Monday, May 28, 2012

German trip May 2012

Well I am home from Germany now and I always have good intentions of blogging every day when I am there, but that never happens. Never enough time, although I do take train or car time to jot down a few notes.  So, I will try to write about things now as I look through the pictures.

We usually do a trip in May because Germany is such a pleasure to the eye in May. Yellow fields of rapeseed blooming in fields scattered over the hillsides looking like a patchwork quilt, tons of lilacs blooming and rhododendron and hydrangea.  It was gorgeous.

I had a few days before we met our clients for a personal heritage tour and we decided to visit a local “landlord’s” house called Schloss Hunnefeld, located near Bad Essen. In the olden days the landlord was the person who was in charge of collecting the rents and taxes from the small farmers.  In the 13th century Schloss Hunnefeld   was a moated “water” castle.  Today you come down a long lane into a large clearing and see the impressive residence. The building is a three-winged two story in the Renaissance style.  There is a small island in the moat now and behind it a beautiful English garden.  There also is French style dovecote from the 1700’s.  I could picture the small farmer walking his way down the long lane with his hard earned money or livestock or whatever he had as payment.

In the building where the café is now was the counting house, or the place where taxes and rents were collected.   I guess a little history of the “farm system” in Germany is in order.  Of course this is a generalization, different areas had different laws and different systems but the farm system had been around for centuries, its roots go back to the Germanic tribes, who were nomads and whose economy was based on summer military campaigns, in which the men earned the tribes living by plunder.  When they settled down to more agricultural pursuits versus the nomadic lifestyle, they needed the protection against other marauding tribes so they pledged service and fealty to their warrior overlords.  By the end of the Middle Ages, military protection by the overlords was not needed as much, so the overlords settled down too.  Land and income from agricultural products replaced plunder as their primary source of income, and the relationship of overlord and peasant farmer became firmly established.  At least this is what I have read and I am sure there are probably more complicated reasons but this serf and lord system was around for centuries and German villages and farms used to “belong” to someone that they owed taxes and rents too.  We have found records for some of these big farms that list all the small farms they owned and how much they collected etc.  Sometimes (not sure how often as I have not personally seen that many) they might list the farmers names that were under their control.  Of course in the Northwest of Germany the larger farms had the names and whoever lived there took that name. But that is a story for another day.

So, as it was a cool day we stopped in the café and had a hot, steamy bowl of spargel soup. Spargel is white asparagus which is also a big deal in May in Germany; you will get it everywhere and in every way imaginable.  But it was warm and tasty and I like to look out the window and transport back to centuries ago and imagine what would have been going on that cool, spring day.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

WDYTYA & Hessian Soldiers

Did you watch last week's WDYTYA and follow Rob Lowe’s journey of finding his ancestor that had been a Hessian soldier that fought in the American Revolutionary War?  Do you have or think you may have a “Hessian soldier” in your background?   Then here is a site from the Archives in Marburg, Hesse, Germany that has a database for Hessian Troops in America.  First a little background on Hessian involvement in the Revolutionary War from Wikipedia.

During the American Revolution, there were many German states loosely unified under the Holy Roman Empire. Many of these German states were officially Protestant, making them traditional allies of other Protestant nations, such as the United Kingdom of Great Britain, whose king, George III, was also the Prince-Elector of Hanover. King George III came from an ethnic German line, and was the first of the House of Hanover to speak English as his first language.[1] Great Britain formed strong German alliances during the Diplomatic Revolution of 1756, and had combined forces with Frederick the Great during the Seven Years War to form a coalition that functioned as one Army.[2] When the British colonies in America rebelled a decade later, several German states contracted for the temporary loan of German soldiers to the British Army. Although the leasing of German soldiers to a foreign power was controversial to some Europeans,[3] the German people generally took great pride in their soldiers' service in the war.[4]

Americans were alarmed at the arrival of German troops on American soil, viewing it as a betrayal by King George III. Several American congressmen declared they would be willing to declare independence if King George used German soldiers.[5] German soldiers provided American patriots with a propaganda tool; they were derogatorily called "mercenaries," and were referred as such in the Declaration of Independence:

"He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat [sic] the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation. [6]"  

Despite American propaganda, contemporary writers suggested that German soldiers were well respected and well cared for, both by Americans and British.[7] At the conclusion of the war, Congress offered incentives for German soldiers to stay in the United States.[8] Great Britain also offered land and tax incentives for German soldiers willing to settle in Nova Scotia.[8]

Here is the link: