Margaretha Grungras -- a Lady in Waiting?


In June, 2001, Marilyn and I went to a Dankenbring reunion in Sweet Springs, Missouri. We met many distant relatives, with many fascinating stories, but the one that piqued my interest the most was Ida Witcher, Flora Dankenbring Witcher's daughter, who told us how her mother told her that Flora's grandmother Margaretha Grungras Dickenhorst has been a lady-in-waiting in Germany. She wrote a letter to Marilyn (pages 1-2, pages 3-4) where she stated "I don't know where my great-grandmother lived, but I think she was a lady-in-waiting for the ruling family in Dresden. Mother was very proud of her. Until 1870 Germany had many little kingdoms. Each had its own hierarchy. I don't know anyone who might know more. Mildred Dillon (Holden, MO) is older than I. Aunt Millie's daughter. She might know something.

I wrote Mildred Dillon twice with no response (1, 2)

So what is a lady in waiting? In modern terms, it is like a personal assistant, and is traditionally a person who is close to the royal, such as a family member or friend. Historically famous ladies in waiting included Mary Boleyn (sister of Anne Boleyn, queen to King Henry VIII) and across the English Channel there was Princess Marie Louise of Savoy (the confidante of none other than the monarch Marie Antoinette). Wikipedia 's definition is: "A lady-in-waiting (also called waiting maid) is a female personal assistant at a noble court, attending to a queen, a princess or other noblewoman. A lady-in-waiting is often a noblewoman of lower rank (i.e., a lesser noble) than the one she attends to, and is not considered a servant. Their duties varied from court to court." Cousin Chuck Hohenstein, a lover of history, found this priceless description from "Louisa - Lady in Waiting" by Elizabeth Longford, Mayflower Books, NY, 1979:

A lady of the royal household is a "lady in waiting". Generally drawn from a titled family on good terms with the monarch, these admirable qualities were required of a lady in waiting to Queen Victoria: "She must be an excellent companion - sympathetic in private yet profoundly discreet in public - a handsome vision on State occasions, a gracious hostess to visitors at Windsor, a writer of innumerable notes and memoranda on behalf of the Queen whose poor vision made their legibility no insignificant issue, a reasonaly accomplished and willing musician and watchdog of Maids of Honor lest they go out walking alone with gentlemen. She must also be fit enough to stand - often for interminable hours - in the royal presence and to trot at four miles per hour through hilly Scottish landscapes alongside the Queen's pony carriage. Further, she must be willing to be separated from her family for a good portion of the year.

One version of the story is that Margarethe was disinherited after she married Dickenhorst. This version appears to be romantic embellishment, and I doubt it is true. Margarethe and Hermann's first child, Anna Margarethe Ilsebein Dickenhorst, was born January 23, 1842 in Spenge, but the church record of her birth lists Colona Gronegras of Wallenbruck I believe in the capacity of godparents -- certainly if Margarethe's family "disinherited" here, her father (or even some other Grungras "colunus" [gentleman farmer] would not have stood up for the child at the christening. This was probably mentioned along the way in one telling of the story, embellishing the extent of the royalty -- it would appear that both parents are of similar standing in the community as both are referred to in the church records with the title "colonus."

It would be hard to research even if the place was known; here we are not certain if she was a lady-in-waiting near Spenge or near Dresden, as Ida Witcher thought. We are looking for records in the late 1830s, prior to her marriage in September 1840 in Wallenbruk, near Spenge. These records are exceedingly hard to find. Curiously, there are records going back to 1556 in Wallenbrueck -- In 1556 Herman Gronegresch was living at #10. In Spenge there was the "Muehlenburg" Castle, "Königsbrueck" in the neighbour-village of Wallenbrueck and the Warmenau-manor. It seems more likely that Margaretha worked in one of the local castles, especially since at least her father seems to be still alive at the time of the birth of her first child in 1842. It is unlikely that more will be uncovered, given the paucity of records. The only likely possible information to be added would be to determine the royalty living in these castles in the late 1830s, and see if they had a connection to Wallenbruck and specifically the Groenegress family.

Subject: Dickenhorst - Groenegress
Monday, November 21, 2005 1:05 PM
From: "K_Kersting@t-online.de"
To: dhay16301@sbcglobal.net
Attachment: Metasuche Suchergebnis.htmMetasuche Suchergebnis.htm
Hallo Donna,
I have looked into my book "Spuren der Geschichte in Wallenbrück und Bardüttingdorf" (Roots of history in Wallenbrueck and Barduettingdorf). In 1556 Grungras was mentioned as Herman Gronegresch living at No. 10 in Wallenbrueck.
For Grungras and marriages you might have to look for persons with following names: Einhuis/Einhaus, Godinckhusen/Goedinghaus, Greve/Grewe, Kercksieck/Kerksiek, Mantel, Kappelmann, Schroder/Recksmann, Overmann, Ewerdinck, Deppermann, Bruynink/Bruning, Meier/Meyer, Cordinck, Brewe, Blommeier/Blomeyer. This are lastnames of Wallenbrueck, I think there are a lot of possibilities, cause the people always married in their village.
For the "lady-in-waiting" I really don´t have an answer. In those days the youngest son inherited the farm ("Anerbenrecht"), the elder ones had to work on the farm of their brother or at an other place. The girls had to marry otherwise they worked in the household as a lady-in-waiting. In Spenge there were the "Muehlenburg" (Castle), "Königsbrueck" in the neighbour-village of Wallenbrueck and the Warmenau-manor. May be that Margarethe worked there. May be that you have to take a look to the church-records of Werther/Westphalia, Joellenbeck or Neuenkirchen, I don´t know.
I´ll send you an attachment by e-mail, which show you some results of the German genealogy-page. There some facts of Obervahrenholz.
Have a look for this homepage, that includes a lot of persons from Werther and Wallenbrueck: www.gerdblotenberg.de http://www.angelfire.com/folk/blotenberg/
Best wishes frome Germany
Karin Kersting

It would appear that keeping an eye out for especially information on Konigsbrueck, apparently ruled by Count von Hohenthal, would be the best bet. It even has a tie to Dresden: "KONIGSBRUECK, a town on the Pulsnitz river, 14 miles north-north-east of Dresden, with a palace (residence of the count of Hohenthal) and 1,750 inhabitants, is noted for its potteries." After 1837, Count Hohenthal. chamberlain at Dresden, married the widow Princess Marie, sister of the King Christian IX of Denmark (the fourth son of the late Duke Wilhelm of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg and of Princess Louise of Hesse-Cassel), and widow of Baron Lasperg, widowed May 9, 1843. Count Hohenthal died August 19, 1860.

It is my best guess that Margarethe Grungras/Gronegress did work for a local royal family prior to her marriage, but no supporting evidence will be found.