Beyond History Blog

Florian Heyden - Walter Ulbricht. Mein Urgroßvater.

20. August 2020, Heike Leiacker - Archives, Societies, Museums, Family, General, Germany, Historical Documents, History, Knowledge, Literature, Personalities

Cover of the book „Walter Ulbricht. Mein Urgroßvater“ by Florian Heyden, copyrights by Eulenspiegel Verlagsgruppe.

Our job is very exciting and full of interesting stories: Long kept family secrets are uncovered, unknown family members found and many questions answered. A very special case was from the beginning the one of Florian Heyden. We have spent many years to search various archives worldwide for him in order to find new information on his famous great-grandfather - none other than GDR politician Walter Ulbricht. Today, a book written by Florian Heyden is published at the German publishing house Das Neue Berlin: „Walter Ulbricht. Mein Urgroßvater“ (Walter Ulbricht. My great-grandfather).

Florian Heyden - Walter Ulbricht. Mein Urgroßvater.

Stay clean (and most of all: healthy)!

25. May 2020, Silke Deeb - Anniversary, General, Germany, Hamburg, Historical Events, Knowledge, Personalities

A 500 ml bottle of the hand disinfectant Sterillium® Viruguard by the BODE Chemie company from Hamburg.

A birthday is usually a great opportunity to invite many guests, especially, if the inviting party has reached an admirable age. These days, due to the Corona crisis, these kinds of events are cancelled in large numbers. If people nevertheless get together, many are relieved if some disinfectant is available. It therefore makes for a nice change, if we talk about the birthday of something that would never invite anyone, but that is still worth celebrating - and especially in times of Corona.

Now, who or what is turning 55 years this June? Everyone here at our office is younger. We owe our age not least to the jubilee: the Sterillium disinfectant! It was the first marketable hand disinfectant worldwide and its name has become a generic term in Germany for any disinfectant just like the brand name Band-Aid is used generically for adhesive bandages or medical plasters.

Stay clean (and most of all: healthy)!

Emigration from Germany: Arrival in a new world – entering and arriving are two very different things

11. May 2020, Andrea Bentschneider - Emigration, General, German-American, Germany, Hamburg, History, Knowledge, Personalities

The immigration station on Ellis Island, New York, picture taken around 1896, source: unknown photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ellis_Island_First_Bldg_Burnt_15-June-1897.jpg).

Departing from the German emigration ports Hamburg and Bremen resp. Bremerhaven, the majority of emigrants had in mind to reach North America. A significantly smaller number departed to Brazil, Australia, Argentina, Chile and various other countries.

Emigration from Germany: Arrival in a new world – entering and arriving are two very different things

International Workers’ Day and the role of a German immigrant

01. May 2020, Heike Leiacker - Emigration, General, German-American, Germany, Historical Events, Knowledge, Personalities

Photograph of August Spies from 1886. He is called a murderer on it.Source: unknown photographer, Public domain [PD-US-expired] via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:August-Spies-1886.jpg).

Every year on 01, May International Workers’ Day (or Labor Day) is celebrated in many countries in different ways. However, where does this tradition come from, why was a German-American in Chicago, Illinois (by the way a sister city of Hamburg) at least partly responsible for the introduction of this day and if this is so: Why does the US of all countries celebrate Labor Day on another day?

International Workers’ Day and the role of a German immigrant

Emigration from Germany: Going on a journey - costs, means of transport, and conditions of travel

24. April 2020, Andrea Bentschneider - Emigration, German-American, General, Germany, Hamburg, History, Knowledge

The passenger deck of the emigration ship “Samuel Hop“ on the journey via Rotterdam and Le Havre to the US in 1849, drawing by Leo von Elliot in “Leipziger Illustrierte Zeitung” from 10 November 1849, page 292, source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 137-041316 / Unknown / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_137-041316,_Auswandererschiff_%22Samuel_Hop%22.jpg).

Going on a journey can become adventurous! When talking about ship passengers of the third class and passengers in the times when a doctor was not necessarily on board, this can be taken literally. The conditions of travel were far from comfortable and safe. But let’s take one thing at a time; no one has gone on board yet.

Emigration from Germany: Going on a journey - costs, means of transport, and conditions of travel

Emigration from Germany: Ranging the fields – reasons for emigration and formal requirements to meet before leaving the country

11. April 2020, Andrea Bentschneider - Emigration, General, German-American, Germany, Historical Events, History, Knowledge

Mount Tambora’s eruption in 1815 resulted in massive famines in the subsequent years forcing large numbers of the suffering German population to emigrate. Source: Jialiang Gao (peace-on-earth.org) / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Caldera_Mt_Tambora_Sumbawa_Indonesia.jpg).

Globalization is one of these words that have been on everyone’s lips for the past years. Currently the worldwide spread of the Corona virus illuminates once again the global interlacing between countries due to trade and tourism, or any other kind of traffic and its consequences. 

That the whole world is linked and that events on the other side of the globe can have effects on other parts of the world is, however, nothing new.

Emigration from Germany: Ranging the fields – reasons for emigration and formal requirements to meet before leaving the country

Emigration from Germany

04. April 2020, Silke Deeb - Emigration, Family, Genealogy, Germany, General, Historical Documents, Historical Events, Knowledge

Advertisement for the emigration to America, source: United States Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division in Washington, D.C., LC-DIG-pga-13282, Auswanderung nach Amerika. Amerika und seine Freuden. Public domain, via Library of Congress (https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003691148/).

