Stansbury Descent to Alice Vernon Wilson

2. German Adventurers

Detmar and Catherine Sternberg arrived about 1658 from Germany. Unlike most of the others in Alice Wilson’s family tree, the Sternbergs seemed to have come more or less on their own, not in the company of like-minded religious or political groups or in a wave of family migrations. They probably came for opportunity; Detmar seems to have been an indentured servant, rumors of his descent from William of Orange notwithstanding. 

In the text that follows, the bracketed superscripts appearing next to certain names refer to that person’s Ahnentafel number, and indicate that he or she is a direct ancestor of Alice Wilson.


First Generation

1. Detmar STERNBERG [1520]. Born on 26 Mar 1628 in Dortmund, Westphalia, Germany. Detmar died in Baltimore MD, after 1682; he was 53. Emigration: about 1658. Detmar married Renske (Catherine) [1521]. Born in Germany. Emigration: about 1658.

They had one child:

2 i. Tobias (1652-1709) [760]

The Stansbury family is one of the pioneering families of Baltimore County, and they have a long history of prominence throughout the Patapsco, Back, and Middle River Necks as well as other parts of the county. The family name was anglicized in stages from Sternberg to Starnborough to Stansborough to Stansbury.

Detmar and Catherine Sternberg arrived in Baltimore County from northern Germany sometime around 1658, along with their son Tobias. They were more than likely indentured servants to a landholder by the name of Thomas Bradley.[1] We suppose this because in 1663 Bradley assigned a contract including their names over to a William Sewall, Esq., but we don’t know anything about the terms of the contract.

It doesn’t appear that Detmar ever owned any land in Maryland, or that he had any children other than Tobias. The last mention of him in Maryland records is in 1678. He left no will. [2] But like other early settlers, this family acquired wealth through tobacco farming and, later, through political connections during revolutionary times. Not all family members shared Detmar’s political views, as some of the Stansburys refused to take the Oath of Fidelity, in which they would have to renounce the King and swear allegiance to the revolutionary government of Maryland.[3]

Rumors that Detmar was the son of a count, or an English earl, or was born in Holland, or that he was the great-grandson of William of Orange, appear to be folktales told by descendents centuries after the family emigrated to America.


[1] K. Roberts, “Stansbury Family Linked with History of Middle River: Pioneering family settled in the area in the late 1650s” (Essex [Maryland] Patch Media, July 10, 2011).

[2] C. Johnston, “Stansbury Family” (Maryland Historical Magazine, vol. 9, 1914).

[3] W.B. Brooks, “In reply to Detmar Sternberg’s (Stansbury’s) roots,” Forum,, July 21, 2001.


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