Monday, August 01, 2005

Wenkels on the Ship Iris

Johann "Conrad" Christoph Wenkel married Henriette Bierwirth in 1822 in Großwenden (now part of Großlohra), which today is in the German state of Thuringia (Thüringen). The Wenkel family lived in Ebeleben, southwest of Sondershausen. According to family stories the Wenkel family emigrated to America between 1843 and 1846, traveling up the Mississippi River to Monroe County, Illinois. A new database of immigrants arriving at Castle Garden shows that the Wenkel family did in fact come to America in 1846 on the ship Iris, stopping first in New York City on their way to Illinois.

Castle Garden, located at the tip of Manhattan, was the first official immigration center in America, and operated until the opening of Ellis Island in 1892. The Castle Garden database includes ship passenger lists from 1830-1913.

A search of the database reveals that the Wenkel family arrived in America aboard the ship Iris on July 13,1846:
Name_______________Occupation_________________Age Sex
CONR.______WENKEL Brick Maker / Manufacturer__46 M
HENRIETTE__WENKEL Unknown_____________________45 F
FREIDRICKE_WENKEL Unknown_____________________16 F
WM.________WENKEL Unknown_____________________14 M
AUGUSTA____WENKEL Child, Youngster____________10 F
AMELIA_____WENKEL Child, Youngster_____________8 F
MINA_______WENKEL Child, Youngster_____________5 F
HENRIETTE__WENKEL Child, Youngster_____________3 F

How do we know this is the correct Wenkel family?

1. The ages are generally correct:
- Johann "Conrad" Wenkel was born in May 1800 (age 46)
- Henriette (Birwirth) Wenkel was born August 1804 (age 42 - in handwritten record a 2 can look like a 5)
- Friedericke Henrietta Wenkel was born in December 1830 (age 16)
- William - Conrad Wenkel (our ancestor) was born in January 1832 (age 14)
- Auguste Wenkel was born May 1836 (age 10)
- Friedericke "Emilia" Wenkel was born about 1838 (age about 8)
- Wilhelmine "Mina" Wenkel was born in February 1841 (age 5)
- Henriette Wenkel was born in March 1843 (age 3)

2. Conrad Wenkel's occupation is reasonable:
According to some sources, Conrad Wenkel was a linen weaver in Germany*. However, according to those same sources, Conrad's father, Johann Friedrich Wenkel, was a brickmaker in Lohra, and may have owned a brickyard. It is not unreasonable to think that his son also learned brickmaking (perhaps in addition to linen weaving).

3. A further search of the database shows that that Heinrich and Henriette (Wenkel) Mundt, with their daughter Mina were on the same ship.
Henriette (Wenkel) Mundt was the sister of Conrad Wenkel. The Mundt family (shortened to Mund) also settled in Columbia, Illinois. (note that they were later joined by Andreas Christoph Mund and family. Andreas was son of Heinrich Christoph and Juliane Dorothea (Wenkel) Mundt, making him a likely cousin of both Heinrich Mund and Conrad Wenkel).

Taken together, it looks like this is our Wenkel family on the Iris. After arriving in New York, they probably continued on to New Orleans, either on the Iris or a different ship.

I have not found a picture or description of the Iris, which was the name of a number of different 19th century ships. Iris was probably a "bark" (or "barque").

It should be noticed that the three oldest Wenkel children were not found on the passenger list: Caroline "Lena" Wenkel (born 1824), Friedrich "Fritz" Wenkel (born 1826), and Johanna "Dorothea" Wenkel (born 1827). It is unclear if they are simply indexed incorrectly (the database does not allow you to view the entire list, just to search) or if they took a different ship to America. We know that both Lena and Dorothea were in Monroe County by September 1846.

*Information about Johann "Conrad" Wenkel in Ebeleben from "Wenkel/Wenkle Cousins", Update #2, Christmas 1983

map of the Nordhausen region, showing Grosswenden, Sondershausen and Ebeleben
Thuringian States in 1848 (Ebeleben is in the principality of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, in purple).

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