Question of the Week: Do you have German ancestors? [Closed]

+109 votes
Oktoberfest is right around the corner. Tell us about your German roots!

Check out the German Roots project and see what resources they have to help you learn about them.

Genieße das Leben ständig! Du bist länger tot als lebendig! Prost!

(Always enjoy life! You are dead longer than you are alive! Cheers!)
in The Tree House by Julie Ricketts G2G6 Pilot (405k points)
edited by Maggie N.
Hi I have tons German ancestors but will list this one I found.

I have neat ancestor here I have his travel documents in German so cool just getting some the profile done here while can.örrer-5

Maternal GrandMother  born Berlin family name Kraenzelin.. can't trace any more of them, appears they were from around Alsace, her husband Lange Polish..Kraenzelin goes back through Germany to Switzerland to my surprise, through a  wife Hoffert , to Hoffer. seems to branch out  to other countries with the wives, fascinating
My German GM's roots are deep and they go in two quite differing directions. One line disappears quickly into Schmid and Hermann. The other goes from Bär/Baer to Berg to von Berg for a very long run after the first von Berg. The brief Bär/Baer stay is brought by a woman, my GM, and veers to Berg and on back to Schneider, Joesel, Zollerin and Bayer. Von Berg trails back to a strong consistently "of record" family of Sallmann and/or Sallmanhausen.

I have a Bower line I like to have join the Bower project


My maternal GGG and GGM, Barnhardt and Fredricka Boy came from Mecklenberg. After they arrived in America they settled in Erie County, New York on a farm and stayed there until they died. I have all the census records and even some land records to look at and see their lives. But I haven't been able to find out anything about them before they came to America, so that is my brick wall. If anyone has suggestions or is related to them I would be interested in hearing from them.
My husband's family is from Baden Baden and Apolda.   I have some German lines (Ulm for one) as well.
My father's unknown father and dad's mother were from Germany, but my GM (dad's mom) is the one who is known to have migrated to the USA. She was very y young and must have been afraid of motherhood so she left her infant or toddler son with her Mother. Her parents and other family members  had either died or were offended by her being a single mother. Thank heaven our customs are more understanding now. So many circumstances form a life, and some are pleasant.

While my maiden name is Dutch (Van Dusen) my mother’s maiden name is German-Jewish (Rothschild) and her mother’s maiden name was German (Sippel) - as was her grandmother’s maiden name (Ade). I have been to the tiny little village (6 houses) in Reupoldsroth, Germany where my great grandmother (Maria Ade) was born and stood in one of the two possible farm houses where she would have been born in 1867! I’m now in the process of checking my DNA to see what it reveals about me and hopefully connects me with living relatives, both here in Germany as well as elsewhere (I’m from the US).

Hermann Schneiderjann or Hermann Snider was my great grandfather's (Joseph Snider) father. Joseph Snider(Schneiderjann) came to the US in the 1880's and shortly his wife Marie followed. But I am unable to research any further due to the cost of researching on I can't locate anything on FamilySearch either. Nothing about where they immigrated to (US) or from or what ship. Nothing in regards to them in Germany except where Joseph was born and approximate location of Marie Rudtke's birth and birthdate. I have a huge brickwall in front of me for the last 20+ years.

Je weet waar en ongeveer wanneer je voorvader Joseph werd geboren ? Weet je ook wat zijn godsdienst was? Dan raad ik je aan om eens te kijken bij Matricula ( Ik heb er veel aan gehad. Zijn naam zal in die boeken wel Joseph Schneider zijn. Succes!

157 Answers

+7 votes
Best answer

My grandmother's parents both came from Germany, but they met in New Jersey. Max Ewald Trillitzsch worked as a cabin boy on German-American steamships. His wife, Julia came over as a servant.

On one trip to Jersey City he was taken ill and was sent to the hospital. The ship sailed back without him and he decided to stay in the United States. He eventually met Julia Lebherz there, and they married. Most of his children were born in Jersey City. He learned the metal polishing trade and carried his tool kit with him everywhere. It consisted of small files and polishing cloths. He eventually left Jersey City for Brooklyn and lived on Knickerbocker Ave and did his metal polishing in New York City. He also spent time in what was then Smithville South on Long Island, taking the Long Island Railroad to work. Smithville South was where his children attended school. (That area is the present-day North Merrick and North Bellmore in Nassau County.)

