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This is the THIRTY-SIXTH page of John BLANKENBAKER's series of Short Notes on GERMANNA History, which were originally posted to the GERMANNA_COLONIES Discussion List.  Each page contains 25 Notes.


(See bottom of this page for Links to all Notes pages.)
This Page Contains Notes 876 through 900.

GERMANNA History Notes
Page 36

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Nr. 876:

Perhaps the problems in baptismal record keeping can be summed up in the record for George Rodt, who was baptized at St. Joseph's Catholic Church.  The record reads, "George Rodt, son of Thomas and Mary, born 28 September 1778 and baptized 30 October 1778." To the end of this record, the priest added, "I think."

The biggest problem in using baptismal records is gaps.  Pastor competence and availability are causes.  Problems occur because of turmoil and discord in the congregation, or because of some outside social or political factor.  The register of the Germantown Lutheran Church has a gap from 29 November 1777 to 13 July 1778.  The register tells why, "The arrival of British troops interrupted the service."  [This harkens back to the late seventeenth century in Germany, when the pastors could have written, "The arrival of the French troops interrupted the service."]  During this period, parents often took their children to other churches, where the minister was still on duty.

Rural churches often had gaps due to the unavailability of pastors.  It was hard to attract ministers to rural churches, especially the smaller ones.  It often pays the researcher to total the baptisms by year in a church.  Unusually low counts indicate some problems, and may be the reason that an expected baptism is not present.

As another example, John Humphrey cites that James Boyd was born in one county, baptized in another county, with the baptism recorded in a third county.  Sometimes the birth occurred in one state and was recorded in another state, e.g., in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, which are separated by the Delaware River.  Some pastors, serving more than one church, were prone to record all of the information in just one book.

Rev. Muhlenberg, patriarch of the Lutheran Church, was guilty of not doing his book work.  He records, for example, in his journal, that he performed twenty-two baptisms one morning, yet the record books do not show any baptisms for that date.

Given the difficulty of finding a pastor, the incompleteness with which the records were kept, and the dangers inherent in keeping the records safely, it is a wonder that we have as much information as we do.


Nr. 877:

Let’s turn our attention to the baptismal register for the German Lutheran Church in the Robinson River Valley.  It may not be obvious at a first reading, but we can be thankful that the Lutherans of that day did not prohibit blood kin from serving as spiritual kin.  Not only did they allow blood kin to serve as sponsors but they seem to demand that the sponsors be chosen from relatives of the parents.  In fact, this rule is enforced so strongly that it becomes a valuable research tool for us.

The rules regarding the choice of sponsors were not written down anywhere.  By a detailed study of the register, one can infer the rules.  This takes a lot of work, looking at the known cases first.  Then one can apply the knowledge to the unknown cases and infer relationships there; however, a word of caution is appropriate.  It is easy to infer erroneous facts, so caution must be exercised.

Basically, the sponsors were brothers and sisters of the parents.  The spouses of the brothers and sisters were just as good.  Also, first cousins were popular.  Again, the spouses of first cousins were as good as the first cousins.  Parents, aunts, or uncles of the parents were occasionally used, but only rarely.  Friends, i.e., unrelated individuals, are almost never used.  In very rare cases, children of the parents may serve as sponsors for other children.  The idea behind these choices is that the sponsors were responsible for the spiritual health of the child.  Old people were not desired because they might not live long enough.  Probably the rule about using relatives was a reflection of the concern that most people show for their relatives.

So strongly were these guidelines used that I have detected errors in the translation of the baptism register because the translated name was not logical.  In the most recent case of this, the translated name was Lea Brile.  I doubted this and looked at the microfilm records.  There I found that the name was really Berler, which is the way that the name Barlow was written at church at this time.  When the rule starts showing where the errors are, one can trust the rule to be a valuable guide.

The baptismal register and other registers of the (Hebron) Lutheran church in Madison County are keep under lock and key.  They are so fragile that they cannot be used directly for research.  One must consult the microfilm, or the translation that was made by George M. Smith.  Mr. Smith did a good job, especially considering the difficulty of reading some of the material.  But he did make a few errors.

This baptismal register is the only record of eighteenth century baptisms at the German Lutheran Church in the Robinson River Valley.  Recent items here about the marriage and baptism records of John Caspar Stöver apply to those made by the son.  (The father was in Virginia and the son was in Pennsylvania.)  A little of the son’s work was just over the border into northern Virginia, but none of it touched the Robinson River Valley.  Some of the confusion has arisen because B. C. Holtzclaw erroneously wrote statements which implied that the son’s work extended to the Robinson River Valley.


Nr. 878:

The issue of Beyond Germanna that is going in the mail tomorrow discusses a case that is pertinent to the recent discussion about baptisms.  This is a matter of finding the surname of the wife of Conrad Künzle whom we know only from the baptismal records as Rahel (Rachel).  None of the records explicitly say that her maiden name was Barlow, but the baptismal records make it clear that she was a Barlow.

The church is the German Lutheran Church in Culpeper Co., VA (now Madison Co.), in the Robinson River Valley.  I am not aware of any other records, either civil or church, than these baptismal records, that pertain to Conrad Künzle.  If you look for records, be advised that the spelling variants are many, including Genssle.

The sponsors that Conrad and Rachel Künzle chose are John Smith, Elizabeth Smith, Henry Barlow (x2), George Christler (x2), Anna Christler, Jemima Barlow (x2), Dieterich Hoffman, Lea Barlow (translated as Breil), and Susanna Aylor.  The most prominent name is this list is Barlow, which is a tipoff that she might have been a Barlow, but this is not a rule to be trusted alone.

John Michael Smith, Jr. gave land to his sons and sons-in-law, one of whom was Adam Barlow.  Adam’s wife is shown in the church records to be Mary.  Mary had a brother Zachariah and a brother John who was married to Elizabeth.  Mary also had a sister, Anna Magdalena, married to John George Christler.  As the daughter of Mary, Rachel was the niece of Zachariah, John, and Anna Magdalena.  She was the sister of Lea and Jemima Barlow and a cousin of Henry Barlow.

Choosing uncles and aunts as sponsors was a rare event, but it did occur.  Consider the circumstances.  Conrad Künzle appears not to have had any relatives in the community, so the choices had to be from Rachel’s relatives.  She was about the oldest Barlow of her generation which, when coupled with an early marriage for her, left her with few choices for sponsors.  Her brothers, sisters, and cousins were young.  Under these conditions, she could hardly do anything else than have aunts and uncles as sponsors.

The name Lea Breil (as translated) was a mistake by the translator.  It was detected because Lea Breil did not make sense (nor could she be found in any family).  The mistake was confirmed as such by consulting the microfilm of the baptismal record.  It was not easy to read, which is probably why the mistake was made in translation, but, knowing that it was much more likely to be Berler (the spelling used at the church for Barlow), it was possible to trace out the letters.  Some of the time, one will need to consult the original records and not rely on translations alone.


Nr. 879:

Continuing with Conrad and Rachel (Barlow) Künzle, two of their children were recorded in the first part of the baptismal register which was organized by family.  When Jacob Franck came as minister in 1775, he started a chronological section entering each successive baptism after the previous.  During this time Ambrosius Künzle was born and recorded there.  Later there were six more children entered in the family section.  Thus, someone who was looking hurriedly at the register might conclude that there were only eight children and miss Ambrosius.

The last six in the family section, with birth dates from 1780 to 1794, have no baptism dates.  The time spans at least two ministers, an unknown man after Franck, and then William Carpenter, who started in 1787.  If the six had been baptized reasonably close to their birth dates, there would have been differences of entries.  For example, in 1780, sponsors were very standard, though by 1794 sponsors were optional.  I venture that if the original records were examined, one would find that six were written in the same hand with the same ink.

I conclude (perhaps prematurely but at least tentatively) from this, that Conrad and Rachel Künzle were living in the Culpeper region, through Ambrosius who was born in 1778.  I think that they moved away in the next two years, and the next six children were not baptized for some time.  Eventually they came back to the Robinson River Valley after 1794 and brought their children.  The six that had never been baptized were baptized at the same time (probably as a private baptism).  Rev. Carpenter remembered the family section of the register which still had room, and used that space to enter the baptisms.

