V. The Kranichfelds
The family of my mother’s mother was also an immigrant family, but it is hard to think of my great-grandfather Ernst Krannichfeldt (1868-1941) as an immigrant, because he arrived in Buenos Aires in his own private yacht.
Ernst Krannichfeldt (1868-1941)
Although from a family that traces its background to the Crusaders of the German Middle Ages, he was actually born in the province of Rio Grande do Sul, in Brazil. His father, Friedrich Ernst Krannichfeldt, or Kranichfeld, was born in Hamburg in 1826. He was German Consul in Brazil and a banker in Rio Grande. During one of his trips back to Germany, he married a much younger woman, Johanna Clementine Reinstädter (1845-1906) and with her had two children, both born in Brazil, Oscar, and Ernst, my great-grandfather. Oscar became the founder of the present European branch of the family, and Ernst, of that of the Argentinean family of which I am a part.
Friedrich Kranichfeld committed suicide at the age of forty three, in 1869, as a result of the failure of his Brazilian bank. Johanna went back to Köln, her native city, and raised the two boys there with the help of her Reinstädter relatives.
As I say above, the Kranichfelds are an ancient Thuringian family whose genealogy can be traced without difficulty to the twelfth century. The name literally signifies “the field of Cranes.” Their name derives from a lordship situated in the valley of the river Ilm, south of the city of Weimar in Central Germany and surrounded by the forested hills of Thuringia. The town of Kranichfeld is crowned by a medieval castle, the Upper Lordship (Oberschloss), which is now a ruin.
The first ancestor of whom I have notice was Wolfer I von Kranichfeld, who died in the year 1140. In that year, the patronym is first recorded by mention of his two sons, Wolfer II and Siegfried, in a deed of gift (Schenkungsurkunde) found among the ruins of the monastery of Georgenthal (Kloster Georgenthal). In 1172, the family split in two between Wolfer III and his brother, Ludger I, at which time the latter founded the Lower Lordship (Niederburg), adjacent to the town of Kranichfeld, and still extant, but both branches retained the same heraldry: argent, a crane, vigilant, or, with the devise “Vigilia (for the crane vigilant, standing on one leg and holding a stone) et labore.”
Kranichfeld coat of arms
Kranichfeld, Niederburg or Unter Schloss
Thuringia had come under the rule of the Merovingian kings in the sixth century, and became a frontier, or a march, against the Saxons, who were not fully subdued and conquered by the Franks until the time of Charlemagne, at the beginning of the ninth century. After their conquest by the Merovingian Franks, the Thuringii were governed by appointed Frankish duces (dukes) and comites (counts), which remained the basic administrative structure of the region until well into the Carolingian period. However, rebellion among the Thuringii was endemic. By the late seventh century, they had established themselves as an independent state once again under their chieftain Radulf, and certain parts of their realm, particularly in the unstable region along the river Unstrut, came under the rule of the Saxons. Constant warfare had weakened royal power, while the aristocracy of the duces had made great gains and procured enormous concessions from the kings in return for their support. These concessions saw the very considerable power of the weakened Merovingian kings parceled out and retained by the leading comites and duces. The northern frontier of Thuringia, on the Unstrut and Saale rivers, bordering on the Saxon plain in the north, was hence an area of great instability. Its central location in Germania, or Austrasie, as that part of the Carolingian empire came to be known, was the reason it became the point d'appui of Boniface's Christianizing mission work. Christianity spread through Thuringia, and from thence east, during the eighth century.
