Feb 17, 2018

Josepha Disenni: Haydn's Last Surviving Godchild

In a blog post titled "Three Unknown Godchildren of Joseph Haydn", which in September 2014 was published on this site, I dealt with three of Haydn's godchildren that had remained unknown to Haydn scholars. The third of these children was Josepha Barbara Disenni, a granddaughter of Haydn's sister-in-law Barbara Keller (1726 – ca.1803-08). The parents of this child were Franz Disenni (1760–1827) and Barbara Scheiger, a niece of Haydn's wife. At their wedding, which took place on 13 January 1801, Haydn offciated as witness of the bride.

Paul Johann Sirbeck's and Joseph Haydn's signatures as witnesses of Franz Disenni's and Barbara Scheiger's wedding on 13 January 1801 (Wieden, Tom. 2, fol. 293).

Franz Disenni's handwriting in a divorce file of the Vienna municipal civil court where Disenni was employed as bailiff (A-Wsa, Mag. ZG, A6, 2/1800).

Josepha Disenni was born on 1 January 1803 and baptized in Vienna's Paulanerkirche with the composer ("Joseph Haydn Doktor der Tonkunst") standing godfather.

The baptismal entry of Josepha Barbara Disenni (Wieden, Tom. 4, fol. 51)

At the time of her father's death, on 10 July 1827, Josepha Disenni was referred to as "Marchand des Modes" (fashion saleswoman) living at the "Kleines Königsklosterhaus" on the Windmühle (Windmühle 69, today Gumpendorfer Straße 14).

Josepha Disenni being referred to in her father's probate file as "l[edigen] St[ands] Marchand des Modes an der Wien im kleinen Königsklosterhause" (A-Wsa, Mag. ZG, A2, 2820/1827)

Regarding Josepha Disenni's fate after 1827, in 2014 I wrote the following:
I have not yet been able to shed light on Josepha Disenni's life after her father's death and to determine her date of death. The fact that she inherited 1,900 gulden in 1827 makes it very likely that she got married at a later time which – owing to the change of her name – makes it difficult to pick up her trace again. She turns up in the sources in 1830 as living with her stepsister and her stepmother Theresia Disenni at Wieden No. 473. In August 1830, the Vienna Magistrate, which had been unable to determine Josepha Disenni's whereabouts, published a citation in the Wiener Zeitung in which Disenni was requested to come forward on the occasion of the upcoming auction of the house Landstraße 159 (today Schimmelgasse 2-8/2). That Disenni was listed as "Satzgläubiger" (hypothecary creditor) of this house shows how she had invested her inheritance. It is not yet known if Disenni showed up at the auction, but future research in the Landstraße land registers will probably yield more information on what became of her after 1830.
Although the sources covering Viennese citizens become scarce between the end of the Konskriptionsbögen in 1856 and the beginning of the surviving Meldezettel in 1910, historic persons of even the slightest interest rarely escape the scope of modern-day researchers. The so-called "Kartei der Ausgeschiedenen" (catalog of discarded persons) in the holdings of the Vienna conscriptiion office provides information about Josepha Disenni's status – she was registered as "Beamtenswaise" – and her addresses. In 1856 she was living at Landstraße 665 (today Salesianergasse 23), as of 1857 she resided at Wieden 331 (today Neumanngasse 7).

Josepha Disenni's card in the catalog of discarded persons of the municipal conscription office (A-Wsa, - Heimatrolle: Kartei der Ausgeschiedenen, 19)

At Landstraße 665 Josepha Disenni lived as subtenant in the apartment of the mason (and janitor) Johann Burgstaller and his wife Maria.

Josepha Disenni registered in 1843 as subtenant at Landstraße 665 (A-Wsa, Konskriptionsamt, Landstraße 665/1r)

Disenni is not registered in the conscription sheets of Wieden 331. On 24 October 1886 Josepha Disenni signed a will in the form of a written donation. She bequeathed all her movable assets to her attendant and friend Maria Spitalmüllner "for her devoted sympathy, her faithfulness, attendance, and care during a time of more than seven years".

