the 2nd. family-letter

FamBrief2 copy

Dear relatives,

Dear namesakes,

Dear friends of the Sterling families!

Finally, there is a second family letter!

Again, the year is nearly over, certainly it was busy for most of you, I hope it was also full of joy more often than of sorrow. But all this is part of our lives, as it was already part of our ancestors’ lives.

With this letter, I would like to thank all who wrote to me this year and made their contributions to the completion or supplementation of the genealogical documentation of the different STERLING families.

I wish you all a merry Christmas and all the best for the new year and the now starting new decade, which is also the last decade of this century.

In the second family letter, I would like to provide you with two chronicles: One was written by P. Baensch in the year 1928 about Gross Germersleben and was issued in a book of local history about the district of Wanzleben. This chronicle provides a little overview about the history of this village where so many Sterlings lived and came from. It is a description from the beginnings to the end of the Thirty Years’ War.

The second chronicle contains interesting details and supplementations from the time of the French rule and the war of liberation. These were researched by Cantor Thiele. Reading this chronicle, you get a good idea of this epoch and its difficult circumstances and living conditions. Cantor Thiele also mentions the peasant Christoph STERLING (1790 – 1857), who first was a soldier in the war against Russia and became one of the active freedom fighters after returning from captivity. The last paragraph represents a little insight into the history of those of our ancestors who went to Wolhynia and settled there.

Gross Germersleben

By P. Baensch

The village of Gross Germersleben, 8 km south-west of Wanzleben by the river Bode, was already mentioned in a document from the era of Otto Ist under the name of Germersleva. In 937, Otto Ist donated this village to the dome of Magdeburg. In other documents, the following names are mentioned: Grimsheresleba, Germersloue (1148), Bort-, Boet- and Bodengermersleve (1254), magna Germersleve and groten Germersleve. In the year 1311, members of the family von Meynersen were the feudal lords of the village. Later also other archiepiscopal vassals were mentioned. Gross Germersleben must have been an important village in former times.

A castle was located there, which was mentioned in 1286 in connection with the knight Erich von Esebeck, whose wife lived in this castle. In Gross Germersleben, the Saxon aristocrats used to meet for discussions. It was a place where ”things” were held, (i.e. freemen met there for trials and discussions). Important state parliament meetings were held there, too, e. g. 1147 before the crusade against the Slavs, as well as in 1148, 1197, 1211, 1260 and 1316. These meetings took partly place in the church, open-air, and sometimes perhaps also on the Trostberg by the river Bode. Traces of a rampart are said to have been visible for a long time. Many monasteries and convents had property in this village, as Drübeck, St. Lorenz, Marienthal and Hecklingen. The latter was the owner of a mill, for the construction of which archbishop Albrecht provided a piece of land in the year of 1209. Regarding the later archiepiscopal vassals, the family von Kotze is worth mentioning. The first member of this family who lived in Germersleben was the lord stewart Hans von Kotze. In 1489, he received the village together with Klein Germersleben and Klein Oschersleben from the archbishop Ernst as a hereditary feoff. The patronage over the church, however, was under the control of the vassals von Warburg. The reformation was implemented in 1547. As many other villages in those days, Gross Germersleben suffered substantially during the Thirty Years’ War. In 1641, a royal army camp was built there, from which the commander Piccolomini made his raids. Then, the Swedes came to the village. Their general von Königsmarck arranged the marriage of his relative Katharina Maria with Christian von Kotze, who was at the service of the Swede army as an officer. Neither the royal nor the Swede army treated the inhabitants of the village very gently. Thus, they had to cope with extreme poverty and troubles. In addition to this, the pestilence spread in the village. Therefore, it is no wonder that at the end of this terrible war, there were not many people left in the village.

After the war, the village and the castle were rebuilt again and slowly, the traces of this devastating war began to pale.

Today, Gross Germersleben is a small town with more than 1000 inhabitants. Worth mentioning are the castle, which Waldemar Uhde has written an essay about, as well as the church. In 1713, it was built in the form it has today. Probably, however, older remains were integrated into the building work. The ground plan shows a two-nave vaulted church hall. By and large, the design of this hall church is laid out quite simple.


In case I have infringed any copyrights unintentionally, I would like to ask you to let me know this immediately. This page will then immediately be removed.


