Sunday, August 6, 2017

Connecting Families in the Land of our Forefathers

We spent this past week researching the family history of Sister Rueckert's ancestors and then preforming temple work for several of our ancestors in the Freiberg Germany Temple.  Each day we spent the morning and early afternoon hours with these planned activities.  In the late afternoons and evenings we were able to experience a little more of each of these locations.  As we sealed some of our family together in the temple on Saturday, the purpose and joy of our work was magnified.

Original Church Books for Thamsbruck
Some time ago, we planned to spend a week concentrating on family history for Sister Rueckert's family.  We chose time in July/August when our self-reliance activities were more limited.  To prepare for such a trip, we spent weeks of communication to organize the time in the different parishes and archives.  The end result was a productive week of research in four different locations and two wonderful days in the Freiberg Temple.

Grossengottern - Schade, Motz, Born and Apel

Sister Rueckert under the sign entering into Grossengottern

We started our week on Monday morning by making the 2+ hour trip to the Grossengottern parish.  We had never been able to get a response from this parish before.  Finally a few weeks ago, I made a phone call to the pastor and he invited us to come up on Monday at 10:00 am.  We found him to be extremely helpful as he spent over three hours with us reviewing the parish books and seeking out our ancestors.  He was willing to spend the time to read the old writing and bring out the books as our search expanded.  We were able to extend one family line several generations and clarified information in others.

Elder Rueckert reviewing parish books with the Pastor

The pastor looking through the parish  books

Marriage Record of additional grandparents added to  the Moeller line

We had another visit at the Muhlhausen parish scheduled for the afternoon, but arrived late due to the success we were having.  We jointly decided to just concentrate one full day in Muhlhausen on the following Wednesday.  That left us a little extra time for our drive to Magdeburg, a few hours north.  There we would be visiting the regional archive the next morning.

While there, we decided to visit the Magdeburg Water Bridge, described from Wikipedia below:

The Magdeburg Water Bridge (GermanKanalbrücke Magdeburg) is a large navigable aqueduct in central Germany, located near Magdeburg. The largest canal underbridge in Europe, it spans the river Elbe and directly connects the Mittellandkanal to the west and Elbe-Havel Canal to the east of the river, allowing large commercial ships to pass between the Rhineland and Berlin without having to descend into and then climb out of the Elbe itself.

This man made bridge for a river expands nearly one kilometer, 690 meters over land and 228 meters over water.  The water depth in the bridge is 4.25 meters.  We walked up to the bridge where there is a lock to transport other boats down to the connected canal from the bridge location.  It ended up being quite a walk!  The first photo is taken from the Wikipedia page.  It shows this better than we were able to capture.

By Lotron at the German language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Lock for boats to descend from the bridge to a canal connecting to the Elbe River  

Water in the bridge and the Elbe River below in the background

Sister Rueckert alongside the river bridge, looking towards the river crossing

With the river bridge looking out towards where it joins the river in the distance
Magdeburg Archives - Möllers From Dachwig to Gispersleben
Sister Rueckert by the sign entering Gispersleben

Sister Rueckert under the sing as we entered into Dachwig, about 14 kilometers from Gispersleben
The next day we spent all day, until they closed the archives at 3:00 pm, in the Magdeburg Regional archives, looking at microfilm for the Church records of the region.  This is our prime source for several of the records of different locations around Erfurt.  Here we were able to take photos of all of the Gispersleben familienregisters that we had seen in our last visit and find a few more original records in other locations.  We were also able to get into the records of Dachwig, where Christian Wilhelm Moeller was born.  There we were found some more limited familienregisters which gives us more information about the siblings and parents of Christian Wilhelm Moeller.  We still were not able to tie down the birth locations of his parents.  That leaves additional work for another time.

Part of the familienregister for Moeller in Dachwig

 We never have enough time at this archive.  There seems to be unlimited things to research.  However, each time we go, we learn a little more and capture some additional information.

After finishing at the archive, we drove back to the Erfurt area.  We decided to take the time to revisit the home where Sister Rueckert's father lived.  This may be our last visit to Erfurt on our mission, so we did want to make one more visit.

Sister Rueckert on the steps where her Father had stood as  a child
We decided to explore the locations that we had just researched.  We went to Gispersleben and Dachwig and pondered their place in our history.  We also celebrated by eating dinner in Gispersleben.  The plan was to have an ice cream in Dachwig, but we never found an ice cream parlor open.

