Before talking about the families of my mother’s mother, I should like to tell a story. My mother had various family pictures on the wall of our dining room. Among them there were two large pictures of a man and a woman dressed in the style of about 1780, say. One day, I may have been 13 years old, I took down these pictures and looked at their back. There it said: Johann Gottfried Hoppe and Johanna Eleonora Giller. I asked my mother who they were. She said they were her mother’s mother’s mother’s parents. I got quite excited and, in fact, this discovery was the starting point of my interest in family history.
It turned out that J. Gottfried Hoppe (62) was a wealthy man living in the city of Liegnitz, East of Görlitz, in western Silesia. He owned a special estate called the “Goldene Hufe” (Golden Hide). He played quite some role in the city government. The father of J. Eleonora (63), David Göller (126), was the owner of an inn, “Zum Storchen” (At the Stork’s). Certainly, he was also well off. Gottfried and Eleonora had a daughter, Henriette Caroline, born 1782. There were other children, but I have not been able to trace them. Henriette Caroline (31) married Carl Wilhelm Baenisch (30) in 1804. Carl Baenisch was a very attractive man with pitch black hair; but he was very hot-tempered. By profession he was a leather merchant. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather had all been furriers and leather workers. The last named of these ancestors lived in Lissa, a city just on the eastern side of the Prussia-Polish boundary. The Baenischs, at least during the 18th century, were Germans. Of course, there were many German craftsmen living in Poland at that time and earlier. The name Baenisch, however, is probably of Polish or Czech origin.
The dowry Carl Baenisch received from his father-in-law, perhaps 10,000 Thaler or more, enabled him to buy an estate, a “Gut”; so he called himself a “Gutsbesitzer.”
Carl and Henriette Baenisch had two daughters, Pauline (15) and Auguste. Henriette died in 1813, when the daughters were 8 and 3 years old. Carl Baenisch then sold the estate for his daughters’ sake; for it was their inheritance. He made himself a “Gut’spächter”, that is, the tenant of a large “Gut” (Estate). .
The parents of Henriette lived till 1831 and 1829. Probably they left an additional inheritance to the two daughters of Henriette. Carl Baenisch married again in 1822. One of the sons of this second marriage, Carl Gustav Baenisch, was a friend of my grandfather Carl Friedrichs. It was at Carl Gustav’s house that my parents met.
Carl Baenisch died in 1839. His daughters, then 28 and 23 years old and now in possession of their mother’s dowry, moved to a house in Steinau, a small town north of Liegnitz. There they were comfortably off, but lonely. When Pauline was 36 years old, (1841), she married Friedrich Schneider (14), a minister in a small village, not very far. He was 47 years old then.
Friedrich Schneider (14) was born in 1794 in Bunzlau, a city between Liegnitz and Gorlitz. His father, his grandfather, and his great-grandfather were potters. The city of Bunzlau was famous for the pottery made there. At some time the potters were asked what they make. They answered: tea and coffee pots, tobacco and butter containers, bowls, laboratory utensils, and chamber pots. Friedrich’s father, Johann Gottlieb (28), though being a potter, was not a master. He wanted to become a master, but the five other pottery masters in Bunzlau did not allow that, although he was supported by the city government. He tried to be admitted as a master in another city, but then he died, 43 years old, leaving his wife with five children. Seven months later his widow bore a child, Friedrich, (14), my great-grandfather.
The only information I have about Friedrich Schneider as a person comes from a letter he had written to his wife’s sister, Auguste. After some personal matters he writes: “Oh how beautiful is it now here. At least 50 nightingales warble, the robins, the finches, the cuckoos give every day their concerts. Our wild bumble bee roves the whole day around on meadow and garden. We are all so healthy; what more does a frugal heart need to be happy.”
None of any other ancestors ever mention nature and its beauty. I must say that I feel very much being Friedrich Schneider’s great-grandson. I am sure, if he ever had seen a mountain he would also have been enthusiastic about it.
I doubt that he or any other of my ancestors ever saw a mountain, except Carl and Asta Heiberg on a trip to Italy.
My mother had in her possession two large paintings of Pauline and Auguste, rather good looking with pitch black hair. A peculiar feature appeared on Paulines painting: her lower teeth protruded a little over the upper ones. Now my great aunt Marie Friedrichs had the same trait and I myself also have it. Thus there is a clear case of the inheritance of a recessive trait.
My mother, Elisabeth (3), was the only child of her mother, Marie (7), who was the only child of her mother Pauline (15), who was the only married child of her mother, Henriette Hoppe (31). The dowry Henriette had received from her parents in 1804 continued down to my mother essentially unchanged since the principal was probably rarely touched. What happened to this inheritance will be described later on.