Josepha Disenni's will signed on 24 October 1886 (A-Wsa, BG Wieden, A9, 23/1888)

This document reads as follows:
                                                  Kundgemacht am 7. März 1888.
                                                 D[oktor] K[arl] Kropatschek
                                                 KK Notar
                                                 als Ger.[ichts} Kommissär.
[50 Kreuzer Stempelmarke]
Die viele freundliche und aufopfernde Theilname, die Treue, Pflege und Wartung, welche mir die Frau Marie Spitalmüllner durch mehr als sieben Jahre bereits erwiesen hat, haben mich bewogen, derselben meine, wie immer Namen führende Küchen= und Zimmer=Einrichtung, als: Tische, Stühle, Betten und Kästen u.s.w. dergestalt zu schenken, daß sie dieselben aus meinem Nachlasse als Eigenthümerin beheben kann.
Zur vollkommenen Sicherung ihres Eigenthumes begebe ich mich hiermit des Rechtes, diese Schenkung zu widerrufen und händige ihr diese Schenkungsurkunde ein, welche sie vor den drei anwesenden Zeugen zum Beweise, daß sie die Schenkung wirklich angenommen hat, unterschreibt.
                  Wien am 24. Oktober 1886.
     Bernard Forster       XXX i.e.
     als Zeuge              Josefa Disseni
                                  als Geschenkgeberin.
     Dr Josef Neubauer    Maria Spittalmüllner
        als Zeuge.             als Geschenknehmerin.
     Jos Katzele
     Als Zeuge.


                                              Published on March 7th, 1888.
                                             Dr. Karl Kropatschek
                                             I. & R. notary
                                             as court commissioner.
[50 Kreuzer revenue stamp]
The many friendly and self-sacrificing acts of sympathy, the faithfulness, attendance, and care, that Ms. Marie Spitalmüllner has already rendered me for more than seven years, have induced me to donate to her all the furnishings my kitchen and my room, whatever name they may have, such as: tables, chairs, beds and cabinets, etc. in such a manner so that she can take them from my estate as owner.
In order to fully secure her property, I hereby waive the right to withdraw this donation and hand this deed of donation over to her which she signs in the presence of three witnesses to prove that she has really accepted the donation.
                      Vienna, October 24th, 1886.
    Bernard Forster    XXX i.e.
    as witness           Josefa Disseni
                                 as gift giver.
    Dr Josef Neubauer    Maria Spittalmüllner
       as witness.             as gift recipient.
    Jos Katzele
    As witness.
Haydn's last surviving godchild never married. She died on 26 February 1888, at the age of 85, in her Wieden apartment at the house "Zum Blauen Anker" (today a garden area) at Kleinschmidgasse 3. In 1888, at this address, she is even registered as main tenant in Lehmann's allgemeiner Wohnungs-Anzeiger.

The entry in the Wieden parish records concerning Josefa Disseni's death on 26 February 1888 (Wieden, Tom. 26, fol. 10)

Josefa Disenni's estate was modest. As an orphaned daughter of an I. & R. civil servant she was entitled to draw an annual benefit of 60 gulden CM from the treasury of the Lower Austrian government. In addition to that she received 150 gulden per year from the Michael Schäffer'sche Stiftung (the Michael Schäffer charity foundation) and 50 gulden per year from the charitable Johannes-Spital-Stiftung. Disenni's assets were exceeded by the funeral costs and Marie Spitalmüllner's outstanding salary for her last three years of service.

The cover sheet of Josepha Disenni's probate file (A-Wsa, BG Wieden, A4 – A, 380/1888)

Disenni's probate file bears the following note:
According to the servant Katharina Zach, living at IV, Kettenbrückengasse No. 6, who showed up instead of the sick Marie Spitalmüllner, the estate of the deceased consists of only a few heavily time-worn pieces of furniture and bed clothes, of which all items have almost no value at all, and of the due charitable earnings. The amount recorded in two account books of the funeral insurance society was used to cover the burial costs.
The abovementioned items are in the safekeeping of Miss Marie Spitalmüllner who lives at the address of the deceased. Vienna, March 7th, 1888.
On 28 February 1888 Josefa Disenni was buried in Vienna's Central Cemetery.

The bill for Josefa Disenni's funeral written by the "Konduktansager" and sexton of the Wieden parish Laurenz Fuchs (A-Wsa, BG Wieden, A4 - A, 380/1888)

Disenni's relatively expensive funeral, which included a requiem, the "rich" pall, six candles, a two-horse carriage, and six pallbearers in uniform, cost 58 gulden 10 neukreuzer. The deposit with the local "Leichenverein" (burial insurance) covered 40 gulden 60 neukreuzer of the expenses, the rest was paid for by Marie Spitalmüllner.

Josefa Disenni's existence as Haydn's last surviving godchild can surely be counted among the less important trivia of Haydn research. But just like mountains (according to George Mallory) need to be climbed "because they're there", these side issues need to be pursued as soon as the scientific opportunity arises.

© Dr. Michael Lorenz 2018.