Charles Hellmrech and Elspit Symmers. The German Scots

Hellmrick, Hellmrich, Hellmrech, Helmrich

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 (however you want to spell it, comes from the old German.  It’s a combination of the old Norse Hialm (helmet/protection) and Rik (mighty).  So you’re a mighty great helmet!  Good to know.  In all seriousness though this probably alludes to a career or family background in the military and it is highly likely that the Helmrich family grew out of a soldiering past back in the middle ages.

Charles and I hope that’s what he was called;  was the son I imagine of two rather lovely folk from Germany. For all I know he could have been born Karl or Carl, being the Germanic variant of Charles.  Helmrich in German history also appears as Helmreich or Helmerich and when he got married in Scotland he gave his name as Hellmrick.. Lets not forget our own very common variant in the nineteenth century of Hellmrich.  One lesson I have learned about pre-twentieth century spelling is that it was haphazard at best, often reflected the variants of different locales and the ‘ear’ of the person making the recording and their own level of education.

Back in Prussia in 1263 there was an uprising between the Teutonic usurpers and the indigenous Prussians.  Rather poetically called The Great Prussian Uprising. Basically pagan Prussians rose against their conquerers the Teutonic knights etc, who had been heavily proletyzing the locals to christianity since taking over.  History tells us over and over that religion and fundamentalism keep causing wars. When will we learn to keep our beliefs like our underwear to ourselves? Anyhoo..  The battles and skirmishes went back and forwards and 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 the in-fighting between the clans continued.  The Teutonic knights regrouped and before long were back in controlling order 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 that I understand from my meagre poking about that we have descended from.

Some records loosely refer to Bayern  (Baiern) in Germany. However Bavaria and Saxony are also possibilities.  From what I know of the time this was part of Prussia. Prussia now being a part of Germany.  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 and Catholicsm with a smaller representation of Jews.  Other cultural groups who made up Prussia were Polish, Danes, Frisians (Germanic from Netherland region), Kashubians (west Slavic), Masurians (Polish settlers from Masovia), Lithuanian, Czech and Sorbs (western Slavic from Lusatia).

Now if you wish to take a punt at which of these groups we 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 Hellmrick whose parents at this time remain unknown, was born around 1779 in Germany.

Prior to 1804 Charles emigrated some 2000 odd kilometres to the area of Aberdeenshire in northern 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. It is about five miles from the Kirkton. Skene House was the home of the Laird of Skene who was the largest landowner in the parish. In common with many other landowners in Aberdeenshire he planted a huge amount of trees as part of the land improvements, mainly to provide wind breaks but also to help with drainage.   Hence he would have employed a forester. Skene itself being a wee 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 

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 apparently were from the same parish so their faith beliefs must have been the same?  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 Elspet Symmers 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) go on to have six known children.  All born locally.  These are Alexander Burnett Helmrich b. 1805, Mary Burnett (?) Helmrich b. 1808, Charlotte Helmrich b. 1810, John Helmrich b. 1812, Charles Frederick Helmrich b. 1814 and Isabela Helmrich b. 1816, dies 1826 aged nine and a half.  The first few children get recorded as Hellmrick but by 1815 it looks like they’ve changed the name to Hellmrich.

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 Hellmrech 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 Hellmrech 9 and a half,  10 May 1826. The stone was erected by his wife Elspit.  Of their children : – None of them keep the spelling of Hellmrech.  They break into two variants. Hellmrich and Helmrich.  Looks like the Hellmrick got abandoned altogether.

Mary Burnett Helmrich  went on to marry George Donaldson from another local Aberdeen family.  There is a great deal of information online regarding the Donaldson family from Aberdeen. I think they did rather well for themselves. There is also this gorgeous and rather well known photograph that I am going to pop here just so we can see Mary.  The photo is not mine, I can only say thank-you to the Donaldson’s at the time who arranged for it to be taken and John Donaldson who shared it.

