Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Legend of the Tailor's Needle

On my visit to Kreis Saarburg this autumn, I couldn't resist exploring the book and pamphlet collection of my vacation apartment.  As I expected, there were stacks of brochures about the attractions of the area and discarded paperback books left behind by former tenants.  But there was an unexpected treasure trove.

Frau Hedwig Hoffmann, owner with her husband of the vacation apartment, was born in Saarburg and during a part of her working life, was a bookseller in a book and stationery shop on the most scenic street in the city.  A few of her own books, loaned to my apartment's bookshelves, showed it.  I found some wonderfully eclectic titles including a collection of “new old fairy tales.”  The author modeled her tales on fables and stories from various places around Germany and created a more timely and charming book for children - and I couldn't resist the title or the idea that I would be able to read it without constant searches of my German dictionary.

Vacation apartment table

One tale, of a Trier tailor and his needle, delighted me and also seemed so appropriate for a blog post at Christmas time.  When I finished reading it, I sat at the dining room table in "my" apartment, set up my Netbook computer, and typed a summary of the timeless story with its simple wisdom; then saved it to be reread, reworked and posted in December.  


There was a master tailor in Trier, Schneidermeister Krautscheid,  who lived at the end of the 18th century.  He had inherited a sewing needle from his father who in turn had inherited it from his father – a family tradition that perhaps went back to 1356 in Trier when the first record about a Tailors' Guild of 46 men is documented.

Tailor in the 1800s
Schnidermeister Krautscheid lived at a time when conditions for most tailors were not good.  They often suffered times of poverty.  Even though they had journeymen and apprentices, they had a hard time making ends meet.  In summer, with longer days, they often worked 13 hours at their jobs, but this was not possible when winter came and the days were very short.  Darkness came early and candles were expensive.  In Trier there were 61 Master Tailors in the Guilds. To have enough work for all of those men and their helpers was rare.  Many were in debt and unhappy with their conditions and the hand that the society of the time dealt them.

It was also at this time that the French Revolution and the storming of the Bastille were taking place.  In Trier, some of that indignation was felt; and the tailor, though a small man, felt the need to challenge the authorities.  He went out banging his drum as workers and Masters from all the guilds began a revolution of their own.  The authorities made promises; and the men of Trier, not really revolutionaries at heart, went back to their work, including Herr Krautscheid, our master tailor. 

Christmas was coming, and he had only a few days left to finish some jerkins, a contract he was glad to have.  By Christmas Eve, his workers said he had the eyes of an owl to go on working when it was dark and the Christmas celebration was about to begin.  They left their Master, as was allowed by the Guild. 

 One of the young apprentices, as he was leaving, felt sorry for his master.  The tailor's wife had died and his children had gone off on their own.  He gently told the old man it would be such a good thing if he would take in a cat or a dog for company, especially during this holiday.  "I'm not alone" growled the old man, "I have my needle" – and indeed it was like a third hand to him.  As he sewed with it, he and the needle shared memories of past work, as one does with a friend.  

The old tailor had a jerkin for the Burgermeister to make, a job that had to be finished in time for the mayor to wear it to the Silvester (New Year's Eve) Dance.  One should not disappoint a man of importance if he knows what is good for him.

Mother and Child
Each night, the tailor stuck his precious needle in a piece of silk cloth and laid it on his pillow.  But when he awoke on Christmas morning, the needle was not there.  The tailor searched the bedclothes piece by piece, carefully examined every bit of the floor, but the needle was nowhere to be found.  Without it, he was desperate.  He believed it would be impossible to finish the jerkin on time without his needle and then he would no long receive the contracts which kept him in his business. 

He hurried to the Christmas Matins service where he stared for a long time at the Christmas nativity scene.  The mother of Jesus held her baby in her arms.  Both she and the child were protected by a large blanket secured in place by a sewing needle.  The longer the tailor looked at the scene, the more sure he was that this was his own precious needle which somehow had come to Mary and now was the only thing that was holding the blanket around the pair and thereby keeping the mother and babe warm. 

At first he wanted to have his friend, the needle, back with him.  But the more he looked, the more he realized that the needle had a more important purpose; it protected a mother and child from suffering in the cold.  His heart grew happy, and he softly whispered to Mary and her baby, the Savior of the world, that he gave his needle willingly and freely with a loving heart.  He knelt from early to late before the nativity scene all that Christmas day.

The next morning, he went to his workshop to try to finish the Mayor's jerkin before the deadline, but it lay there finished with beautifully sewn stitches.  His needle was in the collar of the jerkin, glowing at him. 

