Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Frederick "Fritz" Ostenberg - Short Biography

Frederick Ostenberg, German Immigrant

A number of my German immigrants came to southern Wisconsin around the middle of the 19th Century. One of the first to arrive was Frederick Ostenberg from Elberfeld, Kingdom of Prussia. Frederick was born in 1816 and was the son of Heinrich Dietrich Ostenberg (b.1785, d.1860?) and Elizabeth Strackbein (b.1790, d.?). Elberfeld is a village in eastern Germany in an area historically known as the Rhineland. By the time Frederick was born, the Rhineland was under the control of Prussia which, by then, had become the most powerful of the German Principalities. Heinrich and Elizabeth reportedly had five children of which two would come to America and three would stay in Germany. To date, no other information about the life of the Ostenbergs in Elberfeld has been found.

Both the Frederick (section 9) and Charles (section 16 & 17) Ostenberg
farms can be seen in this partial 1873 map of the Town of Blue Mounds,
Wisconsin. Also, in the upper left corner is an advertisement for
"C. Ostenberg, Dealer in Dry Goods, Groceries, etc."

Frederick and his father, Heinrich sailed for America in 1848. There is a "Fr." and "D." Ostenberg of the right age that sailed on the ship George Washington, arriving in New York in June of 1848. Since Elizabeth was not listed on the voyage, it had been assumed that she died in Germany sometime prior to that time. However, there is an Elizabeth living with Frederick and listed as 81 years old in the 1860 Federal Census. It is unclear, at this time, if she came over separately or perhaps the Fr. and D. Ostenberg listed on the George Washington are not the correct ones. It should also be noted that another son, Charles, along with his wife and four children, came over the next year. Those ship's records have not been found but it could be conceivable that Elizabeth came to America with them. Regardless, it appears as if Elizabeth was in America and lived into the 1860's.

The two brothers settled in Dane County Wisconsin and both can be found in the 1850 Federal Census. Frederick, possibly a border, was listed right below Charles and family in the town of Blue Mounds. Their father, Heinrich has not been found in the 1850 census but he is listed in the 1860 mortality schedules and noted to have died in the Town of Cross Plains in Dane County. Both Frederick and Charles would raise families and farm in Blue Mounds. Charles, along with a number of his children (including some grown) would leave Blue Mounds in 1876 and head to Nebraska and settle just west of Omaha. He and his descendants would have a large presence in that area.

Frederick married Elizabeth (Ann Elizabeth) Bilse (b.1835, d.1892) in June of 1853. She was 20 years his younger and was from the Bilse family that came as part of a wave of settlers to an area known as Germany Valley in Blue Mounds. In addition to Elizabeth, John Bilse and Gertrude Bilse, probably siblings were also living with the Ostenberg family for a time in the 1850's and 60's. Elizabeth was the daughter of  Christian Bilse and Martha Elsbad. It is unclear if Christian ever came to America but his brother Henry did settle in Blue Mounds. Henry (or Heinrich) and family sailed from Brennen to New Orleans in 1852 on the ship Uhland. Listed with them, was an Elizabeth Bilse, age 16. There was more then one Elizabeth Bilse in Blue Mounds but based on the age, this could be the one who married Frederick Ostenberg. If so, she traveled to America with her uncle (she is listed one line removed from the Henry Bilse family in the passenger list).

Frederick, who was known as "Fritz" and Elizabeth farmed and raised six children. Their children were:
  • John (b.1856, d.1899); married, had at least two children and was noted to have died in Verona, Wisconsin.
  • Mary (b.1858, d.1931); married Henry Kahl and farmed in Blue Mounds.
  • Anna (b.1859)
  • Amelia (b.1861)
  • Augusta (b.1863, d.1935); married Henry Becker and farmed in Blue Mounds. 
  • Katrina (b.1865); married a man named William Malone.
  • Matilda (b.1867); married Henry Opsal and farmed in Blue Mounds. Matilda was admitted to the Dane County Asylum and spent the rest of her life there.
  • Elizabeth (b.1876); married Henry Goldbin and farmed in Blooming Grove, Dane County, Wisconsin.
The gravesite of John Ostenberg, the only son of
Frederick and Elizabeth who died at the age of 43.

