Update – Official photographs are now available!  Please click here to see them.

The reunion was an overwhelming success that was thoroughly enjoyed by all who attended!  Official photographs will be uploaded soon.  In the meantime, Dr Tony Muller’s family history book From Prussia to The Pacific: The Guttenbeil Family of Tonga is now available for general purchase through the website (Click the link to the “Buy The Book” page above).

Please note that the book price has changed as the previous price was a reunion only special.

The latest…

Ticket Sales are now officially closed and no more purchases will be accepted. 

Thank you to everyone who will be attending and we look forward to seeing you all on Saturday.

The venue details can be found here http://www.montressors.co.nz/

Venue Map


More about the Reunion….

The 2014 Guttenbeil Family Reunion on 31 May is an opportunity to re-connect with family that you haven’t seen for a long time, and also meet family that you haven’t met before – and we aim to create a warm, family atmosphere to make everyone welcome!

There will be plenty of opportunity to mix and mingle, there will be a buffet dinner (of course including the Tongan staple of roast pig), and there will be entertainment including traditional Tongan dances, musical performances as well as a live DJ.

To capture this landmark occasion, there will be an official photographer present.

The other important function of the reunion is to celebrate our heritage. To this end, the family history book From Prussia to The Pacific will be officially launched at the event, and you will finally be able to get your long awaited copy! There will be a presentation from me the author, taking you on a tour of what is in the book, and also telling about the making of the book. But also, as a special treat, we will be honoured to have Professor Reinhard Wendt of the FernUniversität in Hagen, Germany and Professor James Bade of the University of Auckland presenting on the historical context of Germans in Tonga. In short – they will be talking about just how special the Guttenbeil story is in the history of Germans in The Pacific! Both professors also wrote forewords for From Prussia to The Pacific, which, in order to whet your appetite, these are included below.

But before we get to the teasers, here is a bit more about the book:
– Professionally printed and bound, soft cover book, 110 pages long
– Includes several long lost photographs
– 2 family trees of the Guttenbeil ancestors in Germany and the descendants in Tonga (and abroad)
– Some previously top-secret documents, which have never before been published, detailing the activities of the Germans in Tonga in the Second World War
– Thoroughly researched and referenced, representing over 6 years work by the author

And yes family, the book will be available to purchase after the reunion too, but why not come to the reunion and hear about it all first hand, and hear about the story behind the book!

So, for those of you who are coming, we are all excited about seeing you there! It is an event 133 years in the making and definitely not to be missed! And on that note don’t forget that the special extension to the earlybird rate ends on 31st March! So get in quick!

See you there (and check out the forewords below)

Between 1800 and 1914, six million Germans left their native country in search of a better life overseas. The overwhelming majority sought their fortunes and a new life in North America; some went to South America, and a few to Australia and Oceania. In many cases, a pioneering individual blazed the trail for others, who, encouraged by tales of success, then followed. It was a chain migration of this kind that brought Hermann Guttenbeil from the small town of Pyritz in Germany to Vava’u in the northern archipelago of Tonga. The “pioneer” in whose footsteps he followed was August Sanft, who also originally came from Pyritz. Known to his family as the “the golden uncle,” August Sanft had earned a fortune trading copra in Neiafu in the 1860s and 1870s, and was instrumental in encouraging friends and family members to also seek their fortunes in the South Sea Islands. It was thus that a group of sixteen individuals (fifteen men and one woman) from Pyritz¸ one of whom was Hermann Guttenbeil, dared the leap and sailed for Vava’u. Their fathers, who earned their livings as farmers and craftsmen, fairly accurately reflected the socio-economic situation in the town. Pyritz, which, in the middle of the 19th century, had a population of somewhat more than 5000 inhabitants, is located in an area of fertile farmland, and commerce with the surrounding farms provided the local crafts- and tradesmen with a livelihood. Of the sixteen immigrants, three returned to Germany, while the other thirteen made a new home in Tonga. At first, things went well for the German immigrants. However, when Tonga became a British protectorate, and many German-Tongans were declared enemy aliens during the First and the Second World Wars, and the price of copra on the world markets fell, and their economic possibilities declined, many of the children and grandchildren of these immigrants continued the migratory tradition established by their forebears and, in turn, left Tonga for a better life elsewhere. Today, the descendants of these German immigrants are scattered over the entire Pacific Region: Samoa, Fiji, and Hawaii, as well as Australia, New Zealand, and the West Coast of the USA. Despite the fact that they now number many thousands and are separated by large distances, this group remains closely connected, and its members have found a uniting identity not only in their remembrance of Tonga, but also, to some extent, in their awareness of their German roots.

It is Tony Muller’s great achievement to have meticulously and in detail shed light on a little-known part of German emigration history. Moreover, Tony has been an invaluable source of information for my own research on the German Pacific Islanders and has provided me with decisive impulses during our meetings in Germany and New Zealand as well as through our extensive email communication. I, therefore, feel honoured to have been allowed to write a foreword to his book, which I hope will be well received by many interested readers.

