Researching the Bohnstedt Family in America
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)
How Many Cousins Do I Have?
I began researching Bohnstedts in America long before I began contacting Bohnstedts in Europe and other parts of the world. It began as a simple set of questions: "how many cousins do I have?", and "who are they?" I started with my first cousins, and then began questioning older family members about their cousins on the Bohnstedt side, and their children, my second cousins. At a very early time in this process my mother suggested I speak to her cousin, Marvin Bohnstedt who had done a lot of genealogical research. I took her advice and found that Marvin had indeed done a lot of research on the Bohnstedts, tracing our Bohnstedt ancestry back to Johann Gottlieb Bohnstedt, born in 1765 in Germany.
Marvin then connected me with Duane L. "Sparky" Bohnstedt, another man who had done a great deal of research on Bohnstedt family history over the years. Sparky taught me a great deal about the early Bohnstedts in America, U.S. government census records and immigration records. Very soon I saw that my project, which had begun so small and simple, was going to grow very large.
As is always the case with family research such as this, the farther back one goes, the cloudier it becomes; family myths grow larger and larger, and actual knowledge of historical events becomes more and more confused. Fortunately, in the case of the Bohnstedt Family in America, one document was uncovered that resolved a number of questions. This document, acquired by Marvin Bohnstedt, was an official letter from the Prussian government granting permission to Johann Carl Christian Bohnstedt, his wife Dorothea, and their eight children, to emigrate to America.
Prior to this document becoming widespread knowledge many Bohnstedt family groups had traced their ancestry back to one of these eight children, but had gone no farther. This is because each of those eight children had come from Germany and their ancestry could not be traced farther back into Germany without some difficulty. But there on the document were the full names of each of the eight children, along with their birth dates. The names and dates of these children matched up, in some cases perfectly, to the names and birth dates of the ancestors of these Bohnstedt family groups in America.
Furthermore, it appears that Carl and Dorothea continued to use the document as a convenient place to record the births of four more children born in America, including my own ancestor, Ludwig "Lewis" Bohnstedt. If it was convenient for them, it was even more convenient for those of us conducting research. Here was the proof that nearly all of the Bohnstedt branches in America were related.
Prussian government document giving permission to Carl and Dorothea to emigrate to America with their eight children
The names of the eight children who emigrated to America are listed here as they are on the document:
1. Johann Carl Christian, geboren [born] 31 May 1829
2. Catherine Elisabeth, geboren 10 July, 1831
3. Anna Catherine Sophia, geboren 11 [March, or perhaps May], 1833
4. Johann Christian Friedrich, geboren 20 [month uncertain, may be December], 1834
5. Johann August Heinrich, geboren 20 May, 1837
6. Georg August Heinrich Gottlieb, geboren 19 July 1839
7. Friederike Christiane Elisabeth, geboren 4 September 1841
8. Johann Heinrich Christoph, geboren 13 December 1845
In the lower right hand corner someone, probably one of the parents, had kept a record of children born in America:
Amerika, geboren [born in America]
Followed below by the names:
Ludwig [we believe this to be the correct spelling], 1851
There is a a third entry which is difficult to make out, but we believe this to be Ludwig's twin. Because this twin never appears in any other records, we believe this child was stillborn or died as an infant.
The fourth entry appears to be:
Further contacts with Sparky and Marvin Bohnstedt yielded more valuable information. They had traced the ancestry of Johann Carl Christian Bohnstedt to his father, Johann Gottlieb Bohnstedt, a professional soldier, born in 1765 in the small town of Gevensleben, Germany. Records later surfaced which provided one more name from a single document, the name of Johann Gottlieb's father, Johann Matthäus Bohnstedt, an innkeeper in Gevensleben.
In the meantime I began collecting names and telephone numbers from U.S. phone directories, and making telephone calls. I found that there were certain individuals in just about every family that had become the family historian, and were entrusted with the recording of events such as births, deaths, marriages, etc. In some cases these individuals had also done a certain amount of research into their own family ancestry. When I came into contact with these family historians they always generously shared their information with me, enabling me to add large portions of historical research to the growing American Bohnstedt family tree.
I might also add that in some cases, some of these family historians were the wives of Bohnstedts who had married into the family. The fact that they were such careful guardians of their husband's family history deserves thanks from the rest of us.
After the Printed Edition had been distributed in 1998 it was sometime before I began seriously working on preparing for this CD-ROM digital edition. One person I came into contact with and who provided extremely valuable help was Lois Branch, a great-great granddaughter of Anna Catherine Sophie "Mary" Bohnstedt. She collected a large number of U.S. census records spanning nearly a century, all digitally imaged, and passed them along to me. Besides the obvious advantage of being able to store them on this CD-ROM for your interest, they also provided some refinement of our own family history, and some clarification of certain historical matters, for example the descendants of Charles Bohnstedt.
1. Ships passenger list from the Brig "Pioneer" in 1848, showing Carl "Charles" and Dorothea Bohnstedt and their eight children.
2. The family bible of Johann Carl Christian Bohnstedt (Jr.) and Mary Ann (Cappel) Bohnstedt. The registry pages listed Carl and Mary Ann, and several of their children.
Lois also acquired some other valuable imaged documents, including a ship's passenger list for the "Pioneer" in 1848, which listed Carl and Dorothea Bohnstedt and their eight children. This turned out to be a perfect compliment to the emigration document from the Prussian government because, although the children were listed only under their first names, the names on this list still matched that of the emigration document.
In October of 2007 I received an e-mail from Erin Curry, an artist. Erin collects antique books and objects and makes art of them. While visiting a book sale in Gainseville, Florida she found an old German family bible. In the middle of the bible she found some names in the family registry, names of Bohnstedts. Thinking that a Bohnstedt family somewhere might like to have the bible back because of the family history in the registry, she did a search for "Bohnstedt" on the Worldwide Web. She found my website, contacted me, and sent me some digital pictures of the registry pages. When I offered to buy the bible from her she sent it to me and refused to take any payment for it.
The names and dates in the registry pages proved to be valuable information in our research into the history of the Bohnstedt family in America.
Because I had taken so many years since the distribution of the 1998 Printed Edition to begin work on the CD-ROM edition, I felt the need to begin re-contacting many Bohnstedt families, as I had done in Europe, and update information. I found that as the years had passed a lot had happened; there had been new births, and unfortunately, some deaths, new marriages, graduations and careers.
What follows here is a combination of research done for the 1998 Printed Edition, updated and refined and in some cases, corrected, with research done since that time. Most of the narrative has been re-written and re-organized.
3-2 / From Gevensleben to Calvörde to Braunschweig
3-3 / The Sea Voyages to America, and the Bohnstedt Settlers in Ohio
3-4 / The Descendants of August Georg Wilhelm Ludwig Bohnstedt in Ohio and Wyoming
3-5 / The Bohnstedt Family and the American Civil War
3-6 / The Descendants of Johann Carl Christian and Wilhelm Bohnstedt in Illinois
Back to Part 3 ...