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Greathouse Point > Greathouse Archives > Germany (DEU) > Grothaus of Grossdornberg > 2015 - Corrspondence: Thomas Hutzelman to Greathouse Researchers

Greathouse of Germany (DEU)

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Grothaus of Grossdornberg, Westfalen

2015, Nov 2 - Correspondence: Thomas Hutzelman to Greathouse Researchers, Subject: Grothus records in Bielefeld area


My name is Tom Hutzelman. Many years ago I looked at the records at St. Michael's Germantown and identified some discrepancies in Jack Murray Greathouse's interpretaton of these records. Since then I have become a specialist in German records, and I do research in German records as a part time profession. I am now a subscriber to a German website that posts images of German church records, including those in Bielefeld, Rheda and in numerous parishes in the vicinity of Bielefeld. I found records of the American Greathouse family in the Dornberg records.

Attached are the Greathouse/Grothus Family records found in the church records of Dornberg, a town a few miles west of Bielefeld, and which is now part of the city.

Article: Records of St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church, Kirchdornberg

Significant items are:

- Birth record of Henry (Hinrich) Grothus, 9 Jan 1695, Dornberg (parents are not named, but this matches what is known about Henry Greathouse)

- Birth record of Johann Adolf Grothus, 12 Aug 1696, Dornberg (parents are not named, but this matches what is known about John Adolf Greathouse)

- Birth record of Herm Grothus, son of Helmig Grothaus, 23 March 1670, Dornberg. The birth date matches what is known about Harman Greathouse.

- Birth record for Anna Maria Grothus, son of Johann Grothus, 19 Jan 1686. This Johann could be an older brother of Herman Grothus (1670), or a younger brother of Helmich Grothus, but there is nothing in the record to support either possibility.

- Birth records for several other children, with no indication of the parents of any of them.

- Confirmation record for this Herm Grothaus (1670) in Dornberg in 1682 at age 12.

- Confirmation record for Anna Catharina Grothus, in Dornberg in 1674. Thus she was born in 1661, before the start of the Dornberg records.

- Marriage record of Herman Grothus and Anna Maria Hemmers, in 1653 in Rheda. This couple could have moved to Dornberg, but there is nothing in the record to indicate that this is actually the case.

- Marriage record of Herm Grothus and the widow Wittenberg, 18 Oct 1675 in Dornberg. This could be a second marriage for the Herman Grothus from Rheda, but there is nothing in the record to indicate that this is actually the case.

- Death record, Grothus child 21 March 1669 in Dornberg.

According to the above, we can be relatively sure that:

A. Henry Greathouse was born 9 Jan 1695 in Dornberg, son of Herm Grothuß (based on his history in America)

B. Johann Adolph Greathouse was born 12 Aug 1696 in Dornberg, son of Herm Grothuß (based on his history in America)

C. Their father Herm (Harman) Grothus, was born 23 March 1670 in Dornberg.

D. Herm was the son of Helmich Grothus, and had a sister Anna Catharina born in 1661.

E. Since Helmich Grothus was married by 1661, and likely at least 18 when he married, he was born before 1643. Thus he was not a son of Herm Grothus and Anna Maria Hemmers from Rheda (who married in 1653).

F. It is unlikely that Herm Grothaus and Anna Maria Hemmers are ancestors of Harman Greathouse at all.

There is another factor which I have observed in conducting other research in this part of Germany. This part of Germany was full of independently owned farms scattered across the landscape, rather than being clustered in compact villages like they are in southern Germany, and different from the more eastern reaches of Prussia, Pomerania and Mecklenburg, which tended to have larger estates owned by nobility.

In Westphalia, (which is a generic regional description, rather than a political entity), men did have traditional family names. However, they were frequently known by the name of the farm which they operated (or at least where they lived.) If a man married a widow, or the daughter of a sonless farmer, he would usually assume her family name - the name of their family farm. Depending on circumstances, one man could be known by 2 - 4 different family names over the course of his life.

So not everyone with the Grothus family name was actually related to all of the other Grothus people. I did not see any indication of "farm names" in the records of Dornberg or Rheda, but they were common enough in the vicinity. It does not appear to have affected the first 2 generations in Dornberg, but it is certainly reasonable to consider that the Grothus family in Rheda may not have been related to the Dornberg Grothus family at all.

The Dornberg, Rheda and Bielefeld records are terrible in their lack of biographical detail. Even with good records it is very difficult to trace more than 2-3 generations because people could be born under one name, married under another name, and died under another name.

As a side comment, I think it is clear to any serious Greathouse researcher that the stories about being from Heidelberg, and the multiple generations of ancestors posted on are totally erroneous. I think the Greathouse Point web site would perform a service if they would call attention to the erroneoud information so the legions of new researchers do not keep reposting the errors.


Thomas H. Hutzelman


Thomas Hutzelman, Email to Greathouse Researchers, Subject: Grothus records in Bielefeld area, November 2, 2015.


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