Gerhard Paul Wiegand and Margarethe Johanna Clauss Family Group

Parents   Parents
  Franz Robert Wiegand Marie Louise Dillner   Theodore Clauss Marie Dobrich
  b. 10 Oct 1858 in Greiz b. 8 Aug 1859, Greiz   b. 8 Aug 1862 in Greiz b. 15 Feb 1862 in Greiz
  d. 8 Apr 1931 in Greiz d. 15 Jun 1918, Greiz   d. 24 Dec 1924 in Greiz d. 1955 in Greiz
Gerhard Paul Wiegand Immigrant Ancestor Margarethe "Gretel" Johanna Clauss Immigrant Ancestor
b. 23 Aug 1889 in Greiz, Thuringen, Germany b. 30 Mar 1892 in Greiz, Thuringen, Germany
d. 25 Nov 1978 in Raleigh, Wake, North Carolina d. 12 Dec 1968 in Essex County, New Jersey
Relationship Events
Marriage 13 Jan 1917 Gerhard Paul Wiegand to Margarethe Johanna Clauss in Passaic County, New Jersey
Ilse Maria Gertrude Wiegand b. 4 May 1918 in Clifton, Passaic, New Jersey; m. 1941 in Clifton, Passaic, New Jersey, John Richard Thomas (b. 4 Dec 1915 in Rutherford, Bergen, New Jersey, d. 5 Mar 2002 in Golden, Jefferson, Colorado); three children: Linda Margaret, Anne Frances, and Laura Jean Thomas; d. 25 Nov 2009 in Colorado Springs, El Paso, Colorado.
Frederick Gerhard Franz Wiegand b. 21 Oct 1921 in Clifton, Passaic, New Jersey m. 22 Dec 1945 in Egg Harbor City, Atlantic, New Jersey G. Jean Henderson (b. 30 Dec 1923 in Egg Harbor City, d. 26 Feb 2000 in Raleigh, Wake, North Carolina); four children: Lee Jean, Steven Frederick, Paul Harrs, and Joyce Catherine Wiegand; d. 10 Feb 2017 in Raleigh, Wake, North Carolina

What We Know About This Family


Gerhard trained as an apprentice in Greiz's renowned textile industry and was recruited for what turned out to be lifetime employment at the Fortstmann Woolen Company.

An Overview of Their Lives

Gerhard Paul Wiegand began public school in Greiz, Germany in 1896 and finished in 1904 at the age of 15. He had wanted to study to be a teacher and had passed the entrance examination, but was not accepted as the seminary was limited to 12 students. He decided instead to become a clerk in one of the woolen mills in Greiz. He had to complete three years of an apprenticeship without pay to learn bookkeeping, accounting, calculation, correspondence as well as industry-specific skills such as packing parcels, bales, wooden boxes, and weaving woolens. He also learned to examine woolen goods for finish and shipping, most of which went to foreign countries. This involved the use of seven different languages and currencies, duties, shipping points, etc. He worked during this time from 7 am to 7 pm Monday through Saturday, while also attending a special trade school.

In 1907, he was employed as a clerk earning $11.80 (U.S.) per month. In the same year, he went to dancing school where he met his future wife, Margarethe Clauss, the daughter of Greiz' butcher. He continued living with his parents and joined the Turners, making many new friends. In his personal journal, he wrote that 1907 and 1908 were some of the nicest years of his younger life.

In the fall of 1908 when Gerhard was 19, he left home and took a new position in Leipzig with Herman Samson, one of the largest textile jobbers in Germany. The firm was located in one of the old, famous Fairbuildings, built around 1500. He earned then about $30 monthly. His final position at this firm was in the buying department where he learned about the most important European textile firms and their products, knowledge which proved invaluable in his later career. This firm employed about 150 clerks, and while there, Gerhard lived in an international boarding house where he got acquainted with young men from many different countires.

In 1910, Gerhard left Leipzig and took a posiition in Sera, Thuringia with another woolen mill, earning about $34 monthly. On weekends, finances permitted, he traveled home to Greiz to visit his family and Margarethe, to whom he had been secretly engaged since 1908.

Gerhard returned to Greiz in 1912 and took a position with Friedrich Arnold, the same firm which employed his father. He was to prepare himself for America here. Each spring beginning in 1909, he had to report for military roll calls and was selected for light calvary. But each fall, he was set back for another year, until finally in 1912 he was released and placed on reserve. Had he been put into the calvary, he probably would have been called for service in World World War I. Free now to leave Germany because of the release of his military service, Gerhard said goodbye to everyone and everything dear to him and came over on the Lloyd steamer George Washington to the United States. A family friend, Mr. Graupner, had recruited him for a job in the United States. He spoke very little English at the time, and remembered standing at the rail on the ship watching the harbor disappear. He went to bed feeling somewhat blue, and awakened some hours later to see one of his three cabin mates, an elderly Texas man, standing with a glass of whiskey beside his bed. Through an interpreter, he offered him the glass of whiskey, and even though he'd never had whiskey before, Gerhard gulped it down, winning the respect of the Texan. Each day through the interpreter, the Texan asked him to come down to his cattle range in Texas and take care of the business end of his business. He offered to pay all expenses, but Gerhard declined.

