|Roots & Branches||Page last modified:
This website is focused on the Benitz families that have their roots in Endingen (Baden, Germany), in particular the family of Wiliam Benitz (Wilhelm Böniz, 1815-1876) and Josephine Kolmer (Josefa Kolmerer, 1830-1912).
Given the complexity of keeping track of the various family branches, their ancestors and descendants, the genealogical information on this web site is organized around the adults who lived at the time of emigration from Germany during the period 1830-1860. It provides a convenient “bottle-neck”, between the old world and the new world, between the truly ancient and more recent ancestors.
The Roots & Branches pages provide background information on Benitz ancestors, those who remained, as well as those who emigrated to the Americas during that period. The Kolmer ancestors (Josephine’s parents & siblings) are included under the Texas/Calif. button. We make a brief mention (under the Roots button) of other families, from the Black Forest and Prussia, who share with us the surname “Benitz”.
Each of the buttons in the second row above are more fully described below.
In the early to mid-1800's persons with the family surname of Benitz emigrated to the Americas from two sovereign German states that were later incorporated into the German Empire, the Grand Duchy of Baden and the Kingdom of Prussia. Those from Baden were likely the first to go, leaving during the 1830's and 1840's from the area around Freiburg-im-Breisgau, particularly from the village of Endingen.
During the 1870's and 1880's a second wave of Benitz emigrants left from the Black Forest, in the vicinity of Freiburg (Baden), and from Prussia, in particular the village of Zemmin. We don't know if the emigrants from Baden and Prussia were related but it seems highly unlikely. Before the 20th century common people simply did not move around that much, for to do so required the permission of the powers that be. It is far more likely a coincidence of spelling.
A glance at German history of the 19th century reveals why many of its citizens emigrated. The economy of the Grand Duchy of Baden had suffered badly from Napoleon's invasion and resulting War of Liberation (1813-1814); a severe rise in prices led to widespread famine, eventually culminating in an uprising in Freiburg in 1848/49. The Benitz from Endingen were just a few of the many who during the mid-1800's emigrated to the Americas in search of a better life.
The Benitz who left during the mid 19th century are known to have settled in Argentina, Mexico, U.S.A., and Venezuela. In the US descendants of the Benitz settlers in the Pennsylvania Dutch colony have spread westward. Those from Zemmin who settled in Kansas have spread north-west into Washingston state. Others from Endingen settled in Mexico, in Tejas and Alta California, in what are today the states of Texas, California, and Nevada in the US. In Venezuela they were leaders and founding members of the Colonia Tovar — where the family surname no longer exists. In Argentina (re-emigrats from California) they became prosperous land owners with descendants spread about the globe.
Wilhelm left to become a seaman in 1830-1831; his future in-laws, also from Endingen, emigrated in 1833 (to North Carolina). Then in 1838 his brother Anton emigrated to Pennsylvania — about the same time so did Anna and Franz (to Ohio). Times were tough for those who remained in Endingen. Thaddaeus, who continued in the family trade, was not doing well during the 1860's and Wilhelm sent him money from California.
In 1842 Alexander, a second cousin to Wilhelm, led a group of nearly 400 emigrés from Endingen and the surrounding villages to found the Colonia Tovar in Venezuela. Alexander was accompanied by two brothers (Karl and Theodor) and two sisters (Karolina and Lugarda), other relatives followed later. In the 1850's and 1860's his brothers Louis and Adolphus were miners in the California Gold Rush.
Today there are Benitz's living in the Freiburg-im-Breisgau area, but in Endingen itself there remain no persons with that family name. None are listed on the village's memorial to its dead in WW-I and WW-II. There is a Benitz Strasse named after Alexander and his portrait hangs in the village's museum to the emigrants to Colonia Tovar.
© Peter Benitz (Benitz Family)