Sunday, May 28, 2017

Seek and ye shall find . . .

A full family history week with Tom's mother and cousin.  We sought and we found in so many ways.  We left on Sunday afternoon to visit our first parish site and spent the majority of the week in the land of our ancestors.  We once again saw the hand of the Lord in our genealogical discoveries and in the people that we met.  We were able to do temple work for some of these ancestors and we finished the week with the birth of a brand new granddaughter.  We feel so blessed to have families, past, present and future!
Taking photos of one of the great treasures that we found

Visits to Parishes and other family history locations

We had planned on spending as much time as possible visiting different parishes where my grandmother Schlerf's ancestors had lived.  My cousin Gloria has spent years researching these lines.  I spent the past several weeks corresponding with these parishes to schedule visits.  Each parish is a different experience.  We only fully understand the Lord's hand after the visits are made.  The following summaries are of the 6 parishes or locations that we visited and the success that we were able to experience.  This is detailed, but it identifies the type of miracles that we see occurring and represents thousands of names of relatives that may be identified for temple work.

Plech - Access to this parish was through the town manager who is responsible to care for the archives.  We had several conversations over the past few weeks.  He had asked for names and dates and then requested that we visit with him on a Sunday evening.  We were happy to comply.  We started out visiting with he and his wife in their yard.  He loves to practice his English and to tell stories.

Backyard of the town manager with he and his wife

We were finally able to move indoors and begin looking at the research that he had completed.  We paid him by the hour, but it was worth it.  His research included the identification of many marriages related to our names from his parish area.  We then took time to take pictures of the specific marriage entries.  While I was filming these entries from the original books, Gloria and Sister Rueckert were reviewing original birth entries and taking photos of all that had familiar names.

One of his pages of identified marriage information.  He had about seven pages of such notes

Reviewing the four books that he had brought home from the Parish, taking as many photos as possible
Four parish books that were made available to us, including births, marriages and deaths  from the 1500s to the 1700s
One of the images that we photoed from these old books, ancestor has the name of Häberlein

Betzenstein - After sharing my passport information with them, they decided to invite us for a visit on Monday morning.  Our GPS took us to a construction site, where a road was being built.  After additional phone calls and wandering around the neighborhood asking questions, we discovered the parish behind the construction.  Once we walked through neighbors yards and past the construction we found a very helpful parish.  They had all of the names for the last 450 years handwritten onto individual cards and catalogued by last name and the major time periods.  What a treasure.  We picked out the 6 or 8 surnames that we knew were in the Area and took pictures of all of the cards with their names.  In all, we photoed more than 1500 cards.  It will take quite some time to put all this information together, but we are so excited.  For example, on the Häberlein line, which had dead ended, we found hundreds.  The same with the Steger name, which was the surname of my great grandmother who was from this area.  It took quite a bit of effort to seek out this parish, but the find was a treasure.
Construction site.  Parish behind this site

Boxes of catalogued cards stored by name

Cards since the 1500s by name

Sample of one box, names S to Z from 1554 to 1686

Taking photos of over 1,500 cards
Sample of one of the cards, birthdates and full names of parents

Schwabach - We went on Monday afternoon to the Schwabach parish.  We had hoped to see records for many of the surrounding parishes.   However, they only had original records for the Schwabach location, which wasn't what we were looking for.  However, they did have typed alphabetical listings for the surrounding parishes, the original books were in Nürnberg.

Sample of alphabetical indexes which still had quite a bit of information  available for some of the names that we were pursuing

Nürnberg Archives - On Tuesday we went to the regional archives in Nürnberg.  There they had many of the older books and many books available on-line.  Gloria found that most of what was available there was already on a German on-line service called Archion, which she subscribes to.  So it did not appear to be as beneficial.  However, we were able to do some specific research and examine some of the original books.

Looking at the on-line records

Sample of information that I had been unable to find on my own.  This is the birth of one of my great grandfathers whose identified parents in Family Search is questionable.  This is one of the pieces to the puzzle that I am pursuing

Gloria reviewing one of the old books with the white glove treatment 

One of the images gathered from the older books
Rittersbach - On Wednesday morning we went to Rittersbach, a Parish in the vicinity of the Schlerf family.  They told us that the older original books were stored in Nürnberg.  However, before they gave the books to Nürnberg, they had had written all of the information into books that remained in the Parish.  Once again, this was quite a treasure.  All was stored alphabetically in very legible writing.  This saves so much time and research effort.  Once again we were delighted and used our multiple cameras (phones) and took copies of every page, including the more current birth, marriage and death records.  We probably took another 1,500 images, but now have a digital source of all this information that otherwise would not be available.  From my past experiences, these are treasures that greatly facilitate the research process.

