Corduan Family History

Online Databases

I have published a great deal of genealogical information online with the help of PhpGedView, a free piece of open source software that I think is really awesome.  Databases I currently have up are:

Corduan Family of Pommern - My family tree

Cordua Family - An extensive family tree for the Corduas . . . originally Corduan but dropping the "n" at some point.  Includes one of the original 100 settlers of the Sacramento Valley in California.

Gustav(e) Corduan - A family tree of Corduans from Germany focused on Gustav Corduan, the founder of the Corduan Manufacturing Company in Chicago.

History relating to each of these families is given below.  Once in the software you can switch databases by clicking on the "Welcome" button.  You can capture any of the published genealogical information with the use of the "Clippings Cart" which will give you selected items in the generic GEDCOM (.GED) format, recognized by all genealogy software.

-Alfred Corduan

A Corduan FAQ

Update: 10/19/06

Always too much to do . . . and so much has occurred since the information below was posted in 1999.  Because of the links I was brought into contact with many long lost relatives all over the world.  This information I have been seeking to compile in an online database.  I have published The Corduan Family of Pommern Genealogy online . . . some of the information in the database contradicts the information contained below . . . I leave the prior accounts up for reference and until I have time to REALLY redo this website.

Actually, the mystery continues, for some in the family hold to Wilhelm Corduan as my great-great-grandfather and and some to Albert Corduan, each with very different lineage.  A series of irrefutable documents give Wilhelm as the father of Robert Corduan, the brother of my great-grandfather Theodor - no documents exist to support "Albert", but family members hold to it strongly, indicating that they heard it from his sons.  Obviously either they ain't brothers, or they have the same father . . . not sure which it is!  So I have done the honorable thing:  My great-grandfather is linked to two different sets of parents!  We keep looking . . . perhaps the mystery will reveal itself soon!

With Wilhelm Corduan things start to get interesting.  Recently found documents show that his wife, Charlotte Jass, was related through the illegitmate birth of her step-father Theodor Johanning to the famous von Lettow-Vorbeck family.  Theodor's full name as given on his gravestone was "Theodor von Lettow named Johanning" . . . his birth certificate gave the name as "Rehbinder", a non-noble version of his mother's maiden name von Rehbinder . . . his marriage certificate had the name as "Johanning".  Thus is seems quite clear that he was both illegitimate and that General Karl Ernst Ludwig von Lettow, husband of his Momma Anna Charlotte Amalie nee von Rehbinder, didn't particularly want him hanging around "von Lettow".  That he kept holding on to the name in some fashion up until death seems to indicate that he may have felt and pursued a legal justification under Prussian law, likely unsuccessfully.  Remember this name change when reading below about some of the stories on my side of the family regarding von Lettow and assumed names.

In any case he appears to have come into some inheritance anyway, since the Wocknin Mill (map), mentioned below, appears to have come with him into the family.  Also a document we found calls him "Schulze", which means mayor - so he evidently had political influence as well.  This mill (Rummelsburg, Pomerania or Pommern) was, according to Corduan family stories, in the possession of Charlotte nee von Lettow, the wife of Albert Corduan, and that their entire family lived and grew up there.  During her final illness she inexplicably transferred it to Karl Johanning, the miller and manager on the property, on her death  instead of my great grandfather Theodor and his brothers.  This angered the family to no end and over this Albert ultimately abandoned his family and split for America (1895), never to be heard from again.. 

The story cannot be true as given since we now know that Karl Johanning got the mill from his father Theodor Johanning, and that both of his parents lived and died there.  And we now know for certain - and all agree - that the Corduan family never lived at the mill.

