Montag, 3. Dezember 2012

My "American" Ancestor: Casper Niemeyer

When I started tracing my family I would never have guessed that I had an ancestor who emigrated to the United States. But as it turned out, I actually have an ancestor who did just that. His name was Caspar Heinrich Niemeyer, and he was my 4x-great-grandfather. 

I'm sorry to admit but Caspar was one of my ancestors that I neglected for quite a while. I knew that he  married Catharina Elsabein Aufderheide in 1811 and that they had several children when they lived in Spenge and in Wallenbrück, which today belongs to the city of Spenge and still is a pretty rural area. It's only a few miles from where I live now.

One of Caspar and Catharina's children was Catharine Marie. She was born in 1813 and would someday be my 3x-great-grandmother because she decided to marry Johann Hermann Schwentker. 

So I knew of Caspar's marriage and the birth of some children. What I didn't know was when or where Caspar was born and when and where he died. The marriage entry in the church records didn't give too much information; all it says is that they were married April 19th, 1811 at Wallenbrück and that the groom was 22 years old, his bride was three years younger. The minister who wrote the entry was lazy. While others at that time included information like the occupation of the groom and the names and occupations of the couples' fathers, this one decided to get off quickly.

Well, at least I knew now that Caspar Heinrich was probably born in 1789. But I didn't want to rely on the age given in the entry because due to its brevity I wasn't sure that the minister had really checked the date carefully. Caspar Heinrich might as well have been born in 1787 or 1791.

I tried to find Caspar's death entry. I tried the Wallenbrück church records and all the parishes nearby. I found the marriages of some of his children, but I couldn't find Caspar's death. The name "Niemeyer" is not unusual in this area, and "Caspar Heinrich" is also an often given name. With the little information I had, I could never be sure if a Caspar Heinrich Niemeyer I would find in the records would really be the Caspar Heinrich Niemeyer I was looking for.Too bad.

So I postponed the search. I hoped that someday I would find a snippet of information that would help.

That day really came.

I was in my office, surfing the web during a coffee break.

I stumbled across a website called

It deals with people from the district of Herford who emigrated to the US, and it offers a list with emigrants' names and sometimes even further information. I was sitting there, sipping my coffee, browsing the names. Suddenly, one entry hit me:

Niemeyer, Peter Heinrich
Bardüttingdorf bei Nr. 43
ausgewandert: 1853 in die USA
verh. mit Anne Margarethe Ilsabein Potthoff, 28 J.
Der Vater, Caspar Heinrich N., 61 J. reist auch mit.

(Niemeyer, Peter Heinrich
lived at Bardüttingdorf Nr. 43
born Juli 8, 1822
emigration: 1853 to the US 
married to Anne Margarethe Ilsabein Potthoff, 28 years old 
The father, Caspar Heinrich N, 61 years old, also travels with them.) 

That was the moment I almost choked on my coffee.

This was the hint I needed. Peter Heinrich was Caspar Heinrich's son, I had copies of his birth and his marriage entries. His father mentioned in the entry was the Caspar Heinrich Niemeyer I had been looking for.

But still I had no proof, so I decided to check the passenger lists on ancestry.

This is what I found:

Look at the first line: Casper Niemeyer, farmer from Germany, 60 years old, traveling to the United States. This is the passenger list for the "Helene". She departed from Bremen to arrive at New Orleans, LA, on December 27, 1853.

Why am I so sure that "Casper Niemeyer" and "Caspar Heinrich Niemeyer" were the same person? According to his marriage entry, Caspar Heinrich must have been 64 at that point, and not only 60 years old.
The answer is simple: Peter Heinrich and his wife were traveling on the same vessel, and their ages are given correctly.

By the way, ancestry listed him as "Casper Niemeyes". Seems like the guy who indexed the records took the last "r" for an "s". But I found him anyway.

I had never assumed that Caspar Heinrich could have emigrated because I knew that he lived here in Germany when he was in his late 50s. 

The question was now: What was his age? To make a long story short: He really was 64 when he arrived at New Orleans. Seems like he gave a wrong age when he entered the US. Probably he was afraid they'd send him back.

I still don't know what happened to Caspar Heinrich after he came to New Orleans. I know his descendents settled in St. Louis, MO, as so many immigrants from Westphalia did.

So how do I know that Caspar Heinrich was 64 years old when he took the journey over the Atlantic?

Because of the marriage entry of one of his children, I had always assumed that his wife, Catharine Elsabein, was still alive in 1838. This turned out to be wrong. When I was reasearching the Schuhmacher family in the Wallenbrück church records, I discovered Catharine Elsabein's burial entry. In fact, Catharine Elsabein had died of consumption in January 1827. She left her husband and five minor children.

