Tracking the Emigres of Schwenningen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

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Schwenningen, Württemberg, Germany
Year range
1847 - present

The 1847 Town-Subsidized Emigration of the Poor

In Stories from Those who came from Around the Neckar Area (1907?), written by Otto Benzing about the history of Schwenningen includes the story of the Schwenningen emigrants of 1847. The book describes how the extreme cold and wet of 1846 resulted in a bad grain and potato harvest, leading to the beginning of a famine (in German: Hungersnot). A Villingen journalist compiled newspaper stories and editorial about the emigration.

This famine resulted in a large number of impoverished residents in Schwenningen. The municipality of Schwenningen calculated that it would cost less to send the poorest to America than it would to support them until the famine ended. Therefore, the community decided to finance the emigration of the poorest people who were willing to emigrate. As many as 240 people reported for emigration. By April 1847, a total of 190 men, women and children left Schwenningen. (Researcher Warren Atcheson has a translation of a "passport" dated 12 April 1847 giving Jakob Jaeckle permission to leave and assuring safe travel.)


Their trip took them initially to the German city of Mainz, where the group divided into two. The first group (65 persons) was brought to London and from there to New York on 28 April 1847. This is confirmed by research conducted by Sharon Sheppard. She found a pension claim deposition in which her ancestress, Catharina Gula, reported that her family left Schwenningen the day after her birthday, that they arrived in New York, and went up the Hudson River and settled near Albany. (This evidence is supported by the 1850 census; see GULA below.)

The second and larger group was brought (via Rotterdam) to London. But upon arriving in London, this second group found that there was no ship to New York available. So this larger group sailed on 26 May 1847 to Quebec, Canada. From there, they were transported to the United States.

Johannes Rapp and Jakob Weiler, having each come on a separate ship, did join up in Wapakoneta, Auglaize Co., OH. From there, they wrote a letter to the Schwenningen city council, reporting that they had arrived in good condition.

What follows is the list of these emigres, with an attempt to identify which family in Schwenningen they are attached to (i.e., their ancestry), where they settled in North America, and which current-day researcher(s) are working on or otherwise related to them.

The list from which this first table is compiled clearly says "Henrik Hudson" and "28 April 1847 " on it. But this is the larger group, which came on the later ship through Canada. The first pair of M/F columns are for those over the age of 12; the second set for children; "Inf" is infants. These distinctions were important because of how the town paid for their emigration.

Head of Family Name Occupation M F M F Inf Notes
Link, Matthias uhrmacher 1 1   2 1 Initially settled in Roulette, Potter, PA (1850), but by 1870 had moved to Dunkirk, Chataqua, NY (still there in 1880).
Jauch, Andreas schuster 2   2 2   While on this list, may have been one of those who "lost heart;" research of descendant Jillaine Smith indicates Andreas' son Ludwig didn't emigrate until 1867. Question: where were they between 1847 and 1867?!
Martin Mueller, Conradt taglohner 1 1 1     Initially settled in Buffalo, NY (1850), but-- like Matthias Link, above-- by 1860, they settled in Dunkirk, Chataqua, NY.
Balthas Wirthner maurer 1 1 1 2    
Thomas Wirthner taglohner 1 2 2      
Jakob Jaekle schuster 1 3 3   1  
Anna Maria Wirthner   1     1    
Maria Haller geb. Jauch   1 1 2    

But on original list, this line is crossed out; on another it's not crossed out, but "geb. Jauch" is left off.
There's a Christian Haller, b. abt. 1802, and Mary Haller, b. abt. 1800, in Pusheta, Auglaize Co., OH in 1850 census (living very close to a KAIFER family, but not one on this list).

There's a John (26, tailor) and Maria (20) Haller, b. 1829, in 4th ward Buffalo, NY in 1850, with a dau Maria (1).

There's a Daniel (45) and Mary (39) Haller with children Anna and Patrick in 4th ward Buffalo.

There are a number of other German-born Mary Hallers throughout the 1850 census.

