Thursday, May 20, 2010

Visting German Ancestral Towns

What a week! Finally get a chance to start this blog. We have been busy from morning to night it seems and then it feels so good to snuggle into bed under the down comforter. Believe me we have needed the warm comforter, it has been cold here. The coldest May in over 200 years or 70 years depending on who you talk to here. But it didn’t stop us from our daily treks and having a good time. After settling in our hotel in our cute little spa town, some folks walked through town as it was festival weekend. Lots of craft stalls and music and after a little while we all met back at the hotel for dinner. We had an early start the next day, so we made it an early evening.

Monday was a free day and everyone headed out to visit their hometowns. I had 3 other couples traveling with me to visit in Dissen and Hoyel. Some of the other towns being visited that day was Brake, up near Bremen and Jollenbeck, near Bielefeld, Venne near Osnabrueck and Osterwick & Legden.

For our group going to Dissen we were met by a group in front of the Rathaus. The President of the Heimat museum, the President of the Register office and some English translators and a wonderful storyteller, Herr Brandt. More about him later. They had a schedule worked out for us and they whisked Myrna Weiland away to show her where her ancestor’s house was, it was a heuerlinge house which was near the Rathaus which had been the farmers house and now is the Rathaus. Then off we went to my hometown of Bockhorst again. I had sent them my information because the last time I was here I found out one of my ancestors came from Dissen but they had thought I wanted to visit Bockhorst. Oh well, it was nice to see my hometown again, I just hated taking up time from the others. After we visited my church in Bockhorst again, we headed back to Dissen and then went over to the St. Mauritius Evangelisch church in Dissen where our ancestors were baptised.married and buried from.

Dissen Church

We met a local researcher, who is one of the few people who has access to the church books, and were able to look at the church books for a little while. Myrna (tour member) was able to look at a few of the entries for her ancestors. See some pictures.

Then back to the heimat museum where they had set out a nice lunch for us there. Wonderful breads with cold cuts and a local specialty, griebenschmalz. We would call it a lard sandwich! I chose the liverwurst with sliced sweet pickles. I remember eating this a lot when I was a kid. We were served by a lady dressed in traditional dress for this region, in her Sunday best.

During lunch we were entertained by Herr Brandt, a retired teacher who had grown up in Dissen. He told us the story of his greatgrandfather who owned/managed the Emigrant Agency for this area. Later he showed us the house where this was located. When people decided to emigrate they would have to apply for emigration (many left without applying for this) and they had to buy their passage and get to the port city. We asked how they got the money for this and we were told of course they sold whatever they owned to get the passage. Herr Brandt thought the cost would be about $40.00 per person, plus to enter the U.S. you must have at least $20.00 or they would send you back. This return passage was on the shipping line so it was in their best interest to make sure the passengers had their $20.So in addition to the passage money, the emigrant would have to pay the agent the $20.00 which he would hold for them and give to the ship’s captain, who then would hold it for them until they reached the U.S. Too many temptations perhaps of gambling or whatever on the ship. Herr Brandt also told us that his gr-grandfather supplied passage by horse cart to the Weser River, where they would then take a boat to Bremerhaven. Just the start of a long journey to a new life.

After thanking our hosts for this wonderful morning we headed off to Hoyel and Melle.
First stop in Hoyel was the windmill. The President of the Windmill Society (who is also the mayor of Riemsloh) met us and opened up the windmill and museum for us to see. This was the mill for the town of Hoyel in former times and one of the many windmills on the Mühlen Strasse. Off to the church then. This small church is close to 400-500 years old, the current building, there was an older one on this site. This church has a
Model of Hoyel church
beautful blue ceiling and one of the more interesting things was the wooden pews have the names of members of the congregation who have paid for this honor carved into the pew. One of the members of our tour were lucky to see the pew that their ancestor had paid for the seat and they got to sit in the same spot!

(The name inscribed here is Backhaus) Ralph & Myrna

Then on our way to Melle, where we met the President of the Heimat Museum, a young man who showed us the heimat museum (historical museum) which had rooms of traditional costumes and rooms showing a kitchen and a bed room from older days and even some archelogical finds from the area of dinosaur bones. There were several buildings of this museum and set in a beautiful setting. The young man, Uwe, was very knowledgeable and we could tell he was proud to show us the

historical remants of his city’s past. We enjoyed it. He showed us outside some of the old, old, Border stones which had an H on one side for Hannover and a P on the other for Prussia. These were used to mark the territory of these 2 former regions.

Then we had dinner in a half-timbered house on the museum grounds and it was late when we got back to the hotel. But a very successful and interesting day.
P.S. Other folks on the trip also had good days visiting their hometowns. Meeting cousins, getting more generations back and walking the homes and churches of their ancestors. All in all a very successful day.

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