I spent several years researching my dad’s family (see Shoults Genealogy) and I had great fun finding out all the information I didn’t know. My mom’s side of the family didn’t really intrigue me. My Ehlmann ancestors came from Germany in the 1840s to 1860s to St. Charles where they have stayed ever since. Many of the families that came from the Menslage or Hannover area in Germany, the Hollrahs, Bruns, Bekebredes, Thoeles, Bulls, Barklages, Jungermanns, etc. , settled in St. Charles and their families are still here today. It’s not unusual for me to find that I’m related to a lot of the older Germany families here. My ancestors helped found two of the Lutheran Churches in the area and the oldest of which, Immanuel, was founded in 1863 and that church still stands. It is the church I was baptized in, attended elementary school, was confirmed, and married in. Their church records, as well as the other Lutheran Church, Zion Lutheran in Harvester, are at the local library which gives easy access to family records.
The biggest problem with researching my Ehlmann ancestors is the German naming traditions. Ancestry.com explains:
It was a common practice in some German families to name the firstborn son after the child’s paternal grandfather and the second-born son after the maternal grandfather. Several generations could be alive at the same time with the same name. Sometimes first names and sometimes middle names were used for the same person. For example, Anna Elisabeth is sometimes Anna, sometimes Elisabeth, and sometimes Anna Elisabeth. If a child died young, the same name might be re-used for a later child. Children were commonly named after other relatives (sometimes identically, even if the relative was still living)…naming, in general, was not an exercise in creativity.
At baptism, if two given names were given to the child, the first given name often was a spiritual, saint’s name. The second given name was the secular or call name, which is the name the person was known by, both within the family and to the rest of the world. This custom was originally adopted in Germanic and other regions in Europe from Roman Catholic tradition and continued by the Protestants in their baptismal naming customs. The spiritual name, usually to honor a favorite saint, was used repeatedly and was usually given to all the children of that family of the same gender. They would instead be known by what we would think of now as their middle name, which was their secular name. For males, the saint’s name Johann, or John for Saint John, was particularly heavily used by many German families. The child’s secular name was really John, if, and only if, at baptism, he was named only John, usually spelled as Johannes, with no second given name.
For this very reason I found that each time I opened up the folders containing my research on my Ehlmann family, I ended up throwing my hands up in frustration and putting it away. In my family, the saint’s name was Hermann. My relatives are named Hermann Heinrich, Hermann Dietrich, Hermann Gerhard, Hermann Wilhelm, Hermann Friedrich as well as some Johann Hermanns and amidst all these names are at least five Hermann Dietrichs. The family’s female name was Anna. So we have Anna Catharina, Anna Adelheid, Anna Elise, Anna Margaretha, Anna Maria, etc. You see where I’m going with this right? Confusing doesn’t even begin to describe it. How would you want to have half-a-dozen Hermanns married to Annas? Because the secular name wasn’t always used, sometimes the only way of keeping track of which Hermann you were seeing in whatever records, was to check the birthdate and who they were married to, and hopefully that information included the maiden name of the woman.
Because of the confusion involved with the many Ehlmanns who were named the same or had similar names, and how large our family grew, I’m only following two of the original brothers, Herman Heinrich (1819) and Hermann Dietrich (1827) and their descendants.
I located the following Dietrich Ehlmanns in my research:
- Hermann Dietrich born Jan. 1827 and died September 6, 1916 (the original Dietrich from Germany)
- Johann Hermann Dietrich b. 1844 and died November 27, 1862 (?) (Hermann Heinrich’s 1819 son )
- Herman Dietrich b. 1856 and died December 20, 1930 (our great grandfather)
- Hermann Dietrich (a twin) b. 1863 and died March 24, 1881 (Hermann Gerhard’s son with Catharina Moehlenkamp).
- Hermann Dietrich b. March 1881 and died August 11, 1881, infant, whose parents are not named.
Additionally, I located the following Hermann Heinrichs:
- Hermann Heinrich b. May 18, 1816 and died December 10, 1899
- Hermann Heinrich b. August 29, 1845 and died Septmber 9, 1916
- Hermann Heinrich born July 17, 1871
- Hermann Heinrich born Sept. 28, 1846 and died June 6, 1926
So, you can see why the naming traditions have made researching my family difficult. I know I’ve made some errors and some people may have a difference of opinion, but I’ve based my conclusions mostly on verifiable facts.
This is the first in the series following the Ehlmanns through the decades, ending with 1930.
[…] Introduction to Ehlmanns in America […]