Early history of the Wohlgemuth family

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
(Prussian name)
(Polish Name)
Page #
WOHLGEMUTH Moses Salomon 
Preuss. Stargardt 
Stargard Gdanski 

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

Emancipation of the Jews

Isaak Wohlgemuth, the father of Elly, was born in 1865 in what was then the German town of Preußisch Stargardt. He descended from one of two brothers who had first adopted the Wohlgemuth name in Stargardt in 1812 at the time of the emancipation of Jews in West Prussia.

For centuries, Jews had lived in Prussia just as they had in neighboring Russian and Austrian territories, in their insular communities without legal status and protection. They lived according to their own customs, including their style of patronymic naming without the use of surnames. In a period of liberalization following the Napoleonic wars, Jews in West Prussia were made eligible for full citizenship if they met certain criteria and adopted required customs, including the use of a western-style surname. 

Thus in a database of Jews who gained Prussian citizenship in 1812 we find the name of Moses Wohlgemuth and two of his sons, Herz and Solomon, all living in Preußisch Stargardt. This is when they legally acquired that name, which I presume they selected from a list of suggestions. It translates as something like “good natured,” and was used fairly commonly by German Jews and gentiles alike.

There are Wohlgemuths from other towns also in the database, but these three became important when Isaak’s 1898 marriage certificate later turned up and it showed his birthplace as Preußisch Stargardt. Stargardt was a milling center on the river 30 miles south of Gdansk, called Danzig in those days. We can presume that Isaak's father Leopold, who is named in the marriage certificate, was a son or grandson to one of the brothers in the database, Herz or Solomon, though I have not yet established the precise connection.

LDS records solve the Wohlgemuth conundrum

I found another cache of specifically Jewish records from Stargardt that were filmed by the Mormons and are accessible at FamilySearch.org. With these, I have now been able to reconstruct our Wohlgemuth line from Isaak's father Leopold back to the first Wohlgemuths to take the name in Stargardt. (Yay! That was one of my goals in making the trip.)

Leopold was born on March 5, 1833, the son of Abraham Wohgemuth and Rebecca (nee Altmann). He was formally give the name Lewin but the more Western name Leopold is also recorded on his birth record. Leopold's father Abraham Wohlgemuth was born in 1805, the third child of Herz Moses Wohlgemuth and Rosa. At the time of Abraham's birth, surnames were not yet in use, but a few years later in 1812 Herz Moses, his brother Salomon Moses, and their father Moses Salomon all adopted the Wohlgemuth surname. 

From a directory published in 1812 that correlates the surname with the old patronyms, we find birth dates for Hertz (March 16, 1769) and old man Moses (May 21, 1729). Herz's mother Yette was born March 13, 1739 and Moses married Yette on May 18, 1760. All of the men in the family are identified by profession as "handelsmann," or dealer. 

So that is our family history in Starogard Gdanski. I will capture images and properly document these new finds later, but I wanted to share the news immediately. 

Leopold Wohlgemuth marriage in 1863

 I'll put out the important documents one by one as I capture them. Here is the November 4, 1863 marriage record of Leopold Wohlgemuth and Fredericke Pächter, the future parents of Isaak and Julius Wohlgemuth. The record is in the lower right of the columnular book. I've cropped in on the Wohlgemuth record. You can see the two surnames that are underlined. I will extract the key information below.

Date: November 4, 1863 Location: Pr. Stargardt
Husband: Leopold Wohlgemuth Wife: Fredericke Pächter
Yiddish Name: Lewyn Age: 25
Profession: Merchant Town: Tiegenhof
Age: 30 Father: Julius Pächter

A few things are notable. We see again Leopold's common and Yiddish names both given. He has advanced in profession beyond dealer to merchant ("kaufmann"). Tiegenhof was a new location for me. It was the German name for the town now called Nowy Dvór Gdanski. It is 34 miles northeast of Starogard and is close to the bigger city of Elblag, formerly Elbing, where Isaak and Julius Wohlgemuth moved in 1892. Julius's name may be in honor of his father-in-law. I should try to learn more about the Pächter family in Tiegenhof.


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