Wohlgemuths of Prussia

Wohlgemuth map, 1812-1942

I annotated this map of the northeastern section of the German Empire under Kaiser Wilhelm II between the years 1871 and 1918 with what we have learned about the Wohlgemuth family movements during that time period.

The map shows the provincial  borders between East and West Prussia and neighboring Pomerania. I was wrong earlier when I said that Elbing was in East Prussia; it was within the boundaries of West Prussia. Also, Kolberg was in Pomerania, not West Prussia. 

Isaak Wohlgemuth on 1893 Elbing list

Virtual Shtetl has lists of Jewish Households and Individuals in Elbing for a few random years in the 1890s and 1900s. Following is the list for 1893, where we find Isaac Wohlgemuth listed as "Kaufmann" (merchant) along with two other Wohlemuths, Witwe and Heinrich. (I'm not sure, but you may need to be logged in to the site to access the page.)

http://www.sztetl.org.pl/en/article/elblag/10,people-lists-of-names-genealogy/34432,j-dische-haushalte-und-einzelpersonen-im-jahr-1893/

There are also lists for 1900-1 and 1905-6. On the 1900 list the same three Wohlgemuths are listed using first initials only (Isaac is identified as "J. Wohlgemuth".) However, in 1905 there are no Wohlgemuths listed.

This is great because it definitively places our ancestor as a merchant in Elbing between the years 1893 and 1901. We also know that Elly was born in Elbing in 1901. It also shows that Isaak no longer resided in Elbing by 1905, which is consistent with the fact that Hilda was born somewhere else (Danzig) in 1906. Whether they remained settled in Danzig or perhaps relocated again (to Konigsberg) is to be determined.

The two new Wohlgemuth names, Witwe and Heinrich, are new to us. The name we might have expected to see—Leopold, Isaac's father—is not listed. Is he perhaps deceased by 1893 or else still in Stargard? If so, are Witwe and Heinrich brothers of Isaac? They could also be cousins or similar relation. ( Elbing is only about 30 miles from Stargard although it was across the river in East Prussia.) It is interesting that Witwe and Heinrich are also absent from the 1905 Elbing list, suggesting that they all may have moved together.

Welcome home, Jo. This is the second time your traveling investigations have resulted in fantastic discoveries.

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/

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Wohlgemuths of Prussia