Question of the Week: Do you have German ancestors?

+45 votes

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(Always enjoy life! You are dead longer than you are alive! Cheers!)

asked Sep 22 in The Tree House by Julie Ricketts G2G6 Pilot (186,970 points)
Sharon, thanks for the details above. My Herrmanns were Lutherans (Evangelisch auk Deutsch), but my GM Anna changed to Catholic after her arrival here in US.  Do you know if your Herrmanns' religion is either? Not that it would make a real addition to facts at this point. But we might let it rest in our brains a while. I assume your Hermanns are from somewhere in Germany originally. Do you?
I think they were Catholics. Bertha's mother was Catholic, but her father was Lutheran. Not sure if he changed. I am thinking Joseph Herrmann was probably Catholic because I don't remember any religion problems on that side of the family and they were married in a Catholic Church I think. Her sister who is my great grandmother, and  my grandmother were Catholic. I used to be Catholic too, but now I am Lutheran. Most of my Germans are one or the other. I don't know where the Herrmann's are from, but it is definitely a German name.
My 2nd great-grandfather, Charles Fredrick Munson, B. 1814, came from Saxe-Weimar, Germany in about 1830.  The spelling on his marriage document has his name spelled Mohnsamen.   His father was Christoph Henri Mohnsann (different spelling).

Charles married his wife, Mary Ann (Marian) Sainger (Singer/Sanger), Feb. 1843, in Mobile, Alabama.  I have been unable to find anything on her. His mother and sisters came later, but were shipwrecked off the Florida keys, so that is where they remained.  They also used the name  Munson.

Not sure if I will ever break this brick wall for Charles and Mary Ann, as my grandmother said MaryAnn changed her name from Singer to Sanger, but I haven't been able to find her on any ship logs.  She supposedly got off a boat in Mobile and that is how she met Charles.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Ah, yes.  Did the rigors of the Lutherans attract you after the rigors of being Catholic? So many other denominations exist, that's why I ask--pardon, please, my curiosity.
Yes, my great great grandfather was from Germany. He immigrated to the USA around 1872 to Wisconsin. His name was Chris Beeg. One of his sons reportedly was born in Bavaria. The ancestry trail ends with Chris. His wife, Mary Wleklenosky and her family were from Mecklenberg, Germany. The trail ends with her father, Stanislaus.  Some records said that Chris and his son Frank were from Prussia and Schank, Germany. My great grandfather was Frank and he changed his name to Beck, so don't have much of his history. Recently proven information has revealed he was a Beeg. The family ended up in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Wondering if anyone knows this family.
Last name (Rosenbaum)  traced back to Hans Bernard Rosenbaum 1665-1712 Palatine, Bavaria (now Germany)

Maternal grandfather's last name (Ochsenfeld) traced back to Peter J. Ochsenfeld 1902-1975  Banat, Austria
I have Hermanns too. My 2x great grandma was Johanna Hermann who married Julius Haase.  They are Askenazi Jewish or at least one was. They came to America in 1858 I think.  They were un NY before settling in Chicago

My GGM was Rosa/Rosalin/-ia Herrmann, born Schmid: Her profile page reports: 

Rosalin [middle name?] (Rosa) "Rosalie, Rosalia" [uncertain] Bär formerly Schmid aka Herrmann

Born about 2 Sep 1837 [uncertain] in Schapbach, Ortenaukreis, Baden, Germanymap

Daughter of Josef Herrmann and Viktoria Schmid

Sister of Veronika Schmid [add sibling]

Wife of Christian Cristof Bär — married [marriage date?] [marriage location?]

DESCENDANTS descendants

Mother of Elisabeta Friederika (Bär) Berg and August Carl (Baer) Bär [add child]

Died about 1914  [uncertain] in Offenburg, Ortenaukreis, Baden, Germanymap [uncertain]

But I only know that one child of this family, Veronika Schmid, Rosalia's sister, who immigrated to the USA; she made it to New Haven CT and was there in 1907 when her cousin Anna Berg, then barely 17, arrived at Ellis Island. Veronika paid Anna's passage to the US so she could change her life for the better. I've assumed (never assume) that Schmid was her birth surname vis a vis the record above. Rosa Baer was Veronika's sister and likely helped her with Anna's passage. When Rosa brought Rudy 4 yrs later to the US (Ellis) she reported that she was visiting her sister and delivering Rudy to his parents. She returned to die in or near Hamburg Germany (where August Baer and his wife lived)pretty shortly after visiting her sister--probably a great relief. 

