Topperwien Genealogy

by Bruce Topperwien

Surname list and family trees
Containing over 40,000 names and 13,500 families.
Names and details of currently living people have been omitted.

The name, its origin and meaning

Variants of the family name in the database include Topperwien, Töpperwien, Töpperwein, Toepperwein, Tepperwien, Depperwin, Deperwin, and Depervain.

The name appears to have originated in the Harz region of Germany. An article in 2007 by Hans Markus Thomsen, an expert in the origins of German names, indicates that the name derives from the occupation of Weinzapfer or 'wine tapper'. In Hans Bahlow's German Names, translated and revised by Edda Gentry (2nd Edition, 2002), it is stated that the name possibly means 'a special kind of wine'.


Relatives who died on military service during World War 1



The TOPPERWIEN family in Australia since 1849

Heinrich and Dorothea Töpperwien departed from Hamburg, Germany, on 2 May 1849 in the Australia under Captain W H Sleeboom. They sailed first to Rio de Janiero, arriving on 23 July 1849, and then on to the Province of South Australia, arriving at Port Adelaide on Wednesday, 12 September 1849.

Heinrich Philipp Töpperwien was a carpenter. His father, a master charcoal maker, was the mayor of the small village of Lonau in the Harz Mountains, near Herzberg am Harz, in the State of Hanover, Germany. Nearly all of the Topperwiens in Australia are descended from Heinrich and his wife, Dorothea.

The 1840s in Germany was a period of social, political and religious disruption and turmoil. Towards the late 1840s a severe business depression halted industrial expansion and aggravated the existing high unemployment in the cities. In the countryside, serious crop failures caused disastrous famines throughout northern Europe. The lack of food resulted in hunger riots in a number of the German states. This social unrest was further inflamed by the news in 1848 that the French government had been overthrown by an insurrection in Paris in February of that year. This resulted in a series of sympathetic revolutions against the governments of the German states. However, by the middle of 1849 the uprisings had been put down and the hopes of the liberals for democracy were crushed. These political problems were compounded by religious problems in some of the German states. In Prussia and other states in the German Confederation, the government attempted to settle longstanding religious disputes by forcing dissenters to accept the discipline of an orthodox and state-sanctioned Lutheran church. Prussia endeavoured to compel the acceptance of a revised liturgy. This resulted in conscientious resistance and a grouping of dissenters into separate sects. As in England when the Stuarts sought to force uniformity on the Puritans, these German dissenters sought refuge and religious freedom overseas in a new land. Whereas the Puritans founded colonies in North America, the Germans established settlements in Australia, mainly in South Australia and Queensland.

Another factor in the emigration to Australia was the fall in the price of lead and silver. The Harz Mountains contained lead and silver mines which had been worked for hundreds of years. From 1825 onwards, the metals extracted from the mines in South America flooded the European markets and put many of the Harz miners out of work. The Hannoverian government assisted many of these people to emigrate to Brazil, Mexico, Texas and South Australia. In South Australia, these German miners were active at Glen Osmond, Kapunda and Burra.

Heinrich and Dorothea Töpperwien
Heinrich and Dorothea Töpperwien

Heinrich Philipp Töpperwien
Heinrich Philipp Töpperwien

Heinrich & Dorothea Töpperwien's house at Redruth, Burra, South Australia
Heinrich & Dorothea Töpperwien's house at Redruth, near Burra, South Australia in the 1880s

Lonau, Herzberg am Harz, Niedersachsen, Germany

Extracts from Dr August Töpperwien's Notes in the Family Bible

Translated from the German by Anna Fuchs, and adapted from Dina Broughton's site.

In the middle of the 17th century the iron ore industry in Lonau came to a standstill [the Thirty Year's War]. In 1667 things were set in motion again in Lonau. After 1732 the iron smelting industry centred more on Andreasberg. In 1766 the industry finally closed down at Lonau but the Lonau foundry (near Herzberg) continued to function. It is the latter that must account for the description of Conrad Topperwien as "coal worker at the iron works" in 1809. In the village the only sources for making a living that remained were charcoal burning, timber felling, animal husbandry and arable farming on a subsistence level. Toward the end of the 19th century coal mining and the railway almost completely destroyed the charcoal burning industry. Herman August Töpperwien (1833-1892) was the last of the family still to have been employed as a charcoal burner in his younger years, as from the last third of the 19th century the more able of the village youths sought their living and their fortune in increasing numbers in the wider world; this was also the case of Karl Topperwien (1861-1903).

