Sunday, April 14, 2013

Cultural Exchange: A Piece of Germany in Puerto Rico

I'm always interested and amazed by the diversity our small island of Puerto Rico has! Every time I'm doing genealogy and I come across a person from Corsica, France, Italy, Spain, Guinea, or whatever other country they were from, I just go "wow, where are my cool Puerto Rican ancestors?"- which I have found through my Martinican line ;)

While searching through the Utuado birth records I ran into a child being born in 1892, and what caught my attention was that both of his parents were from Germany. So I decided to jot down the information and see how far I could trace this family outside of Puerto Rico with the information I have. (I like to challenge myself in genealogy as you can see).


The child born was Heriberto Leopoldo Hess Klinger in Santa Rosa, Caguana, Utuado, Puerto Rico. He was born on June 26th 1892, the legitimate son of Jorge Hess Jung, a mechanical engineer from Freiburg, Baden, Germany and his wife Elisabeth Klinger "Wetterolh", a native of Nieder-Modau, Hessen, Germany.

What surprised me (which it shouldn't have) was that the grandparents of Heriberto were listed. Since they were from Germany, I imagined that maybe there wouldn't be able to communicate names besides their own to the person jotting down the information. But a lot was provided very accurately and as I would soon find out.

The paternal grandparents were John Jorge Hess, from Freiburg where he passed away and his wife Anna Maria Jung, a native of Emmendingen, Baden, Germany but lived in Freiburg. Her maternal grandparents were John Adam Klinger and Anna Wetterolh, both natives of Nieder Modau, where they passed away.

So right away I knew that these families originated in Freiburg, Germany and Nieder Modau, with one grandmother a native of Emmendingen.

My search took me to FamilySearch where I tried to see if they had civil records for Baden, which they did but truly I could not navigate that part of the site since I don't know the proper provinces and what was what back in those times. But I did find Marriages, Death & Burials, and Birth & Baptism sections which would provide me the information for these families.

I began by typing in the last names Hess, Jung, Klinger and Wetterolh into the different sections. Hess and Jung haven't provided anything so far but through the mother's family I found a lot! I was able to find Elisabeth Klinger was christened on 27 January 1856 and born 13 January 1856, the daughter of Johann Adam Klinger and Anna Wetteroth which matches with (John Adam) Klinger and Anna "Wetterolh". As you can see they were also residents of Nieder Modau which was awesome to see since they had it right in Puerto Rico!

Elisabeth Klinger's christening record

Now that I knew Elisabeth's parents' "German" names I would check for their marriage. Awesomely, I found that Johann Adam Klinger married Anna Wetterroth on September 18 1851 in Nieder Modau and the record stated both of their parents' names! Johann Adam's parents being Johann Adam Klinger and Anna Maria Rodenhäuser (sometimes spelled Rodenhäußer) and Anna's parents were Georg Nikolaus Wetterroth and Eva Maria Hiller.

Johann Adam Klinger and Anna Wetterroth's Marriage
Also notice that it mentions when they were born. Johann in 1829 and Anna in 1831, how awesome! To take it a step even further I found Johann Adam's father marriage to Anna Maria Rodenhäuser. However, one record states they were married in 1839 while another says 1828. The 1828 marriage only mentions the dads while the 1839 mentions both parents (with the dads being the same from the 1828 marriage). The 1839 marriage says Anna Rodenhäuser was widowed but to who? Did she remarriage and to a brother of Johann Adam Klinger? None the less, Johann Adam's father was Georg Wilhelm Klinger and Anna's father was Peter Rodenhäuser. This traces the Klinger and Wetterroth to the earlier 1800s!

More amazing is that I was able to find Georg Nikolaus Wetterroth's marriage as well!!!

Georg Nikolaus Wetterroth & Eva Maria Hiller's Marriage
Georg Wetterroth was born in 1795 and Eva Hiller in 1811, Georg's parents were Johann Conrad Wetterroth and Sussanne Haas while Eva's were Johann Adam Hiller and Anne Marie Funck. Here you can also see they are living in Starkenburg, Hesse-Darmstadt. 

To tell you the truth I can even go a bit further with the Hiller family as I found Johann Adam Hiller being christened in 1787 while living in Altheim, Hessen, Germany and marrying Anne Marie in 1810- but I think you get the point. 

Just with the name of Heriberto's parents and grandparents I was able to push the family's pedigree to the late 1700s in Germany, and potentially could go a bit farther if I put more energy into it. Also, it shows you the AMAZING work that has gone into FamilySearch indexing and cataloging of records. From sitting in my home I could track down 5-6 generations of Heriberto's family without having to travel to Germany and sit for hours searching records. Of course, going to Germany and visiting the Baden region would be amazing to really get the feel!

Seems that the Hess family stayed in Puerto Rico (not sure how many Hess siblings stayed and spread out throughout the island). Heriberto himself did father a son named Jorge Francisco Hess Garcia with a Puerto Rican woman . Maybe a Hess descendant will find this post and either contribute, verify or even learn more about their Germany ancestry. 

Goes to show how a family with deep roots in Germany uprooted themselves and came to the tiny island of Puerto Rico helping to enrich our culture. I know that in my tree somewhere lurks families like these who I hope to one day uncover and push back like how I was able to do for Heriberto's family. 

I really had fun doing this and maybe I'll give it a go another time with a different family! But for now I'll shake my tree a little more and see what falls out! :D


  1. Thank you for this post! My grandmothers name is Grace Mirna Rivera Hess daughter of Martha Hess Klinger. :)

  2. Steph isn't this exciting!?!?!? Can't wait to tell my mom about it.....Martha N. Rivera Hess

    1. I'm glad this information was helpful to you guys!!

  3. My grandmother Martha Carmen Hess Klinger had three brothers one of them was Heriberto which I remember visiting as a child. The three brothers were engineers like their father Jorge and worked at the sugar cane plantation with equipment from Germany. My grandmother married Ceferino Rivera at the age of 18 and moved to Adjuntas. She had six girls and three boys. One of the girls died at the age of three from lead poisoning, her name was Lucila (I think).