For it is true what is said, "he who gives freely, gets even more in return."

Neue Märchen aus Stadt und Land by Annette Craemer 
The Christmas needle legend is adapted from the chapter called "Das Trierer Schneiderhandwerk" in Trierisches Handwerk von der Vorzeit bis heute by Richard Laufner

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Very Special Tour and Tour Guide

My vacation apartment's door (Erdenbach Strasse, Saarburg) is to the left of the garage door.

As I told you in September, I was planning to do some novel writing.  In the interests of home safety, I did not mention that I had reserved a vacation apartment in the city of Saarburg Germany as a wonderful way to inspire chapters for my novel.  A wise woman once told me that to improve my inspiration, I should go to my home villages, sit on the ground, and listen while they talked to me.  I'm a bit too old and my back is too touchy to do that literally, but I found that once I was in Saarburg, ideas for chapters came into my mind very easily - unlike the puzzlement I was experiencing at home.

What I hadn't reckoned with was the number of friends and acquaintances I have made in my past trips to Kreis Saarburg.  There was German hospitality being offered to me from the moment I arrived until the day before I left for home.   I had pictured myself busily writing most of my days in the city.  Instead, I was often having coffee and Kuchen.

On a sunny Sunday, I had a very special tour with a very special tour guide, Ewald Meyer, author of a published history of Irsch and Beurig.  He has been helping me ever since the first day I met him in 2002.  He was also the person who urged me to come back to Germany, offering to again help me with any local research trips I might want to make.

Ewald Meyer, Tour Guide
The tour began in the Beurig's cemetery.  Those who are not family historians will think that a strange place to begin a tour - I did not.  Beurig, about a mile from Irsch, is Ewald's birthplace.  In the Catholic cemetery I saw for myself the impressive monument to Herr Bürgermeister Bodem which I had written about in Sept. 2009, "Herr Burgermeister Bodem and his angel."  The monument was even bigger than it looked in the picture.  

We also visited smaller monuments to deceased officials of the Prussian Government, such as the district foresters and game wardens.  

A forester's grave monument
Unlike ordinary citizens who had (and still have) only a limited number of years to own their cemetery plots, these 19th century Prussian officials still keep their grave sites and monuments in the cemetery today, even if the family line has ceased to exist.    

As we drove through the village of Beurig which is now considered a part of Saarburg, Ewald pointed out Herr Bürgermeister Bodem's very impressive, somewhat Victorian-looking house.  Evidently finding favor with the Prussian government could be monetarily as well as socially and politically important.  Burdensome taxes were levied on the farmers and dayworkers, but even officials and the well-to-do didn't escape taxation.  Houses, including those of Herr Bürgermeister Bodem and his wealthy neighbors were taxed on the number of their chimneys.  Clearly, these houses were designed to show the status of their owners; men wealthy enough to have more than one fireplace.  The office of the Mayor was near the railroad station on the site of today's employment office.  The mayor's office was moved there from its earlier location in the village of Irsch in 1833, shortly after Herr Bodem was appointed Bürgermeister in 1832.

As I described in my July post, (From Bishop's Crosier to Napoleonic Flag), before the time of Napoleonic and then Prussian rule, the farmers, craftsmen, and day workers of Irsch, Beurig and the surrounding villages were governed by the Prince/Archbishop Electors of Trier and then Koblenz.  I had known that the peasant classes paid their "taxes" in the form of produce and farm animals, but not the specifics.  Herr Meyer explained that after the harvest, usually around St. Martin's Day in November, about 10 per cent of a farmer's crops and animals were sent to their Archbishop.  Wagon loads of "taxes" from the villages of the area were sent to the church estate at the edge of the Saar where today's Hotel Keller stands.  There they were housed until they could be sent, by barge, to Trier or Koblenz--depending on the location of the Archbishop Elector of the time.  

Today's Hotel Keller in Beurig on the Saar
In a year when the harvest was very bad, the peasant farmer paid his dues in the form of Frondienst; that is, as enforced service to a Fronherr or lord in lieu of produce.  Probably in this region, the "lord" was a high official of the church or the manager designated by the abbot of a monastery.  

From Beurig, our tour went on to the Catholic Church in Irsch.  The newly refurbished church retains an altar from the 19th century to one side, but the main altar is modern. Several statues from my ancestors' time also remain in various locations in the church.  

