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Our Schoenknechts English


History of a
Schönknecht Family,
as far as I could find out in 30 years of private research

very first and still very faulty version

I consciously say "a" Schönknecht family, because I quickly learned that there were many "tribes" of them and still exist. This number will decrease, of course, as we go back to research - with the decline of the various families, however, research is becoming increasingly difficult.

As to the other tribes with the names of Schönknecht (or Schoneknecht, Schenknecht, Schoenknecht, Schanknecht, etc.), I shall write a little treatise separately, and in more detail, also on the possibilities of a name interpretation. Here, however, the family (which is also seen by many others as "their" family) is presented as a matter of priority. In this first summary, I do not give any sources yet but will certainly make up for that later. I do not now give the later Polish names of the formerly German places because that might confuse the readers. All places after 1945 are online (on my own website) and my pages at ""

Our proven "Spitzenahnen" (top ancestors) are Schönknechts from the area around Züllichau (starting from 1815 district "Züllichau-Schwiebus") in former Silesia, which was pledged already 1482 to the margraves of Brandenburg and since then till 1945 belonged to the Mark Brandenburg. There I found names in the village of Lochow / Kay and Kalzig, which is by no means a lot, because in this area, up to Poland, there were many Schönknechts in that.area. "Spitzenahnen" so far are:

Michel Schönknecht 1700 (listed under "Hausleute" (peasants with house or hut) in Lochow
Widow Martin Schönknecht 1715 (listed among farmers in Kalzig)
These two names are also listed in Lochow later in 1718/1719. A Michel, a Christian and a Martin Schönknecht, siblings or cousins, then migrated from the north (possibly before into the "Netzbruch" area) and emerged again in the river Warthe area in 1734 as colonists.

In order to understand the term "colonists", I must express myself somewhat more closely, because the colonization of the Warthebruch plays an important role in our early ancestor's history. I stumbled over this designation for the first time in a "Stammbuch", tribal book my father had designed for my eldest brother, Fritz Daniel. In all of Germany and Central Europe, the colonization of rural areas was of great importance. It was usually stimulated and supported by the respective nobles to colonize areas and thus also to gain new taxpayers. In the colonization of the Warthebruch, a large, almost uninhabited swamp and moorland in the Brandenburg Neumark (in contrast to the Kurmark and Altmark), the Prussian King Frederick II (the Great) had a great interest, mainly in the settling, draining and colonization of these areas, analogous the river Netze, which had already begun and carried out by his father Frederick William and his grandfather (By the way, about the great wild boar plague there, Frederick William was said to state "better men than pigs").

Colonists came to the Warthebruch mostly from German-speaking Poland, but also from Silesia, Pomerania, Franconia, and others. They were attracted by the commitment to land, houses, timber, a duty-free period and exemption from military service. Unfortunately, these contractual commitments were often not respected by the local nobility and the King's officials. The new settlers were given quickly and cheaply built homes, and they were forced to work on the river in such a way that they could scarcely care for their land, which was also of poor quality. Many complaints were received by the king, who had often expressed himself very viciously against his subalterns, but he himself could not do very much, especially since he was still busy widening his Prussia by wars against Empress Maria Theresia, and constantly needed money. There were long trials and personal consequences for the people in charge (particularly mean and greedy was the "Schartow" war council, who was condemned to prison in fortress Spandau), and the colonists and their families were hardly helped quickly. Many moved back to the old homeland or moved to other, new colonies after the expiration of the tax-free period.

The colonies were given by their new inhabitant's very prominent names (e.g., Malta, Sumatra, Louisa, Pennsylvania) and they were also named after generals or the king himself (Czettritz, Friedrichsthal, and others). Life in these small villages was extremely hard; The bad, sandy soil, the disinclination of the local inhabitants, the lack of schools and churches and the harassment of the local nobility made their lives almost unbearably difficult, and they could just about live a poor life.

Our ancestors often moved, places often changed names and competent churches (their church records were partially neglected), which makes family research very strenuous. In addition, of course, many churches- and other records (registrations, proof of land, etc.) were lost during the last war or were only made slowly available by the Polish authorities in recent years. Visits to their archives are difficult as well, as people there speak only Polish. I don't! English sometimes helps.

