Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Delinquent in His Old Home Village

Cemetery in Rüber 

Polch Railroad Station

Polch City Hall

Rhineland emigrants who left their country in the 1840s and 1850s have descendants who would be willing to hunt in every archive in Germany, if it would assure them of information similar to the story of this daring and determined ancestor.

A genealogist who belongs to a collateral line of the descendants of the emigrant I will write about gave me copies of the transcribed documents that make up the story.  She was unsure about the wisdom of using the emigrant's full name, so I will call him Mathias Namenlos.  Namenlos is the German word for nameless.  From documents kept in the State Archive of Koblenz, and the skill of three people: a German-speaking relative, an experienced researcher who knew his way around the archive, and a skilled translator of old German documents, this unusual story emerged.

The archive documents tell the story of the emigrant who returned, for a short time, to the Alte Heimat of Rüber, Germany in the Rhineland. This ancestor had left the Rhineland in 1854 to take up residence in the United States; then came back three years later.  It reminds us that we can never assume. Since this is not my ancestor, I haven't investigated sources in this country to see if there is any travel record from 1857 for this former immigrant who journeyed back to Germany to claim his share of the estate of his father.  But there were times when people returned for some reason and it is something to check when writing the family story..

The documents of Mathias Namenlos are also a prime example of the change in attitude of the Prussian government concerning emigration during the 1850s and onward.  In the first half of the 1800s, emigration was rarely a matter of concern to the Prussians or to other kingdoms.  Sometimes it was actually encouraged in order to free the local cities and villages from families who might, at some time in the future, become a drain on the funds for the poor which had to be provided to those who were truly without any other means of survival. Poor people, of course, also paid no taxes to the Prussian Emperor; therefore they were of very little interest.

But by the second part of the century, many of the people who decided to emigrate were not quite as poor. They were inhabitants who were able to make a living and who contributed the taxes demanded by the Prussians. These emigrants had learned that relatives, friends, and neighbors who had already gone to the United States were, for the most part, prospering.

Also at this time, the shipping companies saw a growing market for transportation across the ocean, carrying people as well as cargo. They sent their agents and representatives to stimulate interest in a move to a country with more opportunity than they could expect to have in their current living situation. The agents were now not popular with those who governed the Rhineland.

Enter Mathias Namenlos, returning to his home country and village after spending three years in America. The Mayor of Polch, who also governed tiny Rüber, grew suspicious when, about the same time that Mathias Namenlos appeared, the younger brother of Mathias applied for permission to emigrate as did five other young people from the area.

In 1857 the "kingly constabulary" of Rüber received a communication from the Mayor of Polch that Mathias Namenlos, a former resident of Rüber, now living in North America, was again staying in Rüber. In the following documents "the plot thickens": 

No. 1193
Polch, July 16, 1857

Mathias Namenlos, in the past living in Rüber, now living in North America. He is supposed to be suspicious to tempt others for Emigration. The kingly constabulary herewith is ordered to catch him and to bring him here to me.
The Mayor
... Driesch

Negotiated at Polch, July 17, 1857

The kingly constabulary caught the above mentioned Mathias Namenlos.  The caught Namenlos declared the following on request:

My name is Mathias Namenlos, I am 33 years old and I was born in Rüber. I am currently living in Mil:Waukie in the State of Wisconsin in North America.

On April 1854 I emigrated to North America by the approval of the kingly administration of Koblenz. I am now back to dispose my fatherly heritage, which are some acres. I sold the acres at a price of 1,100 Thaler to my brother Joseph Namenlos of Rüber, whom shall be given the money from Johann Anton Müller of Mayen (probably a money lender).

My brother Johann, who requested his emigration, sold his acres, too, by the same procedure and at a price of 1,200 Thaler. We are scheduling to emigrate together as soon as we both have approval.

I herewith declare forcefully that I did not tempt others to emigrate. I even did not tempt my brother Johann to do so.

I do not own a passport and for my legitimation I have (unreadable words) citizen document (prossibly a set of first papers for citizenship filed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin) of April 17, 1857 that I hereafter would like to read out.

Reading out loud, approved and signed.
Signature of Namenlos and The Mayor

Things did not go well for Mathias who was currently back in his home village, Rüber, to take his rightful share of the division of his father's estate. The Mayor of Polch, after taking the statement of Mathias, added his own report before sending both documents to the Kingly Administration in Koblenz. He named six young men who had requested permission to emigrate from Rüber shortly after the arrival of Mathias. For this reason, he said, "Now I am suspecting that he tempted the above mentioned people for emigration." He went on to say that he had no proof this was the case, but since Namenlos could not show any acceptable documents as to his status, he wanted to know how the Administration in Koblenz wanted him to proceed. He suggested that Mathias be banished after he had been able to finish his family affairs which Mathias had said would take until October.

However after more bureaucratic paperwork flowed from the Kingly Administrator to the higher Administration he served who commented that it was likely that Mathias Namenlos was an emigration troublemaker, the Kingly Administrator was told to set the banishment date of his choosing. The lower level Kingly Administrator, in an August 3 communication to the Mayor of Polch, set the date of banishment for Mathias as August 15. For whatever reason, the Mayor of Polch waited until August 12 to send the notice to Rüber, giving Mathias only three days to leave or be subject to the Prussian civil code. Case closed.

There is one last document in the case file of the former citizen of Rüber. Since there was no way that Mathias Namenlos could finish the inheritance work and book passage back to America in just three days, he stayed on.  On August 24, the "kingly policemann Hoffmann" arrested Mathias who had been seen again in Rüber and brought back to Polch. The next day "the deliquent" declared on request:

Negotiated at Polch on August 25, 1857

"I avow that the kingly order had been handed out to me on 12th of this month but I could not leave because:

1. I could not finish my deals yet

2. I did not have any possibility for traveling

Currently I got my deals ready so I am able to leave and to follow the order directy.

The delinquent had been told that he is ordered again to leave the Kingdom within 24 hours otherwise he would be punished or brought to the Border of the kingdom with the help of the police.

The delinquent has been released into freedom after the negotiation."

Signature: Driesch

Since no further documents were found, I assume that Mathias Namelos did leave, probably in the company of his brother Jonathan and one or more of the other men who had gotten permission to emigrate. 

With the reception by the Prussian Government to former residents of Prussian cities and villages being most unfriendly, any stay was likely to be short and definitely not pleasant.  For us, descendants of former Prussian citizens, the documents are another amazing set of records that despite two world wars still survive in the German archives - if we are determined enough to search.

Documents from the
Landesarchiv Koblenz

MSU Study Abroad Program
Stady Polch

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