Frederick Bense & Adelheid Uhlhorn

Johann Herman Frederick Wilhelm Bense (who went by just Frederick) was born in September 1801 in Essen, a town in the Cloppenburg district of the Prince-Bishopric of Münster. He was baptized there on September 20, 1801 at St. Bartholomäus Catholic Church in the presence of his mother, Elisabeth Wandstrat, and his godparents, a local man named Johann Herman Baylage and a woman named Anna Adelheid Wandstrat Vasque.

Frederick’s baptism record (in Latin) lists him as “illegitimus,” and his parentage is described in a mysterious note: “Elisabet Wandstrat allegarit in Patrum Frederium Wilhelmum Behnsen de 14 Regi. Hanoverico.” In English: “Elisabeth Wandstrat alleges that the father is Friedrich Wilhelm Behnse.” The meaning of “de 14 Regil Hanoverico” is uncertain.

Frederick Bense’s baptismal record (in Latin), September 20, 1801. Note the left column where the parents’ names are listed. Frederick Bense's baptismal record

The relationships between the people in this record are hard to pin down. According to a book about Essen families, Frederick’s godmother, Anna Adelheid Wandstrat, married an Essen local named Franz Vaske in 1798 and died in 1804. She was probably related to Frederick’s mother Elisabeth, but I’m not sure how.

I suspect that “de 14 Regi. Hanoverico” indicates that Frederick’s father was in the military, perhaps in the nearby Electorate of Hanover. A Hanoverian army was stationed in northwestern Germany from 1796 to 1801, and it’s possible that Frederick’s father left the region after the French took effective control of the country in about 1802.

My best guess is that Elisabeth Wandstrat became pregnant out of wedlock in early 1801 by a Hanoverian soldier named Friedrich Wilhelm Behnse or Behnsen. Elisabeth moved in with a relative in Essen and gave birth to her son there. The child, Frederick, was named after his father, so he used the name “Bense.” If he had decided to use the name “Wandstrat,” that would be my last name today.

Frederick grew up during a tumultuous era. In 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte took power in France and quickly came to exert his influence in Germany after several successful military campaigns. In the following years, many church-run states were split up and reorganized, and the region where Frederick and his mother lived became part of the Duchy of Oldenburg in 1803. I might be oversimplifying things here; it’s all very hard to keep track of.

A major part of French foreign policy at the time was the Continental System, a large-scale embargo against the United Kingdom. To enforce this, Napoleon annexed much of northwestern Germany in late 1810, making Oldenburg part of the French Empire. The region gained independence again after Napoleon’s defeat in 1814, this time becoming the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg.

Before he was an adult, Frederick had lived to see the local government change three times: He was born in the Prince-Bishopric of Münster, turned two in the Duchy of Oldenburg, lived in the First French Empire at age ten, and then turned fourteen in the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg. The woman he would eventually marry hadn’t even been born yet.

Frederick appears in local records yet again on January 26, 1842, Frederick Bense, godfather of Wilhelmina Friederica WandstrateFrederick Bense, godfather of Wilhelmina Friederica Wandstrate, January 26, 1842. where he is listed as a godparent of Wilhelmina Friederica Wandstrate, the daughter of Heinrich Wandstrate and Margaretha Brockhage. (A woman I believe to be this girl’s aunt was married in a nearby town in 1837, and Frederick’s mother Elisabeth was a witness at her wedding.)

Helena Adelheid Uhlhorn (who went by Adelheid and whose last name was often spelled “Ulhorn”) was born on January 10, 1817 in Essen and was baptized at St. Bartholomäus on January 13 in the presence of her parents, Johann Wilhelm Uhlhorn and Margaretha Adelheid Scheper. Her godparents were Helena Adelheid Meyer Fels (or Vels?), probably her father’s relative, and Johann Scheper, her mother’s relative.

Adelheid Uhlhorn’s baptismal record, January 13, 1817. Adelheid Uhlhorn's baptismal record, January 13, 1817.

Both of Adelheid’s parents were dead by 1842, when she was 25, and Frederick’s mother died in 1837, when he was 36. They probably met in Essen in the early 1840s.

