My Roots: From Germany to Giddings

The Texas Story Project.

There is a time in everyone’s life when they ask their parents, "What am I?" (referring to their ethnicity). In elementary school I remember friends of mine saying they were small fractions of so many ethnicities. So when I asked my mother and "Half German and half Mexican,” was the response, I was slightly underwhelmed. However, I am extremely lucky that family members from my mother’s side took the time and effort to gather documents and accounts of our ancestors and arrange them into as complete of a history as possible.

The first German ancestor of mine to step foot on American land was a man named Wilhelm Unger. Wilhelm was an only son and his parents died when he was very young. Following this tragedy, Wilhelm was taken in by another family and became a carpenter in Saxony, Germany. To avoid serving in the army (supposedly), Wilhelm, with his wife Christine and four children, boarded the German ship S.S. Donau in Bremen, Germany. Twelve-to-fifteen days later, they arrived in New York, New York on March 11, 1881. There they stayed with the Schellenberger family for some time before travelling to Texas. Unfortunately there is no account for why or how they came to Texas. Sadly, Wilhelm's wife Christine passed away in New York. Wilhelm later married a woman named Emilie Fischer, who had two children from a previous marriage and had six more after marrying Wilhelm.

Once in Texas, the family began their new life in Giddings. Using his background as a carpenter, Wilhelm is believed to have assisted in building the original Immanuel Lutheran Church in Giddings (which still stands today and services are offered in German) where he and his family were members. Wanting a more relaxed lifestyle, the family became engaged in farming and Wilhelm was a farmer until his death in 1919 at the age of sixty-six. Wilhelm as well as many other family members are buried at the Giddings City Cemetery.

It is quite amazing to me that the first person to marry into the Unger family who was not also German was my own father. I asked my mother about this, and she explained that many Germans had moved to Texas for land and therefore had their own German communities throughout Texas such as New Braunfels and Fredericksburg. I have never quite been in touch with my German ethnicity and the culture but my mother loves telling stories and I have gained a new interest within that part of my history.

As much as I would like to know just how and why Wilhelm and his family moved to Texas, that is a part of history that was simply lost in time. The immense amount of detail about each family member dating back to 1852 leads me to believe that Paul W. Unger (the author of the record) left no stone unturned and if there was any more to know about the Unger family he would have found and reported it. Many family members of mine believe that Wilhelm and his family arrived in Galveston on a boat, however there is simply no evidence to back this claim. The arrival in Texas will most likely remain a mystery forever.

There is some point in everyone’s life where you wonder where you came from, and how any single event that disrupted this chain reaction could have led to you not existing at all. Having the chance to see this lineage, all the people that came before me, and the hardships that they had to overcome has given me an appreciation for not only my ancestors, but many families that left everything that they knew behind to start a new life in a foreign place.

Adrianna Cruz is currently a sophmore at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, TX. This story is just a snapshot of the history told in A Record of the Family of Wilhelm Friedrich Unger, Fourth Edition, written by Paul W. Unger, whom I am so thankful for.  

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