Saturday, December 24, 2016

"Home" for Christmas;Visiting relatives, finding ancestors

We continue to see the Lord's hand in our work as missionaries in the land of our ancestors.  The past 5 days included more family history miracles and the hand of the Lord in meeting and visiting living relatives.  We also have finished our Christmas preparations, including visiting our last Christmas Market in Nürnberg, the city where my grandmother was born.

German Christmas Display from Brother and Sister Berkhahn
On Monday, we had a special Christmas devotional with the senior missionaries.  Brother and Sister Berhkhahn shared with us German Christmas traditions and some spiritual insights on the Christmas story.  Brother and Sister Berkhahn were recently released as the Executive Secretary to the Area Presidency. They are German and were the perfect choice to help the senior missionaries gain more understanding and meaning to our Christmas in Germany.

They shared with us the traditions of the 4 Advents (4 Sundays before Christmas - 4 candles) which adds meaning and peace to the German traditions.

They also shared many German traditions and brought tasty German desserts to enjoy after the devotional.

We were also able to sing some German carols, ending with Stille Nacht.  Sister Rueckert and I are in charge of the senior missionary devotionals.  We felt strong inspiration to invite Brother and Sister Berkhahn.  They exceeded our expectations.  It was a wonderful way to start the last week before Christmas.

We had planned to take some time off on Wednesday and Thursday to visit the land of my ancestors.  On Wednesday we went to a Franconia Family History Association based in Nürnberg.  I had joined this association earlier in the year.  Besides being individuals who have the Spirit of Elijah in their hearts, they have access to incredible family history tools.

One of their prize possessions are the books of Fritz Mägerlein.  He was an author of German History and for some reason he created books of genealogy of the middle Franconan region of Germany.  This includes 77 books for many of the cities where my Grandfather's ancestors came from.  These books are not generally available but can be researched in this location in Nürnberg.
Sister Rueckert looking up names and cities on the computer from the Fritz Mägerlein books.

These books are so amazing, let me just give you one of many examples that we were able to identify on Wednesday.  The fan chart below is one that we were using for a starting point in this work.  You can see that in the pink area below we have some open spots.  It is of one of our ancestors that was born in the city of Huttenheim.

On-line we were able to go to the Huttenheim book and look under the name of Gruelich.  When we did that we identified the following page with the name of my 6th great grandfather and his family, which includes my 5th great grandmother.

Family number 3 is of George Kasper Greulich, my 6th great grandfather
With that information we also see his complete family and his father's family (item number 2) and his grandfather's information (item number 1).  The information of many of the descendants of this 8th great grandfather follow in the next 6 pages.  After showing 20 families, the last page shows all of the families in a form of a genealogical chart. 
Genealogy links to the 20 families listed on these pages, just of the family Greulich in Huttenheim.
With just this one example, we can fill in much of the open pink space on the above Fan chart and identify over 100 relatives for one family name.  We proceeded to print out over 100 pages of this type of information in just a few short hours.  Literally there are thousands of names that we can put into Family Search and begin to do their temple work, all related to my great grandmother.

We are so overwhelmed by the doors that are being opened to us.  We can only imagine the hands of our ancestors that are helping.  We know that they are involved in this great work and have been waiting for hundreds of years for the chance to get their ordinances performed.

We also found many other resources in this association, including a CD Rom of many of the names within the region and throughout Germany.  We were able to buy this CD for only 15 Euros and paid only 10 cents per copy, instead of 30 cents for those who are not members of the association.  We also bought a few books about the area where my grandfather was born, with historical information and the names of residents of those cities.

Going to this location was my best Christmas present ever.  Not only do we have many more resources, we can give the spiritual opportunities to many ancestors and relatives.  

The individuals at this location were so helpful.  This was the last day the library was open this year.  It is open on Wednesdays during most weeks of the year.  We will certainly be back and have now made contact with these individuals who have the spirit of Elijah without knowing it.  The individual on the left saw what we were doing and noticed that we had relatives with he name of Endress from Ulsenheim.   He showed us his bound family book with 35,000 names.  It includes some with the name of Endress from Ulsenheim and also a few pages of Rückerts from the surrounding areas.  We printed out this information from his family history and will see where we can tie into his ancestry.  In my email of gratitude that I sent to them, I told them that they had the Spirit of Elijah quoting from Malachi.

Member of Board of Directors of the Association and the Librarian
After finishing at the library, we went to check into our hotel.  We then took a subway to the Nürnberg Christmas Market.  This is supposed to be one of the best in all of Germany.  We were able to enjoy sights that now have become familiar to us.  After visiting for an hour and a half, we found that the market closed at 9:00 pm before we were quite finished. We think that this is in response to the terrorist attack at the Berlin Christmas Market earlier in the week.  We saw quite a bit of Police presence including vehicles blocking main entrances.  We were thankful for the protection but had to leave before we bought our traditional Gingerbread cookies.

Sign above the entrance of the market

Sign gives us direction to the Christkind market

As with most markets, this one is around some of the old Churches in the city.  The plaza around the churches becomes perfect places to set up the markets.

Closer view of the Church

In front of the multi story Christmas Pyramid, built to resemble the pyramid that we have  as our German Nativity set

View further away from the Church
Large Nativity at the Christmas Market, also one of our favorites

Specialty ginegerbread cookies.  We should have bought some while we  were first looking.

