Research 2012-2015: Essen Archives: PART III

2015: I decided that I should contact the Essen Archives myself to see if they could send me the civil birth registration record of the third aunt who had been born in Essen in 1904.

I also asked them for any other birth, marriage, and death records of any other Spurgats that might have lived there between 1898 and 1950.

In particular I asked for the 1944 death record of Adolf Spurgat as there might be information not on the ITS record.

Ben and I decided that I would ask only for the information and not for a copy of each record as I really did not know what I would get. If I wanted, I could get the actual records later.

The procedure was complicated but doable. I wrote in English everything I outlined above and sent it in English to Ben for approval. (I also asked for some other information that might relate to the Hutop family. That is a separate story beyond the scope of this subject.) Then I e-mailed the letter in English to the same woman at the Essen Archives that Ben had used. She responded in German. I used Google Translate to get the gist of what she wrote back. I had to send the money to the City of Essen. When the city received the money, they would notify the archives that it had been received, and then the archives would e-mail me the results. I used Google Translate to get the gist of what she wrote. I sent the original in German to Benjamin and the Google Translate back to Ben so he would understand what I understood.

Here is what I learned about the death record from the Essen Archives:

Adolf Spurgat was unmarried. [On his] …Essen registration card [he is listed] as a professional artist initially registered [and later] disabled. On the Death display [it lists] unskilled construction laborers. It has been suggested that he committed suicide.

The death record of Adolf Spurgat stated that his mother Mary née Laurinat had recently lived in Duisburg. In the Death notice as a survivor (relative) [was] foreman Franz Kreft, [also] living in Duisburg, Brückenstr. 15…[15 Brucken Street, Duisburg, north of Essen.]

In subsequent correspondence with them, the archivist verified the name of the mother and explained that the mother’s maiden name in the birth records of his younger siblings all born in Essen between 1899 and 1902 is Mattotat.

And in the meantime, I found the marriage record of Johann Wilhelm Spurgat and Maria Matutaitis on microfilm, and had it translated.

There was more information on the civil death records than there was on the ITS record. The significance of some of this information is the subject of the next post.

The Essen Archives also sent me the information about other births and marriages in the Spurgat family, also the subject of a future post.

At the Feefhs conference in Salt Lake a year later in August 2015 I scheduled a conference with Dr. Diane Alfoumado. When I started to tell her about the impact of this single record on my research, she stopped me, phoned her colleague Ina Navazelskis, and asked her to join us. Ina is the Program Coordinator of Oral History at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and has conducted in-depth interviews with survivors and witnesses in audio and video format. Diane asked if she and Ina could tape my story of the results of the research with one ITS record to share with her staff when she returned to Washington D. C. I was fascinated as Ina went into her professional interviewing mode, made me comfortable as I proceeded, asking questions to clarify the fine points of my research.  See

From these records—1 birth extract, 1 ITS death record on a 3 x 5 card, 1 civil death record, 1 FHL microfilmed marriage record, and transcribed information from the Essen Archives, I made additions to my new appendix.





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Research 2012-2015 POST 10 Essen Archives Part II

 This post will explain how three different sources over a five year period provided an amazing breakthrough.

2010: I contacted the Archivum Patriae, in Warsaw. Google Translates interprets Archivum Patriae as “Lovers Association of Historical Documents” Founded in 2001, the society provided extracts of records which were not available through other means. The whereabouts of the original records is undetermined.

Their website is (no www.)

I sent them an e-mail in English inquiring about any records from the Wylkowiszki area that were connected with the name Spurgat.

They sent back extracts of five births and deaths from 1893 to 1897.  I thought that the parents might be an older brother of my grandfather, but with only a birth record and a confirmation record, and no marriage record I could not be sure, and so I put them in an appendix of “Other Spurgats.”