His wife Julia was also born in Germany and came to the US about the same time as a servant. She arrived in the United States on 28 Dec 1895 at New York, New York aboard the ship Saale, which left from Bremen. She was employed as a "Servant/Gentleman's Servant" according to the ship's manifestThey met in the Jersey City area, married in 1898 and had seven children.

Julia with 5 of her children and 2 cousins (unidentified)

I don't have a lot of information about Max's family. He came from Gera, Saxony, Germany. Julia came from Bavaria.

by Karen Fuller G2G6 Mach 2 (21.5k points)
selected by Jerry Dolman
What a nice story with detail and a lovely picture with children :)
+23 votes
For the longest time I thought I was basically 3/4 German.. BUT turns out quite a few of my lines just made their way to America via Germany after living there at least one generation. I do think my Schindler's are German but haven't been able to get past the farthest out I have to find that out. :)
by Charlotte Shockey G2G6 Pilot (946k points)

Ohhh, any chance you're related to Oskar Schindler?

Not sure... I've only got so far in on my Schindler line before it gets into German written documents. :) LOL
We are all curious, and likely to be disappointed about that notable's belonging in a living person's line.

Well, he supposedly had 2 illegitimate children, Oskar and Edith Schlegel (Jitka Gruntová, Legendy a Fakta o Oskaru Schindlerovi, Prague, 2002).

Well if I am related to him it most likely is further up the line.
His parents were Johann Schindler and Franziska Luser, he had a sister Elfriede. However, the family was from Zwittau, Moravia, today Svitavy in the Czech Republic. And Schindler is a pretty common last name, so unless you know your family comes from Moravia it is very unlikely you are related. My comment was really about the notion in anonymous's comment that it would be unlikely to find living relatives.
Oh ok. :-)
Helmut, Thank you again for your advanced knowledge.
+16 votes
While the majority of my ancestors is Dutch, a few Germans show up in my tree mid 18th century.
by Joke van Veenendaal G2G6 Mach 3 (38.9k points)
Joke,  I'd be surprised if there are any Nederlanders who don't have a German connection within a few generations.  There has been a lot of border crossing between those two countries.
my family has been living for generations in the borderregion shared by the Netherlands and Germany. (for the insiders: Rijk van Nijmegen, Kop van Limburg)  Sometimes the people moved, sometimes the Border. Someone who never left his hometown could have been Prussian, Belgian and Dutch in his life. Especially during the period1790-1839.
+19 votes
Short answer is yes for some lines.....Federlechner, Schiffhauer, et al.
by Doug Lockwood G2G Astronaut (2.4m points)
+25 votes
My father always told me his great grandfather Bernhard Bach migrated in 1890 from Brandenburg,Germany well I started trying to research the Bach side and it’s been one of the hardest, most frustrating task....researching someone who obviously didn’t want to be researched. As far as I know it’s just me and my dad, his sister & my brother. I’m still searching for information although just last week I did find the village Bernhard was born in but if any of you wikitreeiers have any information pertaining to Bernhard Bach is greatly appreciated. Just a side note on my newly confirmed reserch my fathers mother: Germaine Seward is a descendant of Byrum and Abigail Pitney-Seward. I really hit the information jackpot when my father passed his mother’s private vault to me , he had never gone through it and had no idea just how much his ancestors mother/father’s side had a great deal to with the way our America is today.  We literally had a Seward fighting a Bach in the war of 1812...❤️
by Stephanie Bach G2G4 (4.1k points)

I noticed you have Braunschweig as origin on your Bernhard's profile. While today that is a city in Niedersachsen, in 1861 that could refer to the country Herzogtum Braunschweig. It never was part of Preußen (or Brandenburg).

That is very valuable information and appreciate your reply. I don’t have a whole lot of information on Germany and it’s way of life so any and all information is welcomed
Stephanie--Very interesting. I'm so curious about your next to last sentence! Please tell us more!!
Stephanie Bach:  I hope you will remember to tell us how much "his ancestors. . .had a great deal to do with the way our American is today" !!

