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"The Sprehns"

Top Row Left to Right
Adolph, Carolina, Johanne, Henry

Bottom Row Left to Right
August, Kristin, Ida, Emil, Carl

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This is my attempt to produce a Family History (or a Genealogy, if you prefer) of   the "Sprehn" family. This is something that I had been thinking and talking about doing for quite some time. Finally, I quit talking about it and did it. I sincerely believe that "our family" should preserve it's heritage and remember its forefathers and mothers. One of the purposes of this Family History is to record our family's ancestors and to record the generations of descendants of those ancestors that are alive today and to make sure that this information is available to one of our descendants years from now so that the heritage of yesterday and today is not lost.

This genealogy is not 100% complete. As you will see, I have not been able to trace all of the descendants of all eight of the children of Carl Heinrich Friederick Sprehn and Kristin Henriette Brandovitz who grew to adulthood and immigrated to America. I have also not been able to trace Carl's father and the father of Carl's father and so on. My goals are to continue to keep this Family History "up-to-date" as time goes by and to continue the research of identifying our ancestors and all of their descendants. I very much want to be able to identify all of the descendants of all of Carl and Kristin's children and their childrens' children.


I'll come right out and say it: "The "scope" of this family history is limited to the direct descendants of Carl Heinrich Friederick Sprehn and Kristin Henriette Brandovitz." I "struggled" with this one philosophically. Where does one "draw the line"? How does one determine who should be included in this family history and who should not ? My solution (right or wrong) made this a very clear-cut answer. Save for the spouses (mother or father) whose assistance was ("shall we say") needed in producing the next generation, everyone in this family history is a descendant of Carl Heinrich Frederick Sprehn and Kristin Henriette Brandovitz.


The surname "Sprehn" is of Germanic descent. Many of us (especially those descendants of the younger children of Carl and Kristin who were born in Copenhagen) considered the surname "Sprehn" to have originated from Denmark.  However, this is not the case. The Sprehn name (pronounced "Sprain" (as in to sprain your ankle)) had come from Germany where in fact Carl and his wife (and three oldest children (Anna, Henry, and Adolph) were born. Carl Heinrich Friederick Sprehn was born in Oldenburg, Germany and the first three children to Carl Sprehn and Kristin Brandovitz (Anna, Henry, and Adolph) were born in Bremen, Germany. In 1881 (when Anna was six) this family of five moved from Germany to Amager Island, Denmark. And, thus, the remainder of the children were born in Denmark. However, it is my assumption that Carls' father was German and his father's father was German, and so on.

To possibly illustrate this further, let me relate to you a true event that happened to one of the "Wisconsin Sprehns". (There are a number of families in Wisconsin and Maryland with the last name of "Sprehn" that I have been in contact with. At this time, I have not found any "tie-in" between their ancestors and ours. It would be my guess, however, that if one goes back far enough, a "tie-in" would be found).  Anyway, this "Wisconsin Sprehn" family member was shopping in Florida years ago and was using a check (with his surname on it, of course) to purchase the goods when a man in back of him in line spotted the name on the check (nosy guy, wasn't he?!). As it turned out, this man's last name was "Spreh" (without the "n"). As it also turned out, this man was a genealogist who had been tracing his family name of "Spreh" back to the fifteenth century! He told the "Wisconsin Sprehn" family member that "way back then" folks in Germany took on last names which corresponded to the "area" or "region" where they lived. Well, in Germany there is a river, called the "Spree River". It was this man's contention (after twenty years of "genealoging") that families which lived along this river took on slightly different variations of the surname "Spree" and thus was "born" surnames such as Spree, Spreh, Spreen, and Sprehn. I've related this to other genealogists in the Olympia area who have been doing this kind of work for years and their opinions are in support of this man's contention. At least, I'm told that it is more probable that this is indeed true than the converse. (However, as comic relief, I choose to believe that the Spree River itself was named after some extraordinary Sprehn ancestor which we all have in common!!)