Upon arriving in New Jersey, Gerhard stayed in the only hotel in Passaic, New Jersey, where the mill was located, and the next day found a room at a boarding house at the cost of $8 per week. After paying for his first week's room and board, he had only $17 of the $25 he was required to have to enter the country. A week later, he started his job at $10 week. Gerhard found the streets of Passaic to be dirty and shabby compared to the beauty and cleanliness of the German cities he'd left behind, but as he describes it, he had to choose to sink or swim. Since he only had half a dollar left each week after paying his board, his only choice was to "swim." And so he bore down to hard work. Mr. Graupner gave him $20 so he could learn English, and with reading the newspapers and the instruction he received, Gerhard soon learned the necessary English. He learned about the business quickly, and before long was put in charge of the sample department at the salary of $15 per week.

His original plan in coming to America had been to stay for two years, then go to England and France for a while before returning home. But in 1914, World War I was imminent, and he could not return. He wrote to his fiance, and Margareth ("Gretel") left her home and everything she knew to sail in late 1916. Gerhard wrote that "this voyage was the most courageous and self-denying act." She had to travel alone under war conditions from Greiz to Holland, and then by steamer over the ocean at a time when there was great danger because of the submarines. It was very difficult for both Gretel and her parents to have her leave and undertake this voyage. She arrived safely on January 2, 1917, and Gerhard met the Nieu Amsterdam in Hoboken, New Jersey. He took her to the best German restaurant there, where they ordered dinner and couldn't eat a bite because after four and a half years of separation, they were too excited. Gretel stayed with friends, the Stiers, for a week before their wedding on January 13, 1917 at Pastor Lemke's house. The wedding reception dinner at Gerhard's boarding house included fourteen guests.

Gerhard and his new wife started house in a one-bedroom home with a kitchen and dining room, and a $1,000 debt from money loaned to them by Mr. Graupner. During wartime, prices were expensive, and they learned to get by on very little. Their first child Ilse Marie was born in May 1918. Fortuitiously, a bonus at the mill was received in time to pay the hospital and the doctor.

About this time, Mr. Forstmann and Mr. Graupner decided to split up, and Mr. Forstmann demanded that Gerhard be loyal to either one or the other. Gerhard followed the advice given to him by Mr. Graupner and went with Mr. Forstmann. He told him immediately of the loan of $1,000 that was owed to Mr. Graupner, and Mr. Forstmann issued a voucher for the cashier to pay Gerhard $1,000 so he could pay Mr. Graupner back. Later, Mr. Forstmann was repaid that amount.

Their second child, Frederick Gerhard Franz was born 21 Oct 1921, and the Wiegands bought their house on Union Avenue in Clifton, New Jersey. In April of 1922, the family traveled to Germany to see their families, and came back with empty pockets. But their financial situation improved considerably, and their mortgage was paid soon thereafter.

In 1922, they bought their first automobile, a 4-cylinder Oldsmobile. Gerhard continued riding his bicyle to work to save wear and tear on the automobile.

In 1926, Gerhard was transferred from the mill in Passaic to the New York sales office, and he commuted between Passaic and the city. In that summer, the family rented a bungalow at Beacon Beach, New Jersey, and in 1927, a bungalow at Lake Hopaton, New Jersey where the family stayed during the summer while Gerhard commuted to New York. In 1929, the family returned to Germany again for a visit. Gerhard and Gretel left the children with their Grandmother Clauss while they toured the Bavarian Alps and Austria. Gerhard returned to America while Gretel and the children stayed an extra month in Germany.

The stock market crashed in 1929, and while millions of people were out of work, Gerhard declared himself most "fortunate" to hold his position through the Great Depression. In 1930, Gerhard's father Franz was to come for a visit, but the idea of the long voyage was too much for him, and he died a year later. The following 11 years were some of the toughest financially for the family as they sent their two children to private schools. Ilse went for two years to a boarding school in Carmel, New York before going to the Connecticut College for Women for 4 years. Frederick went for two years to Blair Academy in Blairstown, New Jersey before going to Yale University. Among fears for the financial future, the family was fortunate to attend schools and summer camps while Gerhard remained employed and began investing in the stock market.