2014: As I wrote in the post:

The most unexpected and exciting bit of research at the Feefhs conference came from Diane Afoumado, PhD, chief of the ITS (International Tracing Service) Research Branch at the Holocaust Survivors and Victims Resource Center at the United States Holocaust Memorial   Museum in Washington, D, C. …When I met with her,…she was able to locate people with the Spurgat name in Lithuania, especially Wylkowiszki.

We just started with the first names beginning with A and one really caught my attention because of the similarities to the names in my family and the place of birth.

An Adolf Spurgat who was born in September 25, 1894, was the son of Johann Spurgat and  Maria Laurinat of Wylkowiszki. He died in Essen in 1944 of unknown causes. His address and burial information were also given. This was amazing to me for two reasons: First, I have this Adolf Spurgat in my Spurgat book; from extractions from the Archivum Patriae in Warsaw, the birthdates match but the names of the mothers do not.  Maria Matutaitis was the mother’s name along with the names, birthdates, and death of two other siblings. Second, the parallels to my family were astounding: my grandfather was also named Adolf Spurgat; his father was also named Johann Spurgat; they both lived in Wylkowiszki (spelling the German way as Wilkiwischken; and my grandfather Adolf Spurgat lived in Essen from 1900 to 1905! Perhaps this is the Johann Wilhelm who was the older brother of my grandfather Adolf!

When I checked my 2010 book, I found that same birth date so I now had enough information to make this family part of my family.

The matching birthdates showed me that this Adolph Spurgat was the son of the Johann Wilhelm Spurgat (whose birth and confirmation records I had) and was an older brother of my grandfather. It had taken four years to prove it, a trip to Salt Lake, and a conference with Diane to link the families.

Plus it took a blog, a visit to Lithuania, a family history tour guide, a meeting with a pastor, and someone to read a posting on my blog who had done some research in the Essen City Archives to complete the relationship.


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Research 2012-2015 POST 9 Essen City Archives Part 1

As Ben attempted to find an American Hutop, he did some research on my father’s side of the family.  As a result. that took him back to the –at name. He wrote

…I visited the Red Star Line Museum in Antwerp. Later the same day I checked the Ellis   Island website. There I found the link to Essen. Therefore, I contacted the city archive. I    hoped to find new information on HUTOP, but unfortunately it was very limited.

But he attached what he did find:

  • 2 birth civil registrations of two of my three aunts that no one on this side of the ocean had ever seen! I had written about the family’s five years in Essen from 1900 to 1905. Because I had the birthdates from the people themselves, family stories, and American records, I did not feel the need to do any research in Essen. Now I learned the middle name of my eldest aunt! I distinctly remember asking, “What is Aunt Emma’s middle name?” No one knew. Here it appeared on the birth record in Essen! I doubted whether I could have contacted the archives who as I later learned read English but respond in German. Google Translate may not have been what it is today.

Essen City Directories gave me the names of other –at family members that I had not known were ever in Essen and enabled me to connect that family to my family.

In 2010 I had written:

Although it is tempting to think of Johann Wilhelm Spurgat as the older brother of            Adolph Spurgat , the lack of information about his age prevents the inclusion of these records in the  Johann Spurgat family.

After receiving the above information, I wrote in 2015:

New information from the City Archives of Essen, Germany, and the International Tracing  Service confirmed that this Johann Wilhelm Spurgat is the older brother of Adolph Spurgat and a new separate appendix for the Johann Wilhelm Spurgat family followed. The International  Tracing Service is explained in a future post.

In 2015 I also wrote:

This new information provides a more definitive answer as to why Adolf and Pauline Spurgat went to Essen, Germany. His older brother, Johann Spurgat, had already been there for almost two years before they arrived! The 1901 address suggests that by 17 November 1900, the   birth date of Emma Martha Spurgat, Johann and Adolf were probably living next door to each  other, and certainly were by 1901. And by 1902 Adam Spurgat was living with Johann… and by  1905 Josef Spurgat, younger half-brother of Adolf, was also living with him in Essen. The Spurgat    family was part of the typical chain migration and cluster immigration so common to immigrants. They followed one another and they lived near each other—at least for five years.