Sample of one of the handwritten pages.  This includes a marriage of a Schlürf in 1759, from Madenburg, the city of some of our ancestors.

Taking photos of the handwritten summaries
Taking photos of the more recent books of birth, marriage and deaths

Gesellschaft für Familienforschung in Franken e. V. - On Wednesday afternoon we went to the genealogical society in Nürnberg which has access to the family books that have been compiled in Bavaria.  We found another 120+ pages of family names grouped together by family and by location.  These are wonderful sources of data easy to research.  For example, in the photos below, we had a family line ending with Barbara Möring, who was born somewhere around 1670 and was married to Leonhard Unger in Wallmersbach.  We found Barbara in the Möring family register for Wallmersbach and noted that her father was Bernard Stahl, also of Wallmersback.  Looking at the Stahl family register we found five pages of the Stahl family in that city, including Bernard with a daughter Barbara that married a Leondard Unger.  These names are all ready to be added to our Family tree, including many of the five pages of relatives of the Stahl family and a few families from the Möring line.

When we finished these visits we had taken nearly 4,000 photo images of names and pages of names.  We also printed over 120 pages of family identified names at the society.  We testify that if we will seek out our ancestors, we have plenty of help from the other side to find them.  So much of this work has been done years ago and is now available to us.  Most of the parishes don't even know why this extensive labor of love has been performed, but we do.

Visits to family sites and to relatives

While we were visiting these parishes, etc., we stopped to visit the villages where the relatives had lived. This gave us great joy as we imagined their lives in the years gone by.  In some cases we visited the actual homes where our ancestors lived or the churches and schools that they would have attended.  We cannot describe the joy that we felt in the land of our ancestors.

The Steger Line

With my cousin Gloria
Home in Eichestruth where my great grandparents lived

Yellow fields outside of Illafeld

The Schlerf Line

Church in Mäbenberg

The Rückert Line

Outside the home in Hochbach, where my grandfather was born
Farm fields, including the beautiful rapeseed in Hochbach, where my great grandfather farmed

Behind the Steinach home, built by my great grandfather, with Christian, the current owner of the  home

In the living room of the Steinach house, Christian, with Sister Rueckert, Gloria and my mother
My mother in the kellar of the Stainach house
Nürnberg, where Elder Johann Adam Rückert met Elisabeth Schlerf

Elder Rueckert with his mother at Nürnberg
Site where on the street where my grandmother and her mother lived in Nürnberg
The beautiful Pegitz river in Nürnberg where my grandmother and great grandmother was baptized by my grandfather
Church in Nürnberg where my grandmother and her mother attended Church before 

Erfurt - Sister Rueckert's father's home city

Sister Rueckert and Mom in front of the home where Sister Rueckert's father lived in Erfurt
Whose line is this?

We couldn't find any of our relatives here, but we thought the sign was interesting

Other Relatives

On Monday evening we had a nice visit and dinner with Günter and Barbara Meyer.  We had met them last year and shared our family history with them in December, showing how we have the same grandfather about 6 generations back.  We updated their fan genealogical chart and gave it to them again.  They have been so kind to us and allowed us to visit with them again, they even fed all of us.  During the visit, their daughter Simone commented that we needed to fill in all of the blanks on their fan chart.

Günter and Barbara and their daughter Simone

We then proceeded to find more links to their genealogy in the next two days.  This included our research in the Nürnberg archives, where I discovered several names that should have been available at the genealogical society but were not.  I felt drawn to spend several hours identifying these ancestors.  When I added this in Family Search that evening and linked with other information that we had gathered, I discovered that they now had a full five generations from Barbara's grandmother and several beyond these five generations.  Barbara's grandmother had passed away just last October.  As I sat and pondered the amazing events that have led to identifying her family members, I felt impressed that she was working from the other side to help us identify all of these ancestors.  It was humbling to me to feel that we were instruments to help this occur.  

