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Bach family

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 continued by his son Carl Philipp Emanuel.[2]

Descendants of Johann Sebastian Bach

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.[3] All four were musically talented, and Wilhelm Friedeman and Carl Philipp Emanuel had significant musical careers of their own.[3]

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).[4]

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.[5] 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).[6]

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 had 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.[7]

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.[8]

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. Whereas 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.[9][10]

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.[11][12] In 1780 she had given birth to an illegitimate son, of which nothing further is known.[13] 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.[14]

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

Expanded genealogy

See also


  1. ^ 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. ^ a b "Q: How many children did J.S. Bach have? A: Loads. Here's what we know". Classic FM. 9 December 2021. Retrieved 14 April 2023.
  4. ^ The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, "Bach Family", pp. 98, 111
  5. ^ Geiringer 1954, p. 336.
  6. ^ Geiringer 1954, p. 350.
  7. ^ Terry, Charles Sanford (December 1935). "A Bach Relic". The Musical Times. 76 (1114): 1076–1077. doi:10.2307/919266. JSTOR 919266.
  8. ^ Grace, Harvey (1938). Bach. Novello's Biographies of Great Musicians. Novello. p. 1. 22 pages.
  9. ^ Terry, Charles Sanford (1 June 1930). "Has Bach Surviving Descendants?". The Musical Times. 71 (1048): 511 (511–513). doi:10.2307/917359. JSTOR 917359.
  10. ^ Geiringer 1954, p. 378.
  11. ^ Terry, Charles Sanford (1 March 1932). "Bach's Descendants". The Musical Times. 73 (1069): 256. doi:10.2307/916949. JSTOR 916949.
  12. ^ Geiringer 1954, pp. 303–316.
  13. ^ Wolff 2003, pp. 123–130.
  14. ^ 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.
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Bach family
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