  • A 1926 Naturalization record of Auguste Spurgat gave a great deal of information about her father, the above Johann Wilhelm Spurgat.
  •  1906 death record of Johann Spurgat

From these four records—2 births, 1 death, and 1 naturalization record– and transcribed information from the Essen City Directories, I made additions to the 2015 Addendum:

Chapter 7 From Wylkowiszki to New York

Chapter 9 Children of Adolph Spurgat and Pauline Hutop

And created a brand new appendix:

Appendix C1 The Johann Wilhelm Spurgat Family

The next post will provide more information about working with the Essen Archives.

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Two Hutop family researchers provided information about two other Hutop families: (1) A brief overview of research  connecting the Hutop/Hutob Family of Reval, Estonia, with the Hutops in Gizai, Suwalki Province, Protectorate of the Russian Empire, is presented. (2) The author’s discovery of people with the Hutop name in Willuhnen, Kreis Pillkallen, East Prussia, while she was searching for the Spurgats, is the subject of the following post.

The Hutop/Hutob Family of Reval, Estonia

Benjamin Hutop contacted the German Baltic Genealogy Society… DBGG (Deutsch Baltische Genealogische Gesellschaft) for information on HUTOPS in Estonia

Hutop vs. Hutob

H e explained Grimm’s Law:  See’s_law

There was a change in the use of some letters in the early 19th century in the region which later became Estonia. In general ‘soft consonants’ as G, B or D were replaced by ‘hard consonants’ as K, P and T. So normally HUTOP should not have been changed to HUTOB. Theory is one thing; real life is something else.

The German Baltic Genealogy Society sent two sets of records: The first was from the Das Revaler Bürgenbuch 1786-1796 (the Reval Citizen book) published in 2006, the first recorded name of Jaecksch Gerdruta Helena, geb. Hutop. The second record was about Meister Hutop

Christian Hutop/Hutob 

Benjamin Hutop:

…The oldest known HUTOP in the Baltics [is] Christian Hutob, a new version regarding the  spelling, I do not know if it’s a typo or the original spelling

born approx. 1690 in Bernau, Berlin region

citizen of Reval since 1723

profession: Blacksmith

married with Anna Sophia Lorentz since 1723

10 children

His son, number ‘h’, Johann Christian was his successor as master smith

died in 1773, death registration as Christoph Hutob

Source: Register Baltische Stammfolgen (RBS), “Sammlung Paulsen, Ordner 3” der DBGG

Both researchers believe that Johann Christian Hutop/Hutob is the same person in the Reval, Estonia, records. Both also believe that the spelling should be Hutop as it is classified that way by the professionals who published the Das Revaler Bürgerbuch (Citizen Book) 1786-1796 in 2006 and compiled the records for the Estonian National Archive.

When I saw that these records came from St. Nikolai church, I was simply amazed as it is the most famous church in Tallin, just a block from the market square in the Old Town of Tallin! We had been there on Saturday, July 14, 2013! Whether or not we turned out to be related to this Hutop family in Reval, I was deeply impressed with someone with that same name had attended this most famous church.

                                     Das Revaler Bürgerbuch (Citizen Book) 1786-1796 DBGG-Sammlung Paulsen, 3-1

 The title of the page states Hutop. In the text the name is spelled Christian Hutob. Only a portion of the first of three pages shown.

Two researchers had different ideas about the possible relationship to our Hutop family. We explored every possible way to connect this family to “our” Hutop family.

I wrote:

Perhaps Christian Hutop who was born in Berlin had a relative who also emigrated east, not to Tallin, but to East Prussia, and ended up a few miles east into what would become Suwalki Province during the time the German craftsmen moved there (late 18th century).

  • Guild records in East Prussia might be the best records to pursue.

He wrote:

The most common way of migration is that a person moves to a place where other persons of the same family (or people) have moved.

