Bach family

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Portrait of Johann Sebastian Bach by E. G. Haussmann, 1748

The Bach family refers to several notable composers of the baroque and classical periods of music, the best-known of whom was Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750).[1] A family genealogy was drawn up by Johann Sebastian Bach himself in 1735 when he was 50 and was completed by his son Carl Philipp Emanuel.[2]

Ancestors of Johann Sebastian Bach[edit]

Bach family house, Wechmar

Four branches of the Bach family were known at the beginning of the 16th century; a Hans Bach of Wechmar, a village between Gotha and Arnstadt in Thuringia, is known to have been alive in 1561. He is believed to be the father of Veit Bach.[1]

  • Veit (Vitus) Bach (c. 1550–1619, Wechmar) was, according to Johann Sebastian's genealogy, "a white-bread baker in Hungary" who had to flee Hungary because he was a Lutheran, settling in Wechmar. He "found the greatest pleasure in a little cittern which he took with him even into the mill";
  • His son Johannes Bach I (c. 1580–1626) "der Spielmann" (lit. "the player"), was the first professional musician of the family. He "at first took up the trade of baker, but having a particular bent for music," he became a piper;
  • His second grandson Christoph (c. 1613–1661) was an instrumentalist;
  • His first great-grandson Johann Ambrosius was a violinist, and the father of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Others born before 1685[edit]

Johann Ambrosius' uncle, Heinrich of Arnstadt, had two sons: Johann Michael and Johann Christoph. The latter was once thought to be the author of the motet Ich [ver]lasse dich nicht (I will not leave you), which is now confirmed to be Johann Sebastian Bach's (BWV 159a).[3] Another descendant of Veit Bach, Johann Ludwig, was revered more than any other ancestor by Johann Sebastian, who copied twelve of his church cantatas and sometimes added work of his own to them.[1]

Descendants of Johann Sebastian Bach[edit]

Of the seven children that Johann Sebastian Bach had with his first wife Maria Barbara Bach, his second cousin, four survived into adulthood: Catharina Dorothea Bach (1708–1774); Wilhelm Friedemann; Carl Philipp Emanuel (the "Berlin Bach", later the "Hamburg Bach"); and Johann Gottfried Bernhard.[4] All four were musically talented, and Wilhelm Friedeman and Carl Philipp Emanuel had significant musical careers of their own.[4]

After his first wife died, Johann Sebastian Bach married Anna Magdalena Wilcken, a gifted soprano and daughter of the court trumpeter of Prince Saxe-Weissenfels. They had 13 children, of whom Johann Christoph Friedrich (the "Bückeburg Bach") and Johann Christian (the "London Bach") became significant musicians. A further four survived into adulthood: Gottfried Heinrich; Elisabeth Juliane Friederica (1726–1781), who married Bach's pupil Johann Christoph Altnickol; Johanna Carolina (1737–1781); and Regina Susanna (1742–1809).[5]

Of Bach's surviving children, only five married. Of these, Johann Christian had no children from his marriage to the soprano Cecilia Grassi. Carl Philipp Emanuel, who married Johanna Maria Dannemann, had three surviving children.[6] Of these children the youngest, Johann Sebastian (1748–1778) was a gifted painter who died young. None of Emanuel's children married or had offspring, with his bloodline dying out with the death of his daughter Anna Carolina Philippina (1746–1804).[7]

Elisabeth Juliane Friederica, known as Liesgen, with Altnickol had three surviving children. Their only son, Johann Sebastian died in infancy in 1740. The elder daughter, Augusta Magdalena (1751–1809) married Ernest Friedrich Ahlefeldt and have four daughters, of whom only one, Christiane Johanne (1780–1816) survived. From her marriage to Paul Johann Müller, a daughter, Augusta Wilhelmina (1809–1818) was born, though she died as an infant, ending this line of Bach's descendants.[8]

Of the next generation, Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach, also known as William Bach (24 May 1759 – 25 December 1845) was the eldest son of Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach and the only grandson of Johann Sebastian Bach to gain fame as a composer. He was music director to Frederick William II of Prussia. WFE's only son died in infancy. The first born of his three daughters, Caroline Augusta Wilhelmine, lived the longest. She died in 1871 – the last of Bach's descendants to hold the Bach name.[9]

