Samuel Gottfried Erxleben
AKA Friedrich (Frederick) Erxleben
Frederick is my third great grandfather and until recently he was a brick wall in genealogical terms. I knew that my great-great grandma Augusta Wilhemina Erxleben, his daughter, was born in Germany and immigrated to America as a toddler but I couldn’t find an immigration record or any other clues. But then a kind ancestry researcher sent me a message with a very valuable hint. Frederick’s real name was Samuel Godfrey. Wait, what? That’s right, Frederick was born Samuel Godfrey Erxleben but always went by Frederick. Why? Well it seems his dad didn’t like the name Samuel. This helpful researcher also told me I should order his will from Ogle County, Illinois so I did. His will was a treasure once I deciphered all of it. The part that wasn’t in German was in very old and faded handwriting. But there was some good clues in the pages where August Adolf Erxleben, the son that stayed in Germany, was providing proof of his relationship.
So here is what I know about Frederick, er…Samuel Gottfried Erxleben. He was born about 1808 probably in Moeser, a village near Schermen, Germany. Sometime before 1834 he married Johanne Christian Dorthea Wilke. His son August Adolph was born in Moeser. At the time Frederick was an inn-keeper. Carl was born about 1834, Adolph 1837, Herman 1848, Mary 1851, and Augusta 1855. I think there may have been several more children, Sophie and Ludwig, but they must have died before or soon after immigration. Later, the family lived for more than ten years in Koenigsaue near Aschersleben. During this time Frederick was a field guard. His wife died sometime between 1855 when Augusta was born and 1857 when he married Marie Justine Kegel Hemmerling. He married at St Laurentius Church in Calbe/Saale, Saxony, Germany on July 2, 1857. Marie was a widow with about seven children of her own, three of them died before they immigrated. They traveled to America on a ship named “Louisiana” from the Bremen, Germany port. They arrived January 17, 1859. On the passenger list Marie’s children from her previous marriage were listed as Erxlebens.
The family is living in Rockford, Winnebago, Illinois by the 1860 census. Maria died in 1861. In the 1870 census they are living in Marion, Ogle, Illinois. Augusta is living at a neighbor’s and working as a domestic. Frederick is a widower living with two of his children, Herman and Mary. Carl is married and lives next door with his seven children. At some point Frederick became an ordained Lutheran Minister. In the 1880 Census, Frederick is living with Herman and his family. Frederick died in Byron, Ogle, Illinois, December 21, 1893. He was buried in Ebenezer Cemetery in Oregon, Ogle, Illinois.
The children listed in his will are; Carl Erxleben, Ogle County, Illinois Herman Erxleben, Ogle County, Illinois Adolf Erxleben, Aschersleben, Germany Augusta Erxleben Rusler, Lushton, Nebraska Mary Erxleben Erffmeyer, Cherry Valley, Winnebago, Illinois
To Carl and Herman he gave $100 each and $400 to Adolf. Mary received $1,000 and Augusta $900. To Herman he also left his watch and all of his “wearing apparel.” Mary was given his horse and buggy and also all of the bedding and household furniture. He had also already given Herman 85 acres of land in Marion.
I am hoping to find some German records on Samuel (Frederick) Gottfried Erxleben someday. I am very thankful to ancestry member Dar81831 for the huge help he was in blowing past this particular brick wall. Also, as a researcher you must be very careful when finding information. There was a Gottfried Erxleben born 1811 in Germany and died 1888 in Pekin, Illinois who has a child named August and who it would be very easy to mix up with our Frederick. But we know from the will that Frederick never went by his real name – in fact his son didn’t even know his real name until after he had died. Even his will is written as Frederick. So beware when researching, even if you have a rare name there is a chance that someone else close by has some of the same details. That is why it is always good to find primary documents (like wills) and to have more than one source.
Sources: Will and probate of Frederick Erxleben, Census: 1860, 1870, and 1880, Passenger lists – ancestry.com, findagrave.com