A BRIEF HISTORY OF DINGES FAMILIES
Any attempt to relate a family history, specific or general, is bound to be a disappointment in some aspects. It is the purpose of this endeavour to integrate and relate information presently available in the hope that it will generate more thought on what may be obscure or vague at this point in time.
Not all the information herein is factual. Where conjecture is used, I have attempted to identify what may have happened and the causal factors. Keep in mind that as we all grow older we tend to glorify certain facets of life and stories that are handed down from generation to generation tend to follow the principle of, "never let a few facts ruin a good story"
The primary effort here was directed toward relating; the history of the emigrations of the Dinges families and to show the effect of environmental factors on family migrations. I hope this will lead to corrections and further information on the various families. With that spirit in mind, this brief history is dedicated to posterity.
The information related here is the result of many years involved in visiting families with the surname Dinges, correspondence with those I could not visit, and a certain amount of incubation time to sort out the general lines of emigration.
I have restricted the history to the surname Dinges since there appear to be many versions of this name both Germanic and English. One exception to this is the English version Dingess, since I have a rather good record of a family by that name.
This study will follow three lines of emigration as follows:
Subsequent to this there is an attempt to give meaning to the surname Dinges. Finally I have included an appendix containing exhibits on genealogy, maps, and addresses of families in Germany and America.
The Hugenot Origin
Beginning in the 16th century and concurrent with the tide of Reformation, a similar movement occurred in France under the leadership of Calvin. The popular name given to the adherents of this French Reformation was Hugenot. The name first occurred about the middle of the century and its origin is attributed to the Protestants of Tours who used to assemble at night near the gate of King Hugo, whom the people regarded as a spirit. A monk declared that the Protestants ought to be called Huguenots as kinsmen of King Hugo.
The French Reform Movement was not without conflict and this caused several waves of Huguenot emigration throughout the period from 1535 to 1789. In 1535 an edict was published ordering the extermination of heretics which resulted in a general emigration. Three years later the first French Protestant church was founded at Strasbourg on the Rhine. Despite condemnation, the Reform Movement continued to grow and in 1546 the first Protestant community in France was organized at Meaux along the lines of the church at Strasbourg.
= Huguenot Cross. = Portrait de Jeune Fille en Costume d'Arles' by Antoine Raspal, 1779
At this point the reader may well ask what all this has to do with the Dinges families. In many visits with families in Germany they were most unanimous in declaring their origin as French Huguenot. This occurred often amongst families who b did not personally know each other and was volunteered without my asking the question. There is good reason to believe then, that the Dinges families were a part of these Huguenot emigrations placing their earliest known origin in what was then French territory.
V. Polenov. Arrest of the huguenot Jacobine de Montebel. 1875.
The history of France in this period is a series of edicts and counter-edicts some giving religious freedom and others t~ing it away. The years until the end of the century (1600), are a history of struggle between the Huguenots (La Cause) and the Roman Catholics fighting for the Holy League (La Sainte Ligue) under the leadership of the Guises.
In 1598 the Huguenots obtained a major edict, the Edict of Nantes, which was a charter of religious and political freedom. Early in the next century (1610), a sympathetic king is assassinated, and power subsequently resides in counsellors favouring the Catholic party. In l624 Richelieu entered the Kings Council and Huguenot emigration gained momentum as Louis the XIII and Richelieu besiege Protestant strongholds in the south of France. The Huguenots are obliged to surrender resulting in the Peace of Alais in 1629 which marked the end of the civil-religious wars.
The end of the 30 Years War is marked by the Treaty of Westphalia in l648. The religious overtones of these wars continue and the Catholic clergy never fully accept the Edict of Nantes. This prompts another 20 years of judicial war. Many Huguenots escaped France through the years 1661-1666 after Louis the XIV began to rule directly and royal dragoons began the forcible conversion of Protestants. This culminates in 1688 with the revocation of the Edict of Nantes resulting in the largest emigration of Huguenots thus far. Later edicts in 1715, 1724, 1746 threaten further reprisals and lead additional Huguenots to seek asylum.
