A German Sojourn

Week 52: #52 Ancestors – Future

By Eilene Lyon

My grandiose future plan regarding genealogy (we’re talking years from now) is an extended stay in Germany, perhaps six months. Many branches of my family hail from the Germanic regions of Europe. The Putterer also has a large German contingent in his tree.

You can see from this map how many ancestral families are concentrated in this region. The yellow points are for The Putterer; mine are purple. The map is interactive.


This seems like a good opportunity to get a feel for the geography involved, and to learn a little about each region. Most of these states acquired their present configuration after World War II.

Starting at the top…

Schleswig-Holstein

Family:

Wulff – Lübeck

Lübeck, at the mouth of the Trave River, was the de facto capital of the Hanseatic League, a medieval commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and market towns in central and northern Europe. The league encompassed portions of seven modern-era countries. Its city center is Germany’s most extensive UNESCO World Heritage Site. Though culturally German for the most part, the state was in dispute with Denmark in the 19th century.

Mecklenburg-Vorpormmern (Western Pomerania)

Families:

Gaszow – Friedrichshagen

Mund, Groth – Gressow

This northern German state hugs the Baltic Sea, where there are many resort areas. My ancestors came from the northwestern section of the state, near Grevesmühlen, part of the Hamburg metropolitan region. Schwerin is the state capital. Interesting fact: Manuela Schwesig (b. 1974), serving as Minister-President since 2017, is the first female head of state.

Lower Saxony

Families:

Hohnholt, Struss, Bruhn – Oldenburg region

Schroeder – Hanover

Rockefeller – Schaumburg region

These ancestors of The Putterer came from northwestern Germany, bordering the North Sea. The capital is Hanover. Lower Saxony is Germany’s second largest state, larger than Denmark or The Netherlands. Though surrounded by Lower Saxony, Bremen is actually a separate state. Saxons have been in the region since the 7th century. Hanover was founded in medieval times. Interesting fact: The 300,000-year-old and nearly complete remains of a female straight-tusked elephant were revealed by researchers in May 2020.

Saxony-Anhalt

Families:

Nordt – Beyendorf

Sandring – Osterweddingen

My ancestors Mathias Nordt and Dorothea Sandring married in Osterweddingen and their daughter, Mary Frederica, my great-great grandmother, was born in nearby Beyendorf. Both are part of the Magdeburg metro region (the capital). Saxony-Anhalt has the highest concentration of UNESCO World Heritage sites in Germany. This state was formerly part of East Germany (German Democratic Republic).

North Rhine-Westphalia

Families:

Tils and Wiskirchen – Rheinbach

North Rhine-Westphalia is Germany’s most-populous state with 17.9 million citizens. It’s capital is Düsseldorf, and the largest city is Köln (Cologne). Rheinbach, where my ancestors hail from, features an ancient Roman aqueduct in the city center. In the early 17th century, Rheinbach achieved notoriety because of its witch-hunts. Franz Buirmann, appointed by the Archbishop of Cologne, burned 150 people out of 300 households. Yikes!

Hesse

Family:

Delle – Mainz-Kastel

View of Wiesbaden, which encompasses Mainz-Kastel (E. Lyon 2014)

In 2014 we had a chance to explore Mainz-Kastel, part of the Hesse state capital Wiesbaden. It is culturally (and physically, by bridge) connected to Mainz, capital of Rheinland-Palitinate, on the opposite side of the Rhine River. Much of Mainz-Kastel was rebuilt after WWII (frankly, probably far less attractive than what was there before). Americans think of Hessians in the context of hired British auxiliaries in the Revolutionary War. Interesting fact: The synthetic element hassium, number 108 on the periodic table, was named after the state of Hesse in 1997, following a proposal of 1992.

Rheinland-Palatinate

Families:

Appel – Bosenbach

Leibengut (Livengood) – Oberalben

We visited this state (known as Rheinland-Pfalz in German) in 2014 when we took a bike tour from Merzig (in Saarland state) to Koblenz, along the Saar and Moselle Rivers to the Rhine. This is a prime wine region in Germany. Along the route, we stopped in Trier, founded by Celts in the 4th century BCE, then conquered by the Romans. It is considered Germany’s oldest city. Palatine was the source of early emigration to America from Germany, many following the invitation of William Penn to settle in Pennsylvania. An emigrant’s museum is located in Oberalban, where my Livengood ancestors originated.

View of the wine region along the Moselle River. (E. Lyon 2014)
Bavaria

Familes:

Bauer (Bower) – Beikheim

Rockefeller – Fahr

Appel – Schmölz

Bavaria is Germany’s largest state by area, but its least densely populated. Several of The Putterer’s ancestors came from this region, two in the far north part of the state, and one in the far south, close to Austria. The state capital is Munich (München in German), a city we visited in 2011. Munich’s Oktoberfest is the largest beer festival in the world. Unlike the previously described states, Bavaria is largely Catholic. Interesting fact: The geographic center of the European Union is located in the northwestern corner of Bavaria.

