Cousins – Otto: God Bless His Soul!

Otto Stange was born on March 9, 1836 in the holländer’s house next to the old water castle of Plattenburg. His parents were Friedrich Stange and Caroline Bochin Stange and he was their 5th child, in fact he was the fifth son! So, there was a lot going on in the house, not only with 5 boys but also with the grandparents Johann Friedrich and Maria Stange living in the household. When sweet little Otto is two months old, his brother Friedrich, then 4 years of age, suddenly dies of shingles and is laid to rest next to his four Leiffheidt-cousins on the cemetery of Groß-Leppin. So far Friedrich’s family had been lucky, it was the first child to lose, the other ones, August Justus (9), Carl (6), Albert(1,5)  and Otto were healthy and strong. That was much more than other families could say, not only the forester family Leiffheidt with Friedrich’s sister Dorothea had gone through a lot, even the owners of the manorial farm of Plattenburg, the noble family von Saldern had suffered many losses.

The children’s’ lives were always in danger, be it because of  infectious diseases, diarrhea or even a bad cough could led to death. But maybe the very strict hygienic rules in the Stange-household due of their dairy business, were a reason for them not having gone through too many diseases? And of course there was plenty of food in this household, not only milk and cheese but also meat from the pigs they had. Or maybe they simple had been lucky. But there were others dangers to a child living on the country side; there simply could have been accidents, maybe being run over by a horse, the danger of open fire or the risk of drowning.

And so it was; on October 10, 1845 Otto fell from an wagon and died due to this accident. He was laid to rest next to his meanwhile 6 Leiffheidt-cousins and his grandmother Marie Stange, who had died the year before and his grandfather Johann Friedrich Stange, who had died only one month earlier.

But he was not forgotten. His brother Albert, who had immigrated to America, named his son Otto. This is what he wrote to his brother Carl in Germany in 1865:  “When I told you about my marriage and the birth of a daughter in my last letter, please know that since then we have one more daughter and then a dickes fettes Söhnchen (=a little fat baby boy), a little Otto, who looks just like his Uncle Otto, bless his memory. He was born on November 7, 64. At the age of 3 weeks he all of the sudden got seriously ill, so that we were afraid he would not live to see the next morning, but he stayed with us thanks to God’s help and now he is healthy and well.”

His brother Carl named his second son Otto as well. And this Otto became 99 years old!

Coming soon: Cousins – Justus: The Prussian Way

Posted in Letters to..., Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cousins – Auguste: I’m Still Standing!

On February 24, 1824 the first granddaughter of Johann Friedrich Stange and his wife Maria is born in the small village of Vahrnow in the Prignitz in Brandenburg. Her parents are Auguste Stange, their oldest daughter, and her husband Heinrich Wandmacher. Both of them had grown up together, Heinrich Wandmacher’s father being the holländer in Plattenburg and Johann Friedrich Stange being the holländer in the neighboring village of Kletzke. Auguste and Heinrich had been married a year earlier in Wilsnack. Auguste had been brought up to be a loyal hollanders’ wife and it was clear that she not only would be a wife and mother, but also be in charge of the dairy business, processing the milk to cheese and yogurt, which Heinrich would then sell on the market. But it does not seem to have been a happy marriage.

One year later the family moves to Schilde, north of Wittenberge, where the next child is born, this time it is a boy.  But this little baby, that will be named Johann Friedrich Heinrich, will die only 14 days later. The next years it is moving around again, in 1829 they live in Dargardt, where their third and last child Juliane Friederike Caroline is born. But in 1833, when Auguste Stange Wandmacher is a godmother of her nephew August Leiffheidt, the church book states: “separated”; in 1838, at her daughter Auguste’s conformation, she is divorced, with her former husband living close by.

According to the articles 668-718 of the Prussian Civil Code from 1794, divorce is possible if one of the following reasons applies:  1) adultery 2) abandonment of the family 3) refusal of performing the conjugal duties 4) inability of performing the conjugal duties 5) rage and insanity 6) seeking after the spouses life 7) felonies 8) bad breeding 9) withholding of alimentation 10) change of religion 11) unsurmountable aversion.  What had happened? Of course we do not know, but when the second daughter Juliane Wandmacher gets married in 1852, the civil record states, that her father is officially declared missing; in 1855 another record states that he is deceased.

Obviously little Auguste and her sister Juliane grow up with to single mom. Mother Auguste does not move back home to her parents as one might think, but seems to be able to make a living by herself. How? We do not know, but she does seem to have enough money to make a living and even lends a large sum to her brother Friedrich (which he will not repay!). In 1843, the younger daughter Juliane is confirmed and becomes a seamstress. In 1852 she marries Johann Friedrich Frahm in Düsseldorf in the Rhineland where he does his military service.