  • Maybe the Hutops from Reval moved to Suwalki, maybe in a period that the Baltics were already Russian. Then, it was an internal move which was probably easier.
  • Regarding your theory of one relative migrated to Reval-Tallinn, the other one to East Prussia… I’m not sure.
  • Maybe two brothers or cousins who don’t like each other…

Later he wrote again:

If the Tallinn Hutops are related, we had an ancestor with a quite long list of cases before the Court of Justice. There was action against him because of a supposed violation of the code of conduct of his profession and incorrect management of community property…! He opened claims against other persons for money and personal insult issues.

I wrote:

Would this be a possible reason he or his descendants might leave Reval?

He replied:

No. As far as I know, he stayed. And his son was also a master blacksmith in Reval. So, maybe he was involved in a lot of court cases, but innocent in the end. So far, no links found to Suwalki.

 Additional  information about Johann Christian Hutop came later. The first is from the Balticische Familiengeschichtliche MitteilungenBaltic  (Family History Releases), published in Tartu, Estonia, in 1937.

This is about a Russian general with the German name Paswick, but he preferred to use ‘v. Passek’ to pretend being part of a famous noble family. The information from this magazine is quite similar to the overview about the Reval Hutops above.

However, he was a descendant of craftsmen families, Hutop(b) in his maternal line. I found more precise biographical data (especially the birth date) on the first Hutop in Reval.

Hutob Entry from Balticische Familiengeschichtliche MitteilungenBaltic  Reval Hutops BFM 1937.4.IV (2)

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RESEARCH 2012-2015 POST 7 Passport and Ober Ost

2010: Because I had been writing a book about three immigrants with the –at name, I was only including my father’s maternal family in the appendices along with the spouses of the other two male immigrants with the same –at name.

An internal travel passport belonging to my great-grandfather, Johann Ferdinand Hutop , the original death record of a great grandmother in 1881, and a likely second marriage of my great-great grandfather from an FHL microfilm, was all the information we had on this family, and I scoured each one thoroughly, but apparently not enough.

The passport of my great-grandfather has been the subject of two previous posts. See

See and

I had always wondered why this passport was written in German during the “Russification era” when all records were required to be written in Russian. I didn’t pay much attention to the design of the stamp in the upper right hand corner as I could not see it very well. I did decipher the German words: Verwaltungsgebiet Suwalki” which means Administration (Verwaltungs) Area (gebiet) of Suwalki. And yet it turned out to be a major clue to this family.

2014: Early on Ben Hutop had written that he thought that the passport dated to the time of WWI as he noticed the Imperial German Eagle in the stamp. I had overlooked it.  A few months later he mentioned it again, and we both went to work. This was the best part –researching together.

When the microfilmed records from Gize in the Marijampole parish where Johann Ferdinand Hutop  was born did not contain any more confirmation or marriage records on his second family in the 1890s, the archivist at the Lithuanian State Historical archives, wrote that that he or she thought that the family might have left the area.

Using the date from birth record of the youngest child, we now realize that sometime between 1894 and 1899, Johann Ferdinand Hutop moved closer to East Prussia. See Shortly after, his two older daughters, my grandma and her sister, had married and moved to the US.

Benjamin found the German Imperial Eagle on a postcard from the WWI era online. He mentioned the Ober Ost, the military occupation authority of the German Empire on the eastern front. Wikipedia revealed that

  • The Ober Ost was created in 1914 and was dismantled after November 1918.
  • The Ober Ost divided the land without regard to the existing social and ethnic organization and patterns. It impacted the livelihood of many merchant Jews and prevented people from traveling to neighboring districts. Ober Ost also tried to integrate German ideals and institutions with existing cultures.
  • The abbreviation for Oberbefehlshaber der gesamten Deutschen Streitkräfte im Osten, the “Supreme Commander of All German Forces in the East” during World War I.
  • This military occupation authority controlled the Eastern front during World War I.