This register and other baptismal registers can often tell us a lot above and beyond what is explicitly written down.  There is a tremendous amount of implied information which usually does not jump out at you.  One must study to find it.

Whereas John Humphrey has or is compiling indices to baptisms with the pertinent details, this may lose some of the implied information.  Though John makes it easy to tell if your infant is there, you will probably want to study some of the documents which are closer to the original.  In other words, nothing beats the original documents.  A good translation will convey much of the sense of the original document.  George Smith did just this in his translation of the German Lutheran Church (later called Hebron) baptismal register; however, he made a few errors, and I gave one example in the last note.  Getting back closer to the original is sometimes necessary.  Many of these documents that are close to two hundred and fifty years old will not stand handling by the public.  Therefore, we are dependent on microfilm copies.

If anyone can tell me something about Conrad Künzle, I would love to hear it.  About all that I know is that he is the father of at least nine children, he married Rachel Barlow, and he lived in Culpeper County around the time of the Revolution, but apparently moved away around 1779.


Nr. 880:

The German Lutheran Church in the Robinson River Valley eventually became known as Hebron.  No one seems to know when this name came into existence, but throughout the eighteenth century it was NOT Hebron.  Some English people referred to it as the "Dutch" church.

The earliest baptisms, of which there are records, start in 1750.  The standard number of sponsors was four, but many times only three are shown.  There may have been more at one time, but some names may have been omitted.  I have explained already that, in about 95% of the cases, the sponsors are known relatives.  The other 5% may be our ignorance.

Many people are surprised to learn that the baptismal register that we have today was first written in 1775.  Thus, even this is not as original as one might think.  The conclusion that it was written in 1775 can be told by the internal evidence, even from the Smith translation (the mark of a good translation is that it preserves the information in the original).  Again, this is an example of implicit evidence that takes a little study to ferret out.  The November issue of Beyond Germanna was devoted almost entirely to the development of the arguments which are conclusive.

In doing the rewriting, the church fathers decided to leave out the records of people who had left the community.  They (people who had left the community) and their children are not shown.  If they had appeared as sponsors for previous baptisms, they were omitted.  The only names in the rewritten register of 1775 are the people who were still living in the community, in 1775.

Without this little bit of knowledge, you might draw incorrect conclusions about your ancestors.  You might conclude that the Holts, for example, never went to the Lutheran Church.  This is an erroneous conclusion, but so is the conclusion that they went to the church.  We simply do not know.

If you count the number of baptisms per year from 1750 to 1775, the number is quite low compared to the period 1775 to 1778.  This, in itself, requires some explanation, as Klug and Schwarbach, the ministers during the first period, were energetic.  Perhaps they did not match the energy of Franck, the minister during the '75 to '78 period, but certainly something more is needed to account for the eleven to one ratio, for the number of baptisms per year.  In view of the rewriting of the register, which occurred in 1775, it is possible to explain some of the difference.  I will go into this case of the Missing Baptisms in the next note.

[The next notes may be subject to some minor delays, as the doctor told me today that I have the shingles.  If I feel no worse than I have today, all will be ok.]


Nr. 881:

I feel sorry for people who pick up the Hebron Church Register merely to find their ancestor's birth and/or baptismal record.  Looking in the index, finding a name, turning to the page, getting the date and the name of the parents is hardly the complete story.  The book is so rich in history that using it as a one minute or even a five minute reference guide is hardly scratching the surface.

As I have already said, the register dates from 1775, when the first writing was made in it.  So, it is not as old as one might imagine.  When they rewrote it in 1775, what was the basis of the data that they wrote?  I believe they had written notes to work from.  They did not call in people and ask them when their children were born and who the sponsors were.  Though the information is not as complete as it could be, it is more complete, and seemingly accurate, than memory alone could account for.  (One or two families were written from memory, in part.)

In the period 1750 to 1775, generally, no baptismal dates were recorded, which is a strange thing to omit in a baptismal register.  The information in the period from 1750 to 1775 was written, not as a record of baptisms, but as a record of family structure, for the benefit of the next minister, who, in this case, was to be Rev. Franck.  Organized as family data or group sheet, it told who the parents were (no maiden names for the mothers though), and the children by birth date.

No family was included who had children born before 1750.  Naturally there were families with children born before and after 1750, but these families were not included.

You may be wondering why your family was not included.  First, they may have moved away before 1775.  Second, they may have had children born before 1750.  Third, they may not have gone to church, perhaps because they were not Lutherans.

Why were families with children born before 1750 not included?  The reasons are not clear.  It may be that they had no records before 1750, and they did not wish to include any family whose record was not complete.  I am inclined to this view, but the answer may be otherwise.  It may be that starting with 1750 was just an arbitrary decision.

Baptisms are missing in the present record for at least two reasons.  The families who had moved away were omitted.  Before they moved, they had children baptized but there was no need to rewrite the record of these, for the register of 1775 was being written to inform the new minister.  Those families who had children baptized (born?) before 1750 were omitted even if they had children after 1750.

People often ask me questions (pertaining to Hebron) which I would not normally think of answering.  If someone has a question, then probably a few other people have the same question.  So send your questions in and I will attempt to answer them.


Nr. 882:

One of the rules which was used in the rewriting of the Register of the German Lutheran Church (Hebron) in 1775 was that no family was to be included who had children born before 1750.  When they set up this rule, they probably did not realize how much trouble it would give them.  Though the rule seems simple enough, its application in the case of one family gave the writers a problem.

Zacharias Blankenbaker married a widow (Alcy), who had two daughters.  The two daughters were born before 1750.  The children of Zach and Alcy were all born after 1750.  How was this family to be handled or treated?  Were they to be included or not?  After debating the question, and postponing a decision until they were almost to the end of the rewrite, they decided to include the family without the two daughters of Alcy.  So Alcy had all of her children by Zach included, while her two daughters by her first husband were not included.

If a published Wayman family history is believed (no documentation is offered), it would indicate that Alcy had married a Finks.  This may be possible, because the family of Mark Finks, in the 1738 Orange County Tithables, had two Tithables in it.  One would have been Mark, but the other one could not have been a son of Mark.  Perhaps this person did marry Alcy (whose formal given name, as well as her maiden name are unknown).

Alcy’s two daughters were Elizabeth and Mary Magdalena.  Elizabeth married Peter Broyles, and Mary Magdalena married, second, Henry Wayman.  Zach and Alcy had a daughter whose name was apparently Mary Elizabeth, though she seems to have used Mary alone.

When Zach and Alcy were choosing sponsors for their children, they were all chosen from his relatives.  Five times he chose his brother, Michael, and five times he chose his brother, Jacob.  Three times he chose his aunt, Catherine Broyles.  Once he chose his uncle, Jacob.  Twice he chose Elizabeth Blankenbaker, his brother Michael’s wife.  Once he chose Elizabeth Garr.  Without knowing Alcy’s parentage, I cannot say that none of these people were her relatives, but it appears that Alcy was from a family who did have not a strong affiliation, if any at all, with the Lutheran Church.

In the cases where the sponsors are all chosen from one parent’s family, the use of uncles and aunts was sometimes a necessity.  We had a similar situation with Conrad Künzle and Rachel Barlow.

When you have lived with the names and studied the people, it becomes very easy to start thinking of them as friends and to use familiar names for them.


Nr. 883:

Though the Church Register of the German Lutheran Church in the Robinson River Valley was primarily for baptisms, it does contain other material.  One part, with the most genealogical information, is the list of communicants.  Another part has the names of newly confirmed people, sometimes with their age.  Both of the sections start about 1775, and continue into the 1800's.  A list of communicants consists of the names of people who partook of communion on any given Sunday.  Again, as with the baptisms, there is a tremendous amount of implicit information that goes far beyond the explicit list of names.

In conjunction with another document, it is possible, for example, to determine the wife of John Willheit, son of the immigrant Johann Michael Willheit and his wife Anna Maria Hengsteler.  That there should be any question, arises from Germanna Record 13, which says that she was Margaret, or Peggy, the daughter of Peter and Mary (Huffman) Weaver, Jr.  There is only one problem.  This woman would have been much too young.  In fact, she would have been younger than some of her children!