Now . . . Wilhelm Corduan, according to one branch of our family ALSO split for America around 1895, never to be heard from again.  Too coincidental, from my way of thinking.  In any case my take on the story is that Charlotte Jass, wife of Wilhelm Corduan  and step-daughter of Theodor "von Lettow named Johanning" was to receive some inheritance.  When her stepfather died things were not going well - one family member thought they had seen papers indicating a divorce between Wilhelm and Charlotte.  In any case, she herself died within 10 years of her mother and step-father and she died on the outskirts of Wocknin - I would think the mill - instead of in Pollnow where the rest of the family lived.  My guess is that she, abandoned by husband, lived with her half-brother Karl in the mill who, as she was dieing, convinced her that her money should not go to her husband and the Corduan side but should remain with him as Johanning inheritance.  Makes sense to me!  

Please note the name of August Pufahl, the man that lead my great grandfather Theodor to the Lord . . . and thus to whom I owe a great deal.  Here is the story:

Theodor inherited the family shoe factory and was well to do. Then the factory burned down (1907) and, being uninsured, he lost everything. He was forced to work for others. After the fire he was making a pair of shoes for a fine lady and cut his thumb. He sealed the wound with tar to protect the shoes from the blood . . . but he ended up getting blood poisoning which resulted in the amputation of his right arm. 

In the middle of all his tragedy he was invited to attend some home Bible studies which preacher August Pufahl was in the habit of doing from village to village.  There he turned to the Lord and was saved.  He and August and others would often meet for fellowship and Bible study - one characteristic is that many of them wore long beards, so that his nephew Erich thought they were Old Testament prophets!

He attached himself to the German Pentecostal Church. The rest of the family referred to him as "Der Fromme Theodor", or "Theodor the Religious".

Cordua Family

One variation of "Corduan" is "Cordua" and I have had the privilege of being in contact with several of that family.  This branch of the family WAS originally Corduan from Germany, but the "n" was dropped at some point.

The following was sent to me by Dr. William Cordua (in the news).  He located a musical piece for piano written by one Theodor Neumann Cordua in 1819.  Here is what the cover sheet and first page look like:

Click on the picture to hear the piece played!  Dr. Cordua pressed a fellow professor, Dr. J. Michael Roy, chairman of the music department, into performing it!  So . . . now you can hear Gondoliera, likely not performed for over 100 years (sorta gives you goosebumps, doesn't it!). 

It gets better.  Another ancestor, Theodor Cordua, was a pioneer in California, one of the original 100 or so settlers of the Sacramento Valley in the early 1800s who worked and fought alongside Johann (John) Sutter of "Sutter's Mill", helped name Marysville, and wrote about the Donner Party disaster, about which he was closely informed.  

He, sadly, also (like Sutter) lost a great fortune because of the breakdown of society in the wake of the discovery of gold and, ultimately, returned to his native Germany.  Through the efforts of his great-great-great grandson Theodore Cordua here is a reprint of the Memoirs of Theodor Cordua, originally written by him in the 1800s, discovered and translated into English by Erwin G. Gudde in 1939.

I have begun the Cordua genealogy as its own database . . . access it by clicking the link below:

Cordua Genealogy Online (PhpGedView)

Without further ado:  On to the database!  

Corduan Genealogy Online (PhpGedView)


Updated: 07/29/99

I have been very interested in the origins and family roots of the name Corduan. The Internet has allowed a number of us to get together and meet. The following is a compilation of information derived thus far.

Additions/Suggestions are always welcomed!

-Alfred Corduan



The Corduan Name

The name Corduan is a trade name, such as Farmer, Baker, Smith or Cooper. It is the French twist of the trade or guild name for Shoemaker, which originally came from Cordova, the Spanish city famous for a certain type of fine leather called "Cordovan".

Found an awesome site called Footwear of the Middle Ages , maintained by Marc Carlson. In the definitions page is listed the following:


Cordonnier, Cordiner, Corden, Corduan, Cordoan, Cordon, Cordwent, Corveisier, Corviser. "Shoemaker" (Word used from c1100- ) to refer to the "Cordovan" Leather used to make shoes. Other terms for Cordwainer.

