Researching the Bohnstedts in Europe and Russia
by Thomas Allen Bohnstedt, California USA
(the text of this page is my intellectual property. Please do not copy and repost without my written permission)
Oscar Hugo Edgar Victor Bohnstedt
Stammbaum der Familie Bohnstedt
This story of the research efforts for this Bohnstedt Line, the "Langeln" Line, could start with any number of people in the Bohnstedt family, but I believe the best person to start this story with is Edgar Bohnstedt. Edgar was a military legal official, and was the originator of a large genealogical chart, drawn in 1939. It was titled "Stammbaum der Familie Bohnstedt". In English Stammbaum means "family tree".
The 1939 Stammbaum, created by Edgar Bohnstedt.
Wolfram Bohnstedt, Edgar's grandson, believes that portions of this stammbaum, that is to say, portions from before the 1930's, were based on earlier charts and genealogical records. One of these was the 1923 Stammbaum which bore the same title "Stammbaum der Familie Bohnstedt". This stammbaum was not a wall chart, but a book of sorts, 40 pages long and hand-typed. Like the later 1939 stammbaum chart, the 1923 stammbaum book lists the Bohnstedt family in Germany descending from Bartholomäus Bonstedt through August Wilhelm Bohnstedt.
Oscar Hugo Edgar Victor Bohnstedt was a career army officer and a military legal official. By 1945 he had been promoted to Oberst [Colonel]. There is also some evidence that he was promoted again, to general, when he was made a "generalrichter" [general judge], although his appointment to this rank did not last long since the war in Europe ended in early May, 1945. I'm no expert on German military insignia, but I believe this picture was taken when Edgar was still an "Oberst [Colonel]. Edgar drew, or had drawn, the 1939 Stammbaum (above). He was also responsible for trying to save the "Early Stammbaum" watercolor chart (below).
Another source was yet another stammbaum, a large watercolor chart, mounted on plywood panels. The family genealogy on this watercolor chart was portrayed as a large tree, with the branches displaying the names and birth dates of various Bohnstedts in Germany, Sweden, and Russia.
Surviving panels from the Early Stammbaum showing origins of the Bohnstedts prior to the 1500's
It is not known exactly how many other branches were shown because there are currently only two surviving panels. According to Wolfram, this chart was destroyed during the Second World War. He stated that a long time ago the chart was once part of an interior wall in a church in East Prussia, and was taken apart when the Soviet Army advanced into Germany, and was taken to western Germany with other family belongings. During the last days of the war in 1945 Edgar had loaded the family's possessions onto a railroad freight car, and the train happened to be in a rail yard in Dresden during the Allied bombing of that city. On the night of February 13, 1945, hundreds of Allied bombers demolished 80 percent of Dresden, including the rail yards, and unfortunately, the family history chart. Only two panels were recovered.
1. Surviving panel from the "1920's stammbaum" showing Swedish and Russian branches of the Bohnstedts.
2. The aftermath of the Dresden bombing
Fortunately some of the information on this chart had already been typed up as the 1923 Stammbaum book, as well as drawn up as the 1939 Stammbaum chart. Several copies of the 1939 Stammbaum chart were sent to various family members in Germany and other parts of Europe. From an aesthetic point of viewv the 1939 chart was not as attractive as the original chart and did not include some of the other family branches such as those in Sweden and Russia. In fact, given what we now know about these branches in Sweden and Russia, it almost seems that they are conspicuously absent.
I say conspicuous because the first chart did, for certain, include the Swedish and Russian branches, as a close examination of the second surviving panels revealed. Martin Bohnstedt believed that this second chart may have been provided to the Nazi German government during the war and was drawn for that purpose. It is a fact that there was a great interest in genealogy in Germany under the Nazi regime. This was to determine who might have had Jewish ancestors, and who were "acceptable" German families. This is why many older Germans who remember that period now have an aversion to genealogical studies. It is possible that although Edgar provided this second chart to the government authorities he intentionally left the Swedish and Russian branches off of the chart because of politics. He himself was a military officer and it would not do to have his family connected in some way with the Russians, with whom Germany was about to be locked in a mortal conflict. As a secondary motive it is also possible that Edgar was also protecting the Bohnstedt family in Russia by not providing their identities to the Nazis.
