Diederich Family Introduction:
by J. W. Diederich

During the 1840s and 50s, some of the families that lived in Retterath and other nearby villages in the Eifel district of West Germany emigrated to the United States and settled in Ohio and Wisconsin.  This is a history of those families, some of whom were named Diederich and others who were named Gundert and Karst and perhaps others.

Most of the information in this family history is about John Diederich and his wife Anna Clasen, who emigrated to Wisconsin in 1846. They bought a small farm in Town of Lawrence, Brown County, Wisconsin, in February 1847 and lived there the rest of their lives.

Eventually, we hope to publish information about other families who emigrated to the United States from the same region of the Eifel.

It was no easy task to determine where in all of Germany John and Anna (Clasen) Diederich came from.  One family legend is that the family was from Alsace Lorraine, and one ancestor there lived to be 105 years of age.

Customs reports, naturalization records, census reports, vital records, church records, newspapers, county histories, military pension files, deeds, and probate records were searched to no avail for some clue as to the place of origin of John Diederich, his wife, Anna Clasen, and his three German-born children, Gertrude, Peter, and Michael. Since "Diederich" is a fairly common German name, it would have been unrealistic to commence a search of German records, hoping to find a needle in the haystack.

Another family tradition was that Peter Diederich, who also owned a farm in the Town of Lawrence, was John’s brother. This seemed unlikely because of the 19-year difference in ages, but perhaps they were close cousins. So a similar search of all available source records was begun to determine the German origins of Peter's branch of the family.   Fortunately, this bore fruit.

In Brown County Courthouse, the birth certificate of Arnold Peter Diedrich, a grandson of Peter Diederich, was found, stating that the birthplace of his father, Mathias, was "Lierstal in Germanie."

In Mount Olivet Cemetery at DePere, we found a gravestone which reads:

December 10, 1833
August 23, 1891
Rest in Peace

A search of the Brown County death records revealed no death certificate for Katherine Diederich.  But a search of the bound volumes of the DePere News in the basement of the Wisconsin State Historical Society at Madison revealed this obituary on page four of the issue of Saturday, August 29, 1891:


Mrs. Peter Diederich died Monday morning after an illness of 11 weeks' duration, aged 57 years, 8 months, and 14 days. Deceased was born in Ober Elz, near Adenau, Province of the Rhine, Germany, where she was married in 1851 to Mr. Diedrich, who survives her.   When they came to this county with three children, they settled on the farm where the subject of this sketch spent the last years of a useful life and reared a family of eight children: John, Mathias, Peter, Joseph, Henry, Albert, Emma, and Minnie. All are married except the two last named boys.  Kindness and mildness of disposition were characteristics of the deceased, and a cross or impatient word scarcely ever escaped her lips.  The funeral, which was held Tuesday from St. Joseph's Church, was largely attended. Rev. Father Smits officiated.

But neither "Lierstal" nor "Oberelz" could be found in the English language gazetteers available locally. Finally, at the New York Public Library, we found a German gazetteer published in 1905 which contained a brief citation for Lierstal and Oberelz and described their location in relation to larger cities.

During a visit to the National Archives in Washington, we found a set of detailed topographic maps of Germany, prepared by the U.S. Army Map Service to the scale of 1:25,000. These maps showed the tiny communities of Lierstal and Oberelz.

We then asked the noted German genealogical authority, Baron Karl Friedrich von Frank of Schloss Senftenegg, Ferschnitz, Austria, to determine if records of the Catholic Church serving Lierstal and Oberelz had survived the Franco-Prussian and two World Wars.   They have, and he found them safely preserved in the archives of the Archdiocese of Trier.

Since then we have obtained photocopies of the entries relating to John and Peter Diederich and their ancestors from the registers of St. Remigius* Roman Catholic Church at Retterath.  Retterath is located about a mile and a half north of Lierstal.

John and Peter Diederich were indeed brothers. Their parents were Johann Nicolaus Diederich and Anna Maria Catharina Esper. The baptismal registers show the following eight children of this couple, all born at Lierstal:

- Susanna, born 31 October 1809.  Sponsors: Nikolaus Arenz of Kalenborn and Susanna Schaeffer of Retterath

- Johannes, born 4 May 1812. Sponsors: Joannes Schueller and Catharina Schaeffers of Lirstal.

- Anna Maria, born 2 February 1816. Sponsors: Anna Maria Schmitz and Paul Esper of Lirstal.

- Maximin Nicolaus Ferdinand, born 4 April 1819. Sponsors: Nicolaus Ferdinand Hartman and Agnes Schaeffer.

- Anna, born 14 August 1821.  Sponsors: Not named.

- Peter, born 7 November 1824.  Sponsors: Peter Esper and Anna Maria Schaeffer of Limburg. (This child died 29 December 1827 and the next child was also named "Peter".)

- Peter, born 8 April 1831.  Sponsors: Peter Arens of Kaleber and Anna Maria Berg.

To date, we have traced the Diederich family back two additional generations.   Johannes Nicholaus' parents were Cornelius and Anna (Laux) Diederichs who were married 7 February 1775 at Retterath.  Anna Laux's parents were Johannes and Catharina (--?--) Laux, who resided at Mannebach.

Cornelius Diederichs' parents were Peter and Anna Gertrud (Adorff) Diederichs who where married 10 February 1751 at Retterath. The marriage record states that Peter Diederichs was from Durrbach and Anna Gertrud Adorff was from Kuerrenberg.

As we continue the search of available German records, we will publish a revised report.   In the meantime, we plan to publish the results of our research in the United States covering the descendants of these immigrants. This research has been no less difficult than the search for the German origins of our particular family.   But that in large measure is what makes this hobby so enjoyable.  Genealogy is a vast and complicated jigsaw puzzle, and the fun of it is that it takes years to find and fit all the pieces together. At times it is frustrating because many cousins do not share our enthusiasm and ignore requests for information they could easily supply.

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*St. Remigius is not a well-known saint. According to The Saints, edited by John Coulson and published by Hawthorn Books, Inc., New York, in 1960, St. Remigius was Bishop of Rheims, France, and owes his fame to the fact that he baptized the Frankish king, Clovis, about 497 A.D. After an episcopate of at least 70 years, St. Remigius died about 530.


In addition to all those who took the time to fill out my questionnaires and answer my letters, these are to be especially commended because of their assistance:

Herr Peter Bauer
of Mannebach, West Germany

Mr. and Mrs. J. Charles Diederich
of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin

Mr. Lloyd Diederich
of Ladysmith, Wisconsin

Mrs. Therese Diederich Van Horne McNeil
of Ladysmith, Wisconsin

Rev. A. F. Diederich, O. Praem,
of West DePere, Wisconsin

Mrs. Clara Augusta Diederich Heiderstadt
of Denver, Colorado

Herr Nikolaus Hermann
of Mannebach, West Germany

Rev. Thomas F. Hill

Mrs Mary D. Ott

Mrs. Viola Cecelia Diederich Pringle
of Mount Morris, Michigan

Herr Erich Mertes
of Mannebach, West Germany

Mr. Ralph G. Schmitz
of Monticello, Iowa

Herr Karl Josef-Tonner
of Daun, West Germany

Mr. Robert Weber

Mrs. Margaret Zach
of Wausau, Wisconsin

Mrs. Rosemary Zuck
of Ladysmith, Wisconsin