The history of the village Gross Germersleben


by Cantor Thiele

Under French Rule

The era of Prussia under the rule of Frederick the Great ended near Jena. With the peace agreement of Tilsit, he lost the entire region left of the river Elbe. Napoleon turned these regions into the kingdom of Westphalia and appointed his brother Jerome king. Also our village was separated from Prussia and became part of the kingdom of Westphalia. Napoleon implemented new laws and a new administration in the newly founded kingdom. The whole country was divided in ”departments”. Gross Germersleben was part of the Departement d’Elbe. The leader of this departement was the prefect Graf von der Schulenburg-Emden. Subordinates of the prefect were the sub-prefects in the individual districts; the cantons were ruled by the ”Canton-Maire” and every village again had its own ”Maire” (Mayor).

Gross Germersleben was a canton principal town. The Maire of the canton was Mr von Kotze, his representative was the junior civil servant Mr Koch. The former administrative institution was now called municipal council. Members of this council were Peter Borchardt, Kuthe, Cantor Holstein, Hugershoff, Christian Schotte, Steinbrecht and Samual Sachse. For important subjects, the council members were called together in the pub of the village, ”Gemeindekrug”. There, the secretary of the Maire announced the latest regulations (law bulletins). The secretary’s name was Schaare, and he was also von Kotze’s secretary of the court. In these meetings, the subjects of discussion were e.g. taxes, charges, duties or the registration of persons liable to military service in the corresponding lists. The members were invited by a clerk of the Maire, whose name was Bösche. In case urgent matters had to be carried out by the prefect of Magdeburg, messengers were sent there. For example, it is mentioned that the messenger Strunk was sent to Magdeburg on 8 December, 1809, by the reasons of a patriotic loan and school concerns. He received 1 thaler for every errand to the prefect.

When French regulations had to be announced to the residents, these were displayed at the town hall but also on the church doors. In order to make sure that everyone noticed these announcements, most of them had the heading ”Arrete” – i. e. Stop – in large letters written on them.

Charges, Taxes etc.

In 1808, the farmers of the community had to pay a ”war contribution” at the amount of 800 thalers of  ”Friedrichs-d’Or”, which was worth 5 thalers a piece. As the impoverished farmers were not in a position to pay such a sum in cash value, they had to mortgage their farms and services as well as all their mobile and immobile property to receive a loan from the Jew Friedmeyer in Halberstadt with an interest rate of 6%. These debts were registered in the mortgage register of Egeln in the presence of the temporarily appointed judge Fabricius. These entries were confirmed by the seal of the court of the aristocrats von Kotze. Altogether, 10 farms were affected by this regulation. They had to declare their solidarity for the raising of the contribution of 800 thalers, lent from Friedmeyer.

Those farmers were the following:

1) Andreas Faese (today Pechau)…

2) Mathias Fischer…

3) Johann Peter Friedrich Borchardt owned a farm with 4 ”Hufe” (old German square measure that differed regionally; approx. 15 to 20 hectares) as a hereditary feoff from a man called Schenk, with 20 morgens of acre on which he had to pay hereditary interest. He had bought one large meadow together with the farmyard for 5700 thalers from his father in 1768, after the latter had bought it from its previous owner Melchior in 1766. Charges: 7 groschen and 4 pfennigs of hereditary interest had to be paid on 29 morgens of acre to the dean of the cathedral in Magdeburg. This acre could not be sold, exchanged or mortgaged without authorization of the dean of the cathedral. His wife Dorothee had had a dowry of 800 thalers when they married. This money had been lent to the hospital of Benneckenbeck. Borchardt had borrowed 1820 thalers in Louis and Karl d’Or as well as 1180 thalers in Friedrichs d’Or from the hospital Benkendorf in Hadmersleben at an interest rate of 4½ %. Furthermore, he owed 223 thalers and 8 groschen of interest on his debt to the district court judge Koch.

Samuel Sachse…

5) Johann Heinrich Borchardt owned a small farm which included 3 ”Hufe” of acres, 2 meadows and 1 piece of leased wood as hereditary feoff from Schenk. He had purchased three meadows from his father, together with the complete farmyard, for 2000 thalers, after the latter had bought it from his joint heirs. Charges: 1 groschen and 6 pfennigs of hereditary interest had to be paid by him to the family von Kotze for one meadow. The farm was also mortgaged as follows: 400 thalers borrowed from the court counsellor Faber, 100 thalers borrowed from Mansfellt in Hadversleben, 300 thalers of gold from the bailiff Kummer in Seehausen at an interest rate of  6 %. His wife had had a dowry of 500 thalers at the time of their marriage.