The two surviving sections of the Stammbaum were without a doubt oriented to each other as shown above. This is determined by the fact that Karl Fredrik Bohnstedt (born 1841), and Louise Charlotte Bohnstedt (born 1840), on the right hand panel, were both children of Karl Fredrik Johan Bohnstedt (born 1806) shown on the left hand panel.
A close examination of the chart shows that most of the dates on the two remaining panels appear to be from the 1920's, although I did find one date that looked like it might be 1935. The writing of the date on that particular record looks a little different from the surrounding dates and text, leading me to speculate that it might have been entered later than the other data. I personally believe this chart was completed in the mid-1920's, and some information was added in later.
I would add here that in the 1998 Printed Edition of this Bohnstedt History I had assumed that Edgar Bohnstedt was the artist who had drawn this early Stammbaum, and I stated it as fact. This may still be true, but I am not completely certain of it, nor was Edgar's grandson, Wolfram, when I later questioned him about it. At the very least it may be that Edgar had modified it at times as new information presented itself.
Documentary evidence suggests that some of Edgar's research work was built upon earlier research done by Johannes Bohnstedt. If so, this Johannes was probably Johannes Bohnstedt, born in 1870, the son of Alexander Reinhold Bohnstedt. Johannes was an archivist or historian for the Krupp family in Essen, famous for their steel works and weapons manufacturing. Such a person is most likely to have the type of personality that lends itself to genealogical studies. Furthermore, he was unmarried, and without children, which no doubt left him with spare time for such pursuits. Finally, as an archivist and historian, he must have had access to government records, such as they were, and was familiar with methods for keeping records and family histories.
A close examination of one of the two surviving panels of the watercolor genealogy chart (the section with the tree-trunk), will reveal the name of Hans Bonstede on a shield, and a date: 1411. The artist seems to have believed that Hans was an ancestor of the Bohnstedt family in Europe. There are three shields "branching" from Hans, with names that appear to read Harmen, Clawes, and Hinrik Bonstede. Also, there seems to be a date on Harmen's shield. It might be 1440. There are some shields above these three, but they are not legible, at least not in the photograph that was provided to me.
On the tree trunk are several more shields with names, arranged in four generations beneath Hans Bonstede. Like the shields above Hans' children, those below are also not legible in the photograph, except for the bottom two. The second from the bottom seems to carry the name Albert, or a variation of it. It also carries a date of 1350. The bottom shield carries no date, but if we take a guess and subtract 30 years from it, we arrive at a possible year of birth of 1320 for the person listed on the bottom shield, the person whom the artist believed to be the oldest known ancestor of the Bohnstedt family in Europe. If the research for this watercolor chart was accurate, the researcher had traced the Bohnstedt family back nearly 700 years!
The question before us is, did this researcher (who may or may not have been Edgar Bohnstedt) really have solid evidence of these early connections? It is certainly tantalizing, but we have no way of knowing. We don't even know what all the names were, and even if the names on the surviving panel were legible, there are still some names missing between those on the shields, and the documented Bonstedts of the 1500s. Our only hope is that someday some record of Edgar's might surface which recorded and listed all of these names and facts.
Wolfgang Bohnstedt's Research
After Edgar, the next family member to take up the quest was Wolfgang Bohnstedt, from Berlin, Germany. Wolfgang's earliest known ancestors came from Bernburg, a town in central Germany. He naturally tried to find a connection with other Bohnstedt branches that he had found in Germany going back to the 1500's but was only able to trace his own ancestry back to 1750, still in Bernburg.
Wolfgang actually collected most of his information independent of Edgar Bohnstedt's research, and only later did Wolfgang obtain and incorporate Edgar's information into his own collection of data. But by the time Wolfgang had acquired Edgar's information, Wolfgang had already done such a thorough job of his own research that Edgar's data did not fill in any large gaps.