Although already 28 years old in 1852, Auguste still lives with her mother in Bernheide, north of Wittenberge. One year later, on October 25, 1853 she will give birth to an illegitimate daughter, Anna Pauline Caroline Wandmacher, father unknown.


One and a half years later, on January 19, 1855, Auguste leaves her mother’s household taking little Anna with her to get married in Wittenberge, to the worker Wilhelm Peter Mertens. On November the same year their first daughter Marie Auguste Dorothea is born, six years later her next child is born, Minna, who dies only three months later, on New Year’s Eve. The family lives an average life in the prospering industrial town of Wittenberge, watching their two girls Anna and Marie grow up. Everything seems to be the way it should, but Auguste surely isn’t aware of that there is trouble ahead….

On September 24, 1873, Anna is 19 years old, she gives birth to an illegitimate son, Wilhelm Ferdinand Carl Wandmacher. It seems as if she leaves the baby to grow up with her mother in Wittenberge, years later, when Wilhelm gets married in 1898, the church record states regarding Anna “place of residence unknown”, in 1902 she is supposed to live in Berlin. In 1880 Auguste’s husband dies and in 1886 her daughter Marie also gives birth to an illegitimate child, a little girl that dies only three days later with out being baptized and without a name. It is a hard time for Auguste, she has to struggle to get through day by day! Not only does she have to earn money to provide for the family, she also needs to hold the family together. And it surely isn’t easy to live this kind of life, but she does stand fast, despite what happens!

But it seems to have been worth the fight, her grandson Wilhelm seems to do well, he first becomes a shipper and later becomes a fish-merchant. But Auguste will not get to know that, she dies on March 2, 1893, 69 years of age.

Postscript: Wilhelm marries twice, his first child dies at the age of 9 days, the second one only becomes 4 months and 13 days old, the third one is stillborn. He remarries and has one more daughter, Berta Minna Wandmacher, born in 1903. On April 25, 1925, Auguste Wandmacher Mertens’ great-granddaughter marries the locksmith Alfred Neumann in Wittenberge. Her children might still be living.

Picture of Wittenberge: ©Niteshift

Coming soon:

Cousins – Otto: God Bless his Soul!

Posted in History, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cousins – Minna: The Importance Of Listening To What Your Mother Says!

Minna Stange was born on May 8, 1839 at home, in the Holländer’s house, in the Lindenberger Silge, north of Lindenberg. She was baptized 3 weeks later and received the names Wilhelmine after her godmother Wilhelmine Thiel nee Zoggel, the wife of the farm administrator in Lindenberg, Emma after her godmother Emma Müller, daughter of the farm administrator of the farm in the Lindenberger Silge, and Auguste, probably after her aunt Auguste Wandmacher nee Stange. Her godfather was her Uncle Friedrich Stange. She not only grew up with her older siblings Ernestine and Gustav, but also with her cousins, who lived south of Lindenberg and seemed to visit often. She seemed to have been close with them, especially to Marie, who only was about four months younger than she.  In 1850, both families lived in walking distance to each other, Minna in Kuhwinkel, Marie in  Dergenthin. Both girls were confirmed together in the small church of Nebelin in 1853.

Then their lives took a different turn. While Marie left to work as a maid, Minna obviously did not follow in her or Ernestine’s footsteps. Probably it was her role to help her mother at home and on the farm until she would find a suitable husband, got married and had children. But leaving home to become a maid might not have suited her anyway, as living as a domestic servant on a manorial farm meant hard labor, and far to often oppression and exploitation, even for somebody coming from a “better” family. But unfortunately there wasn’t too much of a career choice for girls in those days.

In 1854 her brother Gustav left for America, one year later her uncle Friedrich followed, joined by his family including her cousin Marie. Only three weeks after their departure her father suddenly became ill and died of Pneumonia, only 60 years old. As Ernestine had left the household already, all of the sudden Minna was alone with her mother in their house in Klein Berge. Was the small village of Klein Berge the right place to find a husband, coming from the right social class and being able to provide the life her parents had wanted for her? A young farm administrator, skilled craftsman, or maybe even the school teacher? All of them were either old or taken. Was she afraid that she would have to spend the rest of her life living on the country side under her mother’s thumb while life was passing her by? Was that all that life had to offer? Wouldn’t it be great to live in Berlin like her sister Ernestine? And so the years went by….

