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The family history of the "Untersteller"

The family name "Untersteller" is one of the oldest names in the once independent community Ensheim (3800 people), that as result of an administration reform act in 1974 was annexed to Saarbrücken, capital of the small state Saarland in the south west of Germany. A lot of information about the older and newer history of the village as well as its inhabitants, their special language, customs and traditions can be found on a great web site "Ensheim-website " which is created by my friend Paul Glass.

You can read there, for example, that the list of inhabitants of 1702, which still exists, already included three of our ancestors: Andreß Untersteller, Heinrich Untersteller, Mathis Untersteller. The list is part of the so called "Jahrgedings und Schöffenweistums" that was hold in Ensheim on October 4th 1702. The whole list is listed in a book (TRITZ, M. "Die Geschichte der Abtei Wadgassen"- The history of the abbey Wadgassen- page 238ff). Unfortunately this list only includes male adults, but not their wives and children.

An old family tradition says: "Originally the Untersteller-family came from the Alp region Tyrol". Thanks to the research done between 1970 and 1980 by the Ensheim born priest Eduard Untersteller (died in 1987) and Dr. Paul Untersteller - also born in Ensheim and today living in the city of Mannheim - we know more about our family roots in Tyrol. According to them, the Untersteller family really came from the Alps. In the eighteens of the last century Eduard Untersteller wrote a letter to Prof. Dr. Finsterwalder, who was teaching at the University of Innsbruck (Austria) and publishing the series about the history of family names in Tyrol ("Familiennamen in Tirol"). His answer was that "Untersteller" today not exists as a living family name in Tyrol anymore. Long time ago the word "Steller" was used, for a small stable that was a bit away from the main building of an estate (source: K. FINSTERWALD "Schlernschriften", Innsbruck 1951, Bd. 81 page 404). In his letter, Mr. Finsterwald, by referring to certain literature, also pointed out, that in the year 1364 a farmer in Schnaltztal/Vinschgau was named "Petrus der Untersteller de monte Putleide" (source: J. TARNELLER "Hofnamen im Burggrafenamt" (farm names in the "Burggrafenamt") Archiv der österr. Geschichte (archives of the Austrian history) book 100, part 1, 1909 page 56 number 61). The oldest document that mentions the name "Untersteller" (reproduced by TARNELLER) literally says- (and I can't translate it):

"1364 Fridr. Fil. q. Hainr. De Leit ex Snalles et soror Catherina, Perchtold. D. Chafroner de monte Putleide loco uxoris sue Irmele. Walther d. Walchhofer, Peturs de Vorderchaeser. Petrus d. Untersteller de monte Putleide in solidum cesserunt pro 18 marc."

During their investigation, which Eduard and Paul started after finding these clues, they discovered a whole group of people named "Untersteller" when they searched the old parish registers of the catholic community Naturns in South Tyrol, which today is part of Italy. In these old documents of the Naturns parish you can also find the name of "Petrus der Untersteller de monte Putleide" and his brother. The baptism-, wedding- and deathbooks of Naturns written between 1639 and 1690 contain fifteen different children that were baptized on the name "Untersteller". They came from seven different couples. (List of the 15 "Untersteller" in the baptism books of Naturns)The last record in the Naturn parish books can be found in 1762. During these investigations in Naturns the dean who worked there, pointed out that "Untersteller" probably has it's origin in a "job title" for the farmer from the "Unterstell-farm". Until today in the mountains above Naturns there are two farms with this special name.








The upper "Unterstell-Hof" (please take a look on the two pictures) has been occupied and run by the Götsch family for generations and is still a very popular place for tourists to go. The other "Unterstell- Hof", located even more up in the mountains, today is run by the Müller family.

Untersteller- a little look at the linguistic history of the name

In February 2002, during my ongoing search for more information about the "Untersteller" in South Tyrol, I turned to the archives of South Tyrol, resident in Bozen/Italy. We are not sure yet, in what way the historical documents there- among them are old parish books and community books- contain more important details. In a letter Christian Kollermann, a linguistics scientist working for the archives, gave us some pretty interesting language- historical indications about the origin of our family name. Parts of them are reproduced (Language history).

"Untersteller" in Southwest Germany

It is most likely, that family members with the name "Untersteller" came to Southwest Germany at the end of the 30-year War, a region, that was almost dishabited because of the most raging and cruel warlike conflict between 1618 and 1648. The Ensheim-website of Paul Glass gives you a good impression about the period of the 30-year War in Ensheim. Incomplete lists with the names of Ensheim inhabitants in the year 1656, based on the sale and inheritance conflicts of farms can be found in a new book about the home history of Ensheim (WÜSTNER R. "Heimatgeschichte von Ensheim" Ensheim 2001, page 135ff).After the 30- year War, the enormous loss of inhabitants caused the Elector of the Palatinate to recruit farmers and craftsmen to reinhabit the Palatinate. He also recruited craftsmen from the Tyrol region. So far the oldest found document about the occurrence of our family name in the Southwest shows the name Michael Untersteller and comes from the Bishopric diocese archives of the catholic parish "St. Gervasius" in the city of Trier. It is the baptism certificate (May 12th 1682) of Andreß Untersteller. But we can eliminate the thought that the marriage of Michael Untersteller and his wife Katharina took place in Trier. A lot of things indicate that Michael Untersteller came from the Untersteller- family that lived in the Naturns region and moved to Southwest Germany in those days. According to WÜSTNER, R. ("Heimatgeschichte von Ensheim" (home history of Ensheim), Ensheim 2001, page 159) the woodchopper Michael Untersteller came from reign Trier to Ensheim in 1694 together with his wife and the kids- four young boys and three young girls. He was recruited in those days by the wadgassian reign as a woodchopper.

