Week 30: #52 Ancestors – The Old Country

By Eilene Lyon

old country poem

Though I have ancestral origins in England and Wales, perhaps a touch in Ireland, an overwhelming number of forebears came from Germanic regions of Europe. I’ve traveled there several times. On one trip, we specifically visited Heidelsheim and Mainz, because I knew my Springer and Delle lines came from those cities.

Europe14 174
The Putterer and me in Bern, Switzerland. (2014)

We’ve also been to Bern, Switzerland, and Strasbourg, France, though at the time I was unaware I had connections to those places. It’s only been recently that I’ve found records to pinpoint other locations on the German map where I have family ties. I’ve been studying German since January in hopes of eventually returning to the country.

Europe14 187
Carousel in Strasbourg, France. (E. Lyon 2014)

I was quite excited to learn exactly where Carl and Dorothea Gaszow* were living prior to their emigration from Hamburg. All three of their daughters, who were born in Mecklenburg-Schwerin in northern Germany, were baptized at the Evangelische Kirche in Friedrichshagen (AG. Grevesmühlen).

“Friedrichshagen is located on the Schweriner See-Ostseestrand cultural cycle path. This route connects the Baltic Sea Cycle Path with the Elbe-Baltic Sea Cycle Path. Since April 21, 2015, the medieval village church is now officially a cycle path church. Two new benches, a stone table and four bicycle stands invite you to sit and rest.”1

Google map showing the location of Grevesmühlen.
Grevesmühlen with the Protestant church in the background. (City archives of Grevesmühlen)

We love cycling in Europe, so now we have a new path to wander! My Brimmer/Bremmer ancestors also came from Mecklenburg, but I am not yet sure exactly which part.

My Nordt-Sandring ancestors hailed from a place in north-central Germany known as Osterweddingen, just south of Magdeburg, Saxony-Anhalt. This village is noted today for an ancient, decaying windmill, three pigeon towers (about 250 years old), St. Lambertus Church, and a “great homeland festival on Pentecost holidays.”2 Some records indicate the family also lived in nearby Beyendorf-Sohlen for a time.

St. Lambertus Church in Osterweddingen, where Mathias Nordt and Dorothe Sandring were most likely married. (Wikimedia Commons)

Nearby Magdeburg was heavily bombed during World War II, and thus largely rebuilt in the modern era. However, it does have a remarkable Protestant cathedral in which Emperor Otto the Great was laid to rest. It is the oldest gothic cathedral in Germany, so probably well worth a visit.

Finally, I will need to truck on over to Rheinbach in western Germany where my Tils/Dills ancestors lived before immigrating to America. This town, just south of Koln and Bonn, is in North Rhine-Westphalia, not far north of where we cycled along the Saar and Moselle Rivers. Rheinbach lies within the Rhineland nature reserve, so I’m certain there are many lovely sights to see in the area.

This tower in Rheinbach was constructed with materials from the Eifel aqueduct, one of the longest Roman aqueducts ever built, which used to run through this village. (Wikimedia Commons)

I don’t hold out any hope that my German language skills will ever be more than rudimentary, but it hasn’t stopped me from getting around before. However, given the current pandemified state of the world, it’s anyone’s guess as to when I may have another opportunity to visit my ancestral homeland.

Feature image: A castle near the Moselle River in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. (E. Lyon 2014)

  1. http://www.kirche-mv.de/Gressow-Friedrichshagen.1021.0.html, translation by Google (with one slight modification). 
  2. https://de.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osterweddingen, translation by Google. 

46 thoughts on “Homeland

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  1. Such poignancy to the poem. I think you captured the hopeful and bitter feelings many immigrants feel at leaving their homeland and families, especially when the ability to visit was pretty much zero, unlike today when there are so many ways to stay connected. Keep up the German, always great to learn another language, hopefully one day soon you will be able to put it to good use…in some ways it feels a little like our ancestors, never knowing if we’ll see family and far off places again…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Heather. You know I’m not much of a poet, so I appreciate the feedback from an accomplished one.

