Monday, March 31, 2014

Revolution, the Valdenaires, and My Great-Great Grandparents

Kunoturm Dwelling of Nikolaus Valdenaire
Estate Buildings Once Owed by the Valdenaires


Question 1: Would the owners of great manors fight for the right of peasant farmers to have a voice in creating a Prussian Constitution that would give them a voice in government?  Answer: At least two of the well-to-do manor owners did exactly that during the German Revolution of 1848.  They were Nikolaus and Victor Valdenaire, the owners of a "Hof" near Konz and a mansion in Saarburg.

Question 2: Was my great-great grandfather, Johann Meier, one of those peasant farmers taking part in the German Revolution?  Answer: While I can't prove that Johann fought to gain more rights for peasants under Prussian rule,  I have an indication that he did.  There must be some reason political wrongs make my blood boil.

THE STORY

Nikolaus Valdenaire was a French soldier in Napoleon's army who bought the estate which had originally belonged to the land and estate holdings of St. Mathias Catholic Church in Trier.  Valdenaire came from the Vosges in France.  At the age of 17 he served as a soldier of the French revolutionary army, and after Napoleon conquered the Catholic-Church-ruled territory in the Rhineland, he chose to live in the area of Trier, which at this time had been declared a part of France.  In 1801 Nikolaus married into the Schmitt family from Trier and fathered four children, three girls and one son, Viktor.  He became prosperous and attained an expropriated monastery and its lands. He also purchased, along with the Schmitt family, the Roscheider Hof at Konz.  However Nikolaus himself chose to live in the Kunoturm property which was attached to the remains of the city wall in Saarburg.

Trier and all the Rhineland were added to the Prussian empire after Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo.  Nicholas Valdenaire had been shaped as a teenager by the ideals of the French Revolution. Under the Prussian rule, he led the registry office for the cantons Merzig, Saarburg and Konz even though he was often in conflict with the authoritarian structures of the Prussian state. In 1833 he was elected to the fourth Rhenish Provincial Parliament.  It was merely advisory to the Crown and had no decision-making powers.  There was no room for liberty or equality in the rules set down by the Prussian Emperor and his ministers.

In his role as a member of this Provincial Parliament, Nikolaus Valdenaire made a bold move on the occasion of the visit of the Prussian Crown Prince to Saarburg in 1836.  He presented the Crown Prince with a signed petition for the Emperor.  It had treasonous requests as Valdenaire knew.  The petition asked that when wine makers and farmers could not sell their crops, their taxes be prorated accordingly.  There was a request that municipal officials be elected directly by the municipalities as before, and that the customs declaration offices should not spend several hours closed during the day, but remain open every hour of the peasants' working day. Farmers should be allowed to plow all their land to the edge of the ditch along the road and plant there rather than being kept two feet away so that the Prussian warders could take that land as their own.

In order to increase the number of signatories to the petition and to give it more weight, Valdenaire sent a messenger to the surrounding farmers with the petition, thus reaching about 160 farmers and winemakers who signed it.  Since peasant farmers were not allowed the right of petition, this was perhaps more daring than the petition itself.

This petition was personally delivered by Nikolaus Valdenaire on July 10, 1836 to the Crown Prince, who was staying with the Baron von Warsberg who lived in Saarburg. It was accepted by the Crown Prince but not answered.  Instead, one year later Nikolaus  was charged with seditious activities.  At his trial he was sentenced to six months in prison.   He appealed the sentence and was allowed a new trial.  A year later he was completely acquitted but had to bear the investigation costs of both court decisions.

Viktor, the son of Nikolaus, attended the Friedrich Wilhelm Gymnasium in Trier, and received his diploma there as did his friend, Karl Marx.   He studied law at the University in Bonn for awhile, but did not finish his degree.  Instead he went back to take over the running of the Roscheider Hof estate, which also became a refuge for other like-minded liberals.

While most owners of large estates objected to giving rights to peasants, the  Valdenaires attempted to change the way laws were created in the Prussian empire.  They wanted to see all the  citizens of Prussia, including the peasant farmers and craftsmen, governed by a constitution created with the input of elected representatives of all the citizenry.

Because of their liberal views, the Valdenaires displayed great daring in the German revolution of 1848.  By the year 1848 the discontent over the poor conditions of the German citizens and peasants, along with the desire for justice and human rights reform for all, was at the flash point in the Rhineland.  Demonstrations against the current Prussian system of governance broke out in Cologne, Trier, and even Saarburg as a result not only of the many dissatisfactions with Prussian laws and taxation, but also at the news in February that in neighboring France, people had begun a revolt against the current king and his reactionary prime minister in order to force Louise Phillipe from his throne.  This was the match that set the revolutionary fire blazing along Germany's western border, and it spread like wildfire right up to the doors of the palace in Berlin.

