Monday, May 18, 2009

Church Books, Hometowns and Old Towns

Wednesday is a work day. I did not have a full tour for this May trip (it really is fun, you should have come), but I was meeting some people who came on their own. We had set up meetings in their hometowns for them or I was doing some research for them. First stop was meeting a cousin of another member of my German research group from home. We met Herr Horst early in Herford and proceeded to go over family lines and compare notes. Nice man, English good and he is looking forward to helping with information for his American cousins. Next stop was meeting some folks in Hoyel and working on church books. In some towns the church books are still kept in the parish office instead of having sent them to a regional Archive. My friend made some calls and we were able to view (and touch) church books back to 1700’s or earlier. I am amazed at what kind of paper they used, as it is not crumbly or falling apart after hundreds of years. In some years the writing is very beautiful and you can pick out the name you are looking for easily. It seems like the further back in years you get the more they tried to conserve the paper and they have crowded many entries onto the page. Anyway, it is extremely helpful to have someone who can read old German script with you. We were very successful and found my client’s ancestral name and went back quite a few generations. They were thrilled, plus we then walked over to the church and took pictures. This church dates back to the 1100 or 1200’s. Amazing. We left them to converse with some town folks who will give them a ride back to the train station and we headed to another appointment for client research in Neuenkirchen. We met with a local historian who has access to the church books, which are again kept in the church office. This turned out to be really fun too as we found the names we were looking for and since in this cabinet were kept baptism, marriage, death and even some family register books, dating back to the 1700’s we were able to get quite a lot of information. I think they will be very pleased. It seems like folks stayed in some of these villages for several generations but when you go back you find in a marriage record that one of them came from the neighbouring village, so then this means you must get to that village or find where the records for this town are kept. Sometimes in Archives as I mentioned before. So we did the best we could and then took some photos of the town for them. We did take photos of the church but this church was fairly new, 1800’s, as the old one burned, so it was not the one the ancestors would have attended but at least it is still on the same spot. Really long day, but very successful.

This is the "cabinet" with church books dating back to the 1700's!

Herr Voss transcribing an entry from a church book.

File drawers also filled with family cards in Neuenkirchen, Germany.

Next day, I did more sightseeing, research for a Northwest trip. We visited a very old town, in the heart of Lippe county, between the hills of the Teutoburg Forest and the River Weser, you will find Lemgo, one of Germany’s most architecturally pretty towns. The Renaissance town, which is over 800 years old, was founded in 1190 by Bernard 2nd of Lippe. We took a pleasant stroll through the streets with many artfully decorated half-timbered houses, shops and of course outside cafĂ©’s. One of the things I am interested in discovering in Lemgo is a visit to their “HexenbĂĽrgermeisterhaus”, a historical museum which has a exhibition on the period of the Lemgo witch hunts. There are over 200 “witch trial” files in the Town Archive but hopefully we can get a walking tour of the witch hunts and local history.

Right outside of Lemgo is the Schloss Brake, (Castle Brake), it houses a nice museum and old water mill. I didn't get into the castle for a tour, but that will be a must do on the next tour.

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