By the Gispersleben Kiliani Church, home of the primary Church records for  the recent Moeller

At an Italian restaurant in Gispesleben

The ceiling of the restaurant, stars, clouds, etc.

By the Dachwig primary Church, home of the Dachwig parish records

Mühlhausen - Focus on Döring, Michel, Harnisch & Heussner

Sister Rueckert in front of the entrance sign into Mühlhausen
The next morning we visited the Muhlhausen parish.  We were met by our good friend, Dr. Stefan Kublik.  He arrived early so that we could spend more time there.  As he did last December, Dr. Kublik spend the entire day with us, guiding us through the different books and reading the entries in the books.  We identified several new ancestors in some lines that had not gone very far, including a a 5th great grandmother who was a 17 year old single mother and her parents.  We had another parish in Allmenhausen who was willing to let us come visit them, but we thought our time was better spent where we had such able help from Dr. Kublik.

This parish has records from six different Churches during this time.  To research, we would often have to look at the church books from all six Churches.  This is where Dr.Kublik was extremely helpful.  For example, we found Johann Andreas Döring birth record in the St. Nicolai records and his death record in the St. Petri Books.  The marriage record of his in-laws (Michel and Harnisch) was in the St. Blasii books.  We also found some more printed books of several of the parishes in Mühlhausen, which was another treasure.  Sister Rueckert took photos of all of the pages that referred to the 10 names or so for which we had primary interest in Mühlhausen.

Books of printed books with indexes to marriages, births and deaths at several of the parishes in Mühlhausen

Birth of Margaretha Elisabeth Michel, daughter of Johann Christoph Michel and Martha Christina Harnisch

We took a lunch break and celebrated our stay in Mühlhausen with a Mühlhausen Pizza at the local Mama Mia's restaurant.  This was perhaps the best pizza that we have eaten in Europe.  It pays to buy what is named for the local city.

Excellent "Mühlhausen" Pizza 
Once again had to finish by 3:00 pm. We then took time to explore downtown Mühlhausen.  The largest Church in the city is the St Marien church which was a block away from the pastor's office.  The Church has now been turned into a museum.

We found this especially interesting as we learned about Thomas Münzter, a reformer at the time of Martin Luther.  Although he initially sided with Luther, he ended up opposing the Roman Catholic Church and Martin Luther.  He preached in many locations.  However, his last place of preaching was in Mühlhausen.  The exhibition in the Church states:

"The old city council is dissolved and a new "Eternal Council" established.  Whereas Luther called on the peasants to exercise moderation and reject violence, for Müntzer the time has come to separate the "chosen" from the 'ungodly".  When the Peasants' War reached Thuringia, he takes on the mantle of the leading theologian of the revolt and marches at the head of a contingent o peasants from Mühlhausen into the Battle of Frankenhausen.  After the bloody defeat against the army of the Dukes Müntzer is taken as a prisoner, tortured and finally executed in front of the gates of Mühlhausen on the 27th May 1525."

After his death, the city of Mühlhausen rejected the Catholic Church and became a stronghold of the reformation.

In the Church Museum

St. Marien's Church in Mühlhausen

We then went and visited many of the other Churches in the "old town".  In a short space, we counted six different Churches.  All of them were built before the reformation.  In one of the largest, St. Blasii, there was an exhibit of the history of Lutheran pastors as the city turned from Catholic reign during the reformation.

Sister Rueckert reviewing the history of Pastor families

In front of the St. Blasii Church

St. Blassi Church

St. Jacob's Church

Corn Market Church

All Saints Church

Kiliani Church

Thamsbruck - Stolls and many of their relatives

Sister Rueckert under the sign of entering into Thamsbrück
On Thursday we went to the Bad Langensalza parish, which now had the books for Thamsbruck.  This is the home of Sister Rueckert's grandmother Stoll.  We had visited this parish last year but were told that the books for Thamsbruck were not available at that time.  Fortunately, they recently brought these old books into their parish.  We were allowed full access to these books and so we went through and photographed everything that had any of the several names that we were looking for.  The primary name here is the family name of Stoll.  We found many records for them dating as far back as we looked.  Many of these names are in Family Search, but not their spouses or cousins.  With the extensive records that we saw, we should be able to add many names to Family Search.  We were also able to find some of the additional names on other lines that are linked to Grandmother Stoll.  We did not take time to review them in detail.  However, we have hundreds of images to review now that we are back in Frankfurt.  This certainly will last well into our post mission experience.

