Krey Family History

History of the Michael Krey Line in West Prussia
- from Keena Krey Price’s research in Germany and Poland, including a visit to the "Greenhof" in 1979.

Michael Krey was born in Gross Linau, Neu Paleschken, West Prussia in 1764. This is the farthest back we have been able to trace the Krey line, probably because of water damage to some of the Neu Paleschken (photo) parish registers. However, the Krey name is quite plentiful in this area back to the 1600s. We can only guess as to how the Kreys came to this area in the first place.

Before the 13th century, this area of Poland was largely occupied by Slavic tribes. In 1228 the Polish Duke of Masovia invited the Teutonic Knights to help subdue the heathens of East Prussia. Called the Deutche Ritterorden, their purpose was to win people to Christ and to create a Christian community. For the next two hundred years, settlers converged on what is now Poland from many areas, the majority being Germans from such places as Selesia and the Rhineland. Farmers settled there as well as knights and "citizens." Our ancestors could have come as farmers seeking better opportunity and possibly promises of land.

Another possibility is that they came after the Thirty Years' War (1616-1648). It began as a civil war between the Protestants and Roman Catholics in the German states and by the time it was over it had devastated much of Europe. At this time many people fled to the east and found asylum in Poland. Whole cities, villages and farms had disappeared. Those farmers who came to Poland seeking freedom and livelihood brought West European agricultural methods.

A third possibility is that they came as part of the War of 1655-60. During this war a sizable army gained sovereign possession of Prussia from Poland and Sweden from Frederick William who ruled one of the German states. German officials and officers came into Poland, became the ruling class and received land as a reward.

During Michael's time, Prussia was at the height of power. Frederick the Great had as his goal the "Germanization" of the area, which was to bring as many Germans into the countryside as possible. Michael's son Jacob (family tree) was born in the same village as Michael in 1797. The church is still standing where he was christened. It is surrounded by a peaceful farm village replete with chickens, geese, and cows and rolling hills with tree-lined lanes. The churches were Lutheran (or Evangelisch) and were the center of spiritual, social, and cultural life.

Jacob was married at a near-by church in Neu Barkoschin (photo) in November of 1B24 to Catharina Martcinke of the same parish. They were both about 27 years old. The brick church still stands where they were married. It is surrounded by a very few farm homes and is situated across from a lake.

They apparently moved into a rather large farm a few miles away called the "Gruenhof" (Green Court) as all of their children were born there (photo.) It may have belonged to her family as it was situated in her family's parish area.) In less than five years, four daughters were born to them so that in 1830 at the end of the year they had Henrietta who was 5, Wilhelmine was 4, Caroline 2, and Julianna was a newborn born in July.

The farm itself was described by a Polish family who had seen it before it had fallen into ruins shortly after World War II. They said it was about 170 acres, including some forest and large rye fields. The house was of brick workmanship and the furnishings included pine closets (Schranks), tile ovens, and looms. There was also a stable for the horses and a barn for the hay and milk cows. Also located on the property was a blacksmith shop and two servants quarters. The servants had their own stalls where they kept their animals. A circular driveway off one of the main routes to Danzig enclosed a small apple orchard.

In those days, the wife usually took care of the garden and the poultry. She also made the family's clothing. Some families had a maid for housekeeping and in the summer a peasant girl might come in for extra help. She considered it a real blessing to have twins and they probably boys after having 5 girls in row. At the age of 41, Catharina bore Karl Gustav and Ferdinand Julius (family tree.) Catharine wasn't able to enjoy her twins very long as she died when they were only two years old, just before Christmas in 1839.

At the age of 53. The girls were 13, 11, and 6. A year after she died, Jacob married Susanna Wohlert. She was 27 and he was 45. She bore one boy and four girls, one of whom died at age one. After Susanna had been at the Gruenhof for 7 years, Ferdinand died. It must have been a terrible blow for Gustav to lose his twin brother after a companionship of 10 years together on the farm.

In those days it was common for the boys to learn a trade besides farming. Often the oldest son was unable to inherit the family farm as he would have to wait until his father died before he could take over. Carl Gustav was a "master" (or Meister) shoemaker. He may have learned this trade in a nearby village or possibly in Danzig, the chief city of West Prussia. It was also likely that he would practice his trade in a larger city. While in Danzig he met and married August Wilhelmina Boldt at the age of 31. Augusta was 22. The Boldts were quite prominent in Danzig as her father was a brewer (or Bottchermeister) and this was a very elevated profession in those days. At some point Gustav must have changed his profession to become an officer in the railroad. This was also a well thought of profession.

After having three children, Carl Gustav and Augusta moved from Danzig around 1870. This was a time of mass migrations of German people from the Danzig area. The economy was poor and the people lived in an atmosphere of artificial prosperity, tax remissions, and high tariffs. There was also not a sufficient German Population for "Germanization."

The Kreys settled in St. Wendel, Saarland, apparently with the railroad again. In St. Wendel, eight more children were born to Augusta and then they moved to St. Johann where the last two were born. Three died as newborns and one at age 3. Like his father, Carl Gustav also had 5 girls in a row before he had a boy, Gustav Heinrick. Clara was the 8th child, Robert Herman the 11th and Paul Frederick the 12th.

Carl Gustav died at age 57 in 1894 when Robert and Paul were 11 and 12 years of age. Their mother died in 1903, 9 years later at the age of 59, leaving 5 children yet unmarried.

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