Beyond History Blog

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Children’s Day = Children’s Day? Celebrations in East and West Germany

01. June 2017, Heike Leiacker - 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

Literature tip: „Sie kam aus Mariupol“ by Natascha Wodin (German language)

26. March 2017, Heike Leiacker - 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)

The history of German family names - part 1

07. September 2016, Andrea Bentschneider - Family, Onomastics, Traditions

The Chinese were first, introducing family names already about 2.850 B.C. The ancient Romans were then followed on the European continent; they usually had three names. For the German speaking regions, the history of family names starts in the 12th century. Here, for many centuries a single forename was sufficient to identify a person. However, even back then there were fashionable names so that the variety of names was reduced and led to a decline of Germanic forenames.

In addition, the population grew drastically between the 12th and 14th century. At some point there were, for example, three persons by the name of "Josef" in one village. Thus one name was not enough anymore to clearly identify a specific person.

The history of German family names - part 1

2 Families, 2 Generations, 2 Continents, 1 Search, 0 Birth dates

30. August 2016, Andrea Bentschneider - Family, General, WWII, Personalities

Back in 2011, we received an inquiry from an Australian client who had been born in Rotenburg/Wümme, Germany shortly after World War II. Her father had been stationed there as a soldier in the German air force. After a short British war imprisonment he decided to return to his wife and two children to his home town Vienna, Austria. This decision meant that he left the mother of our client and his illegitimate daughter, our client, even before she was born. After these events the family of our client never heard of the man again.

After 65 years, the daughter finally wanted to know who her biological father was - what kind of person had he been, had he lived a happy life, when and where had he died? She hoped to find answers to all these questions with our help.

2 Families, 2 Generations, 2 Continents, 1 Search, 0 Birth dates

„So Hedge therefore, Who Join Forever” – The marriage then and now

02. February 2016, Andrea Bentschneider - Family, General, Old Customs, Traditions

Today on February 2nd 2016, King Willem Alexander and Queen Máxima celebrate their 14th wedding anniversary. Prior to their wedding there was made a big fuss about it since Máxima neither was aristocratic nor had she a proper ancestry.

While doing genealogy research and reading about marriages of our ancestors nowadays, we ascertain that love was not the main reason for contracting a marriage. During the filming for "Das Geheimnis meiner Familie" [„The secret of my family“] with Christine Neubauer the Historian Dr. Martin Ortmeier explained that only 2 % of the marriages contracted before 1900 were contracted because of love (click here to see the film - in German only).

„So Hedge therefore, Who Join Forever” – The marriage then and now

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

A Wedding in Hamburg and a Hollywood Star

29. September 2015, Andrea Bentschneider - Celebrities, Family, Genealogy, General, Hamburg

When Justus and Frieda got married on a Thursday in June 1907, they had no idea they would later have a daughter that would write Hollywood history!

Justus Samuel Bergman, a Swedish man from Stockholm, married the Hamburg resident Frieda Henriette Auguste Louise Adler on 13 June 1907 at the civil registry office 3 in Hamburg-Eimsbuettel. It was a sunny, although with 20° C not too warm summer’s day, when the two entered into marriage, traditionally at the bride’s place of residence.

A Wedding in Hamburg and a Hollywood Star

Cemetery 2.0

21. September 2015, Andrea Bentschneider - Family, Genealogy, General, Knowledge

For genealogists, cemeteries can play an important role when searching for some ancestor’s life dates. A photograph of a grave stone may even render a complicated research in an archive unnecessary! Some graves also tell stories about the family of the deceased, his or her occupation or other unique features that are able to bring us closer to the lives of our ancestors.

Cemetery 2.0

Rabbits and Rabies or The Story of Joseph Meister

08. September 2015, Andrea Bentschneider - Anniversary, Family, General, Historical Events, Personalities, Professions

Early on the 4th July 1885, the baker Joseph Meister sent his son of the same name to the next village to get yeast from the brewery there. When young Joseph entered the village center, he was attacked by a dog and bitten into his hand and his legs. Some villagers who had witnessed the incident came to hunt away the dog and wash the boy’s wounds with water from the village well. Then they gave him a coin to make him feel better. Little did they know the little boy would make history as the first person successfully vaccinated against rabies!

Rabbits and Rabies or The Story of Joseph Meister

Summer, Vacation, Sunshine!

14. August 2015, Andrea Bentschneider - Family, Genealogy, General, Onomastics

According to researchers at the academy of science in Mainz, those good things are spread all over Germany! They showed with vivid illustrations how many people in Germany carry summery names: For example Sommer (summer), Urlaub (vacation), Sonnenschein (sunshine) or Pool.  Based on directory entries it was made apparent that ‘Sommer’ is a name that is spread evenly in Germany, while the ‘Urlaubs’ gather in Stuttgart and the ‘Sonnenscheins’ and ‘Pools’ in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Summer, Vacation, Sunshine!

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