|The following was written in response to an inquiry made to Eugene
There are three main WENGERT families in the USA and I have not made
a connection in Germany that ties them together. Two of the
families, including mine, settled in Iowa in the 1850s. The third
came to the USA much earlier and settled in PA. I suspect the 3rd
is your family. I have noted that E-Bay has a genealogy of the PA
WENGERTs that is on sale from time to time....I use WENGERT as a search
name at E-Bay. The WENGERT family in PA is also connected with the
WENGERT DAIRY. I did see that there are three entries for her in
family trees at ANCESTRY.COM. Sorry I cannot help much more.
Here is what I know about the name...this was written by my brother,
What's in a Name?
To understand the origins of the Wengert name we have to begin far
from the Swabian countryside from which it came and turn our attention
to the Benedictine Abbey in Cîteaux, France. There in 1098 a
quiet revolution took place that affected some farm folk in far off
Germany or, as it was know in those days, the Holy Roman Empire of the
German Nation. Up until then most Benedictine monasteries were
more or less independent from one another, ruled by an abbot and serving
the local populace and prince. But many such monasteries became
corrupt and neglected the original intent of their founders to
"pray and work." The monks of Cîteaux reacted against
such laxity and became the "Puritans" of the monastic movement
in Europe. Their members were disciplined and austere; their
buildings were plain; their organization a model of efficiency.
But they also did something no monastery had ever done before: they
formed chapters in other cities with the same strictness, the same
architecture and the same government. Every abbot from these
sister monasteries was required to return each year to Cîteaux for new
instructions and discipline.
Like franchises of McDonald's, these "Cisterician" (Latin for
"from Cîteaux") monasteries sprang up all over Europe,
especially in the wilderness areas where the life was hard and the
challenges great. In Swabia (the land in southern Germany north of
Lake Constance between approximately Stuttgart and Ulm) important
Cistercian monasteries included Maulbronn and Bebenhausen. They
brought not only discipline from Cîteaux, they also brought grapes.
And that's where the story of the Cistercians intersects with our own
family's history. There had probably been some scattered
cultivation of grapes in the area since Roman times, but, unlike the
Rhine Valley, the Neckar River Valley (which runs from Tübingen through
Stuttgart to Heidelberg) was considered to have too harsh a climate for
such agriculture. The Cistercians loved a challenge, and so with
their arrival they and their peasant farmers cleared the rocky hillsides
and began to grow grapes. The vinyard or Weingarten (wine garden)
was called by the locals Wengert (Wen=wein/wine; gert=garten/garden)))and
If you ask Germans from anywhere else in Germany about our name, they
will mostly likely only know that it is German; but the Swabians will
delight in telling you that you are named after the many vinyards that
still dot the Neckar River Valleythanks to the Cistercians. The
wine is not often exported, but if it is, you will find it under the
label of Württemberg, the main principality in Swabia. The person
who grew the grapes, the vintner, was and is called a Wengerter, and
that may indeed be where our name comes from: somewhere back in the
distant Middle Ages our ancestors had purple feet! (It helps
explain why there are many Wengerts in this country who are not
relatives; they simply had a distant relative in the same occupation as
The "Wengerter" had the right during one month before the
Spring to sell what he grew himself without being subject to tax.
These Swabians (who are rumored to be tighter with their money than the
Scots: those who couldn't make it in Swabia moved to Scotland, the
saying goes), would stick a broom (the kind made with twigs and bound
together) out from the second floor of their house like a flagpole as a
sign that there was new wine for sale. I went to such an
establishment while living in Tübingen. There for the first time
I met a "Wengerter" who was not a relative but a vintner.
There are many jokes about the "Wengerter" in the area around
Tübingen and Reutlingen, mostly centering on the poor quality of the
wine and the traditional rivalry between the two towns. "I
hear your grapes were so hard they had to be stamped out by elephants
before you could get any juice," the Reutlinger says to the "Gog"
(the local name for the "Wengerter"). "Yes,"
replied the "Gog." "And they were still tired from
stamping out your grapes last year."