The name

The Australian name Nettheim was modified from the earlier German name Netheim, undoubtedly to assist English-speaking people in pronouncing it. The change avoided 'th' as a combination (as in 'ethyl'), and instead indicated that it is a sequence: first 't' or 'tt', then 'h' (as in 'lighthouse'). The name Netheim was taken in 1808 from the river Nethe in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, by adding 'heim' = 'home'. Thus Nethe-heim (home by the Nethe) was rendered as Netheim. At the end of this article are some very beautiful photographs of the river Nethe, kindly supplied by Fritz Ostkämper.

Where the name of the river Nethe came from is not certain, but it may well be related to the German 'netzen' or 'benetzen' meaning 'to wet' or 'to moisten', as well as the Low German variant 'Nette' meaning 'wetness'. So Nethe very likely means 'that which wets, bathes, or moistens (the valley, the meadows etc.)'. (A relationship to 'nieder' meaning 'low' or 'nether', and thus to the nearby Netherlands or Low Countries, seems less convincing.) Those details about the name are suggested by Fritz Ostkämper. My earlier speculation of a relationshp to Heinrich (Henry) Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim (1486-1535) now proves to be very unlikely.

The ancestors Netheim in Germany and their emigrations

This topic has been marvellously covered in an illustrated presentation by Fritz Ostkämper in German, and I have supplied an English translation. (Fritz Ostkämper might modify those files, presumably in small ways, in the future.) That work shows that the Netheims had settled in the nearby towns of Ottbergen (about 1km from the river) and Höxter (about a further 10km away). The first known ancestor was Gumpert (who died in the period 1784-1788, before the name Netheim existed). The history makes haunting reading, as it shows how all the Netheims alive in the late 1930s to early 1940s, being Jews in Germany, were murdered in the Holocaust, excepting only those who had emigrated early enough to Australia, Palestine, Israel, South Africa or the United States. That sets the present-day Nettheims in their historical context — we are the descendants of those fortunate enough to have escaped or who left before the Nazi era, also known as the Third Reich (1933-1945).

The first Nettheim in Australia

The first Netheim in Australia was Cosmann Nettheim, originally Kossmann Netheim (1851-1907). His parents were Salomon Netheim (1812-1900) and Henriette (Jettchen) Goldstein (1819-1902). Their parents, in turn, were Feibelmann Gumpert Netheim (1770-) & Brendel Frohsinn (1772-1853), and Cosmann Goldstein & Lene Junkermann. This wedding anniversary notice appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of 10 May 1899, almost certainly posted by Cosmann Nettheim and rendered with English-language versions of the names:
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Golden Wedding.
NETTHEIM—GOLDSTEIN.—May 10, 1849, at Borgholz,
Westphalia, Germany, Salomon, youngest son of Philip
Nettheim, to Henrietta, youngest daughter of Cosmann
Goldstein.
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The explanation of the difference between the names Feibelmann and Philip must be that Feibelmann was known as Philip, or Philipp in the German spelling (Feibelmann and Philipp may be related etymologically via the ancient Greek Phoibos, though this has not yet been confirmed).

Cosmann Nettheim came to Melbourne in 1867 at age 16 and found work with the firm Michaelis, Hallenstein which dealt in leather. I have prepared a searchable scanned copy of the history of that company: The Michaelis, Hallenstein Story (adding page numbers, which were not present in the original). In 1876 Cosmann was sent to Sydney to help set up the firm of Farleigh Nettheim in the suburb now called Concord. A short item about that firm appears here, written by its last General Manager Colin S. Dodds about 1967. Unfortunately Dodds, writing about a hundred years after the event, appears to have made an error in referring to Cosmann as a "nephew of Isaac Hallenstein". That cannot be true, being ruled out by three pieces of evidence. Firstly, Cosmann's mother's maiden name was Goldstein, according to the Sydney Morning Herald notice referred to above and according my father Ronald Felix Nettheim's family tree referred to below, page 3. Secondly, Hallenstein's nephews are listed here with very different names. And thirdly, according to my father Ronald Felix Nettheim's family tree, page 7:
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Cosmann was a Leather Merchant. He came out to Australia in 1867 with "Two shillings" in his pocket. A Mr. Michaelis took an interest in him on the voyage and subsequently employed him in Melbourne (where he slept under the counter), and later (together with a Mr. Farleigh) in Sydney — Farleigh Nettheim & Co.
Cosmann was naturalised as a British subject in Victoria and on 23 January 1883 in New South Wales (Certificate No. 1). He changed his name from Netheim to Nettheim shortly after arriving in Australia.
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In 1867 Cosmann was 16 and Hallenstein 37. Hallenstein clearly took Cosmann under his wing and might well have been referred to as Cosmann's "uncle" without implying any blood relationship (compare the novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and many similar examples). On the other hand, Isaac Hallenstein (1830-1911) was an uncle of Moritz Michaelis (1820-1902), and that might have confused Dodds when he wrote his memoir much later.

Cosmann Nettheim's descendants

Cosmann Nettheim's descendants were traced in the family tree prepared by my father Ronald Felix Nettheim (1913-2003). The first version was finished in August 1978 and updated on 17 October 1986, subsequently with occasional hand-written annotations. It was distributed in photocopy form to interested people (electronic resources scarcely existed at that time). That work has not yet been digitised, but that might soon happen. It is fair to say that the Jewish family tradition has by no means fully survived to the present day in Australia. Updates to that family tree are likely to be made in connection with the Nettheim Family Reunion planned for 30 June 2018 in Gosford NSW.

Photographs of the river Nethe in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

These photographs were kindly supplied by Fritz Ostkämper.


River Nethe      River Nethe

River Nethe      River Nethe

River Nethe      Nethe bridge in Ottbergen built 1710