When demonstrations and fighting spread to Austria and forced the Austrian Emperor to rid the country of the hated minister Metternich, Berlin's ministers saw danger ahead.  The Prussian emperor, Frederick Wilhelm, feared the uprisings against him that had now come to the northern cities and his own Berlin. He made the decision to grant his subjects the right to elect representatives to a National Assembly that would create a new constitution.  He assured the rebels that this would give them a chance to have the constitutional parliament which would bring more liberty and equality to all Prussian citizens, even the peasants.  An election for the representatives to the new National Assembly created great excitement.  Voting took place on May 1, 1848 and all tax-paying citizens, including peasants, were eligible to vote.

Both Valdenaires were selected as electors for this Prussian National Assembly in Berlin.  But from May 2 to 3, 1848, both became involved in the uprising in Trier where barricades were erected and fighting against the military took place. Nicholas Valdenaire, who was chosen by popular vote as an elector for the Prussian National Assembly could not perform his offices.  As of 8 May when the electors came together to elect the deputies to the Prussian National Assembly, he was already wanted by the police and had fled across the border.

Viktor Valdenaire had also fled across the Prussian border to escape prosecution.  Unlike his father, Viktor assumed it would be safe to return when the Prussian National Assembly had its first meeting.  His status as a deputy would give him what we might call "diplomatic immunity."  However, he was arrested on May 10 and charged with trying to overthrow the lawful government; a crime which might bring the death penalty for treason.  He was jailed in Trier for two months; but during the indictment process, his crime was reduced to rebellion. The arrest process was only a pretext of the powerful to keep the lead revolutionaries from participating in the National Assembly, and many other electors were treated in the same manner.

While Viktor Valdenaire was shut up in prison, the National Assembly went into session.  Members were enraged, especially after reading a newspaper article in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung by Karl Marx about the actual reason for Viktor Valdenaire's arrest.  The National Assembly deputies insisted that detainees must attend Assembly meetings as a member of the Assembly and went even one step further. They introduced and voted on the immunity law still in effect in Germany today. It ensured every deputy's protection from prosecution as long as he holds that office.

Victor Valdenaire was released from the Trier jail late on the evening of July 23, 1848, and he returned to Roscheider Hof. Three days later, the citizens of Trier organized a folk festival for him. In his speech he stressed that he considered it his duty to travel to Berlin, because even though some of his fellow sufferers were languishing in prison, he wanted to stand up for their freedom and fight for the principle of popular sovereignty.  He was present when the National Assembly met again on August 8 and 9, 1848 but he soon grew frustrated at the lack of progress being made.  As the meetings of the Assembly went on with ever greater amounts of time between each one, he turned over his position as deputy to the man who had been elected to serve as his alternate.

The Prussian Emperor and his ministers used many delaying tactics over and over, and they also schemed to divide the moderates and liberals of the National Assembly. The revolutionary groups could not hold together.  By late in 1849, the German Revolution, begun with much promise, had changed from a raging battle to a flickering spark which could not catch fire again.

The bad end of the Revolution and all hope of a change of circumstances took away Viktor Valdenaire's enthusiastic interest in politics. With the death of his father from the terrible cholera epidemic that overtook the Saarburg area in July of 1849, he sought to sell the increasingly dilapidated Roscheider Hof.  He finally succeeded in 1864 and spent the rest of his life in Trier where he ran the family factory.

As you see, the years 1848 and 1849 were filled with turbulence.  Many of the people who lived in Kreis Saarburg  were caught up in the chaotic times.  As the revolution played out in 1848 and 1849, my ancestor Johann Meier was in his early twenties, and very likely he was at the barricades in Trier or with the farmers who showed their daring by wrecking government toll stations and cutting trees in the imperial forest.  At the same time, he was seeking my great-great grandmother's hand in marriage.   It was an inopportune time for courtship by a young rebel and their marriage was forbidden by his beloved Magdalena's father (or so the family story goes).   The two young people did marry when Magdalena ran away from home to do it, and 12 years later Johann and Magdalena had the daring to emigrate to a new land where they could find the civil freedoms that eluded them when the German Revolution of 1848 failed.  I believe they were both, in their own way, as much revolutionaries as the Valdenaires.

Where were your German ancestors in 1848?

Sources:

Rudolf Müller, Geschichte der Stadt Saarburg im 19. and 20. Jahrhunder" in "Saarburg; Geschichte einer Stadt," 1991
The Revolution of 1848. 
"Popular Culture and the Public Sphere in the Rhineland 1800-1850."  James M. Brophy
"Valdenaire" in German version of Wikipedia
Serrig; "Landschaft,  Geschichte & Geschichten." Klaus Hammächer, 2002
Sheehan, James, "German History 1770-1866: The Oxford History of Modern Europe," 1994

Pictures:
Saar-Obermosel Touristik E. V.
http://www.saar-obermosel.de/fileadmin/templates/tv/logo.jpg

Friday, February 28, 2014

Emigrants Setting Sail: Questions and Answers

City and Port of Antwerp Belgium


Steamship Leaves Le Havre (ebay postcard)
Ever since I wrote blog posts about the trip to America from the Port of Le Havre in France, I have gotten related questions. One reader asked how long it would have taken his ancestor to reach New York after setting sail from New York. Another reader wondered how an immigrant ancestor might have gotten from Kreis Saarburg to the port at Antwerp. There was a question about what conditions German immigrants encountered if they arrived in New York before the immigrant station at Castle Garden was created. 

Why not answer some of those questions from letters that immigrants sent back home to family and friends. I have chosen to take excerpts from a few of those letters which touched on the questions I had received. Who better qualified to write about their experiences than the individuals who made the trip to the New World. 

Two of the letter writers traveled by sailing ship in the 1840s when Antwerp was the most convenient port of departure for emigrants from Kreis Saarburg and the Rhineland.   Many other letters from this time period must have been similar.

Letter 1 

Excerpts from the first letter were written by Michael Rodenkirch, a German emigrant and one of the first settlers in the Village of St. Michaels, Wisconsin. The unincorporated community of Saint Michaels is located partially in the town of Kewaskum in Washington County Wisconsin. You can read the full text at: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~konrath/emigrantletter.html 

"State of West Konsin 
December 26, 1846 

Dearest Mother, All Sisters and Brothers, Brothers and Sisters-in-law, relatives and Acquantances: 
Sincere Greetings to you All! 

Thanks to God we are all well and hope the same of you. I do hope that by now you have received my letter of Oct. 22, telling you where we have finally landed. Should you have received this letter, I hope that news from you is on the way. I will tell you again briefly about our trip... 

Emigrants to America generally pay half fare from Cochem to Coblenz, 10 silver Groschen; from Coblenz to Coeln, 20 silver Groschen; from Coeln to Antwerp by railway, two dollars per adult person, older than 10 or 12 years, children below that age pay half fare, and babies under one year travel free. From Antwerp to New York adults pay 80 francs while minors pay 70 francs... 

Should you plan to undertake the trip to America, make sure that you are on time at the depot or dock, as neither ships nor train will wait a minute for you - they are gone like a shot. Whoever makes the trip will be impressed with the omnipotence of God. It is still impossible for me to describe our voyage adequately. We were enroute 75 days. Back home we always thought that England was far, far away, but after five days of travel we were nearing the English coast and after 10 days we were alongside Scotland and Ireland; after that we were soon out in the open sea. This shows the speed of our ship. On the ocean we were for 55 days. High waves often dashed our ship. The slant of our ship often made it impossible to stand without hanging onto something. At times gusts of wind almost threatened to overturn our ship, but like a floating egg, it would always right itself. The last ten days we sailed along the American shores and then entered the world famous, beautiful New York harbor. We remained in New York for a day... 

For your sea voyage make your own "zweiback" and take along sufficient oatmeal and wheat flour. If you can obtain potatoes, use them for your vegetable. Also carry along ham, butter, brandy, spices, coffee, sugar, and whatever else you might like to eat on your trip across the sea, for on the sea your money will not buy you anything. If you plan on traveling through the woods here, bring several pairs of boots and shoes and durable clothes; also bring waffle iron and cake pan... 

From New York you should acquire passage on steamship to Albany. From Albany to Buffalo you may travel by "Ralter," perhaps ferry or railway. From Buffalo you travel again by steamboat to "Milwaukee in West Konsin." Trip from New York to Albany costs 4 shilling, or 20 silver groschen; from Albany to Buffalo costs 5-6 dollars, from Buffalo to Wisconsin by steamship costs 6 dollars. At each place "veradkirdiert," [register or be recorded?] anew and do not trust every German thieving trickster approaching you as exchange agent; these people are usually bad characters... 

We had made arrangement for passage to Chicago, however, we went ashore at Milwaukee on Lake Michigan, 80 miles above Chicago. We live now 40 miles northeast of Milwaukee in Town 12, Range 19, Section 13. We are all well satisfied here, have good land, and none molest us... 

The trip across the ocean took 52 days; despite storm and high waves, thanks to God, all went well. The trip through America to Milwaukee took us 18 days. Whoever makes this trip had better take good care of his money. With us there were people from Brohl on the Maihfeld who were robbed of 2,200 dollars in Albany. Their plight was great as they could only travel a short distance... 

I greet you a hundred thousand times and remain. 

Your sincere brother, 
Michael Rodenkirch" 

Letter 2 

This letter was transcribed verbatim by historian Josef Mergen, a dedicated researcher on emigration from the Rhineland to the United States. The source is the book "Die Amerika-Auswanderung aus dem Kreise Saarburg" (The American Emigration from the County of Saarburg). Copies are in German and are available on interlibrary loan at public and university libraries.  

Milwaukee, Wisconsin 1846 
Dear Cousins, Brothers, Sister-in-law! 

Because we are so far from one another, so that we may no longer talk with one another, I have decided to report my words to you in written fashion and to describe my journey, my present situation, the land, the crops, how house and homes are built, to the best of my ability. 

I will tell you about the pleasant, as well as the unpleasant, exactly as I have experienced them. 

We departed from Antwerp on the 21st of May (1846) and went as far as Vlissignen (Netherlands). Here we anchored and made a brief pause. From this point on, we could no longer anchor due to the depth of water....dear God, what an incredible amount of water! Here one sees nothing but sky and water, it appears as if the entire world were water. 

On the 30th of May, we had a beautiful day. We caught a shark and I had ever so much fun. But my fun was soon found an end. From the 1st to the 4th of June, we had storms. The ship began to roll; all chests had to be tightly bound; pots rolled from one corner to another, beds fell together, one couldn't walk or even stand. The incredble waves threatened to overwhelm us. Then we were all sick. This lasted until the 14th of June. Then we were again revived. Your brother Joseph was perfectly healthy. He had to take care of us and cook. 

On the 1st of July (the 40th day of our ocean journey) we first saw the American land. The joy that I felt then, I will never be able to describe to you. At about 9:00, a ship came to get us and by 12:00, we were in New York. As I left the ship, I wanted to walk on land. I felt as if the earth moved, I mean America, swung (he still had sea legs) 

Now we have passed one station of suffering (by that, I mean the difficulties of the ocean journey), which I will never be able to fully describe to you. 

We were now in New York, a big, beautiful city which encompasses more industry than did all of Prussia.

On the 21st (of July) we left New York by steamship. On the 3rd (of August) we arrived in Albany. There we got into a train and rode until Buffalo. There we waited one day. we again left via steamboat and journeyed over Lake Erie and Lake Michigan until we arrived in Milwaukee. On the 16th we arrived in Milwaukee. We had achieved our goal...

Johann Schroeder, Milwaukee
Territorium Wisconsin, N.A

There are three reasons that I chose the last two letters.  1) The emigrant in each case was young and single, 2) the voyages to America took place by steamship rather than sailing ship, and 3) The true ocean travel of each emigrant's journey was out of the port at Le Havre, but Le Havre was reached by an unusual circuitous route.  In one case, the New York Passenger List for the ship probably stated that all passengers left Europe from the port of Hamburg but did not mention a stop in Le Havre.  Did this steamship pick up additional passengers there? If so, were those people listed as starting their journey in Hamburg?

Letter 3

Barbara Klinger was a 20 year old country girl who wanted to go to New York and find work as a domestic servant.  In letters exchanged between Barbara's father in Wurtenburg and his son-in-law, Franz Schano who lived in New York and was married to Barbara's sister, the young woman's trip was carefully arranged.  Packing details and travel options were discussed in an exchange of letters.  In one of the letters, Franz Schano told Barbara's father that there was a choice of a ticket - with food provided or a passenger bringing food themselves.  He did not know which would be more economical and left it up to Barbara's father to decide.  It was decided that Barbara would bring her own food.  Barbara's sister instructed her to fill two potato sacks with enough food for a "simmen" which was about the measurement of two bushel baskets. The brother-in-law in New York arranged for Barbara to get her passage and sent her a ticket document and 15 gulden which would pay for extra fees she would encounter as she traveled.  She was to give the ticket document to the travel agent in Mannheim.  In return she would receive three travel tickets, the first was for the steamship from Mannheim to Rotterdam, the second from Rotterdam to Havre, and the third from Havre to New York.  As complicated as the land travel was, Barbara had no difficulties.  Safely in the home of her sister, she wrote the following: 

New York
July 16, 1851

Dear parents and brothers and sisters,

I want to let you know what kind of journey I had to New York.  On the 18th we boarded a sailing ship, from Havre to New York.  I was at sea for 26 days on the ship, there were 725 persons with the sailors and we only had a storm once.  But it was nothing compared to the voyage Mari had, the ship had 3 decks and one cellar completely under water, the people slept in the 2 lower ones and in the two higher ones there are two kitchens, two toilets, two stalls, and another stall for cows, there was one cow and in the back there is another small room, where the mates and the 3 cooks who cook for the sailors they were blacks, one had his wife along, she was a black too, and the ship was named Wilhelm Tell, it is one of the biggest ships that go between Havre and New Jork and even when the wind was strong it can't throw it around like the little one, it also rolls more, such a big ship on the ocean is like a nutshell swimming in the lake at Korb.

Letter 4

Wilhelm Buerkert was a teenager of 16 when he left his apprenticeship in his home village of Waldenburg in Wuerttemberg.   Both of his parents were dead but his father had been relatively well to do.  Now, with only a stepmother and a guardian, he seems to have been at odds with his stepfamily and he was permitted to emigrate to America.  It seems that the money for a ticket and some additional cash were given to him.  His youth comes across clearly in his rambling first letter home.  The excerpts I chose are a very small part of what he wrote.

New York, 
IX 29, 1875
Dear mother, grandparents, sisters, and honorable guardian,
Praise be to the Lord, etc., that is the first hymn that we can strike up, for you can count yourself lucky to have arrived here safely, especially when you hear that at the same time our ship left, on the same water, no less than 3 ships sank from running into one another in the fog.

So, let us turn our attention to the journey. In Heilbronn there was a one-hour stop, then straight on to Heidelberg. Here there was time to see the main sights. Then on, after refreshing yourself, to Frankfurt. Here after getting all your things at Mr. Treschof's, the emigration agent's, which cost a lot of money as well, you were taken to an inn, "zum goldenen Adler" (Golden Eagle). Oh, to hell with that food and those beds, bedbug covers, not featherbeds, just a miserable mattress with torn sheets, and awfully expensive...

In Frankfurt we left on a Sunday at 8 o'clock in the morning and arrived the next morning at 3 o'clock at a station where we had to spend the night sleeping on the benches in the waiting room, until the train left at 6 o'clock the next morning...

We were in Hamburg in 2 hours time. We were brought by coach to our inn to the Gasthaus zum suddeutschen Hof (South German Guesthouse). Here we spent 2 nights...

On Wednesday the 15th of September...we got on a nice small steamship. In two hours we were out of the Elbe...we were met by a ship like you can't imagine, with 2 big smokestacks...The next morning everyone was already seasick. For on the open sea the ship rolls terribly. It goes as fast as an express train...

On the 17th of September we arrived in the French city of Havre. In this port there was a 24-hour stop. We were allowed to get off. We looked around this really lovely, large and luxurious city. On Sept. 18th at 10 o'clock in the morning, we departed. But thenout on the Atlantic Ocean the ship really started to roll and the waves went clear up to the helmsman...

The last few days we had such a storm that you couldn't stand up or lie down. The trunks we had with us were tied down. The last night we had fog. On the 27th of Sept., or on the Monday, you couldn't see anything at all for 2 nights, the ship went very slowly. The steamwhistles were blown a lot. All at once at 9 o'clock they called out excitedly, Hurray, the pilot. He was coming toward us in a small boat. He had to guide us through the reefs off shore and in through the straits. It was a chief helmsman--almost like a ship's officer. At 4 in the morning we heard land-land. And that is a sight, oh splendid. We were in Stett-Neuland (Staten Island). Here the anchor was cast...

(Wilhelm Buerkert did not sign his name to the letter but ended it with "Your thankful son, grandson and brother.--Greetings, too, to Gustav

These last two letters were taken from a 1991 book entitled "News from the Land of Freedom: German Immigrants Write Home" edited by Walter D. Kamphoefner, Wolfgang Helbich, and Ulrike Sommer and translated by Susan Carter Vogel.

To the best of my knowledge, none of my immigrant ancestors wrote home, but I still dream that someday, somewhere in a German archive or attic, there will be letters like these to people still living in the villages of Kreis Saarburg, and I will find them!







Monday, January 13, 2014

Travel Tuesday - The Date an Ancestor Left for America


Sailing the English Channel near Le Havre

















This blog post is different from most.  Rather than writing about the  social customs of the people of the Saarburg Kreis, I switched gears for this one time.

My average blog post has about 25 hits shortly after it is posted.  These probably come from followers who are interested in all aspects of German culture. Then, depending on the subject of the piece, numbers increase as a subject is searched and one of my posts is thought to have potential to give the information needed.

Until last year, my posts about the customs of Christmas in the Rhineland area, especially about Knecht Ruprecht, the not-so-kind companion of St. Nikolaus, were the most popular. As you can tell from that last sentence, I do check my statistics which are calculated for me each day by Blogger.

Last year a new blog post began to receive a surprising number of hits. I had written a piece about the Port of Le Havre, describing the struggle to reach the port and then find a place to wait for the ship as it arrived, usually with merchandise from the last country visited.  Often the hold of the ship was refitted for a new cargo - the emigrants. Almost every day, that particular post about Le Havre had more views than any other post and so it continues. In addition, the comments were more numerous than any other post I had ever written.  Do not let any genealogical expert tell you that Hamburg and Bremen are the only important ports for German immigrants.  Le Havre saw an enormous amount of Bavarian, Swiss, Austrian and Rhineland immigration.

One of those comments left on the Le Havre blog post asked if I had any information about the amount of time it took for a ship to reach New York after it left Le Havre. It was the same question that had bothered me many years ago - before the days of the Internet search and all the data sources on Ancestry, Roots Web, etc. I set out for the Wisconsin Historical Society Library to try to find additional information on the ocean voyages that brought some of my ancestors to the port of New York. I knew the names of two of the ships - the Rattler and the Albion - their dates of arrival, and their ports of departure. What I didn’t know was the length of the voyage and the registry of the ship. That information was not required on the form for ship arrivals which each ship captain submitted.  Thus, it is also not on the microfilms of “Registers of Vessels Arriving at the Port of New York from Foreign Ports.”

My German Bohemian ancestors’ ship, the Albion arrived in New York in July 1856 (with Elizabeth and Anton Luniak and their children).  On May 9, 1861 (with Magdalena and Johann Meier and their children aboard) the ship Rattler reached New York's port. The Luniaks were arriving from Liverpool and the Meiers from Le Havre. There was no clue to tell me when either of those ships had set sail.

I tried another route but none of the published books about sailing ships, some with pictures and good descriptions of immigrant ships, listed the ships on which my ancestors sailed.  If a wonderful library like the Wisconsin Historical Society's library, holding records and books from every state east of the Mississippi, could not help me; there was nowhere else to turn without a trip to Europe, or so I had begun to think.

Then I took the step I should have begun with.  I asked the reference librarian if he could point me in the right direction. "Did they arrive after September 18, 1851?" he asked. When I said yes, he told me to look at the front page of the New York Times newspaper.  I know I gave him a confused stare! To my surprise, I learned that ships arriving at the port of New York were always reported there, giving details such as country of registry, the owning company or individual, the port of departure, the length of the journey and the type of cargo. In addition, the listing sometimes gave other details about the voyage. Here are the entries I found for my two ships:

May 9, 1861 - “Ship Rattler, Almy (the ship’s captain), Havre, 32 ds. (length of trip) with mdse. and 197 passengers to Wm. Whitlock Jr. (the ship’s owner)” This means that they left on the 8th of April in 1861. (Easter was on March 31 so they celebrated the important Catholic Feast Day just one week before they started out for Le Havre).

August 9, 1856 - “Ship Albion, Williams (the ship’s captain), Liverpool, July 11, (date of departure) with mdse., and 621 passengers to Tapscott and Co (the ship’s owner).  July 14 (three days out of port) James H. Simpson, of Newport R.I., fell from the mizzen topgallantyard and was drowned.”  I assume he was a crew member but the newspaper doesn't say so.

By looking at information on other ships arriving from European ports the same day, I learned more about the crossing. I could surmise that the Rattler probably was rocked by storms like other ships in that day’s list since several ships were "in ballast" when they arrived.  This meant that heavy material had to be placed in the ship’s hold to enhance stability. An entry for another ship arriving from LeHavre the same day noted that it was in ballast and that the ship “has had heavy westerly gales for the last 10 ds.” My heart ached for my great great grandmother who was in the early months of her pregnancy.

So if you’ve found your ancestor’s ship in the New York passenger lists, or in Germans to America, and the date is after 18 September 1851, I recommend checking the New York Times Newspaper on microfilm or online to get “the rest of the story.”  The online heading you are looking for is under the "ARCHIVES" tab of the newspaper and the subject you want is "marine intelligence (month, day, year)

Once I had information on the owners, I wanted more information about the shipping companies.  I did a web search.  I learned that the owner of the Albion was the Tapscott Company.  They were described as “systematic villains,” a fact so well know that this was immortalized in a sea shanty, a song sung when the ship was being “warped” out of harbor at the beginning of a voyage. (To find out more about the shipping lines, such as Tapscott, there is good information at "The Ship's List."  Even if your first search is not successful, new information and lists are being added to "The Ship's List" regularly as I found just now when I went back to check for this post.  The passenger list of the ship Rattler, which carried my ancestors, has now been transcribed.  If your ancestor arrived at the Port of New York before September 1851, this site may help you.

A word of warning.  If you are an e-mail subscriber to the free New York Times Newspaper headlines, be aware that your 10 full articles per month are counted whether you click on their e-mail headlines of the current day in 2014 or find a New York Times article in 1861 while doing an on-line search.  I just lost all my free articles for the month of January by checking accuracy of New York Times articles used in this article in the NY Times Archive on line.  Evidently even a headline from May of 1861 meets their restriction criteria.






  

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas Markets of Today and Yesterday


Christmas Market in Stadt Saarburg

This December I was at a loss for an idea that reflected the Christmas Season in Kreis Saarburg.  After eight years of posts about Christmas customs in the Rhineland area of Germany, there wasn't much I hadn't tried to research.  Then I found an article that was brief yet concise, full of interesting details I had not known.  Thus the information that follows is taken from that source.  

In the spirit of the season of the Christmas market, I am including photos from markets which are near to Kreis Saarburg, even though one market is in Strasbourg, France.  After all, a Prussian general once referred to our ancestors as "painted French."  And at the time the Christmas markets developed, German and French citizenship could change from week to week.

The History of the Christmas Market

The centuries-old tradition of the Christmastime markets were joyful occasions for weary villagers and gave them something to look forward to on the long winter nights.  The first Christmas markets were held at a time when regular markets took place throughout the year. The first Christmas markets were little more than winter markets that lasted a couple of days. Instead of the colorful booths that are a part of Christmas markets in our time, traders in some cities just laid their goods out as best they could, sometimes even in the street.  

I found it surprising that as early as the 17th century, gift-buying at Christmas Markets had already become a usual thing.  There is something about the Christmas spirit that opens the heart and also, at times, the purse.

The usual place for the Christmas Market to be found was surrounding a city's church.  In larger cities, the main church was chosen in order to attract the most buyers when residents arrived for the services.  According to the writer of the article I am using as a basis for my post, a priest in Nürnberg in 1616 complained that he did not hold the afternoon service on Christmas Eve because no one attended.  They were waylaid by the Christmas market.