Cordovan (Also Cordoban, aka Spanish Leather)

Cordovan leather was traditionally a particularly rich red dyed sheep or goatskin.

As you will see, many sporting our name have some link to the shoemaking/glove making business in the not-to-distant past!

Another site is Corwin, Korwyn and the Like. Among other things it says, "In England, Corwin is a surname of occupational origin, used for a shoemaker who used Cordovan leather. The Old French root is cordoan, whence Middle English corduan, cordewan and most significantly corwen (1483). The surname took many forms including Kordewan (1296), Cordiwant (1327)"

My Family Tree

See the link above for family tree information.

My uncle Bruno has done some research, although many records were destroyed during the war. Here is what Win (his son) passed on to me:

"His father was Max Corduan (grandfather to Alfred, Peter, Wolfgang, and me). His father (my great grandfather) was Theodor, who had a brother who emigrated to the United States. My father did not remember his name--he could have been Gustaf, but Bruno didn't know (call him X). What happened is that the relationship between Theodor/Max and X soured, and all contact ceased.

My father insists that the "French connection" is tenuous. The name "Corduan" was "bestowed" on our branch of the family. As far as I know, we are -- at least partially -- derived from the "Von Letto's" (famous name in German history).. Apparently there was some kind of a scandal, and parts of the family split. One part went under the name of "Corduan"--whether there is some direct relationship with the French Corduan (the Napoleonic soldier, etc.) is not crystal clear. The newly-designated Corduan were compensated for their loss of nobility by the bestowal of the rank of master in the shoemaker's guild automatically on the first-born of each generation. [BTW, this practice ended with the fire early in this century, but my father still taught me how to fix shoes.]

The Polish government has now opened genealogical records in Pomerania. Some of them were probably destroyed, but others may be available. Anybody up to a trip to Schlawe?"

My cousin Ingo Feldmeier writes:

“Recently I got a photograph from our relatives in Berlin. It shows the street sign "Corduanergasse" in the German town Soest. An additional sign says "Hier wohnten die 'Corduaner' Handwerker, die das feine Leder von Cordoba in Spanien verarbeiteten" (Here resided the 'Corduanian' craftsman(?), which manufactured the fine leather from Cordoba in Spain).”


Max Corduan, my grandfather, around 1957. Max was actively involved in the German Pentecostal church, helping to establish the congregation in the area.


Erhard Corduan

This is a picture of my father, taken in the fall of 1956. His mother passed away when he was young due to diabetes, and he too passed away when I was 8 due to menengitis undoubtedly hastened by his diabetes.


Cover From cousin Dr. Win Corduan's latest book. It hit the "Theology Bestseller" list on at least two publisher lists in the 6 month period I was looking at. It is being widely used as a university textbook.  He has written many other books since then.


Other Corduans

I have had the privilege of meeting the following largely through the internet:

Erich Corduan lives in Palm Springs. He and his father (Ernst Alfred Corduan) provided me with a great deal of information. The following may need some refining (I will be running this past him later):

There are Corduan islands in the Bay of Biscay, out of Bordeaux, which are a favorite honeymoon spot. There is also a famous Corduan lighthouse and a Corduan rock on which it stands somewhere around there. The furthest origins involve King Louie in the 1400's and the Basque region of France. As the story goes there was some involvement in secret societies at some point (Free Masons/Knights Templar) which was discovered and some Corduans were forced to flee into Germany.

In 1923-24 three or four brothers emigrated to the U.S. from Germany: Gustav, Ernst, Paul(?)

The following was provided by Gary Corduan (San Jose, California), also met over the internet:

"My grandfather was Gustav Corduan, who started the Corduan Manufacturing Company in Chicago (which, of source, is no longer in existence - final papers were filed sometime in the early sixties) -- he had three sons, Gustav, Walter, and Alfred (Ernst), there being a substantial difference in age between the first two sons and the third, Alfred, who is my father. Gustav and Walter stayed in the Midwest, but my father came out of California after the war, working for Hughes Aircraft for awhile, and then switching to Lockheed, moving from the Los Angeles area up to the San Francisco Bay area in the process. I am his only son, am unmarried myself, and have no children."

