married, given birth to a child and died. And why would Adam have been his second child again, if he already has an Adam from his previous marriage?
      - Adam List was an illegitimate child. This is not possible, it is clearly stated in the Edelstal registry that he was born from the marriage of Georg Adam List and Barbara Schlesak, as were his other siblings. Registering another woman's child while married, does not seem feasible. Why should I assume that another Adam List was born to another woman at the same time as the registered Adam List? Because of Kat. Baumann, who appears once in a secondary source?
      - Adam List provided incorrect data. This is possible, in place of birth and time, but he really couldn't have been so wrong in his mother's name, moreover, he was already 22 years old when his mother died. [Although Franz Liszt did not/could not give the names of his father's parents when his father died. His grandfather was still alive then! (Haraszti Emil: Liszt á Paris. La Revue Musicale année XVII, Paris 1936. No. 167, p. 7. The reference is provided by István Csekey in his study: Origin and patriotism of Franz Liszt = Liszt Ferenc származása és hazafisága.)]
      - Kat. Baumann and Barbara Schlesak are the same person. This is very likely, although I don't think it's the same, they just wrote Kat. Baumann's name in the wrong place. Flawed transmission. Otherwise, in the Unterfrauenhaid register, the groom's mother is Barbara.
      - Schlesak-construct as an explanation is unacceptable. Barbara Schlesak's marriage, the birth of her children (before and after Adam), her death, and her parents can be traced in the registers, but Katharina Baumann cannot. Baumann is not necessarily a Jewish name. A baptized Jew? Why further complicate an assumption that is already difficult to defend? Forgery? Too many entries and registers would have had to be rewritten, in the case of Strauss only one entry was covered. It looks like the name Schlesak was really written there afterwards, e.g. to Adam List's birth record, but presumably only to distinguish him from his later wife (also Barbara).
      In summary: Adam List's mother, according to the registry entries and certainly in reality, was Barbara Schlesak from Oroszvár. Georg Adam List married her in 1775 in Oroszvár. Their children were born between 1775 and 1797 - including the second Adam - in Edelstal, Kittsee, Sankt Georgen am Leithagebirge. Barbara Schlesak died in the latter settlement in 1798, Georg Adam List remarried 5 weeks later. (Literature used: Ernő Békefi: Origin and family of Franz Liszt = Liszt Ferenc származása és családja, Budapest, Zeneműkiadó, 1973.)

  9. Since you obviously lack all experience with Viennese primary sources, you are in no position to judge their validity and relevance. The certificates cannot have been "mixed up" (twice!), because they were submitted to the parish priests, together with a birth certificate, by Adam List himself. I didn't offer explanations, but hypotheses. I suggest you start your own blog and publish your Liszt "research" there.