Ahlf History

Ahlf History
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Please visit the following site for extensive history on the area: http://www.v-roenn.de/Chronic0/chronic0.html 

Version 1.

Von Aleff  to Ahlf  

As reported by Eugene Davis Ahlf of Oakland/Alameda family, it appears, but is still speculative, that among  the FIRST settlers of Kehdingen Land, a "low country" like Holland, near Osten and Oderquardt and were the Von Aleffs (meaning "from living water" or living near water or living from water or ??). They settled on dry islands in swampy lowlands near the Elbe River and North Sea where they began creating dikes to increase their lands until they eventually had diked off a very large area.  The Von Aleff (or Von Alff) were early important folks.  Then (around 1650? - 1700?) "robber barons", of the von der Decken families came and took power. The von Aleff (Alff) became Aleff (Alff) which is less prestigious.  It is believed that they then settled in and became the farmer families that now populate this lowland farm and orchard lands area. There is also a possible link in the family crest from an arrow to the log/stump leaning to one side - speculation is that this coincided with change of fortunes for Von Aleff to Aleff, losing power and becoming farmers. This may be true but in any event is interesting! 

Pronunciation seems to be as expected in German and not as many of us use in American.  " Awlf' is the German pronunciation. 

(Taken from notes in a letter from Brad Ahlf to Kent Ahlf in 1997) 

Version 2. 

Swedish Heritage

Another version comes from Horst Ahlf at the Farkrug Inn of Osten. He relates that family dates back to a Swedish Soldier who settled in Kehdinger Moor. His name was “Mayor Ahlfson”. Apparently Swedish soldiers were in the area and Mayor stayed in 1638. This is similar to story from August Ahlf of Hawaii (Schuttdamm Family). Per August, the family dates back to Germany about time of Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden from 1594 to 1632. He invaded N. Germany at that time (1630 - 1632).  It has been reported that Ahlf means "oar holder" in Swedish. 

Another recent report suggests that the Ahlf arrived in the Kehdiner Moor / Osten / Oederquardt area about 1700.  "The Freudenberg, Stegemann and Ahlf folks lived on the east side of the Elbe river, south of Itzehoe and near Krempe and north of Pinneberg. This is north of Hamburg, Germany. About 1710-1735, they moved across the Elbe river to Kajedeich and Oderquart area. They married Raap, Bruemmerstede and Bremer folks."

Link to Gustavus II Adolphus History:   http://users.erols.com/lnorberg/GIIA.html 

I am open to all suggestion on this topic.


Version 3.

von Aleff to Ahlf

This version is the most thoroughly researched and is very believable. It was prepared in during the year 2008 by Peter Ahlf and suggests the family lived in the Kehdingen area as least as far back as around 1260. This is supported by a property sales document in the Archives in Stade. Following is an exerpt from a letter he sent me - The english version is a rough translation between Peter and I.

The following is Origin of Family Ahlf as I have researched. Some “leaps of faith” based on data have been included and explained: Two early versions:

  1. Swedish Version: I think absolutely not. The family name    

  does not come from the Swedish!. Also a suggestion arriving in Kehdingen from north of the Elbe River is wrong! Ahlf was already know by 1700.

  1. Ahlf name evolution.  I think this is correct. I would further add the evolution would include von Alff or von Alef to Aleff and Ahlf.


Information from Peter:

1. There are historical records and reports of the Land Kehdingen back to the year 800. Before that the family/tribe of “Chauken"   populated the area. At that time there was little solid ground.  The Elbe had various side arms and the country was constantly flooded (FCnerschwemmt). Also sea levels were rising. The region consisted of various islands and it was called Kehdingen Island Land. Around 800 the area pretty much entirely conquered by the  Saxon (Charles the  Great). "The local residents at that time lived on "dwelling mounds" – sounds like small man-made islands.   Later, around 900 - 1000 ring dikes were built around the various places. In the 10th & 11th century construction of a continuous  line of dikes through Kehdingens for drainage and irrigation. Incidentally, Dutch people were brought into the country for the construction.  With the new dike line settlement grew and people came from more distant places like Weser-Raum and Friesland. During this time the dominant church was the Archdiocese of Bremen Verden.    The practice of using a nickname and surname evolved around year 1000 in Germany. The nobles at that time were using surnames that  usually had evolved from the name of their home. Remember also that at time High German was not in use and the German spoken and written is today’s "flat German" very similar. Low German documents today are very difficult for most Germans to read, unless one has studied it.

For example occurring in the country Kehdingen name von de Dose - formerly "de Does," from the castle - formerly von Borch,  "from  the sands” and Latin “de arena", etc.   When a nobleman moved his residence, he changed his name, eg von Bremen to von Stade. You must also not expect that the former nobles from Kehdingen lived in castles and fortresses. 1. It was the low   nobility who there and 2.this nobility in Kehdingen did not have much   power. They lived mostly on small farms for crops or cattle which represented their small wealth.  W.von Bargen and other authors such as Mushardt from the 18th century have clearly established that the family "von Alff" was part of the old aristocracy in Kehdingen Land.    I am of the view that the name "Ahlf" evolved over the  centuries, from the name von Alff, so that all"Ahlf”   from Kehdingen or Land Hadeln are related ancestor. This cannot be prove at the moment and may not be possible, because many documents are missing. 

My family tree, which I believe is correct is as follows:  *1st* In the State Archives in Stade, which was the seat of government for Kehdingen, I located an original certificate from 15.08.1291. This document says that on this day a deed of sale of land from Johann von Blumenthal to John, the son of Mechthild from Laak was completed. For us it is important that in the document, as a witness, Henry von Alff, with additional "Aelvlete" is  listed. I.e. that the family “von Alff" existed in 1291. Further, if you assume that Heinrich von Alff was not a child at this time, that establishes for me that the family von Alff already existed around 1260, nearly 800 years ago. 