Illegible   1 1 1 2    
Maria Speck     1   2   There's a Mary Speck of right age in Philadelphia, PA, and also one in Clyde, St. Clair, MI
Andreas Wirthner taglohner 4 2 1 3 1 Settled in Buffalo, Erie, NY (1850-1870, at least)
Johannes Mayer taglohner? 2 1 3     Entire line crossed out
Johannes Mayer   2 1 1 2   On one list, but not another ; brother of Philipp below? Settled in Cleveland, OH. Ancestor of Jeanine Scholz.
Illegible   1          
Anna Maria Mayer     1 1      
Katharina Mayer     1       Might be the Katharina geb. Schrenk of Schwenningen, wife of Jakob Meier, who dies in Buffalo on 15 Aug 1869, with a birth listed of 30 Oct 1803.
Agatha Flaig     2   2    
Catharina Benzing     1   2    
Katharina Vosseler     2   3 1  
Jacob Weiler taglohner 2 2 2 1 1 Ancestor of Karl Weiler; settled in Wapakoneta, OH
Philip Maher], Andreaslis   3 1 1 2   Settled in St. Mary's, Auglaize, Ohio; Jeanine Scholz is researching this line.
Martin Kaefer widower   2       Confused; male name provided but "2" listed in the adult female column.
Jacob Link, Andreas   1 1 2      
Christian Mueller   1 2   1    
Johannes Schlenker   3 1 2 1  

There's a John Schlenker family in 4th ward Buffalo, NY in 1850 census:

John M. Schlenker, 32, watchmaker (!)
Catherine, 48
Ursula, 18
Agnes, 15
Agatha, 7
Maria, 6
Agnes C., 3
all born Germany

Johannes Hilfinger   - - - - - He's on one list, not the other. No numbers are listed in the people column.
Illegible   1 1   2    
Christian Benzing     1       Or is this Christina, given that the marking is in the Adult Female column?
Illegible   1          
Jakob Palmtag Holzmacher 2 2 1 1    
Christian Kaefer   1          

This next table is compiled from a hand-written list that has no date or ship name on it; but we now know this is the group that left London first and landed in New York in April 1847.

Family Name Occupation M F M F Inf Notes
Jakob Speck Taglohner 1 1 1 1    
Jakob Jaekle   1 1 2 2 1 They settled initially in Sand Lake, NY, but ended up in Berkshire Co., Massachusetts as glassblowers. Jacob and Maria appear to have died here abt. 1880/1881. Many of their descendants ended up in Madison Co, IN. Descendants include Greg Neff.
Martin Helfinger   1 1 2 3   Settled in Buffalo, Erie, NY
Joh. Georg Gula   2 3 2 1   Settled in Averill Park, Rennselauer Co., NY. Sharron Shepperd is researching this line
(crossed out Benzing)              
Martin Laufer   1 2 2      
(two crossed out)              
Joh. Weiler, invalid weber 1 2 1 3 1  
Jakob Schlenker   1 1 1 3 1 Likely settled in Buffalo, Erie, NY (needs confirming)
Jakob? ______?? (Karl says Jauch)   2 3 3 1    
Jakob Schrenk   1 1 1 1 1  
Christian Mueller sch.... 1 1     1  
Joh. Rapp, Martins weber 2 1 1 1   co-author of letter, with Jacob Weiler, sent back to Schwenningen after safe arrival in Wapakoneta, OH.

Where they Settled

Image:1847 Schw MapUS.jpg

Research Challenges

Author Otto Benzing says the first group came from London to NY on the ship "Hendrik Hudson." But the handwritten lists of emigres (created by Schwenningen officials?) have written on the larger list (of 122) "Henrik Hudson 28 April 1847." But we know this:

  • The smaller group of 65/68 went to New York on 28 April 1847.
  • The larger group came later and through Canada.
  • Review of the Henrik Hudson passenger lists during the appropriate time frame include NO names from Schwenningen.
  • The Henrik Hudson did not go from London to Canada.

Therefore, it's likely that a) whoever wrote "Henrik Hudson 28 April 1847" did so on the wrong list. AND there is every indication that NO one from the Schwenningen emigre lists came on a ship called the Henrik Hudson.