English -> The Cross With The Name

The Cross With The Name

[I don’t think the title translates well. In German a „cross“ can have the meaning of „burden“. That’s what I have in mind. Here it is a game of words - as you may see.]

If you walk through St. Wendel and get lost in the east of the city to the building that is sold in the city as "the city wall" (in fact, it is not the city wall and never was, but the back of a barn that was demolished 30 years ago), then you come across the statue of a fat woman a little bit in front of the wall under a shady tree. That is, thick in the true sense, she is not, but highly pregnant - at least in the 9th month, rather almost over it. Her gaze goes down to a plate that she holds in her left hand. And look over her shoulder, you can see that it depicts the face of an older gentleman - with curly hair and a high-seam. This is not to be St. Nicholas, but another strange saint - Karl Marx.

The woman is Helena Demuth, called "Lenchen Demuth" in the city of all those who do not know her but know her name. In fact, there is no one left who knows her, because she will be dead for 130 years (I write this article on 20 July 2020) on 4 November this year. Why does she stand there and look longingly at the panel? Well, the longing look stems from the fact that in June 1851 she gave life to a son named Henry Frederick and the father was - presumably, very likely - Karl Marx.

Lenchen was born in St. Wendel down in the street "Im Graben („In the trench“) - I know, I know, on the blackboard behind her on the wall is written that she looks at her parents' house. That had been her parents' house then when the statue was placed there - at least we assumed then that it was it. But then I came across a notarial record which states that her parents bought another - larger - house down in the Graben in 1818, presumably because their family had grown to three children - that is, actually four, but the eldest daughter died after six weeks - and it seemed unlikely to be the parents that they would remain with only three children. In fact, the number grew to seven - 6 girls and 1 boy - i.e. actually only five, because the eldest daughter also died after only two months old.

Helena's parents - Catholic as at that time almost 100 percent of all the inhabitants of the city - were Michael Demuth and Maria Katharina Kreuz, he came from St. Wendel (Lenchen's statue would see his birthplace if she could a) look up and b) look around the corner of the house in front of him. It was the predecessor of the large building to the left of today's Lerner bakery. He was born on 28 October 1788, the son of Heinrich Demuth and his wife Elisabeth Maldener. Like his father, he learned the baker's trade, but, far from his father, he never ran his own bakery, but only worked in one. His wife Maria Katharina Kreuz was born on 6 November 1791 in nearby Oberlinxweiler, the daughter of Peter Kreuz and Anna Barbara Spaniol. They married on February 15, 1808 in St. Wendela; both were minors at the time. An obvious reason for the "early" marriage may have been that she was pregnant, but the first of her children - daughter Barbara - was not born until July 3, 1809, almost 17 months later. This does not preclude the mother's pregnancy if it ended in a miscarriage that was not recorded as a stillbirth civilly or in the church. A stillbirth is not reported.
         One possible reason may have been that Michael, as a married man, could not be conscripted by the French for military service, but then an official consent should have been obtained at the time of marriage - a pity that our marriage ancillary files of that time no longer exist. It can also not be found in the conscription lists in the St. Wendel Municipal Archives (in stocks B and C). There is a marriage contract (Landesarchiv Saarbrücken, Notariat St. Wendel, Notary Roechling, No. 34 of 15.02.1808), but a "cause" is not mentioned there.

On the other hand, in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Demuths were the families with the most illegitimate children, and perhaps they simply wanted to "prevent". We don't know.

Four children were born in Balduinstraße:

Barbara Demuth (1809-1834)
She married the bricklayer Wenceslaus Fehr (1810-1862) and died at the birth of her first child in her cot.

Anna Katharina (1812-1814)

Katharina Demuth (1815-1873)
She had four illegitimate children (3 survivors) and married the tailor Peter Riefer (1815-1885) in 1852. Of the three sons she gave him, only the eldest, Adolf (1853-1910), survived his childhood.

Peter Demuth (1817-1889)
He emigrated to the United States in 1840, married Anna Staub (1819-1897) from Tholey in 1844, and settled in Dansville, New York.

After the move, three daughters were born in the house in „Graben“:

=> Helena (1820-1890)
=> Elizabeth (1823-1852)
=> Maria Katharina (1826-1827)

In 1828, the family was struck by a hard blow when Michael Demuth died at the age of 38. His death as the only breadwinner plunged the family - mother, son and five daughters - into deepest misery. His widow worked as a day laborer to get her family through, which she did more badly than right. Part of the house was rented out.