Nonetheless, Edgar's material did provide a few missing pieces of information to supplement Wolfgang's data. I will point out here that Wolfgang did not actually have any contact with Edgar. Edgar died in 1946 when Wolfgang was only one year old. But Wolfgang later had contact with family members of the Bohnstedt "Langeln Line" of which Edgar was also a descendant.
In his research Wolfgang had discovered a few names prior to 1500 which bore a similarity to Bonstedt and Bohnstedt of later generations. In order of time, some of these names were:
1. 1350; Albert Bonstet was born in Wisby/Gotland
2. 1411; Hans Bonstede cast a bell in Haldersleben, or Haldensleben.
3. 1478-1503; Harmen Bonestedt was a cannon foundry man in Hamburg
4. 14__; Clawes Bonnestedt cast a bell in Calbe/Altmark
5. 14__; Hinrick Bonstedt cast a bell in Rendsburg
6. 1476; Hans Bonstidde in Osterwieck
7. 1570; Friedrich Bonstede living in Groningen
You may have already noticed that some of these names match the names found on the Early Stammbaum; in particular Albert Bonstet (1350), Hans Bonstede (1411), and Harmen Bonestedt, Clawes Bonnestedt and Hinrick Bonstedt
The first name discovered by Wolfgang which he felt that he he could, with certainty, identify as an ancestor of the Bohnstedt family, was A. Bonsted, the father of Andreas Bonstedt born in 1565. We have no way of being certain whether or not these men from the 1400s were ancestors of Andreas Bonstedt. Apparently, though, the originator of the Early Stammbaum thought that they were.
After Wolfgang had begun his research he had developed the intention of putting all of his compiled research into a book. But business concerns kept pushing his idea of a book to the side. Eventually, Wolfgang was contacted by Duane L. Bohnstedt, an American Bohnstedt, who had also been working for years collecting information. Duane had collected information from the Bohnstedt branches in the United States, but had also expanded his search to Europe. In this way he finally found Wolfgang's address, and they undertook some correspondence, trying to overcome the language barrier.
Duane Bohnstedt's Los Angeles Visit
As Duane "Sparky" Bohnstedt was collecting information throughout the U.S., he came across the address of a Charlotte Bohnstedt in Los Angeles in the Wilshire area, and while on a trip to Los Angeles in 1978 he paid a visit to Charlotte. Charlotte was the second wife, and widow of Hans-Joachim Bohnstedt. It turned out that Charlotte's husband, Hans, was the same Hans Bohnstedt that was listed on a document we now refer to as the "1938 List", properly titled "Mitglieder de Bohnstedt'schen Familien-Verbandes, März 1938".
This list was essentially a directory of Bohnstedts descended from what I now call the "Prussian Bohnstedt Line", all descending from August Wilhelm Bohnstedt. The list was compiled by Dr. Georg Bohnstedt of Hamburg, and a copy of it was given to Sparky by Georg's daughter, Inger, one of the contacts that Sparky had made as he searched Germany for information about Bohnstedt history. This same Bohnstedt family group was listed one year later on the 1939 Stammbaum drawn by Edgar Bohnstedt.
Charlotte (von Stein) Bohnstedt in 1978, Los Angeles
During Sparky's visit, Charlotte told him a story of her husband's family, the Bohnstedts. According to Charlotte, the Bohnstedt family was
...a very aristocratic family, and many family members were high-ranking officers in the German Army through WW I and up to and through WW II...
Furthermore, according to Charlotte, the Bohnstedt family originally came from Schleswig-Holstein, and had once lived
...in a thousand year old castle. The castle had twin towers and was located near the present border of Germany and Denmark...
Charlotte then showed Sparky a tapestry that had a castle, mansion, or some other large building depicted in embroidery. This, according to Charlotte, was the alleged Bohnstedt castle. No one has ever yet found any evidence of this castle or that any part of the Bohnstedt family ever lived in such a place. Furthermore, no one knows what happened to the tapestry or any of Charlotte's other belongings.
