The Early Stammbaum
The Origin and Provenance of the Watercolor Stammbaum
When my research into the Bohnstedt family history expanded into Europe and other parts of the world I came into contact with Wolfram Edgar Bohnstedt of Melbourne Australia. It was just a random check of some Australian telephone directory and his name appeared. This contact was fortuitous because of what Wolfram provided to assist in my research efforts. He took hi-resolution photos of a number of his family heirlooms which survived the second world war. But the real treasure were photos of two surviving pieces of a large watercolor chart which his grandfather, Oscar Hugo Edgar Victor Bohnstedt, had originally had in his possession.
1-2. The two surviving pieces of the watercolor chart. They were handed down from Oscar Hugo Edgar Victor Bohnstedt to his grandson, Wolfram Edgar Bohnstedt who photographed them with 35 mm film, and sent the negatives and color prints to me.
These two surviving pieces showed several branches of the Bohnstedt family, which I now refer to as “Group 1” in Germany, Swedish Pomerania, Sweden and Russia. But it didn’t show how they were originally connected because that part of the chart (along with most of the rest of it) had been destroyed.
The two pieces, placed together, in high-resolution.
The story I had heard years ago regardong the origin and fate of the chart was as follows: The chart had at one time been mounted to the inside of a church wall near the family's home. Near the end of the second world war, as the Soviet Red Army was advancing west, the chart was removed, and was sent west along with other family heirlooms, on a railroad car. The train with railroad car was in a railyard in Dresden when the city was subjected to a massive Allied bombing raid. The train and the car with the family treasures was destroyed in the bombing. The chart itself was heavily damaged, and only two pieces – the pieces that appear in this article – were recovered.
Many years later, during a personal telephone conversation with Wolfram Bohnstedt, I was told that the story about the chart being damaged in an Allied bombing raid was not correct, it turns out. Furthermore, Wolfram could not be certain that it was even on a church wall. I also asked Wolfram if he knew whether the chart had been at the Krämersdorf estate (a natural assumption since it was passed down from Wolfram's grandfather, Oscar Hugo Edgar Victor Bohnstedt), or whether it had been in the provenance of another part of the family, at another estate. Again, Wolfram was not really certain. The only thing he was certain about was that it had been handed down to him (Wolfram), and that, before it had been destroyed it had been considerably larger.
Having said all of this the chart itself, even though we only have two surviving pieces of it, tells those of us engaged in Bohnstedt family history some very useful things.
Analyzing the Watercolor Stammbaum
The first thing that became apparent to me was that these two surviving pieces must have been connected. Looking at the lower vertical edges it certainly looked like they were once fit together. Reviewing some of the names I discovered that there were names from the same family group in Sweden, thus supporting the idea that these two pieces were originally adjoined.
1. It was self-evident that these two panels were adjoined before they were damaged. A review of some of the names on the left and right pieces of the chart show that they were part of the same family. 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.
2. A general identification of the various branches of Bohnstedt "Group 1" by geographic region; Swedish Pomerania, Sweden, Russia, and Germany
The next thing that became clear was that whoever drew this chart KNEW that the German Bohnstedt branches were originally connected with the Bohnstedt branches in Swedish Pomerania, Sweden and Russia. Evidence for this had already been given to me by Wolfgang Bohnstedt. Seeing these connections in this chart was a powerful reinforcement of that idea.
Close inspection revealed names from thee Swedish Pomeranian and Swedish Bohnstedt branches (on both panels), the Russian Bohnstedts (on the left side) and the German-Prussian Bohnstedts (on the right side). This confirmed that the artist knew that these family lines had originally descended from the same ancestor. It is clear that the artist knew that the Bohnstedt branches in Germany and Prussia (from Christoph Bohnstedt, Johann Dietrich "Theodor" Bohnstedt, and August Wilhelm Bohnstedt) were originally related to the Bohnstedt branches in Swedish Pomerania, Sweden and Russia through Christoph Bohnstedt's brother, Jacob Bohnstedt, and Jacob and Christoph's father, Bartholomäus Bohnstedt.
I don’t know if it was Edgar Bohnstedt himself who drew this Watercolor Stammbaum, but it WAS he who drew (or had someone draw) the 1939 Stammbaum, which measured over 13 feet. Martin Bohnstedt and his father had helped me procure a copy of the 1939 Stammbaum chart, and he told me that it’s purpose was for the artist to present his family’s German lineage to the Nazi government. The 1939 Stammbaum does not include the Bohnstedt branches in Pomerania, Sweden or Russia; only those in Germany. But even if Edgar did not include non-German branches of the Bohnstedt family in the 1939 Stammbaum, he must have known about them because of the earlier Watercolor Stammbaum.
The 1939 Stammbaum created by Edgar Bohnstedt.
Another thing that is interesting about this chart is that the surviving pieces show the “Trunk” of the Bohnstedt family tree in Europe. An examination of the names on the trunk shows that some of them date back to the 1300’s! But I do not believe that there was any documentary evidence of family lineage found to support this. I believe that the artist found some older names which had some superficial resemblance to “Bohnstedt” and “Bonstedt”, and strung them together as a kind of family line. I personally believe that this was theory or wishful thinking. That idea is supported by the illustrations which the artist included on the face of the chart.
An explanation of the illustrations on the water color Stammbaum
The artist included drawings of at least two of the Bohnstedt Coat-of-Arms (Swedish and Prussian), and an illustration which was captioned “Kaltenhausen”, which I am certain was a portrayal of the outbuildings of the Kaltenhausen estate near Kloster-Zinna.
