Does anyone fancy helping me break down a brick wall for a John Martin b.1840 in Hesse, Germany?

+5 votes

So, I've hit a brick wall with one of my tree branches and I need help.

I know that the 2nd Great Grandfather in question was called John (Johann) Martin. I know from the 1871 and 1891 Census that he was born in 1840 in Germany and lived in Surrey and London. In the 1871 census it states he was from what looks like Fritzlow but cited at Frilzton but neither of those places seem to exist today. It could have been Fritzlar or Fritzow - both of which are in Germany. In the 1891 Census, it states John was from Besse, Germany but on closer inspection, we believe the text says Hesse, Germany. 

I know John was married to Helena Jakobs (also born in Germany) in 1874 in Mile End Old Town, London, England. 

I know that John and Helena had a son, John Baptist Apollinaris Martin who was born in Hoxton, London. We have the birth certificate for John Baptist which corroborates John and Helena's names.

What I can't find any record of is John Martin's birth in Germany or who his parents might have been. I've tried various spellings of the name - Marten, Martini, Martinez, Morten and have looked for both John and Johann and have tried filtering the searches for various places in Hessen, Germany. There are no records that I can see for a Johann Martin in Fritzlar, Fritzow or Besse - the only one that seems to pop up now and then is for a Johann Martin from Frankfurt which, while still in Hessen, is quite far away from the aforementioned locations. 

Am I barking up the wrong branch? Am I looking in the wrong places?Any pointers or advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you in advance.

WikiTree profile: John Martin
in Genealogy Help by Jonathan Gilbert G2G Crew (310 points)
edited by Jonathan Gilbert

3 Answers

+5 votes

Hi Jonathan:

Unfortunately, none of the birth records (Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish) for northern Hesse have been indexed by or, so you won't find him there.

About five years ago the Protestant church books of northern Hesse (including the towns of Fritzlar and Besse) were digitized by the local church archive and uploaded (though not indexed) at, a service of the German Protestant church that requires a paid subscription to access.

I have gone through the baptismal registers for both Besse and Fritzlar, which have indexes in each individual register. In Besse, the only families with last names beginning M who had births from 1830 to 1859 were Mohr and Müller - no last name Martin is recorded during those years. In Fritzlar, an Anna Catharina Martin was born in 1831 and another in 1886; there is no birth with last name Martin between those years. For Fritzlar, I also checked the individual records for 1840; there were a total of six boys baptised that year, but none of them had a first name Johann (which would be John in English).

The Jewish birth register for Fritzlar has been digitized by the local state archives and can be viewed at (though also not indexed). This is a bit hard to read, but the entries for 1840 begin at record 129 at and go through record 137. I looked through years 1839 to 1844 and did not see anyone with a last name Martin or first name Johann.

However, still in the 1840s Fritzlar was overwhelmingly Catholic (it had been a possession of the Catholic archbishop of Mainz until 1803). And the Catholic church books for Fritzlar have not been digitized by anyone yet (in particular, they are not at, which is putting Catholic churchbooks from Germany and adjoining countries online). To search those records you would have to engage a local genealogist to search at either the local parish office or perhaps the diocesan archive in Fulda.

by Anonymous Geschwind G2G6 Mach 8 (83.8k points)
Thank you so much for coming back to me and for checking the records. Your explanation helps clear up why I can't find any further information. At least I know I haven't been doing anything wrong as I too have searched what records are available for Fritzlar and Besse but to no avail.
I'm fairly certain that the location from the 1891 Census has been transcribed incorrectly and that it actually reads Hesse. I know that doesn't help much as it's a much wider area but it does make Fritzlar, mentioned in the 1871 census, more likely to be the place of birth - even though that too looks to be transcribed incorrectly.
I'm also intrigued as to why I can't find either John or Helena in the England 1881 census. They would likely have been living in the south east of England at that time as it was after they were married and after the birth of their son, John.
Anyway, thank you again for you help. It is really kind of you.

Take care,
Keep in mind, that nearly every german boy had Johann as his additional birth name as Maria for the girls.

I have relatives who immigrated into the US and were then known as "John" and "Mary", but neither was baptized in Germany explicitly with these names, but we confirmed who they were by their children (with birthdates), who were born in Germany before migrating to the US.

So not seeing an expilicit name "Johann" does not really rule out that he adopted that name in England, esp. if his other names were not so easily known to the english speakers.
+3 votes

Hi Jonathan,

the Hessian Regional History Information System has a database of Hessian emigrants. I checked there for "Johann Martin". There came up literally hundreds of people who had "Johann Martin" as two given names and then other surnames, but I flipped through them and looked at all the Johann Martins who actually had Martin as a surname. 

The good thing is that every entry in that database has a place mentioned as well, so I checked where those places are and how far they are from Fritzlar, as that is the place you know from your records. 

One of the records I had found stood out as the village given is less than 10 km away from Fritzlar. It is about a "Son of Johann Georg", so no separate first name given. 

On the other hand, all of the records say the people wanted to emigrate to North America. So I am not sure if this record is about your Johann Martin, neither do I know if there is actually a record for your Johann Martin in that database. 

by Jelena Eckstädt G2G6 Pilot (979k points)

Good idea for a database to check.

This particular village (Obervorschütz) was Protestant (it already belonged to Hesse-Kassel rather than to the archbishop of Mainz before 1803), so I looked at the records for it at There are plenty of boys with last name Martin baptised there 1830-1867 (index here, if you have a subscription to, but the only ones with first name Johann are a Johann Georg born 1830 (see record 3 here)and a Johann Adam born 1832 who died 1838 (see record 63 here).

Hello Jelena,

Thank you so much for checking those records and posting the information. It gives me another avenue to investigate. I have come across records of a Johann Martin from Marburg before so I will dig those out to see if there is any connection.

Thanks again for your help. It is very much appriciated.

Take care,
0 votes
There is a Johann LeonHard Martin born 5th October 1840, born in Sachsenhausen, Hessen-Nasua, PreuBen, Germany. Father Johann Daniel Martin, Mother Henrietta Margaretha Knopf. His death 9th August 1842. This is from Find My Past.
by Julie Martin G2G1 (1.1k points)
Sachsenhausen is nowadays a part of Frankfurt, and Frankfurt and Fritzlar are 150km apart.

Related questions

+2 votes
3 answers
+4 votes
1 answer
239 views asked Sep 12, 2018 in Genealogy Help by Deborah Dunn G2G6 Mach 2 (23.5k points)
+37 votes
6 answers
+3 votes
1 answer
136 views asked May 12, 2021 in Genealogy Help by Arthur Samel G2G6 (9.4k points)
+5 votes
3 answers
148 views asked Jun 28, 2020 in Genealogy Help by Roger Shipman G2G6 Mach 1 (17.6k points)
+1 vote
1 answer
+20 votes
2 answers
154 views asked Sep 25, 2020 in The Tree House by Kristina Wheeler G2G6 Mach 1 (14.3k points)
+1 vote
1 answer
142 views asked May 10, 2020 in Genealogy Help by Anonymous Dudley G2G4 (4.3k points)

WikiTree  ~  About  ~  Help Help  ~  Search Person Search  ~  Surname:

disclaimer - terms - copyright