Emigration of family members of the "Untersteller" to Southeast Europe

Over 12 generations the family name Untersteller maintained in Ensheim. But since the middle of the 18th century numerous families and persons with this unusual name also emigrated- starting from Ensheim- to other parts of Europe and- most likely- overseas. In 1764 Johann Mathias Untersteller, for example, emigrated together with his wife Margaretha to the Banat- region- today part of Romania. It is documented that coming from Ensheim, on June 15th 1764 he was paid his- at that point of time for Banat- emigrants typical- "Wegkreuzer" (three guilders) in Vienna. Five years later on October 24th 1769 Johannes Untersteller, working as a miller, his wife, his two sons and two daughters were on their way to the Banat, when they stopped in Vienna and were paid their "Wegkreuzer". At first they settled in the new foundation "Bogarosch" in the Banat region, but in October 1773 they left the village head over heels leaving a dept of 8 guilders and 56 kreuzer. (Source: Anton P. PETRI "Heimatbuch der Heidegemeinde Bogarosch im Banat" (history book of the settlement Bogarosch in the Banat region) 1993, page 53). In the same year they settled once again, this time in the Banat village of Perjamosch. Obviously there was emigration of "Untersteller" to the Banat region way earlier than this. The baptism book of the catholic parrish "Jahrmarkt" for example records the birth of a Jacob Untersteller on November 11th 1738. Parents are a Johannes Untersteller and his wife Catharina. (Source: S. STADER "Ortssippenbuch der katholischen Pfarrgemeinde Jahrmarkt im Banat" 1985, page 392, number 3681)More information (in german) about the history of "Untersteller-families you will find here:      

 >> Untersteller in the "Banat"

The snuff-box industry, which was developed in Ensheim in the 19th century, provided some "Untersteller" with the possibility to move their centre of life completely or partly to other European regions. In 1827 for example, the box manufacturer Johann Nikolaus Untersteller emigrated together with his wife Katharina U. born Klein to Budapest. In the Hungarian Industry and Trade register of 1891 the name "Untersteller" is documented as a local family. He is probably one of the numberous descendants of Johann Nikolaus Untersteller and his wife Katharina.
Another example is my great- grandfather Ludwig Untersteller, who lived together with his family in the Styrian villiage Windorf for a few years, working as the manager of a branch factory of the Ensheim snuff- box dynasty "Adt".

"Untersteller" in France

Already in the middle of the 19th century the two brothers Nikolaus Untersteller and Franz Untersteller moved towards the French metropolis Paris. With the beginning of the 29th century, starting out from the descendants of Nikolaus Untersteller, who was living in the city of Forbach (Lorraine) at this time, we can find a whole list of "Untersteller" in France. The most well- known among them was probably the 1900 in Stiring- Wendel (Lorraine) born son of the painter Johann Untersteller, who was a glass artist and a sculptor: Nicolas Pierre Emile Untersteller.He was becoming quite famous, because since 1957 he was director of the respected Parisian "L'Academie des Beaux- Arts". His work was honored with numerous international awards. One of his most obstinate works are the glass windows of the "Eglise Sainte Thérèse de L'Enfant Jésus" in Metz. Today the "Collège Nicolas Untersteller" in Stiring- Wendel is named after him.

"Soustelle" = "Untersteller"?

Even today it is still unsettled, if in the 18th and 19th century "Untersteller" living in France changed their name to "Soustelle" or adjusted it to the French language during times, when it was not very helpful to use German sounding names in the French public. You can still find a lot of "Soustelle" in France. Probably the most famous among them was Jacques (Emile) Soustelle, who was born on February 3rd 1912 in Montpellier as son of a railroad worker. For over two decades he was one of the closest friends of Charles de Gaulle. During the Algeria War for example, he organized numerous secret service campaigns and in 1955 he was operating as the French general governor in Algeria. Under de Gaulle he was part of several governments between 1945- 1946 and 1958- 1960, working as Secretary of Information and Secretary responsible for the French colonies. Jacques Soustelle died on August 7th 1990 in Neuilly- sur- Seine.

"Untersteller" also emigrated to America?

Last fall, 71- year- old Jack Understeller and his daughter Kathie, living in Cincinnati, Ohio, got in contact with me, looking for their German ancestors. Jack's great- grandfather was Nicolas Untersteller. At the moment we are not sure about his exact date of birth (either 1812 or 1826). Possibly we are talking about the son of Johannes Untersteller, Nikolaus Untersteller, who was born on March 4th 1826, but we are not having any more details about him at the moment. I summarized more information about "Untersteller in the USA" on an special page.

The 12 "Untersteller" generations between 1580 and 2000

On the following pages you con find more than 170 families, who kept the name "Untersteller" on a file during the last 400 years. Partly I included old pictures and documents into the pages, which is why it might take a little longer to download in some cases. To give you a relatively fast overlook and to make a selective search for the different Untersteller- generations or single family members possible, I created a name table. It should be used as a starting point for family members or interested visitors for the search for single persons with the name "Untersteller" and their family relations.

>> name table of Untersteller family members

© F. Untersteller 2004


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