22. November 2019, 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?
09. November 2019, Anniversary, Archives, Societies, Museums, Genealogy, General, Germany, Historical Documents, Historical Events, History, Knowledge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
20. February 2019, Archives, Societies, Museums, General, Germany, Hamburg, Historical Documents
The State Archive Hamburg
Archives and especially the preserved documents stored there are indispensable for genealogy. Hardly any research would be possible without them. However, they are not only relevant for family research, but function as information stores as well as places of commemorative culture.
Due to a lack of space and financial reasons, it is impossible to preserve everything. Every archive therefore has to appraise the offered collections and to make choices. Everything that is disposed leads to a loss of information. The question is how serious the loss is. Therefore, it is important to determine the archival value. In order to do so, among other things the source value and the epistemological value play a role. One problem is that appraisal might vary - due to different times and different persons/groups of persons - as perspectives and research interests are changing.
To dare more archiving
11. November 2018, Anniversary, Genealogy, General, Germany, Historical Documents, Historical Events, Internet, Knowledge, WW I
Soldier in World War I on the western front, Source: Bundesarchiv (Federal Archive), picture 183-R05148, unknown photographer, CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-R05148,_Westfront,_deutscher_Soldat.jpg)
Today 100 years ago, World War I ended. The armistice of 11 November 1918 ended the fighting. However, formally World War I ended with the Treaty of Versailles. Signed on 28 June 1919, it became effective on 10 January 1920. On this occasion, we compiled some sources for researching German soldiers of World War I.
The End of World War I – Sources regarding German soldiers
09. November 2018, Genealogy, General, Germany, Historical Events, History, Knowledge, Judaism
Erinnerungszeichen plaque for Tilly and Franz Landauer in Munich, Königinstraße 85
09 November is a special day in German history. An especially sad chapter was written on 09 and 10 November 1938. Not only were synagogues and Jewish shops all over the then German Reich set on fire and destroyed, also thousands of Jews were abused, arrested or killed. The discrimination of German Jews since the seizure of control of the National Socialists became now a systematic persecution. Until today, the so-called “(Reichs-)Kristallnacht” (often used in international context, but a rather controversial term) or “Reichspogromnacht” is a symbol for the endless number of crimes against humanity that were committed by Hitler’s government and his followers.
We are helping many clients with their Jewish research in Germany. No matter how much you know about the Holocaust, it is always especially horrible and emotional to follow single family histories during this time - All the more important to maintain a social awareness and to commemorate especially individual fates. Since the year 2000, the project “Stolpersteine” (stumbling stones) of the artist Gunter Demnig helps to remember. In Munich there are no Stolpersteine on public grounds. However, since July 2018 there is an alternative, the so-called “Erinnerungszeichen” (reminder signs).
Remembering the victims of National Socialism
24. October 2018, Genealogy, General, Germany, Hamburg, Historical Documents, Literature
„Hamburg. Ansichten von der Freien und Hansestadt“ from 1923 and „Bauer’s Neues Kochbuch“ from 1935.
Since 24 October 1995 Library Day is celebrated in Germany. It is supposed to bring attention to the countless libraries in Germany and all they have to offer. Many libraries organize special events for this day. For us as genealogists, books are important sources. This is why we would like to highlight this day by going on a little treasure hunt within our private company library.
German Library Day
10. October 2018, Genealogy, General, Germany, Knowledge, Literature
Cover of “Credentials for Genealogists”.
In his new book, the long-standing professional genealogist Paul Gorry addresses credentials for professional genealogists worldwide. It is a resource for accrediting bodies, those seeking professional credentials and of course also potential clients who would like to know more on how to find a trustworthy professional genealogist.
Literature tip: “Credentials for Genealogists: Proof of the Professional” by Paul Gorry
02. September 2018, Emigration, General, German-American, Germany, Historical Events, History, Knowledge, Personalities
Colonel Friedrich Hecker, unknown author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Colonel_Friedrich_Hecker.png).
Friedrich Hecker was one of the faces of the German revolutions of 1848-1849. Like many of his companions he emigrated after the failing of the revolution or single uprisings. On 20 September 1848, he boarded a ship to New York in Le Havre and became a farmer in Illinois. Later, He fought in the American Civil War.
