We have just finished our “Family History” visit to Germany. We have felt driven to seek out our ancestors so that they can be liberated from their captivity in Spirit Prison. We have probably never worked harder in our lives, but our joy is full with the names of our ancestors that the Lord has guided us to identify. We have felt help from the other side of the veil and have received many tender mercies from the Lord in the process.
|Reading microfilm records from the 1600s at the Magdeburg Archives|
Early in our mission we participated in our first Personal Finance Self-Reliance Course. We knew that we were not wealthy but we felt that we had sufficient for our needs throughout our retirement. However, in the first week of the course, we learned that we did not have any retirement funds at all, but that we were only earthly stewards over resources that the Lord had blessed us with. This gave us a total change in our thinking about finances. We learned that what we have is from the Lord and that we should spend it as directed by the Lord.
As we pondered this idea, we felt that one of the ways that we should use these resources would be to take a family history trip to Germany after our mission, to further the work for our ancestors. Since that time, we made plans for this return trip.
As has been the case with everything that we have done with Family History, we didn’t really know where this would take us. As we are now returning from that trip, we are overwhelmed to see the hand of the Lord in this work and all the blessings that He has given us.
This time in Europe has covered 40 days and 40 nights since we boarded our plane in the JFK airport on Friday, April 20. A few summary statistics of this trip:
5 in the Magdeburg archive - microfilmed Church books from Thuringia parishes
5 in the Nürnberg archive - original Church books from Bavarian parishes
5 with the caretaker of the Muhlhausen Church books of 6 Muhlhausen parishes
5 days, visiting 8 different individual parishes, searching in original Church books
1 day at the Nürnberg regional genealogical library printing Familienregisters
3 days in the Freiberg Temple (during German holidays)
2 Saturdays in Frankfurt, including 2 visits to the National Bibliotek & doing laundry
4 Saturdays in Steinach a.d. Ens visiting friends old and new and doing laundry
6 Sundays (2 at the Frankfurt 2ndward and 4 at the Ansbach Ward)
2 car travel days (Mondays) from Frankfurt to Magdeburg and Muhlhausen
2 airplane travel days to and from the U.S.
6 in missionary apartments in Frankfurt
10 in Bavaria with Cristian and Marianne in the home built by my great grandfather
23 in various hotels
1 night on the airplane
4,000 miles (nearly 7,000 kilometers):
Travel by car between locations, equivalent of about 70 hours of automobile travel.
We have found this to be exhausting, but rewarding work. We have spent many hours outside of the parishes and archives in documenting the thousands of images that we have taken at the parishes and archives and preparing for the next day’s visit.
Most importantly, we have been blessed to extend many of our family lines by additional generations and have identified many siblings and cousins of our ancestors. Every day has been a new and rewarding experience as we have seen the Lord at work in this research. Many prayers have been answered, some quickly and some slowly. Many opportunities for future research have been identified as we discover the original villages of many of our ancestors that we were not able to research on this trip.
In the past week and a half since our last blog post we made return visits to Muhlhausen parishes, Nürnberg archives and the Magdeburg archives and visited a few more parishes that we were able to identify.
Muhlhausen – extended more generations for the Müller, Michel and Harnisch lines. Could not make any more progress for the Döring line, Johann Georg must have come from outside of Muhlhausen.
|We spent 5 days working in this office as we searched many different Church Books, identifying many ancestors|
Dr. Kublik in Muhlhausen has been our very best help in all of Germany. During our 5 visits there, he has spent every moment with us, researching and reading the records. We have given him chocolates and taken him to lunch, but it all seems inadequate to express our gratitude. We felt prompted to give him also a copy of the Book of Mormon with our thoughts written inside. He accepted it graciously, we hope that it will make a difference for this great man.
|Dr. Kublick, the most helpful person in Germany for our Family History efforts|
Grossfahren – Found the birth record of Gerhardt, Wilhelm Arnoldt, one of Debbie’s ancestors, identifying his mother and her birth location in another village. Also added some members of that family. The father was a beloved school teacher in this village. This took some promptings to get us to the right village as the records we found in the parish office were incomplete. Working on our German language, we we able to ask for further records. After communication had occurred, the individual took us to the Grossfahren Church where we found what we were looking for.
|In Gossfahren, looking in the correct records of Grossfahren|
Grossvargula – Finally found the birth record of Joanna Margaretha Müller, our number one priority of this trip. Identified her father who was from another village. See additional comments about the kindness of the pastor in our Möller summary below.
|Cool display of dwarfs and other objects in the yard of a home near the pastor's office in Grossvargula|
Nürnberg – took one more effort to find the Herold line in different parish books and found records of several Herolds, including my 5thgreat grandfather and several of his family members.