In 1834 the widow became pregnant again and gave birth to a daughter in June 1935:

"Mayor's Office St. Wendel, St. Wendel District, Peace Court= St. Wendel District.   From the 28th of June in 1835 in the morning at 10 a.m. Birth of Anna Maria Creuz, born 27 June 1835, at 9 a.m. to St. Wendel by Catharina Creuz, widow of Michel Demuth, without trade, residing in St. Wendel.   The child's father is unknown.
The sex of the child has been recognized as female.

First witness Johann Born, school teacher in Urweiler, 39 years old.
Second witness Franz Clemens, farmer in St. Wendel, 34 years old.
At the invitation made to us by Catharina Daumüller, midwife, 56 years old, living in St. Wendel, this act was recorded. (...)"

And then there are the signatures. Not that of Catharina Creuz, because she was not present at the civil office.

[Source: St. Wendel City Archives, St. Wendel Birth Records, 1835. You can find out the exact number. There is a register at the back, so it shouldn't be hard to find.]

Anna Maria, who is called "Marianne" in the Karl Marx research, was for a long time a kind of mystery. On 28 April 1857, she had a passport issued in St. Wendel to travel to London, because she "entered service there". This wording is not accidental, it is the prerequisite for a service woman to obtain a passport at all. This can be read in the instruction of the district councillor Engelmann to Mayor Rechlin of 12 February 1854 on the issuance of travel and travel passes, which, like the entry of 1857 in the city archives of St. Wendel, can be found in file 2-69 (the regulations on pages 60-67, Anna Maria's entry on page 81, there no. 64).

In London, Anna Maria, like her 15-year-old half-sister Helena, worked as a maid in the Marx family household in London. There she died on December 23, 1862 at the age of 27:

"No. 307
(Death Date) December 23, 1862, 9 Grafton Terrace
Mary Cross, female, 26 years old, domestic worker
Heart disease, lung overload
X The sign of Helen Demuth, present at death,
9 Grafton Terrace, Kentish Town
(Note:) Certified
(issued on) 26.12.1862 by Edward Hacker, Registrar"

The entry can be found in the General Register Office, Register of Death, District St. Pancras, Sub-District Kentish Town, Middlesex County, 1862.

It was a mystery to research because no one knew who she was and where she came from. Well, Helena Demuth reported her death, but that she was her half-sister is nowhere to be found. It was only in the 1960s that the Trier Helena Demuth researcher Dr. Heinz Monz was able to find out the identity of Anna Maria.

The problem was that Anna Maria was not called Demuth, but "Kreutz" (no matter in which variant). But why is this so?

To get to the bottom of the matter, you need to look at the right to name. Because in the civil register the last name does not play a role anywhere or is assumed that everyone knows how it is handled.

In the above birth entry of Anna Maria her last name is fixed from the beginning. Fifteen years earlier, when her half-sister Helena entered, the wording was very different. The main part reads:

"Today the one and thirtieth of the month of December, thousand eight hundred twenty, at ten o'clock of the morning, would appear before us civil officials of the mayor's office of St: Wendel Canton of St: Wendel, the Michel Demuth, thirty years old, from profession a Becker resident to St: Wendel, who explained to us that a child of the female sex was born today at St: Wendel this day of the month of December at one o'clock in the morning , by Catharina Creutz, wife, residing in St: Wendel, of profession nothing, and generated by him Declarant of profession a Becker resident to St: Wendel which child should be given the first names Helena."

Here, too, it is clear to the civil servant what the child's last name is, because he refers only to the first name.

Is it a comic formulation that the first names should be "given" to the child in this way and so. As if the child does not receive it here at this entry, but at a later act, but which one? But not at baptism?

There is written - originally of course in Latin - here in the translation of Dr. Margarete Stitz from St. Wendel -:

"Born on the 30th (nata) and baptized the next day (renata) is Helena Demuth, legtime daughter of the baker Michael Demuth and the Catharina Kreutz in St. Wendel, godparents: Helena Demuth and Johann Demuth, baker, both from St. Wendel. This is witnessed by Mathias Feilen, pastor."

There are two statements about the exact date of birth, namely the Catholic and the civil. Since the midwife is no longer alive and not the mother, it will not be possible to determine whether Lenchen was born shortly before midnight or an hour later, i.e. on 30 or 31 December.

With the first names we are clear: the child got the first name by determining the parents after the birth. The father or the one who reported the birth to the Office gave the official the first name specified in the family circle, and this was fixed in writing in the birth certificate and then again at the shortly following confessional baptism.

But what about the last name?

After sifting through various old laws and finding nothing on this subject, I searched the Internet for help. And found it in an eight-page article by the German legal scholar Dieter Schwab entitled "Personal Name and Law" [published in: Das Registry (12/2015), p.354-362; seen under].

