Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Before I get to that, I want to fill you in on my first couple days here in Germany. Not the mundane things, like flight over, train rides or jet lag but my first site seeing day, which was last Saturday. I was invited to visit a meeting of the Osnabrück Genealogical Society, held where else, outskirts of Osnabrück. Luckily, the St. Louis Genealogical Society, of which I am a member has a "partnership" so to speak with the Osnabrück Society and over the past several years I have made some contacts from this group who help me with research and my tours. So many people from this area of Germany came to Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, that they are interested in making contacts with their U.S. relatives too.

The topic of the lecture for this meeting was ´Totengedenkzetteln aus der Zeit ab Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts" or Death (obituary) cards from mid 1900's. Several ladies from the Society have been collecting Catholic obituary cards from the area of Oldenburg, Münsterland and Osnabrück and created an index and CD with more information on it. Perhaps you would find a relative´s name here and you could contact them (the creators of the CD, not your dead relative) for more information. Here is the website:

Of course the lecture was in German, which I understood very little of, but unlike our meetings, theirs includes kaffee und kuchen. (coffee & cake) Ummm, very good. I also met with a few people after the meeting who are interested in getting help from the U.S. on tracking down some of their immigrant descendants, which I am sure some of my German research groups will be happy to help me with.

I then was able to spend several hours in their library, looking at church books and other assorted indexes and papers they have available. I had come over with not only my own family puzzles to find, but other research questions from friends, clients and fellow group members. It is hard to keep track of all the names and places I am searching for but I was able to find some things and rule out others. I know it is not the best possible scenario when you don' t find the name but I guess you have to count the negative as a source checked and move on. Here are a couple photos of their library.

All Church Books from the Area.

For those of you on my next tour take note of the green jacket!!

Before I go on with my activities, I want to tell you what a perfect time of year the first couple weeks of May are to visit here. The weather has been great, sunny for the most part and not too hot or not too cold, just right for walking and site-seeing. Plus everything is blooming, flowers are everywhere and most all the homes have gorgeous displays in their yards, or gartens as they say. The most impressive thing is the fields of yellow flowers that are like a patchwork quilt of color. The yellow flowers are rapeseed and the oil from this flower is used for biodiesel fuel and also a cooking oil, but the first couple weeks of May the fields are alive with this color. I can' stop oohing and ahhing. I had to stop a couple times for pictures.

Sunday was a perfect day, weather wise and ended up perfect too. First stop was to West Kilver to an old farmstead that now has a restaurant in a barn, and a breakfast buffet set up for Sunday breakfast, it was delicious. We then drove through the countryside, me admiring all these fields of yellow, and I had to stop again to take a picture of a sign that I know are ancestral home towns of friends back home. It doesn't show up well on here but some of the towns were:

Bünde, Bieren, Lübbecke, Böringhausen, Pr. Oldendorf, and Holzhausen. We were on our way to Minden but first stopped in towns along the way to see old churches and farm homes.

One place we stopped was in Bad Holzhausen (used to be just Holzhausen) which is part of Pr.Oldendorf to see a typical land lord's house and "wasser mühle" water mill. The grounds were beautiful and the house is now open for tourists.

Onward to Minden, where we were going to pick up a boat ride on a canal of the Weser River. This was very interesting, the river runs south to north and they built this canal from east to west using water from the river. The boats then cross over the river on a bridge, it was quite a sight to see a boat on a bridge!!

What a day, cruising down the river (or canal) for an hour or so, these boats also have refreshments, so being in Germany, we had a beer! The weather was perfect, blue skies and a leisurely pace, was heavenly but on to the next stop of the day. The boats let you off at Südhemmern, where we walked a few blocks to the windmill!. Now we get to the topic of this blog, Windmills in Germany. I didn’t know this but the northwest of Germany has a “Westfälische Mühlenstrasse” or Westfalen Windmill Road. There are windmills dotted all across the region and they have bike paths and bier gartens set up around a lot of them. This day the yellow fields were ablaze as we made our way to the windmill, as you can see by this picture.

We went in the windmill and climbed to the top to see a view of the countryside that was breathtaking, then down to the tables and the music and time for our kaffee and kuchen. I really like this custom of cake and coffee in the afternoon; we had the best butter kuchen I’ve ever tasted. Maybe it was the atmosphere but it sure tasted scrumptious to me. We stayed for about an hour and then headed down the road for our last adventure of the day. A ride back to Minden by steam train!! It was an old fashioned train from probably the early 1900’s and it steamed and blew its whistle and off we went. It was really fun, passing through the fields and imaging what a journey on one of these trains would have been like. About a half hour later we were back in Minden and our day of leisurely transport was over and we headed home but it was a day full of great scenery and great memories.

Next day was spent at the Archives in Bielefeld, which surprisingly was next door to the hotel my tour group stayed in last May. The Archives in Bielefeld have the church records for all of Westfalen (excluding Lippe). We had made an appointment, as there are only about 5 or 6 micro-fiche readers there. You ask the person at the desk for the towns you are interested in and he will give you a small box with the microfiche in it. Baptisms, marriages and death records, the death records are especially helpful at times as it may say where they were originally born. This helps if you have looked for your person’s baptism and can’t find it in the town you thought, it is probably because he/she was born in a different village. I did not have any luck with the one gr-gr-grandmother I am looking for but found some other family information and got to print some death records which took me back a couple more generations. Good work. We also ran into a person at the Archives who is the cousin of one of my fellow German Special Interest group members and he took us on a tour (hike) up to the Castle of Sparrenburg. Quite a walk but worth it, here is some info about the Castle.
After this, took my treasures of family information home to the hotel and tried to sort out what I have found and what I still needed. Hope I get a chance to get back to the Archives.

Tuesday I was heading to the Archives in Detmold, to get the information from the emigrant papers my elusive gr-gr-granndmother had left. I had found her name in one of the Westfalen Auswanderer (emigration) books at the St. Louis library and we had found the number of the entry etc. at the Bielefeld Archives and had emailed ahead to have them pull this record for me. But before we drove to Detmold, we stopped to do a little advance scouting for a place for my next group to stay in a little spa town called Bad Salzuflen. Wow, what a “cute” little town. My German friend is so tired of me saying cute but it really was. Bad Salzuflen is a traditional spa and resort town situated near the Teutonburger Wald (forest). It is famous for its health giving salt water springs, has air and water just like being at the sea. In the center of town there is a “Gradierwerk”, which I will have to show you a picture of, kind of hard to describe. The brine water from underground is trickled over the wooden columns filled with blackthorn bundles, which in former times helped concentrate the salt content, now it serves as an enormous open air inhalation facility and you get a salted, sea-breeze from it. Just like being at the sea, you also can enter a passage way through this Gradierwerk which takes you to the brine mist chamber where you can inhale deeply the fresh sea air. Here you can relax, listen to soft music and look at a starful sky that continuously changes color.

There is a lively, historic Old Town, which will impress you with its sumptuous patrician houses and beautifully decorated half-timbered houses. You can wander down picturesque lanes or perhaps take a ride on the Paulinchen Bahn, a small train that takes you through the town. There is many shops to browse in, and outside café’s to linger in plus an incredibly, gorgeous park to stroll through. All in all, this is the place I’ve picked for home base on the next Northwest tour.

On to Detmold to the Archives, this too, we have made arrangements ahead of time to have them pull the document needed. I am not sure if every one who works at the Archive can speak English and I am lucky to have someone with me who can, plus be able to read the old German. I guess I would suggest if you are planning on visiting an Archive on your own you should also perhaps hire a local researcher to assist you. Luckily, we got the emigrant paper and found her name and a town (different than the one she said she was from on her marriage record in the States) but the next village within spitting distance. So the search for church records continues. Another successful day.

No comments: