Beethoven’s Family Tree

Beethoven’s Family Tree

Ludwig van Beethoven, a name synonymous with musical genius, has captivated audiences for centuries. Yet, beyond his timeless compositions lies a fascinating family history. This article delves into Beethoven’s family tree, exploring the roots that grounded this legendary composer.

Early Ancestors and Parents

The Flemish Connection

Beethoven’s story begins in the Flemish region, now part of modern-day Belgium. His paternal ancestors were notable musicians in their own right, laying the groundwork for what would become a legacy.

Lodewijk van Beethoven

Lodewijk, Beethoven’s grandfather and namesake, was a respected musician and Kapellmeister (music director) at the court of the Elector of Cologne. His move to Bonn, Germany, was pivotal in establishing the Beethoven family in the region.

Johann van Beethoven

Johann, Beethoven’s father, was also a musician, albeit with less acclaim than his father. A tenor at the Electoral court, Johann’s career was marred by alcoholism. Despite his struggles, he played a crucial role in Beethoven’s early musical education.

Maria Magdalena Keverich

Maria Magdalena, Beethoven’s mother, came from a local family in Ehrenbreitstein. Her father was the chief overseer of the kitchen at the Archbishopric of Trier. Maria was described as a gentle, moral influence in Beethoven’s life, contrasting with his father’s erratic behavior.

Siblings: A Challenging Family Life

Beethoven was one of seven children, though only three survived into adulthood. His family life was marked by his father’s alcoholism and the financial instability it caused.

Kaspar Anton Karl van Beethoven

Kaspar, born in 1774, was Beethoven’s younger brother and a significant figure in his life. He worked as a secretary at the court chapel in Bonn before moving to Vienna. Kaspar’s death in 1815 had a profound impact on Beethoven, particularly in the ensuing custody battle for Kaspar’s son, Karl.

Nikolaus Johann van Beethoven

Nikolaus Johann, the youngest, born in 1776, initially followed in the family’s musical footsteps but later pursued a career in pharmacy. He remained close to Beethoven, offering support in his later years.

Beethoven’s Nephew: Karl van Beethoven

Karl, Kaspar’s son, became a central figure in Beethoven’s life. After Kaspar’s death, Beethoven fought for and won custody of Karl, a decision driven by his desire to provide the boy with a stable upbringing. This relationship, however, was fraught with challenges and misunderstandings.

The Custody Battle

The custody battle for Karl was a significant legal and personal struggle for Beethoven. He faced opposition from Karl’s mother, Johanna, whom Beethoven deemed unfit. This battle showcased Beethoven’s fierce protectiveness but also his controlling nature.

Karl’s Turbulent Youth

Karl’s relationship with Beethoven was complex. While Beethoven sought to provide a good education and a moral compass, Karl often rebelled against his uncle’s strictures. This tension culminated in a tragic episode where Karl attempted suicide, profoundly affecting Beethoven.

Extended Relatives and Influences

While Beethoven never married or had children, his extended family and acquaintances played essential roles in his life and work.

Stephan von Breuning

Stephan von Breuning, a friend from Bonn, became a lifelong companion and confidant. Their friendship provided Beethoven with emotional support, especially during his legal battles and declining health.

Johann van Beethoven (Brother’s Son)

Johann, the son of Nikolaus Johann, was another relative who maintained contact with Beethoven. While not as prominent in Beethoven’s life as Karl, Johann represented a familial connection during Beethoven’s later years.

Other Influences

Beethoven’s patrons, such as Archduke Rudolph and Prince Lichnowsky, also formed part of his extended musical family. These relationships, sometimes strained by Beethoven’s uncompromising nature, nonetheless provided him with the financial and social support crucial for his artistic endeavors.

Conclusion: A Legacy Beyond Music

Ludwig van Beethoven’s family tree is a tapestry of talent, tragedy, and tenacity. From his Flemish roots to his siblings and nephew, each family member played a part in shaping the man and the musician. Beethoven’s story is not just one of musical genius but of a complex family dynamic that both challenged and inspired him.

Through his life, Beethoven navigated familial responsibilities, personal loss, and the challenges of guardianship, all while composing some of the world’s most enduring music. His family story underscores the human behind the legend,

Origins of the name & van Beethoven’s Family

Where does the name van Beethoven come from?

Beeth means ‘beetroot’ and Hoven is the plural of ‘Hof’, meaning ‘farm’. Beethoven is therefore ‘beetroot farms’.

There is a village named Betthoven in the province of Liège.

Early Beethoven History

In the 15th century, there were Beethoven’s at Limbourg and at Liège.

In the 16th, in many of the Brabant villages: Leefdael, Rotselaer, Bertem, Haecht, Neder Ockerzeel…

Then these families moved to towns: Malines, Louvain, Anvers.

It was at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries that Corneille and his sister Maria arrived at Malines. He was originally from Bertem, his father from Boortmeerbeek and his ancestors from Kampenhout.

van Beethoven’s Family Migration

Louis, Ludwig’s grandfather, is at the heart of the van Beethoven’s family migration.

In 1731, he left Malines for Louvain. In 1733, he moved to Bonn after a stay of several months at Liège at the end of 1732.

Next, he was joined by his brother Corneille, and then by his parents who were fleeing bankruptcy.

Cornelius (Corneille) van Beethoven Bio

Malines…The first mention of Cornelius, or Corneille, in the registers of Malines dates from August 30, 1671, on the occasion of the marriage of his sister Marie. He lived at 7 rue des Pierres, in a house called Little Windmill.

He was probably a carpenter or joiner.

Corneille married Catherine van LEEMPOEL at Malines on February 12, 1673.

Corneille van Beethoven was buried in the parish of Notre Dame on March 29, 1716. He was given a middle class funeral and his courtège was escorted down la rue des Pierres by the carpenters’ guild.

Michael (Michel) van Beethoven Bio

Michel was born on February 15, 1684, and his godmother was Elisabeth van Leempoel. He lived in the house in rue des Pierres.

In 1700, he was apprentice baker, and became Head Baker on October 5, 1707.

He married Maria Ludovica STUYCKERS on October 8, 1707. They moved into a house called The Speckled Bullok. They left in 1711 to live in the Rue des pierres after the death of his father.

Michel was therefore a baker, but Beethoven history shows he equally participated in the buying and selling of paintings. Perhaps he could have been a bric-a-brac trader? Around 1720, he worked in the Malines lace trade, particularly reputable for his luxurious items. It would seem that his trade thrived because, in 1727, the Beethoven couple possessed four houses in the rue des Juifs, plus other residences, which each had inherited from their parents.

Ludwig (Louis) van Beethoven Bio

Louis was born on January 5, 1712 at Malines. Beethoven’s family included his godfather, Louis Stuyckers, his maternal grandfather, and his godmother Elisabeth van Leempoel, his great aunt.

He became a choirboy and then entered the choral school of Saint-Rombaut on December 10, 1717. He was taught by Charles Major, an excellent musician, a demanding teacher and a scholar (at his death he possessed 9 430 works!). After singing, Louis probably learn to play the organ, taught by the organist Antoine Colfs. He showed a strong disposition for music, and indeed his family and he himself thought it would become his profession.

However, at Malines, there were few possibilities to make it in life with music. However, the young Louis applied for a job as tenor to the church college of Saint-Pierre, at Louvain, where there was a spare place for a limited period. Not only was he accepted, but the master of the chapel, a certain Louis Colfs (it is not unlikely that he was of the same family as the organist at Malines) proposed to place him as conductor. His knowledge of music and his acquaintances therefore became particularly exceptional. His candidature finished on November 9, 1731.

Johann (Jean) van Beethoven Bio

Johann was born in March 1740 at Bonn, and was probably baptized at the court chapel at Bonn. He was to be the father of Beethoven the composer.

As a youngster, he followed lessons at the Jesuite College. Then he became treble at the court chapel, at the age of twelve. Following this, Johann became musician at the court.

He married Maria Magdalena KEVERICH on November 12, 1767 at the church of Saint Rémy at Bonn against the wishes of his father. The couple moved into 515 Bonngasse.

Johann gave music lessons, usually teaching singing and violin. But drink was the first passion and the first poison of the musician.

By 1784, Beethoven history reveals that his voice was completely ruined. He died miserably on December 18, 1792.


Born the December 17th 1770 at Bonn Died the March 26th 1827 at Vienna Beethoven’s two sisters did not have any children. Only one of Beethoven’s four brothers had a child. The child was a boy, named Carl.

Jan Van Beethoven and Maria Magdelena Keverig  
Married November 12th 1767 at Bonn

Lodewijk Van Beethoven and Maria Josepha Poll

Lodewijk- Born January 5th 1712
at Mechelen in Belgium
Died December 24th 1773 at Bonn

Maria- Born in 1714
Died Spetember 30th 1775 at Bonn

Cornelius Van Beethoven   and Catharina Van Leempoel
Married February 12th 1673 at Mechelen

Cornelius- Born October 20th 1641 at Bertem. Died March 29th 1716 at Mechelen

Cathatina- Born in 1642
Died in 1729