Our ancestors have been iron workers, respectively charcoal burners, since the beginning of time, i.e. for about 300 years. My great-grandfather and my grandfather were charcoal burners. The tradition passed down leads to the conclusion that even our ancestors before these were charcoal burners rather than iron mine workers. Apart from this at least as long as they lived in Lonau, they were also small-scale peasants owning about half a dozen Morgen [about 0.9 acres] of fields and meadows. The work of looking after the land and the animals was largely left to the mother and the older children. The husband would only stay at home when it came to planting the potatoes, to mowing, to lifting the potatoes and to killing the pigs. Fr. Gunther in his book Harz, 1910, gives an excellent description of the trade of charcoal burning.

The Töpperwien House
The oldest house known to have been inhabited in Lonau by a member of our family was the one directly on the left of the church, building No 75. It was still inhabited by Heinrich Christoph Töpperwien (1752-1817). The third of the building facing the church was only added in the eighties of the last century. Ever since the days of Heinrich Christoph's son, Heinrich Conrad (1788-1871), our family has been living in 'am Wasser', that is by the Lonau [River], house No 21 [now Kirchtal 12]. The author (of these extracts) spent almost all his holidays in that house until the death of his grandmother (in 1918), his Lonau playmates would, therefore, call him 'water August' (as in fact his father had always been nicknamed 'water Karl'.

He maintained the peasant style of the house, in inextinguishable memory; the back of the house (with sturdy settee, the simple blue food cupboard on the inside of the door of which the grandmother had noted important dates in chalk, with the table that contained a box for the preparation of cheese below its removable top); the living room in which he so often sat with the grandmother taking the evening meal by the light of the paraffin lamp and then listening to the hum of the spinning wheel and trying to get the laconic lady to talk about old times - and on one occasion, but on one occasion only, he got the hard, surly lady to sing a song from the time of her youth `In des garten dunkler Laube', the Sunday-room, in which the sun's rays would play all day long on the broad planks of the painted floor and on the strong polished surfaces of the ashen furniture and in which unending fascination was exercised by the clock case that contained grandfather's construction books and other rarities (new year's pistol, old knives, etc., etc.) by the old pictures of relatives above the sofa; the lumber room upstairs with the home made lute that belonged to a musical great-uncle who died young (Ernst Ludwig) and with grandfather's false teeth; the baking room in the adjoining bake-house into which the father when a boy would retire with his violin in order not to burden the grandmother with his `silly noise'; the attic below the boarded tiled roof which contained all sorts of old pots to collect the rain that seeped through in various places when the weather was wet (grandmother could not be persuaded to prevent the greatest part of the damage by having a few new tiles put on the roof), the deep vaulted cellar lit by two holes in the wall, the mice's abode (grandmother did not own a cat, probably because she resented having to give up some of the milk to the animal), access to which was by a completely dark, stone staircase without handrail and in whose entry there stood a dusty little bottle that father had filled with Easter Water from the Lonau some time in the sixties; the little garden on the slope between the house and the brook with its ancient, tempting pear tree and the wild hop whips; the village brook whose rushing noise would send the boy to sleep in the evening and wake him up in the morning; the steep, high meadow behind the house with its path from which the talented, adventurous great uncle, Heinrich Philipp, the joiner, waved for the last time when on his way to Osterode in order to set off on his big voyage to Australia from there, never to be seen again. Now the timber frame of the dear house that had been blackened by age has been covered with wood all around and has been painted and has acquired quite a different appearance.

View Larger Map
Lonau, November 2007 Lonau, November 2007 The Topperwien House at Kirchtal 12, Lonau, in November 2007
Lonau, November 2007 Lonau, November 2007 Lonau, November 2007
Lonau, November 2007 Lonau, November 2007 Lonau, November 2007
Lonau, November 2007 Lonau, November 2007 Lonau, November 2007

Genealogy and Topperwien-related links

Table of church records obtained from Dieter Töpperwein (in Holland) relating to Topperwien births and marriages in Germany in 17th and 18th Centuries.

Cindi's List of Genealogical Sites

South Australian GenWeb Project

Dina Broughton's page

Bruce Topperwien, PO Box 367, Woden, ACT, 2606 AUSTRALIA
Ph: 61-411 154 743


© 2011 Bruce Topperwien