The Frankish conquerors, spreading out far and wide from their homeland between the Meuse and the Moselle, sought to obliterate the independence of the conquered peoples. But in the eastern, or German provinces, there was no suitable administrative machinery, such as in the west, which could be taken over and adapted to Frankish needs and interests; here, new counts (comites) were appointed by the conquering army, and these Frankish counts were themselves the agents through whom a new framework of administration had for the fist time to be established. The very circumstances in which they were appointed differentiated these counts from their peers in the West. The count was a royal commissioner appointed to enforce and maintain Frankish rule over a conquered people; his essential task was to watch over the interests of his master, the Frankish king, and his functions were primarily political. This new layer of administration gradually replaced a popular form of self government, in which an elected thunginus (or ‘thing-man’ ‘Dings-mann’) directed the affairs of the Gau, a system that had persisted for some generations after the Frankish conquest.
It is among this class of comites, counts and vassals of the Frankish king (vassi dominici) that I believe the Kranichfeld family, and its dominions on the Ilm river, have their origin. The Ilm is a tributary of the Saale, and the Saale meets the Unstrut river near Naumburg, about 94 miles north-east of Weimar. This corner of Thuringia, therefore, was the heartland of the unstable frontier with the Saxons since the original Merovingian conquest, and it is reasonable to infer that the knights (Freiherren und Ritter) von Kranichfeld were originally Frankish counts appointed by the conquerors to supervise and control the border region.
The deed of gift (Schenkungsurkunde) found among the ruins of the monastery of Georgenthal (Kloster Georgenthal), south of the city of Gotha, first records the names of two Kranichfelds, which appear as witnesses. A notice in an old Ilmenau newspaper reads as follows:
“In einer Schenkungsurkunde des Klosters Georgental treten die Herren “Volrad und Siegfried von Cranechfelt” als Zeugen auf. Mit grosser Wahrscheinlichkeit sind sie ursprünglich fränkische Kolonisatoren gewesen, die ihren Namen den damals in der Ilmaue rastende Kranichen entlehnten.” [In a deed of gift from the monastery of Georgenthal, there appear the Lords “Volrad and Siegfried von Cranechfelt” as witnesses. With great likelihood these are originally Frankish colonizers whose names were borrowed from the resting cranes of the river Ilm].
Ruins of Kloster Georgenthal in the Thüringer Wald
This notice is undated, but it is quite likely that these two witnesses mentioned in the deed of gift, Volrad and Siegfried, are the brothers of Wolfer II: Volrad I (who died unmarried in 1166) and Siegfried, whose name is recorded in 1140 and 1152, Knight and Lord of Kranichfeld, all sons of Wolfer I.
The sons of Wolfer II von Kranichfeld, Wolfer III (died in 1218) and Ludger I (died 1186), divided the township in two. This quarrel between Ludger and Wolfer, which is recorded historically, is probably the reason why records were kept henceforth of the birth and death dates of the family, as the consequences of their division affected the lives and property titles of the community thereafter. In turn, this division in the Kranichfeld realm coincided roughly with the demise of Thuringia as an independent realm. By the marriage, in 1194, of Jutta, daughter of Landgraf Hermann von Thüringen, to Dietrich von Wettin, Markgraf von Meissen, Thuringia became a part of the ruling dynasty of Saxony, the House of Wettin, until the twentieth century. The Thuringian duchy of pre-Carolingian times had never been revived, although some beginnings of Thuringian autonomy were evident at the end of the ninth century. The last mention of a dux Thuringorum occurred in 908; thereafter Thuringia tended increasingly to be absorbed into the sphere of Saxony. But the region officially became entitled to the Saxon kings only after this marriage.
In the interim, the family of Kranichfeld held on to their estates as lords of Ober Kranichfeld and Unter Kranichfeld throughout the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The record indicates that many of these lords became bishops, others provosts and canons of Halberstadt and Naumburg, and some of the female members of the family were abbesses or prioresses at the monasteries of Quedlinburg, Ilmenau and Paulinzella, the latter now in ruins. Thus, Cunigundis von Kranichfeld, sister of Meinhard I von Kranichfeld, Bishop of Halberstadt (1245-1259), was abbess of Quedlinburg until her death in 1231, and the sister of Meinhard II, who was himself provost of Halberstadt cathedral (d. 1290), Gutta von Kranichfeld, was also abbess of Quedlinburg until her death in 1310. Volrad IV von Kranichfeld was also Bishop of Halberstadt, from 1260 to 1292.