By this time, the political situation in Europe was stable. Oldenburg was a member of the German Confederation, a loose association of German states dominated by Prussia and Austria. Although revolutions swept Europe in the spring of 1848, Oldenburg was mostly uninvolved.

Frederick and Adelheid married on January 7, 1844 at St. Bartholomäus in Essen (I believe the record also shows that Frederick proposed several weeks earlier, on December 26, 1843). The witnesses were Francisca Uhlhorn, Adelheid’s sister, and someone named Ludwig Diezmann or Dietzmann, probably a friend of Frederick. The record also refers to their parents as verstorbenen (“the late” or “deceased”). Frederick was 42, and Adelheid was 26.

Frederick and Adelheid’s marriage record, January 7, 1844. “Frederick Bense, Sohn der verstorbenen Eltern Frederick und Elisabeth Wandstrate, mit Helena Adelheid Ulhorn, [???] Tochter der verstorbenen Eltern Wilhelm Ulhorn und Margaretha Adelheid Scheper, beide aus Essen (Heuerl[ing]). Frederick and Adelheid's marriage record, January 7, 1844

Frederick and Adelheid had three children together:

Records describe Frederick as a Heuerling and Adelheid as a Heuerfrau. The term literally means “hireling,” but according to translator Katherine Schober, the word referred to a class of self-employed farmers who worked another farmer’s land in exchange for a place to live. For more about the life of a Heuerling, see here and here. Such workers often lived in small, poorly constructed cottages on narrow strips of land. As the nineteenth century wore on, many Heuerlinge moved to the United States in order to own their own property.

Frederick and Adelheid’s life together did not last long, however; Frederick died in Essen on April 21, 1856 at the age of 55, probably due to tuberculosis (Schwindsucht). His oldest child was only seven.

Frederick’s funeral record, April 24, 1856. Frederick Bense's funeral record, April 24, 1856

Adelheid died in Essen 20 years later on May 7, 1876 after having a stroke (Schlagfluß). She was 58.

Adelheid’s funeral record, May 10, 1876. Adelheid's funeral record, May 18, 1876

Further reading

Frederick Bense’s and Adelheid Uhlhorn’s entries on my Ancestry.com tree (requires a subscription). More images of baptism records are available here.

Frederick Bense’s and Adelheid Uhlhorn’s pages on FamilySearch (requires a free account).

Sources

Kirchenbuch Nr. 5, Taufen 1758–1811, Essen, St. Bartholomäus, Bistum Münster, Offizialatzbezirk Oldenburg, Vechta, r.k. Offizialatsarchiv via Matricula Online. Link

Kirchenbuch Nr. 8, Taufen 1811–1846, Essen, St. Bartholomäus, Bistum Münster, Offizialatzbezirk Oldenburg, Vechta, r.k. Offizialatsarchiv via Matricula Online. Link 1 Link 2

Kirchenbuch Nr. 9, Trauungen 1811–1853, Essen, St. Bartholomäus, Bistum Münster, Offizialatzbezirk Oldenburg, Vechta, r.k. Offizialatsarchiv via Matricula Online. Link

Kirchenbuch Nr. 9, Trauungen 1811–1837, Löningen, St. Vitus, Bistum Münster, Offizialatzbezirk Oldenburg, Vechta, r.k. Offizialatsarchiv via Matricula Online. Link

Kirchenbuch Nr. 10, Beerdigungen 1811–1855, Essen, St. Bartholomäus, Bistum Münster, Offizialatzbezirk Oldenburg, Vechta, r.k. Offizialatsarchiv via Matricula Online. Link

Kirchenbuch Nr. 13, Beerdigungen 1856–1888, Essen, St. Bartholomäus, Bistum Münster, Offizialatzbezirk Oldenburg, Vechta, r.k. Offizialatsarchiv via Matricula Online. Link 1 Link 2

Essener Bauernhöfe und ihre Familien I could not find a copy of the whole book, but you can see a PDF of the Vaske/Vasque pages here. No Benses are mentioned in the book. by Clemens Bernard Bröring. Quakenbrück : [Selbstverl.], 1996. More information.

Guide to Hanover Military Records, 1514–1866, on Microfilm at the Family History Library The Electorate of Hanover’s military records are available at Family History Centers, but they’ve been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. by Teresa S. McMillin, CG. Lulu.com, 2014. Link