The Wittzells of Livonia
Frankfurt, Riga, Alavieska, Kalajoki
c. 1658 - 1781
n interesting story unfolds regarding two potential brothers, both born in Livonia. Research suggests that their family perhaps originated in Frankfurt, Germany, the home of Johann Jacob Witzel, born in 1634. Johann Jacob Witzel quickly vanishes from the parish register. And the names of two Livonian soldiers strongly encourages the idea of a possible connection.
Actually, the arrival of Hessian soldiers in Livonia is further suggested by a close relationship between Karl I (1654 - 1730), Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel and the Duchy of Courland. Karl I was married to Maria Amalia of Courland (1653 - 1711), daughter of Duke Jacob Kettler. » "Under Karl's rule Kassel recovered faster from the Thirty Years' War then other regions in Germany. He built a relatively large army which he rented to the highest bidders." » The strong alliance of Hesse-Kassel with the Swedes culminates as Frederick I., the next Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel (1730-1751), Karl I's oldest son, became "by marriage king of Sweden". » Certainly, it seems then that the likely call for capable soldiers - and the desirable wages and opportunites attached - explains a potential connection between Witzels in Frankfurt and Wittzell's in Livonia.
More specifically, it is discovered that Daniel Johan Wittzell (~1665 - 1708) served as an officer in the army of the Swedish king Karl XII. He is known to have died in battle in Liessna (Lesna, Ljesnaja; now in Belorussia) on Septemver 29, 1708. He was survived by two sons, Gotthard Wittzell (1694 - 1756) and Ernest Wittzell (1699 - 1781). Both were born in Livonia, but lived most of their lives in Finland, which was part of Sweden during the early 1700s. They, too, were soldiers in the army of Karl XII, having volunteered at an early age in 1712. Both participated in Karl XII’s somewhat excentric attempt to conquer Norway in 1718 and were among the few Swedish survivors. Karl XII himself died in the the fighting in 1718.
In 1722, when the long cruel war was over (Russia occupied Livonia in 1710), the sons of Daniel Johan Wittzell settled in Alavieska (Gotthard) and Kalajoki (Ernest) (both in North Ostrobothnia, Finland). Both were soon married and had several children. Gotthard was the father of Daniel Johan, Gotthard, Wilhelm, Anna Maria and Abraham; while Ernest became the father of Ernest, Katarina(ill.), Anna Maria, Helena and Brita Stina. But from here on, the Wittzell surname falls in to disuse, because of a local custom of adopting the name of the house and farm on which your lived as a surname. It's last appearance was on February 11, 1780, when Gotthard’s granddaughter Maria continued the use of the name in the records of her marriage. A short note in account books of Kalajoki parish, dated June 22, 1742, indicates that something had been paid ”after sergeant-major Witzel’s mother”. This seems to indicate that she had died shortly before this date and had accompanied her sons to Sweden.
Another officer in the Swedish Army, who might be thought to be Daniel Johan Wittzell's older brother, Jacob (~1658 - 1702), served in the Nylands infantry regiment (Uudenmaan jalkaväkirykmentti). The regiment was stationed in Dünamünde near Riga. Most of the common soldiers were Finns, but the majority of the officers were Livonians. Jacob died on March 30, 1702.
Additional records tell further of what seems to be Jacob Witzell's family in Finland in the early 1700’s. The detailed records of the regiment indicated on December 29, 1698 that Jacob had a son and two daughters. Jacob’s wife, Catharina von Holtzhausen, of noble birth, fled to Sweden for safety and is known to have died in 1716. The are two likely daughters of Jacob, Helena (~1685 - 1740) and Anna Maria (~1688 - 1747), who both died in Sääksmäki (in Uusimaa [=Nyland]). Records in Sääksmäki show that Anna Maria Witzell was married three times: to Ivar Belitz on Novermber 30, 1712, to Henrik Kalkenius on November 2, 1732 and to Samuel Kaskas on January 30, 1747. One of Anna Maria Witzell's children was named Jacob Johan. However, no further records regarding Helena Witzell have been found.
A third female Witzell appeared in 1702 in the village of Hyvinkää at Nurmijärvi (also in Uusimaa). On June 29, 1702, Catharina Witzell was married to Samuel Antinpoika and their child, Maria, was born on September 13, 1702. Catharina, ”Carin Witzel”, died on April 29, 1721. Given her age, one must ask whether or not Catharina was a sister of Jacob and Daniel Johan Wittzell?
Interestingly, familiar names of this family again appeared in Kristianstad, Sweden, in the 1740s: Johan Jacob Wittsell was born on January 23, 1749; along with a twin sister named Elisabeth; another sister, Cathrina Maria, was born on November 14, 1744. Their mother was Ellsa Wittsell. It might be thought that the son of Jacob Witzell accompanied his mother, Catharina von Holtzhausen, to Sweden. But, of course, this is all pure speculation.
Wittzells of Livonia
1 - 26 - 2008