Looking at the names of the communicants, John Willheit, and wife Burga, attended the Lutheran Church on Easter Sunday in 1776.  None of the grandsons of Michael Willheit had wives whose names suggest Burga.  Therefore, this John Willheit is the son of the immigrant.  It furthermore is confirmed by the age of the people who sat next to John and Burga on this Easter Sunday.  They were of an age similar to John Willheit, who was born in 1713.  On the Sunday after Easter in 1778, the name Burga Willheit was recorded again, though without John.

Two documents outside the Hebron Church have information about the Weber or Weaver family.  One list, in Gemmingen, Germany, had the names, in part, of Joseph Weber, 30; Susanna, 25; Hans Dieterich, 7; and Sophia, 4.  These people left in 1717.

Alexander Spotswood's list of forty-eight imported Germans gives the Weber family as Joseph Wever, Susanna Wever, Hans Frederick Wever, Maria Sophia Wever, and Wabburie Wever.  The equivalence of the two families is obvious if we note that Wabburie was added during the trip, i.e., she was born "at sea".

Now, neither Burga or Wabburie is a proper German name.  They both suggest a known German name of Walburga (or Waldburga).  Therefore, John Willheit married Walburga Weaver, the daughter of Joseph Weaver and his wife Susanna Clore.  Walburga had a surviving brother, Hans Dieterich, who became known as Peter.  The fate of Sophia is unknown.  The age of Walburga Weaver is correct, as she was four years younger than John Willheit.

The two extraneous documents told us there was a Burga.  The church records told us she married John Willheit.  A study of the community told us that there were no other Walburgas.


Nr. 884:

Descendants of the First Germanna Colony left, in the immediate generations, fewer baptismal records than were left by the Second Colony people at the German Lutheran Church in the Robinson River Valley.  Though the First Colony had a church from the very beginning, which was most unusual, it appears that no records survived from this.  Their German Reformed Church essentially came to an end with the death of Rev. Häger, though services with a reader, or an occasional itinerant minister, were held for at least another couple of decades.

The successor churches for the members of this German Reformed Church were mostly Baptist, where record keeping was not a high priority.  It is unfortunate that not more church records exist, since they could go a long way toward helping to piece together the family structures.

The extant records are mostly private records.  These are the records that one family keeps, and, generally, they pertain to only that family.  Even of this type, not many have been retained.  The most notable example is the record that John Hoffman, of the 1714 Colony, kept.  This set exists only in a copy form, not as an original document.  The published version was said to be a first generation copy.

He records the birth of his father, and the marriage of his father and mother.  Then, he gives the death of his parents.  He gives his own birth, baptism, and marriage to Anna Catharine Häger.  His first born was the daughter Agnes, and the witness was the sister of his wife.  Following in order, John Henry’s baptism was witnessed by Henry Häger, his wife’s father, then Anna Catharine’s baptism was witnessed by his wife’s mother, then John’s baptism was witnessed by John Fischbach.  Next was a stillborn son, and the mother died on the same day, 9 Feb 1727.

Very soon thereafter, John Hoffman married Maria Sabina Folg (Volck would be a more correct spelling).  Twelve children followed, but, before giving these, let us make a few observations.  For the children of the first wife, only one witness was used.  Presumably the baptism itself was done by Rev. Henry Häger, who was still living.  Notice that relatives were favored as witnesses.  Since John Hoffman had come as a bachelor, he did not have any relatives.  His wife, though, had her sister, mother, and her father, and all of these served as witnesses.

About the time that his first wife died, John Hoffman moved to the Robinson River Valley, where his second wife was living.  (Which came first is unclear.) As we will see in the next note, the pattern starts changing in the baptism of the twelve children by Maria Sabina, and this raises several questions.  (Maria Sabina Volck was the daughter of Mrs. George Utz, though John Hoffman never identifies her as this.)


Nr. 885:

The first child of John Hoffman and Maria Sabina Volck was Nicholas, born (apparently) and baptized 11 Jul 1731.  His witnesses were Nichlaus Jaeger, Baltz Blankenbuechler and "the mother of my wife".

For each child of the first wife, Anna Catherina Häger, only one witness was present or named.  This witness was always a relative, counting a brother-in-law of the mother, John Fishback, as a relative.  Why was the switch made to multiple witnesses, usually three?  Possibly, it was the desire of Maria Sabina, who was baptized in the Lutheran church.  We have seen that the Lutherans tended to three or four witnesses.  Many of the baptisms that B. C. Holtzclaw quotes from the Reformed churches in the Siegen area seem to have only one.  So the three witnesses when Maria Sabina was the mother may reflect her desire for that number.

In general, one of the witnesses was always a relative, namely, "the mother of my wife", who, in this case, was now Mrs. George Utz.  But, what about Nicholas Jaeger and Balthasar Blankenbaker?  With respect to Balthasar, his wife is unknown, but the patterns of many events in his life would indicate that she was related to Mrs. Utz, or to the Volcks.  Probably John and Maria Sabina Hoffman were choosing a relative, but we just don’t know how Baltz was related.

Notice that the first child of Maria Sabina was named for Nicholas Jäger.  If Balthasar were a relative, it is even more likely that Nicholas was a relative, since he was the one who was honored by having the first child named after him.  We think that we know who Nicholas’ wives were, but the suggestion from these baptisms is that we may not know as much as we should.

For the next seven children (all sons), the pattern of witnesses does not change.  The fourth son is named for Baltz.  For the ninth child, another son, Tilman, there is a change in the witnesses.  The "mother of my wife" is replaced by the wife of Baltz Blankenbaker.  This strongly suggests that Baltz was related to the parents through his wife.

For the tenth child, Elizabeth, the witnesses are Nicholas, his wife Susanna, and Anna Margaretha, the wife of Baltz.  Susanna’s family is known; she was born a Clore, married a Weaver and then a Crigler, before marrying Nicholas Jäger.  Her inclusion here is "obviously" on the basis of her husband’s connection.

For the eleventh child, Anna Margaretha, the witnesses were Baltz, his wife Anna Margaretha, and the wife of Nicholas Jäger.  For the twelfth child, Maria, the witnesses were Nichlaus Jäger, hid wife, Georgia, and the wife of Baltz Blankenbuechler.  The name Georgia seems to be a mistake, since we were expecting Nicholas’ wife to be Susanna; but, again, we may not know all there is to know.  When the daughter Maria was just shy of twenty-one years of age, her father John Hoffman died.


Nr. 886:

A recent question was where one could find church records.  Many states have an Archive which maintains originals or copies of church records.  In Virginia there has been published a 270-page book, which shows the Archive's holdings of church records.  By now, they may be online also.  This would be my first suggestion for tracking down records.  Also, many churches have libraries and depositories, in conjunction with their theological seminaries.  The German churches, especially the Lutheran and Reformed, but not the Anabaptists, are well represented, especially in the records of births and baptisms.

Just yesterday a question was asked concerning the identity of Rev. Daniel Hoffman's wife.  There is no marriage license, or record of the marriage, but it is very probable that she was Magdalena Bunger.  Arriving at this conclusion goes beyond reading the church records, which consist of confirmations and baptisms.  It does take a knowledge of the community.

The question is sometimes asked, "Aren't hard facts, such as marriage licenses, better than the deductions from records such as baptisms, confirmations, and the whole realm of evidence, such as land records and wills?"  The answer is that sometimes they are not.  The late Libby McNamara once scolded me for not using a will to determine who Mary Willheit was.  I pointed out that there were six Mary Willheits in the community, and the will was not very specific about which one was intended.  On the other hand, the baptisms often identify the brothers and sisters, and in doing so, remove any ambiguity.

I am of the opinion that a mass of circumstantial evidence can be much better than a single hard fact, which might not be true.  The tales that we read on Roots Web of forged names on birth certificates should give one pause for thought.  Genealogy is a matter of probabilities, not certainties.  The more evidence that we can collect the better that we can answer the questions.

And the evidence that we pull off web pages is hardly evidence at all.  It makes interesting fiction, and that is all that it should be considered, until it is verified.

If any of you will be in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, today, come on to the Hans Herr House, where I will be leading tours.  Already this is the second time this year that I have done this.  I expect the day to be pleasant, and the countryside to be filled with the farmers busy in the fields.  No five-day work weeks for them.


Nr. 887:

Guten Morgen,

Today, Eleanor and I fly on Lufthansa to Frankfurt, to begin a three-week vacation.  During this time, I will write no notes in this series.  I might outline what we hope to do in this time, which will prove to be woefully short.

Tomorrow will be Eleanor’s sixty-eighth birthday, and we hope to spend it in Kettenbach, from where her Zerby ancestors left, 291 years ago.  That would be Martin Zirbe, her great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, and his wife Anne Elisabetha Jüngel.

We will spend a few days in and around Siegen, and then we will return on the next weekend for church services in Kettenbach.  From there we’ll go down to Heidelberg, where Eleanor spent her seventeenth birthday, at a time that civilians were not allowed in the town.  Today, three hundred thousand visitors come every year, so she should see some changes.  A young German student, who was our guest here, is promising to show us the town.

Just south of Heidelberg is the Kraichgau, where so many of my ancestors lived.  In one day, within five miles of each other, we hope to visit the Wagenbach farm, home of George Utz and Michael Volck.  Almost next door is the farm where Hans Herr lived.  Very close to all of this is Asbach, the ancestral home of a friend.  It just shows that one does not have to travel very far to find another village of interest.

On the following Sunday, we hope to be in the church at Illenschwang, where Andreas Gar worshiped.  From there we will go down to the home of Jost Gudelius, a friend from the email.  Possibly we will go from there to Gresten, Austria, but that remains to be seen.  In any case, we expect to be back in the area in and around the Kraichgau for a few more days.

We have no hope of doing any research on this trip.  (A German genealogist once said that the best place to do German research was in Salt Lake City.)  But, we are taking two cameras and some sixty rolls of film.

My email bin will probably be overflowing before I return, so any messages you send to me in that time may be lost.

Auf Wiedersehen.


Nr. 888:

(JOHN HAS RETURNED FROM HIS TRIP TO GERMANY!) gwd, Web Site Manager

During our trip, we visited many cemeteries in Germany.  Even if the town or church is of no particular interest, the cemetery is always an attractive place, albeit seldom a place where any practical research can be done.

Graves are not permanent in Germany.  One pays rent by the (thirty year?) period and, if the rental is not renewed at the end of the period, the grave site is reused.  Therefore, the graves are usually modern with nearly all of the graves being from the last fifty years.  What is distinctive is the effort devoted to caring for the grave sites, which nearly always have current flowers of the season planted in the ground assigned to the site.  When combined with the modernistic design of the tombstones, the overall impression is exceedingly pleasant.

Just this last Sunday, we were in the Lonnerstadt cemetery.  There was some reason, to be discussed in later notes, to be interested in this city aside from the fact that five of the fifteen Blankenbühlers in Germany today live in Lonnerstadt.  (Blankenbühler is an established spelling, in Germany, of the Blankenbaker and similar names in America.)  True to the location, with its five living Blankenbühlers in the town, there were three stones with the name Blankenbühler on them.  One of them even made a reference to Johann Nicholas Blankenbühler.

The shock ­ and, literally, it was a shock ­ was in the other surnames which were found there.  The names Thoma, Motz, Marr, Heironymous, Lang, and Wieland, besides Blankenbühler, were to be found in the cemetery.  Every one of these names occurs in our Germanna history.  I did not count the Fischers and Smitts who were also present.  A John Thoma married Anna Maria Blankenbühler in Germany.  The Motz family is largely unknown in Virginia but it is mentioned in the first years.  Marr and Heironymous are two names in the history of the First Germanna Colony.  Lang is sometimes said to be a member of the Second Colony.  Wielands married Blankenbühlers in Germany, and in Virginia.  (Later, another cemetery with many Germanna names will be mentioned.)  Since the average cemetery does not include a single Germanna name, the presence of so many Germanna names is noteworthy.

What we found from other sources was that the history of the families of the Germanna community is richer and of more depth than had been known previously.  Much work remains to be done though.  When it is completed, we will probably learn that our ancestors were involved in the larger struggles that shaped modern Germany.  Some hints have appeared in these notes, and in Beyond Germanna, but the research on the history requires much more work.

To fit our ancestors into this picture seems to be the best and most fitting tribute to them, especially since so many sacrifices were involved on their part.
(30 May 00)


Nr. 889:

The farthest that our travels took us was to Gresten, Austria, which is only about fifty miles this side of Vienna.  Gary Zimmerman and Johni Cerny had reported that the Blankenbühlers were from this village.  (Apparently they used the work of Gary Meyer-Burggey.)  When Eleanor and I arrived at Gresten, we had no idea what we would find.  Physically, the countryside was the most beautiful that we had seen in Austria as we drove from Salzburg and Linz.

On entering town, we went to the Rathaus about 4 p.m. (the seat of the city government), where the attendant denied any ability to speak English.  But he immediately called another individual over whom he said could speak English.  Herr Berger was an insurance agent and he did know English.  We asked him if he could tell us where the Pletzenberg and Plankenbühl farms were located.  He recognized the names and told us, if we waited while he finished some business, that he would take us there.  It turned out that his mother was born on the Pletzenberg farm in 1920.

Along about 5 p.m., in his car, we drove to the Plankenbühl (more exactly, Plankenbichl) farm.  He introduced us to the current residents, who said we could come back at 4 p.m. the next day for photography purposes.  Then we drove to the Pletzenberg farm, where the current resident said we come back any time the next day for photography.  Herr Berger said he would try to arrange a visit with the Bürgermeister for us.  He was successful and the Bürgermeister joined us at breakfast the next morning.  Since he did not speak English, he arranged for the English teacher in the high school to act as an interpreter.

He gave us a lot of history of the Gresten area, which includes the village and the surrounding countryside.  After these gracious acts by the Bürgermeister and Herr Berger, we invited them and their wives to dinner that evening.  Our dinner party consisted of Herr und Frau Berger, Bürgermeister Kammer, and ourselves.  Perhaps the evening lasted three hours and Herr Kammer gave us a book of history of Gresten and a commemorative plate of Gresten.

Farm names last indefinitely.  At some time in the past, they were named and the name persists even with a change of ownership.  Though it was perhaps 350 years since Kilian Plankenbühler lived at Plankenbichl farm, the farm maintains that name today.  We saw (and photographed) a copy of a map dated about 1850 which had the names of the farm.

Most of the agriculture consists of meadows on hillsides from which the grasses and clover are harvested as feed for cows.  The end product is milk.  The labor is intensive and we were there in the haying season when the demands for labor are extensive.  Even the women work in the fields at a time like this.

Gresten is about 400 meters above sea level and is in a narrow valley.  The hills rise around it and they extend for a few hundred meters above the valley floor.  Many of the farms, including the two above, were on high points with the land sloping away on at least three sides.
(31 May 00)


Nr. 890:

Correction.  In the last note, the name of the Bürgermeister was Johann Karner and he is the mayor of Gresten-Land.  (I had trouble reading the handwritten notes made at the time.)  At our breakfast meeting with Herr Karner, he told us some of the history of Gresten.  He is an ex-editor of a newspaper, and very interested in history.

Gresten has had a turbulent history.  Early in the Reformation, Lutheran doctrines gained the upper hand, not only in the Gresten area, but throughout Austria.  In about the third quarter of the 1500’s, the Holy Roman Emperor, who was from Austria, wanted to reconvert the HRE (Holy Roman Empire), and especially Austria, to Catholicism.  He imported a Jesuit, Georg Scherer, a believer in harsh measures.  About 1597 there was a Farmer’s War, which involved perhaps 12,000 farmers.  There was an amnesty in January and February of 1597 and the farmers were to give up their weapons, but a third of them did not stop fighting.  At St. Pölten, there were fights with the better trained troops of Emperor Matthias, and many farmers were killed.  Afterwards, there were executions by the troops, including eleven farmers from the Gresten area.  The local leader in the Gresten area was Matthias Gruber, who lived on the farm Gseng, and the vice-leader was Johann Teufl, of the farm Oberhasenberg.  (On an excursion, we were on the farm Gseng where a small chapel stands today in memory of the Bauerkrieg, or Farmer’s War.)

