19th Century Wyneken Family Tree

Link to the scanned tree

Around 1997 or 1998 I visited Dick Wyneken in Ripon, California during one of my trips to the US to visit my parents. In the course of our conversation he mentioned that he had a long roll containing an extensive family tree in German. His grandfather, Herman Wyneken, had received it from his German relative, Luise Wyneken. Luise’s father, Ernst Friedrich Wyneken, and Herman were first cousins so the relationship was actually very close.

Dick took me home with him so he could show me this family tree. It was on old, yellowed paper and stored in a cardboard cylinder for protection. The cylinder still held the address label showing Luise’s address as Friedlandweg 7 in Göttingen and Herman’s address as North Orange Street 42F in Orange, California. Unfortunately there is no date on the label.

At the end of our visit Dick surprised me by offering to give me the cylinder and its contents. His reasoning was that he was getting old and didn’t know anybody who would really appreciate receiving the tree. As I was interested in the family history, I could make good use of the tree and it just made sense to him that I should have it. Needless to say I was thrilled by Dick’s most generous offer, which after a bit of hesitation I gladly accepted.

Now, about 15 years later, I figured it is a good idea to scan the whole roll electronically in order to be able to share this wonderful resource with relatives on the Internet and also to have a copy of it in case it ever gets damaged or destroyed. The paper the tree is written on is about 38 cm / 15 inches high. It is very brittle and I hesitate to unroll it too often to consult details because I’m afraid of damaging it. For that reason I have not measured the length of the roll but, based on the dimensions of the scanned copy and my knowledge of the height of the paper, I estimate that the complete roll is about 386 cm / 152 inches long. That is about 12 feet and 8 inches. That’s a lot of Wynekens!

I know that Luise’s nephew, Wyneken Fimmen, has a copy of this tree. I also believe that Helen Wyneken in Michigan possesses one or at least had access to one because she used it to make an English version of the tree. I believe she did that work in 1974. From Norma Wacker, one of my earliest sources of Wyneken information, I received a negative photocopy of the same tree in which the writing is in white and the paper in black. Perhaps Norma’s family still owns the original. I wouldn’t be surprised if there other copies of the tree still in existence.

Still, this tree is a very valuable and historical resource for the Wyneken family history and I can only urge interested readers of this blog to download copies of the scanned versions posted here to store electronically on their computers. The more copies that exist, the greater the chance that researchers in the future will have access to one.

Notes about the download page:

  • The scans are very large, much larger than a computer screen. I’ve tried to set it up so that you can have a good look at the individual pictures but it might not be obvious how the page is to be worked. There is a “Help” link at the bottom of the page that I hope will be of some assistance. The download icon is towards the top of each page that depicts a single picture, to the right of the description text. If you have problems dealing with the pages, get back to me and I’ll try to help.
  • While putting the final touches on this posting I noticed that some errors sneaked into the pictures of the tree. I had to compile the complete tree out of a large number of different photographs I took and then sewed it together using a program. There are a few spots where I apparently didn’t get it quite right and you can see that there are lines that are supposed to be continuos that show up in the photographs as interrupted lines. I find that very annoying and I hope I will get a chance to correct it sometime, but I have no idea when I’ll be able to get around to it. … Maybe never.

Luise Wyneken

From the address label we know a bit about how my copy of the tree made it’s way across the Atlantic, namely from Luise Wyneken. As a matter of fact, I am quite sure that all of the American copies I mentioned were sent over by Luise.

Luise Wyneken

Luise was a remarkable person. She was a home economics teacher and the head of a home economics school. It might be fair to say that she was an early-day feminist. As a point in case, at one point she decided she wanted to see what life was like in the US so she booked passage on a steamer and crossed the ocean by herself. She worked as a maid and cook in households on the east coast from 1923 to 1925. Towards the end of her stay she decided she wanted to see the rest of the country, too, so she set off to hitchhike — unaccompanied — across the continent, on the way visiting relatives she knew about. On this trip she met cousins in Chicago, Fort Wayne, Texas, southern California and San Francisco. She kept a diary of her time in the US, including the hitchhiking trip, which is quite an interesting read.

It seems logical that she told the relatives she visited about the tree her father had drawn up, extra copies of which the family probably still had back at home in Germany, so when she got back she mailed copies over to her American relatives. One of these relatives was Herman Wyneken in Orange County, California, by way of whom I eventually received “my” copy.

Author and date of the family tree


Ernst Friedrich Wyneken

According to information from the present day descendants of Luise’s father, Ernst Friedrich Wyneken, the tree is the product of his research.

This particular copy of the tree also appears to have been kept in his family’s possession at first because you can see that entries for later additions to the family and to his brother’s family have been added. These can be found on the left side of the fourth of my four scans. Some of the additions seem to be in a different hand, some of them are not as neat as the original entries.

The entries for Ernst Friedrich’s first two children, Gustav Adolph (born 1875) and Elisabeth (born 1876) look like they are part of the original version. His later children, Luise (1878), Karl, Ernst and Hilda, were obviously added later.  It is also interesting to note that someone continued to add names from even later generations of Ernst Friedrich’s descendants. The names Ruth, Wyneken, Bärbel, Ernst Ihno and Renate, for example, denote people whom I have met personally and who are mostly still alive today.

The first four children in the family of Ernst’s brother, Carl — the one born through 1877 — are written very neatly whereas the later ones were written in less carefully.

At the very right edge of this scan you can see where Herman and his family added their own names, as well, after the tree had been sent to California.

The dates in the “original” entries mentioned in the previous two paragraphs and the dates for the other persons on the bottom edge of the tree seem to indicate that the tree was drawn up in about 1877.

I possess two copies of a letter written by Ernst Friedrich in December of 1877 in which he requests current information about the families of the people he wrote. This letter was accompanied by a version of the family tree. It is unclear whether this was an earlier version or whether the letter is referring to copies of the same version I now have in my possession. Based on these hints, however, it seems safe to conjecture that the original entries on all of the trees in existence reflect the information Ernst Friedrich had compiled by approximately 1877.

Another interesting question is how all of these trees were produced. Did someone sit down and write each and every one of them separately by hand? Or was there some sort of technology available at the time to make duplicates? I did a bit of research and discovered that the hectograph technology had been invented in 1869. Perhaps Ernst Friedrich made use of this new high tech means of reproducing his trees? I don’t know enough about hectographs, though, to be able to judge whether the tree I have might have been duplicated that way. If so, he was using the cutting edge of technology of his time to further Wyneken family research, just as I use the Internet, today’s cutting edge.


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