Gary also writes (11/28/95):

“As I recall, the lighthouse was located at or near the mouth of the Gironde -- there is a paragraph on the subject, with accompanying diagram of the lighthouse itself, in the 1964 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (I specify the year because the diagram is not given in the '65 edition (don't know about prior editions))

There is also a Boulevard de Cordouan in the nearby town of Royan -- you can find it on pages 1032-1033 of the 1995 Michelin Red Guide to France -- [Cordouan seems to be the original French spelling -- the family coat of arms in our house has an intermediate version of Cord'uan that led eventually to the version we all share]”

He writes again (11/28/95):

“The version [of the family history] I'm familar with involves Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812, and a Cordouan who went along (possibly a lieutenant, I'm not sure) but left the army to settle in Germany with a German wife -- a bone of contention is at what point in the campaign this occurred -- family honor insists that it was on the return trek, but given the battle of Borodino and the massive attrition that took place when Napoleon abandoned Moscow and the Russians chewed up his army on the march back, it seems more probable to me that the desertion took place before the entry into Russia (and I seem to recall that there was a fairly high desertion rate going in) “

Erich indicated that his grandfather, Alfred Ernst, came from the Chicago area. I am confused at the moment where Gary and Erich link up, but they are relatives, something like second cousins (their fathers being cousins). (BTW, Erich's father (Ernst Alfred) passed away last year).

Erich has a daughter Erin and son Bryan. He has an older brother Ernst Alfred of whom he says:

"Ernie, the oldest, had 4 kids, Jimmy, Terri, Mike and Sherry. We know where Terri and Sherry are, have not heard from Jimmy or Mike in years. Ernie and Carolyn, his wife, live in Wyoming on a ranch. He works the machinery for a large cattle operation."

He also has a brother Joe Corduan in San Diego, California (wife Bonnie); daughter Liza, son Garratt and a younger brother Richard.

Corduan Lighthouse

This lighthouse, described above, is evidently somewhat famous. An actual photograph appears futher below.



I have also met Simone Corduan-Seeland from Karlsruhe, Germany. Since she has graciously supplied me with a number of pictures, she gets her own page: Simone Corduan & Family

Since Simone sent out a letter to all Corduans listed in the German phone book, all 60 some. To date she/I have heard from:

-Margarete (sp?) Corduan, an elderly lady in Hamburg. She knows of a family history involving her family, which she was going to try to get for us.

-Karin Corduan, and Ina Corduan, introduced below.


Ina Corduan, Wietzendorf, Germany.

She gave me some very nice information:

She says (02/24/97) - translated):

"I am 33 years old, not married, and have no children. I am a Pharmacist-Technical Assistant and work in a Pharmacy. There I counsel clients, sell and formulate medicines.

My hobbies are: My dog Cowboy, horseback riding, and motocycle riding (Suzuki, unfortunately not a Harley, which is my big dream)."

This is her family tree:

Wilhelm (died 1918, suicide after a romance) and Auguste (died 1945 in GrossMollen) had 6 children: Emma(Grevesmülen), Alma(Baruklau?), Martha(same location), Otto(Riebnitz-Damgarten), Wilhelm(Wandersleben), and Erna(Wandersleben).

Of that generation, Wilhelm(born 1/8/1907 in Loist, Pyritz District, married Ida - was a coachman (Kutscher) for nobility in Pyritz, later worked the railroad) has three sons:

-Gerhard (daughter Ina)

-Wolfgang (daughter Martina, son Jens)

-Lothar (son Torsten)

She says (02/24/97 - translated):

"I have found a CORDOUAN village north of Bordeaux, which my boss visited last year and of where these pictures were taken" (picture of the Cordouan lighthouse, and of the village sign).

