A family history from the Goths to the Prussians
By Hans-Joachim SehrbundtVon Hans-Joachim Sehrbundt
1. The age of the migration of European peoples
In the attempt to show a comprehensive family history the investigator sooner or later reaches historical edge districts, were the contours become fuzzier and blur.
Each Genealogist has to decide for himself when the moment of historical fuzziness has been reached. When the available historical documents and sources become sparser it is up to him to decide when it's time to come to a hold, in order to remain reliable.
Our historical data seems to extend to the age of the migration of the European peoples at least that appears to be the time range delivered to us by researchers who investigated the topic before us.
Our family history begins in the historic twilight of the migration of peoples, the first contours become clearer with the conquest of a region that nowadays is called Italy by the Ostgoten (East branch of the Goth).
After the occupation of Italy, Theoderich (451-526) protected its north boundary through settlements of trusted battle companions. Later he allowed the Alemans who were appealing for refuge to settle further north.
In the Alps, at the transition of important pass ways and at strategically important road connections, Theoderich had erected fortifications, given fiefs, and established settlements.
2. Bormio and the de Sermondis
One of the fiefs, which included also the public baths of Bormio which were already known to Plinius (29-79), just as to Cassiodorus, appears to be the one that later on belonged to the Sermondis/Sermundis.
Authors involved in the elucidation of that historical age are mainly Swiss like Chr. Brügger et. Al. In the book: Meyer-Ahrens and Brügger" Die Thermen von Bormio, Zurich, Orell Füssli editor,(1869), he seems to be emotionally involved in describing this part of history.
Bormio was located in a strategically important position as it was considered the key to the province, and therefore fiefs were granted certainly only to and trusted battle companions.
In the valleys of the Adda river also settled the remainders of the Westgoten (western branch of the Goths) migration.
The baths of Bormio and the surrounding fief belonged to the de Sermondi family until far into the 16th. century. Then a part of the goods and the land possessions of the Sermondis were confiscated during the Reformation. The later owner, the city of Bormio, in 1859 sold it to the bündnerische corporation "La Bernina".
Reformation and Counter-Reformation were largely "imported" phenomena in those valleys, brought about by native Italians and not by residents of the area. The unrest was brought from outside into the Veltlin valleys and unwillingly endured by its residents.
During the Reformation, in the first Müsser war (1525/26) and later in the second Müsser war (1531/32), the Veltlin finally fell at the hands of the Bündener.
The reformed Bündener (Reformierten) as a garrison authority impeded very much of the normal life of the Catholic inhabitants of the Veltlin and especially that of the resident clergymen. The inhabitants were tormented and dominated in every imaginable manner by the Reformierten who were undisputed leaders of this area, in each regard predominant. The Veltlin administration was corrupt, as corruptibility was at the order of the day; the old-established Catholics were constantly subdued by the administration. A direct, powerful national institution was missing, as the administration was tangled, decentralized and weak, lacking executional authority. The Veltlin depended entirely upon the occupying military power.
The resident clergy and the nobility of the Veltlin, who held the largest parts of the land possessions, looked at the new authorities with latent hostility. The third and largest population group in the Veltlin, namely the one possessing little or no property at all, having to carry the greatest load of the exploitation, was incited to rise against the domination by the clergy and the nobility. Some of the little land owners were expropriated.
The Sermondi family belonged to the nobility
Father Franz of Bormio is represented in the Nekrologium of the capuchins in Milan among the Patres of noble origin. He also led the name "Sermondi dei bagni" - ("of the thermal spa").
The de Sermondi family was mentioned in Bormio already in 1315, their origin should lay in the adjoining Sondalo.
About the year 1530 part of the property of the Sermondis became expropriated. Until that time it had been in family possession for centuries. It therefore becomes clear why the baths of Bormio belonged to the city at a very early stage.
Nevertheless Antonius de Sermondi, the father of father Franz, still seemed to be a wealthy man, as he still owned a large part of the family's former possessions. Some assume that he was a restaurant owner, probably he was both land owner and host at the same time. This could be true as Bormio at that time was an important settlement on the way to the North. Inns at border stations were different from nowadays inns. At that time they offered a complete service from lodging for travellers with large entourage and accompanying personnel to servants service, stage coaches and horses.
