The WEDEMEYERs of Eastern Australia, Chapter 2

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GHL emigrates from Germany.


The ship Peru The Ship ‘Peru’ in the Kobe Harbour. Courtesy of the
John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

In GHL’s "Memorial or Application for Naturalization" dated 26 August 1858 he tells us that: he is a native of Hanover, Germany, he is 33 years old, a bootmaker, that he arrived in the Colony of NSW by the ship ‘Peru’, he arrived in Gayndah in July 1857 and that he has purchased Crown Land in this District (Gayndah). What a mine of information!

Source: NSW State Archives Records. Naturalization, 1834-1903. WEDEMEYER, Louis. Date Of Certificate: 28 Aug 1858. Register No: 2. Page: 359. Item: [4/1201]. Reel: 129.

The ‘Peru’ is pictured here, from a copy of a photo held by the John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. The Library's kind permission is acknowledged.



Reasons for emigration

Can we explain why our GHL and other Germans might emigrate to Australia in the 1850’s? Leske & Brauer (Australian Lutheran historians) describe the previous surge in emigration of committed Lutherans from Germany to South Australia at the end of the 1830’s. They detailed how Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia attempted to compel change of religion from Lutheranism to Reformed Protestant, using persecution and imprisonment. They also explained the related theology. Even though Friedrich Wilhelm III died in 1840, the economic effects of his policies persisted for the Lutherans, since many had sold their lands in an effort to get out of the country and the Prussians stopped them from leaving. i, ii) Leske & Brauer indicate that religious persecution did not provide a major reason for subsequent migration, especially in other Australian colonies. Brauer says: "the majority of the early German settlers at Port Jackson (Colony of NSW) took little or no interest in any church or religion… they had come to the Colony partly from a love of adventure and partly with the hope of attaining to wealth and affluence in the new Colony." ii) Probably our our GHL was in this latter category.

Tampke analyses the more complex subsequent reasons for German migration, in terms of a "push - pull model". He discounts the role of Prussian religious persecution, though the Prussians' military expansionism caused uncertainty in the adjacent states (including Hannover)… which related both to their citizens’ religious status as well as their prospect of lengthy and harsh military service in the Prussian war machine. iii) Notwithstanding, fear of the Prussians was justified on 16 June 1866. Bismarck's army invaded the Hanoverian Kingdom, which was subsequently annexed. The Guelphs (longest reigning dynasty in Germany) were replaced by the Prussian Hohenzollerns.

The "push" factors mainly arise from the twin problems of 19th century Europe… industrialisation and over-population.

Over-population led to the fragmentation of arable land amongst the descendants of farmers to create non-viable plots of land. The disastrous German grain and potato harvests of 1844 and 1846 combined with land viability created the threats / reality of un-employment, famine and poverty. Then there was the "knock-on" effect… "if the peasant has money, all the world has money". This meant that the artisans did well when the farmers could afford repairs and innovations, and vice versa. iii)

Industrialisation gained momentum in the 1840’s. By 1846, much of the railway network was in place, which serviced the new factories and also the Customs Union or Zollverein ensured that the factory products could now directly compete with traditional local manufacturers. Predictably, there was now a surplus of artisans and a high rate of bankruptcy in this group iii) … problems which might impact on the WEDEMEYER shoemakers in Goslar.

GHL was the youngest son of an artisan and probably experienced an unexpected consequence of the artisan hard times. The younger sons of artisans had little chance of gaining appropriate craft experience. In the guild system, only master artisans with full citizenship could marry. iii) This may have meant that GHL would probably have missed out!

Local events might have also given GHL reasons to leave. Wilfried Hartje details the effect of asiatic cholera in 1850 on nearby Moringen. The epidemic affected nearly all of Moringen’s population and there were many deaths. Two WEDEMEYERs (unrelated?) were recorded in the deaths: (1) Otto Friedrich August WEDEMEYER, butcher’s apprentice, b. 26 Sep 1821, d. 18 Nov 1850. (2) Georg Christian WEDEMEYER, master butcher, b. 25 Dec 1793, d. 11 Nov 1850. iv) This epidemic impacted on the Kingdom of Hannover, though data is lacking on its effect on Goslar. Can anyone help with information?

Enthusiastic letters from German emigrants to Australia back to the "Fatherland" provided the "pull factor" placed on people still in Germany... "why don't you come to a land of opportunity and religious freedom". Tampke quotes J.C. Heussler’s 1860 Frankfurt publication. He enticed Germans to Queensland in his "Kurze Beschreibung der Kolonie Queensland" (Short description of the colony of Queensland): "Europeans will find in this colony a fine salubrious climate suited to their constitution; a strong orderly government on the British model and good laws which guarantee the safety of property; regular communal institutions and civil order; full political and civil rights immediately upon naturalisation; good schools for the education of their children; complete religions freedom for their families to worship in accordance with the dictates of conscience." iii) Most importantly, Australia had a labour shortage… Queensland in particular needed both labour and people to populate its vast territory… also Qld offered the prospect of land ownership!

Source: i) Leske, Everard. For faith and freedom: the story of Lutherans and Lutheranism in Australia. Open Book Publishers, Adelaide; 1996.
      ii) Brauer, A. Under the Southern Cross: history of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia. Lutheran Publishing House, Adelaide; 1956.
      iii) Tampke, Jürgen. The Germans in Australia. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge; 2006; 6-20, 79-80.
      iv) Hartje, Wilfried. Webpage: Cholera in Moringen.

Problems remaining concerning GHL’s emigration

Further emigration research

Shipping records have been unsuccessfully pursued. This leaves the local German records resulting from an application for a passport or a travel permit, which could have been locally deposited in the Goslar Town Hall (Rathaus).

Notice of an emigrant’s intention to emigrate was published in the local newspaper. Anyone having a claim against the emigrant would need to to come forward within 3 months, otherwise the he would be released of all claims and obtain a passport. The emigrant had to show that he had satisfied his military obligations, did not leave behind a wife and children or elderly parents who might be a liability to the local goverment, and above all, did not leave any unpaid debts.

If we are lucky, some of this paper trail of records might have survived and the relevant archive can be located? We hope that GHL did not find a way around the passport requirements by illegally leaving the country and perhaps assuming a false identity… which would explain the absence of his official shipping records!

The Story Continues