Author Archives: Paul

What does the name Riedesel mean?

While painstaking research by a German professor in the early 1900s (Dr. E. E. Becker) uncovered a wide variety of spellings from the 1200s on, it was quite clear that the name represented two elements. The more-obvious is the second … Continue reading

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I have Riedesel ancestors but don’t know much about them

I have what I feel are virtually complete records of all the Riedesels (and Rietesels) who emigrated to America. With a few exceptions I know a lot about their ancestry and usually have good data on the next couple of … Continue reading

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What is the correct way to say Riedesel?

That’s easy in German – reet’ ay zl – with a good rolled R. Esel means donkey and is without question a root word in our name. Thus in German, the “d” or “t” sound from ‘Ried’ stands apart from … Continue reading

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Why did they come to America?

“To find a better life” is the easy answer but an incomplete one. The European peasantry had lived through worse times than the mid-1800s but the period of 1850-1880 is when the largest share of Germans came to America. This … Continue reading

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What’s with those first and middle names?

If you spend any time at all with the old records from a village like Wunderthausen, you will notice a couple of things: A large majority of people had a rather small set of personal names They were quite often … Continue reading

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Were they Germans or Prussians?

Yes. Many contemporary documents–ships’ lists, Census records, even grave markers–give “Prussia” as the place of origin of our people from Wunderthausen and elsewhere. This has often led the naive astray into thinking they were “Russian” or maybe from Berlin. As … Continue reading

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Is it easy to visit the places where our ancestors came from?

Quite a number of American descendants of the Wittgenstein Riedesels (and other families) have enjoyed traveling back there. Keep in mind that this is still a rather rural area. The principal town of Bad Berleburg has only around 5,000 residents … Continue reading

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Aren’t we really “von Riedesel?”

Absolutely not. Of the various branches of Riedesel knights known since the 1200s, only one achieved the higher status of Baron or Freiherr for all its male members. This was the Riedesel zu Eisenbach. Holy Roman Emperor Leopold  I granted this dignity … Continue reading

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