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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

Why a German became the first King of the Belgians

21. July 2017, Heike Leiacker - General, Historical Events, History, Holiday, Knowledge, Personalities

Leopold I of Belgium, Picture by unknown (Zeno.org, ID-Number 20001849204) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AL%C3%A9opold_I.jpg)

Since 1890, 21 July is the Belgian National Day. This goes back to 1831 when the first King of the Belgians, Leopold I, took the oath on the constitution of the newly independent nation. He came from a German dynasty.

Why a German became the first King of the Belgians

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

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

Walking with lanterns

11. November 2016, Andrea Bentschneider - Historical Events, Personalities, Traditions, Anniversary

November is the month in which the traditional lantern processions take place in Germany. Children walking through the streets with their parents and colourful, self-made lanterns in the early hours of the evening is a custom that - like many other customs - traces back to a clerical holiday. In this case the holy Martin of Tours is to be honored by the rite.

 

Walking with lanterns

Changing times

22. October 2016, Andrea Bentschneider - General, Hamburg, Historical Events, Knowledge

It's happening again: this weekend in the night to 30thOctober the clocks will be switched to standard time. Since 1996, the EU has uniform regulations for the summer time; hence daylight saving time starts on the last Sunday in March and ends on the last Sunday in October. With the beginning of standard time in fall, the clocks are set back by one hour.

Changing times

Hagenbeck - a long-term institution in Hamburg - Part 2

26. July 2016, Andrea Bentschneider - Hamburg, Personalities, Historical Events

During the air raids of "operation Gomorrha" in the summer of 1943, large parts of the animal park were destroyed. Luckily some of the animals survived and thus it was that elephants helped with the clearing work afterwards - not only at the zoo but also in other areas of Hamburg.

The walrus lady Antje is also unforgotten as she was both the mascot of Hagenbeck and of the NDR [North German Broadcasting Corporation] from 1976 until her death in 2003.

Hagenbeck - a long-term institution in Hamburg - Part 2

Hagenbeck - a long-term institution in Hamburg - Part 1

06. July 2016, Andrea Bentschneider - General, Hamburg, Historical Documents, Historical Events

Source: State archive Hamburg, collection: 373-7 I, VIII (Auswanderungsamt I). VIII A 1 Band 227, Mikrofilmnummer: K_1815, page 2269; also searchable on Ancestry.com.

There is a song well-known in Hamburg called "Geh'n wir mal zu Hagenbeck...." ["Let's go to Hagenbeck..."] and when somebody sings it everyone knows it's about a visit to the zoo. It must be remarked though that Hagenbeck is an animal park strictly speaking: the enclosures are embedded in a park with artificial lakes and mountains and also the concept of laying more emphasis on species-appropriate husbandry in outdoor enclosures was developed by Carl Hagenbeck in 1896; later he even had the patent for it.

Over the decades, what had started as a small animal shop with 6 seals in 1848 escalated into an animal park which was opened at today's location in Hamburg-Stellingen in 1907. "Hagenbecks Tierpark" became the animal park Hagenbeck over time showing several attractions like the "polar sea" and the tropical aquarium.

Apart from the animals, Hagenbeck was also famous for something else: the ethnological exhibitions. At a time when not everybody could read and owned books at home, when there were no cinemas and TV sets, these exhibitions were considered an appropriate measure to let the people of Hamburg " gaze" at other cultures which were considered to be savage and uncivilized; thus, Inuit, Saami, or indigenous peoples of Africa and America became a kind of special exhibitions in addition to the animals.

Hagenbeck - a long-term institution in Hamburg - Part 1

70 Years Concentration Camp Neuengamme Main Trial / Curiohaus Trial 1946

18. April 2016, Andrea Bentschneider - Anniversary, Historical Events, Knowledge, WWII

It is the anniversary of one of the lesser-known war crime trials after the end of World War II, which were first initiated by the Allied Forces (such as the Nuremberg Trials 1945-49) and later also brought before German courts (Auschwitz Trials in the 1960s and -70s): The “Neuengamme Main Trial”.

70 Years Concentration Camp Neuengamme Main Trial / Curiohaus Trial 1946

“Anyone looking for a beautiful woman, good and intelligent, ...“

08. March 2016, Andrea Bentschneider - Anniversary, Historical Events, History, Knowledge

„ [...] do not try one but three.” (Oscar Wilde, 1854-1900)

Although there is a lot yet to be done in the area of gender equality, a lot has changed in the last one hundred years: While today a woman, Angela Merkel, is the head of Germany’s government, women did not even have the right to participate in political elections until far into the 20th century. Much less did they pursue a career: When, in our genealogical research, we work with documents from the 19th century or earlier we very rarely encounter women who carried on a profession. Responsibilities were clearly divided back then.

