Telling my family's stories
On August 4th, 1834, Sophia Christina Caroline Allwardt, my 3rd-great-grandmother on my mother’s mother’s side, was born in the rural community of Vorder Bollhagen, in the Steffenshagen Parish of Bad Doberan in Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Vorder Bollhagen was about a mile from the Baltic Sea, and about 10 miles west of Rostock.
In 1834, serfdom had been abolished in Mecklenburg for less than 20 years, after the Napoleonic invasions. While this might sound like a good thing, the reality was extremely harsh. Ex-serfs were kicked off the land because landowners no longer had any responsibilities for their workers. In order to get permission to marry, you had to have a place to live, so day labourers often lived and worked for many years before they were able to be legally married.
Consider the birth/baptismal record for Sophia:
Sophia’s father, Johann Friedrich Allwart, was listed as an Einlieger (that’s the word right below his last name). Translated “Free agricultural labourer”, in early 19th century Mecklenburg, this means someone who didn’t own any land.
However, notice that Sophia’s parents were married (indicated both by the fact that she doesn’t have a last name written in her column, meaning she is legitimate and taking her father’s name, and by the fact that her mother has “geb. = geboren” indicating her birth surname Schröder). Since one had to have permission of the Grand Duke in order to marry, which often involved steep costs, being married is not nearly the norm one might expect. I actually suspect that Sophia’s parents, born in 1795 and 1798, were probably married just before the abolition of serfdom, as the first birth record for one of their children that I found was from mid-1822.
You can also see that Sophia got her names from the three women that were sponsors at her baptism: Sophia Pentzin, geb. Range; Christina Bade geb. Wendländen; and Carolina Papenhagen, geb. Krüger, all from the same village. This was absolutely standard practice in this area, and the sponsors were often relatives as well, although it’s not specified here, and I haven’t been able to sort out who exactly these women were.
As a daughter of a poor farming family that didn’t own any land, Sophia probably was set to work very early in life. Her first child, my ancestor, was born out-of-wedlock when Sophia was 19; the child’s father was also a young day laborer. About 11 years later, Sophia married Johann Friedrich Böldt in Kröpelin, a village to the southwest that her parents had ties to.
They lived in Brusow, just outside Kröpelin — keeping in mind that all of these villages and hamlets are within a 5-mile radius — through 1867, but in 1869, at the age of 35, Sophia left for America with her family, including her husband and children; her parents; and her sister Maria Margarethe with her husband John Schumacher. They’re all enumerated on the ship record together, although you wouldn’t be able to tell this was one big family group unless you knew the women’s maiden names, since there are three different surnames.
And they knew where they were going, as two of Sophia’s brothers had already emigrated and settled in Dodge and Jefferson counties in Wisconsin. I can understand the appeal when I compare the landscapes from the two areas — or maybe the Mecklenburgers really did remake southeastern Wisconsin in northern Germany’s image! 🙂
In addition to the 4 children she emigrated with — Sophia, Marie and William (twins), and Anna — she had two more in Wisconsin, Karoline and Louis. She and her husband owned a small farm, and there she lived, even after the death of her husband in 1909, to the ripe old age of 82. I’d like to think that Sophia found some rest in her new home, and I wish I could have met her.