I have German on both sides of my family, many names (not all in my part of the tree here, as yet). 

Pat grfa:  Johann Philipp Wisbach and Susanna Wehrheim of Nordrhein-Westfalen; Christian Wyman of ?.

Pat grmo:  Johan Philip Kees of Hesse Cassel, fought in Rev.

Mat grfa: Peter Snider of Tillenburge, fought in Rev.; Johann Wilhelm Zumwald of Alsace-Lorraine; Catharina Margaretha Jacob of Bayern;  Philip Christoph Kehl of Baden-Wurttemberg.

Mat grmo:  Joseph Diehl of Wuerttemberg (name changed to Teel); Herman/Harmon in den Hoffe of Westphalia (Mennonite); Abraham Isaaks op den Graef of Krefeld, Westphaia (Mennonite); Johannes Klein of Rhineland-Paltinate (spelling changed to Kline); Johannes Faigelin and Anna Ursula Schneckenberger of Baden-Wurttemberg (surname change to Vogele).

There are other lines that I think may be German, but not back to the immigrant.

My great-grandma Teel, maiden name Kline, insisted that her family was Pennsylvania Dutch, not German.  When I got copies of her father's Civil War enlistment papers, he called himself German, of course (3rd generation born in America though).  I suspect Grandma might have wanted to deny the German because of World War I and the attitudes toward those of German descent, and/or that her brother was killed fighting in France.   

You are a member of a Valiant history. Of them I don't seem SEEM to connect, but you are good to have risen up among us. We will find them.

110 Answers

+11 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. :)
answered Sep 22 by Charlotte Shockey G2G6 Pilot (278,960 points)
+8 votes
While the majority of my ancestors is Dutch, a few Germans show up in my tree mid 18th century.
answered Sep 22 by Joke van Veenendaal G2G6 Mach 1 (11,440 points)
+9 votes
Short answer is yes for some lines.....Federlechner, Schiffhauer, et al.
answered Sep 22 by Doug Lockwood G2G Astronaut (1,646,540 points)
+11 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...❤️
answered Sep 22 by Stephanie Bach G2G3 (3,600 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.
+9 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.
answered Sep 22 by Kelley Harrell G2G6 (7,140 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?
+9 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.
answered Sep 22 by Lena Svensson G2G6 Mach 4 (42,470 points)
+8 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.
answered Sep 22 by Kristin Merritt G2G6 Mach 1 (10,440 points)
+10 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.
answered Sep 22 by Lucy Selvaggio-Diaz G2G6 Mach 6 (61,820 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.
+10 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.
answered Sep 22 by Kristen Louca G2G6 Mach 1 (16,590 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.
+6 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.


answered Sep 22 by Sharon Centanne G2G6 Pilot (117,850 points)
+7 votes
No.  I do, however, have Swiss ancestors who presumably spoke German.
answered Sep 22 by J. Crook G2G6 Pilot (114,990 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''.
+7 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.

answered Sep 22 by James Stratman G2G6 Mach 2 (25,710 points)
+5 votes
Do we count Charlemagne?

If yes, then a big yes. Else hmmm To be continued at a later time
answered Sep 22 by Richard Shelley G2G6 Mach 4 (42,370 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.
+6 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.
answered Sep 22 by Kay Sands G2G6 Mach 2 (24,790 points)
+5 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....
answered Sep 23 by Robin Lee G2G6 Pilot (300,050 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.
+5 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.
answered Sep 23 by Ruth Henry G2G4 (4,480 points)
+5 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.
answered Sep 23 by Phillip Jares
+5 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.
answered Sep 23 by Sharon Casteel G2G6 Mach 5 (55,030 points)
+6 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.
answered Sep 23 by Auriette Hahn G2G1 (1,860 points)
+6 votes
My mom always included German as part of our heritage, but I've only found one line so far - My 6th great-grandfather Johannes John Eisenhauer that was born in Heddesbach, Darmstadt, Germany and died in Bethel Township, Dauphn, Pennsylvania.
answered Sep 23 by M Silva G2G6 Mach 1 (14,030 points)
My father's ancestor came from Germany , 1749 , they were German Lutherans that settled in PA , and started a church ..  in Westmoreland County PA , the name got changed quite a bit , Eisenmann,Eisenman, Eisamann, Eisaman, Iseman, Isemann, Iceman, Isleman ,

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