Those inns were in fact aggregations of buildings such as housing for travellers, slaughterhouse, brewery, other stables and warehouses distributed on a vast area. They could be compared to nowadays monstrous "all-inclusive" hotel complexes, which one has not to leave even one time during a vacation, as they offer facilities comparable to a small towns. See also: N. Ohler, Travelling in the Middle Ages, Artemis & Winkler editor, (2002).
The further life data, in addition to detailed literature statements, are to be read about in: M. Künzle, P. Franz of Bormio, publishing house Benzinger & Co, Einsiedeln, (1940). Some documents are available at the provincial archive of the Capuchins in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The firm strength of belief of father Franz has to be underlined, as he stood like a rock in a sea of tempests and turmoil of disbelief. He demanded that the easy living Veltlin clergy of those times should adopt a more severe and orthodox lifestyle. He has always been a faithful companion to his friend, the holy Carlo Borromeo, (cardinal and Archbishop in Milan). The degrade of customs of the clergy was at that time so tremendous that the bishop and nuncio Bonhomini told cardinal Maffeo in its inspection report that he was less frightened by a hungry wolf than by those priests. Our father Franz accompanied the inspecting nuncio on that 14th July 1578 and was his honest and dependable adviser.
Father Franz died 1583, people depicting him already as a holy man.
Further information is to be read about in: H.-J.Sehrbundt, Anton de Sermondi, father Franz of Bormio.
Camenisch describes a priest named Gabriel Sermundus living in Tresivio (Veltin), who faithfully served his church in the confused times of Reformation. Gabriel Sermundus was visitated by the bishop Ninguarda at that time. It should also be remarked that father Franz had long been a visiting inspector.
Tresivio is not far away from Bormio; seemingly Gabriel is a relative of Father Franz and the Sermondis. E. Camenisch, History of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, Bischofberger & Co, Chur, (1950)
During the Reformation, the Bündener valleys and the Veltlin were crowded with reformed fugitives from northern Italy. This amalgam of fugitives either pulled further north or instead settled in the valleys causing considerable problems to the Catholic resident inhabitants. There also were some rebaptized refugees, some of them from Zurich. Recent data suggests that at least one of the Sermondis was a rebaptized (Wiedertäufer). Unfortunately we do not know which family branch he belonged to. Later on the rebaptized Sermondi fled his country in order to live with the Hutterer, in Mähren (nowadays Czech Republic). Large communities of this offshoot of the rebaptized reportedly lived there. (Personal communication of the Mennonites, 2002).
Later those untied fugitives obeying to different currents of the Reformation movement tried to extend their missionary activities in their new homeland. One result of those efforts was the destruction of part of the ancient cultural heritage of the valleys. For some of the Catholics conditions of life became so intolerable that they finally emigrated to various countries. (C. Bonorand, Reformatory Emigration out of Italy into the three alliances, Bündener monthly sheet, Chur, (2000).
With the Milan Capitulate of 1639, supervision rights over the Veltlin fell to the city of Milan, lifting to some extent the heavy pressure lying on the Veltlin inhabitants.
Nevertheless the area did not come to a rest, as the confusion of the Reformation vanished only to be substituted by the following Counter-Reformation disorders. Murders were frequent and pyres flared constantly.
The Veltlin bloodbath with its cruelties could be looked upon as an example of the barbarities of that time. In this historical context the Veltlin with Bormio fell off the Graubuenden supervision as the Veltiner installed a sovereign government.
Several reconquest attempts failed, many Reformed fled to the Swiss confederacy.
During that time of confusion, the domestic population of the valleys suffered famine and the plague, houses were destroyed, seeds burned, the countryside roamed by undisciplined mercenaries and the cattle slaughtered.
In the winter 1622/23, known as "winter of hunger", the misery was incredible. The graves could not be shovelled so quickly as the persons died, the plague raged terribly among the foreign occupators. (F. Pieth, Bündenergeschichte, F. Schuler publishing house, Chur, 1945).
Under those circumstances, it is obvious that a large part of the Sermondis emigrated.