Those who engage in genealogical research will probably sooner or later discover that family members packed up and emigrated. Emigrants left Germany for overseas mostly from the cities Hamburg or Bremen. North and South America and Australia were common destinations. However, it was not unusual either to travel eastwards, all across the continent to reach Bessarabia (Southern Russia) for example.

Emigration from Germany

Beyond History - What’s that?

22. November 2019, Heike Leiacker - Anniversary, General

On 01 July 2019, Beyond History celebrated its 15th anniversary. A good reason to have a closer look at the company name! Actually, it does make our life a little harder in Germany. Especially when we are on the telephone, we often have to repeat the name and sometimes we even have to spell it. People in Germany obviously just do not expect an English name for a German company.

Beyond History - What’s that?

30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall - Sources on the East German past

09. November 2019, Heike Leiacker - Anniversary, Archives, Societies, Museums, Genealogy, General, Germany, Historical Documents, Historical Events, History, Knowledge

After the new travel regulations have been announced, thousands of GDR citizens cross the border at Invalidenstrasse in Berlin on 10 November 1989, Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1989-1110-041 / Hirschberger, Ralph / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-1989-1110-041,_Berlin,_Grenz%C3%BCbergang_Invalidenstra%C3%9Fe.jpg).

09 November is a special day in German history. In the year 1989 this finally meant something positive. On this day, the government of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) announced a new and long-desired travel regulation. People now could directly leave the GDR in the direction of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). This caused the fall of the Berlin Wall and finally led to the German reunification.

For genealogy, the division of Germany plays quite some role, too. The foundation of two separate states and especially the construction of the Berlin Wall and the closing of the inner-German border tore families apart and led to very different living environments in East and West Germany. Until today this affects the German society. On the occasion of the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall we are having a look at the historic events and also discuss sources that can be useful for researching ancestors and relatives in the former GDR.

30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall - Sources on the East German past

Professions: The Three Musketeers

21. October 2019, Ralf Stullich - General, Knowledge, Professions, Onomastics

D’Artagnan an the three musketeers, sculpture by Zurab Tsereteli on Place Saint-Pierre in Condom (Gers), France from 2010. Photo by René Hourdry [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Musketeers_by_Dumas,_Condom_(Gers)_23.jpg).

When we recently read the word “Musketeer” (Musketier) as a profession on a German death certificate from the year 1918, we hesitated for a moment - even though we come across various (and stranger) professions every day. However, the first thing that comes to mind is the three musketeers from the novel by Alexandre Dumas from 1844. And we would not suspect them in Germany or the 20th century.

Professions: The Three Musketeers

A short story of German census

13. September 2019, Ann-Christin Dimon - General, Germany, Historical Documents, Knowledge

First page of the 1987 census questionnaire, Ramessos [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Volkszaehlung.JPG).

The first census of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) was conducted on 13 September 1950. However, this was not the first census on German territory. As early as during the 18th century, kingdoms and principalities occasionally took censuses of their population. From 1816 onwards, censuses became a periodical habit throughout today’s German territory. Until now, this data is an interesting source for genealogists, although civil and church registers are better accessible and preserved.

A short story of German census

The beginning of the Second World War

01. September 2019, Ann-Christin Dimon - General, Germany, Historical Events, Knowledge, WWII

Soldiers of the Wehrmacht simulate the demolition of a Polish tollgate close to Sopot on 01 September 1939. Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-51909-0003 / Hans Sönnke / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de], via Wikimedia Commons(https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-51909-0003,_Polen,_Schlagbaum,_deutsche_Soldaten.jpg).

With the invasion of Poland on 01 September 1939 the Second World War broke out. 80 years later, we remember its up to 80 million victims. Many of our clients‘ family histories are directly linked to WW II, the German National Socialism and their aftermath.

The beginning of the Second World War

Election of the first German Bundestag

14. August 2019, Ann-Christin Dimon - General, Germany, Historical Events, History, Knowledge

Election poster of the CDU with a portrait of Konrad Adenauer, artist/graphic designer: SI Klischees Entwürfe, source: Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Archiv für Christlich-Demokratische Politik (ACDP), License: KAS/ACDP 10-001: 104 [CC-BY-SA 3.0 DE (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CDU_Wahlkampfplakat_-_kaspl001.JPG).

Free elections are considered something normal in Germany. Every four years the public votes for our parliament – the Bundestag. Today, 70 years ago the first federal elections were held.

On 14 August 1949, the first free federal elections were held after the last ones happened on 06 November 1932. Before that, the public could only elect the regional and local parliaments where elections were already held in 1946. The first federal elections were only conducted on the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), not on the territory of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), which was founded on 07 October 1949.

Election of the first German Bundestag

The myth of German Autobahn

06. August 2019, Ann-Christin Dimon - General, Germany, Historical Events, Knowledge

German Autobahn 1964, Photograph by Harry Pot/Anefo, source: Nationaal Archief Nederland, Fotocollectie Anefo [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:De_autobaan_(Autobahn)_in_Duitsland,_Bestanddeelnr_916-9687.jpg)

Germany and its famous Autobahn (highway) - for almost 100 years it has been part of German infrastructure and is known all around the globe for its lack of speed limits. There are even tourists who visit Germany just for the sake of experiencing this "joy". But when exactly was the first Autobahn opened in Germany?

The myth of German Autobahn

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