The English Sternbergs

Royal Horse Guards uniform (1806)
Royal Horse Guards uniform (1806)

I have written already about the ancestry and descendants of Francis George Sternberg who was born in Lüneburg in 1761 and was my 4G Grandfather. This post will be more about those Sternbergs who are not my direct ancestors, but about whose  lives and relationships I have information and indeed continue to learn, mainly through contacts via the internet. This, I believe, is a growing and important way of exchanging history and background. It is so much faster and responsive than traditional library research and communication. With this in mind, I am eager to hear from anyone who has information about the Sternbergs and related families. I should mention that by ‘the Sternbergs’ I mean those connected with Francis George and his descendants who branched out from Northampton area in the nineteenth century. Many Sternberg families, particularly those in the USA are the result of migration from Eastern Europe and Russia and appear to have no link apart from the same name.

On which note: where does the name ‘Sternberg’ come from ?

1) German – habitational name from any of various places so named all over Germany.

2) Jewish (Ashkenazic): ornamental name from German Stern ‘star’ + Berg ‘mountain’, ‘hill’.

The first of these seems to fit, There is for example a village called  ‘Sternberg am See’ (Sternberg on Sea/Lake) about 80Km east of Lüneburg on the shore of the ‘Grosser Sternberger See’ and there are many more examples of the place name in North Germany.

Whatever the origins of the name, the Sternberg family was established in Lüneburg with strong musical connections from at least 1716 when Heinrich Sternberg is first recorded. Heinrich was Musician at the Monastery School in Lüneburg from 1716 to 1734 and Town Musician (Ratsmusikant) from 1734 to 1757. He married Anna Catharina Otzmann on 14 November 1719 in St Michael’s Church, Lüneburg. This is now the focus of a Bach Festival, since Johan Sebastian Bach studied at St Michaels Monastery school from 1700 to1702 as a choirboy and later played the church organ. It is quite possible that Bach and Heinrich Sternberg were acquainted. Furthermore, when Heinrich’s daughter, Hinrietta was baptised at St Michaels on 3 December 1733, one of her Godparents was “Capellmeister Telemann”, the famous composer. Heinrich’s second son, Hartwig Sternberg succeded him as Town Musician in 1757.

Hartwig Sternberg had one daughter, who died young and one son Franz Georg Sternberg, anglicised to Francis George

He is my ancestor who came to England and enrolled as a trumpeter in the Royal Horse Guards Regiment in 1786 and established the branch of what I refer to as ‘The English Sternbergs’.

Since the marriage certificate of his son George refers to his father as  ‘George Sternberg, Professor of music’, it is fair to assume that George was the name by which he was commonly known.

Frances Furnivall was the daughter of  Sergeant Major Thomas Furnivall of the Bedfordshire Militia.

Thomas Furnivall - about 1790
Thomas Furnivall – about 1790

He was appointed Sergeant in the Leighton Buzzard Company when the county militia was raised in March 1760 during the Seven Year’s War, and was promoted Sergeant Major in April 1779 during the war with America. He died in Bedford in March 1800.

So it seems likely that Francis George Sternberg the young musician was befriended by (or billeted with) Thomas Furnivall, his wife Elizabeth and their family in Bedford in 1788 and that a relationship between FGS and Frances led to marriage in October 1789. FGS is recorded as a ‘widower’ on his marriage register entry at St Mary’s Church, Bedford, but no record has yet been found of his first marriage or indeed the name of his first wife.



















FGS and Frances had ten or eleven children. This tree shows how I am descended from them.

click to enlarge
click to enlarge

It is, of necessity, simplified since many branches had lots of children !

Not shown on this tree is William Sternberg. William is a bit of a mystery, since no record of his birth has yet been found. It is possible (and I believe, likely) that he was FGS’s son from his first marriage. He appears in the records only after 1820. William’s business, as a gilder, was located at Bradshaw Street, Northampton in 1823-4. Bearing in mind that my 3G Grandfather George Sternberg (FGS’s son b 1798) was a carver and gilder, it seems highly probable that William was related. I have, for the time being, left William out of the main tree until more is known about his parentage. Another pointer to William not being the son of Frances (Furnivall) is that Thomas Furnivall Sternberg, born in 1791 was clearly named after her father and that would suggest that Thomas was her eldest son. Following the child’s presumed early death, their next son was also baptised Thomas in 1794. What is more, Eizabeth Furnivall Sternberg, born in 1793 was given the name Furnivall too, so it seems unlikely that William really was a Furnivall grandson.

