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When will you marry? Age of marriage in Germany

13. August 2017, Heike Leiacker - 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

Sources for genealogy: Birth-, marriage and death certificates

15. July 2017, Heike Leiacker - Genealogy, General, Germany, Historical Documents, Knowledge, Tips and Tricks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

Street names: What do you do, if you don’t know how to name something?

09. July 2017, Heike Leiacker - 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?

The history of German family names – Part 2

30. June 2017, Andrea Bentschneider - General, Germany, Knowledge, Onomastics

Figure „Der Schmidt“ (the smith) from a book of classes by Jost Amman and Hans Sachs from 1568 (Amman, Jost; Sachs, Hans: Eygentliche Beschreibung aller Stände auff Erden, hoher und nidriger, geistlicher und weltlicher, aller Künsten, Handwercken und Händeln..., Frankfurt am Main 1568, p. 77) [Public Domain], via Wikipedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Schmidt-1568.png).

Some time ago we released The history of German family names – Part 1 here on our blog. We didn’t forget that we promised a sequel. Today it’s finally here. This time we will talk about professions and nicknames as family names.

The history of German family names – Part 2

No marriage without vaccination!

17. June 2017, Heike Leiacker - 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!

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

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

Tangible history – The Kiekeberg open air museum

21. May 2017, Heike Leiacker - 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

Periods applying to archive material

12. May 2017, Heike Leiacker - 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

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

Spatenrecht

06. April 2017, Heike Leiacker - 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?

Spatenrecht

We can’t afford more!? – When you have to pay for official church acts

31. March 2017, Heike Leiacker - 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

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)

Street names: Circle the square and start a new life!

11. March 2017, Heike Leiacker - General, Germany, History, Knowledge

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ef/MannheimQuadrat-D4-1-6.jpg

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!

Flooded… Catastrophic influences on genealogy

28. February 2017, Heike Leiacker - 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

Biikebrennen in North Frisia

21. February 2017, Andrea Bentschneider - 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

History set in stone

22. November 2016, Andrea Bentschneider - 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

Passports in the past and the present

22. February 2016, Andrea Bentschneider - 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

A little peace: Anniversary of contracting the Treaty of Versailles

21. January 2016, Andrea Bentschneider - 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

The carrot-and-stick-policy on the isle of Borkum

04. December 2015, Andrea Bentschneider - 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

Death penalty in Hesse

01. December 2015, Andrea Bentschneider - 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

November 9th – a Fateful Day in German History

09. November 2015, Andrea Bentschneider - 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

German Unity Day

30. September 2015, Andrea Bentschneider - 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