Seven years later, on July 15, 1862, she is finally married in the church of Berge. And it sure was about time, she would give birth to her son Gustav August Ferdinand only three weeks later….. Obviously she hadn’t been a good girl and had waited until she and the father to be were married. And looking at the church book she surely wasn’t the only one. Why did they get married that late? The answer is quite simple – the groom definitely was not mister right and her mother obviously did not give her consent to marry…..! Her main concern probably was that he belonged to the working class whilst Minna belonged to the rural middle class. And not only did he come from a different background, he probably would not have been able to provide for a wife and certainly not a family. In that case, she might have thought it to be easier to live with the shame, when knowing that her daughter and grandchild would have a roof over their heads and enough food on the table!

But Minna’s mind was set on this guy, and she saw to it that the Guardians’ court gave its consent, which she needed, although she already is 23 years of age.  And then she became Mrs. Carl Otto August Wilke, wife of the street-maker Wilke from Berlin! But she would have to learn the hard way that is sometimes is better to listen to what your mother says!

What might have sounded exciting first, was not at all exciting in real life and she will soon find out as soon the three of them moved to Berlin. Mr. Wilke, worked as a regular laborer, and the family lived in some backyard in the slums of Berlin from hand to mouth. Two more babies were born: Emma Marie Pauline in 1864 and Anna Emma Marie in 1866. But soon after her husband died, probably of tuberculosis, as did his father. Minna was alone in this big and dangerous town. She, who came from a family who in times of need were there for each other, was now entirely on her own. She obviously did not move home, to Klein Berge, nor to her sister in Perleberg.

What she needed to do was to get a job, maybe in some factory or, even better, find a husband who would be willing and able to provide for the family. Obviously she did find somebody, unfortunately, it did not end up in marriage, but in giving  birth to a baby girl named Helene Wilhelmine Stange (and not Wilke, as it is an illegitimate child) in 1869. Little Helene died only 3 months later, which is the last we know from Minna, she and her children vanished…. What became of her? And did she teach her daughters that you should always listen to what your mother says?

Coming soon:

Cousins – Auguste: I’m still standing!

Posted in History, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cousins – Gustav: Sometimes Things Don’t Go Your Way. Or Do They?

Ernestine’s younger brother Gustav August was seven years her minor, born in 1834. Where exactly he was born we do not know, but I would think somewhere in an area which today is called Wendland, on the other side of the river Elbe.  In contrast to Ernestine as a girl, he had many more opportunities on what to do with his life. It was clear that he would not follow in his father’s footsteps, he would not become a Holländer. But what would he do instead? The piece of land his father had bought, probably was not big enough to make a living for him and his family.

Like his father, uncles and male cousins he surely received a good education, be it by his father or the administrator of one the farms where the family lived, or at a school in some bigger town (and surely not the village school). Maybe he attended the Bürgerschule in Perleberg, a school with a good reputation, joined by his cousin Albert? At the age of 15 he was confirmed in the St. Jacobi Church in Perleberg, like his sister Ernestine before. There is a good case to believe that he then learned a trade, as did his cousins. But which one?

Growing up on a farm, Gustav certainly had acquired many skills, he surly knew a lot about farming, making and maintaining tools, animal breading and much more. But as he never appeared to be a godparent in the church records of where his parents lived, we do not have any information on what exactly he did. But what we do know for sure, is that he did not do his military service. He simply deserted and left for America! The border to the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg was close and could be passed easily as there hardly was any cross-border control. When asked about his place of origin by the clerk in the port of Hamburg he stated “Klein Bergen in Mecklenburg”, whilst his place of origin was Klein Berge in Brandenburg, Prussia. Was this some misunderstanding between the clerk and him, or did he deliberately name a different country?


Was the upcoming draft and military service the only reason to leave or didn’t he see a future for him in Germany? Did he want to start something new? One thing is sure: having grown up in a rural middle-class family, it would have been hard to continue living like this, to maintain a living standard, and to find his place in this hierarchical built society. It probably meant to leave the Prignitz anyway, so why not leave for America? Together with his cousin Albert he boarded the ship Donau on 1 April 1854 and left Germany for good.

They arrived in New York on May 17, 1854. The first thing they did was to go to the German Society of New York in order to find a place to work. But things did not go as Gustav had planed. His intention had been to go right to New York City and stay. But when arriving there, he must have realized that that would not be possible. Through the German Society he got in touch with a farmer from New Paltz in the Hudson Valley and decided to move there and work as a farm helper. He and Albert stayed in touch through letters and when Albert lost his job as a farm helper in Connecticut in the early fall of 1854, Gustav suggested that he should join him in New Paltz.