The church bell caster, Franz Sermond of Bern, was a well-known representative of this family, probably he belonged to the Reformed people. He lived in the same period as his famous relative father Franz. Further important members of the de Sermondi family are described in M. Künzle.
The parish registers of Bern (baptism and marriage part 2, 1579) show two different spellings of the surname, Sermond/Sermund partially with "dt", whereas in the Ober-Olmer parish registers we never find other spellings than "Serbond", being spelled with a "d" as well as "t" but never with "dt". In an official document, a Renovationsurkunde, (Renovation, Staasarchiv Darmstadt, 1736) the Unterschultheiß Serbondt is mentioned.
Johann Peter Serbond is cited in the military parish register (wedding in Quedlinburg 1737). Source: Secret State archive, Berlin. Nevertheless the "dt" is further on almost abandoned, leaving either a "t" OR a "d" until around 1900 when it re-emerges and from that time predominates as the most frequent spelling until today. Through a mistake of a registrar Kurt Sehrbunt became K. Sehrbundt Our family still possesses a Mokka cup with the inscription: Curt Sehrbunt. It belonged to an aunt who knew nothing about the mistake in the wedding register.
In the 1835 population register of Quedlinburg Sehrbundt three times is spelled "Seerbund" due to the "creativity" of the registrar. The above described "unfriendly"circumstances of life certainly induced part of the Catholic Sermondis to move to Ober-Olm (Kurmainz).
The diocese of Chur since 887 was subordinate to the (at that time Franconian) archdiocese of Mainz. This subordination lasted for about 700 years, since then Chur clergymen beared the names of German bishops, orders came from Mainz. P. C. Hartmann, Kurmainz Franz Steiner publishing house Stuttgart, (1998)
By means of a recommendation letter of the bishop of Chur part of the Sermunds/Sermonds could have travelled to Mainz and from there on to Ober-Olm. As already mentioned, father Franz (Antonius de Sermondi), the famous Kapuzinerprovinzial, Generaldefinitor and founder of the Swiss churches capuchin province, was an important and powerful man. His influence could have helped his relatives in the province of Kurmainz.
3. Kurmainz and Ober-Olm
Anton Serbond suddenly appears in the parish register of Ober-Olm. A short time after that the family seems to be quite wealthy and owner of a church fief. Christian, a son of Anton, was Unterschultheiß. It is remarkable that the first name "Anton" (Antonius generally) was extremely rare in the Ober-Olm area, as Rettinger depicts in its book. (E. Rettinger, The environment of the city Mainz and its population from the 17th until 19th century, Franz Steiner publishing house, Stuttgart, volume 53, 2002)
This data also proves that it in and around Ober-Olm lived a lot of emigrants from the Veltlin and Graubünden at that time. In Essenheim, distant 4 km from Ober-Olm, lived some emigrants from Switzerland (written communication Mossel, Essenheim). Our data shows that a possible relative of the Serbonds, Josef Sermont, (1712) lived for a short time in Ober-Olm and was depicted as the "Italian mason" in the parish register.
The first name Anton(ius) was a common name in the Sermondi family. The predilection for the name Anton(ius) becomes clearer by looking at the historical facts. It seems that the holy Antonius visited Bormio in 470 and later on heard the prayers and ended a raging cattle plague in the area. Although far away from home they still remained under the spiritual guidance of their original homeland by taking along the name Antonius.
Meanwhile, even after the end of the thirty-year war also Kurmainz was no longer the peaceful and quiet place it had been before, though this was at that time not recognizable. (Johannes May, chronicle of the community of Ober-Olm, Mainz, 1907) Scattered troops haunted also the settlement of our ancestors in Ober-Olm, and as mentioned in old documents, destroyed the houses of the Serbonds too.
Spanish troops, like once in the Veltlin, strived the countryside. Then they supported the Catholic faction. These Spaniards seemed to be trusted the Serbonds. In the course of the Spanish succession war, a part of the Serbonds from Ober-Olm could have moved to the Netherlands with the Spaniards. A little later, unexpectedly, in Zaltbommel a numerous clan of Sermonds, van Sermond, makes his appearance.
The environment of Zaltbommel is now further investigated. However this possible route of migration still has to be proved and further research is necessary.