The authors of the books I read are in agreement that "von Alff" should have a corresponding place “Alff”, i.e where Alff is from. I have not been able to locate this place. William Ahlf indicated years before the research was done that there was a location calledon Alffshorn out. I don’t believe this is correct. 

  1. Mushard writes in the 18th century in his book from further "von Alff" as follows:

Johann von Alff married with Argard von der Brock.

Johann von Alff, son of Johann married Christina von Mandelslo

Gerhard von Alff, son of Johann married  Margaret von Eddenbüttel

Adele von Alff, daughter of Gerhard married Claus von Hadeln     

Mushard did not enter the years. If you look at other information from Mushard, regarding old Kehdinger family dealings and the dates of these, for example, the Family von der Brock, the people he mentions lived approximately 1450 to 1530/40. However the proof is connecting these people to the descendants of Heinrich von Alff from the year 1291 is missing.     

  1. Mushard begins with for 2 persons from the family von Alff       on. First Anna von Alff married Erich von der Brock – no date. , I assume that they lived in the 2nd half of the 16th century. This is based on the marriage of Anna’s son, Erich von der Brock in 1608.

The 2nd von Alff was Godele von Alff  who married Detlef Brummer of Bruchham. The daughter of these two, namely Margaret Brummer later     married Claus von Ronne, senior from Altendorf.  Godele’s information also had no dates. My best guess is about 1510.     

4. Mushard expects that by 1550 von Alff. I am not sure that is true. The 16th century in northern Germany was not a very nice time, the population was poor. Perhaps the family lost their land?

Mushard mentions in his biography, only 1 child from each family, for his purposes that was enough, but it was customary, at that time, for families to have 10-12 children. Many did not survive, I doubt that the entire von Alff family disappeard. See my additional comment in number five.     

5.   In Henry Borstelmnann’s book, "Families in Kehdingen Land", in the year 1581, there were 3 persons with the name Aleff in the   parish Oederquardt: Hinrich, Borcherdt (Barthold, Joh Aleff. Are these are  the root of the various lines that followed? Are they  brothers? Who was the father? Everything still unresolved on these questions! Still much work!  In 1663 there were 11 family already Kehdingen with the name "Aleff, Alf." From HG Poppe, this data was confirmed the "Oederquarter Community Chronicle" of 1955. Poppe’s evaluation was according to Treasury records (tax lists, it already was) and muster rolls.     

6. The evolution of Ahlf was fluid. I have examined the Kirch books and names in Oederquart and Krummdike for weddings. The names are there vary: Alf, Alfs, Ahlef, Alef Aleff and from 1800 on usually only  Ahlf. In individual cases, the names of father and son were entered differently. Also different spelling for the same person were found.  This likely because most of these people did not read and write and there were no written statements were. The names were written based on what the pastor heard and his knowledge of the family. With the transition from low to high German, the names changed again.     

7. The coat of arms, which has been unclear for the family Ahlf, has been confirmed by Mushard for the family von Alff. However, the von Ahlf coat of arms is different, there something different. How it corresponded to the zeitgeist.


  Kent, This is what I tell you. Actually, I wanted to send you the data on my personal ancestral line. But that is too much for now. Maybe the next time.

 I wish you and your family a happy and  healthy 2009. *


Other Information  

  1. Letter from Anna Ahlf of Chicago  via Ed & Irene Ahlf:  According to Anna, Cuxhaven is a Nordsee City near Hamburg. Many Ahlfs live in the area.  She quotes a newspaper clipping (photo) from Cuxhaven, Willy Ahlf in front of a pretty little house and garden.. It had a stone fence and beautiful flowers. Apparently he lived in Cadenberge and had a brother, Heinrich (his wife was Margarette). Willy and Margarette’s son Johannes corresponded with Anna.  Johanne now lives in Buxtehude?. Margarette states that the name Ahlf is actually Swedish descent and “roalty”

  2. Amandus Ahlf of Kehdingen Land (per letter from Rudiger Ahlf who is now living in Denmark) has found much information about his family, and he contends that Ahlf is the Hochdeutsch spelling of the name Alef in the Plattdeutsch dialect.

  3. Rudiger has found a Coat of Arms for the Aleff family (another alternate spelling is Alff -- as in our Hinrich Alff from 1670-1697) in a church in the town of Oederquart, on the south side of the Elbe River. Per his conversation with Amandus Ahlf, who lives near Oederquart, there is documentation to show that this is our Ahlf family. He also can show that the Lau family, now of Burg, Germany is related to his great-great grandmother(?) and came from Bulkau (spelled Hof Bulkow in early days) on the south side of the Elbe. The Hof indicated that it was a big farming area. Connecting the Ahlf-Lau family from Bulkow/Oederquart to Burg is Rudiger's next project. Amandus Ahlf also says that this area is kind of half-island. (Note: Phyllis Harrington Ahlf of San Francisco had a copy of the Ahlf Crest from the church in Odequardt carved in wood around 1970.)

  4. Adolphus is derived from Adolph , which comes from the Germanic given name Adalwulf , and is composed of the elements adal = noble + wulf = wolf. Until the Second World War, Adolph was a common given name. Cognate forms include Ahlf, Alf (Low German); Adolfi, Adinolfi (Italian). Adolfino is an Italian diminutive form, and other patronymic versions include Ahlfs, Alfs, Adolfsson (the last being Swedish).

  5. von Ronn family of Osten information. Very good history of the area.

  Kent Ahlf