For complete details see

In 2015 I recorded:

Benjamin Hutop, great-great grandson, wrote, “This document is from the World War I era. This region was under German occupation in this time; the document’s main language is German,  and the stamp shows the imperial German Eagle.” This fact was confirmed (1) by comparing the  stamp on a picture postcard described with the following annotation: “German Reich, 1917,  administrative area…(imperial eagle) …army postal service” (2) in consultation with the editor of the Annaberger Annalen, a German-language magazine about Lithuania and Lithuanian-German  relations published annually since 1993, and (3) a response to an e-mail I sent to Dr. Vejas  Gabriel Liulevicius, Lindsay Young Professor and Director, Center for the Study of War and Society, Dept. of History, University of Tennessee.

For more information on Annaberger Annalen see

The archivist at the Lithuanian State Historical Archives had already performed an exceptional search. We tried to find records in Hassfortowo and Kunigiszki/Kunigiskiai (today Pajevonys, Lithuania) through FHL microfilmed records; a U. S. researcher, an expert on this region; through a Facebook friend called Pajevonys Wizajny who had found my blog in 2013 and contacted me about a Hutop record in this area which I could not connect to my family. (We still cannot conclusively connect him to our families, but there does not seem to be another Hutop family in the area); and through the priest at the local church who was thought to have some death and/or cemetery records. For the time being the search has stopped here.

So we know that Johann Ferdinand Hutop, born 1846, was still alive at the time of WWI. This was a major breakthrough after 21 years.


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RESEARCH 2012 – 2015 POST 6 Colonization Methods of New East Prussia

Our Grandfather’s Axe, written by two brothers, Adolph and Dieter K. Buse, provided detailed information about one colony in New East Prussia and has the most details that I have found.

See .The general principles of the German colonization plan for this area help explain how my –at family may have come to live a few kilometers east of East Prussia.

When the first partition of Poland took place in 1772, Frederick II had instituted a plan for German colonization in West Prussia which was adopted in New East Prussia in 1795. The system was designed to support the militaristic goals of Prussia. The Prussian State and Finance Minister, Baron Friedrich Leopold von Schroettter, had been influenced by the rational principles of the Enlightenment. He believed that commerce and agriculture should be the colonization policy for New East Prussia. Skilled artisans and craftsmen would set an example of Prussian efficiency. New colonies would also serve as examples of the best agricultural practices. Thirty-two new colonies were thoughtfully planned for New East Prussia.

Regardless of the nationality of the owners of manor farms, Prussian methods would be employed. The Polish nobleman, Leonas Geistaras, who in 1808 purchased the manor farm that became known as Dydwiże, where my grandfather, Adolf Spurgat ,was born in 1870, was probably influenced by Prussian agricultural progress.

Artisans and craftsmen would have been welcomed and employed in the towns, villages, and manor farms to promote small industry and to exemplify Prussian ingenuity. Perhaps my great great grandfather, Johann Hutop, learned carpentry and cabinetmaking from one of them.

By the time the Prussians had lost control of New East Prussia in 1806, thousands of “colonists” had populated their colonies. Craftsmen had opened the doors to new avenues of commerce, and many manor farms were organized according to Prussian ideals.



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RESEARCH 2012 to 2015 POST 5 New East Prussia

In 2010 I wrote:

It is possible that during the Prussian era from 1795 to 1807 with the expansion of New East Prussia that our -at families resettled into what became German territory. However,  Prussian-German domination halted when Napoleon conquered Europe, and Prussia lost New East Prussia. German colonists in the Duchy of Warsaw came under Russian domination.

Based on research between 2011 and 2015, two adjacent areas, East Prussia in the German Empire was also home to people with the Spurgat name in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the 19th century people with the Spurgat name, including the three Spurgat families that immigrated to the United States, also lived a few kilometers farther east in Suwalki Province, a Protectorate of the Russian Empire.  Understanding how these two regions belonged to two different empires—German and Russian— helps explain how “our” Spurgats may have become a part of the Russian Empire.

