Concerning Heinrich Christoph Wyneken’s last will

One of the places my family and I visited in a trip to northern Germany in 2001 was Verden because that’s where my great-great-great grandfather was born. His father, Heinrich Christoph Wyneken, was the pastor of the St. Andreas church there. St. Andreas is a small church located close to the cathedral. It is pictured on the left in the photograph above, the cathedral on the right.

St. Andres as photographed by me in 2001.

I am in touch with descendants of three of Heinrich Christoph’s children: Carl (founder of the America “Carl/Karl” branch), Gustav (no more “Wynekens”, but I’m in touch with the families), and of course FCD.

At some point Erika Wichmann, the German born wife of an FCD Wyneken descendant, sent me a copy of an article from the St. Andreas parish newsletter concerning Heinrich Christoph’s last will and testament. Last week Erika was kind enough to send me an English translation which I thought would be interesting to share here.

While my family and I were visiting Verden I was able to talk briefly to the pastor couple of the congregation at the time. They pointed out an old house across the street from the church as being the historical parsonage. This was presumably the house mentioned in the text below where the bailiff talked to the dying Heinrich Christoph.

Translated from the history of the St. Andreas Parish (38)

Heinrich Christoph Wyneken became pastor of the St. Andreas Parish in 1806. His grandfather had been a bailiff at Bremervörde; his father Moritz (*1722) wanted to become a preacher. He received his first position at Kappel in 1755, and moved on to Spieka in 1762 in the Wursten district. He died there as early as 1772. His son, Heinrich Christoph, born at Spieka in 1766, also became a preacher and was given the pastorate at Bexhövede, Cuxhaven district, in 1791 and held it for the next 15 years. In 1806, he was transferred to Verden to the St. Andreas Parish. He was granted only nine years in Verden, since he died rather early at the age of 49, the same as his father. He passed away in the fall of 1815.

His will was preserved in a bundle of files in the Verden district archives. It had led to all kinds of complications which are still of interest today. The will begins with this: Actum in the dwellings of Pastoris Wyneken on the 10th day of October 1815 (4 1/2 hrs in the afternoon). Present myself, Struktuarius Bailiff Mejer and the Struktur Voigt Bohde.

We then read on: After the pastor Heinrich Christoph Wyneken of our St. Andreas Church, who had been very ill for a long time with dropsy, had requested me to come and see him since he wished to place his last dispositions on record, I immediately went to his place together with the Struktur-Voigt Bohde. Pastor Wyneken was lying in his bed on the second floor in the parlor located immediately to the right of the staircase towards the front of the building. Wyneken declared: His own fortune had been used up in his marriage and might consist only of the purchased backyard behind the wall of the Parish backyard. Given this small remainder of his fortune, he does not deem it necessary to bequeath anything further; since this small fortune is to be left to his eleven children.

The actual content of his will follows after this provision: It is his express will, however, that his faithful and righteous wife Anna Catharina Louise, née Meyer, should be the only and sole guardian of his and her eleven children after his transition into eternity, and that no other guardian should be placed at her side against her own free will and choice, because he was absolutely convinced of her faithfulness and love for their children, and since she was furthermore a most righteous and good Christian, his children would be perfectly well protected under her discipline and guidance.

This provision was not as unusual as it may seem to us; indeed, after Wyneken’s passing, the Stade Consistory on November 9 approached the bailiff at Verden, requesting him to question the widow whether she was prepared to assume the guardianship of her children. This questioning took place at the same time as the opening of the will, i.e. on November 23, 1815. The minutes list the eleven children, i.e.:

  1. Heinrich Christian 22 years,
  2. Johann Heinrich Friedrich Conrad 19 years,
  3. Marie Elisabeth Henriette Sophie 18 years,
  4. Caroline Marie 17 years,
  5. Charlotte Friedrike 16 years,
  6. Johann Ernst Moritz 14 years,
  7. Carl Friedrich 12 years,
  8. Gustav Burchard 10 years,
  9. Henriette Louise Dorothee 7 years,
  10. Friedrich Conrad Diederich 5 years,
  11. Louise Amalie 3 year,

and continue: in accordance with the order given to me by the Royal Consistorio of Stade, the widow of Pastor Wyneken… was legally bound by the required guardian’s oath of a mother servatis servandis as guardian of her abovementioned 11 children.

When the report of this administration of the oath arrived at Stade, the Bailiff was reprimanded that he had not required the widow to renounce her female legal benefits as pertaining to the secundis nuptiis! Plainly speaking: The widow should commit herself not to remarry! That was the point where the bailiff lost his patience: I have never heard of such a thing that a mother who wishes to or should become guardian of her children has to renounce the secundis nuptiis, i.e., has to confirm that she does not intend to remarry.

Only if she should indeed remarry, other guardians would have to be appointed. In the Brem and Verden regions, certain things are different from other provinces of this land in terms of criminal and civil justice, the bailiff adds; his colleague, bailiff Ostermeyer, also proceeds in this manner. Mejer ends: I do expect… respectfully, that you will not unnecessarily require me to administer the oath in a second time, since this would, of course, always be difficult for me. Thus, bailiff Mejer on December 27, 1815. An answer from Stade has not been preserved.

Dr. W. Jarecki

Translated from the German original by Marion Schiffer, Germany

1 thought on “Concerning Heinrich Christoph Wyneken’s last will

  1. Benjamin Phelps

    Any chance you can share a scan or digital copy of the source so I can cite it?


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