The Behrens Connection

Anna HAVEMANN kept a few dozen photos which meant something to her. One shows three nattily-attired young men standing before their home:

The Behrens boys, 1937

The caption on the back reads:

"To Aunt Annie, Merry Christmas 1937
Behrens Boys, East Hartford Conn.
Frank, 24 yrs.
Edward, 21 yrs.
Charles, 11 yrs."

Read more about them here.

Anna also kept a photo of two Naval officers standing tall and proud -- Captain (later to be promoted to Rear Admiral) William Behrens (on the right) and his son, Lieutenant William W. Behrens (on the left), who would rise to the rank of Vice Admiral:

Admiral William Behrens (R) and son William (L)

Who are these men -- and how are these men related to Miss Anna HAVEMANN?

We now know, thanks to a Behrens "cousin" in Pennsylvania, that Anna KIEP Havemann married a "Mr. Behrens" (we don't know his name yet). At some point as yet unknown, they had a son: Henry Conrad Behrens.

Henry married Anna Dorothy WOHLSEN, who was a part of an old, proud family which owned and operated a planing mill in Lancaster, PA. We heard from a relative of hers via email (his name isn't mentioned for privacy reasons; email me if you're interested). Here is what he said:

"Anna Dorthy Wohlsen was the daughter of William Wohlsen and Catharine Klenck. She was born in 1874 and died in 1960. In 1894 she married Henry Conrad Behrens. He was born in 1868 and died in 1943. They had four children: William Wohlsen Behrens, b.1895 d.1965; Anna Dorthy Behrens, b.1895 d.1968; Esther Behrens, b.1896; and Henry T. Behrens, b1901 d1959.

"William Wohlsen owned and operated a large planing mill in Lancaster from around 1880 to the depression, when it failed. He was a member of Trinity Lutheran Church and active in the social and civic life of the community. His home still stands on a beautiful shaded city street. My great grandfather, Herman F. Wohlsen was William's younger brother. He immigrated to America in the 1870's, worked as a carpenter and for his brother, then started Herman Wohlsen Construction Company in 1890. The economy of Lancaster was booming then and in 10 years he established himself as one of the city's major builders constructing a large hotel, the YMCA, FW Woolworth's first store, and many row homes. I am a 4th generation member of Wohlsen Construction Company."

Henry Conrad and Anna WOHLSEN Behrens had a son on June 6, 1898. He is the man on the right in the photo above -- William Wohlsen Behrens (1898-1965). He had a long and distinguished career in the Navy, finally rising to the rank of Rear Admiral, and was laid to rest in Arlington Cemetary in 1965.

During his busy and distinguished career, William somehow found time to marry Nellie VASEY on October 22, 1921. They had a son -- the other man in the above photo, William W. Behrens, Jr. -- and a daughter, Patricia Anne. Like his father, William rose through the ranks and was eventually promoted to Vice Admiral. We have a 1931 photo which includes Anna Dorothy WOHLSEN Behrens (white-haired woman with two children) and a young William and Nellie Behrens (at right). Barely visible at the bottom right is young Patricia Anne's head.

The Admiral had a long and distinguished career from the time he entered the United States Navy Reserve in 1918 and advanced through the grades to Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy, 1945, while earning a chestful of medals. You can read his bio here.

His son, William Jr., graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1943 and -- like his father -- served in World War II; he went on to become a Vice Admiral. Read more here.

Another fascinating Web site, The Navy Log Online, is an unofficial Navy records repository (all entries are voluntarily added). A quick search yielded this information:

There is just one more mention of Vice Admiral Behrens: A Navy Web page which described the silver anniversary of the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory dedication. In the photo -- taken at the center's inauguration in 1973 -- he is the only man saluting. He's there because, at the time, he was the Assistant Deputy Administrator of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

But what about Mr. (unknown) Behrens and Anna KIEP Behrens?

According to our Behrens "cousin," Mr.(unknown) Behrens died some time after the birth of son Henry Conrad. The widow Anna married Barthold HAVEMANN, and they went on to have two children of their own: Adolph (known as "Otto") and Anna.

Since I first wrote about the Behrens, several descendants of the Admirals have found this page in a search engine (for reasons of privacy, I won't list their names without their permission), and have begun offering some wonderful information. One fascinating tidbit involves a mystery man, August Keep Behrens (see below).

As noted, I've heard from several descendants who have promised to help fill in some of the blanks. I'm still hoping to learn more about Anna WOHLSEN. Please just email me.

(Note: all that we know about the two Admirals Behrens was found on the Web. While none of it has been verified using traditional sources (census, vital records, etc.), it is a fascinating sample of the Web's potential for genealogical research.)

And there's also a photo labelled simply as "Uncle Will Behrens":

Uncle Will Behrens - who is he?

Currently, we have absolutely no idea who he is. From the previously referenced Behrens family photo, he apparently had a wife named Augusta ("Aunt Augusta"). Could he have been Anna's stepfather? He's apparently not Admiral William Behrens. Any researchers out there?

What about the "Behrens boys" photo? As it happens, there is a listing for a BEHRENS in East Hartford, Connecticut. Fran Behrens is the widow of Charles, the youngest, and has some interesting info about the boys. She also refers me to her niece, Marge (one of Frank's daughters), and supplies some missing details: their father was August Keep BEHRENS1 -- a tantalizing clue, as there's some recollection of an "Uncle Gus" going way back. August married Elsie DRAKE from Berlin, Germany (b. 1863).

With three phone calls, substantial progress is made. If only it was always so easy!

1 Could August's middle name actually be "Kiep"? If so, is he perhaps another son of Anna KIEP Havemann -- and, perhaps, the link between this Behrens family and the Havemann family!

Do you have any information about these Behrens cousins? Please let us know.
We have additional photos and more which we're willing to share.