1. The artist of the watercolor Stammbaum included this among the illustrations on the face of the chart (Left). It is captioned "Kaltenhausen". Although Hermann Wilhelm Otto Bohnstedt (who was a settler in Southwest Africa) named one of his farming properties "Kaltenhausen", presumably in memory of the Kaltenhausen estate where he was born and grew up near Kloster-Zinna, it is almost certain that the illustration on the watercolor Stammbaum is named for the original manor house in Germany (Right), rather than southwest Africa. The style of the building in the illustration is very similar in style and structure to the outbuildings at the Kaltenhausen Estate in Germany. However there are subtle differences, and although they are all very similar in style and structure, none of the actual buildings is an exact match for the illustration with regard to the details. It is possible that the artist was drawing from memory without a photograph to work from. If the original artist was in fact Edgar Bohnstedt it's easy to imagine that he may have drew the illustration from a memory of a visit to the Kaltenhausen estate when he was a child. It is curious however that he chose to draw one of the outbuildings rather than the manor house itself.
2. The outbuildings on the Kaltenhausen Estate. Although the photographic image is not a precise match with the drawing on the chart, the artist identified it as "Kaltenhausen". Perhaps the artist (who may have been Edgar Bohnstedt) was elsewhere and could have drawn it from memories of a visit to the Kaltenhausen Estate, which was once owned by his grandfather, Ludwig Ferdinand Wilhelm Bohnstedt, and then later, his uncle, Paul Bohnstedt.
But there are also illustrations of a church in a town called “Bodenstedt”, and a ruined medieval church on the island of Visby, in Gotland, Sweden. As with the names dating back to the 1300’s, it appears that the artist hoped to find a connection between these buildings and the Bohnstedts. With regard to the church in Bodenstedt, there have been cases of records involving Bohnstedts in Germany in times past in which the family name was misspelled “Bonstedt”, “Bohnstadt”, “Bohnstaedt”, and a number of other spelling variations, including “Bodenstedt”. Such cases were most likely due to ignorance on the part of the clerk who created the records.
1. Satellite view of the Kaltenhausen Estate. On the right side is the manor house. On the left, the outbuildings
2. The manor house on the Kaltenhausen Estate. It's curious that the artist chose to draw one of the outbuildings rather than the manor house.
As for the ruined church (“Kirchenruine”) in Gotland, Sweden. The connection between the Bohnstedts and this ruined church in Sweden is that there was once someone named “Albert Bonstet” in Gotland, Sweden. But in practical reality, this is not really any kind of evidence for a connection with the Bohnstedt family in Germany and Europe; it is simply a coincidence of names, and neither Wolfgang Bohnstedt or myself have EVER found any connection between the distant ancestors of the Bohnstedt family in Sweden. The Swedish branch of this family did not arrive in Sweden until the 1700s, and they settled Stockholm, not Gotland.
Despite all this, the chart is a treasure, and it’s a tragedy that so much of it was destroyed.
What is Missing?
It seems self-evident that there must be a great deal of information that went missing with the pieces that were destroyed in Dresden. The artist used a watercolor drawing of a tree to create a “Family tree”. It’s obvious that a lot of the “branches” are missing. If the original chart was square, there must have been quite a lot of information on that chart, especially the German branches of this family group.
If the chart was originally square when it was intact it must have contained many names. As an experiment I superimposed the images of the two pieces of the water color Stammbaum over the top of a tree. I chose a Linden tree because it has special meaning in ancient German lore, and because the coat-of-arms that Johann Dietrich Bohnstedt and August Wilhelm Bohnstedt began using in the 1700's portrayed three linden trees. As can be seen, if the chart was originally square, we are indeed missing a large percentage of the chart, and the information it contained.
One thing that does not appear on these two pieces are names of the Bohnstedt family line in Essen, Germany; Pastor David Sigismund Bohnstedt, or any of his descendants. But given that the Pomeranian, Swedish and Russian Branches were originally included on the chart, it is very likely that the “Western” Bohnstedt family line in Essen was on the undamaged chart. That being the case, it might also have been possible that the Coat-of-Arms used by Pastor David Bohnstedt (with a chalice and wings), and which is verifiably connected to David Bohnstedt in heraldry books, was included somewhere on the chart.
1-2. "Westfalen" Bohnstedt Coat-of-Arms. To this day we are not certain of the colors used in this Coat-of-Arms. On the left is an image from a large "catalog" of German coats-of-arms. But they are all in monochrome. It is unfortunate that we are missing the other pieces of the watercolor Stammbaum. It is likely that the artist included names from the line of Pastor David S. Bohnstedt. Since the artist also included illustrations from the other two Bohnstedt coats-of-arms from Sweden and Prussia, it is also possible that he might also have included an illustration of these Coat-of-Arms (above) of David Sigismund Bohnstedt. One wonders if he might have had information that would have confirmed our estimation of what the colors were for these arms.
And if so, …. Who knows? Perhaps the artist had access to information which described the actual colors used on that Coat-of-Arms, something we have yet to confirm.
5-4 / Appendix D: Ny Svensk Släktbok
5-10 / Appendix I: Stammbaum der Familie Bohnstedt (1923)
5-11 / Appendix J: Stammbaum der Familie Bohnstedt (1939)
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