The same article says, "It is likely that the Christmas markets drew more visitors when religious reformer Martin Luther instituted new customs for Christmas.  Before Luther, the exchanging of presents took place on the saint days of St. Nicholas, December 6, or of St. Martin, on November 11.  It was Luther who suggested that children receive presents from “the Christ Child,” hence the name “Christkindlsmarkt” (Market of the Christ Child), a popular name for many Christmas markets especially in the south of Germany."

In the past, only local tradesmen were allowed to sell their wares at the city’s market, which led to the distinctive regional character of today’s markets.  Because in the past each region had its own customs and needs, Christmas markets have continued to focus their wares in that direction, giving each market a distinctive air.  They specialize in "local delicacies and traditional products." 

Beyond the commercial aspect of the markets, they have another function: a cheerful, high-spirited place for local residents to meet as well as a place to sell their homemade crafts, decorations, and ornaments.

The items in the Christmas market in each city are not all unique, or course. There are traditional German handicrafts that can be found at nearly every Christmas market.  There have to be nutcrackers, wooden figurines, straw stars and smokers as well as the iconic cookie tins, glass balls, toys, and tin tree ornaments.

Since most of us will not have a chance to tour these Christmas markets, here are some photos taken at regional Christmas markets by the photographers listed below:


Christskindl Market in Stadt Saarburg

At the Saarbrucken Christmas Market
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Saarbrucken Market



Strasbourg's Famous Christmas Market

Strasbourg Market at night



Market is next to Strasbourg Cathedral still!

Strasbourg Market classic items



Delicious Bakery in Strasbourg


Trier Christmas Market closeup






Trier Christmas Market in the market square

The Joy of the Trier Christmas Market 

Merry Christmas Wishes from the Singleminded Offshoot!


Source: 
http://www.germany-christmas-market.org.uk/christmas_in_germany.htm

Pictures: 
Trier Volksfreund Täglischer Newsletter 
Josiane of Lorraine
City of Trier Webpage

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Giving Thanks and Celebrating Autumn in Kreis Saarburg

Irsch, St. Gervasius and Protasius Catholic Church in Autumn 2004
Irsch, St. Gervasius and Protasius Catholic Church in Autumn 2010














Potatoes, squash, apples, grapes



















Halloween celebrated, we look forward to Thanksgiving in the United States, and Christmas is already here in if you believe shop windows, TV ads, and some radio and television stations.

In Kreis Saarburg, there are also celebrations but they seem to meld better into the autumn of the year.  Here are some that originated with our ancestors and are still a part of the excitement of early and late fall.

Giving Thanks For the Harvest 

Autumn customs in one of my Heimat villages come to mind at this time of year as the leaves fall and pumpkins, squash, root vegetables and winter apples appear in our American markets.  We use many of them for the feast of Thanksgiving, decking our tables with cooked or baked varieties.

An article I read in a German language book explained the thanksgiving of German farming communities of the past.  They thanked God for the harvest, whether good or bad, by sharing their crops with God who gave them.  This has been carried on for centuries, even to the present day.  God's table in the Church, is decorated with the produce of the current year.  There may be squash, cabbages and other large vegetables, but there are often dry seeds of all kinds: flax, rye, wheat, oats, barley, legumes of all kinds.  All are harvested from German soil, traditionally from the soil that surrounds the village where the church is located.

I had seen this kind of decoration on autumn trips to my ancestors' village church in Irsch, enchanted with the kind of workmanship I generally associate with the Rose Bowl parade.  The closeup pictures above and the one below show the elegance of the most commonplace of decorating materials and the time given to produce this kind of thanksgiving to God from the fruit of the land.


Giving Thanks for St. Martin, Happy Children, and Rabimmel, Rabammel, Rabumm

Over the past several years, I have explained many of the traditions associated with St. Martin's Day (also known as Martini) as well as the importance of his November Feast.  If you click on the St. Martin's Day label at the right of the post page, the many activities associated with the day as well as the history and social customs are described, including carrying hollowed out gourds or pumpkins lit with candles.  

The custom of this celebration is still alive and well in the villages around Saarburg and in that city itself.  Most of 2013's customs are much the same as in the 1800s, although the lanterns carried by the children as they parade in the street are made of fireproof material and lighted with safe candles of one kind or another.  The Irsch website page just recently announced the village's 2013 lantern parade:

"The St. Martin's traditional lantern procession in Irsch will take place on Saturday, 09.11.2013 (November 9, 2013).  The assembly place is the parish church of Irsch at 5:30 p.m.  It will begin with prayer and a short homily about the holy St. Martin. Then the lantern parade (about 6 p.m.) led by St. Martin (on horseback) will parade to the Irsch multi-purpose hall. Once there, the great St. Martin's bonfire will be ignited and the Martin Brezeln (St. Martin pretzels) will be given to the children.

The lantern parade will be accompanied by the music society of Irsch as well as the torch bearers of the volunteer fire department, who also provide for the safety of traffic management and the burning of the St. Martin fire.  All children and adults are welcome  Hot drinks and snacks will be sold. The net proceeds as in prior years will again be used for the cost of transporting Christmas packages to help the needy in such countries as Romania."