“Anyone looking for a beautiful woman, good and intelligent, ...“

Leap Year

28. February 2016, Andrea Bentschneider - Anniversary, General, Historical Events, Knowledge

What we experience as one year is exactly the amount of time it takes the earth to circle the sun. In fact, this does not take exactly 365 days but 365 days and 6 hours. For our calendar year to nevertheless remain synchronized with the so-called tropical (or solar) year, the leap year exists: every couple of years February 29 is added to the calendar year; a leap year therefore consists of 366 days. Such as 2016 has been.

Leap Year

International Mother Language Day

17. February 2016, Andrea Bentschneider - Anniversary, General, Historical Events, Knowledge, Traditions

According to the German dictionary, the term "first language", or "mother tongue" describes "a language that a child learns (from its parents) [and that it uses primarily]". Hence language is a cultural good that is part of us from an early age on and that makes us part of a family or community.

But all languages are not created equal: while doing genealogical research you discover that language and scripture change over time, new meanings develop for certain terms or they disappear from the language usage completely. While doing genealogical research, we often come across terms which are dated: In case our ancestors got married in the 19th century, they arranged a “copulation” [marriage]. At a christening feast there were „Gevatter“ [godparents] standing at your side.

International Mother Language Day

Sending children with parcel service

09. February 2016, Andrea Bentschneider - General, Historical Events, Knowledge

Source: Smithsonian Institution Collection: National Postal Museum, Curatorial Photographic Collection. Photographer: unknown. Image number: A.2006-22.

Yes, sending children with parcel service was actually a possibility in the land of opportunity, the USA! And it is another example for how genealogy can lead you towards bizarre and unbelievable stories from the past. 

In 1913 and 1914 it was apparently possible - or not explicitly forbidden - to send human beings via parcel service. This was right after the postal service in the US started its parcel service on January 1st 1913. The service was received well. Within the first six months 300 million parcels have been sent. 

Sending children with parcel service

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

Of Swans and Ravens

18. November 2015, Andrea Bentschneider - General, Hamburg, Historical Events, Traditions

When you visit Hamburg there is a distinct difference between going for a walk around the Alster or along the Elbe. As a native your cultural milieu will factor quite a bit into the decision where your steps will lead you. The same can be observed for the local soccer teams HSV and St. Pauli or if you live on the “right” or “wrong” side of the Alster.

Of Swans and Ravens

Daylight Savings and Time Zones

03. November 2015, Andrea Bentschneider - General, Historical Events, Knowledge

When Daylight Savings make you reconsider time, questions arise. How did today’s time zones get defined?
The sun takes 24 hours to circle around the 360 degrees of the circumference of the earth, that is 15 degrees an hour, one degree of longitude in four minutes. Each line of longitude therefore has its own timezone that bases on the position of the sun. And this is exactly how it worked until less than 140 years ago: The result was that every location had their own time, and the time difference between Cologne and Berlin for example was 26 minutes. Today, this seems unthinkable!

Daylight Savings and Time Zones

German Unity Day

30. September 2015, Andrea Bentschneider - Anniversary, General, Germany, Historical Events, History

Every year on October 3rd, festive acts all over Germany celebrate the 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

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

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

The Sound of Shopping

26. June 2015, Andrea Bentschneider - General, Historical Events, Old Customs, Traditions

When our parents, grandparents or great grandparents went grocery shopping, it sure looked different from today. Shops were smaller, the range of goods was limited and you couldn’t check what you needed for that special lasagna recipe on your smartphone in the middle of aisle 4!

But shopping also had a different sound back then. The monotone beeping at the check-out is something we are used to today. But it is the sound of one of the greatest supermarket innovations of the 20th century: I’m talking about the barcode-system. On 26 June 1974 the first product marked with a barcode was registered: It was a pack of “Juicy Fruit” gum in a supermarket in Ohio.

The Sound of Shopping

„We are hungry!“ – 3200 years of strike

23. June 2015, Andrea Bentschneider - Anniversary, General, Historical Events, History, Knowledge

The trains were late, kindergartens were closed and now mail services are slow: The year 2015 seems to be the year of strikes in Germany. While strikes always are a pain for everyone relying on public transport, childcare and the like, they seem to be crucial when it comes to negotiations over fair working conditions.

„We are hungry!“ – 3200 years of strike