Taken in Summerfield Cottage 75 Park St Aberdeen, Scotland about 1872 The persons from left BR Elspet Donaldson Helmrich, John Donaldson, Mary Helmrich Donaldson, Alexander Donaldson, Margaret Donaldson Adamson, Thomas Donaldson. Seated George Donaldson, Child: Mary Helmrich, daughter of Elspet

Taken in Summerfield Cottage 75 Park St Aberdeen, Scotland about 1872 The persons from left BR Elspet Donaldson Helmrich, John Donaldson, Mary Helmrich Donaldson, Alexander Donaldson, Margaret Donaldson Adamson, Thomas Donaldson. Seated George Donaldson, Child: Mary Helmrich, daughter of Elspet. Photo shared by John Donaldson.

Elspit was the daughter of Alexander Symmers  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.  Symmers 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’, so she must have been living with her daughter Charlotte or Mary’s families.  So did Elspit remarry?  I don’t know.  The fact that she is living with her daughter as an older woman says maybe not.  However, I cannot find Elspit Hellmrech/Hellmrich/Helmrich in any records beyond her husbands death. On the 14th November 1862 at the rather grand age for the time of 84, Elsipit passed away.


6 thoughts on “Charles Hellmrech and Elspit Symmers. The German Scots

  1. Hi

    Charles and Elspit’s son, Charles Frederick Helmrich b. 1814, married Mary Mitchell and they had a son, Charles b1839. Charles married Margaret Talbot Davidson in 1872.
    Margaret’s brothers were John, Charles and Alexander. John and Alexander established the shipping and coal merchant firm of J&A Davidson, Aberdeen in 1865 and Charles, my great grandfather, was a ship’s captain who initially sailed on clipper ships and then captained his brothers’ steamships.

    I know the names of the children of Charles Helmrich and Margaret Davidson but nothing thereafter. Do you know more?

    Kind regards,

    Chris Davidson
    Durley, Hampshire

    • Hi Chris,
      I’ve had a quick look on and a quick search showed your Helmrich’s up on 19th century census records. I’m fairly sure there were a great deal of our family in Aberdeen through this time. Because my Helmrich’s came to Australia I haven’t followed you branch to date. Are you on Because if you are then following the above link is what I found tonight. Have you tried the newspaper archives at your end? I daresay you will turn up quite a bit particularly when they have been in business. I found Charles and Margaret Talbot Davidson’s children as Charles Helmrich Jr. 1873– ,Lewis Jas Helmrich 1875–, Talbot Helmrich 1879– (sometimes recorded as Salbert) and
      Margaret Helmrich 1888–. On the 1901 Scottish Census your Charles is recorded as Name: Charles Helmrich Jr.
      Age: 28
      Estimated birth year: abt 1873
      Relationship: Son
      Father’s name: Charles Helmrich
      Mother’s name: Margaret Helmrich
      Gender: Male
      Where born: Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire
      Registration Number: 168/2
      Registration district: St Machar
      Civil Parish: Aberdeen Rubislaw
      County: Aberdeenshire
      Address: 58 Beaconsfield Pl
      Occupation: Commercial Traveller (farmery
      ED: 41
      Household schedule number: 128
      LINE: 1
      Roll: CSSCT1901_59
      Household Members:
      Name Age
      Charles Helmrich 61
      Margaret Helmrich 51
      Charles Helmrich Jr. 28
      Salbert Helmrich 22
      Margaret Helmrich 13
      Catherine Wishart 20
      Christina Young 19

      With my own mariner (Captain Gay) I found information about him by going through the shipping and master mariner records in NSW, if you do the same in Scotland you may uncover a treasure trove of information re your Charles. Also see if you can find a local historical society near where they were living in Aberdeen these groups are usually very helpful and congenial people. It takes a lot of time but I hold a lot of faith in old newspaper archives it’s quite amazing what I have found over the years. Also Chris take a look on my acknowledgements and links page as there are a stack of linked resources there that you might find useful? Perhaps shoot Jim Fiddes over at the Skene Heritage Society a message, he was incredibly helpful to me when I was looking for the Helmrich origins in Skene.
      Good luck and happy hunting. Cheers. Darienne

      • Hi Darienne, I just came across your response to me in June 2016! My apologies for not picking this up earlier. I have an ancestry site which I will be very happy to add you as a guest. What is your ancestry id? I’ll look in to your reply in more detail. Kind regards, Chris

  2. Hi dcaldlan and other Helmrich researchers

    I am also closely related to the Helmrichs and Symmers etc. I would be very keen to exchange information with you.

    John Donaldson Melbourne Australia

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