This record is in the Nordrhein-Westfalen Archive (www.archive.nrw.de).

The players: My GG Grandfather was Karl Theodor Brenner (CT Brenner), born near or in Overath on November 27th, 1811 . His father was Friedrich Wilhelm Brenner (FW Brenner), of whom I know nothing about. CT Brenners mother was Johanna Christina Carolina Paulus, born in Rösrath, Prussia on September 8th, 1792. And lastly: Johann Wilhelm Forsbach (b. 1786 in Rösrath-Unterlüghause).

The reason the above dates are important for this mystery is the fact that Carolina Paulus was pregnant with CT Brenner while this marriage license was being transferred to Johann Wilhelm Forsbach.

The story: Once upon a time, probably in the middle of the night, I did a random Google search for the birthdate and birth place for CT Brenner. Low and behold I discovered a record in a database (view here!) that had all the correct information, except the last name was Paulus; his mothers maiden. I contacted the database creator, Bernd Schumalski of Germany, who thankfully understands English fairly well.

Not only did he confirm that CT Brenner was born as a illegitimate child of Friedrich Wilhelm Brenner, he is also a relative through the Paulus line. Very cool! My living family tree just exponentiated. Bernd was also the one who pointed me toward the NRW archive.

The mystery: This document is not digitized so I'm only working off the descriptive title: "Heiratsurkunde des Friedrich Wilhelm Brenner aus Schlüchtern (Grafschaft Hanau) zwecks Heirat mit Carol. Christ. Paulus zu Forsbach 1810-1811."

Translated by Google, it says "Marriage certificate of Frederick William Brenner from Schluechtern (county of Hanau) for the purpose of marriage to Carol. Christ. Paulus to Forsbach."

*****The NRW Archive search results display in a heirarchical category view. This record is categorized in: Landesarchiv NRW Abteilung Rheinland > Großherzogtum Berg > Präfektur des Rheindepartements und Unterpräfekturen > Personenstandswesen > (record here).

  1. Am I interpreting this correctly... as a transfer of marriage license?
  2. If so, and assuming they weren't common with a pregnant mother, can you think of any circumstances or events that might have created this scenario? Perhaps the death of FW Brenner, prison, military duty, political duty?
  3. In regards to the mention of Schleuchtern, Hanau as being "From", would a document like this list that in reference to his birthplace, or just where he happened to be living in 1811?

More information just in case it helps:

CT Brenner went all the way to Chur, Switzerland to marry his first wife, Dorathea Fischer. They moved back somewhere near Cologne and had two boys; Frederick William Brenner (b. 1834) and Charles Eduard Brenner (b. 1838). Dorathea died in 1841. CT Brenner and his two sons emigrated to America in 1850, eventually settling in Saginaw, Michigan after brief stays in New York and Ohio. Sometime around 1854 he married Anna Maria Fischer, (b. 1824, in Switzerland) The historical accounts of early Saginaw describe CT Brenner as having very useful political, industrial, and business experience (as well as a fair amount of cash it seems). Within a short time he built, owned and operated a hotel, a lumber mill, a salt mine, and numerous real estate ventures including the Grand Rapids City Hall. He was also reluctantly voted into city politics as an Alderman.

He had a deep interest in the affairs of Europe, and in his later days he declared himself to be in competition to outlive both Queen Victoria and Pope Leo. His greatest enjoyment toward the end was reading the daily papers for news of the death of his two competitors.

CT Brenners death certificate names Theodor and Margarethe Brenner as his parents, and I don't know where to go with that one. Birth records for Friedrich Willhelm Brenner or Theodor Brenner could not be located (in person) in the Wahlscheid registers.

Sidenotes to the endnotes:

Family lore has it that we are originally Swiss, but the only evidence so far is the birthplace of CT Brenner's wives. An article appeared in the New York Tribune (Feb 14, 1908) stating that CT Brenner was the brother of the newly elected President of Switzerland, Dr. Ernst Brenner. taken literally this is impossible because Swiss records show Ernst Brenner's dad to be younger than CT Brenner. Maybe a weird uncle.

  • 4
    Welcome @richbrenner. Your question meets two of the requirements of this site exceptionally well. You have provided terrific evidence of what you have done and what you already know AND your questions are clear and specific. Now to find someone with the expertise you need. One question I have is what causes you to interpret this as a transfer of the marriage certificate?
    – Fortiter
    Oct 30, 2012 at 11:48
  • 2
    Who is Johann Wilhelm Forsbach? There's no other mention of him. What indicates that the Forsbach mentioned in the index entry for the certificate is a person, rather than the town of Forsbach (20km north of Bonn, 15km east of Koeln/Cologne)?
    – Rob Hoare
    Oct 30, 2012 at 12:20
  • Thank you Fortiter and Rob, I edited my original post to include the information on Theodor Forsbach, however your insights helped me think outside the box a little. I'm also wondering if this isn't a document to change a legal name. Nov 2, 2012 at 0:29

1 Answer 1


The Google translation you provided does not mention any "Johann Wilhelm Forsbach" (it only includes the text "Carol. Christ. Paulus to Forsbach") and you do not make it clear where you derived that name from.

I am not entirely sure - I am merely a native Dutch speaker, not a native German speaker - but perhaps the Google translation is the cause of confusion; zu can mean to, but can also mean at.

So perhaps you should translate

"Heiratsurkunde des Friedrich Wilhelm Brenner aus Schlüchtern (Grafschaft Hanau) zwecks Heirat mit Carol. Christ. Paulus zu Forsbach 1810-1811."


"Marriage certificate of Frederick William Brenner from Schlüchtern (earldom of Hanau) for marriage with Carol. Christ. Paulus at Forsbach 1810-1811".

That simply reads as a marriage certificate for a marriage that occurred in Forschbach, in the registration period 1810-1811, and marriage during pregnancy is a fairly common occurrence.

Forschbach is a stadtteil (literally: city part, i.e. district) within the town of Rösrath in Rheinisch-Bergische Kreis in the southern part of Nordrhein-Westfalen, so it makes sense that you'd find a record for that marriage certificate on the site of the Nordrhein-Westfalen Archive.

Whether this interpretation is correct or not, you probably want to order a copy of it anyway, to find out what it says.

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