Alerd Heuermann Wemken, son of Johann and Helene Bremer Wemken, was born September 10, 1826 in Borbeck, Oldenburg, Germany. Borbeck was a farming village located in what was, until 1945, the state of Oldenburg in northwestern Germany. Today this is the German state of Lower Saxony (in German: Niedersachsen), and the capital is the city of Hanover.
Caroline Wilhelmine Luise Stratmann, daughter of Johann Hinrich and Anna Marie Sophie Charlotte Bruggermann Stratmann, was born February 14, 1829 in the village of Blasheim, in what was then Prussia, but what is now northern Germany.
We do not know how or when the two met, but Alerd and Caroline Wilhelmine were married June 25, 1855 in Wiefelstede, Oldenburg. In the years preceding their emigration to America, they had their first six children – Johann Wilhelm, Helene Catherine Margarethe, Heinrich, Anna Marie Sophie, Anna Wilhelmine and one deceased child (name unknown).
ALERD AND CAROLINE WILHELMINE COME TO AMERICA
Sometime before 1870, Alerd and Caroline Wilhelmine made the decision to come to America. Though I do not know their reasons for leaving their homeland, they were among a vast number of Germans who emigrated in the 19th century. In fact, Americans of German or Alsatian descents comprise the largest self-reported ancestry group, and the largest flow of immigration occurred between 1820 and World War I. They were drawn to America for a myriad of reasons. Productive land and political or religious freedom attracted many people. Others came desiring to make a fresh start in the New World and arrived seeking economic opportunities greater than those in Europe.
Alerd and Caroline Wilhelmine immigrated to America with their five children on the SS New York, leaving from the port of Bremen January 12, 1870 and arriving at the port of New Orleans, Louisiana on February 12, 1870. The SS New York Passenger Manifest has the following information:
A.Wemken, age 43, shoemaker, Oldenburg, destination Galveston, steerage
Marg [arethe] age 38 ” ” ” “
Johann age 14 ” ” ” “
Helene age 8 ” ” ” “
Heinr. age 3 ” ” ” “
Marie age 3 ” ” ” “
Anna age 11 months ” ” ” “
Note: I am confused by the name “Marg” being listed rather than Caroline or Wilhelmine, but do think this was Alerd Wemken and family.
Upon arrival in New Orleans, the Wemken family made their way to Texas. The next record located for them was the 1880 United States Federal Census. The couple and their children were living in Fayette County. Listed were: A.H. Wemken age 48, farmer, born Oldenburg; Wilhelmine age 48, born Prussia; Lene (sic Helene) daughter, age 19, born Oldenburg; Heinrich son, age 15, born Oldenburg; Sophia daughter, age 12, born Oldenburg; Wilhelmine daughter, age 10, born Oldenburg; Johanna daughter, age 9, born Texas; Willy son, age 7, born Texas; and Lilly daughter, age 1, born Texas. In the ten years since their arrival in America, Alerd and Caroline’s family had grown with the birth of their last three children.
Fayette County is located in the Blackland Prairies region of south central Texas. In the decades following the Civil War, this county, like others in this part of the state, had a surge of German and Bohemian immigrants. The development of smaller farms increased dramatically primarily because of the intensive cultivation by the immigrants groups.
ALERD BECOMES AN AMERICAN CITIZEN
On February 25, 1887, A.H. Wemken signed his application for naturalization. Because Alerd Wemken had exceeded the 7 year residency requirement for naturalization, he was not required to file a separate declaration of intent. The male Wemken children were over the age of 21 in 1887, so they had to individually file for their naturalizations. Females could not be naturalized independently of fathers or husbands until 1922 and are not included in any court documents.
There is not an 1890 United States Federal Census available, so I am not certain how long Alerd and Wilhelmine remained in Fayette County. Though their oldest daughter, Helene, was married to Joachim (Joe) Koenning in Lavaca County on November 12, 1881, their other daughters were married in Fayette County – Anna Marie Sophie married Adolph Herm on December 12, 1889; Johanna “Hannah” married Robert Charles Herm on December 12, 1894; Anne Wilhelmine “Minnie” married Albert Discher about 1899; and Lillian “Lillie” married Paul Discher in June 1900. Since most marriages were held in the bride’s home or home town, it is likely that Alerd and Wilhelmine stayed in Fayette County.
Alerd died on December 10, 1897 and was buried in the Shiner Cemetery, Lavaca County, Texas. At some point, he Anglicized his name because his grave marker was inscribed “Albert H. Wemken.”
For a time following Albert’s death, Wilhelmine chose to live with her children. When the 1900 United States Federal Census was taken, she was in the household of her son-in-law, Robert Herm, daughter, Hannah, and granddaughter, Hedwig.
In 1910, the census showed Wilhelmine, age 79, and was living alone at 151 Avenue E in Shiner, Texas. The record states she owns the home. Another item of information on this census must have been a comfort to her – all eight of her children were still living. Her daughters, Helene, Minnie and Lillie, also resided in Shiner with their families. Wilhelmine had a slew of family nearby to enjoy.
Wilhelmine died in Shiner, Texas on December 14, 1912 at the age of 83. She was buried beside her husband, Albert, in the Shiner Cemetery.
This narrative provides only a glimpse into the lives of Alerd and Wilhelmine Wemken, but even so, I admire the determination and courage it took for them to leave Germany and come to America. Like other immigrants, they faced challenges when settling in an unknown culture, providing for their family, and learning a new language and new customs. At the same time, they, along with other industrious German immigrants, made innumerable contributions to their new homeland and were a powerful influence over the development of our American culture.
A.H. Wemken, Application for Naturalization, District Court, Fayette County, La Grange, Texas.
A.H. Wemken, SS New York Passenger Manifest, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010.
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004.
Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006.
Ancestry.com. U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.
“Fayette County,” http://www.tshaonline.ort/handbook/online/articles/hcf03
“German Americans,” en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German American St. Johannes zu Wiefelstede, Ortsfamilienbuch Wiefelstede, Deutsche Orsfamilienbucher, Der Zentralstelle Fur Personen – Und Familiengeschichte, Fankturt, Reihe C, Band II, Teil 5, Oldenburgischen Gesellschaft fur Familienkunde e.B. (OGF).
Written by Lucy Ann Nance Croft, 2015
Alerd Wemken Family Group Sheet (click link) Alerd Wemken FGS – Document