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Religious refugees during reformation

31. October 2017, Andrea Bentschneider - Emigration, Genealogy, General, Germany, Historical Events, Knowledge

Detail of a church window in the War Memorial Chapel at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington D.C. Martin Luther nails his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg. Picture by Tim Evanson [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Clerestory_window_12_-_War_Memorial_Chapel_-_National_Cathedral_-_DC.JPG)

On 31 October 1517 Martin Luther is supposed to have nailed his 95 theses against the sale of indulgences to the door of the church in Wittenberg. Today it is debatable, if this really happened, but for many the date still stands for the beginning of the reformation. It is celebrated as Reformation Day in Germany and Austria.

Religious refugees during reformation

A small step for [a] man – From Germany to the moon

25. August 2017, Heike Leiacker - 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

Hamburg’s sister city Chicago

31. July 2017, Heike Leiacker - 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

John D. Rockefeller – a man with many facets

23. May 2017, Heike Leiacker - General, German-American, Germany, Knowledge, Personalities, Emigration

John D. Rockefeller, around 1875; picture [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John-D-Rockefeller-sen.jpg)

On 23 May 1937, John Davison Rockefeller Sr. died in Ormond Beach (Florida) at the age of 97. The businessman with German roots was the first billionaire of the world (in US-Dollars). If you consider not only inflation, but also his share of America’s economic strength, he was, according to Forbes, even the richest man in history. Until today, he is remembered for his ruthless business practices as well as his philanthropy.

John D. Rockefeller – a man with many facets

Germans and their beer – Part 3

02. May 2017, Heike Leiacker - 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

Germans and their beer – Part 2

28. April 2017, Heike Leiacker - 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

Germans and their beer – Part 1

23. April 2017, Heike Leiacker - 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

Kurt Vonnegut and Germany

11. April 2017, Heike Leiacker - 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 2017, 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

To build the best piano possible

15. February 2017, Heike Leiacker - 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

The Gold Ship

26. January 2016, Andrea Bentschneider - Emigration, Genealogy, General

Passenger lists from the 19th and 20th century are important sources for genealogical research because they make the paths of emigrants across the sea and to foreign countries traceable.


Most of the ships we come across during our research have an emotional story. So does a Hamburg ship for emigrants called  “Cimbria” the story of which is as tragic as it is legendary. 

The Gold Ship

From Warburg to the Moon – a special family history

27. October 2015, Andrea Bentschneider - Emigration, Family, General, German-American, Personalities

When an American, John Brinkmann, contacted us a while back, we had the opportunity to look at a very exceptional family history. You see, John Brinkmann Sr., his father, was director of photography at NASA and as such was responsible for bringing us all of the spectacular pictures from the Gemini and Apollo space programs, in particular the first photos from the surface of the moon in 1969 - photos that went around the globe then and still do (and you are probably visualizing them while you are reading this). John recalled to us how his father shared these photos with the family around the morning breakfast table, before they had been revealed to the press. The collectively shared memory of history that manifests itself in these images stands in contrast to each individual life and its often unclear ancestral past. Now, with his father advancing in years, John wanted to help reconnect his father with his forefathers roots in Germany.

From Warburg to the Moon – a special family history

The needle in the haystack or a genealogy miracle

28. July 2015, Andrea Bentschneider - Emigration, Family, Genealogy, General

It was one of these cases that seem almost impossible to solve. For the research of the German ancestor of our US-American client we had close to nothing to start with: A name that did not sound German at all, the fact that he immigrated from Germany and a possible time frame of 10 years of his possible birth. An unrelated person of the same name that had lived close to ‘our’ German emigrant and came from the area of Oldenburg allowed the presumption that he, too, could have come from there.

The needle in the haystack or a genealogy miracle

Germans Down Under

07. July 2015, Andrea Bentschneider - Emigration, Family, Genealogy, General, Historical Events

It seems there are endless reality shows on German TV these days that follow German emigrants on their way to their new homes all around the world. The families sharing their hopes, dreams, and problems in front of the camera always make me think of the emigrant ancestors we researched so far. One of the favorite emigration destinations for Germans is and was Australia. Today, people go there for the friendly people, nature, beaches, and the sun. That sure was different back in the days…

Germans Down Under

Puzzling Fonts

17. June 2015, Andrea Bentschneider - Emigration, Genealogy, General

Some days, we put our heads together and puzzle over a document. Is that an H? Is it an S? What kind of occupation could this be? The reason for this is not our defective sight but the old German handwritings that we decrypt daily in records, church book entries and so on. After many years of experience, there is a certain routine in doing so – but even after a thousand records a bad copy, smudgy ink or just the particularly scrawly handwriting of a registrar from 200 years ago can bring us to verge of despair.

Puzzling Fonts