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Family genealogy traces origin to 16th century German-born liberator

Ancestor of Lautenbach clan served in army of Nassau brothers

Tags: Genealogy

LEEUWARDEN, the Netherlands - It took sixty years to research, compile and publish a book on four centuries of family history since Anton Lautenbach started it upon the urging of his sister. Assisted by an official Lautenbach family society, IJlst resident and author Jacob Lautenbach completed the task and he presented his book to Leeuwarden’s mayor Geert Dales near the grave of his earliest known ancestor at the Great or Jacobine Church. Research on German-born Jacob Lautenbach turned up so much information that the clan’s genealogy has become a 600-page family history, Lautenbach, vier eeuwen familegeschiedenis.

The four centuries Lautenbach history also is interwoven with that of the Dutch royal family, the House of Orange Nassau (considering that Queen Beatrix is a direct descendant of Nassau scion Johan and via a maternal line of his brother Prince Willem the Taci-turn), and with that of the independence struggle of the Netherlands and Friesland where lawyer Jacob Lautenbach settled, at the age of 47.


His arrival in Leeuwarden in 1584 was not the first time that Lautenbach had entered the Netherlands (then a constellation of fairly independent provinces). Indications are that he was an officer in the liberation army of the Nassau brothers who unsuccessfully in-vaded the country in 1568. Their nephew, Count Wil-lem Lodewijk van Nassau, the stadtholder of Fries-land, soon appointed Jacob Lautenbach as commissioner in charge of enlisting men for the provincial army.

The 1585 appointment was followed seven years later with Lautenbach’s promotion to the office of gerechtscholt, the presidency of the militairy court. The controversy which then erupted is the sort of thing every genealogist savours but few unearth: an extensive file on a colourful ancestor. The executive of Friesland’s provincial estates, Gedeputeerde Staten (GS), balked at the appointment because they preferred a Frisian instead of a foreigner who belonged to the stadtholder’s court. GS also disputed the salary range decreed by their governor who ranked as the highest military officer in the province, reminding him that this was their prerogotive and turf. Lautenbach’s ability does not seem to have been the issue, the political pecking order was. The appointment held however, suggesting that the stadtholder’s will prevailed.


Author Jacob Lautenbach found more interesting information on his ancestor Jacob. A conflict in 1605 over Reformed doctrine culminated in Lautenbach’s resignation from the military court and a five-year exile to the Frisian Sea island of Ameland. The problem - adherance to a 3th century heresy - was resolved by 1611, just in time for the 73-year old German-Frisian to die in peace, and to be buried in the Great or Jacobine Church in the Frisian capital. The burial plot marker still is legible and now was the site of the book presentation.

The German roots of the Lautenbach have not yet been researched but it is known that there are six places in Germany which are called Lautenbach. The book’s author has made some initial inquiries with universities for his ancestor’s credentials which so far eluded him. Interestingly, he also discovered the grave of Jacob’s mother in the same church. Much of the information about ancester Jacob was found in the diary of his contemporary Formerius (Vermeer) who extensively commented on the militairy officer’s activities. Jacob’s son also was in the militairy but a grandchild who served as a Reformed minister was the first of several Lautenbach generations in that vocation.

Descendants largely have stuck to the original spelling but an official’s error in 1833 created the Lau-tenbag line. Other variations are Loutenbach, Lauter-bach and Lauten in Australia. Other family members - all named Lautenbach - settled in Michigan, Iowa and Washington State.

Research can be addictive, opined Jacob Lautenbach. There always is one more detail to be checked. The manuscript was completed for printing but the research of family history is not. The Lautenbach researchers who also publish a family periodical twice a year, decided in 2002 to issue the book. Published in May 2004 by the foundation, the pressrun of 500 copies likely will be sold out within a year. The book is priced at 55 euro and can be order from Jacob Lautenbach, Galamagracht 29, 8615 EC IJlst, the Netherlands (phone 01131-515-53 18 23).