[article by Carlos A Heuser]
Christian Heinrich Behncke was born on June 17, 1826, in Dümmerhütte, Mecklenburg-Schwerin,, and died on March 21, 1898, in Centro Linha Brasil, Venâncio Aires, RS, Brazil. In Germany, the family was called Behncke, with “h”, and here in Brazil, the surname was simplified to Bencke.
His parents were Johann Heinrich Behncke, a bricklayer in Dümmerhütte, and Margaretha , born Joseph. This couple had at least seven children, the first in Dümmerstück, a village next to Dümmerhütte, and the others in Dümmerhütte itself.
Christian Heinrich’s baptism took place in the Evangelical Parish of Parum / Wittenburg, as shown in the record below.
In the genealogy database, Christian Heinrich appears in two trees:
- Christian Heinrich Behncke on the Main Tree (“Árvore Principal“):
Since Christian Heinrich is my great-great-great-grandfather, he appears in the Main Tree, the tree that records my research. There are all data and documents that I collected about him. This tree contains only the descendants of Christian Heinrich with whom my relationship is closest.
- Christian Heinrich Behncke on the Bencke Tree
For other descendants, see the Bencke Tree. This tree was built for some meetings of the Bencke Family that took place around year 2000. It is authored by Berty Edwino Bencke and Pastor Lair Hessel, and records 2,490 descendants and relatives of Christian Heinrich.
A note in a Bible that belonged to a Christian Heinrich’s grandson states that he was a soldier in the Schleswig-Holstein Army. This army existed between 1848 and 1851, having been formed to prevent Schleswig-Holstein’s annexation to Denmark. In large part, this army was made up of young volunteers who followed the democratic and liberal trends that have swept Europe in this period. Christian Heinrich, probably one of these volunteers, was around 25 years old at the time.
In 1851, when the Schleswig-Holstein Army dissolved, apparently Christian Heinrich, like many other young men in that army, was in Hamburg. There, on April 8, 1854, he signed a contract to serve as a legionary to the Brazilian Empire. The contract required him to serve the Imperial Army for four years, but he could be discharged after two years. In addition to the salary, he would receive the ticket to Brazil and, at the end of the contract, land in an extension of approximately 108 hectares.
Below is the first page of this contract (the rest can be seen at Christian Heinrich’s page).
The legionaries of this group were hired to participate in the Platine War, which took place between August 1851 and February 1852. In Brazil, this group received the name “Brummers”. The participation of this Legion of Foreigners is well documented in the book:
Brummers, Juvencio Saldanha Lemos, Porto Alegre, Edigal, 2015
After the war, Christian Heinrich decided to stay in Brazil. The contract gave him the option of, having finished his services, receiving land in Brazil, or, alternatively, receiving his ticket back to Germany, plus a cash prize. He chose the first alternative.
Maria Eva was born on December 8, 1826, in Mörsbach-Rhein, Germany and immigrated to Brazil with her parents and brothers in the year 1847. Maria Eva’s family was established in the village of Walachai, which at that time was part of Dois Irmãos . This family group had already been preceded by two families of uncles of Maria Eva. In the database, the family is well documented, with its ancestors reaching an Hans Augustin, born in 1570.
On February 9, 1852, in Walachai, Maria Eva had given birth, still as a single mother, to a boy who was baptized as Johannes Peter Augustin. With the marriage of Maria Eva to Christian Heinrich, the boy took on his stepfather’s surname and changed his name to Peter Mathias Bencke.
On May 12, 1854, still in Walachai, the couple’s son Heinrich Jakob Mathias Bencke was born. This indicates that the couple remained in this location.
In the following year, in November 1855, Christian Heinrich appears as the owner of the land plot nº4, of “Entrada Rio Pardinho”, in the Santa Cruz German Colony. Possibly it is this land plot that appears on this map. This fact seems to indicate that Christian Heinrich had decided to take possession of the land granted to him by the Government.
Below is a fragment of the registration card of the colonial plot in question. The register is from year 1881 and states that the first owner of the plot was Christian Heinrich. The complete image of the registration card can be found at this link.
Apparently, Christian Heinrich did not like the land that had been granted to him by the Government. In 1859, he acquired the plots number 13 and 14 in Linha Brasil, today Centro Linha Brasil, in Venâncio Aires (see image of the registration card for this plot at the website). Christian Heinrich, Maria Eva and their children were the first residents of this colony. In another article in this blog there is a detailed history of Linha Brasil and the participation of Christian Heinrich in its establishment. This scan of a map of Venâncio Aires shows Linha Brasil, with Christian Heinrich’s plots marked.
On his land, Christian Heinrich built a beautiful masonry house, which is still there today.
The photo below shows the couple Christian Heinrich and Maria Eva in front of their house together with their descendants at the time. Given the number of people in the photograph, I estimate it to be around year 1895, when the family had reached around 40 people, including children, spouses and grandchildren.
The Behncke Family in Germany
My German ancestors came to Brazil in the 19th century. Since the emigration from Germany, several generations have passed. Thus, it is natural that the contact with relatives who stayed there was lost.
However, this was not the case with the Behncke Family.
Among some documents belonging to my grandfather Bencke, I found his correspondence with a cousin (Heinrich Johann Bernhard Behncke), who lived in Hamburg. The letters are from a few years after World War II and, among other things, contain sketches of a family tree showing how my grandfather and his cousin were related. After publishing this data on a previous version of this site, I was pleasantly surprised to receive emails from two cousins who saw the data and recognized their family.
In addition to this brother Heinrich Johann Bernhard, Christian Heinrich had five other brothers and sisters. For these five brother, I have identified the dates and locations of death, as can be seen on Christian Heinrich’s page.
As for Christian Heinrich’s parents, Johann Heinrich Behncke and Margaretha Joseph, I could not advance the research consistently. On the pages referring to the couple, I have some data copied from some Genealogy sites, but I have not found any documents to confirm this data.
A mysterious brother
One case that deserves attention is that of Christian Heinrich’s supposed older brother, Christian Carl Behn. In a family tree researched in 1948 by the Registry of the Lutheran Church of Mecklenburg (“Mecklenburgischer Kirchenbuchamt”), Christian Heinrich’s first-born brother appears as Christian Carl Behncke, who was said to have been born in Dümmerstück, the village next to Dümmerhütte, in which the rest were born. brothers.
However, all records that I found on this Christian Carl (baptism, marriage and death) bear the surname “Behn” and not “Behncke” like the rest of the family. According to these records, the father’s name was Heinrich “Behn” . The mother’s name appears on the baptism record as Christina (not Margaretha) Joseph.
Thus, the question is: Was there another couple, Heinrich Behn married to a Jospeh, living in the same region and the Mecklenburgischer Kirchenbuchamt mixed them with the couple Heinrich Behncek and Margaretha Joseph in the tree of 1948? Or, had the pastor who made the baptism record made a mistake in writing Christian Carl’s surname, a mistake that persisted during the life of Christian Carl?