As for the notion that the Bohnstedt family originally came from Schleswig-Holstein, I believe that this is incorrect as the earliest established locations are in the central region of Germany. In fact, an examination of the early stammbaum shows one of the very early names of Bohnstedt ancestors in 1411 in Haldensleben, which is in the same region in central Germany as the other small villages of origin; Langeln, Gevensleben, Bernburg, etc.
I believe that this erroneous belief can partly be traced to a small town in Schleswig-Holstein near the Danish border. A number of people, including Germans and Danes, have commented to me in the past that there is a town called "Bohnstedt" in that area. However, the correct spelling is not Bohnstedt, but Bohmstedt, with an "M", suggesting that it originated with an entirely different family.
Sparky certainly had doubts about the "castle" element of Charlotte's fantastic story. But her assertion that her husband came from an important family with many high ranking German military officers was later proven to be true. This part of the Bohnstedt family, and many of these German Bohnstedt 'aristocrats' turned up on the "1938 List" obtained by Sparky. Many of these senior officers are described in later sections, including The Bohnstedts and Prussian Military Tradition, General Wilhelm Bohnstedt, and Colonel Eberhard Bohnstedt.
It is, and was, an exaggeration to say that this line of Bohnstedts in Germany were "aristocratic", in the sense that they were titled aristocracy. "Upper class" might be a more accurate description of this family. However, later research would reveal that this well-to-do Bohnstedt line in Eastern Germany and Prussia was connected to the Swedish Noble Bohnstedt line, the Bohnstedt branch in Russia, and other Bohnstedt branches in Western Germany and other places.
As for Mitglieder de Bohnstedt'schen Familien-Verbandes, März 1938 ("1938 List"), it listed Bohnstedts throughout Germany, as well as far-flung places where small family groups from this German line had gone to beginning in the late 1800's and into the late 1930's; places such as Norway, Mexico, El Salvador, and German Southwest Africa.
When I became involved in this project I had already been researching Bohnstedts in the United States. I had also started expanding my search for Bohnstedts into Europe. I came into contact with a number of German Bohnstedts who spoke and read some English, and who have been immensely helpful, especially Martin Bohnstedt. In addition to researching various pieces of information for me, Martin has also provided many of the photographs in this work which were taken in Germany and other places.
In my e-mail discussions with Martin he suggested that as I come into contact with other Bohnstedts in Germany I should ask about something called the "stammbaum", a large genealogy chart. He was referring here to the 1939 Stammbaum described above. Martin told me that several copies of this chart (master-copies) were apparently made shortly after the chart was drawn up. These "master-copies" were distributed to several family members, as a precaution in the event that one of the other master-copies was damaged or destroyed.
Martin Bohnstedt, 1990s
It is not known for certain how many of the master-copies were distributed. We know of at least four, although there may have been several others. Martin Bohnstedt's aunt had one copy in her keeping, but was lost when the family fled westward from Silesia at the end of the Second World War.
One of the surviving copies was found in the possession of Hinrik Bohnstedt, who loaned it to Hans-Joachim Bohnstedt from Ismaning, Germany (Martin's father), who had reproductions made. One of these reproductions was sent to me for the purposes of research for the 1998 book. It seems obvious that Hinrik, or someone close to him, had been making additions to his own copy of the chart while he had it. Below Hinrik's name appear his daughter, Maren (born in 1964), and his granddaughter, Nadine (born in 1982). The names of Martin Bohnstedt, his sister Birgit, and his cousin Thomas, also appear on this copy of the chart. Either Hinrik must have added them on before he loaned his copy to Hans, or Hans added them himself.
During the course of my research I found that there were two other surviving copies, one in the provenance of Hjørdis Bohnstedt in Norway, and another with Wolfram Bohnstedt in Melbourne, Australia.
The Australian Connection
During my research efforts, my dad, Cole Fraley, contacted me and told me that he had found a Bohnstedt in Australia. I thought this was an odd place for a Bohnstedt to be found, but then, so was El Salvador and Mexico.