Both boys planed on staying there throughout the winter of 1854/1855. This is the last we know of Gustav, he is gone…… What happened to him? Did he stay in the Hudson valley, got married and became a farmer?  Did he leave and go west, south or north? Did he return to Germany after his father’s sudden death in April 1855, now being the head of the family? Or, following his dream, did he go to New York City? We do not know…. But I certainly do hope that it went his way and he was able to live his dream….

 Coming soon:

Cousins – Minna: The Importance Of Listening To What Your Mother Says!

Cousins – Auguste: I’m still standing!


Posted in History, Immigration, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cousins – Ernestine: Everything Proceeded In Orderly Manner

Carl Stange, the oldest son of Johann Friedrich and Maria Stange, was born in 1795 in Eickerhöfe in the Altmark, Prussia, and like his father became a Holländer as well. We know that his parents moved often and that he was confirmed in the Wunderblutkirche in Wilsnack in 1811. In 1819, he worked as a clerk on a manorial farm in Mecklenburg-Schwerin and was unmarried. Where and when he married we do not know (yet!), but we do know that he was married to Caroline Schulze. As his ancestors, he did move around a lot, where exactly he lived and where his first two children were born we do not know. And probably there were even more children born to the couple than the three children we know of. Besides the Prignitz in Brandenburg and Mecklenburg, he probably lived in the Kingdom of Hanover as well. Around 1835 he returned to the fold and took over the Holländer contract in the Lindenberger Silge, close to Cumlosen in the Prignitz, after his younger brother Friedrich. He stayed there for about five years, and then moved to the neighboring farm of Kuhwinkel where he worked until he moved to Berge, not far from there. It seems as if he had retired from being a Holländer or he simply wasn’t able to get a new contract. Around 1850, he bought a piece of land, apparently to live on it, maybe even to do some farming. When he suddenly died of chest fever in 1855, he left his widow and 3 children, Ernestine (27), Gustav (21) and Wilhelmine (15), named Minna.

Ernestine lives her life as it is expected from her and rather typical for a girl of her social background at that time. Born in 1827, she is confirmed in 1842 in the town of Perleberg (and not in the small village-church of Dergenthin where she lived) and must have moved from her home in Kuhwinkel to work as a house maid on a big manorial farm shortly after. Her path is different than her mother’s and aunt’s paths, times have changed and thankfully her parents have adapted to that and do not force her into a marriage with a Holländer or a farmer….. She has been educated well, she is literate (which probably is more than her mother was), she has learned arithmetic and knows how to behave and talk properly. Her father probably has made the decision on what to do and where to go, and being a good and obedient daughter, she follows the path her parents have chosen for her. As a member of the rural middle class, it is clear that she will not stay a maid for the rest of her life – she is bound to become a housekeeper, either in the household of a big farm or in a large well-to-do household in a big town, maybe even in the “place-to-be” Berlin?

In 1853, she is 26 years old, she is mentioned as a godmother in the church book of Dergenthin being the housekeeper at the farm in Kuhwinkel, the same for the following year. She does not get married as a young girl, and why should she, she has her own income and work and a good housekeeper can chose wherever she would like to go. And she can save some money for her dowry. Obviously she is able to work herself up and leave the boring country side. The next we know is that in 1863 she lives in Berlin and works as a housekeeper. In January 1863 she marries the miller Thormann from Perleberg, also he belonging to the middle class. But she does not marry in Perleberg but in Berlin, in the St. Bartholomäus Church. She is then 35 years old, her husband is 28. Naturally she will not continue to work as a housekeeper, instead she will be a house wife and one year later the mother of little Wilhelm Carl Friedrich Thormann. Then, the family seems to move from Perleberg and it is unclear what becomes of her and her family. Maybe she had one or two more children, her husband being the employed master miller at some mill in Brandenburg or Mecklenburg. Or does he take the opportunity to buy a mill of his own, somewhere in the eastern provinces, in the Neumark maybe?
I do not know. But knowing Ernestine I would guess that her life proceeded in orderly manner. Which is more than I can say about her siblings…..

Coming soon:

Cousins – Gustav: Sometimes Things Don’t Go your Way. Or Do They?

Cousins – Minna: The Importance Of Listening To What Your Mother Says!

Posted in History, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cousins – Where It All Began

On May 4, 1794 Johann Friedrich Stange wedded Maria Höger in Bälow on the river Elbe. She was the daughter of a local hereditary tenant. Johann Friedrich Stange was a Holländer as most of his ancestors had been, the sons following in their father’s footsteps for centuries.