Cunigundis von Kranichfeld, Abbess of Quedlinburg
Seal of the Abbess, in the Archives of the Quedlinburg Abbey.
Jutta von Kranichfeld, Abbess of Quedlinburg
Seal of the Abbess, in the Archives of the Quedlinburg Abbey.
Volrad IV von Kranichfeld, Bishop of Halberstadt (1260 to 1292)
Meinhard I von Kranichfeld, Bishop of Halberstadt (1245-1259)
The main line of the Kranichfeld family lost its patrimony and became extinct by the middle of the fourteenth century. The record indicates there was turmoil in the region throughout the century. Starting in 1335, the Kranichfelds were at war with the city of Erfurt. Volrad IX von Kranichfeld, the last lord of Kranichfeld of the main line, was besieged in his castle, and the town of Kranichfeld was burned to the ground. On his death in 1389, the estates of both the Upper and the Lower Lordship, previously reunited under Volrad VIII, came through his granddaughter and sole heir, Margaretha, into the possession of Burgrave Albert III von Kirchberg, who, in turn, would later dispose of the Upper Lordship in 1451 and 1453 to his relative, count Heinrich von Reuss (Younger Line), lord of Plauen in Vogtland. But prior to his death, Volrad IX had to pawn his part of the lordship for “1,000 threescore Prague pence” to pay for the dowry of his sister Sophia von Kirchberg, and was forced into financial straits. The land was pawned to the Counts von Schwarzburg. Thereafter, the main line became extinct and the family moved to Erfurt, where they became retainers of the Counts von Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, a dynasty that ruled the region as an independent state until World War I.
In the Kranichfeld genealogy that I have in my possession, the story of Volrad IX, the last lord of Kranichfeld, is told a little differently. There it says that Volrad pawned the estate to the Counts von Schwarzburg for “1,000 Schock Groschen” (an ancient German currency) due to the fact that he had become senile (“offenbar altersschwach!”).
Frans van Cranevelt (1485-1564) (Stone medal, Leiden, Rijkmuseum)
Recently (1997), a collection of letters, dated 1519-1522, from Sir Thomas More, Chancellor of England, to our ancestor from a Netherlands branch of the family, Frans van Cranevelt, or Craneveldius, (1485-1564), was found and published in Louvain. [Morus ad Craneveldium - More to Cranevelt: New Badouin Letters, Leuven University Press, 1997]. This has made it possible to trace the subsequent history of the titleless members of the family. The titleless name of Kranichfeld (Cranichfeld, Krannichfeldt) is documented at the city of Erfurt until the eighteenth century, cp. Katalog der fürstlich Stolberg-Stolberg’schen Leichenpredigten-Sammlung, Bd. II, Leipzig, 1928 [-30]. S. 550. There is a xerox copy of a MS pedigree at Kranichfeld Upper Castle, drawn up in 1866 (with later additions up to 1883) by Theodor Kranichfeld in a neat late 19th century hand and compiled from the archives of the lords of Kranichfeld, from a pedigree “ab Anno 1275” said (in the MS) to have been first compiled by Wilhelm Heinrich Kranichfeld (b. 1575; d. 1630), vide his Funeral Oration (Library at Gotha). Wilhelm Heinrich was a great-great-great-grandson of that Guenther von Kranichfeld who (like his father Volrad [X]) had to serve as eques (Ritter) void of his ancestral lordship. See also Otto Dobenecker, Regesta diplomatica neenon epistolaria historiae Thuringiae, 4 vols., Jena, 1895-1939, passim.
