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).
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
„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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.