After that, there was first the baptismal name, the definition of which was a matter of custom for centuries. "Even when the custom of adding another name to the baptismal name, which we now call first name ("gender name", "family name", "last name"), we do not find a right to name in the sense that we would understand it today: there was a lack of legislation on the assignment or the permitted or unauthorized use of the surname." It must have been customary at the time for a family name to be adopted into the next generation and for the wife to usually adopt the man's gender name. Ordinary, but certainly not always. But there was no legal regulation to do so, and the custom was followed.

It was not until the 18th century that the authorities began to lay down general rules on the surname. Not least because of order and clarity. The custom became a legal status.

"The relationship with the status and status of the person is obvious. The name is part of a broader legal status as a member of the family. With the marriage, the woman enters the husband's family and therefore receives her status. (...) The woman gets the name of the man by a marriage to the right hand' is formulated by the Prussian General Land Law of 1794. 'The wife receives the name of the man, and enjoys the rights of his status', says section 92 of the Austrian General Civil Code of 1811." The marital children ''get' or 'use' the name of their father, as the aforementioned code books state in agreement. This is also the language used in the Civil Code for the German Reich of 1896: the woman 'receives' the surname of the man, the marital child 'receives' the surname of the father. The non-marital child, however, "receives the mother's name because it remains in the mother's family."

And the mother's name is not the woman's new last name after the marriage, but her maiden name.

That would say it all, and I could conclude this article happily. But here we are just 1835, not in the German Reich, but in Prussia, which was the legal successor of the so-called "Princely Lichtenberg" (private property of the Duke of Coburg), who was the legal successor of a strange transitional entity from Prussia and Austria between 1814 and 1816, which in turn was the legal successor of France.

And France included my St. Wendeler (and Alsfassen) ancestors since 1803, when the Electorate of Trier was dissolved.

Okay, "legal successor" is a bit high-handed, but the "Code Civil", which the French introduced in 1804, made my ancestors French citizens - whether they wanted it or not. The first book, entitled "from the Persons", deals with the enjoyment of civil rights in the first chapter of the first title. It states in a footnote: "Any man born and resident in France who is one and twenty full years old, has registered on the citizens' register of his district and has lived in the territory of the Republic for a year is a French citizen."

I looked around the Code Civil, but found nothing about the last name an illegitimate child gets. However, there is also nothing in it about which surname a marital child gets. It is true in chapter 1, "From the descent of lawful or married children" of the 7th title "From paternity and descent", that every child received during the marriage has the husband to the father and that the marital birth of a child born 300 days after the dissolution of the marriage can be disputed.

But nothing about the child's last name. And there is nothing about this in the 3rd chapter, which is about "natural" (i.e. illegitimate) children.

I found a solution to the riddle when I spoke to the registrant Evelyn Dillinger in our local registry office in St. Wendel, who explained to me that French law does not have a common surname, so that the marriage does not affect the names of the partners. I listened with my mouth open. [I was even more astonished when I learned that this is similar today in Germany. If two get married and don't give a common marriage name, they keep the names they're wearing.]

On the Internet, I read the same words and "married children get the name of their father" in an essay in the July-August 1987 issue of the magazine "Das Registry" (New Name Law in France) by Professor Dr. Michael Coester from Göttingen.

[Even if it is not part of the subject matter, here is a supplement to Coester in his article: "However, French law knows the institution of the "use name": the name of the other spouse can be used in the professional and social sphere (by attachment or sole use by the woman, only by attachment on the part of the man). This use does not deem the retention of one's own name under the law of the civil status, the user name is not reflected in the civil status registers. However, the use of the husband's name, which is also customary, is also recognised by law.'
Viewed in:]

As a source, Coester cites the customary law that was in force in the Ancien regime, i.e. older than the Code Civil. And the latter did not question clear circumstances. Why should it?

If you now expect a text from customary law, I must disappoint you. I didn't find it. What may be in there, we have to deduce:

If Michael Demuth had not died in 1828, he would automatically be the father of the child, and it would therefore also bear his name. Since the child was born more than 300 days after the dissolution of the marriage (Michael's death), it was not his child and did not bear his name. So it got that of the wife. Because she was never called Demuth, but always Kreutz.

A thin end, but I can't get it any better. Sorry.

On the late evening of August 1, 2020

Roland Geige

Historische Forschungen · Roland Geiger · Alsfassener Straße 17 · 66606 St. Wendel · Telefon: 0 68 51 / 31 66
E-Mail:  alsfassen(at)  (c)2009

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