The later Musketeer, Johann Peter Sehrbundt, (modern spelling of 2002 -already in1737) who in Ober-Olm was depicted as "Serbond" in the parish register, appears later on (marriage document 1737) as a member of the 21st infantry regiment of Quedlinburg. This regiment at that time also recruited troops returning from the Spanish succession war.
Possibly Johann Peter joined the military through the Dutch connection, or instead he was recruited directly in the adjoining Frankfurt, where the Prussians maintained a recruitment base. Why and how Johann Peter joined the Prussian army needs to be determined by further researches.
Just as abruptly as they emerged in Ober-Olm the Serbonds disappeared again. There are to date no proofs of overseas emigration nor could one exclude a complete extinction of the Ober-Olm branch. A migration to relatives in the Netherlands or to the area of Hanover where similar names exist is conceivable. To investigate these possible connections remains the goal of further research.
4. A new beginning in Quedlinburg
The Musketier Johann Peter Sehrbundt (JPS)
For the later Musketeer Johann Peter Serbond/Sehrbundt two dates of birth (1715 and 1719) are indicated in the Ober-Olmer parish registers. We do not assume that there were two different Johann Peters in the same family, but rather suppose that the registrar simply made a mistake in handling the entries, which were very disorderly. As a boy, JPS certainly became aware of the unrest and the conflicts prevailing at that time so that he might have concluded that the world was ruled by soldiers.
For yet still unknown reasons he leaves his wellborn parental home (his father was Unterschultheiß in Ober-Olm) and joined the Prussian army.
In 1737 JPS re-emerges as a marrying soldier in the military parish register of Quedlinburg. He married a shoemaker's daughter of an old-established Quedlinburger family, Anna Margarethe Ritter.
Before he passed through the hard Musketeer education possibly in Berlin, more likely, however, in Halberstadt (garrison city of the 21st infantry regiment) under the corporal's cane which was often used to "raise" the recruits. The recruits were thrashed and abused, and disciplinary procedures were unmercifully hard, compared to today's standards.
He was sent to the 21st infantry regiment of Halberstadt, and belonging to the 2nd battalion, finally stationed at Quedlinburg. JPS must have had some physical features: probably he was neither small nor slight, otherwise he would have been sent to another regiment. At that time there were special regiments for the small and ugly ones.
Being soldiers at that time meant working part time for about 9 months per year in order to support oneself, whereas during the three summer months one had to serve in the army.
During the working months, at least one piece of military garment had to be carried in order to prevent desertation. The corporal collected the entire wages, leaving nothing at all to the common soldier. Up to the captain's degree the Prussian officers were poor souls.
What is noticeable in JPS' Musketeer career is that he never was advanced in degree remaining always a simple soldier. Probably this did not happen because Prussian officers had to serve all-year round, wages were meagre and there was no vacation at all. Officers could exceptionally be allowed a few days of leave for the burial of their father or mother. The rare leaves had to be approved by the king. Under these circumstances family life was impossible.
JPS married a member of an old-established middle class workman family whose origins could be traced back until far in the 14th century. This was quite unusual as soldiers were not in high regard among Quedlinburg citizens. He became acquainted with his wife, Anna Margarethe Ritter, during the three month of service in Quedlinburg. It was not a compulsory marriage, it seems, as their first son was baptized only in December 1740 in the Nicolaikirche. JPS worked with his father-in-law, the shoemaker. The workplace was situated in a particular street, (shoe yard) near to the city hall of Quedlinburg. Up to today the old guild house of the shoemakers is located there. JPS' son Christian later became Schuhflicker (shoemaker) probably taking over the the business of the grandfather or father.
JPS married as a young fellow and his military superiors must have been quite satisfied as desertations were far more unlikely among family fathers. Not only the Prussian army had to fight against this phenomenon at that time.
The baptism of Christian Sehrbundt (in December 1740) in the impressive Nicolaikirche was overshadowed by a terrible flood of the Bode river. Still nowadays the old baptism basin where generations of Sehrbundts were baptized can be found in the Nicolaikirche. In 2001 the author found the extraordinarily worked basin in a side niche. The author then decided to make a donation for the renovation of one of the Nikolaikirche's pillars in order to re-establish a connection between the Sehrbundt family and the Quedlinburg baptism church.