6) Johann Christoph Kuthe owned ½ of a small farm. Owner of the other half was Heinrich Borchardt. Part of this farm were 4 ½ ”Hufe” of acres, 2 meadows and one half of the round meadow. He had bought this farm from the heirs of Johann Caspar Kuthe in 1778 for 3200 thalers, after the latter had purchased it from his mother in 1757 at a price of 3200 thalers. Charges: 1 groschen, 6 pfennigs of hereditary interest had to be paid for the half of the meadow to the family von Kotze. 3 ”Hufe” were a hereditary feoff from the von Kotzes. With these 3 ”Hufe”, his 4 sons were feoffed. However, their father Christoph Kuthe was a vassal and feudal lord, partly the possession was a feoff from Schenk.

Koch, the district court judge and junior civil servant of the Canton-Maire and later mayor of the community, owned a small farm with 2 ½ ”Hufe”, 28 ½ morgens of acre, 2 meadows, 22 feedlots and 1 peasant farm with 1 ”Hufe” and 15 morgens of acre. He had bought his properties from Margarethe Elisabeth Borchardt, wife of Luther, for 3000 thalers in 1774. The latter had acquired these properties from her sister Magdalena, who was married to Kuthe, in 1762.
This farm was evaluated in 1791; the value of livestock and agricultural equipment together with the estate was estimated to be 8190 thalers. Charges: 6 groschen of hereditary interest had to be paid to the von Kotzes, 6 groschen to Peseckendorf, 1 groschen to the monastery of Walbeck according to the letter dated 11 November 1800 regarding the heritage of ½ ”Hufe” of a meadow for which no tithe had to be paid. At every case of death, additional money had to paid. 3 groschen and 4 pfennigs had to be paid to the dean of the cathedral in Magdeburg every year. Payment of this charge was based on the letter regarding hereditary interest dated 1777. Other charges: 15 groschen of hereditary interested for 1 meadow had to be paid to von Kotze, furthermore, 2 groschen, 4 pfennigs of hereditary interest and 3 chickens for 1 ”Hufe” had to be paid to von Kotze. Also this farm was encumbered with a mortgage of 6000 thalers.

8) Wilhelm Schilt owned half a farm with 3 ”Hufe” and 22½ morgens of acres and meadows. 15 morgens of this property were a feoff from the von Kotzes. The previous owner had been Cyriakus Schilt and previous to him, Hans Zickel. Charges: the chapter of Magdeburg had to be supplied with 4 bushels of rye and wheat; to the family von Kotze, 5 sacks each of rye and barley had to be delivered. Furthermore, Schilt had to deliver the following, among other things, to his parents as reserved property: 18 bushels of rye, 6 bushels of wheat, ¼ of beef, 1 fat pig – the second-best he had – one fatless, half-year-old pig, 1 loading of firewood, 52 pounds of butter, 240 pieces of cheese and 180 eggs, acres with 1 bushel of flaxseed, 4 fat geese, 4 chickens, 1½ bushels of summer seed, ½ a bushel of salt, 3 proportions of milk per week, 30 bunches of rye straw, the small parlour on the left side of the house and the attic above the parlour.

9) Gottlieb Köhne…

10) The property of the peasant Christoph Rohde comprised 1 ”Hufe” and 15 morgens of acre, charged with 6 groschen of hereditary interest, which had to be paid to the von Kotzes. Furthermore, Rohde had 600 thalers of debt on his farm.

All these land tenures were recorded in a mortgage register, which now is a source of information about the history of the major farms, their size etc. In addition to the debt that these ten farmers had in common (the 800 thalers of war contribution), they all had to pay their individual charges like hereditary interest, dues that had to be paid in kind and interest for other debts.

1)Tax on land and building ( which was 1/5 of the clear profit gained from all usable property).

2) Trade tax with extra centimes – with the introduction of this tax, the freedom of trade was implemented and the former guild affiliation was abolished.

3) Staff tax, which was divided in 10 different classes and had to be paid by all subjects older than 16 years. The staff tax was determined by the municipal council in the ”Gemeindekrug”; chairman was the Maire of the canton, von Kotze. The prefect had to approve this resolution, as he had to approve all decisions of the municipal council. All civil servants, the Canton-Maire, junior civil servants and even the secretaries of the Maire were appointed by King Jerome in Kassel.

4) Indirect taxes ( such as salt tax or road and bridge money).


    The patrimonial court of the von Kotzes was abolished by a royal regulation dated 17 February, 1808. From this day on, jurisdiction was in the hands of district or department courts. Only minor legal matters were dealt with by the newly established ”court of the peace” or by the municipal police.