The biggest challenge was the size of the books.  Sister Rueckert went through the first three books, especially picking up records that were identified in the alphabetical indexes.  The larger book for the 1700s did not have an alphabetical index.  I went  through most of the pages back until 1740 and took photos of each page with an identified name.  Unfortunately we ran out of time, as the parish only allowed us to be there until 2:00 pm.  Once again, we have something to return for.

Sister Rueckert taking photos of one of the "books"

Marriage record of 5th Great Grandfather Stoll of Sister Rueckert.  Better information than was in Family Search.

After the parish visit, we decided to go and get an ice cream in Thamsbrück.  We were told that they had a great ice cream shop just outside of town.  We found several ways out of town and none led to an ice cream shop.  On one such adventure, we followed a road that went by some geese and then turned into a bicycle path.
Geese on the side of the road "out of town"

The narrowing road left us no room to turn around

While we looked for ice cream, we picked a little wheat from the fields and satisfied our hunger with kernels of wheat
After going to a neighboring town we asked about an ice cream store.  They sent us back to Thamsbrück where we finally found our ice cream store, within the city of Thamsbrück.

Busy ice cream store in Thamsbrück
 As we finished each of our parish visits, we left a thank you to each pastor or administrator.  These nice chocolates are the merci brand, which of course means Thank you in French.  They were well received with smiles from each of the kind people that helped us this week.

Friday and Saturday,
Freiberg, Germany Temple - families sealed together

After finishing in Thamsbrück, we drove for a few more hours to arrive in Freiburg, home of the only operating temple in Germany.  There we spent all day Friday and Saturday morning.  We enjoyed a couple endowment sessions and an initiatory session on Friday before the temple closed at 3:00 pm.  We were able to do another endowment session and a sealing session on Saturday morning before heading back towards home.  

In front of the Freiberg temple on Friday afternoon
A very unique evergreen tree in front of the chapel  on the Freiberg temple site

This was our fourth visit to this temple, counting the open house a year ago.  We got to know individuals in this temple and have some fellow missionaries that we can consider friends.  It certainly feels like "our" temple.

As I sat in the endowment session on Saturday morning, my mind reflected on the sealing that we had just completed that morning.  I remembered that this is the purpose of our family history efforts, to help individuals receive temple ordinances and covenants and to help families to be sealed together forever.

As an example of this wonderful work, the following photo hits one of the examples from this visit.:

We were able to perform the initiatory and endowments for Hans Michael Rueckert and Susanna Geissendorfer on Friday and seal them together on Saturday.  Hans Michael was also able to be sealed to his parents and one of their sons was sealed to them.  Three others are now ready for our next sealing session with another 6 siblings in various stages of preparation.  This takes a lot of involvement from a lot of people.  Contributors to these ordinances and others that were sealed on Saturday include grandchildren, nephews, ward members, some of our children, fellow senior missionaries and ourselves.

After we left the temple on Friday, we went looking for nearby castles.  We found and visited a few in the vicinity.  See the following:
Castle in downtown Freiberg

Castle in Nossen, Germany
Inner court of the Castle in Nossen, Germany
Part of the torture chamber of the Nossen Castle.  Sit on this chair and you cannot lean back or rest your arms.
Entrance to the dungeon.  Entry and exit only by a rope or some extended object into the dungeon.

On the way home - Erfurt Castles and Kassel

After the temple session on Saturday, we checked out of our hotel and headed home, the long way.  As we drove back near Erfurt, we decided to visit a few of the castles that we have often driven by.  There are three within a short distance of each other.  Some were not easily accessible.  Photos of them follow:

Veste Wachsenburg
Outside of Veste Wachsenburg
Burg Gleichen


While visiting this area, we visited a wonderful restaurant in the city of Mühlberg.  There we had the best bratwurst that we have eaten in Germany.

Great meal, bratwurst, sauerkraut and mashed potatoes

We than continued our journey to the city of Kassel.  There is a mechanical waterworks that is normally working on Sunday and Wednesday afternoons.  This is done by the release of an incredible amount of water that works it's way down the park.  Once a month, this is done in the nighttime.  Yesterday was the day.  So after some confusion on how to get there and view it, we ended up watching a pretty interesting display of man made waterfalls.  It was pretty impressive, but doesn't really match what we had seen in June in Croatia.  Our conclusion is that our creator does a better job than man in creating natural beauties.  However, not bad for man made:

Water flowing from the top (Hercules)

One of the waterfalls along the way.  Foot bridge on the top.

Blue lights with the water above a castle wall

In front of the great fountain at the end of the water works.  A little closer than we needed to be as we got pretty wet.