In 1731 (and again in 1734), a village mayor presented a list of first-Communicants of the Kgl. Warthebruch (later Genninsch Warthebruch), 73 names, among them Michel and Martin Schönknecht. In the course of a classification of 1718/19 of the district of Züllichau there was a Martin Schönknecht in the town of Lochow. They both bought the land of the Warthestrohm almost equally big, but after a few years, Michel has 26 acres, and Martin only 12. According to the current state of my research, Michel and Martin have probably separated, the former moved to Gerlachsthal ( colony about 10 km south, also on the right Wartheseite), the second remained in Gennin. Martins direct descendants are not known to me yet, Michel married (whom I do not know yet) and died about 1775, so far only one son is known to me, Samuel Gotthilf (or Gotthelf) "Fritz" Schönknecht (1763 - 1831).

This Samuel (great great great grandfather) was a blacksmith master and a very industrious man, probably also fortunate. He married twice and had a total of twelve children if I grasped it correctly. The first wife, probably our ancestor, is still completely unknown to me, the second was Marie Louise Fenster (c. 1780 - 1823), I suppose, the daughter of the Ludewig widow, a neighbor of the Michel Schönknecht in Genninsch Warthebruch. They married about 1798. The children (all of them, some died young) were:

Ferdinand Schönknecht * circa 1793 Gerlachsthal, + 1831 Gennin (Dorf)
Christian Friedrich Schönknecht * 1794
Carl August Schönknecht * circa 1800 Raumerswalde
Caroline Wilhelmine Schönknecht * ca. 1803
Johann Gottlieb Schönknecht * about 1805
Carl Friedrich Leberecht Schönknecht * 1809 Gerlachsthal, + 1891 Blumenthal
Ernst Wilhelm Schönknecht * 1812 + 1823 Gerlachsthal
Johann Heinrich Schönknecht *&+ 1814 Gerlachsthal
Ernestine Amalie Schönknecht * 1816 - "-
Samuel Gotthilf "jun" Schönknecht * 1819 - "-
Maria Augustine Henriette Schönknecht * 1822 Gerlachsthal
Hanna Louisa Schönknecht * 1823                - "-

Samuel had the lot (plot) no. 24 in Gerlachsthal at least from 1780 to 1784, he was also registered for a lot 24 a, together with his son Carl Friedrich Leberecht Sch. In the year 1844 "Leber." and Friedr. Sch. was entered.

To most of the a.m. children, I do not yet know much more. Christian Friedrich had property in Untergennin and Obergennin, he probably inherited the forge of the father, at least his profession as a blacksmith master is handed down. He married twice. Johann Gottlieb possibly migrated to Queensland, Australia. If so, his death is established there for 1899. In addition, by the way, a 6-member family of Schönknecht emigrated from Kay / Züllichau (see above) to Australia so it may well be that there were links between the Schönknecht families on possibilities for emigration. Carl August was the godfather of his nephew Ferdinand Julius Schönknecht, my great-great-great-grandfather, he was supposed to be a farmhand. Samuel Gotthilf (jun) was a blacksmith, probably with the brother and/or father.

Ferdinand Schönknecht (about 1793 Gerlachsthal - 1831 Gross Czettritz) see above, with him I continue the ancestral lineage. His "profession" is handed down as a kind of soldier and inhabitant of Friedrichsthal, unfortunately, nothing else is known until 1816, when he married a Wilhelmine Jure (or Juhre or Juhr) born 1796 in Johanneshof. Her family is often mentioned in the Neumark, e.g in Königsberg / Nm, now Chojna, the westernmost point of Poland. They (at least) had one son who was born in Obergennin in 1822 and, to make matters even more complicated, was called Ferdinand Julius, who was the first ancestor already captured by my father and entered into the "tribe book" (Stammbuch).

Ferdinand Julius, although he became only 34 years old, is a man full of secrets for the family researchers. It seems that he was twice married a bigamist or/and cheated to the church books here and there. For this, I wrote an extra treatise, or am still, here I only call his first wife Caroline Dorothea Maria Schwandt * 1812 in Wepritz - + 1858 (very questionable) in Gross Czettritz, from a quite large family in the Neumark, e.g. Freiberg / Nm and New Dresden / Nm. Her half-sister with the beautiful name was Ernestine Tugendreich Schwandt * 1811 Wepritz + 1885 in Wisconsin, USA. I'll come back to that sister (she was the godmother of a niece Schönknecht). The Caroline D.M. Schwandt might have disappeared secretly and went with her sister to the USA or Ferdinand Julius lived in Bigamy....