Ina’s address is:

Ina Corduan
Beekeuweg 15
29649 Wietzeudorf

Cordouan city, France, where the Cordouan lighthouse is located.



Karin Corduan

She writes: (02/04/97)

"I recently got your e-mail address through a letter sent to my father by a Mrs Simone Corduan from Karlsruhe, Germany. My name is Karin Corduan and I live in Duisburg, Germany. I also have a strong interest in finding out where my family came from. All I know so far ist that my ancestors emigrated from Spain during the 17th century through southern France to Germany, where my father was born."

She writes again: (02/09/97)

"I finally managed to retrieve the homepage and found some information, that sounded familiar to me. Especially the story about the hugenotts has been passed on in my family for some time. I do not have any ( written ) confirmation, this is all heresay.

I did find a family tree in some old papers, unfortunately it does not go back very far. Anyway, here is what I got so far :

Gottlieb + Eleonore Corduan
Friedrich Wilhelm Corduan (born 26.05.1846, died 06.07.1917) + Augusta Melida Corduan (born 13.10.1846, died 04.01.1917) ( Weiland )
Gustav Wilhelm Corduan (geb. 02.11.1873, died ?); Ernst Corduan; Ernie Corduan ; Lieschen Corduan
Gustav + Olga Ottilie Emilie Corduan ( Basler )
born 26.03.1878, died ?
Herbert Corduan + Rose Corduan ( Nemec ) ; Kurt Wilhelm
Ernst Corduan* born 13.12.1897, died ?.10.1957
Eva Corduan
born 07.01.1937
*Kurt Wilhelm Ernst Corduan + Charlotte Anna Frieda
Corduan ( Reich )
born 03.07.1899, died 26.01.1943 ( Stalingrad, Russia ) born 04.03.1904, died ~
25 yrs ago
Dr. Gerhard Guenther Kurt Corduan + Agnes Corduan ( Buetikofer ); Ingeborg ;
born 08.04.1934 born 26.10.1935
27.10.193 17.12.1942
Karin Corduan ( That`s me ! )

Well, this is all I got so far. Like Simone I do have some old papers which I cannot read because they are written in " Old German ". I also did not list my cousins ( daughters and sons of Ingeborg and Doris Corduan ). My aunt Ingeborg has our family bible, so maybe I can get some more information by calling her."

Again she writes: (02/17/97)

"I am 30 years old, unmarried and a doctor for internal medicine. Right now I am unemployed working on my doctoral thesis. I enjoy writing to you in English because I hardly get a chance to practice here. After my high school diploma I spent a year in the United States in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach, CA. A couple of years later I did a medical clerkship at the University of Arizona, Tucson."

Her aunt Ingeborg Stöwahse writes: (02/24/97)

"I'm a born Corduan. My father Kurt Corduan was born 1899 in Berlin, as his brother Herbert too. His father Wilhelm Corduan was born somewhere in Brandenburg, the part around Berlin.

My mother told me that the Corduans could follow the papers in churches until Spain from where the Corduans had come.

The name Corduan should come from the leather of a special grade. The Corduans had been craftsmen for leather and were producing gloves. They had been so very good producers in fine and soft gloves that the Spanish kings recommended their goods and they were allowed to call themselves royal manufacturing glove producers (16th/17th centuries).

In the 18th century they had to leave Spain for religious resons because they were Hugenottes. In this time Frederick II needed well educated and well-known people in handicraft, so the Corduans came to the east part of Prussia, today the Brandenburg part near Berlin."


"The World Book of Corduans"

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there is such a thing! A company called Halberts makes a living off of unusual last names . . . some (many) of you may have gotten the same solicitation. Basically they comb publicly accessible data for general info. I did order the book . . . There is not too much uniquely new info here - of note:

If anyone wants more details, send me an EMail. Recommendation: Save your money!


Again, additions, comments are always welcomed!

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