I contacted this Bohnstedt in Australia, Wolfram Edgar Bohnstedt, by mail. After some weeks I received an answer back, not from Wolfram, but from his son, Max Bohnstedt. Max was very helpful and he quickly established for me this family's connection with the "Prussian Bohnstedt" line. I was also told that Wolfram had one of the surviving copies of the 1939 Stammbaum.
Max sent me several photographs, with negatives, of some of the family heirlooms that were salvaged from the destruction and bombing in Germany during World War II. The most exciting part of this collection were the two surviving panels of the "Early Stammbaum" dating from the 1920's and earlier! Wolfram Edgar Bohnstedt, I found out, was the grandson of Edgar Bohnstedt, who had drawn the 1939 Stammbaum.
Research in Sweden and Norway
A few months after I had made contact with the Bohnstedt family in Australia, I was in downtown Los Angeles and I stopped in at the the Norwegian consulate. Norwegian telephone books are hard to find in a public library in Los Angeles, so I thought that the consulate might have one. They did have one, and I found the address of Hjørdis Bohnstedt in Oslo, Norway. I was quite sure that this was the same Hjørdis that was listed on Edgar's "Stammbaum" along with her three triplet sisters, and her parents, Walter and Gunvor.
After writing to her, she answered me with a confirmation of these facts. To my surprise she also sent me a large package with many old black and white photos, along with many original letters from Max Bohnstedt in Mexico, and several from Edgar Bohnstedt himself. These letters were all written between 1907 - 1926. Many of the photos provided by Hjørdis are presented in The Descendants of Karl August Heinrich Bohnstedt II, Max Bohnstedt, and Hotel Bohnstedt in Mexico, and The Bohnstedts in Norway.
I began searching through many European telephone directories looking for Bohnstedts, and a couple of Bohnstedts were found in Sweden. I knew that some Scandinavians spoke English, due in some part to NATO involvement, so I began sending letters to as many Bohnstedts as I could find in Scandinavia. I finally received an answer back from Claes Bohnstedt of Göteborg, Sweden. I began communicating with Claes and discovered that he was one of the few remaining Bohnstedt descendants in that country.
Combining information provided by Claes and Wolfgang I was able to determine that this Swedish Bohnstedt line was descended from Bartholomäus Bonstedt, and was related to the Bohnstedts in Prussia, the same family that was recorded in the 1939 Stammbaum. The Bohnstedt family in Sweden, to which Claes belonged, was apparently the same Swedish family that at one time appeared on the 1920 family chart, destroyed in Dresden in 1945. As my search progressed it also became clear that the small Bohnstedt branch in Norway was also descended from this same aristocratic Bohnstedt family, but from the Prussian line, not the Swedish line.
Research in Russia
During my research, one of the Bohnstedts in Germany had provided me with the address of a Mrs. Liselotte Bohnstedt in Munich, Germany. She was the widow of Rudolf Maximilianovitch Bohnstedt, who was born in St. Petersburg Russia. Liselotte provided me with copies of some valuable old Swedish genealogy books. These books described in some detail a Bohnstedt family with branches in Pomerania, Sweden and Russia. With this information it turned out to be an easy matter to "reconnect" these Pomeranian and Russian branches with the Swedish branch, which had already been established with the help of Claes and Wolfgang.
Liselotte also put me in touch with her daughter, Anita Weise, who maintained contact with a cousin on the Bohnstedt side of the family in St. Petersburg, Russia. Anita gave me her cousin's telephone number and address in St. Petersburg, Russia, and I established contact with this cousin, Natalija Yegorova, a very educated and gracious person. If I remember correctly this might have been in 1992 or maybe 1993, just after my wife and I were married.
At that time there was a "window of opportunity" for Bohnstedt family research. The replacement of the Communist system in Russia enabled more research into East Germany, and even Russia itself. Natalija responded to my letter and soon afterwards we began corresponding by e-mail. Natalija started helping me recover what information she could about the Bohnstedt family in Russia. She, in turn, was aided by other cousins such as Marina Zvekova of Moscow. They did run into some difficulties with other family members in Russia who were reluctant for one reason or another to cooperate with any information. But at least they were able to provide a few sketchy details in some cases, and extensive details in others.
