Sunday, June 19, 2011

Northwest Germany Tour - Finding the Stories

It is always exciting for me to welcome another group to Germany on their discovery of their ancestor’s home place. They usually arrive with the facts of their family and hopefully they leave with a little more of the story of their family. So on Sunday the 19th we greeted our group to the Northwest of Germany to help them get their family stories. We settled in at the hotel and after a little rest we strolled through our home base town of Bünde with a quick beer at a charming biergarten near a slow moving river and then to dinner.

Monday after breakfast we head for a tour of the Tabak (tobacco) museum in Bünde. This sounds funny now in our PC world but this industry was very important for our ancestors. The first tobacco factory in Northwest Germany opened in 1843. Tobacco had been introduced in Europe to the nobility as a treasure from new worlds.

Our ancestors most often needed a second occupation to make ends meet, as farming and especially tenant farming was not enough to support a family. The northwest of Germany was a leading source for the manufacture of linen from the flax plant. The production and spinning of the flax into linen could be done during the winter months and in the evening after farming. But as the Industrial Revolution spread this occupation needed less manpower and the people were out of work. Once tobacco was more prevalent the manufacture of cigars was off and running. The tobacco arrived in ships mainly from the U.S. in the harbor in Bremen and then transported inland to smaller towns in the countryside where there were factories and home workers who made the cigars. Many of our ancestors brought this trade to the New World with them.

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