Friedrich Hecker, „Forty-Eighter“
23. May 2018, Anniversary, General, Genealogy, Germany, Hamburg, Historical Events, History, Knowledge
The Thirty Years‘ War was one of the most destructive confrontations on German territory. Prior to the two world wars in the 20th century it was considered to be probably the most incisive event in German history. It also had an impact on today’s genealogy. The Thirty Years’ War was precipitated by the Second Defenestration of Prague on 23 May 1618.
Thirty years of war and their impact on genealogy
27. November 2017, General, Germany, Hamburg, History, Holiday, Knowledge, Traditions
Every day, Santa Claus flies above Hamburg’s city hall Christmas market. Picture by Chorengel, Pixabay.com.
It’s time again. In Germany the Christmas markets are opening. Today, the season for many of the big and small ones in Hamburg’s quarters begins, too. But the cozy markets that invite to a cup of mulled wine and a bite as well as Christmas shopping are not only a favorite in Germany. The German Christmas market is, like the Oktoberfest, a real export hit.
German Christmas markets
17. September 2017, Family, General, Genealogy, Internet, Knowledge, Personalities
Gravestone of the family Duden in Bad Hersfeld, Germany, an example of a famous German personality that might be of interest for a virtual cemetery. Konrad Duden had quite an influence on German spelling (more information: https://www.beyond-history.com/blog/permalink/191/). Picture by 2micha (Own work) [GPL (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Grabstein_duden_hersfeld.jpg)
In 2015, we addressed the value of cemeteries for genealogy in the context of German cemetery day. We referred to the cemetery 2.0 and the habit of putting QR-Codes on gravestones to allow people to access further information on deceased persons. But with advanced technology there is always something new.
31. August 2017, General, Germany, Historical Documents, Knowledge
“Duden” from 1891 (3rd edition), picture by Merker Berlin (own book, own scan) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:DUDEN_1891_0302_PAF1.jpg)
Probably every genealogist knows the problem: In old documents, the spelling of words often varies. That doesn’t make it easier to read old handwritings. For genealogy it is especially difficult, if personal data is affected, in particular names.
Today the spelling often appears to be arbitrary. The reason is, that in Germany for a very long time there were no orthographic rules. Regarding personal data an aggravating factor is that many people weren’t able to write themselves. Therefore they couldn’t verify the information for example in church books. If I think about how often my name is misspelled and in how many different ways even today (and even when I spell it), it is no wonder that there were various notations.
What does it say? Spelling in Germany
25. August 2017, Emigration, General, German-American, Historical Events, Knowledge, Personalities
Neil Armstrong working on the moon near lunar module Eagle, 20 July 1969. Picture by NASA / Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:As11-40-5886,_uncropped.jpg)
The first man on the moon, a German? No, of course not. But Neil Alden Armstrong had indeed German ancestors.
He was born on 5 August 1930 in Ohio and died in the same state on 25 August 2012 when he was 82 years old. Inbetween Neil Armstron made history with one step on 20 July 1969 (American time). It is not surprising that Armstrong, sometimes compared to Columbus, descended from immigrants as most Americans do. His ancestors had the courage to take steps on unfamiliar ground. To start all over in a new country was certainly not an easy thing to do. Especially as keeping in touch with the people that stayed behind wasn’t as simple as today.
A small step for [a] man – From Germany to the moon
20. August 2017, General, Hamburg, Germany, Knowledge
Through the tidelands to Hamburg’s most remote quarter Neuwerk
More than 100 km to the northwest of Hamburg you can find the quarter Neuwerk, that belongs to the district Hamburg-Mitte. Scarcely 40 people live on the approximately 3 km2 tidal island Neuwerk at the Elbe estuary. Despite its location it has (with short breaks) been a part of the Hanseatic city for more than 700 years. The uninhabited neighboring islands Scharhörn and Nigehörn are part of the quarter as well.
The islands are in the center of the Hamburg Wadden Sea National Park. With its 13,750 hectare, it is the smallest of the three German Wadden Sea National Parks. You can reach Neuwerk at low tide from the Lower Saxony coast on foot or on a “Wattwagen” (a horse-drawn carriage). During the summer there is also a daily ship connection from Cuxhaven.
