The name Niemann is a North German form of Neumann, from Middle Low German:  nie +man.  Neumann is a German name for a newcomer to a place, from Middle High German niuwe, German neu 'new" + Middle High German man, German Mann 'man.'  (Dictionary of American Family Names)


Niemann farm
Niemann farm building

Niemann Farm in Grambergen, Germany.
The half-timbered building on the right was built by Johann Frederick Wilhelm Niemann
and his wife Katharine Laumann in 1859.  
Their names are carved in the wooden lintel over the large double doors.
(Photos courtesy of Anke Waldmann)


Niemann family

Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Niemann and his wife,
Katharina Marie Margarethe Elizabeth Laumann
with their younger children.
Second from left in the back is Anna Maria Louisa Niemann.  
This is probably their passport photo.  The family came to the United States from Grambergen, Germany in 1872.


Land Ownership in Germany

One important custom in Germany is that in certain areas, including where our Niewoehner and Niemann ancestors are from, surnames went with the farm.  That is why you sometimes see a man taking the name of his wife.  Even if she died, he kept her name because he kept the farm.  The farm would normally belong to him until the marriage of his oldest son.  This custom is particularly noticeable in the Niemann family.

Vollerben were full heirs. Their farms are said to be the “first farms” and they may be very old, around 1000 years.  It was the highest status a farm could have.  Next was Halberbe or half heirs.  Colonus (male)/Colona (female) is a title in Latin and was the usual term for someone who owned a farm with the status of Vollerbe or Halberbe. 

The Mark was land owned in common by all the people and they were all allowed to use it.  Of course, the Vollerben had the right to feed more pigs and cows in the Mark than the Halberbe.  The Mark was often forest used as a meadow, and land that wasn’t good for arable land.  It might be moor or stony land. 

The problem began when the heirs had more children than farms. So the owners started to establish the Kotten.  They got permission from the landlord to separate some land from their farm for a son or brother – that was called the Erbkotten.  Or they got permission from the Mark community to cultivate some land in the Mark – that became the Markkotten.  Eventually there were more children than farms, because the Kotter had children as well.  So the next status was the Heurleute or tenants.  They got a small house and a bit of land from the farmer and they had to work on the farm.  And of course, the work for the farmer always came first.  They were usually quite poor and had another trade to make some money.  Beneath the Heurleute were day-labourers, farm-hands and farm-less.  Heurleute often chose to emigrate, as did the siblings of the heir.

In the past, they didn’t use street names in small towns like Grambergen.  Every farm got a number.  For example, the Niemann farm was 13 and 13a indicated the main house or building.  13b would indicate a Kotten.
(Information from Anke Waldmann)


For many years, I didn't even attempt research in Germany.  I didn't speak the language, I didn't know the history, and the geography was very confusing to me.  That was before I was fortunate enough to become acquainted with Anke Waldmann.  Anke and I discovered we are distant relatives.  She has been very helpful to me in my research and I have been able to find some information here for her.  I am happy to say that we have become friends as well. If you would like to read more about the connection between our families, please see the the article that Anke wrote about Germany American Family Research.

Anke has done a great deal of research, both on the Waldmann family and other families living in Grambergen.
Ankd with Finn

Anke with Finn, her Big Munsterlander dog.


Rhio Graphics