Wohlgemuths of Prussia

More on the 1812 citizenship law

Here is a better view of the relevant records of three of our Wohlgemuth ancestors in Stargardt. This records the very moment they took on the Wohlgemuth surname as a condition for acquiring legal citizenship in West Prussia. 

At the time of this action, they were among a small number of Jews from rural areas who established homes and businesses in the town. Without citizenship, they were subject to various punitive measures up to expulsion.

Previously, Jewish men were identified by the combination of given names, their own and their father's. So in the first record we see Moses, the son of Salomon, who now adopts Moses Wohlgemuth as his legal name. 

The next two records have original names identifying them as the sons of Moses, so we see the family tree developing. We know that our great-grandfather Isaak Wohlgemuth was born in this town 53 years after these Wohlgemuth men became citizens. We presume that Isaak's father Leopold was born here but don't have the year or other details of his birth. 

I am working to establish the connection from Isaak and Leopold backwards to either the Herz or Salomon Wohlgemuth listed. There will be another one or two generations in between. If we establish that our Wohlgemuth family descended from either Herz or Salomon Wohlgemuth, that will further embellish our German citizenship credentials. 

About the Wohlgemuth name, it translates something like "good natured" and it was probably selected by Moses and his sons from a list of approved surnames. 

Surname Givennames
Original
New
Town
(Prussian name)
(Polish Name)
Subsidiary
List
Page #
WOHLGEMUTH Moses Salomon 
Moses 
Preuss. Stargardt 
Stargard Gdanski 

75 (WP) 
WOHLGEMUTH Herz Moses 
Herz 
Preuss. Stargardt 
Stargard Gdanski 
56 
75 (WP) 
WOHLGEMUTH Salomon Moses 
Salomon 
Preuss. Stargardt 
Stargard Gdanski 
73 
75 (WP) 

Wohlgemuth gravestone in Stargard

At Virtual Shtetl, there are photos of the destroyed Jewish cemetery of Starogard Gdansk. Just a few headstones are intact, but see here the one for a Wohlgemuth woman buried in 1890. She could be an aunt by marriage of Isaac's father Leopold. 

The Nazis killed very few Jews in Starogard for the simple reason that almost everybody had left the town before 1939. The Jewish population of Starogard peaked at around 600 in 1875, when Isaak was a boy, and then began to decline for economic reasons. We know that Isaak left there for Elbing at a time that many young people were leaving shtetl life for larger cities. 

There was an atrocity in the fields outside of Starogard, but they were Poles that were gunned down, not Jews. The Nazis occupied the synagogue building after 1939. The building is still standing (see the photo), having been used by merchants for many years, but was recently returned to the Jewish Community of Gdansk.

Also here is four-minute video shot at the Starogard cemetery. The narration is in Polish but images and music are quite moving. I believe I see another Wohlgemuth headstone in the video.
http://www.sztetl.org.pl/en/video/63/

Earlier blog posts identified Stargard as possible Wohlgemuth town

Review what was written here about the Wohlgemuths in April 2012. 

http://familyhistorymachine.com/content/family-video-powwow-and-new-wohlgemuth-developments

http://familyhistorymachine.com/content/looking-isaak-wohlgemuth-west-prussia

The second post concerns a West Prussian citizenship law of 1812 that affected the lives of area Jews in important ways. The law made some Jews eligible for Prussian citizenship, giving them legal status and protection from persecution. Among the requirements to qualify, Jewish families were required to take on Western-style surnames instead of the patrilineal naming style that Jews had practiced for centuries. Before the coming of surnames, Jewish men were known by the combination their own name and their father's name. 

In 2012, I had discovered 10 instances of Wohlgemuths on the 1812 citizenship list. I found they were clustered in towns to the southwest of Danzig and even made a map to show the distribution of towns. Two of the Wohlgemuths on the list, Moses Solomon Wohlgemuth and Herz Moses Wohlgemuth, were from the town of Stargard Gdanski, a sizable town 40 miles south and west of Danzig. 

Since we have now learned from his marriage certificate that our ancestor Isaak Wohlgemuth was born in Preuss Stargard (in 1865), it seems logical to assume that Isaak and his father Leopold must descend from one of the Wohlgemuths from Stargard on the 1812 list. 

Berlin Landesarchiv collected the new family records

Why did the Wohlgemuth-Katz records recently become available? For two wonderful reasons. 

First, a 2009 amendment to civil status law designated the Berlin Landesarchiv as the agency to centralize disparate historical records and make them available to the public. Second, a Landesarchiv project begun in 2014 to put many records online via a partnership with the German office of Ancestry.com. 

So all the info I found yesterday was made available on Ancestry beginning sometime in 2015. The same information is also available on a German genealogy site, probably also recently published.

The Landesarchiv has reading rooms open to the public at their building in a former munitions factory in Borsigwalde in North Berlin near the Eichborndamm S-Bahn stop. This is also the place where the German liquidated-business database project was conducted. I don't think there is any reason for Jo to go there on her last day. Probably I would spend time in these archives if I visit next year.

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