Origin of the Freewalt Surname
The origin of the Freewalt family surname is not entirely clear (at least to me). What is fairly certain is that the name is German. Most likely, the name is derived from the two German words “früh” and “wald,” which can be translated as “early woods.” So, the name in Germany was probably “Frühwald.” However, some alternative spellings have been found such as Früehwald, Freihwald, Freiwalde, Freiwald, Frehwald, Freewald, and (of course) Freewalt. The spelling “Freiwald,” which is formed from “frei” and “wald,” can be translated as “free woods.”
My grandparents, Orland and Doris Freewalt told me that they once heard somewhere that the name in Germany was completely different and that it was changed at some point to “free in the woods” (which would translate most directly as “Freiwald”) to escape some sort of trouble. Perhaps all that was changed was the spelling, but I have yet to find any information to confirm any theory about the name’s origin.
It is certainly possible that “Freiwald” is derived from Germans living in the towns of Freiwalde and Freienwalde in Eastern Germany, or Freiwaldau or Frvoldov which is now Jeseník in the Czech Republic. According to the census records of the federal state of Hesse in South-Central Germany in the mid-1800’s, the “Freiwald” family is listed as a “Zigeunerfamilie,” which can be translated as gypsy family. This may indicate why determining the origin of the surname is so problematic.
Certainly the spelling “Freewalt” can be attributed to the German pronunciation of “Frühwald” or “Freiwald.” This is complicated by the fact that many immigrants from Germany into America were illiterate and had to rely on US Immigration officials to spell the name. In some cases, the immigrants simply wanted to Americanize the spelling to blend in better with American culture.
Family of Conrad and Dorothea Freewalt
My branch of the family tree comes from Germany to America in Konrad Frühwald “Conrad Freewalt” (1844-1919) and his wife Anna Dorothea “Dorothea” (1845-1914). Conrad’s oldest sons were named Johann and went by their middle names, so it is possible that Conrad’s given name was Johann Konrad. Dorothea’s maiden name is uncertain, but was most likely Neipert, Neibert, Niper, or Neuber. The marriage license of Conrad and Dorothea’s son George list her maiden name as Wisenhaus, but that maiden name has not been found anywhere else. Information regarding the parents of Conrad and Dorothea has not (as of 24 Sep 2013) been found. According to 1870 US Census records, Conrad was originally from Darmstadt-Hesse, Germany. Both the 1900 and 1910 US Census records list his immigration date as 1869. His first recorded residence (according to the 1870 Census) was Norwich Twp., Franklin Co., Ohio, near what is now the Columbus suburb of Hilliard. According to the 1870 Census, Dorothea was originally from Baden-Württemberg in Southern Germany. The 1910 Census states that she immigrated in 1871, but since she was recorded in the 1870 Census, this is probably an error. The 1900 Census lists 1870 as her immigration date and the date of her marriage to Conrad. However, this is also uncertain as the 1870 Census identifies a child of Conrad and Dorothea named Harry (John Henry), who is listed as 1 years-old. The tombstone of John Henry “Harry” (given name Johann Heinrich) lists his birth date as 1868, so if this birth date is correct, Dorothea may have brought baby Harry with her from Germany or her date of immigration listed in the 1870 Census is incorrect.
By the 1880 Census, Conrad and Dorothea lived in Jerome Twp., Union Co., Ohio, near the town of Marysville. By this time, the couple had four children: Johann Heinrich “John Henry ‘Harry’” (1868-1937), Katherina “Katherine” (1873-1923), Anna Christiana “Christina” (1875-1914), and David (1878-1968). By 1890, the family was complete, having added Johann Georg “George” (1881-1930), Maria Elisabeth “Mary Elizabeth” (1883-1953), Frederich “Fred” (188-1964), and Edward “Ed” (1890-1967).
Both the 1870 and 1880 US Census documents use the spelling “Freewalt” for the name, as does a notice in the Union County Journal dated 24 Apr 1884 regarding the sale of some land. A notice in the Marysville Tribune dated 15 Jul 1891 regarding unclaimed mail uses the spelling “Freewald.” David is the only one in the family to have “Freewald” and not “Freewalt” on his tombstone. Why David used a “d” and not a “t” is unclear. Some records for Fred also use the spelling “Freewald,” but his tombstone states “Freewalt”.
By 1900, Conrad and Dorothea had moved their family to Liberty Twp., Mercer Co., Ohio a few miles west of Celina. That remained the family homestead until the deaths of Dorothea in 1914 due to complications from an unsuccessful tumor surgery performed on the kitchen table and Conrad in 1919 due to Bright’s disease (a kidney ailment now known as nephritis).
Perhaps when, if ever, the parents and siblings of Conrad and Dorothea can be identified, the family can be traced back into Germany and the mystery surrounding the origin of the Freewalt family surname in America can be solved.
-- submitted 24 Sep 2013 by Jason Andrew Freewalt
-- (son of Larry D. Freewalt, grandson of Orland D. Freewalt, great-grandson of Edward Freewalt, and great-great-grandson of Conrad Freewalt)
Click here to view the descendants of Conrad Freewalt
-- Jason Freewalt (1974- )
-- Larry Freewalt (1951- )
-- Orland Freewalt (1930- )
-- Edward Freewalt (1890-1967)
-- Conrad Freewalt (1844-1919)
-- Unknown Frühwald from Germany???