Are we really in Hamburg? The island Neuwerk
13. August 2017, Family, General, Genealogy, Germany, Hamburg, Knowledge
Picture by Andreas Bohnenstengel [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hochzeit_08.jpg)
Many people probably know the question, when they will (finally) marry, all too well. At least it isn’t much of a problem in the western world to live together and have children without being married. In the past it would have been a scandal. But at what age did people marry? And is it true that it happened much earlier than today?
These questions are relevant for genealogy as well. To find ancestors or specific marriage or birth dates it may well be relevant to have an idea how big generations spans may have been or which age of marriage might be probable.
When will you marry? Age of marriage in Germany
31. July 2017, Emigration, General, German-American, Hamburg, History, Knowledge
Chicago Skyline at sunrise (2009), Photo by Daniel Schwen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chicago_sunrise_1.jpg)
Since July 1994, to be precise since 20 July 1994, Chicago is Hamburg’s twin city. After the first initiative was made in 1957, the idea was readopted in the 1990s.
There are good reasons for being sister cities. Both are characterized by their waterside location (at Lake Michigan and the Elbe), despite at the same time being located at the inland. They are both economical as well as cultural centers and there are furthermore historical parallels and connections. Just to mention it briefly, both cities were affected by great fires (Hamburg in 1842, Chicago in 1871) that changed their appearances permanently. But most of all, both cities played an important role in the migration from Germany to America in the 19th century: Hamburg as an emigration harbor, Chicago as a place of refuge for immigrants.
Hamburg’s sister city Chicago
21. July 2017, General, Historical Events, History, Holiday, Knowledge, Personalities
Leopold I of Belgium, Picture by unknown (Zeno.org, ID-Number 20001849204) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AL%C3%A9opold_I.jpg)
Since 1890, 21 July is the Belgian National Day. This goes back to 1831 when the first King of the Belgians, Leopold I, took the oath on the constitution of the newly independent nation. He came from a German dynasty.
Why a German became the first King of the Belgians
15. July 2017, Genealogy, General, Germany, Historical Documents, Knowledge, Tips and Tricks
First page of a marriage certificate by a civil registry office from 1880, picture by Mediatus (Own work (Familienarchiv)) [CC0, Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Standesamtliche_Heiratsurkunde_Wilhelm_Carl_Friedrich_Gräber_-_Sophia_Caroline_Wilhelmine_Jörß,_1880,_Teil_I.png)
Some time ago we published a top-10-list of sources for genealogy in Germany on this Blog. Today, we would like to start keeping our promise by providing more information on the particular sources. Let’s get started with the civil registries.
Sources for genealogy: Birth-, marriage and death certificates
09. July 2017, General, Germany, Knowledge
Street sign of Namenlose Straße (Nameless Street) in Glückstadt, Germany.
You can find streets or parts of streets that never had any official name – for whatever reason. But that there actually is a street that is called “Namenlose Straße” (Nameless Street)? Yes you can find that as well! Namely in Glückstadt, Germany.
Street names: What do you do, if you don’t know how to name something?
19. June 2017, Anniversary, General, Genealogy
On 19 June 2007 the first blog post went online on Abenteuer Ahnenforschung (adventure genealogy, only in German). It was one of the first genealogy blogs in Germany. Our head, professional genealogist and company founder Andrea Bentschneider, still chats there about her daily work, shares tips and informs about various aspects of ancestry and family research. Our corporate blog on this site is with (almost exactly) 2 years comparatively young. Both blogs are characterized by years of experience in professional genealogy.
The very first blog post on Abenteuer Ahnenforschung was about "Genealogy and why one starts with it or At the beginning is curiosity…" (only in German). Motives can hardly be separated from the personal gain that accompanies genealogy. Following this, we ask today, which advantages professional genealogy provides and which limitations it has. What can be achieved and what not?
Happy Birthday Abenteuer Ahnenforschung! Or: What can professional genealogy achieve?
17. June 2017, General, Genealogy, Germany, Historical Documents, Knowledge
Detail from the register of marriages of the parish Münsterdorf, available at the Kirchenkreisarchiv (church district archive) in Wrist, Germany (https://www.kk-rm.de/unser-kirchenkreis/kirchenkreis-archiv.html)
What has a „Vaccinationsschein“ (vaccination certificate) to do with a wedding (and what is it)? Or is there something else written in the church book?
Is there any genealogist who doesn’t know the situation? Finally, you have found a document regarding a sought-after person, but you are not able to read everything. Even after deciphering the words, or after you think you might have deciphered them, you are not sure what to do with the information. Often, background information is necessary to understand what this is all about.
No marriage without vaccination!
01. June 2017, Family, General, Germany, Holiday, Knowledge, Traditions
Campaign to collect waste material in order to buy an animal that was to be given to Berlin zoo on International Children’s Day in 1959. Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-59459-0002 / Ulmer, Rudi / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-59459-0002,_Aus_Altstoffen_ein_Tier_f%C3%BCr_den_Tierpark.jpg)
Even if there are no two states any more, there are still differences between East and West Germany. There are structural inequalities, but there are different traditions as well, for example in celebrating. For instance, on 1 June is Children’s Day. One of the Children’s Days, to be more accurate. In fact there are two Children’s Days that are celebrated in Germany. International Children’s Day on 1 June and Universal Children’s Day on 20 September. The first of them is of greater importance in the eastern parts of the Country.
Children’s Day = Children’s Day? Celebrations in East and West Germany
23. May 2017, General, German-American, Germany, Knowledge, Personalities, Emigration
21. May 2017, Archives, Societies, Museums, General, Germany, Hamburg
Pringen Hof from Kakenstorf, built in 1797, furnished according to about 1800.
Pretty groups of houses and gardens, vivid and sensorial history, old domestic animal breeds and many opportunities to try out things – the Kiekeberg open air museum near Hamburg is always worth visiting: For interested genealogists who want to know more about how their ancestors might have lived in the region, for general history fans or whole families. There is something for every interest and every age.
Tangible history – The Kiekeberg open air museum
12. May 2017, Archives, Societies, Museums, Genealogy, General, Germany, Historical Documents, Tips and Tricks
Archive file register, photo by moi (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AArchives_entreprises.jpg)
Genealogy isn’t always simple. Sometimes legislative restrictions that are in themselves very reasonable can complicate our work. Today we would like to give a short overview of different periods applying to archive material in Germany. This is further complicated by German federalism. Many regulations only apply to one particular federal state.
Periods applying to archive material
02. May 2017, Emigration, General, German-American, History, Knowledge, Personalities
American and Czech Budweiser, Photo: Dorisall at English Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ABud_and_Budvar.jpg)
Without question Anheuser-Busch is one of the best known breweries worldwide. Today the American company is part of the international corporation Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABInBev), just like the German beer brands Beck’s, Franziskaner, Hasseröder, Diebels or Löwenbräu. The brewery originated in the 1850s in St. Louis (Missouri). It was acquired by Eberhard Anheuser and a partner in 1860. Anheuser died 20 years later, on 2 May 1880 in St. Louis.
Germans and their beer – Part 3
28. April 2017, Emigration, General, German-American, History, Knowledge, Personalities, Professions
Frederick Pabst, Picture by S.L. Stein (The Pabst Mansion) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Frederick_Pabst_by_SL_Stein.jpg)
No more than Germans invented beer they were the first to brew it in the USA. Breweries are documented from the 17th century at the latest. Until the middle of the 19th century they mostly produced British-style ale. This changed with enhanced immigration from Germany and the associated higher demand for lighter lager. This was met by German brewers from about mid-century. Until the end of the 19th century lager had become the predominant beer in the USA. And especially German-American brewers like Busch, Pabst or Schlitz had made themselves known.
Germans and their beer – Part 2
23. April 2017, Anniversary, Emigration, General, Germany, Hamburg, Knowledge
Various beer types. By Personal Creations (www.personalcreations.com) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ABeer_in_glasses_and_steins.jpg)
The favorite beverage of the Germans? Beer! At least that’s the cliché. There of course is reason to that. One is certainly the “Reinheitsgebot” (German beer purity law) that supports the good reputation of German beer. It was passed on 23 April 1516, therefore every year at that day, German Beer Day is celebrated. The beer purity law is the oldest food law in the world. It states that German beer can only be made of water, hops and barley. The role of yeast that influences fermentation wasn’t understood at the time. Today adding yeast allows a constant quality of the beer. Prior to the German beer purity law, many things were mixed into the beer to for example add a special flavor, heighten the intoxicating effect or to make beer drinkable again that had turned sour. The first verifiable predecessors to this law can be found in 1156 in Augsburg.
Germans and their beer – Part 1
11. April 2017, Emigration, German-American, Germany, Historical Events, Literature, Personalities, WWII
United States Army portrait of Kurt Vonnegut Jr., by United States Army [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AKurt-Vonnegut-US-Army-portrait.jpg)
On 11 April 2007, author Kurt Vonnegut died in New York. Born on 11 November 1922 as the youngest of three siblings in Indianapolis, Vonnegut was a fourth-generation German-American. Both of his parents, his father Kurt Vonnegut Sr. and his mother Edith Lieber, descended from German emigrants, that arrived in America in the 19th century.
Kurt Vonnegut and Germany
06. April 2017, General, Germany, Knowledge
Dike at Beltringharder Koog in North Frisia, Germany, Foto by Goegeo (Own work), CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lahnungsfelder_vorm_Beltringharder_Koog.JPG)
Dikes are characteristic for the German North Sea coast. They were used not only for flood protection but for land reclamation as well. According to this the Statement „Deus mare, Frisio litora fecit“ (God created the sea, the Frisian created the coast) can be understood. Flood protection is very important untill today. In February we referred to the storm flood in 1962. But who is and was responsible for the preservation of the dikes?
31. March 2017, General, Germany, Knowledge
Dietmar Rabich / Wikimedia Commons / “Dülmen, Kirchspiel, St.-Jakobus-Kirche -- 2015 -- 5586” (https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42826497) / CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode)
Even today a wedding or a funeral may be expensive. Especially if you want to marry, there are many things that can affect the costs: the number of guests, the dress, if you get a DJ or a band… And there are many older people that save money for their own funeral to unburden their descendants. Usually those financial burdens aren’t caused by fees charged by the churches though. This was different in the past.
We can’t afford more!? – When you have to pay for official church acts
26. March 2017, Family, General, Germany, Literature, Personalities
Cover of the book „Sie kam aus Mariupol“ by Natascha Wodin, copyrights by Rowohlt Verlag GmbH
In February 2017 the German publisher Rowohlt released the new book of writer Natascha Wodin. “Sie kam aus Mariupol” not only tells the moving story of her mother but also describes her ancestry research as such vividly. The literary biography was rightly awarded with the Leipzig Book Fair Prize 2017. We hope it will be translated into English one day.
Literature tip: „Sie kam aus Mariupol“ by Natascha Wodin (German language)
11. March 2017, General, Germany, History, Knowledge
As genealogists we often come across addresses. We have written about the topic in this blog before and will do so again. Addresses people had years or centuries ago have often changed names over time. Sometimes it’s important to find out, how streets are called today. Mannheim, Germany, is a good example for even current street names that pose us riddles.
Street names: Circle the square and start a new life!
28. February 2017, Archives, Societies, Museums, Germany, Hamburg, Historical Events, Historical Documents, General
Flood in Hamburg, 17.02.1962; picture by Oxfordian Kissuth (own work). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AHamburg_-_Flutkatastrophe_1962.jpg
In the night of 16 to 17 February 1962 the hurricane Vinicinette caused a storm flood at the North Sea coast of Germany. Hamburg was affected especially hard, the early warning systems failed and the danger wasn’t taken seriously. The residents of Hamburg were surprised by the water in their sleep. 315 people died in the city alone (of 340 people in total).
Documents that might have helped genealogists today were destroyed as well. The public record office itself was left unharmed, but the records of some administrative bodies were affected. It’s hard to estimate, how many records of private companies were lost as well. If one of your ancestors worked in any of those affected companies prior to 1962, it might be hard to find information today.
Flooded… Catastrophic influences on genealogy
15. February 2017, Birthdays, Emigration, German-American, Hamburg, Personalities, General
Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg/Henry E. Steinway https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ASteinway_factory_Schanzenstrasse_Hamburg_Germany.jpg
On 15 February 1797, Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg was born in Wolfshagen/Harz in Northern Germany. Can you guess? Later known as Henry E. Steinway, the founder of one of the leading piano manufacturers of the world, Steinway and Sons, was a German emigrant.
To build the best piano possible