Let's return to the discussion concerning the pronunciation of the surname "Sprehn". As I have discovered, some of the ancestors of Carl and Kristin pronounce the surname "Sprehn" as in "Sprain" (to sprain one's ankle) and others pronounce it like "Spreen" (a long "e").   It has been told to me by the "Wisconsin Sprehns" (who pronounce it like "Sprain" that this is the "correct" way to pronounce it since that is how it would be pronounced in Germany. (I have verified that this is indeed correct.) In fact, it is their contention that this is why there is a "branch" of the "Sprehns" who have, changed the spelling to "Sprain" in order to have it sounded as it would in Germany.  Now this gets pretty philosophical. What is "correct"? Is "correct" defined by how the name would be sounded in it's originating country? Or, is "correct" defined by how that pronunciation has been "passed down" to you by your forefathers? I'm "staying out" of this one. You decide.

In summary, this genealogy of the "Sprehn" family is just that. Any and all ancestors of Carl Heinrich Friederick Sprehn and Kristin Henriette Brandovitz that I have been able to "find" are included in this Genealogy. I will apologize now, in advance, for any misspellings of surnames, given names, or maiden names for I know there will undoubtedly be some. It was not intentional.

In order to have a "reference point", I refer to the generation when Carl Heinrich Friederich Sprehn and Kristin Henriette Brandovitz were born as Generation I.

Carl Heinrich Friederich Sprehn was born in Oldenburg, Germany on December 16th (year of birth unknown. My guess is that he was born circa 1850). Kristin Henriette Brandovitz was born on June 7, 1858, but her location of birth within Germany is unknown.

Before Carl F. Sprehn immigrated to the United States (circa 1907), he was a leader of the Socialist Party and was a cigar maker.

Carl and Kristin's first three children were Anna Henrietta Amelia Sprehn, Henry John Charles Sprehn, and Adolph Anton Sprehn.  Anna, Henry, and Adolph were born in Bremen, Germany. When Anna was six, Henry was four and Adolph was two, this family of five moved from Germany to Amager Island, Denmark. Amager Island is a small island between Denmark and Sweden just outside of Copenhagen, Denmark.

The last two children born to Carl and Kristin (Emil and Ida) were born in Copenhagen, Denmark. Therefore, except Anna, Henry,  and Adolph, it is assumed that all of the children (at least those that lived to be adults and came to America) were also born in Copenhagen.

Carl and Kristin had twelve (12) children. Four of these children (all boys) died at very young ages and their names are not known at this time. However, we can account for the names of the eight children who immigrated to America as follows:

1. Anna Henrietta Amelia Sprehn (born Nov 8, 1875)
2. Henry John Charles Sprehn (born Oct 1, 1877)
3. Adolph Anton Sprehn (born Nov 8, 1879)
4. Johanne Sprehn (born Feb 26, 1883)
5. William August Sprehn (born Apr 19, 1887)
6. Carolina Sprehn (date of birth unknown)
7. Emil Herman Friederich Sprehn (born Jan 17, 1895)
8. Ida Augusta Sprehn (born Apr 27, 1896)

It is not known exactly when this family crossed through Ellis Island. However, it appears that they could not have all come over at once. In 1896, Anna married Nels Jens Petersen of Faaborg, Denmark and they had their first child, Johanne, on February 12, 1897. This daughter was born in Chicago, Illinois as were their next two children (Henry and William). Thus; it appears reasonable to me to assume that Anna and Nels were here "for keeps" before the birth of their first child in 1897. However, "story has it" that Carl, Kristin, Emil, and Ida came over together circa 1907.

Since Adolph's first child (Ivan) was born in 1910 in Los Angeles, perhaps Anna and Nels were "scouting" this U.S. of A. and they "liked what they saw" so they convinced the rest of the family to immigrate around 1907? All that is really known for sure is that all eight of the children to Carl and Kristin (including Carl and Kristin themselves) eventually settled in various locations in southern California.


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