Magdeburg - Many records for the Atzerodt, Motz and Kindervatter lines, extending their lines by multiple generations and identifying many, many siblings and cousins. We also were able to find more about Debbie’s Möller ancestors, see the following comments below.
|Searching microfilm in Magdeburg|
When we started we knew the birth location and parents of Christian Wilhelm Möller, Debbie’s 3rdgreat grandfather. He was born in Dachwig and we knew that his mother was “from” Gebesee. That is where we began the search:
· In Magdeburg we began searching in the Gebesee records. We found the marriage record of his father, Johann Georg Möller. In the Dachwig records we found the death record of Johann Georg Möller, his mother Margarethe and his wife Anna Maria Hauss. His wife’s death record pointed us to a different location for her birth, Hassleben. The records for Hassleben are unavailable in Germany at this time, as the books have been sent to be microfilmed. In our searching through the records of nearby parishes, Debbie was finally able to find Johann Georg’s birth record (spelled Müller) in Bad Tennstedt, born to a single mother, Anna Margarethe Müller.
· Through contacts with missionaries in the Freiberg Temple and doing the temple work for Anna Margarethe Müller, we were able to identify her birth location from the birth record of her son. It was in the village of Grossvargula. We were also able to identify that he was born in a prison in Bad Tennstedt. We don’t know the reason, but it adds more emotion to the story. We were able to visit this prison in Bad Tennstedt, which is now a museum, which is not currently open to the public.
|In front of the Fronveste prison where Debbie's great . . . grandfather was born|
|Bars over the openings in the prison|
|Internet photo of the prison with the neighboring Church behind. Johann Georg was born in the prison and christened in the Church.|
· We were blessed to make an appointment with the pastor of the Grossvargula parish. His name is Klemens Müller. He was kind enough to arrange for his father (previous pastor) to read the old German script in the books and his daughter to provide translation for us. His offer for us to come was for a day that we were in the area but not committed to other visits, another tender mercy. We were able to find the birth record of Joanna Margarethe Möller, but no further marriage, death or birth information in the Grossvargula Church books. Her father, Gottlob Möller (back to ö instead of ü) was from Dachwig, back to where we had started.
|With three generations of the Müller family helping us with the research of the birth of Anna Margaretha Möller in Grossvargula|
· The last two days we were scheduled to go back to Magedeburg and had access to the Dachwig microfilmed records. Debbie was able to find Gottlob’s marriage record and birth records for some additional children. Apparently he had children born in Dachwig before Joanna Margaretha was born in Grossvargula and also after. We were able to identify his wife and her birth location in Herbsleben, a nearby village. This location has been responding to other questions by email and appears to be a great parish to visit, but we have run out of time on this trip.
|Back to Dachwig where both Christian Wilhelm Möller and his great grandfather, Gottlob Möller was born|
· On Gottlob’s birth record we were able to identify his father as Samuel Möller, but we could not find any marriage or birth records for Samuel.
· On our last day, Debbie searched the death records in Dachwig and found two different death records for a Samuel Möller, each identifying birth ages at death, so we can narrow down our future searches. We will need to look once again in neighboring parishes. We assume that he came to Dachwig, already married.
We have been told that each discovery in family history leads to more questions. In this case we have identified and documented 3 more generations before Johann Georg Möller. We have identified the location of birth of his wife and his grandmother and determined that there is no identified father. His great grandmother has yet to be identified. Neither has the location of his great grandfather’s birth or marriage. Our work will still continue in the future.
We want to note one other matter in our research. Before we started on this trip, we spent time identifying many family lines to work on. In that process I had identified three different “dead end” lines, where we knew a father’s name and an identified village where he was from. These had come from marriage records that we had identified during our mission.
In three of these cases, Daniel Vocke, Nicol Motz and Ernst Heinrich Atzerodt, we took time to do their temple work completely before visiting their cities or records. I felt that if we did their work for them, perhaps we could have additional help from the other side to identify their ancestors. In each of these three cases, we have found some of our greatest results. In each case we have found at least two additional generations and many additional relatives. We found Daniel Vocke’s ancestors in our visit to the Fritzlar parish. We found Nicol Motz and Ernst Heinrich Atzerodt’s ancestors in the microfilm records for the villages of Schönstedt and Seebach in Magdeburg. Our last day in Magdeburg was spent almost entirely taking photos of many, many records back into the 1600s for the Motz and Atzerodt families, even after we had specifically identified multiple generations.
