Imagine living in 19th century Germany and having to adjust to a different time zone every time you travel within the country. This was reality until the introduction of a single time zone exactly 130 years ago. But how did it come about?
The Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e.V. (German War Graves Commission) is probably known to most German genealogists - or it should be. Mainly, because information on fallen or missing persons from the First and Second World Wars can be found via an online searchable database or a search request.
But the War Graves Commission also looks after German war grave sites abroad, supports the institutions looking after the ones in Germany, is involved in the culture of remembrance and offers educational programs for young people.
The regional association in Saxony is currently pursuing a very special project. And perhaps you can help with it!
The golden October is over. The holiday season has not yet begun. Fall has arrived with rainy showers and the first storms of the year.
However, November has always been known as the "Month of Mourning" or even the "Month of Remembrance" not because of the weather. The Sunday of the dead, All Saints' Day, All Souls' Day or also the People's Day of Mourning fall in this month. On these days, the deceased are remembered, which is why they are also called silent holidays.
Are you looking for traces of your emigrated German ancestors in their destination country? Then you are exactly right here, because after we have already presented a number of sources and contact points in Germany recently, today will write about sources for research in the respective immigration countries (destination countries).
Of course, these differ greatly according to the respective country of arrival/immigration so that we can only give an overview for some countries here.
Some of the sources are also available online through a wide variety of platforms (including paid ones). As always in genealogy, you should keep an eye on the seriousness and reliability of the source before adopting the information.
Arrival passenger lists
In some countries, for example in the USA, all arriving passengers of emigrant ships were registered. Due to the variations from nation to nation, we cannot give an exact list here. However, the lists of passengers arriving in the US on ships from all over the world are collected in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. The original lists were destroyed after being backed up on microfilm. Various databases record arriving passengers by port of arrival or nationality. The collection "Germans to America" should be mentioned here, one of the various efforts to at least partially reconstruct the Bremen passenger lists in particular on the basis of the arrival lists in the USA.
For the Port of New York, there is also a separate database for arrivals at the immigration center at Castle Garden on the southern tip of Manhattan from 1820 until the official founding of Ellis Island in 1892.
Censuses have been taken in the United States every ten years since 1790. Lists of these censuses are also preserved at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Other regional census lists may also be of interest for your genealogical research if, for example, they document stops of your ancestors along the way to the US. Changes of residence in the destination country and family members, occupations, etc. can also be traced through census lists if you are lucky.
In the USA, it is customary at the time of a person's death to list in an obituary his or her life story with the various stages, occupations, places of residence, spouses, children, and grandchildren. These were published in local newspapers and some are searchable online.
The best-known example here is the Immigration Museum in New York Harbor on Ellis Island. Its Immigration Center was established in 1892. There, much can be learned about the stages of emigration, arrival in the US, and the quarantine period on the island. A database is also available at the in-house research center.
Immigration organizations and societies for the study of immigrants
The Martius-Staden Institute in Sao Paulo for the cultivation of German culture in Brazil and Latin America provides a fine example.
Newspaper articles about arriving ships
Especially in Australia, it was often common to publish the arrival of ships, sometimes even listing the arriving passengers.
If you have found among your ancestors some who dared to emigrate despite all the risks of the journey and adversities of arrival, you may want to shed more light on their path. But how do you go about it? Here, as in other genealogical researches, there are always various possibilities, depending, among other things, on the circumstances in the various states and countries.
Today we would like to address a frequently asked question from our foreign clients, the answer to which always causes astonishment.
In the USA and also in other countries, graves are usually laid out for eternity. In Islam or Judaism, too, eternal rest for the deceased is supposed to be guaranteed. Accordingly, we often receive inquiries about the resting places of ancestors to be visited during a trip, or requests for photos of the gravesites. Unfortunately, this is often not possible in Germany.
Of course we can try to find out where an ancestor was buried, but whether the grave still exists is a completely different question.
