8 March 2014

Ladbergen, Germany

A Westphalian Village

From the present state of the genealogical research, it seems that our family of Fiegenbaums can trace their geographic roots to Ladbergen, a small village in the present state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Federal Republic of Germany (German: Nordrhein-Westfalen, Bundesrepublik Deutschland).

You can visit Ladbergen's web site (written in German, of course) and see pictures of the celebration of the town's 1,050th anniversary in 2000.

To see 360o panoramas of parts of Ladbergen, visit

To plan your walking tour of Ladbergen, you will need a city map:

A history of the village has been published in both German and English:

Local History within the Bigger Picture

In the course of my research into the family history, I have attempted to learn at least the correct names and basic information about members of the family. I have also attempted to accurately portray the geo-political identity of the place-names where our shared history has taken place.

When the story takes place on the North American continent, for the most part I need only be aware of when territories became states and when states created counties. These do not tend to be the sort of changes influenced by marriage, inheritance, feudal obligation (unless you have a particularly jaundiced political perspective), or war. And, because of the language I speak and my place of residence, sources of information about these matters are readily available to me.

The same task in Europe has been much more complicated. Although Ladbergen, as a village on the heath of northwestern "Germany," has remained relatively constant, the world around it has changed frequently and sometimes dramatically, in part as a result of the turmoil that has been present for centuries in the history of north-central Europe. Accurately charting the course of time and place has been a challenge for me and is one of the reasons why my intention to present in this space a summary of the Ladbergen's history has not been successful for so long.

In the meantime, it seems appropriate to outline some of the pieces of that story about which I now have some confidence. These fragments will help to explain why a single small farming community appears under so many different names in the genealogy I have created:

Bits & Pieces of Local History

Ladbergen, Grafschaft Tecklenburg

11th Century — 1707

County Tecklenburg (German: Grafschaft Tecklenburg), a territory of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation (German: Heiliges Römisches Reich Deutscher Nation), was established in the 11th century southwest of Osnabrück. The history of this prinicipality in the medieval era and it association with the houses of Bentheim, Schwerin and others is beyond the scope of this simple outline.

The Teutoburg Forest (German: Teutoburger Wald), a range of low, forested mountains, bisects the County from northwest to southeast. The main castle of the Counts of Tecklenburg was located on a steep southern slope in the Forest and the town of Tecklenburg grew up around it. The village of Ladbergen is located about seven miles south of the town of Tecklenburg, about midway between Münster and Onsabrück. This placed the farming community in the southwest corner of the County. The land in the area is typical of the Münster-land to the south and and west - flat heathland (German: Heide) with a not very fertile soil. A high water table made many areas untillable until extensive drainage was undertaken in the 20th cenutry.

In 1707, Count Wilhelm Moritz von Solms-Braunfels sold his portion of County Tecklenburg to Frederick III, Elector-Margrave of Brandenburg & King in Prussia (Frederick I). 1 

The elevation of the Duchy of Prussia to the Kingdom of Prussia; the distinction between the titles King in Prussia and King of Prussia; and a comparison of the Kingdom of Prussia in 1701 to the Kingdom of Prussia after the the Congress of Vienna in 1815 are all more than I can handle here.

What is noteworthy is that after 1707 the administration of County Tecklenburg took on a new order and discipline. The inhabitants of Ladbergen took notice, often reluctantly and sometimes with discomfort. The sale of the County also marked the beginning of local church records, which are available to researchers in the USA on microfilm through the Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the LDS Church, or more commonly, the Mormon Church).


In 1806, Maximilian Joseph ceded the Duchy of Berg to Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of the French, in return for the Principality of Ansbach. Napoleon placed the Duchy (including territories of the former Prussian Duchy of Cleves east of the Rhine river) under the rule of his brother-in-law, Joachim Murat.

On 12 July 1806, on signing the Treaty of the Confederation of the Rhine (German: Rheinbundakte), 16 states in present-day Germany formally left the Holy Roman Empire and joined together in the Confederation of the Rhine, a largely military alliance. The Confederation was a satellite of the French Empire, with Napoleon as its "protector."

