Discovery of My 16th c. German Ancestors — The Tode Family

Tode Family Crest

Sometimes when you go looking for something, you find a lot more than you expected.

This is what happened last November when I was researching my first real German gown. Curious what women in Lübeck were wearing in the 16th century, I went hunting about the Internet for images. Why Lübeck? My grandfather’s ancestors (the Tody family) have always claimed to have come from North Germany, specifically Lübeck and Mecklenburg, and this is why I chose a German persona in the SCA. And knowing that my first German gown was going to be fashioned after one worn by a burgomeister’s wife, I looked at past Lübeck burgomeisters and their families for inspiration.

And that’s when I discovered the Tode family. Living in Lübeck. In the 16th century.


For those who know German, you probably know that Tody/Tode means “death.” But, as it turns out, that’s not it’s original meaning. According to The Community of Rondeshagen in the Duchy of Lauenberg’s family history site (Rondeshagen is in the Holstein area in N. Germany), Tode comes from “Todo,” who lived before the 12th century and  whose descendents took surnames of “Todonis” which later became Tode. The family tree from Todo down to the descendents in the 15th century has been recorded, many of whom lived in Lubeck. The name was not changed to “Tody” until immigration to the U.S.

I am able to directly trace my ancestry back to a farmer named Dietrich Tode, born in the village of Malchin in 1769 based on the 1819 census of Mecklenberg-Schwerin (Malchin is 20 miles north of Mecklenberg and about 120 miles east of Lubeck). Records stop with Dietrich (the 1819 census was the first general census), but Tode is a rare name — the census shows only 23 individuals with that surname (out of 388,000 persons total). I feel confident that if I could trace Dietrich back, I would find that he’s connected to the original “Todo” line that is dated back to the 12th century. Tracing Dietrich back further will likely be a lifelong project and will require visits to Germany, I’m sure. It’s possible that a “Magnus Diedrich Tode” born earlier in the century may be related, but I haven’t verified it yet.

So, without further adieu, I present two of my indirect ancestors’ paintings from the 16th century:

Christoph Joachim von Tode (1515-1579) - Mayor of Lübeck from 1566-1579 (image from Lübeck City Hall)


Agneta Tode Solers ( 1554-1617)


Christoph has a barett and the whole fur robe thing going on (definitely looks like a statesman), while Agneta has a lovely embroidered goller and an impressive ruff, not to mention a good display of wealth in the form of gold chains. Fascinating!

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2 Responses to Discovery of My 16th c. German Ancestors — The Tode Family

  1. Cristoph reminds me of your sweet Lord, the minute I saw this pic. LOL What do you think?

    • Genoveva von Lubeck says:

      Gregor does look a bit like Christoph, yes. Then people say Gregor and I look a bit alike, too! Clearly we both have a lot of German blood!

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