In the subway station.  An opportunity to use my warm winter hat.

By the subway train, after exiting near our hotel

On Thursday morning we left to go back to my Great Grandfather's house in Steinach and visit with our friends Marianne and Christian.  Every time we visit we are treated so well.  Marianne prepared a wonderful lunch for us and provided more food than we could eat during. This included a Romanian rice, carrots and pea dish that was very tasty.  Of course she made us take her special Christmas cookies home with us.

Marianne's dog Daisy was very much a part of the visit.  She loved to be part of everything.

Marianne has received visits from the missionaries but at this time she is wanting to join the Jehovah's Witness church.  We spent hours in more conversstion.  We know that the special friendship we have are independent of what religion she follows.  She is just a "good" person.  Her husband had preferred a Romanian Book of Mormon so we were able to give that to him.  We think that he might have a little more interest.  We did also leave another German Book of Mormon for Marianne.  She had given her previous copy to her sister who was "curious".

Let me now give you some background for the remainder of our day on Thursday.  When we had been in Buchheim in July, our other friend Dorota Rückert had introduced us to individuals who may have been relatives based on the names of their relatives.  We had pondered how we could relate more meaningfully with them, rather than just say that we could be related from 300 years ago.

While pondering this one day in prayer, I was prompted to work on their personal genealogy to show how they were related to us.  This has subsequently become one of my personal goals in the evening hours.  In the past two months I have been successful in tying each of these two individuals into our family line.  This has been based on the research that we had done in their city during a visit in August and some excellent indexing work done by my cousin Gloria.

However, one of the individuals who had taken us to the cemetery was Günter Meyer.  He had shared some genealogy with me, showed some tombstones and given me his email.  Somewhere in the process, I had misplaced the page on which he wrote his information.  I have searched and searched and prayed, but with no success.  I wrote emails to Dorota (who couldn't meet with us on this trip) but she had not sent on his contact information.  I had also sent an email to the other contact, Carola, without response.  Last Saturday, I called Carola who agreed to let us visit her and her father after she got off of work at 7:00 pm on Thursday. I asked her for her specific address and if she could get me contact information for Gunter.  As of Wednesday morning we did not have any additional response.

Trusting in the promptings that I had received, we prepared a packet for both Carola and Gunter with their genealogy tracing  back into our family line.  It actually was a pretty nice fan chart for other information that I was also able to find for their other lines.  We also shared a letter, translated it into German and shared it with a gift wrapped Book of Mormon.

Wednesday night when we got home from the Christmas Market, Carola had sent us an email, confirming our visit with her father the next day and with a phone number for Gunter.  Thursday morning I called the number with no answer, I left a message.  We proceeded to visit Marianne and tried calling again, still no answer.  In the middle of the afternoon I called and got a lady who did not speak any English.  Our communication was inadequate and she hung up.  As we visited with Marianne, we explained our situation and she made a follow-up phone call.  Finally at 4:30 she was able to talk to the daughter of the family, who said that her parents would be home at 6:00 pm.

At 6:10 we got ahold of Günter who agreed that we could come over in 30 minutes.  This did not give us much time before we had to visit Carola, but we went with a prayer in our hearts.  When we arrived we were welcomed with so much love and kindness that we were overwhelmed.  Günter and his wife Barbara both speak a little English.  When they found that we were from Utah, they brought out a photo book of a vacation 5 years ago that they took to the U.S., including Zions and Bryce Canyon.   They were so kind, we felt like we were old friends.  They were very interested in the genealogy work and asked if they could get a copy.  Of course, we had planned on leaving all that we had done with them.  We also got further data to complete the most recent information.  Barbara's mother had passed away just a few months ago, so we also updated that information.  We shared contact information and they gave us multiple phone numbers and email addresses.  We promised to visit them when we next come down to Bavaria and as we left, we left them with our gift.

Günter, Barbara and their daughter Lisa

Photo of the four of us, taken by Lisa
We then left to visit Carola and her father.  It turns out that Carola had a company Christmas party that night, but her father was waiting for us with a friend that could translate for us. They had a full table of food waiting for us.  The father, Eckhard, was a pig farmer and certainly a specialist in sausage.  This was an authentic farmer meal, presented with much love and kindness.

They offered us beer which we refused because we don't drink alcohol.  They then offered us alcohol free which we accepted.
 Eckhard was ready with several photos of his family which we took pictures of and identified the people in the photos.  As we shared the geneological sheets, he kept bringing more photos of more grandparents.  It was a wonderful evening with a dear man who seemed to appreciate the work we had done in identifying his ancestors.  Once again they asked if they could have the papers we were sharing which we left with them.  We also gave our "gift" to them as we left.
With Eckhard Kister.  His mother was a Rückert.
 We left Buchheim after 9:00 pm.  Even though it was raining and dark, we were able to be safely home in Frankfurt by a little after 11:00 pm.   Thus we concluded another adventure where we know that we were guided by our Heavenly Father.  We love doing this and our testimony of trusting in the Lord continues to be strengthened.  He is in charge and this is his work.  We are grateful to be his servants.

On Friday we went into the office and worked a little and then made final preparations for our Christmas holiday.  The photo below is of our Christmas tree that Sister Rueckert has decorated so well.    We do have a few presents that we are giving to each other.  Mostly we are just enjoying our time together serving the Lord and focusing on our Savior in the land of our ancestors.

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