Landkreis Grafschaft Bentheim

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Landkreis Grafschaft Bentheim
Bad Bentheim, grafschaft Bentheim, photo taken from castle tower

Nestled into a corner of the provinces of Overijssel and Drenthe in the Netherlands, historically Grafschaft Bentheim shares more with Dutch culture than German. Many people who lived here are listed at Category:One_Place_Studies, Category:Grafschaft_Bentheim (born before 1806) and Category:Grafschaft_Bentheim_(Kreis),_Niedersachsen (born after 1806).


Area: 980.87 km2 (378.7 mi2).

Major Road: Highway 403 runs roughly north to south, from Emlichheim in the north to Bad Bentheim about 52 km (31 mi) to the south.

Population: around 136,000 in 2018.

Language: Plattdeutsch, also called Low Saxon, or Nedersaksies. It's between Dutch and German, but closer to Dutch. It is part of the Twents dialect, also spoken in Overijssel.

Biggest city: Nordhorn with 47,000.

Capital: Bad Bentheim.

Land makeup: It is mostly made up of fenland, a wetland habitat or marshland.

Best known commodity: Peat can be found in this soil, but the area is better known for Bentheim sandstone.

Best known tourist attraction: Bentheim Castle in Bad Bentheim, first built before 1100.

Bentheim Castle (Burg Bentheim)


Grafschaft Bentheim has had quite a turbulent history. Listed are approximate dates with events.

100 AD: Twente was part of independent Frisia. The Tubanti tribe lived in this area.

719: Charles Martel conquered most of the area and incorporated it into the Carolingian empire.

828: A northern section split off of Twente and became an independent state called Bentheim, having their own counts to rule them almost as a separate country. The rest of Twente is now a part of the Netherlands.

1116: The castle of Bentheim is mentioned for the first time, its wooden structure being completely destroyed in a war between the Holy Roman Emperor and the Duke of Saxony. It was quickly rebuilt.

1277: The county is divided into Bentheim-Bentheim and Bentheim-Tecklenburg.

1312: Uelsen is taken from Twente & added to Bentheim.

1544: Arnold II of Bentheim-Steinfurt united the counties of Bentheim and Steinfurt, a county just south of present Bentheim. He also made the county Lutheran. Churches turning from Catholic to Lutheran included the ones in Veldhausen, Uelsen and Neuenhaus.

1613: Count Arnold Jobst established the Reformed Church as the religion of the area, most churches then becoming Reformed. They remain Reformed to this day.

1618: The Thirty Years War brought a financial crisis; many towns were plundered by unpaid Catholic Spanish soldiers, seen as a punishment for the area becoming Reformed.

1636: The Plague hits Bentheim; between fleeing to the Netherlands & dying from the plague, 2/3 of the people of Bentheim vanished.

1643: The county split in 2 again, our half being Bentheim-Bentheim.

1688: Count Ernest Willem became Roman Catholic which caused a fierce crisis. All Reformed pastors were expelled.

1702: Ernest Willem's son, Count Ernest, converted to Lutheranism. A new constitution was written up in favor of the Reformed churches.

1752: The Electorate of Hanover seized the county after 700 years of its fierce independence. Thus the king of England ended up ruling it from very far away.

1803: The house of Bentheim-Bentheim became extinct, and the count of Bentheim-Steinfurt obtained it, including the castle. This family owns the castle and rights to much of the land to this day.

1806: Bentheim spent 10 years being swapped from country to country. In 1806 it was incorporated into Prussia. Then in 1810 it was added to Napoleon’s empire. In 1815 Bentheim returned to Hanover.

1846: Many people who had joined a more conservative Reformed church joined many Dutch people in immigrating to America to worship the way they wanted. This immigration lasted through the 1880's.

1866: Bentheim and Hanover were incorporated into Prussia, then Germany.

Divisions of the Land

Grafschaft Bentheim is divided into 3 cities by themselves and 4 larger areas. All except one have an average of 15,000 people living in the area. The 4 areas are broken down further into 22 smaller towns. There are still more towns in each area. Listed here are the 25 divisions and a link to see the vital statistics of the church associated with each. Some have no link yet.

1. Bad Bentheim ( & part of Bad Bentheim. for western area).

2. Nordhorn ( & for southern area).

3. Wietmarschen

4. Emlichheim:

5. Neuenhaus:

6. Schüttorf:

7. Uelsen:

Distinguishing Characteristics of the Area

Grafschaft Bentheim had a culture that leaned towards Dutch sympathies and dialect.

