Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Wehinger Family in Dornbirn, Austria - What the Fugger?

Paulina Wehinger was born in 1832, in Dornbirn, Austria. When she left Austria for Illinois in the early 1850s, Paulina's Wehinger ancestors had lived in Dornborn for at least two hundred and fifty years. (Paulina's Dornbirn ancestors)

Dornbirn is an Alpine city in the Austrian province of Vorarlberg (formerly the western part of the Tirol). It is about 15 miles south of Bregenz and the Bodensee (Lake Constance).

The city of Dornbirn has put together a wonderful database of people that were born, married or died there. The families are linked so that you can trace a lineage either forward or backward through time*.
Johannes Wehinger (born 1600) is our earliest known Wehinger ancestor.

Our lineage is as follows:

Johannes Wehinger (1600) m. Anna Kaufmann (1600)
-- Jacob Wehinger (1630) m. Maria Schwendinger (1630)
---- Josef Wehinger (1665) m. Barbara Klocker (1663)
------ Anton Wehinger (1695) m. Franziska Wehinger (1696) [daughter of Kilian Wehinger]
--------- Josef Wehinger (1734) m. Maria Elisabetha Hefel (1743)
------------ Johann Martin Wehinger (1779-1839) m. Margaretha Einsle (1792)
---------------- Paulina (born 1832) m. William Lepp in Monroe County, Illinois

Paulina, her brother Joseph "Albert" and possibly her siblings Johann Friedrich, Maria Elisabetha, and Joseph "Anton" all emigrated to Monroe County, Illinois in the early 1850s.

The database includes all the known information about an individual, including birth and death dates, father (Vater), mother (Mutter), spouse (Ehe), sons (Sohn), and daughters (Tochter).

The database also includes some specialized information.


The database lists the "Ort" of the individual, where known. "Ort" translates as "city" or "location". In this case, the Ort refers to an area in the city of Dornbirn. These can be found on the Dornbirn Stadtplan (city map). Streets and districts are listed in the pull down menus "Straßen" and "Spezielle Orte".

Begining with Anton (born 1695), our Wehinger ancestors lived in the "Markt" (market) area. Johann Martin Wehinger (born 1779) lived at 26 Riedgasee in Markt.

VULGONAME - what's a Fugger?

The database also lists the "Vulgoname" associated with an individual. In Austria, the Vulgoname was used instead of a surname or family name. It often was often the occupation or father's name of the individual. In our family, use of the father's name as a Vulgoname was common (for example, Anton Wehinger, son of Josef, had the Vulgoname of Josefs).

In addition to their father's name, our Wehinger ancestors often had the Vulgoname of Fugger or Fucker (from Johannes to Johann Martin). What did this refer to? It was suggested to me by Harald Rhomberg (Dornbirn Archives), that our ancestors may have worked for the Fugger family.

The Fugger family originated in Augsburg, Germany in the 1300s. They began as weavers, and eventually headed the weaver's guild. They began to loan money to the ruling family, becoming the first banking family in Europe. In the 1500s, Jacob Fugger opened a number of silver, copper and lead mines, some of which were in the Tyrol region. The Fuggers eventually became the imperial bankers of Austrian Hapsburgs. The Fugger mine holdings were profitable until cheaper silver began to be imported from the Americas in the mid-1600s.

The Fugger mines were eventually closed, but the Fugger bank operates today.

So, what was the association of our Wehinger ancestors with the Fuggers? It does not appear that there were mines close to the city of Dornbirn, so perhaps they were involved in banking.

A current German dictionary indicates that "Fugger" is both a family name, and has the secondary meaning of "übertragen Großhändler" (wholesaler or wholesale merchant) or "Kaufmann" (merchant). "Fucker" is a synonym that means "Großhändler" (wholesaler) or can alternatively mean "kleiner Dieb" (pilferer).

It appears that Fugger/Fucker meant wholesaler or merchant at least by the mid-1800s, and it seems a more likely occupation for the Wehinger family than miner, banker or thief.

* To access information in the database, click the link "In English", read the terms, check the "accept" box, then click the "to the informations" button. If you read German you can simply check the "Ich akzeptiere" box and click on the "zu den Daten" button.

• About Dornbirn (with photos)
• Dornbirn Municipal Museum (you can change the [Sprache] to English)
• Description of Vorarlberg with map
• Map of Vorarlberg showing Dornbirn
• German Society at the Close of the Middle Ages (about the Fuggers)
• History of Austria
• The Birth of Capitalism
•Alpbach, center of Fugger mining in Austria (this is in Tirol, west of Vorarlberg).
• Fürst Fugger Privatbank

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