In the event that you would like to see a typical St. Martin's parade, you can watch the video called "Rabimmel, Rabammel, Rabumm." The German words are given as subtitles on each screen of this very traditional children's song.  Unfortunately the translation in English below does not rhyme.

I go with my lantern
And my lantern goes with me
Up above the stars are shining,
Down here we're shining.
The rooster, he crows; the cat meows.
Rabimmel, rabammel, rabumm.
The rooster, he crows; the cat meows.
Rabimmel, rabammel, rabumm.

I go with my lantern
And my lantern goes with me.
Up above the stars are shining,
Down here we're shining.
St. Martin, he marches on.
Rabimmel, rabammel, rabumm.
St. Martin, he marches on.
Rabimmel, rabammel, rabumm.

I go with my lantern
And my lantern goes with me.
Up above the stars are shining,
Down here we're shining.
Lantern light, don't go out on me!
Rabimmel, rabammel, rabumm.
Lantern light, don't go out on me!
Rabimmel, rabammel, rabumm

I go with my lantern
And my lantern goes with me.
Up above the stars are shining,
Down here we're shining.
A sea of light in honor of Martin.
Rabimmel, rabammel, rabumm.
A sea of light in honor of Martin.
Rabimmel, rabammel, rabumm.

I go with my lantern
And my lantern goes with me.
Up above the stars are shining,
Down here we're shining.
My light is out,
Rabimmel, rabammel, rabumm.
We're going home,
Rabimmel, rabammel, rabumm.


Giving Thanks for a Blog Recovered

Due to circumstances I do not understand, for two weeks I lost access to this blog.  When I tried to make a correction in one of the previous posts, Blogger refused to let me do it.  After a great deal of wasted time and several curt notes to Blogger, all ignored, I had the good luck to bumble back into possession.  I was so thankful.  But it made me realize that, had I not had that bumbling good luck, I could never have posted to this blog again.  It would have been necessary for me to start an entirely new blog. So if you are a regular reader, you would probably have concluded that I got tired of blogging and quit without a goodbye.  

There are two ways to find out if I have been forced to start a blog with a new name: Register as a follower of my blog, and I will be able to notify you about where to find my new posts.  Or you can use my e-mail address (which you can find by reading my profile) to e-mail me.  

In the meantime, I promise to try to keep "Village Life in Kreis Saarburg" posts of the future right here.

Happy Thanksgiving to all


Sources:
Die Martinsumzug, http://www.irsch-saar.de/irschnew.htm
English for Rabimmel, Rabammel, Rabumm, http://german.about.com/library/blmus_laternegeh.htm

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Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Looking Inside the Ranzen Satchel

Antique Ranzen on ebay
Child's School Slate


I have begun my vacation. You will understand when I say that I was not planning to post to my blog. But shortly after my last post, "Schultüte und Ranzen Go to School," Ewald Meyer, who grew up in the little village of Beurig, gave me some exceptional details about his own Ranzen after he read the blog post. I am very glad to have this new information about his school days when writing paper in a school satchel was rare.

Rather than add this content to the September 6, 2013 blog post, which would make it unlikely that people who have already read that post would read it again, a short new post seemed a better idea. Therefore, this month's post is mostly written by Ewald Meyer with a few additional details which were left out the last time I posted.

Here is what Herr Meyer says he carried to school in his satchel on the first day of his first year in school - my translation. "When I first went to school in Beurig in 1937, the Schultüten (see last post) were still unknown here. They existed in Beurig only since about 1950."

He goes on to say that in his satchel were a slate with a wiping cloth, a wooden pen box with pen for the first written exercises, and a small box with a wet sponge to clean the blackboard. There was a primer in the satchel for learning to read. The slate's front panel had double lines which were to help the youngest students write the letters of the alphabet by giving them ample space. On the back side there were squares for mathematical problems.

As I had surmised in the last post, the Schultüte was not known in the villages of Kreis Saarburg until the 1950s. In the local history book, "Beurig Lese- und Bilderbuch," there are yearly photos of the first grade class for each school year. From 1950 on, the Schultüte is held by every child. Earlier pictures, dating back to 1908 show no sign of the paper cone filled with little gifts.

In Beurig, where Herr Meyer went to school, first grade students were known as ABC Schütze. Schütze, Herr Meyer tells us, is derived from the Latin "tiro" or raw. Thus, a recruit who was drafted into the military, was known as a Schütze. The beginning school children therefore became the "ABC Schütze."

In some places in Germany, i-Dotze or i-Männchen was the nickname for the first-time scholars, a throwback to the time when the first letter of the alphabet to be learned was the letter "i." It was the most easily taught. Sometimes on the school grounds the little ones were teased with the following nonsense rhyme:

i-Männchen,
Kaffeecänchen,
Abgeleckte Heringsschwänzchen'"

This translates as
"i-little people, 
little coffee pots, 
licked-off herring tails." 

 It defiinitely seems to lose something in translation.


Sources:
Der Blumenbaum, Oct, Nov, Dec 2005, p. 68. 
Ewald Meyer e-mail