WEEK 19 – Augustus Hettig and how he found a way

The family story goes that my great, great grandfather, Augustus, was 17 years old in 1867 and was faced with having to mandatory service in the military. Not wanting to serve, he apparently found a way to escape it, and came to America instead. So, he is the subject of Week 19 of the 52 Ancestor Challenge, in which the theme is “There’s a Way.”

Unproven facts say that Augustus was born about May 27, 1850, in Leipzig, Germany. His true name is not known, but some family members think it might have been Leppart.

The Austro-Prussian War was taking place around this time frame. The Kingdom of Prussia formed the North German Confederation with allies, and took control of government, military and foreign affairs. Mandatory military service was being enforced by the Prussian government.

For whatever reasons, Augustus did not want to be forced to enter the military and be forced to go to war. So, he made his way to the port at Bremen and was said to have stowed away on a ship that was bound to America. On the ship, he had befriended a family with the last name of Hettig, who took Augustus under their wing. Augustus went on to live with this Hettig family and took on their last name and he was known as Augustus Hettig ever since.

I had discovered that Augustus did in fact, live with a Hettig family. I found him at the age of 20 living in the 1870 Census with Valentine and Sofia Hettig in White Haven, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Valentine and Sofia had 3 other sons living with them: Alvin, age 12; Lewis, age 10; and Otto age 7.

HETTIGValentine_nat2Luzerne County did not have naturalization records for Augustus, but they did have them for Valentine. These records indicated that Valentine had come to America on June 5, 1867 in New York.


A search of the passenger records confirmed this. Valentine Hettig, his wife Sofia and their sons, Alvin, Lewis and Otto were found on the passenger arrival records on the Baltic, which arrived on June 5, 1867.  There no SSBalticPassengerAugustus “Hettig” listed. However, right under Valentine Hettig and his family, was an “Aug. Schnabel, age 17.” Could this possibly be my great, great grandfather? Is this how he had found his way to America and his new life?

Someday, I hope to learn more and find an answer to that question.






  1. Friday, November 3, 1933; page 6, col 5. Obituary for August Hettig., The Otsego Farmer, Cooperstown, New York.
  2. Ancestry.com, 1870 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009), Ancestry.com, Year: 1870; Census Place: White Haven, Luzerne, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1365; Page: 393B; Image: 57; Family History Library Film: 552864. Record for August Hetick.

  3. Luzerne, Pennsylvania, Petition record, Valentine Hettick..; Luzerne County Courthouse, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

  4. Year: 1867; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 280; Line: 11; List Number: 528




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