Joachim Murat joined the Confederation of the Rhine and assumed the title of a Grand Duke (the Duchy of Berg was elevated to a Grand Duchy). His lands were further enlarged by the annexation of the County of Mark, the Prince-Bishopric of Münster, the Imperial city of Dortmund and numerous minor territories of the Lower Rhenish-Westphalian Circle of the Holy Roman Empire.

On 6 August 1806, following an ultimatum by Napoleon, the last Holy Roman Emperor, Francis II, abdicated and declared the Holy Roman Empire dissolved.


After the Treaties of Tilsit in 1807, the Kingdom of Prussia lost about half of its territory, including the land gained from the Second and Third Partitions of Poland (which now fell to the Duchy of Warsaw) and all land west of the Elbe River. France recaptured Prussian-occupied Hanover, including Bremen-Verden. The remainder of the Kingdom of Prussia was occupied by French troops (at Prussia’s expense) and the king, Frederick William III, was obliged to make an alliance with France and join the Continental System, Napoleon's trade embargo with Great Britain.

Ladbergen, Grand Duchy of Berg


Upon Joachim Murat's promotion to the King of Naples in 1808, the Grand Duchy of Berg came under the rule of Napoleon "in personal union."

Grafschaft Tecklenburg was absorbed into the Grand Duchy of Berg.

Ladbergen was a commune in Canton Lengerich, Arrondissement Münster, département Ems; Grand-duché de Berg (German: Gemeinde Ladbergen, Kanton Lengerich; Distrikt Münster; Departement Ems; Großherzogtum Berg).

See the map of the Grand Duchy of Berg, 1808-1810 in the Map section of this web site.


In 1809, the Emperor Napoleon appointed his infant nephew, Prince Napoleon Louis Bonaparte (1804–1831), the Grand Duke of Berg. French bureaucrats under Pierre Louis Roederer administered the territory in Prince Napoleon's name.


In 1810, large parts of northwest Germany were incorporated directly into the First French Empire in order to better monitor the Continental System.

Ladbergen, First French Empire


Département Ems-Supérieur (German: Departement der Oberen Ems or, Ober-Ems) was the name of one of the three Hanseatic départements of the First French Empire. Named after the Ems River, with the capital at Osnabrück, it was formed in January 1811, when the region was annexed by France. Its territory had been part of the Grand Duchy of Berg, which included the former Grafschaft Tecklenburg (i.e., the village of Ladbergen); the Duchy of Oldenburg (German: Herzogtum Oldenburg); the Kingdom of Westphalia (French: Royaume de Westphalie; German: Königreich Westphalen); and, the Duchy of Arenberg-Meppen (German: Herzogtum Arenberg-Meppen). The département was subdivided into the following arrondissements (German: Distrikt or Unterpräfektur) and cantons (German: Kantone):

Arrondissements Cantons
Lingen Bevergern, Freren, Fürstenau, Haselünne, Ibbenbüren, Lingen, Meppen, Papenburg and Sögel.
Minden Bünde, Enger, Levern, Lübbecke, Minden, Petershagen, Quernheim, Rahden, Uchte and Werther.
Osnabrück Bad Essen, Bad Iburg, Bramsche, Dissen, Lengerich, Melle, Osnabrück, Ostbevern, Ostercappeln, Tecklenburg and Versmold.
Quakenbrück Ankum, Cloppenburg, Diepholz, Dinklage, Friesoythe, Löningen, Quakenbrück, Vechta, Vörden and Wildeshausen.

After Napoleon was defeated in 1814, most of the département became part of the Kingdom of Hanover (German: Königreich Hannover.

See the map of the Hanseatic Departments, 1811 in the Map section of this web site.