Map of Huguenots immigrants to England, Ireland, Holland, Switzerland, and Germany
Thus in the course of a few decades France loses 400,000 citizens who emigrate to England, Ireland, Holland, Switzerland, and Germany. A southeastern cresent extending from Danphine through Languedoc Guzenne, Saintonge, Aunis, and Poitou contained a heavier density of Huguenots than any other area of comparable size. Beam, Normandy, Burgundy and Alsace, among the Provinces outside the crescent also had substantial numbers of Huguenots. The major cities involved in this regard were Nimes, Strasbourg, Montauban, La Rochelle, and the area of Gex due north of Geneva. Caen, Dieppe, Rouen, Metz, Bordeaux, Tours, Nantes, and Vitre also had minor populations. This geo-religious distribution led naturally to the emigration of the Huguenots to countries sympathetic to their cause.
This map indicates the main routes used by Huguenot refugees, the countries to which they went and the numbers settling in each area [http://www.huguenotsociety.org.uk/history]
In England, a group seeking financial aid from King William in 1694 stated there were already 33,000 Huguenots in his realm. Actual English settlement is approximated at 40 to 50,000.
The charter of Edward VI (1547-53) enabled the first French protestant church to be set up in England. Descended from this church is the one in Soho square.
After 1661, the Lord Deputy of Parliament in Ireland tried to attract French immigrants. Most did not come directly from France but from Switzerland, Holland, England, and Germany. Between 5 to 10,000 persons settled in Ireland mostly in the northeastern countries where the Reformation was well established. In the Irish economy, the Huguenots exercised a profound influence on the manufacture of linen and helped to make it a leading industry.
Holland welcomed the French refugees. Between 1681 and. 1684 some 1500 arrived in Amsterdam, the Hague, and Rotterdam. The total number in Holland was greater than any other country. This was due to rivalry with France and liberalism in commerce and religion. Dutch cities vied with each other to attract immigrants, which resulted in 50 to 75,000 settling in that country. In 1686 William of Orange had a list of 40,000 refugees capable of bearing arms. Huguenots presumably made up three regiments and one cavalry squadron in the army accompanying William when he invaded England in 1688.
Geneva and the Swiss Cantons were the arch under which some 60,000 refugees surged between 1682 and 1720. Of this number perhaps 25,000 remained in Switzerland. The Swiss Cantons were unable to handle all the arrivals and Geneva opened the French Exchange (Bourse) and Bern the Chamber of Refugees to aid in the resettlement to other Swiss areas, Holland and Germany. Of those who remained in Switzerland, most settled in Geneva, Vaud, Vevy, Lausamie, Neuchatel, and St. Gall.
Relatively small groups settled in other areas such as the New England and southern American Colonies, the Channel Is-lands, South Africa, Constantinople, Denmark, and Sweden, but these numbers were not large.
In what is now Germany, about 30,000 Huguenots settled. Nearly 40% of this group passed from France via Switzerland and up the Rhine River. The remainder came through Holland. They settled mainly in Hesse-Cassel, Luneburg, and Bavaria.
The discussion of this German immigration has been reserved to last because, at this point, I am not aware of any Dinges families of direct French origin, nor of any families with origin from the many countries just previously mentioned. The genealogical trail, for present purposes, starts in the Rhine Valley.
At the time of the Huguenot displacement from France, Germany did not exist as it does today. There was only a conglomeration of principalities, dukedoms, and free cities each with its largely autonomous government and differing public Policies tied into political net called the holy Roman Empire. The Rhine Valley between Frankfort Am Main and Mannheim, as it geopolitically existed at that time, became the haven of many Huguenot families. To this date, the major numbers of Dinges families originate from this area. This valley, then, is the source of my earliest family genealogy beginning in 1685, three years after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.
Prussia had become the fore - most German State by the second half of the 17th century - as a refuge for Huguenots it was most important. Frederick the Great Elector of Prussia particularly antagonised the French King by issuing the Edict of Potsdam in which he urged the Huguenots to leave France and settle in Prussia. He guaranteed economic, political, and social advantages. Those who chose to enter his realm via Frarikfurt Am Main could get money, boat passage on the Rhine, and passports from his agent in that city. The immigrants could freely choose their place of residence, their occupation, and the materials to set-up shop and home. They were accorded all city and guild rights of natural born citizeri3 and all were to have complete freedom of worship.
The Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel appears to have been one of the first German princes to openly proclaim (1685) that all Huguenots would find a haven in his jurisdiction. The Duke of Luneburg likewise accorded privileges similar to the Potsdam Edict. The Elector of the Palatinate was in fear of displeasing Louis the XIV and was cautious of encouragemn.nt. Erlangen, Kassel, and Frederichsdorf (Taunus) were ot}ier preferred centres for Huguenot settlement
The German citizens did not always endorse special treatment afforded the Huguenots. In Saxe Weimar, the jealousy of the populace and hostility of the Lutheran Church is cited as one reason the French colony lasted only 15 months. In Dresden, Leipzig, Frankfort, and Halle, refugees faced outright discrimination by local craftsmen and the Lutheran Church. Frederick William was anxious to attract and retain the French and in 1688 ordered that no Frenchman could leave the country without a passport issued by the Elector himself.
Because the Empire had lagged behind most European countries in economic development, the refugees exercised a leavening influence on many branches of trade and industry. With many of its fields laid waste by a century of almost constant warfare, and with ample lands that had never been cultivated, German principalities offered special advantages to French peasants who were too poor to pay their passage to England, Ireland, or Holland.
The Huguenots who emigrated from France were either Celtic-Germanic or Celtic-Roman and thus they constituted a new factor only from a cultural point of view. As long as the Huguenots thought of themselves as basically French, it is not surprising that they maintained their religious, social, and economic identity no matter in which adopted country they were. This clannishness, together with their success in industry plus their special privileges helped to explain much of the displeasure over their presence. Although public ill-will never became strong enough to repel the refugees it may have been instrumental in subsequent emigration of the Dinges families to America and Russia.
The American Line
At this point of the discussion on the emigration of the Dinges families, we may conclude that sometime during the period from 1600 to 1700 they moved from France to Germany, or perhaps to England, Ireland, or the Netherlands. Since the German families are integral to subsequent migrations, I will relate some background as a historical foundation.
From 1509 to 1367, the difficult Reformation years, Phillip the Magnanimous, the most famous of Hessian rulers, was Landgrave. A reformer, he promoted the Protestant faith and cared for the education and general welfare of his country. Upon his death in 1567, Hesse was divided among his four sons into Hesse-Kassel, Hesse-Narburg, Hesse-Rheinfels, and Hesse-Darmstadt.
Hesse-Kassel consisted of about the northern half of the former principality and was apportioned to Phillip's eldest son, Wilhelm the IV. A later ruler, Charles (1670-1730) is notable for being the first to adopt the system of hiring out his soldiers as mercenaries to help with national finances. Both William and Charles helped the Reformation, were allies of Sweden in the Thirty Years War, and invited the Huguenots to settle at Hanau. The 18th Century rules governed absolutely and sold the services of their troops for many wars including the American Revolution. Lacking sufficient troops to fight in America, England turned to the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel whose first wife was a daughter of George the II. After the Revolutionary War some of these soldiers returned to Germany, but others were allowed to remain through agreement with General Washington and the Colonies. Some amongst these Hessian soldiers may have been members of the Dinges families who settled in Pennsylvania.
In 1350, the Counts Palatine (Palatinate) of the Rhine valley became Electors of the Holy Roman Empire. A hereditary division established an off-shoot of this dynasty which was divided into a number of branches; Simmern, Neuberg, Zweibrucken, Sulzback, and Birkenfeld. With Elector Otto henry, who made Lutheranism the state religion, the original Palatinate lineage died out. It was followed by the Palatinate-Simmern branch whose members embraced the Calvinist faith.
In 1608, Elector Frederik the IV (Prussia) became the head of the Protestant Union of German Princes. The acceptance of the Bohemian Crown by his son Frederik the V in 1619 marked the beginning of the 30 Years War in Germany. Frederik the V lost Bohemia and also his German territories together with Electoral dignity to Duke Maximillian the I of Bavaria. The Peace of Westphalia restored Frederik's son, Charles Louis, as ruler and a new electorate was created for him since the old one, together with the upper Palatinate, remained in Bavarias possession. The rebuilding of the Rheinish Palatinate, which suffered severe destruction during the war, was cut short by the new War of the League of Augsburg.
In 1685, the last Elector of the Simmern line was succeeded by Phillip William of the Roman Catholic line from the Palatinate Zweibrucken-Neuburg. King Louis the XIV, of France, pretending to act on behalf of his sister-in-law, Elizabeth Charlotte, Duchess of Orleans and a Palatinate Princess, challenged this succession. In the subsequent general European War, French designs on the Palatinate were frustrated, but in 1689 the Electorate was systematically devastated by a retreating French army.
It was this destruction that led to tie first wave of German-American migration. Most of the early German settlers of Pennsylvania came from the Palatinate.
In view of the religious and military strife which permeated this era of history, it is not difficult to conclude that Dinges families involved in this state of affairs looked toward the American colonies as many another family did. The Palatinate and the Rhineland are where most Dinges families, who still live there, are located. It is not difficult to conceive that some members were conscripted as Hessian soldiers. Many families in lower Pennsylvania or upper Maryland may be able to trace their descendants from these early migrations to America. Certainly the East Coast families are related to the emigration directly from Germany during the 1600-1800 time period. One genealogy of an East Coast family is given in the Appendix. It concerns a Peter Dingess. The name, in this instance, is thought to be an Anglicised spelling and pronunciation. This surname is also the name of a small town in Logan County, West Virginia from whence this family originates.
For lack of further specific information on families who immigrated directly to America, I will depart to the Russian Odyssey - that of the Dinges families who immigrated to Russia and subsequently to America.
The Russia Odyssey
The Thirty Years War l6l8-1648 was fought largely in the German Provinces. It began as a conflict between Catholics and Protestants and ended as an almost political struggle to reduce the power of the Hapsburgs.
When Maria Theresa, daughter of Emperor Charles VI, fell heir to the Hapsburg domains, the German princes looked forward to a lessening of the Hapsburg domination. The first to arm was Frederik the Great and this resulted in the Treaty of Aix-la-Chappel in 1748. This peace lasted eight years and then another conflict - the Seven Years War occurred. In this war Frederik and the Hohenzollerns faced Austria, France and Russia. When Elizabeth of Russia died in 1761, she was succeeded by Czar Peter III, an admirer of Frederik the Great. Czar Peter deserted his Austrian - French allies and placed Russia's forces at Frederiks' disposal. In 1763 Austria agreed to the Peace of Hubertsburg.
In l744 Czar Peter the III had married a German princess who was to become known as Catherine the Great. When Empress Elizabeth died in 1761, Czar Peter reigned only a short period of time until Catherine started a revolution in 1762 and had herself declared ruler of Russia. When Czar Peter was strangled by Orlov at Rapsha Palace in 1762, Catherine became ruler in her own right. She has been described as brilliant, wilful, ambitious, generous, and cruel.
The Volga region had for centuries been a stronghold of nomadic tribes, speculators, and fugitives. Catherine the Great conceived the idea to populate this eastern frontier and thus establish dominance over a wild area. To attain this end she needed immigrants to develop the region. Being German, the Empress preferred immigrants of German descent. After drafting plans, Catherine flooded Europe with pamphlets (1762) containing alluring promises for settlers to the Volga region. Eager to see her plans become a reality, Catherine invited people of all nationalities to come to Russia. The initial invitation received little response.
The Peace of Hubertsburg (1763) left Frederick the Great of Prussia with the staggering burden of recovery from the war. Hatred, discontent, hunger, and taxation discouraged the populace from rising above poverty and wretchedness. Thus when Catherine the Great issued a second Manifesto in 1763 inviting immigration it was more receptive. This manifesto provided for freedom of religion, an area to settle, money for transportation, tax exemptions, a choice of their own form of government, interest free loans, exemption from military conscription, and freedom to leave if they so desired. The subsequent exodus of Germans resulted, in what was termed in the early l900's, the German Autonomic Soviet Socialist Republic.
Concurrent with this second Manifesto, Catherine sent commissioners throughout Europe to solicit immigrants. This colonisation program attracted about 300 families from France. These included the German speaking Alsatians. The French government objected to the recruitment of emigrants from France. The French commissioners were somewhat more successful in the Holy Roman Empire. During the years between 1763 to 1767 eight thousand families consisting of 27,000 individuals left the Empire to become colonists of the Russian steppes. Except for a small number of French, Luxembourgers, Italians, Dutch, and Slavs, the immigrants were mostly German.
Numbered amongst those who settled the Volga at this time were members of the displaced Dinges families of Huguenot origin. How many families immigrated to the Volga region is not known. They may have come from France proper, most likely the Province of Alsace, or the Palatinate. French commissioners Beauregard, Otto do Nonjou, Pictel, Le Roi, and de Boffe founded both German and French villages in the Volga republic. The Dinges families may have belonged to either. The prevailing evidence is that they were assimilated into the German villages.
The privileges enjoyed by the settlers, especially their exemption from military service, together with increasing prosperity and autonomic status from the native populace, aroused the resentment of the Russians. The Empress Catherine, the friend and protectress of the settlers was now dead and men unfriendly to everything German ruled the land. All this gave rise to numerous curtailments of rights enjoyed by the colonists. After a century of colonisation, the government passed the Military Law of January 13, l874 which subjected all colonists to military service. This, along with constant bickering between the colonists and government over loans, amount of subsidies, and taxation was the immediate cause of the emigrations that followed.
I'm aware of only two members of Dinges families in Russia who immigrated to America at this time. On October 24, 1874, Paul Dinges from the village of Marienburg left the region and arrived in Baltimore, November 23, 1875, aboard the steamship "Ohio" of the North German Lloyd. He was in the company of a larger group of immigrants which subsequently travelled overland to Kansas in the search of the American steppes. It might be well to point out that the federal government provided large acreage to the railroads as a speculative favor. The railroads in turn transported immigrants to the western frontier to re-sell the land. Paul Dinges eventually settled near Hays City, Kansas and lived the remainder of his life in this area. His genealogy is accounted for in the Appendix.
A second member of a Dinges family, Henry Dinges emigrated from the Volga state circa 1890. No genealogical connection has been made between the two aforementioned men. Henry Dinges settled in south-western Michigan near the Benton Harbor area. His genealogy is also included in the Appendix. His relatives include members of the Omaha-Lincoln families and also some members in California. Each year, in August, there is a family re-union in Michigan to commenorate his safe passage to America.
As expected some Dinges families remained in the Volga autonomous state whose main city was Saratov. Because this state was autonomous, the Russian revolution of 1917 tolerated a certain amount of independence until the advent of World War II. Upon entrance into war with Germany the Russians disenfranchised the German populace and systematically bull-dozed and leveled the villages. Much of the populace was dispatched to Siberia.
The following story is of one Alexander Dinges from the Saratov area. During the 1930's his father foresaw the problems arising in the German autonomous state and moved from the area to integrate his family with the Russian populace. During World War II, when the German salient had driven all the way to Stalingrad, the German inhabitants of the Saratov region, as a matter of survival, infiltrated the German lines and acted as interpreters for the German Army. This was the situation with Alex Dinges who acted as an interpreter for a German artillery battery. During this period he was captured twice by the Russians, escaped twice and finally walked out of Russia to Danzig, Prussia. He eventually encountered allied troops, became one of many displaced persons, and eventually settled in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria. His surviving relatives, several sisters, married Russians to submerge their identity. They now live near the Ural Mountains.
No exact meaning or derivation of the surname Dinges is known as of this date. There are several theories as to the evolution of the name and some evidence that it has remained the same since the year 1765. This is substantiated by the Russian emigres, who retained the present name from the time they went to Russia until they came to America. The Appendix contains the genealogy of one family dating to 1688. There is no evidence, however that the name was not altered somewhere in this lineage.
One family in Germany indicated that the name was originally spelled Donges in the same manner as the village Donges near St. Naizare on the West Coast of France. Because this name was difficult to pronounce in German, an umlaut o was substituted. The pronunciation thus becomes similar to Dinges. The substitution of an umlaut u also has a similar effect. All of these surname spellings are readily found in present day Germany. I believe the spelling Donges is better explained as a descendent or servant of St. Onge (Do Onge) much in the fashion St. Clair evolved into Sinclair.
My personal opinion is that the name has not been altered to any extent since the time of the Huguenot emigrations. The displacement of these families to Russia and America closely followed the religious and military wars and only misspellings by customs officials would account for any disparities.
A more logical theory is that the name is derived from the feminine Germanic root name Inge. The root names Ing and Inge occur quite frequently and in all combinations of prefixes with many combinations evident as the telephone directory will reveal. The meaning attributed to this root is generally an inhabitant of lowlands or marshes. By placing this germanic root name into a French context we derive the name De Inges which suffix is feminine plural. This combination of French and German fits well into Rhineland region, probably the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine from which the families could have come.
Since the i following the De is a vowel the next evolutionary step is to spell the name with an accent mark as follows D'inges. As is obvious, it would be to the advantage of a Frenchman living in Germany to drop the accent mark and adopt German pronunciation and spelling. I would like to believe there are still families living in France with this surname but a search of the Paris directory did not reveal any. Montreal directories also do not have any surname like this. A George Dinges of Lampertheim, West Germany, indicated that as a young man he recalls relatives mentioning the French city of Nancy, in the former Duchy of Lorraine, as being the area from whence the family emigrated.
It is not unrealistic to expect that the Huguenot emigration may have resulted in some Dinges families going to the Netherlands1 England, Ireland or Switzerland - wherever the Huguenots went in substantial numbers. English names like Dingus are rather suggestive of this.