Dame Leder, the second wife, as to church books also born 1812 and also (!) died 25 July 1858 in Gross Czettritz, pretty the same dates like the first wife amazingly. She was illiterate. As I said, this is an extra treatise. She also was married twice, the first husband with whom she had two children, was an NN "Haupt" (again a widespread family). Julius Ferdinand owned a property in Gross Czettritz, probably inherited from his father or grandfather. He left this property to the Leder lady became very ill and went bankrupt or heavily indebted into his death. Notarially or with other documents was regulated that its creditors could not put hands on his property. So Lady Leder in turn was left with some property and 7 children, from two marriages.
Two "Haupt", her former husbands, and

Karl Friedrich Schönknecht * 1843 Gross Czettritz + 1900 Kriescht
Alwine Emilie Schönknecht * 1845 Great Czettritz
Julius Ferdinand Schönknecht * 1849 Great Czettritz
Pauline Amalie Henriette Schönknecht * 1851 Gr Cze + 1938 Berlin
Marie Augustine Schönknecht * 1853 Great Czettritz

Pauline so had two step-brothers, August Friedrich Wilhelm Haupt * 1839 and Heinrich Julius Ferdinand Haupt * 1841. To them, I am not yet familiar, although they are also related to us. After all, I have been able to find the "Haupt" in Költschen since 1756 and will follow this link.

Karl Friedrich Schönknecht's line goes over Kriescht, from where he fled (Russian army already close) 1945, to Baden Württemberg. Our relative and my cousin 3rd degree Klaus-Dieter Schönknecht (Calw), who shares with me the hobby genealogy and from I received many, valuable details captured all the descendants of Karl Friedrich Schönknecht, the first born of Julius Ferdinand.

Alwine Emilie Schönknecht, her birth certificate shows Mrs. Manthei, Mrs. Jaenicke, Heinrich Schönknecht and Henriette Schwandt (mentioned above, went later to the US as the wife of a Mr. Strelitz). Marriages, place of death and date are not yet known to me.

Julius Ferdinand Schönknecht married an Antonie Knospe, who reached a high age, died in Gütersloh in 1959. They two had 4 children, all born in Sonnenburg (probably Kreis Sternberg / Nm.)

Marie Augustine Schönknecht, the youngest known daughter, from her, I have so far only the date of birth.

Now to Pauline Amalie Henriette, my great-grandmother, who died in Berlin-Wedding in 1938. Her godfather/mothers were: August Neuendorf, Ferdinand Manthei, Luise Henseler, Ernestine Schwandt (!), and Henriette Haupt. Her twin brother Wilhelm Eduard died three days later, godfathers were Henriette Haupt, Luise Henseler (probably the daughter or wife of the priest) and Ferdinand Manthei.

Poor thing. Pauline, became an orphan in 1858, at the age of seven. I assume that she was first given to relatives and then in 1870 to the family Lehmann, rich and established farmers in Albrechtsbruch / Nm., not far away. As it should happen, she fell in love with their eldest son (who was to inherit the property) and he with her as she was pretty and witty. There are rumors, they wanted to run away to Italy, but instead, she became pregnant (with our grandfather). Marriage was out of the question or perhaps even not planned at all. That gentleman Lehmann later married an Agnes Kranz in 1875 and died already in 1884 at the age of 36. I have only of this great-grandfather few facts, except for a son Gerhard Friedrich Albert Lehmann, born 1876.

Back to Pauline, she gave birth to a son in 1871, secretly and in another place, her firstborn, our grandfather, and gave him the proud name of the then king of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm, and refused sternly to name the father! So she kept her secret until my father, her grandchild, had to prove his Arian-ship under the Nazis, so she then signed to him, in 1938, an affidavit, naming the father of her first child! In the following years after the birth she might have made the necessary money for the two of them by serving at farmers households until 1882 (or a bit earlier) she was lucky enough to meet Johann August Friedrich Kleemann who was 18 years older and quite wealthy, innkeeper and mayor of Lotzen/Nm, becoming his second wife and stepmother of three sons, Otto, Gustav and Franz. Otto later became the godfather of his stepbrother, our grandfather and emigrated to the USA. Franz Kleemann followed his father as an innkeeper, Pauline also was very busy in that inn but also with her husband, they had four children, Georg, Antonie, Pauline, and Gustav. I met some of their descendants. Georg, probably Dr. Georg Kleemann, became the local mayor and therefore was shot by Russians when they came into the town in 1945.

