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The Anke(r)sheils
of St. John's Church, Plum Hill, Illinois
By : Dr. David S. Wulfman

     The Fresian name Ankesheil has been rendered in a variety of forms in the records of the churches in Washington County. The most common variant is Ankersheil which appears to have arisen when a sign painter hired to paint a tavern sign for use in Nashville, added the R. That has stuck to this day with the Illinois descendants of Gerhard Heinrich Ankesheil who emigrated from the area known as Osnabrueckerland in the Kingdom of Hanover .

     We know very little about Gerhard Heinrich Ankesheil and his wife Anna Marie Elsabein Klosterman . (there were Klostermans, Wleike and Schmeidings on board the ship Agnes which brought the Wulf family to New Orleans) He was born at Rabber ( a small hamlet near Wimmer) in 1777 and died of pneumonia in Washington County on September 22, 1847 and is buried at St. John's, Johannisburg. He had emigrated from Wimmer without his wife due to her ill health, but with his family, in September of 1846 and landed in New Orleans in either January or February of 1847. (We are handicapped here because those are the 2 months for which the immigration lists are lost.) Oral history holds that the Mississippi was impassible because of ice and they proceeded by sleigh or wagons to St. Louis. Along the way, two of his grandsons died of exposure and their bodies were interred in St. Louis.

      A search of the telephone directories for the New Orleans area reveals that there are several families bearing the name Ankesheiln. The addition of the N generates the plural or feminine form of Ankesheil and the spelling shows up in church records in Washington County for descendant who are clearly those of Gerhard Heinrich Ankesheil. Interestingly there are no immigration records for the Port of New Orleans listing the Ankesheiln. We presume they were on the same ship as our ancestor but decided to stay in the New Orleans area.

      A search of telephone directories finds none of the variants in Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westfalia or in the Fresian District of Holland. The Ankesheiln apparently left no one behind besides Anna Marie and Marie Eleonor Ankesheil Wulf (later known as Wulfmann and to whom all of the various Ankesheil variants have been assigned in a variety of church records.

      Gerhard Heinrich Ankesheil and Anna Marie Elsabein had two children who reached Plum Hill. They were Johann Heinrich Ankesheil (later known as Ankersheil) and Marie Eleonor Ankesheil Wulf (latter know as Marie Eleonor Ankersheil Wulfmann). Marie and her husband, Johann Friedrich Wulf(mann) sailed from Bremen in September 1848 and arrived in New Orleans aboard the Agnes on November 27, 1848 accompanied by their two children as well as his sister, her husband (Wleike) and three children. Her mother was not listed on the passenger manifest so one must assume she died in Germany. Marie Eleonor was born October 13, 1811 at Wimmer and her brother Johann Heinrich as born at Wimmer on May 3, 1815. All of the families named above were from the Parish of Lintorf and much of the data has been extracted from the church records of Johannes der Tiefer Kirche, Lintorf. (John the Baptist Church).

      Johann Heinrich Ankesheil (later known as Ankersheil) was married to Clara Schmieding who died at Plum Hill on September 15, 1863 and he died at Plum Hill on October 28, 1902. They had at least 8 children. The two who died in transit in 1847 were most probably born between 1840 and 1846. The others were, Johann Heinrich, born November 15, 1839, Friedrich Wilhelm born November 25, 1847, Helena Marie born April 23, 1850 , Marie Helena born March 21, 1851, and Heinrich Louis Eduard born May 14, 1857.

      Who were these ancestors is harder to establish, but the family size is characteristic of farmers who were either our equivalent of share croppers or who had their own holdings. The joining with the Wulf family is suggestive that they were land owners since we know from the 1860 Census that Johann Friedrich Wulf(mann) was fairly affluent by local standards and he hired the first daughter of Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Hoffmann (the younger) of New Minden as a helper for his wife (Elizabeth Hoffmann was born in 1840 at what became New Minden) .

     Why they left their homeland is easy to surmise since the area where they farmed was subjected to two catastrophes, there was a general failure of the potato crop (same cause as in Ireland) and the invention of the machinery to manufacture cheap cloth from cotton in England destroyed much of the market for linen which was the major cash crop and major home industry for those living in that area of Osnabruckerland. Due to the potato shortage there was a steep rise in food costs and the inflation added an additional incentive to leave for a country where one could eat meat three times a day instead of once a week on special occasions.

      Osnabrueckerland takes in what was the Bishopric of Osnabrueck and lies along the north side of the Wiehengebirge which run from roughly the outskirts of Osnabrueck to Minden and the Weser River ( The Wiehengebirge are forested, low rounded hills of under 1300 feet elevation). The area north of the Wiehengebirge is relatively flat, heavily diked and drained and contains a number of swampy areas and peat bogs. The current administrative center is Bad Essen. The area is cut by the Mittelland Kanal and all of the places of interest to us are south of the canal. The full description of the homes area in German are, Wimmer, Amt Wittlage, Pfarrbezirk Lintorf, Kreis Osnabrueck, Koenigreich Hannover. Preuss. These translate to Wimmer (hamlet or town); administrative district Wittlage; Parish of Lintorf; larger administrative district, Osnabrueck; Kingdom of Hanover, Prussia.

      The question remains, which Johann Heinrich Ankesheil was a founding member of Johannes Kirche, Plum Hill ? We presume the elder.

      Another puzzling question is why was Johann Friedrich Wulfmann not a founding member as well ? His son and two grandsons were ministers of the Evangelishe Kirche and 4 granddaughters were wives of pastors. His Hoffmann connections were founding members of the church at New Minden as well as the Evangelical and Lutheran churches at Nashville. JFW shows up voting in church records in the same year as the church was founded and is listed as in favor of borrowing money to build the church.

      The full genealogy of the Ankersheil family and descendants has been established by Catherine Ankersheil Dwyer of Austin Texas beginning with Johann Heinrich Ankesheil, the elder and is current. She has also searched the files in the New Orleans Public Library for information regarding the family but met with no success.

Contact : Dr. David S. Wulfman

2006-2007 Wayne Hinton

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