But what a was Holländer and what was their daily work? His grandson Albert Stange would later state that his grandfather was a “dairy man”. And, of course, this was what Johann Friedrich was. However, I prefer to say “he was in the dairy business”, as it does bring out the complexity of this profession. In former times the large manorial farms had outsourced the animal husbandry and focused on agriculture. The dairy business was then leased to the so-called Holländer (named after the dutch (=Holländer) who once helped build up this system). The Holländer leased the cows (and sometimes also sheep) on larger estates. The squire provided stalls, grazing pastures, winter feed and firewood. He received in return from the Holländer a certain amount of money as rent for each cow, payable in three installments, the first payment on May 1st, the second on June 24th and the third on St. Martin’s Day on November 11th. The Holländer assumed care and supply of the herd; his wife, the Holländerin, was responsible for processing the milk, making butter and cheese and ensuring proper hygiene. Also, he took over sales of the products in the surrounding area and on the larger city markets. They were employers, providing jobs to farm hands and maids. In addition to the leased cows, the family also had their own cattle and swine, which would be fed with the whey resulting from cheese making. This allowed the family to earn extra income.

Johann Friedrich Stange was a self-employed enterpriser, belonging to the rural middle-class. He must have had a certain amount of financial means. He did not only need money for the lease, but also for  several types of equipment, which had to be purchased and maintained. He had to understand a lot about animals, for he needed to recognize at first glance whether the herd will produce a profit. He must have been good in arithmetic and able to think in a commercial way. And besides his skills in the diary production, he also was a salesman, a marketing expert and a good negotiator.

Maria, his wife, did not come from a Holländer-family. However, she probably knew a lot about farming and the dairy business, as she had been working on a farm for all of her life. She obviously did not attend school, we know from other sources that she was illiterate. Throughout her life she would sign with three crosses.

As members of the rural middle-class the Holländer were definitely quite respected. Most importantly, they were not subjects of the aristocracy and are more or less able to make free decisions concerning themselves. At the time, this was something that was only possible for a small part of the rural population.

Johann Friedrich and Maria moved around a lot, always looking for good contracts. Unfortunately, more and more estate-owners decided  to take care of the dairy business themselves. They employed the so called “Schweizer” (Swiss) who a had a reputation of being excellent milkers. But despite this obviously worrying developement, the couple decided that their children should follow in their footsteps. The boys should be Holländer, the girls should get married to one. A fatal decision…..

They had five children:

1) Carl Stange, a Holländer, born 1795 in Eickerhöfe, Altmark, Prussia. He and his wife had three children, Ernestine, Gustav and Minna.

2) Auguste Stange, born 1796 in Putlitz, Prignitz, Prussia. She married the Holländer Heinrich Wandmacher, they have three children: Auguste, Johann and Juliane.

3) Friedrich Stange, a Holländer, born 1798 in Putlitz, Prignitz, Prussia, my g-g-g-grandfather. He and his wife Caroline Bochin had 6 children: Justus, Carl (my g-g-grandfather), Friedrich, Albert, Otto and Marie.

4) Dorothea Stange, born 1800. I already wrote about her saddening life in the story “A Woman’s Life” which you can read here:

5) Christian Stange, born 1803, unfortunately I do not know anything about him.

Including Dorothea’s six children there were 18 grandchildren I know of, none of them being a Holländer nor the wife of a Holländer. The reason is simple: the profession of a Holländer had ceased…..


Coming soon

Cousins – Ernestine: Everything Proceeded In Orderly Manner

Cousins – Gustav: Sometimes Things Don’t Go your Way. Or Do They?

Cousins – Minna: The Importance Of Listening To What Your Mother Says!

Posted in Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment



My great-great-grandfather Carl Stange had 5 siblings and at least 12 cousins, all of them being born between 1824 and 1839. They all, or at least those who survived, lived close to each other on the country side in the Prignitz in Brandenburg, Prussia. Their godparents were their uncles and aunts, some cousins were confirmed together, they visited often, they were close. Their grandparents lived in my g-g-g-father’s house house until their death in 1844 resp. 1845. It seemed to be a family, who in times of need were there for each other.

But the world around them changed, things were not the same as they were when they were children. And then, in the early 1850s everything began to fall apart. Emigration, death, different career paths and marriages drove them away from their homes and their family, most of them even left the Prignitz. In the beginning they tried to stay in touch but soon even the siblings lost contact.

They all had more or less the same starting point belonging to the well-to-do rural middle class. But their lives turned out to be totally different from what their parents thought it would be at their time of birth. Some lives improved, others ended in the slums of Berlin.

In the upcoming  stories I will show the different paths each of them took, the decisions they had to make, and how historical events and the social status quo affected their lives and to where it lead them.


Posted in History, Stories, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment