Germanic origins. Hellmrech, Hellmreich, Hellmerich, Hellmrick, Hellmrich, Helmrich…
Scottish origins. Symmers, Simmers,
What’s in a name is the famous question? Well in our case, rather a great deal is in a name or indeed names. The name Helmrich (as we know it now in Australia), or however you want to spell it, comes from the old German language. It’s a combination of the old Norse Hialm (helmet/protection) and Rik (mighty). Its likely and probable that this referred to a family history within the military.
Charles and I hope that’s what he was called; was the son, (I hope of two rather lovely folk from what we now know as Germany). For all I know he could have been born Karl or Carl? These being the Germanic variant of Charles and far more probable. From the records I’ve been able to disseminate he gave Charles as his christian name in Scotland. For sure, his surname seemed to cause a great deal of consternation with spelling throughout his short life in Scotland.
Our fellow started out a Hellmrech. However, by the time he died it had been changed to Hellmrich. Hellmrech in German history also appears as Helmreich or Helmerich and when he got married in Scotland he gave his name as Hellmrick (I’d suggest that is how he pronounced Hellmrech). Lets not forget our own very common variant in the nineteenth century of Hellmrich and then Helmrich! One lesson I have learned about name spelling is that it was haphazard at best and frequently reflected the variants of different locales and the ‘ear’ of the person making the recording and their own level of education.
So was our fellow German? Well in current day territory yes, however, if we are being technical, then no. It is more likely that he was Bavarian. Bavaria being where the Forrester’s or woodcutters were located. And it was employment as a Forrester that we are pretty sure what brought Charles to Scotland.
The Hellmrech name does appear to feature in some historical Prussian records. Prussia in 1263, was the home of an uprising between the Teutonic usurpers and the indigenous Prussians. It was if you will, the northern crusades of it’s time. Rather poetically called ‘The Great Prussian Uprising’. These Teutons (supported by the Catholic popes) were a trained, warring class of soldiers who had come up through south eastern Europe and would extend as far as into Russia during these crusades.
Basically pagan Prussians rose up against the Christian Teutons, who had supplanted the area and begun heavily proselytizing the indigenous people toward Christianity. The battles and skirmishes went back and forwards. At the battle of Lobau, the Teutonic knights who were quite well organised, in comparison to their counterparts got a thorough rousting from the Prussians.
Two of their leaders Master Helmrich and Master Dietrich were killed.
The indigenous Prussians were largely made up of clans and family groups. The peace didn’t last long as in-fighting between the clans continued. The Teutonic knights regrouped and before long were back in controlling rule of Prussia. Was this Helmrich one of ours? Don’t know – but it makes for a good story and it’s definitely showing up the name Helmrich in the area. I propose from my meagre poking about, that we have possibly descended from this area? Some records loosely refer to Bayern (Baiern) in Germany. However Bavaria and Saxony are also possibilities. From what little I know of the time, this was also part of Prussia. Prussia now of course is incorporated into the Germany we know today. At the time that Charles was born, Prussia was made up predominantly of cultural groups who had grown from Teutonic origins and Prussian origins. The predominant religions were Lutheran (Protestant) and Catholicsm with a smaller representation of Jews. Other cultural groups who made up Prussia were Poles, Danes, Frisians (Germanic from the Netherland region), Kashubians (west Slavic), Masurians (Polish settlers from Masovia), Lithuanian, Czech and Sorbs (western Slavic from Lusatia). So a good mix of many different backgrounds. Now if you wish to take a punt at which of these groups we potentially hail from? Be my guest. Possibly, (at least for a Germanic connection). I’m going to run with the Teutonic group because it sounds about right? The Teutonic group originally came from an area called Jutland which had also originally been called Cimbria, all of this area is now part of Denmark. (My Dad will be delighted, he’s been calling Viking for as long as I can remember). However, we have digressed somewhat from the point. Charles Hellmrich whose genealogy at this time remain unknown, was born around 1779 in Germany.
Hellmrech to Aberdeenshire, Skene. Scotland…. before 1804
Prior to 1804 Charles emigrated some 2000 odd kilometres to Aberdeenshire. He settled in a small rural place, Skene in the north-east of Scotland. The information I have been provided with from the very generous Jim Fiddes of the Skene Heritage Society is that Charles came from Germany to work as a forester on the Skene House estate at Lyne of Skene. The house (previously a castle) dates back to the fourteenth century and is about five miles from the Kirkton of Skene. Skene is an ancient parish with a clan also reaching back to this time. Scotlands Clans, Skene. Indeed King Robert the Bruce was instrumental in allocating a baronetcy to the laird Robert De Skene in 1318 following his support of ‘The Bruce’ during his war with the English.
At the time that our Charles arrived, Skene House was the home of William Forbes Skene (1809-1892). He was the largest landowner in the parish. In common with other landowners in Aberdeenshire he was instrumental in arranging for mass planting of the forests as land improvements, mainly to provide wind breaks but also to help with drainage. The woods or forest land adjacent to Skene House where Charles worked are named Balmuir Woods, Gas Woods and Mary’s Wood. The areas sit neatly between Lyne of Skene and Kirkton of Skene. Charles was employed as a groundsman and forester for this job. Skene itself was and is a little farming village about ten miles from Aberdeen, as I understand it. Skene Heritage Org
To see further images of Skene House which was originally Skene Castle link to HERE
Marriage in Cluny, 1804.
On the 25th November 1804 at the age of twenty-five, Charles married (here we go again) Elspet/Elspeth/Elspath/Elspit Symmers/Simmers/Summers/Somers in Cluny near Aberdeenshire. Cluny is a neighbouring parish of Skene, so they didn’t have to go that far to meet each other and according to their marriage records, were from the same parish. Their faith beliefs must have been the same? I’m going to assume either Calvinistic or Lutheran in origin as most likely, being that both Scotland and Germany had similar protestant religions as their most prominent at this time. At the time of his marriage Charles is recorded as a gamekeeper and gardener . The Old Parochial Register where the records of the marriage can be found, record our two as Charles Hellmrick and Elspit Simmers both from the same parish.
It was also around this time that a branch of the European based Helmrich family emigrated to the United States from Prussia. A distant branch of relations perhaps?
Charles and Elspit (for brevity) went on to have six known children. All born locally. These were Alexander Burnett Hellmrich b. 1805, Mary Burnett (?) Hellmrich b. 1808, Charlotte Hellmrich b. 1810, John Hellmrich b. 1812, Charles Frederick Hellmrich b. 1814 and Isabela Hellmrich b. 1816, who died in 1826 aged nine and a half. The first few children get recorded as Hellmrick but by 1815 they were being recorded on official records as Hellmrich.
Charles death at Skene.
On the 4th May 1817, Charles died at the relatively young age of 38 and left behind a family of small children and a wife. Charles Hellmrich is how his name was spelled on his gravestone in Skene Kirkyard, stone 128. (in his 39th year). Also buried here is his daughter Isabela Hellmrich 9 and a half, 10 May 1826. The stone was erected by his wife Elspit. 1817, Kirkton of Skene Graveyard. 6 miles west of Aberdeen, Scotland
In memory of
A native of Germany
Died 4 Feb 1817 in 39th year.
This gravestone is erected by
His affectionate widow
ISABELA, their daughter
Died 10 May 1826 aged 9½
Elspit Simmers, a Scot.
Elspit was the daughter of Alexander Simmers and at this time I don’t know her mothers name. She was born in Cluny, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. She lived her entire life in Aberdeenshire. Simmers I am reliably informed by Jim Fiddes is an old Scottish name. In records of the area such as census etc. Elspit is shown as living in North Aberdeen and St Nicholas. From 1840 she is recorded as being the ‘mother in law. On the 14th November 1862 at the rather grand age for the time of 84, Elsipet passed away in the St Nicholas area. As I understand it she is not buried with her husband.
The living children of Charles and Elspit Hellmrich:
Alexander Burnett Hellmrich had two known wives. Anne Knowles with whom he had William Thomson Helmrich, Alexander Helmrich and Elspit (Elsie) Helmrich. Anne died in 1858 when Alexander was 53. They lived their lives in and around Aberdeenshire. Alexander would go on to remarry in 1864 at the age of 59. His wife was Christian Duncan, also of Aberdeenshire. They had Mary Helmrich 1865, Isabella Leys Helmrich 1867, Margaret Duncan Helmrich, 1869 and Alexander Helmrich 1867. All of whom died as infants. Their last child was born in 1871, Charles Frederick Helmrich. Tragically young Charles parents died when he was still small. Christian when he was 5 in 1876, and his father Alexander died in 1879 when he was 8, in Aberdeenshire. Young Charles was taken into the St Nicholas Poor House. At age 19 in 1891 Scottish census, Charles was employed as a stone-cutter. This was common employment in Aberdeenshire where granite was being mined and stone cutting and masonry related employment was high.
Mary Burnett Hellmrich was eight when her father died. She married George Donaldson of Peterhead, Aberdeenshire when she was nineteen. They would go onto have a large family. Alexander Donaldson (dec as infant), George Donaldson, Margaret Donaldson, Mary Donaldson (dec as child), Elspit Donaldson, Alexander Donaldson, Thomas Donaldson, William Donaldson, Barbara Donaldson, Charles Donaldson, John Donaldson and George M. Donaldson. They resided for many years at Summerfield Cottage. There are several photos of the Donaldson’s held by the Donaldsons family. My understanding is that they were a fairly comfortable family financially and remained in the Aberdenshire area. If any descendants would like to share old photographs on this website, I’d be happy to put them up for you and credit you with these.
Charlotte Hellmrich was aged seven when her father died and it would appear did not marry. She remained living in Skene (with her mother?) where she worked as a servant. When she died in 1877 aged 66 she did not have a will. Her brother Charles managed her probate affairs. If any descendants would like to share old photographs on this website, I’d be happy to put them up for you and credit you with these.
John Hellmrich, (my ancestor) married Margaret Mathieson at Banchory Devenick in Kincardineshire, about ten mile from Skene when he was aged 24. Before long they had taken up an offer to be bounty immigrants to Australia. They arrived in Australia on the Lady Kennaway in 1838 and settled in Sydney. They had John Hellmrich who was born in Aberdeenshire in 1837. George Donaldson Hellmrich was born in Sydney in 1841. Margaret Hellmrich born in Two Fold Bay, Sydney in 1843, Charles G Hellmrich born Two Fold Bay, Sydney in 1845, Alexander Burnett Hellmrich born in Sydney in 1850, Mary Jane Hellmrich born in Sydney in 1852. John died in 1862 and Margaret in 1898. If any descendants would like to share old photographs on this website, I’d be happy to put them up for you and credit you with these.
Charles Frederick Hellmrich was three when his father died. He remained living in Abendeenshire his whole life. Charles was married twice and was quite the progenitor. He married Jessie Guild in 1857 aged 43. Charles died in 1880. If any descendants would like to share old photographs on this website, I’d be happy to put them up for you and credit you with these.