A trip to Munich isn’t complete without a tour of Ludwig II’s castles. ( E. Lyon 2014)
Baden-Württemberg

Families:

Springer – Heidelsheim

Wagner – Nöttingen

Scheible – Lomersheim

Dockenwadel – Zazenhausen

Hepler – Stuttgart

I have quite a few ancestors from this German state. What is now Baden-Württemberg was formerly the historical territories of Baden, Prussian Hohenzollern, and Württemberg. Baden-Württemberg became a state of West Germany in April 1952 by the merger of Württemberg-Baden, South Baden, and Württemberg-Hohenzollern. This region is particularly known for its manufacturing companies, including Porsch, Daimler and Bosch. We visited this and the following regions in 2014. In Baden-Württemberg we took a train to Heidelsheim, ancestral home of my Springer line. It is now a bedroom community of Bruchsal. In odd-numbered years they have a Renaissance festival which I’d love to attend.

The Bruchsal Palace had to be rebuilt after WWII. I believe this building is the orangery. (E. Lyon 2014)
Alsace, France

Family:

Arbogast – Rittershoffen

The Alsace region of France has German and French cultural heritage and has a complex history. Essentially part of France since the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, pockets of German control remained for over a century. The French Revolution effectively ended the feudal era. The only place we visited here was the city of Strasbourg, which is the official seat of the European Parliament. Boat tours are a great way to see the city.

View from a boat tour of Strasbourg. (E. Lyon 2014)
Bern, Switzerland

Family:

Baumgartner – Bremgarten bei Bern

View of the Aare River flowing through Bern. ( E. Lyon 2014)

I really must do a blog about our trip to Switzerland one of these days. What an incredibly beautiful place. I would not say that Bern was the highlight, though it is a lovely city. Perhaps cloudy weather dimmed it somewhat in our eyes. My Baumgartner ancestors were actually from an area just outside the city proper, on the north side of the Aare River. The Bern region joined the Swiss Confederacy, becoming one of eight cantons, in 1353. I confess to having a fond regard for Bernese Mountain dogs, though at $3,000 for one, I’ve decided to pass. Besides, our next dog is going to be smaller than Sterling, not larger!

Durangoans sometimes complain about public art installations, but the Bernese people hate this one even more! (E. Lyon 2014)

Feature image: Bavarian view from Neuschwanstein Castle (E. Lyon 2011)

Sources:

Google Maps

Wikipedia

45 thoughts on “A German Sojourn

Add yours

  1. May your joy and desire of your quest in discovering your family history allow you to have your six months in Germany. Unfortunately, this is a country I only had a sparse amount of time – but hopefully my future will give me more time there. Wishing you and yours a positive 2022. Happy New Year!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What an adventure you have ahead of you! My “German” ancestors came from the island of Pellworm, just off Schleswig-Holstein in the North Sea. They came here so their sons wouldn’t have to fight for the Kaiser. When the parents were born, that part of Germany belonged to Denmark, so are we German or Dane? (Three sons did served in the US Army in WWI and three in WWII.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is ironic how many left to avoid military service then ended up (or their sons and grandson) fighting our wars. I have one German immigrant (Charles Springer) who fought in the Civil War Not too long after coming to America.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I hope you get to do your extended stay! I love how you combined your family connection to the region and some of the highlights of the region. I agree with Sorryless, this would make for a great travel/memoir book!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I would have to look at my tree to name every state my husband’s (almost entirely) German ancestors are from, but it’s most of the western ones. Mine are from Lubeck, Schleswig Holstein and Rhineland Palatinate. However according to Ancestry DNA, my “Germanic Europe” DNA is only 9% even though my mom, on paper at least, had 75% German heritage. I also have about 10% Scandinavian DNA and zero ancestors in my tree from those countries! I suspect that is from my dad’s Scottish ancestors, via the Vikings. DNA is very interesting stuff!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, that is a goal worth dreaming about—six months in Germany. We loved our time there. My relatives were mostly from Hesse near Kassel, but one line was from the Rhine-Palatinate region and one from Bavaria. Keep us posted!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well that is a trip of a lifetime Eilene. I was in Germany and Austria, but never got to Switzerland. I did take a Scandinavian/USSR tour back in 1983 and really enjoyed it. It’s been years since I have traveled overseas and I know things sure have changed. You will find plenty of fodder for blog posts in that trip.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just visiting all the old cities in Europe is so fascinating. The culture so venerable. The Alps so daunting. Very incredible. I look forward to being able to visit for an extended period. I know it’s hardly a unique thing, but for me will be memorable.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’ll really get a chance to immerse yourself in the culture with such an extended stay. It will be memorable. I have nice memories from all my travels and most of my trips were taken on tours where I was by myself and fellow tour members always went out of their way to be nice and ask me to sit with them for meals, or on the train or a bus trip and I could hand them the camera and ask them to take photos – also a plus for me.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I think visiting just about any country for 6 months would be fascinating. Germany is a great choice for many reasons. There used to be a restaurant in the city called Mecklenburg Gardens. It was charming, not that it matters in the least to you. Just happened to think of it.

    Liked by 1 person

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