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 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
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
21. February 2017, General, Germany, Old Customs, Traditions
„Biikebrennen in Wassersleben (2014), Entzündung, Bild 013“ by Sönke Rahn – own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Biikebrennen_in_Wassersleben_(2014),_Entz%C3%BCndung,_Bild_013.JPG#mediaviewer/File:Biikebrennen_in_Wassersleben_(2014),_Entz%C3%BCndung,_Bild_013.JPG
Every year on 21 February the communities on the North Frisian islands, on the coast and in Southern Denmark say goodbye to winter by lighting bonfires shortly after sunset. Every community and even some farms have their own bonfires. Today the contents of the fires are old Christmas trees and decorations.
Biikebrennen in North Frisia
22. November 2016, General, Germany, Hamburg, History, Knowledge
In the urban region of Hamburg there are for example several granite steles that are unimposing at first glance. But these steles are evidence of the history of Hamburg and Holstein. One of the granit steles is located in the Tarpenbekstraße in the Hamburg district Eppendorf. On it several letters and numbers are written, they might appear cryptic at the moment.
Before riddling the stone’s and its inscription’s meaning, let’s talk about the history of Hamburg and Holstein.
History set in stone
22. February 2016, General, Germany, Historical Documents, Knowledge
picture source: http://data.dm2e.eu/data/place/sbb/kpe_DE-1a_995/Berlin
In today’s German passport (the word originates from the Latin “passus”, passage) eight attributes and a photograph can be found.
In previous times – without the photograph – the descriptions and attributes had to be lengthier and more accurate. In the beginning of the 18th century there were 20 individual points of reference to be named. Name, age, nationality and height of the person as well as an exact description on the nature of different bodily parts. Color and completeness of teeth were registered as well as strength of beard hair or lip shape. Especially identifying features like “limping” or “hunchbacked” and even habits and character traits were dutifully noted. Because this level of detail was practiced over several generations sometimes you can learn quite a lot of interesting particulars about famous people. For example it is known that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe had brown eyes and hadn´t turned fully gray by the age of 57.
Passports in the past and the present
21. January 2016, Anniversary, General, Germany, Historical Events, Knowledge
The year 1919 represents one of the most important caesuras in our history: After the First World War had claimed millions of lives it was officially brought to an end by signing the Treaty of Versailles. In 2016 the days in which that historical contract was closed have their 97th anniversary.
A little peace: Anniversary of contracting the Treaty of Versailles
04. December 2015, General, Germany, Old Customs, Traditions
Tomorrow night, the night from December 5th to December 6th, the „Klaasohm“ will be walking abroad again.
This old custom is said to date back to the time when the mostly poor population of Borkum earned a little bit extra by whaling. In late autumn and after long absence aboard ship, the men returned to the island which had been firmly in the hand of the women during the summer. In this special night the men come to claim back their supremacy.
So what exactly happens in this night?
The carrot-and-stick-policy on the isle of Borkum
01. December 2015, General, Germany, Knowledge
If you are about to commit a capital crime in Wiesbaden, Frankfurt or Kassel: Think again! Of course, we do not suspect you of criminal energy but it would be important to know that in Wiesbaden and the whole state of Hesse the death penalty is still in effect. At least since the state constitution was adopted on the 1st December 1946. Article 21(1) states that for extreme offences the death penalty can be given. Hesse is therefore not only the first state that passed its constitution, but the last that has not come around to delete the passage in question. So much for the last shall be the first.
Death penalty in Hesse
09. November 2015, General, Germany, History, WW I, WWII
November 9th is a special day in German history. Four times in the 20th century has this day made history – in positive and very negative ways. This is why today a lot of commemoration festivities are taking place all over the country. They remember the crimes as well as the positive developments that are forever connected to this day.
On November 9th 1918 seamen that were tired of the war revolted against the command to once again go out to sea to fight against England. World War I had cost about 10 million lives and double as many were wounded, people were exhausted. The revolt spread like wildfire over the whole country. The November Revolution led to Emperor Wilhelm’s abdication and the formation of a German Republic with a government that was legitimated by democratic vote.
November 9th – a Fateful Day in German History
30. September 2015, Anniversary, General, Germany, Historical Events, History
This year on October 3rd, festive acts all over Germany celebrate the 25th anniversary of the reunification of what was the German Democratic Republic (“DDR”) in the East and the Federal Republic of Germany (“BRD”) in the West. The German national holiday commemorates the joining of the DDR with the BRD that was decided on in August 1990 and concluded in October. With this happening, the federal states of Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and all of Berlin, the so-called “new federal states”, became part of the republic.
German Unity Day