After the death of Volrad IX, known as “the last lord of Kranichfeld of the main line,” in 1389, his son Volrad X (died 1310) and his grandson Günther (died in 1353), void of their patrimony (“des väterlichen Erbes bar” Kranichfeld MS.), had to devote themselves to military service as equites, or Knights. At this point, the MS pedigree no longer shows the names of brothers or sisters. However, the editors of the Baudouin Letters of More to Craneveldt have traced the lineage of the Netherlands branch of the family to the Knight Volrad X von Kranichfeld, who died in 1353, or to a possible brother of his, Johann von Kranichfeld who served as a knight of the Empress Margaretha of Wittelsbach. After the death in 1313 of the Roman emperor Henry VII, the Luxembourg faction in the college of electors voted in Ludwig IV “the Bavarian” (1314-1347, of the house of Wittelsbach) as anti-king, while the Hapsburg faction promoted Friedrich the Fair (1314-1330, of Hapsburg) as anti-king. Struggles for the succession followed, eventually settled by Ludwig’s victory at Mühldorf-am-Inn in 1322. In order to stabilize his domestic power, the King enfeoffed his son Ludwig V to the holding of Brandenburg and married him in 1342 to the heiress of the Tyrol. In 1340, Ludwig IV inherited Lower Bavaria. Married for a second time, in 1324, to Margaretha, daughter of count Willem III of Holland, Friesland, Zeeland and Hainaut, Ludwig the Bavarian also obtained his wife’s paternal legacy in the Netherlands and enfeoffed her to her inheritance. When Margaretha returned to her native country in March 1346, after her husband’s death, it is recorded that a Johann von Kranichfeld followed her there, settled in the Netherlands, and founded the Netherlandish branch of the Van Cranevelts.
From Ritter Günther von Kranichfeld, born in 1353, to the next recorded Kranichfeld in the titleless line of the MS pedigree, Benedictus I, who was born in 1400, there is a gap of fifty years. But more significantly, Benedictus is no longer described as a Knight, but as Ratsherr (Councilman) of the cities of Gotha and Erfurt. From the beginning of the fifteenth century onward, the titleless members of the Kranichfeld family have been closely associated with the government of towns, cities and lands generally under the hegemony of the Counts von Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, particularly the cities of Gotha, Erfurt and Arnstadt. Thus, Benedictus Kranichfeld Senior (b. 1400) was Ratsherr (Councilman) for the cities of Gotha and Erfurt; Benedictus Junior (b. 1436) was Ratsherr and Bürgermeister (Mayor) of Gotha; Johannes Junior (b. 1467), Ratsbaumeister (Councilman and Master-Builder) for the city of Erfurt; Petrus (b. 1498) was Ratsherr and Bürgermeister (Mayor) of the city of Arnstadt. This Petrus became an Evangelical Protestant in 1529 and was responsible for driving out the monks of the city of Arnstadt in 1539. Later, Sebastian Kranichfeld was Ratsherr (Councilman) and Kämmerer (Chamberlain) of the Monastery at Paulinzella, also within the dominions of the Counts von Schwarzburg-Sondershausen.
Monastery ruins at Paulinzella in Thüringen
Paulinzella, where Sebastian Kranichfeld was Kämmerer in the 1590’s
Rudolph Kranichfeld (1574-1637), who was born only ten years after the death of the humanist intellectual Frans van Cranevelt, is the first one in the family MS pedigree who is described as Handelsherr (Tradesman) doing business in the city of Erfurt. Thereafter, and throughout the seventeenth century, the family seems to have remained rooted primarily in Erfurt, and drawn to secular vocations, such as Consuls, Businessmen, and Public Notaries. Thus Wolfgang Rudolph (b. 1620) was Consulent, Notarius Publicus and Juris Practicus in the city of Erfurt; Hieronimus Rudolph (b. 1667) was a tradesman (Handelsherr) in Erfurt; Johann Cristoph (b. 1713) was also a tradesman (Handelsherr) in Erfurt, where he died in 1756. His son, Friederich Rudolph, was to be the first Hohenfeldner Kranichfeld, and the first recorded Minister of the Lutheran Church in the family. He was also a contemporary of Goethe.
Pastor Friedrich Rudolph Kranichfeld (1756-1805)
Frau Pastor Kranichfeld, Hohenfelden, 1836
Friedrich Rudolph Kranichfeld is a direct ancestor. He was born in Erfurt in 1756 and died in Hohenfelden in 1805. He was a Pfarrer (Minister of the Lutheran Church) at Hohenfelden, a small town located only a few miles north-west of Kranichfeld, in the Thüringer Wald region of Sachse-Weimar. The old school-house and the parish house of Hohenfelden are now a local museum.
Altes Pfarrhaus Hohenfelden
But the intriguing interlude of the Kranichfelds in the Hohenfelden Pfarrhof was not to last very long. Friedrich Johann Anton Kranichfeld, third son of Friedrich Rudolph, was born in Hohenfelden in 1788, but died in Hamburg in 1860, the Hamburg where Schopenhauer worked for a while as a businessman in his father's trading house, in the early 1800's. Friedrich Johann was also a tradesman (Handelsherr) in Hamburg, and was probably connected to the South American interests of that port city. He was first married to Natalie Jacobi (1806-1823),
Natalie Kranichfeld, geborene Jacobi (1806-1823)
a native of the small town of Hettstedt [Lichtstedt?] near Rudolstadt, also in the vicinity of Hohenfelden, in the Thüringer Wald. Natalie, whose beautiful portrait is in the possession of Frank Sperling in Noordwijk, did not survive her honeymoon, and died at the age of seventeen as a result of pneumonia. It is said that she caught cold at a ball during the couple’s honeymoon. Friedrich Johann then married Frederike Henriette Kirchheim (1802-1860), and had seven children by her.
Their second son, Friedrich Ernst Kranichfeld, was born in Hamburg in 1826 and died in Rio Grande do Sul, by his own hand, on August 29, 1869. He was German Consul in the Province and owned a Bank there. When his business went bankrupt, he committed suicide, leaving two sons behind, Johann Friedrich Oscar (b. October 7, 1865, died September 6, 1931 in Berlin), who was the founder of the European branch of our family, and my great-grandfather, Ernst Ludwig Maria, who was born on January 12, 1868 and died in Buenos Aires on May 17, 1941.
The young Friedrich Ernst Kranichfeld (1826-1869)
German immigration to Brazil began in 1824, shortly after Brazil won independence from Portugal -- as a result of Brazilian Emperor Dom Pedro I's (1798-1834) need to populate uninhabited regions of the huge country. Such regions were being disputed with neighboring countries, Argentina and Paraguay. Uruguay was just becoming independent. Those countries were by then former Spanish colonies, as all of South America was becoming independent, and all of them were interested in receiving European knowledge, expertise and labor.
Some Brazilian states received higher inflows of Germans than others. Such was the case in Rio Grande do Sul, where the first wave of immigrants was settled in the 1820s. In 1827, a group of Germans migrated to Brazil from the region of Trier. This was the first official German migration to Brazil. Part of this group (mainly Catholic married men) came to the farm called "Fazenda Guarei," which is today a small town in the state of São Paulo called Guarei. These Germans are considered the founders of Guarei. A second wave went to Santa Catarina in the 1850s, but also to Rio de Janeiro, in smaller number, mainly to a city called Petropolis, where the Emperor Dom Pedro II's summer house (nowadays the Imperial Museum) was located. Other German immigration waves occurred in the 1890s, as well as after the First and Second World War. The latter emigres were not necessarily only refugees, but also people who were tired of the war. They had different destinations: to the states of Sao Paulo, to Paraná, and to the other Brazilian states.