One of the leading causes of The Thirty Years’ War was the desire of the Holy Roman Emperor to have all of his subjects follow the Catholic faith.  After the war started in 1618, measures were instituted to convert Austria to Catholicism.  The strongest measures came after the war, when, in 1654, more than seven hundred people were evicted from the Gresten area to farms in Mittelfranken in Germany, especially around Dietenhofen, where, as a result of the war, there were 130 farms on which only two people lived.  More than fifty of these farms were taken up by evacuees from the Gresten area.  Not everyone moved at the same time.  As with most migrations, the early ones recruited others to come.

Dietenhofen is slightly north of Ansbach, which is mentioned in several of the church records of the Germanna immigrants.  It is known that several Blankenbakers lived north of Dietenhofen on farms.  In fact, several branches of the family have continued to live in Mittelfranken.  Lonnerstadt is in Mittelfranken, and it was from the cemetery there that I quoted several Germanna names in the note two previous to this one.

One suggestion from this history is that the Blankenbakers may not have been alone in moving from Gresten.  Also, they may not have moved voluntarily.  To cite one family, the Käfers have a history in the west of having moved from the Ansbach region (a part of Mittelfranken).  The name Käfer is known in Austria; in fact, there is a nurseryman in Gresten doing business under that (his) name.  When John Nicholas Blankenbaker married Apollonia Käfer, he may have been marrying a family friend or even a relative.
(01 Jun 00)


Nr. 891:

On leaving Gresten, Eleanor and I drove to Dietenhofen, north of Ansbach, in Mittelfranken (a part of Bavaria), Germany.  This was a Saturday and we stayed overnight, and went to church at the local Lutheran church.  The pastor was Jürgen Lehner, and he spent some time with us after the service (using his excellent English).  In Gresten, students of its history always refer, almost reverently, to Dietenhofen.  In Dietenhofen, they are well aware of the role that Gresten played in their history.

We asked a few questions about the church structure, which was originally a Catholic structure.  Many parts have been maintained unchanged, including the beautiful, ornate altar.  Some of the other physical characteristics were unusual and they came about because the influx of refugees from Gresten had made the Dietenhofen church too small.  So the ceiling was changed from a flat surface to an arched construction, and two balconies were built along one side of the church.  Pastor Lehner told us about the efforts to trace and document the migration from Gresten to Mittelfranken.  He gave us the name of another pastor who is spearheading the work.

We arrived in Dietenhofen with a couple of hours to spare, so we drove up to Dottenheim.  Visiting the church cemetery there, people who were tending graves told us that the pastor lived in the village.  After some inquiries, we found him and talked to him.  He too was well aware of the Gresten influx.  (We had chosen Dottenheim to visit because it was known that some Blankenbakers appear in its church records.)  He too told us about the historical effort.  He gave us a book, "Evang. ­ Luth. Dekanat Neustadt an der Aisch".  He invited us to come to the church services in the morning, but we had made our plans to attend in Dietenhofen.

Several days earlier we had visited Unterschweinach, Oberoßbach, Herrnneuses, Markt Erlbach, and Emskirchen.  The first two of these were collections of farms, and the others were villages with churches.  All of them have a record of Blankenbaker involvement, either as a church or as a residence.  They are located about eight to eleven miles from Dietenhofen.  Whether the Blankenbakers were ever at Dietenhofen is unknown, but the church books do exist for Dietenhofen.  They have never been microfilmed, but the pastor said they would like to have them microfilmed.

In previous notes, I have mentioned Lonnerstadt and its cemetery.  After church services in Dietenhofen, we drove the twenty-three miles or so to Lonnerstadt past the other villages and farms that are mentioned above.  I have already reported on this experience.

Protestant churches are usually to be found locked.  Unless there is clerical staff present, which is rare, they will not be open.  Pastors usually have more than one church, and the schedule of services can be complicated.  (The pastor at Dietenhofen had already had one service at another church before the 9:30 a.m. service in Dietenhofen, but this second church had only two services per month.  A third church of his had monthly services.)  The church interiors that we saw varied considerably in their style.  Some maintained the artifacts from their use as Catholic churches, while others had severe and plain interiors.
(02 Jun 00)


Nr. 892:

Yesterday, ninety-two rolls of film came back as prints.  Today, I am tired and exhausted.  So the note today is going to be more light hearted than serious.

Our flight to Germany was on a plane leaving Philadelphia at around six p.m., and arriving in Frankfurt at around seven a.m. We prepared for the shift in time zones by trying to get on to German time before we left.  For several days in advance, each night we would go to bed an hour earlier and we would get up an hour earlier.  On the day of the flight, we got up at one a.m.  The technique worked well; on landing, we got our rental car and put in a full day of travel without feeling any unusual effects.

We were unsure of how the driving would go but it was it was not much of a problem.  Visiting some out-of-the-way places, as we did, one needs a detailed road map.  If time permitted, we would take the back roads that meander through the villages.  Just as here, these roads offer a better insight into life than the Interstates and Autobahns do.  Because Eleanor is not very good at reading maps and she gets carsick if she reads, I was appointed the navigator and she was appointed the pilot.  Also, she was concerned that I would spend too much time rubber necking.  At other times, we wanted to move more quickly, so we used the Autobahns.

Leaving the Frankfurt airport, our first road was an Autobahn, but we were soon on the back roads leading to Kettenbach.  Eleanor's Martin Zerby left from this village in 1709.  The church, Lutheran, was locked but we took pictures of it and the village and noted that the next Saturday night there would be a violin concert of Bach.  Also, we noted the time appointed for Sunday services.  Neither of us had much experience in German villages, so Kettenbach was our introduction.

We wondered about all of the tractors, many of them large, with four-wheel power, that went up and down the streets.  What we found was that barns were tucked away behind the houses.  Even though the houses seemed to joined cheek-to-jowl, lanes led between the houses to the rear where the barns were.  The fields that the farmers worked lay around about the village.  This was the typical pattern.  There were no isolated houses as we would think of a farm.  All of the houses were in villages and the space in between the villages was free of structures.

A problem with photography is that the sun may not be in the right position for the best lighting.  More than once we returned to a village at another time of day to get a better light.  A second problem with church photography is that other buildings are right next to the church.  A third problem is that the (Protestant) churches are usually locked so that interior shots are not possible.  But be assured that there are enough photogenic subjects in German to prevent your camera from getting rusty.
(03 Jun 00)


Nr. 893:

A few notes about the mechanics of travel in Germany might be appropriate.  We had reservations to stay at only two places.  One was in the Siegen area, and the other was in Heidelberg.  The motivation was similar; these were larger places and it might prove hard to find a place.  Otherwise, we basically found a place when we arrived.  In one case it was not easy to find a place.  In the Eppingen, Gemmingen, and Schwaigern area, there was a business convention in Sinsheim, and the delegates overflowed into nearby towns.  All accommodations were good and reasonably priced (Heidelberg cost more), and all gave us a hearty breakfast.  As to prices, the lowest was in Gresten where a double room with breakfast cost us fifty dollars a night for two people.  Incidentally, food was cheaper and better (if you ignore the immense quantities of butterfat that they give you) than one could get in the States.

On the first day, after Kettenbach, we drove on to the Siegen area, where we stayed in Buchen outside Siegen.  It was in the heart of many of the villages that we wanted to see.  From the hills above Buchen, depending on the atmospheric conditions, one could see the University of Siegen about four miles away.  One could see five ranges of hills, the farthest being the headwaters of the Sieg River to the east of Siegen.  These hills and valleys lend their flavor strongly to the layout of the villages.

Our first village, one that we had encountered on the way to the hotel, but which we returned to in the morning, was Oberholzklau.  The church is usually the most prominent feature of a village ,and this one was no exception.  Unfortunately, the sun was at the wrong angle and so we resolved to return in the afternoon.  In spite of the name, Oberholzklau has no special status for Germanna people.  A notable house is the Pfarrhaus (parsonage) of 1608, which is the oldest Fachwerkhaus (half-timbered house) in Siegerland.  Just a hop, skip, and a jump DOWN the road is Niederholzklau.  "Ober" means the higher ground and "Nieder" means the lower ground; there is no reference to north or south.

The business to be in, in the Siegen area, is the slate business.  The roofs and sides of many houses and other buildings are covered with slate.  It is often ingeniously applied in complex patterns, but, when every house in town has gray slate over most of its exterior surface, the effect is not the best.  The village of Eisern is especially strong on slate, but it may have arisen from the mines there.  It may have been necessary to remove the slate to get at the iron ore.  Thus, it may have been very economical.

At Eisern, one can see the Autobahn that passes by Siegen.  In building it across the hills and valleys, the philosophy was not cut and fill as it would be here.  That would waste a lot of land.  Instead, the rule is to bridge the valleys with concrete which causes about the least damage to the landscape.

Museums in Germany, except on the heavy tourist routes, are open a minimum of hours, such as 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., on Sontag (Sunday).  That, and the locked churches, are a source of frustration.
(04 Jun 00)


Nr. 894:

Siegen can make no pretense to being a village.  With one hundred thousand and more in population, and with a university in the suburbs, it has the characteristics of a city.  The old city which our ancestors knew is only a small part of the present city.  If they were to return, they would not recognize the city, though they might think that a few of the buildings were familiar.  The old city is so inhospitable to automobiles that they have been banned from it, leaving it to the pedestrians.  The Sieg River flows through the city literally, as it is underground for several blocks.  Downtown, two famous statues depict the Miner and the Iron Worker.  These are the industries that made Siegen famous in earlier times.

At the north end of the old city is the Upper Castle, which is perhaps the most interesting point in town.  First, the displays inside are extensive and interesting.  Outside the building there is an opportunity to view the region, especially to the north, from a slightly elevated position (plus the fact that the castle is on a local hill).  Dominating the view northward from the castle in Siegen is a north-south expressway which is elevated over the buildings.  It winds around the hills and villages and is a requirement to move the traffic off the clogged city streets.  In all directions are low hills, and typically one can see several "ranges".  A few miles to the north, the university lies on another hill.

The castle is advertized as built in 1224 but like all buildings in Germany this should be understood cautiously.  A building is never torn down, so it seems to me, but is rebuilt, extended, and modified.  The original building is seldom clear in its extent.

The bane of the photographer who would like to record the views is atmospheric haze.  This dampens or dulls the colors on the longer range shots.  This was a problem throughout Germany.  The really great photography shots require patience for the clear day and an airplane to get above the buildings.

Another good view point is from the University.  It gives a view south over the city of Siegen.  The university is not actually in the city of Siegen, but outside the boundaries on the north side.  Weidenau is the actual town.

We witnessed an effort to reestablish an old practice.  A major effort is being expended to develop a Hauberg.  (This has been mentioned in earlier notes.)  It is the practice of using a piece of ground to obtain wood for charcoal, bark for tanning, and space for growing grain.  In addition, small branches are harvested for use as fuel or for a wattle.  The effort at Fellinghausen (outside Siegen) to establish a Hauberg will require many years before it is a satisfactory demonstration, but it is interesting even in this early state.  Our hotel at Buchen had photos which helped to demonstrate the process.
(05 Jun 00)


Nr. 895:

A favorite village in the Siegen area was Oberfischbach (See Oberfischbach Photos), where Pastor Häger was Pfarrer.  Jacob Holzklau taught in the school, and the Kuntz, Grimm, and Weißgerber families lived there.  The reason that it was a favorite was that the church was open.  And few churches could rival Oberfischbach for interest to Germanna people.

Protestant churches in the north are much plainer and simpler than those in the south, and Oberfischbach is no exception.  Being plain does not make a church unattractive; on the contrary, the directness of the structure and the furnishings are refreshing.  This church is not large, but its capacity of the main floor is augmented by a balcony in the back and on the sides.  The altar table is centered in front and directly above this is the pulpit of natural wood.  In a reversal of the usual church architecture, the organ is above the pulpit making a rather grand sight.

The staff gave us a small book, "200 Jahre, Evangelische Johanneskirche Oberfischbach, 1796 ­ 1996".  They were happy to give us the book as they said they had far too many printed in 1996.  I was sorry that the book did not go back more in time than this, but, still, they had lists of the Pfarrer back to 1342, but incomplete.  At the earliest dates, the church would have been Catholic.  The first Protestant Pfarrer was in 1538.  At this time, it was Lutheran.  The first Reformed Pfarrer was 1590, and so it has remained except for a six-year period during The Thirty Years’ War, when it was Catholic again.  In the years 1703 to 1711, the Pfarrer was Johann Hermann Häger.  [Note that B. C. Holtzclaw gave the name as Johann Henrich Häger.  I do not know which is correct.]

Oberfischbach is a small village.  With one glance, one takes it in.  At this time of year, with the lush greenery, the white houses make a beautiful picture.  The church is also white, and the village has a clean appearance (as most villages in Germany do).

Niederfischbach is a larger place.  It has a big Catholic church (in the nineteenth century Gothic style), which serves an extended region.  The Protestant church was much simpler and smaller.  In this village we got an answer to the question of the significance of the tall poles with a "Christmas" tree on top.  Often there was a circular wreath of evergreens in a horizontal plane suspended from and around the pole about half way up.  Some poles had the emblems of the guilds or trades.  These were May Poles erected for May Day (the first day of the month).  There seemed to be a competition among the villages to see who could erect the tallest pole.  Some of them must have been close to thirty meters in height.  This was a custom throughout the Germanic lands.  We saw them around Siegen, on the border close to Innsbruck, and in Austria.
(For more on the history of May Poles (Maibaums, or Maibäume) and how they are raised, and to see some great pictures of them, go here.)

A quick look in at Niederdorf indicated, to us, that the church building started out with another purpose in mind.  And the building today may have many purposes.  The churches often have kindergartens in a space adjacent to the church.  The kindergartens are a story in themselves.
(07 Jun 00)


Nr. 896:

A favorite Friedhof (cemetery) of mine is at Rödgen.  The village Rödgen hardly exists, as it is perched on the ridge of a hill to the southeast of Siegen.  During the early eighteenth century, it appears the Protestant residents of Eisern went to Rödgen or to Siegen, as the church in Eisern was Catholic.  The church building in Rödgen is most unusual.  Two churches, one Protestant and one Catholic, share the same steeple.  (It gives a new meaning to "union" church.)

The Friedhof was interesting to me because of the names on the stones.  I really felt that I was in a Germanna community.  But even more, there were suggestions in the names that others might want to follow up on.  Let’s look at some of them.  Gerhard is one.  That was a name in Orange County about 1740.  (The Rödgen Gerhard was a Doctor of Engineering and he put that piece of information on his stone.)  The name Heide was no surprise.  Another name in the Germanna community was Becker, which appears also in the Rödgen Friedhof.

Another name which was not a surprise was Weidemann.  We had our Waymans in Virginia.  Some of the names are accidentals, that is, they have no connection but still the appearance makes one pause.  The names Jäger, Schneider, and Weber are in this category.

Of course, the Hoffman name was there.  There are known communicants at Rödgen.  The Jung family is no surprise.  A name that was a surprise was Diehl.  Another name that I noted was Bülow.  It is conceivable to me that this spelling could be a source of the name Barlow in the Germanna community, though I am not saying the Germanna Barlows came from Rödgen.  Probably they did not.

One of the reasons that I mention all of these names is that the Germanna literature has not recognized the origins of some people.  For example, John Railsback is not identified as being from the Siegen area yet he was.

The Rödgen community is very small and gives the appearance of being well placed on the economic scale.  One house had a Rolls-Royce parked in front.

Overall, in the Siegen area I had not been prepared for the hills and their influence on the organization of civilization there.  They have shaped the emergence of villages and limited their growth.  Cities such as Siegen have been hard pressed to find room for the limited number of expressways that they do have.  From Siegen, one can drive two miles over a hill or through a valley and find a village which looks and feels as if it were in another world.  These were my favorite places.  They were also the places from whence our ancestors came.
(08 Jun 00)


Nr. 897:

We left the Siegen area on a Saturday, but on the way we went by Trupbach for a guided tour by Lars Bohn.  Now Lars is rather thorough; it took us two and one-half hours, and we learned more than I can remember and met more people than I expected.  I was even into a discussion with a man about the early Richter history.  And Lars took us to the site of the old Richter house.  The floor remains in place but a new roof has been installed and it is now an implement shed.  We went by the old community bakery which is being restored, and being restored means that it must work.  So we left with a loaf of bread under our arm.  It is good to see and hear people who are interested in their history.

Our destination Saturday was Kettenbach, the home of Eleanor's ancestors, or least the Zerby part.  We knew there was to be a violin concert at 7:00 p.m., and we had no trouble in making that.  We got there early enough so that I could met the Pfarrer (I had written earlier), and he made the church book available which showed the baptism of Martin Zirbe in 1671.  We photographed the page.

The next morning we were at the 9:30 a.m. service.  Then our destination was Heidelberg.  The miles roll by quickly in Germany and so we detoured slightly to go by way of the Rhine River.  At one point, I believe it was St. Goar, I could see three old castles.  These were one of the reasons that emigration was expensive.  These petty fiefdoms wanted a "take" to let you pass by on the river.  The marvel on the river today is the vineyards which run vertically, almost, on the hillside.  I don't understand how they keep the dirt from washing down the slope.  They represent a tremendous effort over the centuries to develop.

The reason Heidelberg was on the tour is that Eleanor celebrated her seventeenth birthday there in 1949, when the town was closed to outsiders.  A military friend had been able to get her family in.  Eleanor was curious if there were any changes.  The short answer is yes.  Today one doesn't count the tourists; one counts the busses bringing umpteen different nationalities.  It is not my idea of a vacation yet the Heidelberg Castle was interesting.  Can you imagine a wine barrel holding a hundred thousand gallons of wine?  That is about as big as some of the ships bringing our ancestors.

We had a special treat in Heidelberg.  Last April 1, the opening day of the season at Hans Herr House, a German student was a visitor there.  I invited him home for dinner, a sleep over, and a trip to Longwood Gardens.  In return, he said he would give us a tour of Heidelberg where he had graduated from the University.  He was there so we had dinner, walked the Philosophers' Walk, and looked at the lighted castle, all the while talking a blue streak.
(09 Jun 00)


Nr. 898:

On leaving Heidelberg, it was a short drive to our next objectives, which were very close together.  The first stop was Asbach, a village in the Kraichgau, where the Wannamaker ancestors of a friend originated.  We shot a roll of film to document the village for him.

A few miles farther on is the village of Hüffenhardt.  This is where two Germanna families went to church, the Utz family and the Volck family (sometimes given as Folg).  Maria Sabina Charlotta Barbara Volck was baptized here, but her father died before she was very old.  Her mother married George Utz and they came to Virginia in 1717.  Maria Sabina married John Huffman as his second wife, and raised twelve kids.  So a lot of the Huffmans have ancestors from the area of Hüffenhardt, as do all of the Utzes.

The reason that the George Utz and Anna Barbara (Maier) Volck got together is that they lived on the same farm, Wagenbach, which is about two miles from Hüffenhardt.  We drove out to the farm, which is the home to several families.  Picking what I thought might be the owner’s house, I walked toward the house.  As I did so, another car drove up and the passengers got out and spoke perfect English.  It turns out they were from America, had landed at Frankfurt that morning, and had driven right down.  In days past, the American, then with the US Army, had become acquainted with the German owner of the farm and they were good friends.  The owner was expecting them and had the champagne cooled.  The owner insisted that everyone repair to his wine cellar and have a drink on the house.  We finished our glasses and, with the owner’s permission, set about taking photographs.  The farm is now given over to raising pigs.  The hog density was amazing.

Next, I wanted to visit another farm, which according to my map was only about two miles away.  However, we had to take the long way around and we needed instructions.  Twice we had to ask and the answers were not forthcoming immediately.  Though the farm has a name and is on my detailed map, it turns out that only one family lives on the farm now.  So the place was not well known.  The name of the farm is Unterbiegelhof and my interest arises from the fact that it was once the home of Hans Herr, who is an ancestor of my son-in-law.  (This is the famous Hans Herr of Pennsylvania and, incidentally, I will be a tour guide there today.)

On our arrival, the place seemed very quiet and almost uninhabited.  But soon Martin Funck came out of the house and we soon established why I was interested.  Herr Funck suggested we retire to the house where he served refreshments.  We had orange juice, a popular drink in Germany.  Herr Funck is a Mennonite and he would have been willing to drink beer or wine.  The American reluctance among Anabaptists to drink alcoholic beverages was a puzzle to him.

Whereas Unterbiegelhof used to be the home of several families, only the Funck family lives there now.  The children are grown and have their own professions.  The Funcks built a new home to live in and it was the only time that I saw a "rancher", i.e., a single story house.  The farm is basically a chicken farm with a large barn designed for chickens.  Corn and barley are grown, apparently for feed.  A cash crop is sugar beets.  Apparently deer are a problem for many farmers in Germany.  The population is held in check or encouraged to move on by hunting.  For this purpose, there are many elevated stands or blinds.
(10 Jun 00)


Nr. 899:

After leaving Heidelberg and spending the day looking at farms, such as Wagonbach (pigs, Utz, Volck), and Unterbiegelhof (chickens, Herr), it was time to find a place for the night.  Last winter, when we were planning the trip, we had selected Eppingen for a couple of reasons.  First, it seemed to be a pretty town, and two, it was centrally located.  Neither of us had any ancestors in it, but it was so close to the numerous villages where there were ancestors that it hardly mattered.

We bombed out in finding a place to stay in Eppingen.  All the places recommended by the locals were full already.  The problem seemed to be there was a business conference in Sinsheim, and it required many rooms in neighboring towns.  Next we tried Gemmingen, which is smaller, and again we had no luck.  The next village down the road was Schwaigern and we were not doing well there.  We were talking to the manageress of an inn, who said she had no room, but she was kind enough to call some other innkeepers, without any luck.  Finally, she said that she had an old room that was vacant.  Inquiring what she meant by "old", we were told that we would have to go down the hall to the W.C. but we would have our own shower in the room.  This was no problem for Eleanor and me, as we both have lived for significant periods where there was no indoor plumbing.  Actually the situation was quite nice.
(Note from WebPage Manager:  W.C. is short for "Water Closet", which is "European" for "bathroom" or "toilet".)

Looking out our window we could see the Rathaus (Literally, Council House; City Council Building).  Next door to the inn was the town church.  In the other direction is the old wine Keller ("cellar") where grapes were pressed.  So we were in the thick of things.  Later we found out the inn building was owned by the Neipperg family.  Perhaps you will remember they were involved in the "hog war" in which the peasant’s hogs were taken while they were in church.  When I learned this, I had mixed feelings.

Schwaigern was the lowest on the scale of photogenic situations.  There was no angle from which a decent view of the church could be obtained.  One side was against the Neipperg residence, which itself was hidden behind walls.  The other side of the church was against the inn, and, in front of it, there were trees.  The Keller was not positioned well in the light.  Though we slept there four nights, we did not bring home any decent pictures of Schwaigern.

The next morning we commenced a swing through villages lying to the west.  This was a very pretty country side of gently rolling hills with some extended vistas.  And it was very rural.  We passed through Landhausen and to Neuenbürg, the home of the Blankenbakers, Fleshmans, Schlucters, Thomases, and Scheibles.  In the eighteenth century this was land that belonged to the Bishops of Speyer, who were Catholic.  So, the church in Neuenbürg is Catholic.  (The town is too small to support two churches.) One of the little mysteries is that there are Lutheran records for Neuenbürg, in which the families above are found.  The question is, where were the services actually held.

The Friedhof for Neuenbürg is not exclusively Catholic, as there are six Jewish grave sites.  There is some tragic drama connected with the deaths of these six, as the dates were all in May of 1945, during the last days of WW II.  Also, the grave sites are now about 55 years old which is rare in a German cemetery.  It would be interesting to learn the story, but it would take someone whose German is better than ours.
(12 Jun 00)


Nr. 900:

There are two Neuenbürgs in Germany that are only twenty miles apart.  (We have multiple Salems, Lincolns, etc. in the US.) Because the Neuenbürg, with only the Catholic Church, is said to be the home of the Blankenbakers, the question has been raised as to whether the correct Neuenbürg has been identified.  I believe that it has been, for these reasons.  Zacharias Blankenbaker, when he was naturalized in Virginia, said he was a citizen on the lands of the Bishops of Speyer.  That is, he was saying he was born on the lands belonging to the Catholic Church.  The maps that I have seen put the Neuenbürg that is north of Bruchsal on the Catholic lands.  Also, the church records for our Neuenbürg are combined with two other nearby villages, one of which is Oberöwisheim, which is less than two miles down the road.

It being lunch time when we arrived at Oberöwisheim, we ate as we often ate.  We had noticed a Bäckerei (bakery) so I bought some bread.  Then looking for something else to go with it, I saw that next door there was a shop with fruits and drinks.  When I went it, it was the same sales lady that I had just met in the Bäckerei, and then I noticed the two shops were joined by a doorway.  It was more than a way of obtaining the necessary space; a Bächerei does not sell fruit and drinks.  Everything must be in its proper place.  A good place to eat is often the church yard.  First, the church usually can be located by its spire which rises above all else (hence it the ideal place to put the town clocks ­ one on each face).  Second, the church often has some parking space, though seldom very much.  Third, there is often a bench.  And so we ate lunch looking out over the village of Oberöwisheim, peaceful and quiet.  And of course we were very careful to dispose of our waste very carefully and properly.  When it comes to cleanliness, few nationalities can surpass the Germans.  We saw householders cleaning out the cracks in the pavement where the street meets the curb.

The next village was Oberderdingen.  Matthias Blankenbaker, my namesake immigrant, was married in this village and apparently lived here.  (His eldest son, George, who was baptized there, became the head of the Pickler clan in America.) Just a few miles up the road was Sulzfeld, the home of many Germanna families.  The country round about there consists of gently rolling hills offering excellent vistas.  We were able to enhance the viewing opportunities by going to the ruins at Ravensburg, which has been turned into a restaurant.  More importantly, from our standpoint, there was a tower still standing that had been a part of the former castle.  Someone had put wooden steps inside so one could climb the 113 of them to the top.  I get a little nervous when faced with heights, and the safety of these steps really did not pass muster, but I was not going to let some minor things prevent me from seeing the view.  And what a view it was.  From the top, we could see about seven villages, the nearest of which was Sulzfeld.  I could see Christopher Zimmerman down there making barrels.  Not having had any desert with lunch and as a reward for enduring the dangers of the tower, we went to the restaurant to get a little something.

In between the villages there were no homes or barns.  All of the farmers lived right in their village, with their barns behind or beside the houses.  Then they go out to the fields with their equipment.  Looking at the view from the tower, one obtains the best impression of the physical characteristics of living in rural Germany.
(13 Jun 00)

 


(To see John & Eleanor Blankenbaker's May, 2000, and May, 2002, Germany and Austria photos, click here.)

(To see maps of villages in Germany and Austria from which our Germanna ancestors immigrated, click here.)


(This page contains the THIRTY-SIXTH set of Notes, Nr. 876 through Nr. 900.)


John and George would like very much to hear from readers of these Germanna History pages.  We welcome your criticisms, compliments, corrections, or other comments.  When you click on "click here" below, both of us will receive your message.  We would like to hear what you have to say about the content of the Notes, and about spelling, punctuation, format, etc.  Just click here to send us your message.  Thank You!


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(GERMANNA History Notes, Copyright © 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 John BLANKENBAKER.)

(GERMANNA History Web Pages, Copyright © 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 George W. DURMAN.)

This material has been compiled and placed on this web site by George W. Durman, with the permission of John BLANKENBAKER.  It is intended for personal use by genealogists and researchers, and is not to be disseminated further.


Index Links to All Pages of John's GERMANNA NOTES and Genealogy Comments

INDEX Links to All Pages of John's GERMANNA NOTES
Pg.001-Notes 0001-0025
Pg.002-Notes 0026-0050
Pg.003-Notes 0051-0075
Pg.004-Notes 0076-0100
Pg.005-Notes 0101-0125
Pg.006-Notes 0126-0150
Pg.007-Notes 0151-0175
Pg.008-Notes 0176-0200
Pg.009-Notes 0201-0225
Pg.010-Notes 0226-0250
Pg.011-Notes 0251-0275
Pg.012-Notes 0276-0300
Pg.013-Notes 0301-0325
Pg.014-Notes 0326-0350
Pg.015-Notes 0351-0375
Pg.016-Notes 0376-0400
Pg.017-Notes 0401-0425
Pg.018-Notes 0426-0450
Pg.019-Notes 0451-0475
Pg.020-Notes 0476-0500
Pg.021-Notes 0501-0525
Pg.022-Notes 0526-0550
Pg.023-Notes 0551-0575
Pg.024-Notes 0575-0600
Pg.025-Notes 0601-0625
Pg.026-Notes 0626-0650
Pg.027-Notes 0651-0675
Pg.028-Notes 0676-0700
Pg.029-Notes 0701-0725
Pg.030-Notes 0726-0750
Pg.031-Notes 0751-0775
Pg.032-Notes 0776-0800
Pg.033-Notes 0801-0825
Pg.034-Notes 0826-0850
Pg.035-Notes 0851-0875
Pg.036-Notes 0876-0900
Pg.037-Notes 0901-0925
Pg.038-Notes 0926-0950
Pg.039-Notes 0951-0975
Pg.040-Notes 0976-1000
Pg.041-Notes 1001-1025
Pg.042-Notes 1026-1050
Pg.043-Notes 1051-1075
Pg.044-Notes 1076-1100
Pg.045-Notes 1101-1125
Pg.046-Notes 1126-1150
Pg.047-Notes 1151-1175
Pg.048-Notes 1176-1200
Pg.049-Notes 1201-1225
Pg.050-Notes 1226-1250
Pg.051-Notes 1251-1275
Pg.052-Notes 1276-1300
Pg.053-Notes 1301-1325
Pg.054-Notes 1326-1350
Pg.055-Notes 1351-1375
Pg.056-Notes 1376-1400
Pg.057-Notes 1401-1425
Pg.058-Notes 1426-1450
Pg.059-Notes 1451-1475
Pg.060-Notes 1476-1500
Pg.061-Notes 1501-1525
Pg.062-Notes 1526-1550
Pg.063-Notes 1551-1575
Pg.064-Notes 1576-1600
Pg.065-Notes 1601-1625
Pg.066-Notes 1626-1650
Pg.067-Notes 1651-1675
Pg.068-Notes 1676-1700
Pg.069-Notes 1701-1725
Pg.070-Notes 1726-1750
Pg.071-Notes 1751-1775
Pg.072-Notes 1776-1800
Pg.073-Notes 1801-1825
Pg.074-Notes 1826-1850
Pg.075-Notes 1851-1875
Pg.076-Notes 1876-1900
Pg.077-Notes 1901-1925
Pg.078-Notes 1926-1950
Pg.079-Notes 1951-1975
Pg.080-Notes 1976-2000
Pg.081-Notes 2001-2025
Pg.082-Notes 2026-2050
Pg.083-Notes 2051-2075
Pg.084-Notes 2076-2100
Pg.085-Notes 2101-2125
Pg.086-Notes 2126-2150
Pg.087-Notes 2150-2175
Pg.088-Notes 2176-2200
Pg.089-Notes 2201-2225
Pg.090-Notes 2226-2250
Pg.091-Notes 2251-2275
Pg.092-Notes 2276-2300
Pg.093-Notes 2301-2325
Pg.094-Notes 2326-2350
Pg.095-Notes 2351-2375
Pg.096-Notes 2376-2400
Pg.097-Notes 2401-2425
Pg.098-Notes 2426-2450
Pg.099-Notes 2451-2475
Pg.100-Notes 2476-2500
Pg.101-Comments 0001-0025


INDEX Links to All Pages of John's GENEALOGY COMMENTS

(As of 12 April 2007, John published the last of his "Germanna Notes"; however, he is going to periodically post to the GERMANNA_COLONIES Mailing List in the form of "Genealogy Comments" on various subjects, not necessarily dealing with Germanna.  I'm starting the numbering system anew, starting with Comment Nr. 0001.)

Pg.101-Comments 0001-0025

This Page Contains Notes 876 through 900.


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