Bach has living descendants via two granddaughters born to Friedemann and Johann Christoph Friedrich, respectively. Anna Philippine Friederike (1755–1804), sister of Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst, married Wilhelm Ernst Colson, a lieutenant in an artillery regiment. They had five sons and a daughter. While this bloodline was traditionally assumed to have died out with this generation, one of her sons, Johann Christoph Friedrich (1778–1831) married and had offspring with progeny to the modern day.[10][11]

Friedemann married Dorothea Elisabeth Georgi and had two sons and a daughter. Both sons died in infancy. During the 20th-century scholarship has uncovered several children born to his daughter Friederica Sophia (b. 1757), which were hitherto unknown. Friederica Sophia married Johann Schmidt, a footsoldier in 1793 shortly after the birth of an illegitimate daughter. Of this child and a sister little is known.[12][13] In 1780 she had given birth to an illegitimate son, of which nothing further is known.[14] Friederica Sophia appears to have left her husband for a man by the name of Schwarzschulz, with whom she had an illegitimate daughter, Karoline Beata (b. 1798) whose descendants eventually emigrated to Oklahoma.[15]

Johann Sebastian Bach and his sons Carl Philipp Emanuel, Johann Christian, Wilhelm Friedemann, and Johann Christoph Friedrich

Partial family tree[edit]

Veit Bach
(d. 1619)
Johannes Bach I
Philippus Bach
Johannes Bach
Heinrich Bach
Christoph Bach
Wendel Bach
Johann Aegidius Bach
Johann Christoph Bach
Johann Michael Bach
Georg Christoph Bach
Johann Ambrosius Bach
Maria Elisabeth Lämmerhirt
Johann Christoph Bach
Jacob Bach [de]
Anna Martha Schneider
Johann Bernhard Bach
Johann Nicolaus Bach
Maria Barbara Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach
Anna Magdalena Wilcke
Johann Ludwig Bach
Johann Ernst Bach II
Wilhelm Friedemann Bach
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
Gottfried Heinrich Bach
Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach
Lucia Elisabeth Münchhausen
Johann Christian Bach
Elisabeth Juliane Friederica
Johann Christoph Altnickol
Johanna Carolina
Regina Susanna
Johann Georg Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach
Anna Philippiana Friederica Bach
Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach
Charlotte Philippina Elerdt
Christina Luise Bach
(d. 1852)
Johann Sebastian Altnickol
Ludwig Albrecht Hermann RitterCarolina Augusta Wilhelmine Bach
Juliane Friederica
(b. 1800)

Expanded genealogy[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bach, Johann Sebastian" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 124–130.
  2. ^ Charles Sanford Terry, ed. (1929). The Origin of the Family of Bach Musicians: Ursprung der musicalisch-Bachischen familie. London: Oxford University Press, Humphrey Milford.
  3. ^ "Motet BWV 159a". The Bach Choir of Bethlehem. Retrieved 12 June 2022.
  4. ^ a b "Q: How many children did J.S. Bach have? A: Loads. Here's what we know". Classic FM. Retrieved 14 April 2023.
  5. ^ The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, "Bach Family", pp. 98, 111
  6. ^ Geiringer 1954, p. 336.
  7. ^ Geiringer 1954, p. 350.
  8. ^ Terry, Charles Sanford (December 1935). "A Bach Relic". The Musical Times. 76 (1114): 1076–1077. doi:10.2307/919266. JSTOR 919266.
  9. ^ Grace, Harvey (1938). Bach. Novello's Biographies of Great Musicians. Novello. p. 1. 22 pages.
  10. ^ Terry, Charles Sanford (1 June 1930). "Has Bach Surviving Descendants?". The Musical Times. 71 (1048): 511 (511–513). doi:10.2307/917359. JSTOR 917359.
  11. ^ Geiringer 1954, p. 378.
  12. ^ Terry, Charles Sanford (1 March 1932). "Bach's Descendants". The Musical Times. 73 (1069): 256. doi:10.2307/916949. JSTOR 916949.
  13. ^ Geiringer 1954, pp. 303–316.
  14. ^ Wolff 2003, pp. 123–130.
  15. ^ Wolff 2003, p. 129.


  • Geiringer, Karl (1954). The Bach Family: Seven Generations of Creative Genius. Oxford University Press.
  • Wolff, Christoph (2003). Bach Perspectives, Volume 5: Bach in America. University of Illinois Press.

External links[edit]