      Yes, I suppose these times are somewhat reminiscent of the lack of contact our ancestors had – just the mail.

      I’ll probably better luck understanding written (text, not handwriting) German than spoken, but it is helpful in my research. It’s a difficult language compared to Spanish, for instance.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. My office companion is learning German also. She’s told me it is difficult. She had found someone to practice speaking with, but then the lock down started. She is communicating with a friend in Germany so that helps. I’m learning Scottish Gaelic and I think it would be so much better to be able to talk with someone who speaks the language!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Learning a language truly takes immersion, I believe. I know a couple of locals who are native German speakers, though they have been here so long they pretty much just speak English. Once I feel I can have a conversation of sorts, I’ll see if either is willing to work with me.

        Liked by 2 people

      1. I know, which of course made it even more difficult. Your poem expresses honest, heartfelt emotion associated with a particular human experience. In my book, that’s what poetry is supposed to do. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. If you’re interested in a good reference book for expressing emotion in writing, I’d recommend Western Wind: An Introduction to Poetry by John Frederick Nims. (Much of the discussion applies to prose as well as poetry.) If you think you might be interested, I’d suggest to try to find it used. It’s very expensive to buy new.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the poem—so many of our ancestors experienced those goodbyes. And I also have lots of roots in Germany, but our ancestral towns only overlap with Mainz where some of my Seligmann relatives lived.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mainz is a lovely city. We visited the Guttenberg museum there and a very lovely park on the outskirts. We would have had a more enjoyable stay if the Lufthansa pilots hadn’t gone on strike and cancelled our flight home the next day – very stressful!!! And before that the train workers went on strike and we had to get a very expensive taxi ride to Mainz – 150 km.😮

      I’m glad you liked the poem. I felt inspired.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We spent one afternoon and then the next day there. My cousin Wolfgang met us there after we’d just arrived from the US and gave us a walking tour and then a tram tour of the city. We were jet lagged, and the weather was rainy and cool, but we had a great tour. The next day we saw more of the city—it’s truly a beautiful place.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. How great to have family to show you around. Have you met many relatives over there? My immigrant ancestors came over so long ago that any relations there would be quite distant.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t know a lot about poetry, but I know what I like and I liked yours. 🙂
    I hope you get to go on your trip, if only so we can read all about it. Your plans sound marvelous!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to wonder if I like Germany so much because it’s in my DNA. Probably not, but it’s fun to speculate. Thanks for liking my poem. I only write them when they seem to appear out of thin air.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. We’re all wondering when we might travel again. You raise a timely issue. I’d happily go to your ancestral homeland if’n mine was still on the banned list. I have some German in my DNA, somewhere back there…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am so looking forward to going back to Europe. My ancestry is all U.K., but I have always wanted to go to the Nordic countries. And even though I know it is not so, I swear I have an Italian ancestor in there somewhere as it always feels like home to me. Let’s hope we will be welcome eventually!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The origins of my Meintzer surname (also spelled Maintzer) is said to come from “man from Mainz”. Other branches of my Alsatian ancestors originated in Switzerland. We could be related!! I’m still waiting for my trip to Germany. I’m sure we’ll get there eventually . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Going through those 6-8 cM matches on Ancestry earlier today, I realized that it just goes to show: I’m related to everyone! (At least if they have European heritage.) Seriously 😳 😆

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love that tower! Although I don’t have any German ancestry, I was hoping to make it back to Germany myself this summer, which is obviously not going to happen now, but I’d definitely like to start exploring some of the smaller cities and towns one of these days (mostly as an excuse to eat more German baking, which is probably my favourite in Europe). Here’s hoping we can all travel again safely someday in the not too distant future!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really do look forward to seeing all these places someday. It’s kind of sad so many people felt the need to leave their homes to go so far away. Must have been heartbreaking in some respects. Hope you’re staying safe and well in England.

      Liked by 1 person

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