The known ‘sightings’ of a William Sternberg during the early part of the nineteenth century are mainly taken from the International Genealogical Index (IGI), which records the marriage of William Sternberg and Elizabeth Redmayne at Lancaster on 23 October 1834 and the baptism of an (Emily) Amelia Elizabeth Redmayne Sternberg to a William and Elizabeth Sternberg on 12 May 1837 at Leek, Staffordshire, This could be the same William  (His possible ‘little sister’ Amelia died in 1810 at the age of five, so perhaps William’s daughter was named after her)

In the 1861 census Elizabeth Sternberg widow, mantle maker, is living in Barnstaple with daughter Amelia E.R. age 24 Elizabeth’s birthplace given as Yorkshire. Amelia is a milliner, born at Bolton le Moors, Lancashire.

In the 1871 and 1881 censuses, Elizabeth Sternberg is, sadly, a patient in the Devon County Lunatic Asylum at Exminster. She died in 1884.

Amelia married Stephen Henry Wadham in 1876.  Stephen was a widower and he and Amelia were living in Barnstaple at the time of the 1881, 1891 and 1901 censuses. They do not appear to have had any children, this is, perhaps not surprising, considering the fact that Amelia was almost forty when they married. The couple did however have a reducing number of Stephen’s children living with them as the decades progressed.

The IGI records the baptism of an (Emily) Amelia Elizabeth Redmayne Sternberg to a William and Elizabeth Sternberg on 12 May 1837 at Leek, Stafford – could this be the same William? (His possible ‘little sister’ Amelia died in 1820 at the age of 5 – was William’s daughter named after her ?)
Redmayne is a northern english name
See 1861 census Elizabeth Sternberg widow, mantle maker, living in Barnstaple with daughter Amelia E.R.(24) Elizabeth’s birthplace given as
Yorkshire. Amelia is a milliner.
Occupation: Gilder
1881 Elizabeth Sternberg in Devon County Lunatic Asylum Exminster
Daughter married Stephen Henry Wadham 1876. Living Barnstaple 1881 census
William Sternberg Tree
William Sternberg Tree

In between the two Thomases were born Elizabeth and Rosina.

Elizabeth Furnivall Sternberg was born in 1792. In 1837, Elizabeth Sternberg, whose marriage certificate gives her (deceased?) father as ‘George Sternberg, Musician’ married William Rose, a printer, who was a widower and son of James Rose, gentleman. Elizabeth was therefore forty five at the time of her marriage. They seem to have moved from Newport Pagnell to Portland Place area of London in both 1851 and 1861, but Elizabeth has changed her place of birth to Birmingham.

George, Frances, Frederick, Amelia, Caroline and Samuel Hartway (an anglicised version of Hartwig, the name of FGS’s father ?)  followed between 1798  and 1809, but Amelia died at the age of five in 1810 and Samuel lived for less than three months. There is no further record of a Caroline Sternberg, so she may have died in infancy.

Rosina Sarah Sternberg was born on 11 June 1793 in Northampton. She was baptised on 30 June 1793 in the church of  St John, Bedford. A second baptism took place on 22 January 1794 at St Giles, Northampton.

On 28 July 1842 Rosina married William Amerson, a tailor, at All Saints Church in Northampton. They appear to have had no children.

In the 1841 census she is living at Woolmonger Street, Northampton which was also occupied by eighty year old James Rose, presumably the father of her brother in law, William Rose.

Rosina’s brother George was living with the Amersons both before and after his marriage to Lydia Bird. (See entry on George Sternberg)

Frances Maria Sternberg was born in 1800 and clearly followed in the musical tradition of her family She taught Italian and English Singing and the Pianoforte, being described in the Northampton Mercury in January 1827 as a pupil of Ferrari, Knyvett & Beale

She was married in September 1826 to George Carver Cuffley, in the presence of Francis George Sternberg and John Wright. Frances and George do not appear to have had children.