Again back to Pauline, a great lady, called "Oma (Grandma) Kleemann. My late brother Gottfried told me that he sat on her lap. Pauline, apparently my father had good contact with her, especially since she lived with her daughter Antonie, nicknamed "Tönchen" in the north of Berlin. She carefully looked for the education of her kids (bought a horse for one son), was loved by everybody and died in 1938 after breaking a leg.

Her firstborn son, our grandfather, called "Vatchen", was a pleasant and friendly man who had suffered all the time of his life under his illegitimate birth. Official papers (e.g. Military pass) stated "father dead" Did his mother tell him his fathers name? I do not know and actually do not believe it. Since his mother married the Kleemann in Lotzen in 1882 and settled there, he would have lived with them there. In 1886 he learnt at Hugo Horn, Landsberg / W. the profession of the bookbinder and ended his apprenticeship around 1890, testimony: "industrious worker, orderly, good man"), was in 1892 with a Carl Rinna in Salzwedel, then 1893 with Carl Schulz in Berlin-Moabit (testimony: "In every way useful"), Then from 1893 again at Horn in Landsberg, he is in the address book also, like this company,  listed in the Prieststreet., so had with this boss  a good relationship., since he lived with his family,  However, he was released in 1895 at his own request and worked at Sittenfeld in Berlin-Lankwitz, a well-known book-printing company, the whole (Jewish) family Sittenfeld came to Auschwitz in 1943, for them there are "Stolpersteine" in Berlin.

At about this time, when and where exactly I do not know yet, he must have met his wife, our grandmother, Marie Helene Werk, the two of them married in 1896 in Brück / Mittelmark, why there I cannot say, she was born in Sergen / Cottbus. I was able to trace the Werk family to 1764 (in Woldenberg / Nm.). Her Father was a strict man, an official forestry master at various places, and an industrious father. He had a total of 10 (known) children with Marie Magdalene Rohloff, and I was able to trace this lady's family back to 1695.
These children were:
1. Paul Werk, 1862 - 1864
2. Hugo Werk 1863 - 1925 (he married a Klara Strutz) more to them is not known to me. His sister, my grandmother, named her first child after him.
3. Carl Friedrich Rudolf Werk (1866 - 1936), tax-inspector, married to Margarete Pussack.
4. Hedwig Martha Werk(1868-1942) married Karl Erley (1871 - 1908) they had two children: Hans Erley, who probably died in the WW II, and Margarete Erley, our "Aunt Grete" who lost her fiancée in the war and never got married. I often visited her in Berlin-Adlershof and liked her a lot.
5. Marie Helene Werk (1871-1950, our grandmother
6. Margarete Werk (1876 - 1888)
7. Elisabeth Werk (1877 -?), She married to a Forrester, Carl Schulz (1872 - 1923), had a son with him. Her husband was murdered by poachers in front of his lonely house in Schweinebrück in 1923, these were hanged in 1924. The place Schweinebrueck actually only consisted of the Forsthaus and is nowadays difficult to find on maps. There was a stone monument for him, I do not know if it is still there.
8. Martha Werk (1878- ?)
9. Franziska Werk (1881 - ?), known to us as "Tante Frenze". Married Kurt Hoffmann, they lived in Lebus and my sister Hanna, why I do not know, lived with them in the last war years and also went to school there. Franziskas daughter, Erika Hoffmann, was hard of hearing and used some hornpipe kind of thing, which I remember well, as she poked in my mouth when trying to hear.
10. Emma Elise Werk, 1864 - ca 1890, she married August Lahnt in Groß Eichholz, their (only?) Child Emmi Lahnt married Robert Karl Siggelkow (children: Hans, Grete, Karl, Ilse, and Irene). (1876 - 1957). I still met him and the family Siggelkow in Berlin they were very well acquainted with my father).

Our grandmother suffered, from when I can not say exactly but certainly since her childhood or youth, on a muscular paralysis of her legs. She always said that this was because she was taken as a child by "a bull on the horns". My brother, Fritz, who was a medical doctor and who was particularly familiar with Poliomyelitis (his doctoral thesis on this subject), but assured that she was suffering from Polio. In any case, she could only move very badly and short distances with sticks, and she also carried heavy leg-rails. But she drove a very efficient roller-coaster, in which she stretched out her legs and could move and steer with her hands. I loved this vehicle and sat on your lap, sometimes I was allowed to ride alone.

