600 Years Böhm/Boehm/Behem

How we became our surname

Not only royal dynasties can look a long way back in their lineage. Ordinary people can too. When his first American born grandson Nicholas arrived in 1998, proud grandfather Guenter Boehm, a German immigrant living in upstate New York, became especially interested in the family genealogy. He knew to trace his ancestors' roots back to Silesia, which became part of Poland after World War II. During his research, he also inadvertently learned a lot of "unwritten" history.

With much enthusiasm and a lot of targeted searches on the internet, he found an online Silesian genealogical mailing list. With the help from his now Silesian genealogical "fellows", he could gather information dating back to very old times, including reports from a Boehm researcher of the 1920's from the same region in Silesia. He found a document of a real property transfer in the national archives in Breslau, now Wloclaw (Poland) dating back to October 31, 1409.

Text in old German scipt:
Vor Janke eto hat Ulrich Schof vom Newenhawse 10 Mk Jz. in und auf alles sein Gutt, das Er zu Weißen stein des weichbildes Sweidniz hat, Heinzen Behem und seiner Hausfr. Jutten, verkauft und aufge Lassen. Dat. Sweidniz fer. 4te. nach allenheil. anno 1409.
Testi Pezhold, Hannos Cziras, Pawlyne, Jeronimus.

Marginal note:
Info 10 Mk Jz. auf Weißen Stein von Ulrich Schof Heinzen Behem

Namely Heinze Behem (Boehm) and his wife Jutta [von Redern] bought in 1409 an agricultural holding in Weissstein. After a little more research it became apparent that Heinzen Behem was actually namend by his surname/nickname "those from Bohemia", becoming a Boehm. The German language was at that name not yet "cast in stone". This is the first documented mention of the surname Boehm in the Waldenburger hill country.

1401: Jutta von Redern, Heincze Behem's wife and daughter of a small landed noblemen in Silesia is mentioned in documents of the castle of Schwarzwaldau. The nobleman family Behem, originally von Rodov y and others were called around 1350 into the Silesian land by the Bohemian royal house, when the Duchy of the Piasts of Schweidnitz-Jauer came through succession to Bohemia. At that time the Bohemian king was also the Roman-German emperor, who ruled from Prague, and sought to increase influence through relocation of Bohemian knights as an administrative nobility. The traditional Silesian aristocracy in the duchy feared loss of power and influence and finally after a long feud declared the knights - robber barons. Shortly after 1400 the gentry of the knights of the Boeheim /Behem von Schwarzwaldau as such were extingished. For the knights their coat of arms was more important than their name.

14th century coat of arms of the
knights Böheim/Behem von Schwarzwaldau
in the Duchy of Schweidnitz-Jauer in Silesia

17th century coat of arms of the Beheim,
presumably copied from a church window or
an inscription on a church wall somewhere
in a Silesian church.

However, as the Boehm families grew in numbers over many years, all became farmers. Then, coal was found on their properties. Under the rule of the Prussians the farmers formed cooperatives as early as 1769 to better harvest the coal. Later some became co-owners of coalmines and others sold their interest totally to the mining companies in the second half of the 1800s. Like always, some could handle their fortune better than others could.

At the end of Hitler's war, all the German population, including decendents of the Weisssteiner Boehm clan, were forced out of Silesia as it became part of Poland. 550 years of family homeland came to an end, but the family history keeps going.

Guenter Boehm received in April 2002 the Polish medal of honor "Closure of the coal mines in Waldenburg, 1536 - 1999".

More information can be found in > www.boehm-chronik.com < with a link to the English translation.

(Edited in 2002)

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