Ladbergen, Kingdom of Prussia

1814 — 1816

From the time of Emperor Napoleon's defeat until the reorganization of the Kingdom of Prussia, former Prussian territory liberated from the French Empire (from the Grand Duchy of Berg, from the Kingdom of Westphalia, and held directly by the Empire) was governed by a provisional Prussian administration known as the Generalgouvernement zwischen Weser und Rhein. This land included:

  • Grafschaft Mark
  • Grafschaft Ravensberg
  • Stadt Lippstadt (Prussian section)
  • Fürstentum Paderborn
  • Fürstentum Minden
  • Grafschaft Lingen
  • Grafschaft Tecklenburg
  • Erbfürstentum Münster
  • Stift Herford
  • Fürstentum Essen
  • Fürstentum Werden
  • Herzogtum Kleve
  • Fürstentum Ostfriesland

Ladbergen, Province of Westphalia, Kingdom of Prussia


By royal decree on 30 April 1815, the Kingdom of Prussia (German: Königreich Prueßen) was organized into ten provinces:

  • Brandenburg
  • Jülich-Kleve-Berg
  • Niederrhein
  • Ostpreußen
  • Pommern
  • Posen
  • Sachsen
  • Schlesien
  • Westfalen
  • Westpreußen

In the new Provinz Westfalen, three Regierungsbezirke (government or administrative districts) were created: Hamm, Minden, and Münster.

(In 1822, Jülich-Kleve-Berg and Niederrhein were combined to create a new province, Rheinprovinz).

1816 — 1831

On 31 July 1816, the provisional administration of the new Province of Westphalia (German: Provinz Westfalen) came to an end. On the following day, 1 August 1816, provincial authorities took office.

From 10 August 1816 to 30 December 1831, Ladbergen was a village located in Kreis Münster, Regierungsbezirk Münster, Provinz Westfalen, Königreich Prueßen.

1832 — 1918

From 1 January 1832 to 1918, Ladbergen was located in Kreis Tecklenburg, Regierungsbezirk Münster, Provinz Westfalen, Königreich Prueßen.

The Hidden History

When Johann Heinrich Fiegenbaum died in Warren County, Missouri, USA on 12 March 1861, some now anonymous craftsman carved on his gravestone located in a small, rural, cross-roads settlement that he had been born on 12 May 1788 at Ladbegen, Kreis Teklenburg [sic], Regierungsbezirk Münster, Könichreich [sic] Preussen.

The identity of the place of birth is remarkably detailed for a 19th cemetery marker. Yet even this expansiveness only hints at the full story.

Johann Heinrich Fiegenbaum would have experienced most of the "history" that is outlined on this page:. At the time of his birth, the village of Ladbergen was part of Grafschaft Tecklenburg, a holding since 1707 of the King of Prussia. When he married in his early twenties in 1810, Ladbergen would have been part of the Grand Duchy of Berg, a newly minted entity under the rule of the Emperor Napoleon "in personal union." During the occupation by the First French Empire, official registration of marriage would have been a civil rather than a religious affair. Johann Heinrich and his young family would have experienced the return of Ladbergen to the Kingdom of Prussia following the end of the Napoleonic Era and its inclusion in Kreis Münster, Regierungsbezirk Münster, in the new Provinz Westfalen. Shortly before his younger brother's family emigrated to eastern Missouri, the village would have experienced another change as it become part of Kreis Tecklenburg, Regierungsbezirk Münster. This is the political identity Ladbergen would have had when Johann Heinrich and 12 additional members of his nuclear and extended family also left home for the USA, disembarking from the bark Leontine at Baltimore, Maryland on 28 June 1841 and finishing their voyage in Warren County, Missouri, where Johann Heinrich lived out the last two decades of his 72 years.


  1. Using all his titles at the time he acquired County Tecklenburg, Frederick would have styled himself:  King in Prussia; Margrave of Brandenburg; Sovereign Prince of Orange, Neuchâtel, Valangin; Duke of Magdeburg, Kleve, Jülich, Berg, Szczecin, Pomerania, the Kashubs, the Wends, in Silesia of Krosno; Burgrave of Nuremberg; Prince of Halberstadt, Minden, Kammin, Mörs; Count of Hohenzollern, Ruppin, the Mark, Ravensberg, Hohenstein, Tecklenburg, Lingen, Buren, Leerdam; Margrave of the Veere, Flushing; Lord of Ravenstein, Lebork, Bytow, Arlay, Breda.

    And you thought your life was complicated!

    Return to Text