Is There a Wallenda - Jameson Connection?

There have long been references, speculations and rumors, that the legendary "Flying Wallenda" family is somehow related with the well known Irish Whiskey Jameson family. These traditions appear to have been put forward by members from both of these families at different times over the years.

The "Flying Wallendas" were a circus act and daredevil stunt performers, best known for performing highwire acts without a safety net. They were first known as the "Great Wallendas," but the current name was coined by the press in the 1940s and has stayed ever since. The group was originally developed in the 1920s, by Karl Wallenda and his brother Herman, Joseph Geiger, and a teenage girl, Helen Kreis, who eventually became Karl's wife. Over the years the act included other Wallenda family members.[1]

It can be easily surmised that yes, this Wallenda family is definitely connected with Jamesons, having two different Wallenda men marrying Jameson women and doing so in two different generations. The question is however, who these Jameson women were, if they might have somehow been related and exactly where they may have come from. The question isn't so much if the Wallenda and Jameson families are connected, but if the Wallenda family is specifically connected to the Jameson family of Irish Whiskey fame.

It appears the legend of a connection with the Irish Whiskey Jameson family are based around the fact that the mother of Karl and his circus act siblings, was a certain Kunigunde Jameson, the daughter of Heinrich and Kunigunde (Kramer) Jameson. Author Ron Morris, in his book "Wallenda, A Biography of Karl Wallenda,"[2] says that Henry (b.c.1844) was an Irishman of the Jameson Whiskey family, who had a drinking problem, and whose family sent him off to London, where he served as a private in the British Army in India. While there, in a drunken state, Henry assaulted a superior, then fled for his safety to Russia. He soon joined an English crew building a railroad for the Russian Czar, but quickly tired of that, and jumped off the train near a traveling circus. He made his way with them and other groups to Berlin, where he met and married Kunigunde Kramer. After this marriage to a circus girl, the Jameson Whiskey family completely disowned him. After five children, Henry disappeared. Mr. Morris writes that the only contact after that was in 1916, when Henry wrote his daughter that he had been imprisoned for evading military duty.

A less colorful but somewhat more plausible explanation to the Jameson connection is given by Rick Wellenda, a descendant of Karl Wallenda, in his writings of the early Wallenda family.[3] He says the Wallenda family German Ancestry documentation lists their ancestor, Heinrich Jameson, as "a good British subject, held an evangelical faith rather than Catholic. Only speculation promotes the idea that he abandoned the family tradition of brewing whiskey. He set out on an adventure to create, produce, and make circus his livelihood. Henry may have departed a successful family business; establishing his own venture as (circus) show owner is certain." Apparently this Henry Jameson married a Von Hamilson woman and it was their son Henri/Heinrich (b.22 Mar1844, in London) who married Kunigunde Kramer and was Karl and Herman Wallenda's grandfather. This explanation to the Jameson connection with the Wellenda family involves the same people, but arrives from different beginnings, where the Jamesons are still somehow connected with the Dublin Jameson Whiskey family, just that their lineage and background was somewhat different and apparently less roguish.

The principle problem remains however, in trying to determine who amongst the known Whiskey Jamesons, these Henrys could have been. Although the name Henry was used within the Whiskey Jameson family, there does not seem to be any missing Henry Jamesons who could have been the father to the Henry born about 1844, not otherwise spoken for, nor any Jameson family with a likely gap in listed births, for around the appropriate time. There was a Henry Jameson born to this family, in 1792 in Scotland, who it is said disappeared at age eight, but he would be an unlikely candidate, for several reasons, not the least of which would be his age and the circumstances of the timeline. There is nothing in any published Wallenda or Kunigunde family records that gives any clue as to the elder Henry's parents. Nor is their any known Jameson genealogy, or for that matter, any inkling of a connection with the circus business or the Wallenda family.

The second connection between the Wallenda family and a Jameson family, concerns Herman Wallenda (1901-1985). He was the older brother of Karl and like Karl, the son of Henry and Kunigunde (Kramer) Jameson. Herman's first wife Lucy[4] (b.c.1907), was believed to be a Jameson. Unfortunately, very little is known about her, although her father was identified as "N. Jameson" in one contemporaneous document.[5] It isn't known if she is in any way related to her husband Herman's grandfather Henry (see above), or if she is a totally unrelated and from an entirely different Jameson family. It is entirely possible that she, from a different Jameson family, is the source of the long thought connection with the Wallenda and Irish Whiskey Jamesons.

So, as far as it can be determined, the Wallenda family was clearly connected with a Jameson family, perhaps even two different Jameson families. However, it does not look like anyone has been able to figure out exactly who these Jameson family or families these may have been. Unless or until better records can be uncovered, this issue can only remain pure (or perhaps hopeful) speculation.


[1]     Wikipedia - The Flying Wallendas

[2]     Wallenda, A Biography of Karl Wallenda - Ron Morris - Sagarin Press, July 1976

[3]     The First Wallendas - Rick Wallenda

[4]     Given name may have been Lucie, Lucile, Lucy, Luzia, Lulu - names all used for her in various contemporanious documents and references.

[5]     November 1932 NYC Ship's (SS Hamburg) passenger record lists (T715, Roll 5254, p 157) her mother as "Mrs. N. Jameson" (of Germany)