Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Working on Wednesday: Johannes Magendanz (1878-1964), Musician

How did this German pianist, born in what is now Gniew, Poland, on January 22, 1878, and educated at Berlin University, find a place in my extended family tree?

An examination of his arrival in New York on board the S.S. Rhein in 1905 provides a substantial clue: he was bound for Tuskegee, Alabama, where some of my great great great grandmother Timney P. Watts Warren Phillips' descendants were still living.

[I found this image at The Linosaurus]

[Year: 1905; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 0619; Line: 1; Page Number: 62. Ship or Roll Number : Roll 0619. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897.
Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls. NAI: 6256867. ]

[Detail of above page]

The above snippet gives us a further clue for his destination. Dr. John Massey was the President of the Alabama Conference Female College from 1876 to 1909.*

[Courtesy of Huntingdon College Archives and Special Collections]

The year after his arrival, Johannes married a student at the college, Velma De Bardeleben (1884-1967), Timney's great granddaughter and my second cousin, twice removed.** The couple's oldest child was born in Alabama in 1907.

By 1910 the family was living in Lincoln, Nebraska, where Johannes had been named Director of the Conservatory and Head of the Piano Department at the Nebraska Wesleyan University.

[Piano Recital, Johannes Magendanz. Source: Nebraska Memories]

However he doesn't appear to have remained in Oklahoma for long as the 1911 second semester catalogue for the college shows:

And in 1912 he had moved his family to New York State, where he and Alfred H. Jay were Directors of the Utica Conservatory of Music.

Image provided by Northern NY Library Network]

Here's his listing in a Who's Who in music published in 1918.
[International Who's who in Music and Musical Gazetteer: A Contemporary Biographical Dictionary and a Record of the World's Musical Activity, Current literature publishing Company, 1918. Source: Google Books.]

Johannes and Velma remained in Utica for the rest of their lives and established a musical dynasty. Here's a photo of Johannes and son Felix taken the year before his death.

And an article from the same source about the family.

*Originally founded as the Tuskegee Female College in 1854, it's now called Huntingdon College and was moved to Montgomery in 1909.
**Here's her family tree back to Timney and her second husband John P. Phillips.

© 2016 Copyright, Christine Manczuk, All Rights Reserved.


  1. So I stumbled upon this post and I realized that you’re my distant relative! I’m a direct descendant of Johannes Magendanz. Felix Magendanz was my great-great grandfather, and Jon Karl is my grandfather. Jon, Felice, and Donna are all still alive and doing music professionally. They each went on to have children. Jon Karl married and had four, of which my mother was one. I never knew I had relatives in Alabama.

    1. Hi (distant) Cousin Arianna! I was raised by adoptive parents and didn't know about my southern roots either. We've discovered quite a bit about your Phillips/Watts upline which you can find by searching through our blog.