See and

The land where people with the Spurgat name lived –Prussia, (known as East Prussia when Prussia was divided into two provinces [East Prussia and West Prussia] in 1824) fell under the jurisdiction of several different powers in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

Various “German” rulers–dukes, knights, margraves, and kings–had been colonizing the area where the native Pruzi, usually referred to as the Old Prussians, had lived for centuries. Because of their superior culture over the centuries, Germans became the dominant power over the native Prussians. Their language and church became German. One of the great ironies of history is that the name Prussia survived even though the people and their language did not.;_ylt=A0LEVvcpQZBWxxkAhPljmolQ;_ylu=X3oDMTBsa3ZzMnBvBHNlYwNzYwRjb2xvA2JmMQR2dGlkAw–?p=New+East+Prussia&…&sigr=11di0vefd&sigi=12r61ffu6&sign=10n32jdhj&sigt=103vg5ole&sigb=14u5dptvp&fr=yhs-rlo-shopathome_002&hspart=rlo&hsimp=yhs-shopathome_002

German Map of New East Prussia—1795 to 1807

Image (62)

In 1863-64 the northern appendage became known as Suwalki Province, and today the southwestern region of Lithuania is still known as Suwalki. Adjacent to the west (left) is Prussia, which after 1824 became known as East Prussia. That area was also known variously as Prussian Lithuania, Lithuania Minor, or Kleine Lituen. Wilkowischken and Maryampol are on the upper right.

Although historians disagree about the reasons behind the Three Partitions of Poland in 1772, 1792, and 1795, the division of Poland between Austria, Prussia, and Russia, stabilized the region for the time being. Austria gained land in the south. Russia gained a large portion of what had been Poland, and Lithuania in the east, and Prussia received the two smallest but adjoining parcels: land south and west of Prussia became known as South Prussia. The parcel that most concerns my –at family was east and southeast of Prussia, and now became New East Prussia or Neu Ost Preussen. These lands increased the size of and power of Prussia dramatically, but the acquisition of New East Prussia only lasted for less than a decade.

Poland ceased to be a nation from 1795 until 1918. Historically, the borders of Poland  were very different than those of modern day Poland.

When Napoleon conquered Europe in 1806, the Prussian (German) administrative state ceased to exist and what had been New East Prussia became part of the Duchy of Warsaw under French control.

That administrative division, too, ceased to exist with the defeat of Napoleon in 1812. In 1815 the Congress of Vienna decided upon the new division of empires. The land that had been New East Prussia became a Protectorate of the Russian Empire. New East Prussia and other lands became known as the Kingdom of Poland, Congress Poland, Congress Kingdom, or Russian Poland. The northern appendage became Suwalki Province in 1863-64.

So the land that had belonged to the native Pruzi for at least 500 to 1000 years went from Prussian, to German, to French, to Russian in a matter of twenty years from 1795 to 1815. Each empire left its distinct mark. The Prussians kept their names in the families with whom they intermarried and with the places they inhabited. The Germans kept their language and religion. The French left their system of civil registration. The Russians who dominated the region for over a hundred years from 1815 until 1918, allowed, at least for a time, the vestiges of language, religion, and civil registration. They allowed other native peoples—the Poles and the Lithuanians—to keep the records of their lives in their own languages. They allowed the Lithuanians to worship in their own Roman Catholic churches. But a Polish insurrection in 1863 and a ban in 1864 on anything printed in the Lithuanian language resulted in complete control of the people by the Russian Empire—known as Russification. Not until the end of WWI would new boundaries establish a new national state—Lithuania as it is known today.

But for families whose ancestors were firmly planted in today’s Lithuania (formerly New East Prussia, the Duchy of Warsaw, Kingdom of Poland, and Protectorate of the Russian Empire), one must simply ask, “How did our branch of our family get from Prussia to Russia?” The answer to this question partially lies in understanding the history of New East Prussia.


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