Sophia Sternberg was born 1 December 1801 in Northampton, and died 15 June 1874 in 8 Heaton Road, Peckham, Surrey. She married Alexader Viner, who was described as a Wine Merchant and Gentleman on 15 December 1825 in St Margaret, Leicester. He was born 1802 in Oxford, and died 24 September 1862 in Walthamstow. Essex.

Thomas Sternberg, born in 1794 was, I originally thought, the likely author of  ‘The Dialect and Folk-Lore of Northamptonshire’, published in 1851. I had no definite proof that the author was the same Thomas Sternberg, but the combination of the name, plus the unlikely coincidence of there being two Thomas Sternbergs of the right age and background in Northamptonshire in 1851 pointed decisively to that conclusion.

However, recent correspondence with Stephen Miller, an expert on Folklore writing, has revised this assumption. There was a second edition of  ‘The Dialect and Folk-Lore of Northamptonshire’ also published in 1851. The author’s name on this publication is Vincent Thomas Sternberg, Thomas’s son, born in London in December 1831 (see more below). Vincent would have been only nineteen in 1851, so clearly  displayed a precocious literary talent at an early age .

I am grateful to Stephen Miller for his input into this story. His article on the book was published in Folklore magazine on 25 Jun 2012

The volume is famous for being the first book to use the word ‘Folklore’

To quote from the introduction

“Folklore is a word with a short but turbulent history. An Englishman named William John Thoms coined it in 1846, to replace the cumbersome ‘popular antiquities’ then in vogue to designate the loving study of old customs, usages and superstitions. Five years later (in 1851) the first book appeared with ‘Folklore’ in its title, ‘The dialect and Folk-Lore of Northamptonshire’, by Thomas Sternberg”

I am pleased to say the I have obtained a copy of the book, which I believe is out of print. There is, disappointingly, no reference to Sternberg’s family, but he alludes to German and Scandinavian influences at many points, commenting that one particular story is almost word  for word the same as the German version by the brothers Grimm. This suggests that Thomas had a detailed knowledge of the German language, which would fit well with having a German born father.

Thomas was a wine and spirit merchant, although he did take over his father’s music business for a time. His  ventures seem to have resulted in bankruptcy, however Thomas’ business (wine and spirit merchant) was located at Abington Street, Northampton, in 1830; and at Parade, Northampton, In 1841,

Took over his father’s Pianoforte Selling and Tuning business in 1828, but disposed of his pianoforte tuning to a Mr Klitz in August 1841 .

He and his wife were married ‘in the presence of John Whitton Scriven, Edward Pretty, Elizabeth ?; they lived at 65 Abington Street in 1851.

Bankruptcy recorded in ‘Times’ of 2 August 1856 (cf. 24 May 1848).

Address given as 20 Abington Street in cutting from Northampton Mercury on 18 September 1858.

A later correspondent says they occupied a house on the site of the present Post Office (N I? Chronicle, 25 August 1900).

Thomas and Elizabeth (née Scriven Kirby) produced a line of no less than four Vincent Sternbergs.


The first of these Vincents, Vincent Thomas Sternberg was born in London in 1831 and became Librarian of Leeds Library until his death in 1880.

Vincent Thomas was believed by some to have haunted the library after his death. For an account click – Vincent Thomas Sternberg and the haunting of Leeds Library

Vincent W. B. Sternberg (William or Bill) became a journalist and was London and political editor of the Yorkshire Evening Post.

The arrival in England of Francis George Sternberg in 1786 has led to some seventy five people being christened with the surname ‘STERNBERG’ plus many more who have adopted the name upon marriage.

As far as I am aware, the last of these ‘English Sternbergs’ was born in 1954 and the last person to die still using the surname was Ella Marion Sternberg, born in Birmingham in 1894 and died in Felixstowe in 1985 at the age of ninety. Many have lived well into their eighties and nineties.


Ella Marion Sternberg 1973

I was fortunate enough to meet ‘Aunt Ella’ a few years before she died. Her father was the third Francis George Sternberg.

It is fascinating to reflect that all of us have this family history because of one man’s journey across the North Sea.


In memoriam