Gerhard had through the years become Mr. Forstmann's right hand man. He knew all of the thousands of fabrics and had a good knowledge of the whole business. Mr. Forstmann died in 1938, at which time, Gerhard's entire department was brought back to the mill in Passaic under the supervision of the new president, Curt Forstmann. Business life improved being closer to home until the breakout of World War II in 1939 - 1940. (Note: Gerhard was described through family history as a "color designer". At one time, that same history attributed to him the design of the colors GI Green and United Blue. As of 2010, Gerhard's son Frederick does not remember having reported those accomplishments, so at this point, they remain interesting possibilities only).

Gerhard reflected in his journal of his fears about Communism and the fact that so many in America thought of Germans as being "bad people." He wrote that "the Nazis were certainly bad people and committed horrible crimes, but the Germans in general are the most kind and goodhearted people and not different from other nationals."

Gerhard retired from Forstmann, and he and his wife traveled many winters to Florida as well as to visit their children and grandchildren. He suffered a stroke in late 50's which left him with partial aphasia. In 1968, Gretel was killed in an automobile accident, and Gerhard went first to live with his daughter Ilse in the Denver area for a few months and then to Raleigh, where he lived until he died in 1978.

Gerhard and Margaret would both be happy to know that the character they brought with them from the old country produced good starts for the Wiegands in the new country. In his retirement years, he gathered the records for the Wiegand ancestry from Greiz and wrote a journal. The information for this branch of the family tree comes from these documents. 

Memories of a Granddaughter:

  • Grandmom crossing her legs and placing us on her right foreleg as she pumped it up and down (holding our hands so we wouldn't fall off) and singing a German ditty that sounded to me like "Jocka Jocka Riter" (perhaps Hoppe, Hoppe, Reiter?) She loved it and so did we.
  • The parlor in the front of their house where they kept a small Christmas tree on a table and where they taught me Pinochle as a teenager.
  • The old set of wooden barnyard animals they set up around the tree, a custom they started when their own kids were small.
  • Grandpop for his whole life would slice a loaf of bread every night at dinner by holding it under his chin (kind of like a violin) and slice towards his neck. He never cut himself.
  • Grandmom telling me that when she first came to America, she loved shopping at Woolworth's because she was not yet bilingual, and she could pick out her own merchandise.
  • Grandpop telling me that there were 78 shades of black. (He was a color designer in textiles).
  • Grandmom watched As the World Turns and didn't skip an episode even if we were visiting.
  • After his stroke, Grandpop had some aphasia, and an instruction to turn on the television came out as "Turn on the cabbage." Being kids, we laughed, and Grandmom gently shushed us while Grandpop joined in the chuckling.
  • I loved the little German setting of small figurines they set up on a side table every Christmas.
  • When they didn't want us to understand what they were saying, they spoke German to each other.
  • Going with them on the visit I had with them in the summer of 1963 to see the movie Cleopatra. It wasn't showing in Clifton, so we had to drive to another town. Both the movie and the excursion were an adventure.
  • Grandmom loved this story and she told it to us often. When her son (my father) was a young boy, he was sick one day. She sent his older sister upstairs to check on him, and Ilse came back with the news "He's still alive."
  • They could be stern, but they also had a wonderful sense of humor and showed a lot of affection. They were industrious and they valued education, a quality that benefitted their children and grandchildren. I didn't appreciate it when I was young, but their willingness to give up the beauty of Greiz and leave all their family and friends for a strange country that spoke a different language took a lot of courage. They were good examples of the immigrant experience that is one of the best things about America.

About the Children

  • Ilse Maria Gertrude Wiegand married John R. Thomas, a banker, and together they had three daughters, Linda, Anne, and Laura from 1946 through 1958. They settled first in Clifton, then relocated for a short time to the Washington DC area, and finally to the Denver, Colorado area.

  • Frederick Gerhard Franz Wiegand went from Yale to Hahnemann Medical School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Fred acquired a U.S. navy rate so he could finish med school. He met Jean Henderson, a Marine on weekend leave, on a blind date in Philadelphia. They were married in December 1945 and had four children between 1947 and 1959: Lee, Steven, Paul, and Joyce. His mandatory U.S. Navy years expanded into 20. He completed a residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology and retired as a Captain in 1964. The family traveled on orders to Philadelphia (twice); Cherry Point, North Carolina (twice); Norfolk, Virginia; Portsmouth, Virginia; Corpus Christi, Texas, and Chelsea, Massachusetts. After leaving the Navy, they lived for two years each in Corona, California and Ukiah, California, before relocating to Raleigh, North Carolina where Fred received a faculty position on the staff of UNC Chapel Hill.

What Else We Need to Learn

The goal of this project is to trace every line of ancestry to the arrival of its first immigrant to America. The basic information of each couple is considered complete when we know the dates of birth, marriage, and death for both spouses. their parents' names (or whether they were the immigrant), and the child or children in our ancestry line.

The research on this family is complete. I hope that records in Greiz will be released so that we can complete the information on the female ancestors in Germany now that he gave us a start with the men.


Questions, Comments, or New Information -Email