Graf Zeppelin over Porto Alegre, 1934
In the wake of the agriculturalist immigrants, mostly farmers and men of rural stock, came the professionals and businessmen to serve the burgeoning foreign communities. The waves of immigrants headed to Brazil were organized by shipping companies which were part of the recruiting and organizing process by which these men and women were transported and placed in the foreign locations. The bulk of the Brazilian immigration originated in the port of Hamburg, and it therefore quite likely that the idea to start a business career in Porto Alegre, in the province of Rio Grande do Sul, awakened in the mind of Friedrich Ernst Kranichfeld from a consciousness of the activities that were taking place all around him at the harbor, in this busy migratory movement towards the South American continent. Upon arrival in Porto Alegre, he would start out on a venture of business and professional activities and relationships that resulted in his becoming German Consul in the city, and a local banker of repute.
Friedrich Ernst Kranichfeld (1826-1869)
An English traveler, on a trip from Rio Grande do Sul to Porto Alegre by steam-boat on the Lagoa dos Patos, relates, in 1873: “Our passengers on board are mostly Germans, for Porto Alegre is in a manner a German settlement, the first colony having been fixed there in 1825, and now there are 60,000 Germans in the province. They never think of returning to Europe, but become, like the Irish in North America or Buenos Ayres, permanent settlers in their adopted home. Still they preserve the warmest recollections of the Fatherland, and in language, sentiment, and traditions are as true to their native country as if only travelers in a strange land. As the sun was setting behind the Pelotas range, one of the passengers struck up the ‘Wacht am Rhein,’ and the broad waters of the lake echoed to the chorus –
Fest steht und treu
Die Wacht am Rhein.
Memories of the Fatherland, traditions of the Rhine, stories from the recent battle-fields whiled away the hours of twilight, and the ‘young May moon’ was far on her midnight course ere we retired to sleep. Before sunrise I was again on deck to see the panorama of Itapoa, where the estuary of Guayiba communicates with the great lake. . . . The city [of Porto Alegre] has double the population of Rio Grande, probably 40,000 inhabitants, several fine shops, a splendid theatre, treasury, town hall, arsenal, college, &c. The Brazilian and Portuguese hospitals, German clubs, cathedral, plazas &c. are also very fine. The water supply is admirable; fountains play in the streets, and every house has a pipe-water service, by mains brought six miles from the mountains, and laid down in 1805 by a French contractor. . . . Delightful country-houses surround the city . . . . The wonder of the province are the German colonies, . . . [which] have converted virgin forests into waving corn-fields, interspersed with neat farm-houses and all the appliances of agricultural life . . . [In Porto Alegre] there are three newspapers published in German, and the advancement of the country is mainly due to these industrious settlers. Even the negroes often talk German; in fact it is a German principality in the heart of the Brazilian Empire.” Michael George Mulhall, Rio Grande do Sul and Its German Colonies, London, 1873, pp. 52-53 and 57.
Friedrich Ernst Kranichfeld changed his name to Krannichfeldt. He married Johanna Clementine Reinstädter, who was born in Köln in 1845 and died in Berlin in 1906. After the death of her husband in Rio Grande, she returned to Germany with her two young boys, Johann Friedrich Oscar (born October 7, 1865, died September 6, 1931 in Berlin), who was the founder of the European branch of our family, and my great-grandfather, Ernst Ludwig Maria, who was born on January 12, 1868 and died in Buenos Aires on May 17, 1941.
Johanna Clementine Reinstädter with her boys, Oscar (left) and Ernst.
Ernst Ludwig Kranichfeld is the founder of the Kranichfeld family in Argentina, my maternal grandmother’s father, and the last of the immigrants whose histories I have related in this first part of this Chronicle. Below is a photograph of his family taken in the Berlin Tiergarten on the occasion of their visit to Germany in 1914.
The Argentinean Kranichfelds in Berlin, in 1914. My grandmother is the first one on the left. To her left are her sister Ester and her mother, Clara Devitt de Kranichfeld, and father, Ernst, on the far right of the photo. The two boys in front are Ernesto, on the left, and Alfredo on the right.