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Birth in Höltinghausen, Grand Duchy of Oldenburg
Johann Wilhelm Gerken was born to Catherina Maria Gerken and Johann Friedrich Joseph Lampe on April 27th, 1826, in Höltinghausen, Duchy of Oldenburg, a small village in what is now northwest Germany. He was the fifth son born to this farming family.
Given the economic system of the time and region, Johann Wilhelm had little hope of improving his financial fortunes or owning property in his native land. He chose to follow two of his older brothers by emigrating to America to seek his fortune.
Immigration to Baltimore
Johann Wilhelm Gerken appears to have immigrated to the United States in 1849, according to his Declaration of Intention filed at Cumberland, Maryland, in May of 1851. He was living in Allegany County with his brother, Hermann Henrich (Henry), in the census of 1850. It appears that he came through the Port of Baltimore upon arrival from Oldenburg, having most likely departed from Bremenhaven.
Grocer in Baltimore
Johann Wilhelm became known in America as John William, likely called William by family and friends. He married Bernardina, also from Germany, possibly in Cumberland, Maryland, while he was living in Allegany County. City directories place him back in Baltimore in the 1850’s, listed as a “grocer”, a business that it appears he remained engaged in for the rest of his working life. His addresses in Baltimore are found on Boyd Street and Hollins Street in varying sources.
Death and Burial
“John W. Gerkin” is recorded as dying on March 29th, 1903, in Baltimore. He was buried in the “Sweet Home” Cemetery, as it was popularly known. This was the St. Alphonsus Cemetery originally located in the northeast section of the city of Baltimore, also known as St. Michael’s Burying Ground and the Redemptorist Cemetery. The cemetery was closed in 1917 and remains were transferred to Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery in 1961.
While the facts noted above are largely documented for this individual, many of his life events remain unknown. Any assistance identifying the family of his wife, Bernardina, would be appreciated. Likewise, documentation of his marriage has not been located to date. While I suspect that he had at least one daughter, no children have been documented. Again, any assistance with the history of this family in Maryland would be warmly welcomed — tmg.
Johann Wilhelm Gerken / John William Gerken
Birth: 27 April 1826 in Höltinghausen, Oldenburg (Germany)
Death: 29 March 1903 in Baltimore City, Maryland
Burial: 2 April 1903 in St. Alphonsus Cemetery, Baltimore City, Maryland
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