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Johannes Dietlein 1767 - 1847
Report by Shaun Griffiths - “The Life and Times of Johannes Datlen”
Originated November 1999

This article is intended to be a celebration of the life and times of the man we know as Adam Datlen. The earliest known ancestor of the Datlen line who built a new life for himself and his family in England and the forefather of all known Datlen's in the world today. This presentation is based on my own assumptions and interpretations of the known facts from various sources including my own research and the Datlen Family Tree Book, first edition, Andy R Datlen.   I have indicated, where appropriate, those statements which are factual and those which are based on assumption. I will refer to our subject as Johannes throughout this text in order to avoid confusion with his sons named Adam.

HIS BIRTH : 1767
The death[1] and burial[2] records for Johannes tells us that he was 80 years old when he died in 1847. Although his age at death may not be accurate, we can calculate his approximate birth date to be 1767.

The earliest known record of Johannes' existence is the baptism record of his son, Adam William (St Mary's Church, Chatham, 1801)[3]. It is this document that tells us his original name was Johannes. His surname is less straight-forward. His children's baptism records all give different spellings for their surname. An explanation for this could be that the registrars, faced with Johannes' foreign accent, guessed the spelling of his surname. Johannes himself spelt his name Dietlein or Dietlien. This is evident from the signature he left on his certificate of marriage to Susannah Hammond in 1836[4].

Adam Datlen Signature

Examples of this name can be traced back to well before the 1800's and it is still in use today. At around the same time his sons were signing their names as Datlen, this may have been an attempt at anglizising the name rather than being the true spelling. This would explain why the Datlen lineage is so unique today.

We know that Johannes was foreign born from the 1841 census return[5]. Given his name and taking into account the political situation of Europe at the turn of the century I would suggest that Johannes was Austrian or possibly German (Germany did not exist as a country at this time but as a number of smaller states). A search on the Internet of the name Dietlein confirms a German connection[6] and past research has also connected the Datlen name to Germany.

HIS MARRIAGE : c1790 - 1800
By studying the baptism records for Johannes' children we learn that he was married to Phoebe[3]. But what about the date of their marriage? If we assume that they were married a year or so before the birth of their first child Adam William in 1801 then Johannes would have been about 33 when he married Phoebe. We could speculate that they married younger, say aged 25 but that would leave an eight year period before the birth of Adam. Is it possible that the couple had more children before Adam?. There is no evidence of this in the Chatham registers nor is there any record of marriage between Johannes and Phoebe. They may have married and had a couple of children in their country of origin or possibly elsewhere in England prior to settling in Chatham.

Based on the evidence I would speculate that Johannes (and possibly his wife and several children) emigrated to England about or before 1800. The Napoleonic wars were raging across Europe at this time. "Over population, lack of work opportunities, war and political upheaval in Europe contributed to masses of Europeans leaving their homeland for a new life in England. Some settled for only a few years before travelling on to America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, etc., and some for generations."

Great Britain had joined with Ireland to form the United Kingdom, and the dawn of the Industrial Revolution brought new opportunites for employment. "Many came over to work in the sugar baking industry in East London."It was the 1851 census that told us that the sons of Johannes and Phoebe were born in Chatham, Kent, England in the early 1800's[5]. They were probably directed here with the promise of work in the town's famous docks. As mentioned earlier, they could have stayed in Dover or elsewhere before settling in Chatham.

HIS CHILDREN : 1801 - 1811
The first known child of Johannes and Phoebe was Adam William born in Chatham in 1801[3]. Unfortunately he died before his first birthday[7]. Following what must have been tradition back then, the second son born in 1804 assumed the same name of his deceased brother. (Adam Datlen went on to name his first born son William Adam). Joseph was born in 1806, Charlotte in 1808 and Robert in 1811[3].

The death record for Adam William in 1802 names his father as Adam as does his other children's baptism records indicating that Johannes changed his name to Adam at some time between 1801 and 1802.

The last record of the family's life in Chatham is the entry of death for Phoebe in 1813[7]. This date coincides with the possible birth of their next child and it could be that Phoebe died in child-birth.

Johannes lived in Chatham for at most 13 years following the death of his wife Phoebe. We do not hear from the Datlen family again until the marriage of his sons Adam, to Ann Marlow in Dover, 1827[3] and Robert, married Mary Ann Willis in Dover, 1831[3].There was always a suggestion that Johannes was married to Martha[5]. She was also presumed to have been the mother of his children but we know now this was not so. The only reference to Martha Datlen is her burial record, Dover 1835 aged 63 putting her year of birth at about 1772[2]. Although there is no direct evidence that Johannes was married to Martha there is nothing to suggest otherwise. (He had to find something to occupy his time!) Adam & Robert were prolifically producing offspring, over 20 children between them. The whereabouts at this time of Joseph and Charlotte are unknown. In November 1836 Johannes married Susannah Hammond[4].

HIS DEATH : 1847
Johannes Died of old age on the 12 of March 1847 aged 80 years[1]. His occupation was listed as Grocer. He was buried at St James's Church, Dover[2] which now lies in ruin, the graveyard turned into a leisure centre car park. When I last checked Johannes' remains were buried beneath a white Ford transit van parked in bay 35 ;-)

There is still quite a bit of research that can be done to complete our picture of the early Datlens. Here I have outlined what I reckon can still be discovered by searching known archives and registers. What I consider to be the Holy Grail in the Datlen story is the country of origin for Johannes. The public records office at Kew, London contains the Home Office Denization and Naturalisation papers and correspondence 1789-1871 ref: HO1. If we could find an entry for Johannes then we could learn so much. Not only from where he came, but where he was going and who travelled with him. There are also various manuscripts, documents and registers in Maidstone Record Office which may give us further clues into Johannes history.

If we discover that Johannes arrived in England and lived in a place prior to Chatham then we may be able to check the parish registers for that town. We would be looking for a record of marriage between Johannes and Phoebe and any evidence that they had children before Adam William. A further visit to Canterbury Cathedral would be worth while. It would be interesting to find the marriage record between Johannes and Martha. Also I would like to know the fate of Johannes' other children Charlotte and Joseph. Maybe they too got married and raised families in Dover. Maybe their future generations survive today adding further to the ever-growing Datlen Family Tree.

[1]   General Register Office Death Certificate for Adam Datlin (Quarter March 1847, District Dover, Vol 5, Page 88) - died 12th March 1847 in the Parish of St. James, Dover, Kent - aged 80 years - Death registered 13th March 1847.
[2]   Canterbury Cathedral Archives - Parish Registers of Saint James’ Church, Dover, Kent
[3]  St. Mary’s Parish Registers, Chatham (Register of Baptisms 1790-1815)
[4]  Canterbury Cathedral Archives - Parish Registers of Charlton Church, Dover, Kent.
[5]  “The Datlen Family Tree” book by Andy R Datlen, first edition March 1999
[6]  Family Search Internet Site -
[7]   St. Mary’s Parish Registers, Chatham (Register of Burials 1800-1820)


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