Genealogical Mysteries

It is New Year’s Eve, 1852, and Henry Hydenwel sits at his desk by candlelight. He dips his quill in ink and begins to write his New Year’s resolutions:

1. No man is truly well–educated unless he learns to spell his name at least three different ways within the same document. I resolve to give the appearance of being extremely well–educated in the coming year.

2. I resolve to see to it that all of my children will have the same names that my ancestors have used for six generations in a row.

3. My age is no one’s business but my own. I hereby resolve to never list the same age or birth year twice on any document.

4. I resolve to have each of my children baptized in a different church—either in a different faith or in a different parish. Every third child will not be baptized at all or will be baptized by an itinerant minister who keeps no records.

5. I resolve to move to a new town, new county, or new state at least once every ten years—just before those pesky enumerators (census takers) come around asking silly questions.

6. I will make every attempt to reside in counties and towns where no vital records are maintained or where the courthouse burns down every few years.

7. I resolve to join an obscure religious cult that does not believe in record keeping or in participating in military service.

8. When the tax collector comes to my door, I’ll loan him my pen, which has been dipped in rapidly fading blue ink.

9. I resolve that if my beloved wife Mary should die, I will marry another Mary.

10. I resolve not to make a will. Who needs to spend money on a lawyer?

From the the American/Schleswig–Holstein Heritage Society’s Newsletter, Volume 19, No. 1

Genealogische Geheimnisse

Es ist Silvester 1852 und Henry Hydenwel (“Hiding Well,” gut verstecken) sitzt bei Kerzenschein an seinem Schreibtisch. Er taucht seine Feder in Tinte und beginnt seine Neujahrsvorsätze zu schreiben:

1. Kein Mensch ist wirklich gut ausgebildet, wenn er nicht lernt, seinen Namen in einem Dokument auf mindestens drei verschiedene Arten zu buchstabieren. Ich beschließe, im kommenden Jahr den Anschein zu erwecken, sehr gut ausgebildet zu sein.

2. Ich beschließe, dafür zu sorgen, dass alle meine Kinder dieselben Namen tragen, die meine Vorfahren seit sechs Generationen in Folge verwendet haben.

3. Mein Alter geht niemanden etwas an, sondern mein eigenes. Hiermit beschließe ich, auf keinem Dokument zweimal dasselbe Alter oder Geburtsjahr anzugeben.

4. Ich beschließe, jedes meiner Kinder in einer anderen Kirche taufen zu lassen – entweder in einem anderen Glauben oder in einer anderen Gemeinde. Jedes dritte Kind wird überhaupt nicht getauft oder von einem reisenden Geistlichen getauft, der keine Aufzeichnungen führt.

5. Ich beschließe, mindestens alle zehn Jahre in eine neue Stadt, einen neuen Landkreis oder einen neuen Staat zu ziehen – kurz bevor diese lästigen Zähler herumkommen und dumme Fragen stellen.

6. Ich werde jeden Versuch unternehmen, in Bezirken und Städten zu wohnen, in denen keine lebenswichtigen Aufzeichnungen geführt werden oder in denen das Gerichtsgebäude alle paar Jahre abbrennt.

7. Ich beschließe, mich einer obskuren religiösen Sekte anzuschließen, die weder an die Führung von Aufzeichnungen noch an die Teilnahme am Militärdienst glaubt.

8. Wenn der Zöllner an meine Tür kommt, leihe ich ihm meinen Stift, der in schnell verblassende blaue Tinte getaucht ist.

9. Ich beschließe, dass ich, falls meine geliebte Frau Mary sterben sollte, eine andere Mary heiraten werde.

10. Ich beschließe, kein Testament zu machen. Wer muss Geld für einen Anwalt ausgeben?

Aus dem Newsletter der American/Schleswig-Holstein Heritage Society, Band 19, Nr. 1

Greetings from Our President

Welcome to the Bentheimers International Society website!

We are a group of people in North America and Europe who are interested in Grafschaft Bentheim, Germany. Most of us have ancestors who came from the Grafschaft (“County” in English, or Graafschap” in Low German), and some of us emigrated from there ourselves. Also, there are many people living in Grafschaft Bentheim who are now interested in North America and enjoy learning about what happened to their long–distance relatives.

In 1968, genealogy was just beginning to become popular. For 13 weeks I hitchhiked throughout Europe. It was the “thing” college kids did at that time. I stopped in the city of Bad Bentheim because I was told our ancestors might have come from this area. While searching city hall and church records, I met a pastor who knew of the name “Bouws.” He stated that a Bouws family lived near the city of Emlichheim.

For whatever reason, I chose not to go there but continued on my travels instead. After I returned home, I reported my experiences to my father and uncles. They became interested, and my father Clarence Bouws and uncles Gordon and Russ Bouws made some trips to the Graafschap. They were helped with figuring out the Bouws genealogy by Swenna Harger—this was years before the Bentheimers International Society was started. Having a society like BIS would have made our research much easier.


In fact, so many “Bentheimers” in North America have needed genealogical assistance, that this was the nucleus for organizing the Society in 2002. You can read about how we began here.

I became a member in the early 2000s and have read and enjoyed the many articles in the quarterly newsletters. With the Society’s encouragement and research assistance, I published a booklet in 2004 on our family history using the genealogical program “Family Tree Maker.”

As I became more involved, I’ve grown to appreciate how valuable an organization like this is for people searching for their identity. I appreciate the work of Wilhelm and Gerrit Beuker in Germany and the board members in the U.S. who work to put on trips to Germany, sponsor a picnic every summer, develop a website, and publish a valuable newsletter.

This website enhances communication with people on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. We have resources to help you with your genealogical research and a growing collection of interesting articles to read (in German and English). We’re also developing a forum where you can ask questions.

So, take some time to look over our website. If you are tracing an ancestor who was born in Grafschaft Bentheim and emigrated, a great place to begin is our list of emigrants from Grafschaft Bentheim. Some emigrants have biographies written on them as well—if a name is underlined, click on it to read about their lives. More biographies are being added as time goes on!

Once again, welcome to our website! We hope you will find it informative, interesting, and useful. If you do, please join our society or make a donation. You can contact us by using the email form or mailing address found on our Contact page. We’ll enjoy hearing from you!

John D. Bouws, President
Bentheimers International Society