Prof. Dr. Reinhard Wendt
Modern European and Non-European History
Department of History
FernUniversität in Hagen

It is indeed a pleasure to be asked to write a foreword for Tony Muller’s book on the history of the Guttenbeil family. I have known Tony Muller for some years now; he contacted me when we were both working on the Western Pacific archives held at the University of Auckland library, and has on numerous occasions given guest lectures on his research to the students taking my course on the German connection with New Zealand and the Pacific. Our most memorable encounter was in 2007, when my colleague Professor Reinhard Wendt of the FernUniversität Hagen, a fellow researcher of the German connection with Tonga, met up with Tony and me in Berlin and drove us to Pyrzyce, in Poland, formerly the German town of Pyritz, which was the birthplace of so many of the Germans who settled in Vava’u, including Hermann Gustav Guttenbeil. Our day there culminated in a civic reception put on for us by the Deputy Mayor of Pyrzyce, Teresa Jasinska.
Hermann Guttenbeil was one of a number of Germans who settled in Tonga in the nineteenth century. The German interest in the Pacific in the nineteenth century was initiated by German traders, who had come to the Pacific to establish coconut plantations, attracted by the high prices being paid for coconut oil, a basic ingredient in soap, which was very much in demand in Europe. The German company that spearheaded German interests in the Pacific was the Hamburg firm J. C. Godeffroy and Son, which set up a trading station in Apia, Samoa, in 1857 and expanded operations to Tonga, the Tokelaus, Fiji, and the Gilbert, Marshall and Caroline Islands. These trading stations were to form the basis for the so-called German ‘South Seas Empire’ later in the nineteenth century. Tonga remained independent of this development, though the German interest in Tonga had led to a Treaty of Friendship with Germany from 1876. An early German pioneer in Tonga was August Sanft, from Pyritz, who arrived in Nuku’alofa in 1855, and, after a few years there, leased some land fronting the harbour in Neiafu, Vava’u, where he established a trading business in association with Godeffroy and Son. From the early 1870s he was joined by sixteen of his nephews: four Sanfts and eight Wolfgramms, together with Hermann Guttenbeil. Together, they continued the business that August Sanft had set up, and branched out into their own businesses, many of them marrying Tongans. Sanft, Wolfgramm and Guttenbeil are some of the best known European surnames in Tonga today, with many descendants also in Samoa, New Zealand, Australia and the United States. Thanks to Tony Muller’s research, we now have for the first time a reliable and comprehensive account of the contribution of the Guttenbeil family to the legacy of the early Germans in the Pacific.

James N Bade
Professor of German
Head of School
School of European Languages and Literatures
Research Centre for Germanic Connections with New Zealand and the Pacific
University of Auckland

Wilkommen!  Malo e lava mai!  Welcome to Guttenbeilfamily.com!

We are a group of like-minded cousins who value family and want to celebrate the Guttenbeil family history.  We are all grandchildren of Hermann Richard “Jim” Guttenbeil and his wife ‘Ako.  Though we grew up in New Zealand, we acknowledge our unique German-Tongan heritage.

There is also a Guttenbeil family group on Facebook where you can view our extended network around the globe.  If you’re on Facebook but you’re not already a member of our group, what are you waiting for?





The Reunion Committee 6 July 2013.  From left to right:  Daniel Guttenbeil-Fifita, Ele Thomson, Tony Muller, Daphne Guttenbeil, Daniel Thomson

The Reunion Committee 6 July 2013. From left to right: Daniel Guttenbeil-Fifita, Ele Thomson, Tony Muller, Daphne Guttenbeil, Daniel Thomson












A Guttenbeil Family Badge

Very few families actually have coats of arms (‘crests’ or ‘seals’), as the majority of these were granted to nobles. There is no sign that the Guttenbeils’ were ever nobles back in Germany (and in any case nobles were only a very small part of the population).  While Germany differed from Great Britain, in that ‘commoners’ were allowed to hold arms, this was still rare as there was a cost involved.  Also, coats’ of arms are specific to the first person to be granted them and are passed down through their descendants; therefore coats’ of arms are not specific to family names as such, but to family lineages. (The places at shopping malls or on the internet that claim to find your “family crest” ignore these facts.)  There is no sign that the Guttenbeil family ever had a coat of arms.

That said; those of us on the Reunion Committee wanted to create a badge to represent the Guttenbeil family and it’s heritage. We weren’t trying to make a coat of arms as such, but rather a symbol to represent us as a family.




The Badge

The crossed axes represent our German heritage, and literally represent the family – Guttenbeil means “good axe” in German. The axes are a symbol of strength and hard work.

The red manulua pattern below the axes represents our Tongan heritage. This design is common on many Tongan ngatu (tapa). The manulua (two birds) represents two elements coming together, and so too does it represent the German and Tongan, as well as the various other elements, coming together.

The colours used on the shield (red; white; black) represent the colours of the flag of the German Empire at the time that our ancestor, Hermann Gustav Guttenbeil left Germany.

The flags of Germany and Tonga further represent our heritage.

The banner at the bottom lists Pyritz (town of origin) and Vava’u, where the Guttenbeil family as we know it started.