Our grandfather lived at the time of the marriage in Berlin Ackerstr. 64 (near Bernauer Str.), The church wedding was traditionally performed at the bride's residence, Brück. It was high time, for the bride was about in the seventh month of pregnancy, and her father did not agree with the marriage at all, he thought it was premature, but he knew nothing about her pregnancy then. In March 1897 Hugo Fritz Benno Schönknecht was born (Hugo after a brother of the mother), whether in Brück or already in Charlottenburg I cannot say yet. Hugo, however, died after three months, on June 24, 1897, in his parents' apartment, Berlin, Ackerstr. 64

Her second son, Fritz Carl Erich Schönknecht, was born in Charlottenburg in 1898. He lived with the parents (Eosanderstr. 4 in Charlottenburg) and must have learned the bookbinding trade. It is to be assumed that he had to join his emperor's army (or even voluntarily reported) in about 1916. Furthermore, it can be assumed that in the last days of the war (it was told by gas attacks) he had caught a disease that caused his early death in 1920. With a separate entry, he was listed in the Berlin address book, next to his father. In 1919 he was a member of the German "Peace Delegation" in Versailles/France, where he was probably the youngest member of the printing staff. He received 5,- Marks daily and free food and lodging. My father, at the time only 20 years old, reported his death to the registry office.

The third child was then Kurt Bruno Walter, my father, born at the turn of the century in Berlin, 2.10.1900. He had been a member of the imperial army for several months and later lived with his parents and siblings in Krummestrasse, 86. After a commercial training with "Grün and Bilfinger", he became a welfare worker and married my mother, Ruth Esther Schönknecht, in 1930. He was a member of the CVJM (YMCA) Berlin and/or the CVJM Berlin-Charlottenburg and served from early 1939 to 1945 with a short off-time, in the Deutsche Wehrmacht (army) as a paramedic, and then, 1946 and later,  quickly rose to a government council senate for health care in Berlin. After the death of my mother, he married Ruth Annaliese Schramm and died in 1981 in Berlin-Mariendorf.

Ancestry of Friedrich H. Lehmann, our grand-grandfather, and Agnes Kranz, both from Albrechtsbruch/Nm., see above,
I have a Martin Lehmann, * about 1780 in Albrechtsbruch Nm. and assume that he moved there because I could not find any previous Lehmanns in Albrechtsbruch. His son, also Martin, was born about 1810 in A. and also died there around 1880. He married a Johanna Ulrich Emilie Aleth, her ancestors had long lived in Albrechtsbruch. Her great-grandfather, Michael Aleth ( the name was also written Aleidt, Ahleth or Alet ) was a co-founder of the colony, he had also land there, together with other Aleths, which he inherited. Before Albrechtsbruch (formerly known as Krischter Holländer), he was a resident of Landsberger Holländer until 1726 and moved on to the new colony in the Friedrichsbruch, named after Prince Albrecht Friedrich of Prussia. His father, Nikolaus Aleth was resident in Landsberger Holländer together with a Hans Aleth (brother?). His father, born around 1620, was either Erdmann Alheit or Jorge (Jurgen or Johann?) Ahleit, who was listed as first class inhabitants in Alexandersdorf (formerly Alexandrow, now Goscinowo) near or on the border with Poland. The settlement, originally in the Polish territory, was created by an Alexander Borowsky, originally purely Polish although German settlers were also allowed because the border between Germany and Poland was unclear at this time. Members of the Protestant faith were admitted, but they were not allowed to build a church. The Germans there called the colony "Morrner Holländer", the area had long been disputing between Poland and Prussia. Morrn and the Feldmark Alexandersdorf were both under the joint administration of the von Rulicke (at Zantoch Castle) and the Starost of Meseritz. Alexandersdorf is the oldest colony in the Warthebruch.
The Aleths may originally have come from Bretagne France, where a town/village/noble family dates back to the celts and middle-ages. What a happy guy I could be if I found the missing link.

Maternal ancestry (Ruth Esther Karnatz 1909 - 1978)
The name Karnatz appears early in the area Güstrow, Pommerania, Northern Germany, Elisabeth Karnatz was born there around 1660 and married the citizen and butcher Christian Bulcke. A Christian Karnatz lived between 1769 (* Prüzen) and 1828 (+ Gültz) - he was my great-great-great father and married a Marie Sophie Christina Lange. They were both from Gulzow Prüzen, in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. My father has indicated the profession of Christian Karnatz as a cowboy in the pedigree of my brother, but he was "Stallmeister" Equerry (?). They had (at least) one child baptized in Gültz. Some earlier ancestors married into noble families. I'll report later

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