The oldest extant document referring to both villages (Günthersleben & Wechmar) is the brevarium lulli, an inventory of possessions of the abbey of Hersfeld. In this document, dating from 786, they are referred to as Wehemare and Gonresleibin. Up to the late Middle Ages, no specifically noteworthy historical events took place; for further details please consult the German version of this Article. Sometime between 1590 and 1600, however, Veit Bach settled in Wechmar, who is seen by most as the "founding father" of the Bach musical family. The most prominent person in this lineage is, of course, J.S. Bach, who was the great-great-grandson of Veit Bach and whose grandfather Christoph Bach grew up in Wechmar before taking a position as city musician in Erfurt. Based on these facts, the Village of Wechmar proudly calls itself "Home of the founding fathers of the Bach musical family" (Urväterheimat der Musikerfamilie Bach). As of 2006, there are once again some descendants of the Bach family living in Wechmar.
The family of the Freiherren von Wechmar can also trace its origins to the village of Wechmar. The former President of the UN General Assembly and former German ambassador to the UN, Rüdiger von Wechmar, who is also an honorary citizen of Wechmar, is currently their most prominent member.
Wechmar is said to be the place, from where the Bach's family descendent. If J.S. Bach ever stayed in Wechmar is not known. The chronicle of the Bach family (Ursprung) was probably begun by J.S. Bach himself and continued by his son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach  (1714-1788). The choronicle begins with Bach's great-great-grandfather, the baker Veit Bach  (?-<1578].
The Ursprung traces the family as far back as Veit Bach in the mid-16th century. Up to the generation of Veit's grandsons, however, much remains unclear, and the lack of available archival documents in church records and elsewhere makes it impossible to clarify this period in the family's history. The supposition, found in some Bach literature, that Veit was a son of Hans  is untenable; this Hans, who can be traced in Wechmar in 1561, must have been a brother, cousin or other relative. Nothing is known of his profession. Although Hans is the earliest bearer of the name of Bach to be found in Wechmar, no further conclusion can be drawn from that. By this time the name of Bach (also often spelt 'Baach', hinting at the phonetic value of a long 'a', as in 'father'; see Bach-Dokumente, ii, nos.l and 6) was widespread in the Thuringian region, and it can be traced back to the 14th century, though there is no evidence that any of these earlier members of the family were involved in musical activity. The Ursprung says of Veit Bach, who was a baker by trade, that his hobby was playing the 'cythringen' (a small cittern). There is an explicit additional sentence - 'this was, as it were, the beginning of music in his descendants' - which probably indicates that none of Veit Bach's ancestors was a professional musician. Neither was Veit Bach himself. He had most likely been driven from Moravia or Slovakia about 1545 as a result of the expulsion of Protestants in the Counter- Reformation, at the time of the Schmalkaldian War (1545-1547). The reference to 'Hungary' in the Ursprung is not to be taken literally and in accordance with the terminology of the time must signify in general terms the central lands of the Habsburg Empire (including present-day Austria and Czechoslovakia). Veit took up residence in Wechmar - a small town located between Gotha and Ohrdruf - and must have died by 1577 as for that year his sons Johann(es) [Hans] Bach  and Lips [3/57] are recorded as house-owners in Wechmar. Contrary to current opinion (which is based on the assumption that Hans was Veit Bach's father), Veit Bach did not migrate from Wechmar or Thuringia but (according to Korabinsky, 1784) was born in Moravia or Slovakia, as the son of an earlier migrant, possibly in or near Pressburg (now Bratislava). There, and elsewhere in the Habsburg lands, various people by the name of Bach can be traced in the 16th and 17th centuries, among them musicians such as the Spielmann (violinist) and jester Johann or Hans Bach. It seems noteworthy that Count Questenberg, with whom J.S. Bach had connections, employed a certain Maria Rosina Bach in 1721 as a j maid at his Moravian castle Jaromĕřice.
Another Veit Bach  died in Wechmar in 1619; nothing further is known of him. He should not be confused with Veit Bach , the head of the Wechmar line of the Bach family; he may have been a son of Veit or Hans. In the 16th and early 17th centuries there were in Thuringia branches of the family which may have been connected either directly or indirectly with the Wechmar line and in which musicians are occasionally found (for example Eberhard Heinrich Bach, son of a Heinrich Bach, a trumpeter from Rohrborn near Erfurt who went to the Netherlands and emigrated to Indonesia about 1598). However, the Ursprung wisely limits itself to the smaller circle which can strictly be considered the musical family of Bachs.
Johann(es) [Hans] Bach , Veit Bach's son, was the first member of the family to receive a thorough musical training and to pursue a musical career, even though he also pursued other activities. His sons were the first to follow music exclusively. By accepting salaried positions they became sedentary and distinct from non-organized musicians (or 'beer-fiddlers'), thereby taking the first step towards citizenship and breaking with the tradition of the Spielmann - although in their varied occupations as instrumentalists their background continued to have its effect.
J.S. Bach's grandfather Christoph Bach  (1613-1661) was the first one to leave Wechmar. He headed for Arnstadt and Erfurt. In Er4firt J.S. Bach's father Johann Ambrosius Bach  (1645-1695) was born, who then worked in Eisenach.
The home of the Bachs in the Bachstrasse 4 is a typical Franconian half-timbered house from the 16th century with a so-called Thuringian ladder, also known as the Bach ancestral house, is Bach memorial and museum of the Thuringian music players and instrument makers. It presents documens and portraits as well as furniture from the time of the Bachs in Wechmar from 1561 to 1825. A plaque reminds us of Veit Bach and his son Hans, who was known as the "Music Player of Wechmar". The three grandchildren Johann, Christoph and Heinrich were also born here. The Lower Mill (NiedermOhle) in the Mill street also belonged to VeiBach and is called the Bach Mill today. It was later bequeathed to his son.
See also: The Bach Family - Family Tree | The Bach Family - Family History
Musician Members of the Bach family in Wechmar:
Veit Bach  (?-<1578]
Johann(es) [Hans] Bach  (1550-1626)
Lips [Philippus] Bach  (c1590-1620)
Johann(es) [Hans] Bach  (1604-1673)
Christoph Bach  (1613-1661)
Heinrich Bach  (1615-1692)
Ernst Christian Bach  (1747-1822)
Christoph Wolff: The New Grove Bach Family (MacMillan London, 1983)
Reisewege zu Bach - Travelling Ways to Bach (Michael Imhof Verlag, 2003), p. 115
Brochures from Bach Tours of Aryeh Oron (1999, 2004)