Meetings in Sweden and Germany
In 1994 my wife and I went to Europe, to visit Sweden, Germany and Denmark. We were invited by several Bohnstedts in Denmark and Sweden to stay with them in their homes. We were also invited by Natalija to visit her family in St. Petersburg, but, because of scheduling conflicts, we were not able to do so, which was the one great regret of the trip. The trip took us first to Göteborg (Gothenburg), Sweden, with two airplanes changes, one in Newark, New Jersey and another in København (Copenhagen), Denmark. We stayed there in Göteborg for a few days with Claes and Eva Bohnstedt, where we were shown just how beautiful Sweden is, and we sorted out some details of the Swedish Bohnstedt genealogy.
L-R: Eva, Claes and Johan Bohnstedt, 1994
From Göteborg we flew back to København, rented a car and began driving north to the far end of Denmark. We stayed first with Steffen and Else Bohnstedt in Nørresundby, and after a couple of days we drove a little ways south to Risskov where we stayed with Peter Bohnstedt and his family.
From Denmark we drove to Goslar Germany, where we stayed for several days, and from where we took expeditions out into the small villages in Sachsen-Anhalt to the east, where the Bohnstedt lines originated. One of those days was set aside for a face-to-face meeting with Wolfgang Bohnstedt, Martin Bohnstedt, and Anita Weise, Natalija's cousin, in Braunschweig. Since I spoke virtually no German, and Wolfgang virtually no English, Martin translated for us. We had lunch, and we discussed some of the details of just how the book was to be arranged in it's final form. Anita had a real treat in store for us; she handed me a large brown envelope which was packed with old photographs of the Russian Bohnstedt family, most of which were taken before the Communist revolution. I was entrusted with the pictures to use them in this book.
The meeting in Braunschweig, L-R: Anita Weise, Jutta Bohnstedt (wife of Wolfgang Bohnstedt), Wolfgang, Thomas Bohnstedt, Martin Bohnstedt.
The final result of all this was the Printed Edition of "A History of the Bohnstedt Family", which I completed and distributed in 1998.
In the last 6-7 years as I have been putting together this CD-ROM edition I have been in contact with several descendants of this European "Langeln Line" of Bohnstedts, some of which had already helped me with the research for the 1998 edition. Some of these individuals included Martin Bohnstedt, Claes Bohnstedt, Natalija Yegorova, and Bengt Bohnstedt. I have also been in contact with some descendants of these Bohnstedt lines in Germany, Russia and Sweden that I had not before had any contact with, including Andrea Bohnstedt (Bengt's daughter) in Germany, Pavel Yegoroff in Russia and several others who have made contributions to this work.
I think it's important to point out here that in addition to the people who have helped me with research in this work, I have also been aided by some Bohnstedt descendants who have helped with the translation of documents, books and materials printed in languages other than English, including Martin's sister Birgit and others.
Several years later, with the help of the help of a number of people I have updated and expanded some existing information, and have also added some new information. What follows is the result of these efforts.
- Leijonhufvud, Karl Axel Karlsson and Leijonhufvud, Gustaf Carlsson. Ny Svensk Släktbok ("New Swedish Family Book") Published by P.A. Norstedt & Sons. 1906
- Stammbaum der Familie Bohnstedt 1923. (Author and publisher unknown)
4-17 / Mistaken Identities / The Town of Bohnstedt, or Bohmstedt ?
5-4 / Appendix D: Ny Svensk Släktbok
5-8 / Appendix G: Mitglieder de Bohnstedt'schen Familien-Verbandes März 1938 (1938 List)
5-9 / Appendix H: The Early Stammbaum
5-10 / Appendix I: Stammbaum der Familie Bohnstedt (1923 Stammbaum)
5-11 / Appendix J: Stammbaum der Familie Bohnstedt (1939 Stammbaum)
Geography (Google Maps):
Göteborg (Gothenburg), Sweden
København (Copenhagen), Denmark
Los Angeles, California
Moskva (Moscow), Russia
St. Petersburg, Russia
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