When I researched Ernst Heinrich Atzerodt’s family on Monday, I found 10 children, including Debbie’s great . . . great grandmother who was married in another village. I also searched the marriage records and death records and found two marriages for Ernst Heinrich Atzerodt. On Monday night I was reviewing my findings and realized that the first wife had died after a few years but that there were still more children born before the second marriage. So on Tuesday I looked one more time at the marriage and death records and found one more marriage and her corresponding death after three more children were born. I had missed both of these records the day before, but following promptings, we have now identified three different wives and mothers of the 10 children. The lives of these families were hard, many of the children died in infancy and wives died young. In this work that we do, we have become “tied” to these individuals as we have understood more of their lives. Certainly for Ernst Heinrich Atzerodt, I can say that he has helped us identify his three wifes, 10 children and also his father and mother (also from another village) and many more Atzerodt names that most likely are all related once we figure it all out. I believe that there is help from the other side of the veil when we can “liberate the captives” from spirit prison.
When we finished our last visit to the Nürnberg archives last Friday, we decided to take a walk near the Pegitz River at a point that it turns into a larger lake. The Pegitz River is where my grandfather did his baptizing during his mission in Nürnberg in 1902-1904. We found it a quiet atmosphere to sit and reflect on the many blessings that we had received. We could enjoy nature and still see the city of Nürnberg beyond the lake. Notice the partial blue sky in the photo.
|Lake from the Pegitz Rive in the middle of Nürnberg|
As we finished we were walking back to our car and it started raining. The forecast had been for rain later in the afternoon, but it was wrong. Finally, I ran to the car to get an umbrella while Debbie waited under the cover of a tree.
|Waiting in the rain|
When we rented our car on-line we were told that we would receive a 3 door car, which I understand to mean two doors and the hatchback of the car. Our first car rented was a 5 door car and all was well. When we got the second car, we thought that we had received the 3 door car. Look at the photo below and see what you think.
|Rental car, 2 door or 4 door?|
After driving the car for a week, it came to the time to take all of our suitcases on our last trip and we needed to put additional suitcases in the back seat. As I struggled to find a way to move the drivers seat up, I discovered that there were 5 doors, but the handle was way on the upper rear of the door.
We have found Germans to be the masters of building old buildings. We saw in Muhlhausen the rebuilding of part of the wall around the old city. You can see in this photo that this section of the wall will be rebuilt and look totally authentic for the period that it was originally
|Part of the wall of the "old city" being rebuilt in Muhlhausen|
On our last Saturday in Steinach, I took the opportunity to jog to another neighboring village, Habelsee, just 2 kilometers away The photos below help to portray what we saw everywhere, many small villages surrounded by farms. All of the villages seem to have a Church in the middle and they usually have the cemetery behind the Church. My jog ended up being from Church (in Steinach) to Church (in Habelsee) and back.
|Village of Habelsee in the background of the newly planted farm|
|2 kilometers back to Steinach a.d. End|
|Cemetery behind the Church in Steinach a.d. Ens|
That last Saturday was also Cristian’s birthday, so they had a special barbecue, inviting family members to come. This was a good chance for us to meet Cristian and Marianne’s relatives. It also gave us an opportunity to use our German more. I believe if we stayed here more consistently, we could improve our German. Certainly I would say that I feel more comfortable with German now than I did 6 weeks ago. We found Marianne’s brother to be especially kind to us. He asked questions about the Church. Afterwards we left a Book of Mormon with Marianne to give to her brother. She felt very comfortable with that.
|Birthday Cake made by Marianne for Cristian|
|Family members at the birthday party for Cristian|
We had brought two Books of Mormon for potential use in some of our earlier visits but we had not felt it was right to leave with them. In the end we were able to share these same two Books of Mormon with Dr. Kublik in Muhlhausen and with Marianne’s brother.
|Tom and Debbie with our dear friends Cristian and Marianne|
We wanted to give something to Cristian and Marianne to express our gratitude for their allowing us to stay in their home. Not only did they allow us to stay in their own bedroom, they also fed us the whole time we were there and would not allow us to bring groeried to help. We have grown to love them even more. When we gave Marianne a gift she was so excited. We gave her a little ceramic dwarf for her garden that she absolutely loved. It was a true blessing to us to see her happiness at the end of our visit.
|Marianne with her thank you gift, full of gratitude, we love her|
|Showing her gift to Daisy, her dog|
In the last two weeks of our visit, we have noticed that the beautiful yellow blossoms of the rapeseed fields have now disappeared and the fields are now just green as they get ready to harvest. We are sad to see them go, but we enjoyed them while we could.
|Rapeseed field, with just a few yellow blossoms left|
As the yellow blossoms are gone in Germany, so are we.