Mary and Augusta Ostenberg. These daughters of Frederick and Elizabeth would
both marry boys from nearby farms and live out their lives in Blue Mounds, Wisconsin.
Frederick operated a large farm on section nine in west central Blue Mounds. The farm encompassed almost 160 acres. In 1880, Frederick died. His wife, Elizabeth was also noted to have died in 1892. They are burried in Union Cemetery in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin. Their only son, John was noted to have died in Verona while only about 42 years old. Since Charles Ostenberg and most of his family left for Nebraska before 1880, the Ostenberg name largely disappeared from the Blue Mounds area after that time.

Frederick "Fritz" Ostenberg and Elizabeth
Bilse are buried at Union Cemetery in
Mount Horeb, Wisconsin.

Research Notes: The information for this report came from some on-line family trees, census records and other vital records.

This is one of a series of short biographies of individual ancestors. These are undertaken, from time-to-time, when enough information becomes available about an individual.


  1. Hello my name is Ostemberg, and would like to know if our family has some link. I know that my ancestors Frederick and John Iron, escaped from Germany are immigrants in barrels of coal
    my email is

    1. Rodrigo,

      Thanks for contacting me; I would be interested in knowing that as well, I will e-mail you directly.

  2. Bruce, I found your blog doing a google search. You have a lot of info, thank you. My Great Grandmother was TK Ostenberg Hannan of Mead NE. Her Father was Thomas Ostenberg, her Grandfather was Charles Ostenberg. Charles and his wifes grave are just outside of Mead, went there this summer. I have the history of Mead book here and it says that Charles Came to Blue Mound Wis in 1849, their second son Fredrick died in the Atlantic Crossing. Heinrich would thus be by Great, great, great, great grandfather, I think I have that right. Do you know if they are buried in Wisconsin? Thanks for any info.

    1. Hey Jimbob,

      Thanks for contacting me. I have not been able to find the graves of the parents of Frederick and Charles Ostenberg. The only thing I have is the 1860 census that lists Dietrich Ostenberg (Heinrich Dietrich?) as dying that year in Cross Plaines, Wisconsin. That also lists him as a widower but that does not square with the listing of Elizabeth Ostenberg, age 81 and living with Frederick and family in Blue Mounds (also in 1860 census). So there are some mysteries here that have not been solved. Click one of my my contact buttons if you want to talk more.

    2. Want to establish contact. My grandmother was Minnie Mae Ostenberg from Mead, Neb. Her brother was Thomas Ostenberge, and her sister was Tress Ostenberg Hannan and Lydia Ostenberg Challburg. Minniw Mae married John Resler of Neb, and moved to Claremore, of their three children, Janet, John T. (killed in World War 2), my mother Mary Ostenberg Resler married Doyle T. Grogan, of which I am the son. More family history would be appreciated to

    3. Here is a letter I have from Great Uncle Frank T. Ostenberg, written in 1953: "Minnie [Ostenberg Resler] furnished the following extract from one of the German family bibles-- Caroline Ostenber nee 'Juliette' was born in Elberfeld Prussia July 20 1819. Married Chas. Ostenberg, March 1841. Came to the U.S. in 1848. Settled first in Wisconsin where they lived 28 years. In 1876 came to Colfax Co., Nebr. Then moved to Saunders, Co. in 1877. Their house was the 3re erected in the town of Mead. "
      Frank then wrote to the Mayor of the City of Elberfeld and received a replay that the Wuppertal-Elberfeld records were destroyed in the war. Would appreciate more family information. Thank you.

    4. Steven,

      I will email you and am happy to give you any information I have . . .

  3. Bruce, I descend from the union of Mary Ostenberg and Henry Kahl. I live in Dane Cty, Wi. Recent ancestry dna results say I am 2% Jewish and I have narrowed it to these surnames. Do u know if the Ostenberg were of Jewish descent? Alice Drake

    1. Alice,

      Thanks for visiting my site. I have not seen any information that would lead me to believe that there is Jewish ancestry in the Ostenberg line, however, it is certainly possible. With such a small amount, I am guessing it is pretty far down the line (and could be from spouses families as well). I do not have that much on the family prior to coming to America but I will look thru my data and let you know.