Sealing families together in the temple

Why do we do all of this work?  Besides being personally enjoyable, we are trying to help our ancestors to receive essential temple ordinances and to seal our family together for eternity.  We felt it was fitting to go to the Freiburg Temple and do some temple ordinances to finish off this family history week.  We were able to participate in an endowment session for four of our ancestors.  We were able to subsequently seal those 4 individuals and 10 others to their parents.  We were also able to have 5 more couples sealed together.  We know that this is the Lord's work.  We find so much joy in participating in temple sealings for our ancestors that the Lord has helped us to find.  
In front of the Freiburg Germany temple

Visits to other sites during our travels

While we traveled around, we took advantage to visit sites wherever we could.  This included visits to the Castle in Nürnberg, the Frauenkirche Church in Dresden, the Rückert statue in Schweinefurt and the Monastery in Erfurt where Martin Luther studied.

In front of the Nürnberg Castle

Group Selfie at Nürnberg Castle
My mother wearing her crown found in the Nürnberg Castle
In front of the room where Martin Luther studied in the monastery

Outside of the gate where Martin Luther first entered the monastery in  Erfurt
St. Marien Cathedral in Erfurt
In front of the Frauenkirche in Dresden, Germany

Additional Finds

During our week, we were seeking many things and were blessed to find answers in many ways.  A few of them follow:

Thursday was a public holiday, which meant that many establishments were not open.  We were aware and tried to plan accordingly.  We filled our car up with gas the night before to avoid any unnecessary challenges.  However, as we approached Freiburg that evening, we found our tank nearing empty.  As we were on the autobahn we sought for gas stops on the side of the autobahn.  However, we did see any coming after searching for over 20 kilometers.  We decided to seek a gas station off of the autobahn and found one, but it was closed due to the holiday.  By this time our gas gage showed no more "bars".  With a prayer in our hearts we decided to seek another and it also appeared to be closed.  However, there was a sweet older lady who told us that the pumps would work with a credit card, but not at the pumps that we were parked.  We proceeded to try while this sweet lady left.  However, we could not get the credit card machine to liberate a pump.  This sweet lady lived nearby and saw us struggling.  She returned to the station to give words of encouragement and to tell us to use exactly the pumps that had worked for her.  With her assistance, we were able to fill our car with fuel.

Earlier that same day we tried to arrive at the Rückert statue in Schweinefurt, but the main bridge to the city was closed to traffic from our side.  Our GPS gave us no other alternatives.  Once again, a nice elderly lady sought us out and explained how we should proceed to arrive at the center of the city.

During our entire mission we have not had anyone approach us to give this type of assistance.  However, twice in the same day, we received special help from special people.

A few other things we had sought.  My mother had also wanted to walk through a thick forest.  It was a desire of her heart.  We found one (they are everywhere) and she had this experience.  She is a very special mother.  We were pleased to be able to help her desire come true.

We have grown to love the yellow rapeseed fields.  Although we have shown many photos in the past weeks, the following photo is perhaps that best that we have taken of a full yellow field with its the forest behind and the blue sky above.

I have also been seeking the opportunity to enjoy the strong German cultural experience of "Spargo". It is a thick asparagus type of vegetable that is white.  It is strongly enjoyed in Germany and is sold everywhere this time of the year.  As we were able to eat in different restaurants, we decided to try some.  I must report that it was quite tasty.

Coming home to more blessings

As we arrived home on Saturday evening, there were more blessings awaiting us.  We soon received a call from our daughter Pollyanna advising that she was now in the hospital awaiting the birth of her second daughter.  About 11:15 at night, we were able to FaceTime with her and meet our newest granddaughter, Paisley Janet Thompson.  These are a few of our FaceTime views that we were able to capture.

We were also able to see the progress on our little pigeon family.  The nest has grown and the parents are still diligent.

Next that has been built since the egg was first laid
Parents looking out for the egg after we went out to the balcony
Finally, today on Sunday, we had the wonderful surprise to see the dear family from Brasil that was baptized last August back in our ward.  They have been able to resolve their visa situation and have returned.  Even more important is to see them so happy in our ward.  What a wonderful surprise.

Sister Rueckert with the family from Brasil, granddaughter not in photo

Words cannot express the joy that we feel as we strive to serve our Heavenly Father in His work.  When we seek to do His will, He surely helps us to find blessings.