So my thought was: If Caspar Heinrich had been left with 5 children aged between five and 15 years, chances are that he may have married a second time. And he did:

On July 25, 1828, Caspar Heinrich Niemeyer married Cathrine Ilsabein Unterbäumer. This time, the marriage entry was full of information. It stated that Caspar was born in Enger, a nearby town, in 1789, and that his parents were Hermann Heinrich Niemeyer and Marie Ilsabein Niestrath.

Of course, the next thing I did was taking at look at the Enger church records. And immediately I found Caspar Heinrich's birth entry: He was born July 17, 1789 in Oldinghausen, a village in the parish of Enger.

So here's an overview of the Niemeyer family: 

Caspar Heinrich Niemeyer, born July 17, 1789 in Oldinghausen, Enger, Westphalia
died after December 27, 1853, probably in the USA

married I. (April 19, 1811 in Wallenbrück, Spenge, Westphalia) Catharine Elsabein Aufderheide (or Auf der Heide), born October 25, 1786 in Wallenbrück, Spenge, Westphalia
died January 12, 1827, in Wallenbrück, Spenge, Westphalia

married II. (July 25, 1828 in Wallenbrück) Cathrine Ilsabein Unterbäumer
born March 29, 1795, in Enger, Westphalia


first marriage:

1. Margarethe Ilsabein (born April 27, 1811, married Johann Heinrich Westerhaus, at least 5 children)

2. Catharine Marie (born May 19, 1813 in Spenge, died October 31, 1884 in Spenge, married I. Johann Heinrich Jöllenbeck and II. Johann Hermann Schwentker, at least 5 children)

3. Johann Heinrich (born April 28, 1816 in Spenge, died aft 1854, married Anne Marie Ilsabein Timmermann, emigrated to the US in November 1854, at least 5 children)

4. Anna Catharina Ilsabein (born January 7, 1819 in Spenge)

5. Peter Heinrich (born June 19, 1821 in Spenge, died after 1853, married Margarethe Ilsabein Potthoff, emigrated to the US in December 1853, at least three children, two of them stillborn)

6. Johann Heinrich (born Mai 25, 1824, died July 18, 1826 in Wallenbrück)

second marriage:

7.  Marie Ilsabein (born March 12, 1829 in Wallenbrück, died May 13, 1843 in Wallenbrück)

8. Anne Cathrine Ilsabein (born November 21, 1830 in Wallenbrück)

9. Anne Ilsabein (born November 25, 1833 in Wallenbrück)

10. Caspar Heinrich (jr.) (born February 17, 1837 in Wallenbrück, died June 24, 1843 in Wallenbrück)

 There are still a lot of questions I have about this family. What I know is that life was not always kind to Caspar Heinrich. He must have had his reasons to leave a part of his family behind and board a vessel that would take him, who probably hadn't traveled furthe than 15 miles before, to America. I just hope for him that his decision wasn't made out of pure desparation, but that he also had at least a little bit of love of adventure.

I'll keep you posted.


  1. What a great find! So you still haven't found out what happened to Caspar once he made it to America? I am intrigued. I'm so happy that you joined Geneabloggers. I have traced my husband's family back to Wallenhorst/Osnabruck and it will be interesting to read about your research in the same area. Welcome and happy hunting!

  2. Thanks, Heather! Wallenhorst is really not far from here, maybe 30 miles. And no, I still don't know what happened to Caspar. I found some of his descendents living in St. Louis, but I still don't know where Caspar died. I'm not sure if he was still alive in 1860 so he'd appear in the census. I guess that's be a question for another post ;-)

  3. Welcome to GeneaBloggers. I've been on here for two months. This is a great community. I couldn't find "comments" until I realized it was in German.

  4. Hello and welcome aboard. Great detective work finding Caspar. You should start checking the church records when you find where he settled. We had a large German population in Pittsburgh and the records they kept were very accurate.

    I found two cousins in Germany and they did not know they had relatives in the USA too. In both cases our grandparents were siblings.

  5. Angela, I was intrigued when I saw the announcement of your blog on GeneaBloggers. While I don't have any German ancestors that I am currently researching (for that, I first have to make my way back to the 1600s), I am enjoying reading your posts. Thanks to your inviting writing style, I believe this will be an interesting learning experience for me, as I read your posts.

    Welcome to GeneaBloggers--and yes, creating a sister project to your other German blog was an excellent idea! Best wishes to you.

  6. Welcome to Geneabloggers, Angela. There are not many of us whose ancestry is 100 per cent Germanic - or perhaps I just haven't found them yet. The irony is that I am a third generation American whose ancestors' roots all started in German soil. I will enjoy reading your posts, especially since your ancestors (except for Caspar) stayed the course in Germany. As to the question of why Caspar left the homeland - that's the question that turned me into an obsessed non-professional family historian.