We'd love to know. Truly.
+20 votes
I have German on both sides of my family--Palatinate, verging into Czech territories, through different branches of the Huffman/Hoffman lines. The most prevalently known among them are those who settled eastern North Carolina, where most of them still reside. They were largely physicians and professors prior to coming to the US. After, they were farmers and landowners. I'm still learning about my Pennsylvania Huffmans.
by Kelley Harrell G2G6 Mach 1 (15.1k points)
Your Physicians and professors likely had big educations that they weren't willing to redo in the American style. The farmers had the job of feeding America. I have a friend who was disappointed that her relatives were farmers. I look at them as knowing a valued occupation and sticking with it.Bravo, to the farms and the people who visioned them and worked them.
My grandpaarents raised apples in PA and shipped them to markets by train. Hardworking folks. Grandma built a springhouse to keep milk, garden produce, and eggs cool. Grandpa built a smokehouse and purchased extra barrels for salting down the pigs and calves they raised each spring. Mom said the hams ftom that smokehouse were wonderful. Grandma bragged she was the only lady to have eggs for cakes at the church Christmas and New Years dinners.
Where would we be without farmers?
Mary --the answer is we would not be alive. While the small farm farmer is my hero, I don't feel like supporting the agribusiness farmers much at all.

At many points in this country (USA), FARMING was the job most Americans were involved in, including whole families to keep the crops growing and the children thriving.
Yes, many ancestors were rich/educated/or totals of some degree but most farmed I their becoming time in the colonies/America. There are English, Irish, Welsh,  Scottish, Prussia, German, Flemish, French Dutch and native Americans in my lines. Most farmed but quickly there are trappers, doctors, inventors, car makers, musicians, and artists. Many served in different times and military capcities. Just in my sons are Airforce, Navy, and Army. Several are church ministers, missionaries, and pastors. There are professionals and trades people. History and family sure are an interesting mix.
+18 votes
I have German roots through the Smitterlou family who came to the island of Gotland in the early 1500's. The Smitterlous and the von Lübecks were mayors of Stralsund and Greifswald.
by Lena Svensson G2G6 Mach 5 (50.8k points)
+17 votes
I have lots of German ancestors!  4 of my 2nd great grandparents and 2 of my 3rd great grandparents were immigrants to the United States from Germany.
by Kristin Merritt G2G6 Mach 1 (16.8k points)
+19 votes
My great-grandfather was said to have stowed away on a ship bound from Germany to New York. That's the story. Actually, he and his sister were orphans and not well treated by relatives (still trying to find out who), so she and the other people in the village raised money for his passage to America at age 15. She was ten years older and entered a convent. He was an indentured servant and picked apples in upstate New York for seven years. Then he became a bartender. He married an Irish immigrant who was also an orphan.

My grandmother liked to tease my grandfather for being Irish and German. After doing some research, we found that she was also Irish and German. Ha! We haven't been able to prove her grandfather's family and think he may have been illegitimate. But he was a Ream and lived near Reamstown in Pennsylvania.

I thought it very interesting that both lines were from the same region in Germany. I would like to discover that they "knew" each other in the 17th century or so.
by Lucy Selvaggio-Diaz G2G6 Pilot (560k points)
Regarding your 'illegitimate' ancestor. I have the same situation, and learned that, in those days it was quite common for a couple to have a child before marriage!!! So you may find his parents very close to home!

Hope that helps.
Yes, Jerry, and Lucy!  I have many German relatives who could not get married until after they had children. There must have been rules about who was old enough and had a solid income before marrying. That would be so important especially  in the smaller villages.I wish I'd remembered more details. Sorry.
+18 votes
Very much so, but more on my paternal side than my maternal side. But I have it in both.

My paternal grandparents were both very recent immigrants. My opa was from Austria and my oma from Germany. Or that is what I told - little did I know how complex the situation was. Where my oma was born was Germany at the time, though is now Poland. My opa's ancestors' original area where they were in the late 1800s is now, I believe, Serbia. I don't speak or read German, either, so I'm at a loss on research on this side of the family. My opa's surname was Metz, my oma's was Palnau. There is also Schmidt, Henke and Bukowska as other surnames I've managed to find. The Metz side has a family history booklet that some relatives put together, but I'm unsure if this lists sources or not.

Also, my om'as father was drafted into the German army at the very tail end of World War II. He did not return and was listed as MIA - his brother said that he was blown up by a bomb. The official records for missing German troops says that he was officially listed as MIA on January 1st, 1945. He was in his 40s at the time, certainly not an ideal age for a soldier but they were likely desperate at this point.

My German heritage on my mother's side is further back. Through my maternal grandfather there is some potential that a branch of German immigrants from the 1700s mixed in with the line of Irish immigrants from New York that he descends from. This would be through a woman with the surname Meyer/Meier, but I have yet to find proper sources for her parentage beyond a few other family trees so I am taking this with a grain of salt.

The Prussian through my maternal grandmother's side is well documented, however. Te Bonins and Glomskis originally came from West Prussia. They both seem to be Catholic families. Other surnames are Schultz and Grubich. (Glomski always seemed very Polish to me, however, so I am unsure. Bonin I also tend to find more with France/Quebec, but it is definitely documented that this particular line came from Prussia.) Censuses for these family members either list themselves as Prussian, Polish German, German or Polish. They immigrated in the mid 1800s and settled in Wisconsin.
by Kristen Louca G2G6 Mach 2 (29.2k points)
OUTSTANDING ! You are the only one I have come across that has some Prussian ancestors . Mine are maternal (Neuroth) .Could you tell me where east Prussia and west Prussia meet ? In the 1700's  .
Unfortunately your guess would be as good as mine! I am unfortunately not even that clear on where in modern day Germany the places my Prussian ancestors were from. I am thinking it may most likely be Poland currently.
My 3 times great grandfather, William Peter Gerfers, was born in Westfalia in 1827, when it was a province of Prussia.


Here is a map of Preußen in 1700. The part in green named Hinterpommern is situated in Westpreußen, the separated part to the East named Hzm. Preußen is Ostpreußen. The bulk of Westpreußen is the white area in between which was Polish.

I have Prussian ancestry as well.  Mine came from Preußen in the beginning of  the US civil war. Haase and Hermann but haven't really traced the lines any further back.
I TOO HAVE PRUSSIAN ANCESTRY in my German and Eastern Euro lines. They aren't well researched at this time however.

Helmut, the images within your note above with its underlined Here  are so amazing. Many of them make me fear and several of them are warming. Nonetheless it's a very interesting collection.

+13 votes

I have always been told I am half German. It turns out my mother's family are from several different groups of German speaking people.

The Kellermann's are from Coburg, Deutschland and ended up in Buffalo, NY. They are related to the Heines, the Bauers, the Gantzers, the Schaufs, the Betz, the Reitz, the Schaffers, the Schroeders and the Schmidts in Buffalo, and to the Dressels, the Crons, the Wickerts, the Ungerich and many more in Germany, mostly from Rhineland-Pfalz and Hesse.

The Versch's are from Bayern, Deutschland, but some of them are related to Austro-Hungarians from Burgenland (Eastern Austria). Some of them ended up in Buffalo, New York and some of them ended up in Herndon, Kansas and surrounding areas.They are related to the Schmitts, the Reibolts, the Kleidostys, the Niemeths (which means German).

The Schirck's are from Bas-Rhin in Alsace, but originally from Switzerland, and ended up in Pennsylvania. They are related to the Honharts, the Lessers, the Schulers, the Ruhlmanns, Dalrymples, the Kopps, the Herrmanns, the Gisselbrechts, the Lindebauers, the Mehs, etc.

The Kopps settled in East Eden, NY and we don't know what part of Germany they are from, but Freiburg has been suggested. They are related to the Apthorpe's of England

When my German males came to the USA, they tended to marry a daughter of a German immigrant. So my umbilical line is one of my earliest lines in the USA. That is probably why I have so many German families I am related to.


by Anonymous Troy G2G6 Pilot (155k points)
+14 votes
No.  I do, however, have Swiss ancestors who presumably spoke German.
by J. Crook G2G6 Pilot (205k points)
Be careful of what you presume.  There are 4 official languages in Switzerland, German, French, Italian, and Rhato-Romanish. Germans form the largest group there, but are not an overwhelming majority by any means. You need to find out which part of Switzerland your ancestors came from, but a good indication is whether their family names were of German origin.
My ancestor was this dude: Rev. Johannes Conrad Wirz, from Zurich, Switzerland, who emigrated to the U.S. in 1734.  For some reason, his sons changed the spelling of the name to Wurts.  One son fought in the Revolutionary War and thus stayed in the U.S..  Another son, my ancestor, ended up in Ontario after the war. Then my 4xg-grandfather participated in the Makenzie Rebellion and had to flee to the U.S. as a traitor to the crown. So anyway, I've always assumed that with a name like Johannes, my ancestor probably spoke German.  But I could be wrong.
You have presumed correctly. Johannes Conrad Wirz from Zürich can only be German. Wirz is a German name. Historically, ethnically, linguistically and culturally, the word German has a wider meaning that just the modern-day Federal Republic of Germany. Until very recent times, Austrians, Swiss Germans, Luxemburgers, Lichtensteiners and all the Volks-Deutsch (Germans living in places like Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, etcetera) were considered to be German. Mozart (the Austrian composer) said that he wished nothing more for himself than to be a ''good German''.
+14 votes

Yes, very much so.  My surname is German, "Stratmann", and my paternal side is solid German. They came from a small village in the Rhineland region known as Wunnenberg.  My father's maternal side is from  Baden-Württemberg, Germany.. My mother's side is solid English and Scottish which I am able to find so much more information on.  German ancestry is a lot more challenging for me.

by James Stratman G2G6 Mach 8 (84.6k points)
+12 votes
Do we count Charlemagne?

If yes, then a big yes. Else hmmm To be continued at a later time
by Richard Shelley G2G6 Pilot (220k points)
Yep, you can count Karl der Gross.  The Franks were actually a tribe of German origin.  After they decided to migrate to what is now "France" during the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, they became successful warriors and empire builders who eventually started speaking a creole-ized Latin which became French.
+13 votes
My maternal grandmother's parents came from Germany (Prussia? Baden?) and settled in Iowa in the middle 1850s. I haven't yet tried to track Toepelt further back than that.
by Kay Knight G2G6 Pilot (436k points)
+13 votes
Yes, and it is my biggest brickwall....Lots of people have tried to help me over the years, but, just have NEVER been able to find the immigration of my second great-grandfather

I had a trail on a John Becker that came through Canada, but, he turned out to still be alive after the death of my gg grandfather.   I am just stumped.

My DNA says I am 28% British Isles and 68% Central and Western European....
by Robin Lee G2G6 Pilot (720k points)
Immigrants tended to keep their religious affiliation, at least for a while. That should help narrow down your list of candidates.

John J. makes your Johann Jost the strongest candidate. Unfortunately location makes it much harder to find him. Oberhessen is not a town, it is a province in Hessen-Darmstadt and comprises several hundred villages and towns. One would have to find him and make sure he didn't die there and there is no other mention of him after 1844 to make a reasonable argument for him.
I had a little look at Wikipedia. At first I found a map where Oberhessen is highlighted in orange within this blue area In the German wikipedia-article about the Grand Duchy of Hesse there is when you scroll down a list of which "Kreise" (Counties) belonged to Oberhessen and the other Provinces. Each Kreis has a link and if you click on the links you will see (also by scrolling down) which towns belonged to each Kreis. (Spoiler: Altogether there are a few hundred towns.) To not run through zillions of datas it seems to me you need to find the town or at least the Kreis in which your John Becker lived.
+13 votes
My Father's mother's family the Glass family can be traced to Germany in the Rheinland area. One of their descendants named the city of Berlin, Ohio.
by Ruth Henry G2G6 (6.1k points)
Ruth, Have you read in American literary fiction? There are many books re the Glass family. Pretty famous literary author. Good reading!
+12 votes
My great great grandfather wanted to be an artist. His dad encouraged him to follow the family trade of wood carving, he had a workshop in the great cathedral in Munich, or become a doctor. After two years in medical school he immigrated to America settling in rural Minnesota. He became the country doctor and build the coffins when they died. His grandsons fulfilled his dream of being an artist. Frank Van Sloun was a talented artist with murals in the state capital in Sacramento California and elsewhere. Edward Van Sloun was an actor with major rolls in The Mummy, Dracula, Frankenstein and other old horror movies.
+12 votes
Several of my mother's lines go back to southwestern Germany (and the German-speaking parts of Switzerland, and possibly areas like Strasbourg that are currently in France); they came to Maryland in the 1700s.

My husband's grandmother was from a town in the Black Forest.
by Sharon Casteel G2G6 Pilot (117k points)
+14 votes
My great-great grandfather, William F. Hahn, emigrated from Germany in the 1850s. The story was always told that he came over when he was 3 years old. I recently found a naturalization document that suggests he was 12 or 13. I'm still trying to find him on a passenger list and figure out who his parents are.
by Auriette Lindsey G2G6 Mach 2 (27.8k points)

Did your face-to-face family members think your gggf Wm F Hahn emigrated through Ellis Island?  If so, you can use a phone number to get to live, helpful people. They researched for me my ggm's arrival with my father in 1911, and my gm's arrival in 1907, both without charging a fee. I then bought paper documents from them, which I consider treasures for very small moneys.; (212) 561-4588;  If this isn't the research department, please ask for it.

Thanks for your response, Roberta. No one ever indicated which port William Hahn landed in. I assumed Ellis Island, but never could find him on their lists. When I found his naturalization document, I realized it would have been before E.I. opened.

I have learned that a lot of German immigrants came through New Orleans, which makes sense because he ended up in Pensacola, Florida, but so far, I haven't found him on any ship manifests through there or through New York.

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