Shortly after his baptism, JPS had to fight in the 1st Schlesischen war. The battles that he joined in this war, in the 2nd Schlesischen war and in the war of seven years will de described further on by the author.
Later 3 girls were born and baptized in the Nicolaikirche. In 1756 JPS receives the civil rights of the city Quedlinburg, as it is reported in an official document.
All our investigations over his whereabouts until today appear futile, therefore further research efforts are necessary. If he survived war and captivity, it seems possible that he re-established himself outside Quedlinburg again or even that he married again in his elder years. But these are however only suppositions.
The offspring of JPS later were Schuhflicker, Tuchmacher (linen maker) and gardeners in Quedlinburg. The most important one is Karl-Friedrich Sehrbunt who became sowing breed inspector at the universally known sowing breed firm Dippe of Quedlinburg . This position is to be equated with that of a director. The Dippe company at that time was the largest and most modern sowing breed firm worldwide with exemplary social acquisitions. Our ancestor worked at this firm uninterruptedly for 63 years. G. Röbbelen, biographical lexicon to the story of the Pflanzenzüchtung,2.Folge, Göttingen(2002) However, this chapter of family history is described in detail further on by the author.
In the Quedlinburger directories, Elise Sehrbund in 1950/51 is mentioned as the last Quedlinburg resident of all Sehrbundts. Still today her house in Quedlinburg can be visited.
Here, the Quedlinburger family history will be interrupted not without mentioning that Karl Friedrich Sehrbund was the one who ordered the crest drawing of glass painter Müller as one could recognize by the stamp on this document.
It should not be forgotten to mention the sharp and severe beauty of the Nicolaikirche, framed by houses and by a cemetery. Until today the surroundings with the narrow side lanes appear almost like in former times when weddings, baptism -or funeral marches of the Sehrbunt family were on their way.
The Sehrbunts in Quedlinburg have become extinct, just as in Bormio and Ober-Olm their graves no longer exist, but so does the memory of their descendants.
5. Panoramic view
As mentioned before name fragments of the Sehrbundts appear in different variations in areas touched by the Gothic migrations.
The peoples migration cannot be compared with modern migrations such as the expulsions of 1945. This historical migration at times came to a hold even for longer periods when settlements were founded along the way. M. Todd, the time of the peoples migration, Theiss publishing house, Stuttgart, (2002) further literature there. Rather different groupings developed on the migrations of the Goths, broke up and later again formed new partnerships. One can therefore not uniformly refer to "the Goth", would it be eastern or Western. They were so to speak alliances of purpose of different tribes which were led by families or pluralistic domination structures.
The need for integration and the capacity to achieve it seemed to be stronger then in modern times. Hatred seemed not to be as accentuated as nowadays so that one did not ally with the former rival against the next enemy.
The links between the Goths and the Huns have not yet been investigated deeply. Certainly there must have been some links between these peoples at that time so that genes from the Huns (and therewith the Hsiung-nu gene too) could be identified in the gothic genome. This fact clearly also applies to the other tribes and peoples living at that time in close vicinity to the Goths.(H Schreiber, On the traces of the Goten, List publishing house, 1977 and A. Krause, Story of the Teutons, Campus publishing house, 2002)
To complete this genealogic overview one should not forget to mention the well-known Spanish (catalan) theologian, medical doctor and philosopher, Raymond de Sebond, who during his life publicised extraordinary writings.
In the years 1434-1436, Sebond composed his universally known book:" Liber creatuarum sive de homine".
In 1569 this book was translated into the French language by Michel de Montaigne. The book was banned by Pope Paul IV. (1557) for one some years whereas Pope Pius IV partially lifted this ban reducing it to some chapters. (Montaigne, Apologie de Raimond Sebond,Gallimard, 1962)
Whether Sebonds ancestors came to Spain with the Westgoten (western branch of the Goths) -we do not know, but it is noticeable, however, that there is some resemblance with the Serbond´s surname and that his place of birth, Barcelona, lay on route of the migration tracks followed by the Westgoten. Raymond de Sebond died on the 24.4.1436 in Toulouse. (France) Here, too, further research has to be undertaken. One should finally remark that there were many different coexisting spellings of his name in historical documents such as Sebonde, Sabonde, Sabunde, Sebeyde, Sabiende, Sibinde, Sibiuda, Sevene).