    On 4 July, 1808, a general regulation was delivered to the Maires of the rural communities of the Departement d’Elbe. As a result of this regulation, the residents that had formerly been obliged to temporarily provide their manpower, horses and carriages for their lords of manor were of the opinion that their obligation was abolished by this royal decree. However, only those services were abolished that based on peonage or mere arbitrariness of the lords of manor. Thus, also under French rule, the lords of manor were entitled to demand property, manpower as well as horses and carriages for certain services from their subjects that were obliged to render these services, given that this had been registered in any official document, as for example land registers.


    Since 23 October, 1808, every resident of the canton Gross Germersleben who travelled to another community (village, town etc.) had to have a passport issued by the Maire. If anyone did not have his passport with him when being asked to show it, he was arrested. For going abroad (thus, to the region right of the Elbe), every person even had to have a passport issued by the prefecture. The passport cost 6 pfennigs, poor people received it for free.

    Public Safety

    For maintaining public order, military was positioned also in Gross Germersleben. In case the military asked the Maire for help, he had to mobilise the required number of community members for averting danger or arresting the culprit when the general forces of the authority were not sufficient.


    Temporary Provision of Carriages, Horses and Charioteer Services

    According to the size of their property, the farmers had to serve as charioteers for the occupation army in times of war. On 20 December, 1808, The farmer Fähse, who owned 8 ”Hufe”, had to appear in Croppenstedt with 2 horses in order to chauffeur ”his Majesty” to Egeln. He received 4 thalers as compensation for this 3-days’ service. On 23 October, 1808, he had to provide 4 horses in order to transport cannons from Egeln to Halberstadt. The farmer Fischer brought gun powder from Egeln to Magdeburg on 17 and 18 May and received 10 thalers.


    As in Egeln, there was a depot for ammunition, food and provisions, the farmers continually had to transport hay, bread, meat and even war taxes.

    1813 – 1815

    After notice that the Napoleon’s army had been smashed in Russia, also the Prussian nation began to free itself from their oppressor. In the spring of 1813, the Prussians revolted. Also in our village, the people showed that they were willing and had the courage to make sacrifices for their mother country. Many volunteered for the campaign. Even though I have not found information on all participants, I would like to mention the following volunteers from our community who participated in the 1813-1815 campaign:

    1. Christoph Sterling, peasant

    2. – 12. …

    13. Andreas Braumann, peasant

    14. – 15. …

    Only those are listed that were still alive in 1849, because then, they were exempted from a certain tax that was raised according to the corresponding classes of population Surely, there were a lot more.

    During this war of liberation, the following soldiers died:

    1. Konrad Altmann

    2. Christoph Buntz

    Their names are written on the memorial tablet of the church.

    After the liberation, the Prussian laws and constitution were reintroduced. With peal of bells and a church service, the liberation from foreign rule and reunification with the mother country was celebrated in church.

    After the forces had returned to France, the village often had to accommodate soldiers again. But this time, it was Prussian troops that were welcomed with rejoicing and gratefulness. From the end of 1814 until 1817 almost regularly military was accommodated in the village; from 13 to 19 October 1815 the Thuringian militia, and in 1817, the battery no. 18. The troops were provided with board and lodging and the farmers had to deliver hey, straw and oat, partly to the depot in Wanzleben. The guard room was in the poorhouse. For its heating, the farmers delivered straw.


    In case I have infringed any copyrights unintentionally, I would like to ask you to let me know this immediately. This page will then immediately be removed.



    A historical retrospect

    Extracts from:

    ”Die evangelisch-augsburgischen Gemeinden in Polen” by E. Kneifel


    “Heimatbuch der Deutschen aus Russland” by Dr. K. Stumpp

    Wolhynia with its 35 729 km² and 11 political districts was still the largest duchy (administrative district) of Poland, although due to the third partition of Poland in 1795, the eastern parts of Wolhynia with its capital Shitomir were annexed to Russia. The Russian border was approx. 30 km east of Tuczyn, the line of the border was from the northeast to the southwest as far as Galicia, which was partly Austrian at that time.

    In 1816, the first settlers from Prussia, but also from Gdansk and western Palatine immigrated and founded the protestant colonies Josephine and Annette.

    In addition, from 1831 / 1832 onwards, German weavers from central Poland came to Welnianka near Rozyszcze. Around 1840, the number of settlers was 1200 already and further increased due to permanent immigration. 1862, 14 towns existed in the district of Rozyszcze, among others Welnianka, Stanislawowka and Antonowka. In 1863,  a total of 5684 colonists lived in these towns.