Finally being an adult and thus beeing self-determined! The age of majority is often longed for. In Germany, for example, you have then full legal capacity to conclude contracts of all kinds, the ability to legally buy alcohol and tobacco products, to go to nightclubs, to vote, to freely determine your place of residence, and to marry without the permission of your legal guardians or a family court. However, you also have to live with the consequences of your own actions.
To be considered legally as an adult has therefore advantages and disadvantages (even if there are still transition periods e.g. in the criminal law). In the last 150 years or so, the legal age of majority in Germany has been lowered several times. Today it is 18 years.
For genealogy the age of a person and especially the age of majority play a not unimportant role, too. Depending on the age of a person, other sources may become relevant for the research. Also additions like "volljährig" (of full age), “grossjährig” (of “great” age), "majorenn" (from Latin majorennis which comes from maior annis, meaning greater in years), "major" or, in contrast, such as “minderjährig” (minor), “halbwüchsig” (half-grown), "minorenn" or "minor" can also help to determine the approximate age of a person and thus, for example, to find out (or at least to find a hint) which of potentially several persons with the same names a particular one might be.
On 30 November 1676, the General-Feuer-Cassa - the world's first insurance company still in existence today - was founded in Hamburg. The city's pre-existing fire contracts were combined and a public insurance company was created, which still exists today under the name Hamburger Feuerkasse, albeit now as part of a large insurance group. The historical holdings stored in the State Archive Hamburg are also relevant for genealogical research.
Florian Heyden: "Walter Ulbricht. Mein Urgrossvater" (Walter Ulbricht. My great-grandfather) published on 09 September 2021 as a revised and expanded new edition.
On 29 September 2021, the revised and expanded new edition of the book by our client Florian Heyden is published in German: “Walter Ulbricht. Mein Urgrossvater” (Walter Ulbricht. My great-grandfather). It was an honor to be part of the research for this book.
Memorial for the White Rose on Geschwister-Scholl-Platz in front of Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich, photo by Amrei-Marie, CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0), via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Denkmal_f%C3%BCr_die_Geschwister_Scholl_und_Christoph_Probst_als_Teil_des_Wei%C3%9Fe-Rose-Mahnmals.jpg)
Sophie Scholl is one of the most famous persons of the German resistance against National Socialism - worldwide. She was born Sophia Magdalena Scholl in Forchtenberg on 09 May 1921 and was executed in Munich on 22 February 1943 - aged only 21.
Maypole in front of the Lutheran church in Rieseberg, district Helmstedt, photo by Kirchenfan, Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication, via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rieseberg_Kirche.jpg).
The transition into the merry month of May in the night from 30 April to 01 May is until today celebrated in many places in Germany and Europe in different ways. The cold season is replaced by the warm season and "evil spirits" are supposed to be driven away.
„Stolpersteine“ (stumbling stones) in Hamburg on 27 January 2019.
Since 1996, every year on 27 January Germany commemorates the Day of Rememberance for the victims of National Socialism. Explicitly, in order to remember all victims of National Socialism. The commemoration day refers to the anniversary of the 27 January 1945, when the concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by the Red Army. For the same reason the day was declared International Holocaust Remembrance Day by the United Nations in 2005. It is now commemorated in various European countries.
What a great story! In our line of work, interesting first names are not uncommon - we often ask ourselves what parents might have thought when naming a child. In this case we know it exactly and it is a very nice appreciation of the family’s German ancestors and of the birth date of the child.
Cover of the book „Walter Ulbricht. Mein Urgroßvater“ by Florian Heyden, copyrights by Eulenspiegel Verlagsgruppe.
Our job is very exciting and full of interesting stories: Long kept family secrets are uncovered, unknown family members found and many questions answered. A very special case was from the beginning the one of Florian Heyden. We have spent many years to search various archives worldwide for him in order to find new information on his famous great-grandfather - none other than GDR politician Walter Ulbricht. Today, a book written by Florian Heyden is published: „Walter Ulbricht. Mein Urgroßvater“ (Walter Ulbricht. My great-grandfather).