  • The local people used the patronymic naming system. The second name is not an actual second name the way American culture looks at it. It was the person's father's name with an "s" or "sen" behind it, representing "son", and it was often used both for sons and daughters.
  • Most people apparently used last names from the 17th century on, but not in every document. Many people seem to have been shy of using last names in anything official. Many last names came from the name of the estate the family lived on. And men didn't necessarily keep their father's last name. If a man moved to his wife's family's estate, he and his children took on his wife's last name since it came with the estate. And if he owned two estates, he might go by two different last names in different circumstances.
  • Sometimes a family got too big with too many people sharing the same first and last names. Sometimes they resolved this by adding something to someone's last name. Probably the best case in point is the Jacobs family, when in the late 1600's some families kept the last name of Jacobs; other families became Bovenste Jacobs, Middelste Jacobs and Dijk Jacobs.
  • In 1811 Napoleon required everyone in his empire to register for tax purposes, and he required them to have a last name. From this point on, men generally kept their father's last name and passed it on to their children.
  • The people of the Grafschaft Bentheim area have remained very independent. One story says that when they first were annexed to Hanover in 1753 they were allowed to keep their language and culture. But around 1810 their dialect and the Dutch language were banned. People were expected to take on German culture and speak German (Hochdeutsch), and German became the language used in schools and in commerce. To this day their local dialects persist.
  • One way the people have kept ties with the Netherlands is through marriage. There have been many marriages where one partner was from Grafschaft Bentheim and the other was from Overijssel or Drenthe. Often the marriages were with distant relatives and would be arranged.
  • The border between the Netherlands and Germany didn't divide property neatly. For example, Jan Scholtman (found at Schultman-6) lived on a farm called Boven 't Broek. Ravick, the town it stood beside, was in Emlichheim. But the farm itself seems to have been at least partly in Gramsbergen, Overijssel. The family itself seems to have been divided as to whether they should attend the Reformed Church in Emlichheim or Gramsbergen.

Names of the Area

Grafschaft Bentheim has appeared in many different areas over the years. These are the ones most commonly listed on profiles, along with the years they are used.

Since the language of the area was Low Saxon (Nedersaksies) until 1815, the place names are in Low Saxon until 1815, when they switch to German. In German, the Holy Roman Empire is called "Heiliges Römisches Reich."

Bentheim-Bentheim, Heilige Roomse Riek 1277 - 1530.

Bentheim-Steinfurt, Heilige Roomse Riek 1530 - 1643.

Bentheim-Bentheim, Heilige Roomse Riek 1643 - 1753.

Bentheim, Hannover, Heilige Roomse Riek 1753 - 1804.

Bentheim-Steinfurt, Hannover, Heilige Roomse Riek 1804 - August 6 1806.

Bentheim, Département Ems im Großherzogtum Berg, August 7 1806 - Dec 31 1810.

Bentheim, Distrikt Steinfurt, Departement Bouches-de-l’Yssel, Keizerriek Fraankriek Jan 1 - April 26 1811

Bentheim, Distrikt Steinfurt, Department Lippe, Keizerriek Fraankriek April 27 1811 - 1815

Bentheim, Hannover, Deutscher Bund 1815 - 1866.

Bentheim, Hannover, Preußen, Norddeutscher Bund August 1866 - January 1 1871.

Bentheim, Hannover, Preußen, Deutsches Kaiserreich January 2 1871 - 1885.

Grafschaft Bentheim, Osnabrück, Deutsches Kaiserreich 1885 - November 8 1918.

Grafschaft Bentheim, Osnabrück, Deutsches Reich (Weimarer Republik, Deutsche Republik) November 9 1918 - January 29 1933.

Grafschaft Bentheim, Osnabrück, Deutsches Reich (Nationalsozialistischer Staat, Drittes Reich) January 30, 1933 - May 8, 1945.

Grafschaft Bentheim, Deutschland Britische Besatzungszone May 8, 1945 - November 1, 1946.

Grafschaft Bentheim, Niedersachsen, Deutschland (Bundesrepublik Deutschland) November 1, 1946 - present.

From 1811 to 1885 the western half (Emlichheim, Neuenhaus and Uelsen) of Grafschaft Bentheim was divided from the eastern half. They are labeled as follows:

Distrikt Neuenhaus, Departement Ems-Occidental, Keizerriek Fraankriek Jan 1 1811 - April 26 1811.

Distrikt Neuenhaus, Department Lippe, Keizerriek Fraankriek April 27 1811 - 1815

Neuenhaus, Hannover, Deutscher Bund 1815 - 1866.

Neuenhaus, Hannover, Preußen, Norddeutscher Bund August 1866 - January 1 1871.

Neuenhaus, Hannover, Preußen, Deutsches Kaiserreich January 2 1871 - 1885.

For people born before August 7 1806, go to Category:Grafschaft_Bentheim.

For people born after August 7 1806, go to Category:Grafschaft_Bentheim_(Kreis),_Niedersachsen.

To form links to one of these two categories, begin with two beginning brackets then Category and a colon and then put in either Grafschaft Bentheim or Grafschaft Bentheim (Kreis), Niedersachsen and end with two ending brackets, no spaces between anything.

Order: the link, then the biography symbol, then the one place study symbol, then the German Roots sticker.

Sources & Resources

  • Vital Records of German Towns and Cities: (go down to Niedersachsen and look under the list from Emsland/Bentheim).
  • Many articles on the Old Reformed Churches (Evangelisch Altreformierte Kirche) of Grafschaft Bentheim in German, collected by Gerrit Jan Beuker:

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Comments: 3

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Brilliant! Well done. So much information
posted by Helen (Bowden) Shields
This is a perfect one place study page in my opinion. Love it. Awesome job Bertram!
posted by Kylie Haese