In this context we should also mention the Waltharilied. Walthari fled his Hun farm in Aquitaine, his homeland. He was obstacled by the francs and fought against Scaramund and his uncle, the count of Metz, killing both of them. Scaramund was depicted in the already described document of the Sehrbunt family.
The Waltharilied (Waltharius) was composed about 930 by the young monk Eckart 1st in the cloister of St. Gallen (Switzerland). The Walthersaga is an offshoot of the Nibelungensaga, in the age of the peoples migration at the beginning of the Germanic heroic epics. (H Althof, The Waltharilied, Dieterich´sche publishing house, Leipzig, 1902)
It seems a surprising coincidence that the name Saemund is cited in yet another epic tale, the Edda. Brügger seems to recognize a direct link with the de Sermondis name, while Oehl in M. Künzle's account denies such a link. One cannot deny a certain similarity of those names. This becomes even more plausible by considering the fact that language and consequently names too, must have undergone relevant changes in the course of approximately one thousand years, B. and P. Sawyer mention Saemund (1056-1133) and his song about the Norwegian kings of the late 12th century. Saemundt (spelled "dt" here) who was also referred to as "the wise one" depicts in Norwegian language the story of Iceland from the landing until 1120. (B. and P. Sawyer, The world of the Vikings, Siedler publishing house, 2002)
All these facts could arise from pure coincidence like so many other events in genealogy, but they could also represent an important reference for later researchers.
Much of what is presented in this book is proven by historical documents but a few things remain yet hypothetic awaiting further investigation.
Genealogy is an exiting topic as it necessitates both, sober facts, and a bridging imagination and fantasy.
In dealing with our ancestors life stories they become vivid again like still living persons gaining contrast from history's blur.
There still remains a lot of work to do for future researches as digitalization will enable yet a faster tracing of historic documents and parental relations.
Possibly the single genealogic databases will be interconnected one day in a worldwide comprehensive database so that pedigrees and parental relations would become recognizable at a glance.
The evolution of the genetic research and its application to genealogy seem to me the most likely future techniques in ancestor research. This will not replace, however, the loving efforts and continuous personal application of the researcher himself.
The most important goal of genealogy should be the transmission of enthusiasm for this branch of our history onto future researchers, otherwise it will become extinct.
This research is part of the sanctification of work, which was personified by the figure of holy Escriva, the founder of the opus Dei.
So at last we are well-accompanied by our ancestor, the Kapuzinerprovinzial and Generaldefinitor, father Franz of Bormio.
Genealogy is "All Souls' Day" for every single day.
Ein Teil der benutzten Literatur erscheint im Text.
A.Frigg, Bündener Kirchengeschichte, 3.Teil,Gegenreformation. Herausgeber:Ev.Kirchenrat Graubünden
K-H Spiess,Nieder-Olm,Verlag d.Rheinhess.Druckerwerkstätte,Alzey,1983
G.Dorn und J.Engelmann,Die Schlachten Friedrichs d.Grossen, Bechtermünz Verlag
H.Lorenz, Quedlinburger Geschichte, 1.Band,1922 S.Kleemann, Quedlinburger Geschichte, 2.Band,1922
H.Lorenz, Quellen zur Städt.Verwaltungs-, Rechts-und Wirtschaftsgeschichte von Quedlinburg, Otto Hendel Verlag, 1916
H.Lademacher, Die Niederlande, Propyläen Verlag Berlin, 1993
J.W.vonArchenholtz, Geschichte des Siebenjährigen Krieges in Deutschland, Biblio Verlag, Osnabrück, 1982
M.Künzle, Die Schweizer Kapuzinerprovinz, Benzinger & Co., Einsiedeln, 1928
E.E.Ploss, Waltharius, Georg Olms Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1969
Die benutzte Literatur über die preussische Armee findet sich bei:
G.Krohn, Bibliographie der altpreussischen Tuppen-und Garnisonsgeschichten, Biblio Verlag, Osnabrück, 1974 Dies ist wohl die ausführlichste Zusammenstellung dieser Art bis 1974.
Zurück zur Hauptseite