    The parish of Rozyszcze also comprised Luck, Kowel and Wladimir-Wolynsk at that time, before it was separated and individual protestant communities were founded: Tuczyn – founded 1888, Wladimir-Wolynsk – founded 1891, Luck – founded 1899 and Rowne – founded 1902.

    In 308 German colonies, only 43 of which were purely German and which formed in no way a national unity, the colonists settled as proprietors of enterprises, governmental leaseholders, hosts without acts of purchase being fulfilled, unpropertied people or farmers and farm labourers. In the cities, there lived relatively small groups of Lutheran families.

    Since 1890, the increasing poverty in the country caused numerous Germans in Wolhynia to emigrate to Siberia, to the United States and back to Germany.

    When the people from Wolhynia were expelled by Russian military in 1915 during World War I, times of trouble and suffering began. The people that had been condemned to go into exile are said to have met in Kostopol under the ”historical pear” for prayer. And that was done everywhere else, too! Relying upon God’s guidance, they started for a hard and uncertain future. Difficulties, destitutions and diseases killed many, thousands never saw their former homeland again. And what the survivors came across after their return to Wolhynia in 1918 – 1919, was destroyed villages, burnt down and devastated homesteads, enterprises that were occupied by strangers or plundered. The leaseholds of many colonists had been sold during the war. It is not surprising that this bleak and hopeless situation caused many residents of Wolhynia to ask themselves the following decisive question: Should they emigrate or nevertheless stay in Wolhynia and try a new start? Those homecomers who wanted to stay faced times of hard work and distress. But with the toughness and ambitiousness which is characteristic for the people from Wolhynia, they started to reconstruct their houses, farms and enterprises. Many of them lacked the urgently needed means for reconstruction and seed capital. The ”Deutsche Genossenschaftsbank” (German Cooperative Bank) in Luck proved to be a decisive factor in this regard. This bank consulted the colonists, granted them loans and dealt with the arrangement of the contracts of sale and lease as far as legal issues were concerned. Slowly but steadily the situation improved. The hard starting years after 1919, the apathy and helplessness were overcome. With courage, confidence and hope, the people from Wolhynia looked ahead. The total number of Germans in Wolhynia was approximately 50 000 before 1939.

    The resettlement into the territory of the Third Reich that started in 1939 was witnessed by many residents of Wolhynia personally. Perhaps, anyone of you is willing to tell about his experiences during that time. Publication of this report could then be part of the next family letter.


    In case I have infringed any copyrights unintentionally, I would like to ask you to let me know this immediately. This page will then immediately be removed.


    Research Findings

    STERLINGs from Wolhynia

    Also this year, the best progress was achieved in researches concerning this family.

    The earliest ancestor we presently have information about is Josef STERLING, who was born in Zelow in 1832 (administrative region Hohensalza and Litzmannstadt, district of Lask), and who was married to Johanna Poschpischil. In Zelow, which was founded in 1802, a high number of weavers had settled, coming from the Bohemian villages Groß Tabor and Klein Tabor and from Silesia. Josef STERLING had two sons among other children, that were both also born in Central Poland; Johann in Kliszerow in 1853 (Kliszerow is probably identical with Klesczow, located between Belchatow and Radomsko) and Josef in Lodz in 1860 (two places of birth were registered: Lodz and Selof Petrinka – the village of Petrinka, Petrikau, district of Hohensalza).

    It cannot be said exactly, when the family moved to Wolhynia. Johann’s and Josef’s children were already born in Wolhynia: Marianne in Adamowka in 1885. Thus it is certain that the families did not leave Central Poland due to the outbreak of the Polish ”November Uprising” in 1831 / 1832.

    On the following map, the Lutheran protestant communities in Polish Wolhynia are indicated:



Comment: For zooming of the map, please click on it.

STERLINGs from Rosow

We found information on the following further STERLING ancestors: Nikolaus Jacob STERLING, shoemaker, who married Sophie Ulrich, widow of a man named Wohlfahrt, in Radekow on 20 March, 1817; Anna Dorothea Elisabeth STERLING, born in Gartz on 12 September, 1804; Johann Friedrich STERLING, farm labourer in Rosow, born in 1814 and Friedrich STERLING, who was also farm labourer in Rosow, born in 1818. However, a direct relatedness to Christian Friedrich Jacob STERLING has not been found yet.

Unfortunately, there weren’t any new findings concerning the other STERLING families – except from a high number of details.

These family letters should not work in one direction only; helpful suggestions as well as any support in the form of data and contributions are highly appreciated. At the end of this family letter, I would once more like to thank all who provided contributions and data for this research.