Historic Side Altar

Choir view of newly remodeled church
Back on our tour, Herr Meyer pointed out a raised plateau just outside the city limits call the Feuerstatt.  That innocent-looking field was the place where four people accused of witchcraft and found guilty by the Catholic church inquisition, were burned in the 1630s.  One of the women was a midwife.  She would also have used herbs and potions to try to heal disease, making her a prime target for stories of sorcery and probably blamed for the illness or death of a fellow villager.  None of those burned were from Irsch; three were from the small wine village of Filzen and midwife Barbelen came from Kommlingen.  

We peered at the buildings in the oldest part of the village, known as An der Wey, with narrow streets that resemble alleyways.  Here and there, parts of out-buildings made of lime, stones, dab and wattle, have stood the ravages of time and are now combined as part of later reconstructions.  It is a blending of old and new that testifies to the age of the village, which shows up in records as early as 957. 

We also drove through the district of Irsch which at one time was a separate section known as Biest.  It was larger than Irsch until the fire of 1842 in which the area was almost totally destroyed and was rebuilt as a part of Irsch.  

As with all tours, an end comes.  But I was luckier than most tourists.  I was to have "a coffee" with my tour guide.  I was invited to the Meyer home where Helena Meyer waited to welcome me.  

Coffee and Kuchen with the Meyers
Above is a fruit torte (grapes, mandarine oranges, and raspberries), baked and served by Helena Meyer after our afternoon tour of Beurig and Irsch.  It was as good as it looks.  

If I could, I would appoint Herr Ewald Meyer as the official historian and tour guide for the villages of Irsch and Beurig and Frau Helena Meyer as a five-star baker of Kreis Saarburg.  

Conversation with Ewald Meyer and information from his books, Irsch/Saar: Geschichte eines Dorfes, and Beuriger Lese - und Bilderbuch, co-authored by Bernd Gehlen

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Prussian Officials - Small town

As I told you, in the next few weeks I will give you snippets of information that come my way as I do my "authoring."

I found this very interesting.  Prussian city and village officials of the mid 1800s wore uniforms, especially for significant events.  Therefore, the Mayor Herr Bodem of Beurig/Irsch would have appeared at official functions in a blue uniform, short jacket with epauletttes and a tricorne hat I associate with the French Napoleonic times.  The two hats were similar - except that the Prussian eagle, which irreverent men of Kreis Saarburg called the "Cuckoo," was the symbol that often decorated the Prussian tricorne.

Picture taken at Trier's Simeonstift Museum

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

From Blogging Time to Novel Time

Social history on my bookshelves

The day to get back to the novel has come!  I've been writing background material since 2005, over five years!  I've used some of the books on the shelf in this picture as well as many other titles to put as much social history into my blog as possible.

This blog was always meant to form the historical underpinnings for my novel.  With a great deal of that work done, I've decided to get back to my novel writing - at least for a month or two.

However, the blog is not completely on hold.  As I write, I anticipate that there will be times when I need to scan through my books and paper files for additional information.  If that happens, as I know it will, I will share those nuggets of history and custom with you.  Check in now and then to see.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Women's crowning glory - hide it or decorate it?

Toiling girls wearing scarves or caps with  a virtue arrow clearly seen

When was the last time you wore a hat - one that was part of your indoor dress - to a social function, to church or to any event? We women who live in the northern climates wear hats or tams or caps or perhaps earmuffs to keep our heads and ears warm on the cold days of winter, and we may wear a straw hat at the beach in summer or when we are working outside on a hot and sunny day.  Such was not the case for our ancestors in the 19th century Rhineland.   A head covering and/or ornaments for a woman's hair was a part of daily living.  While weather related conditions might have caused a need for the cap or bonnet, it also identified a woman's place--married or single, upper or lower class, and even what area she came from.

Women's Headware

The largest number of head coverings were worn by women, especially because of the Catholic church's interpretation of St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians about women covering their heads to show respect. While the upper classes were not so earnest about the tradition of head covering, especially when not attending church, women who lived in small villages were very diligent about it and almost always wore head coverings of some kind until almost the end of the 19th century - even though the hoods and bonnets of that day were actually a derivative of pagan head coverings worn in ancient times.

The women from the small villages of the Saar, Hunsrück and Eifel wore a simple bonnet usually made of blue colored calico with velvet-like fastening. It was drawn back in folds and covered almost the entire head. Only a bit of hair was revealed - hair combed flat at the forehead and occasionally a little hair showing at the back of the neck.

Younger women were allowed to go without much headcovering but older women without covered hair, especially in the early centuries, were looked at as witches and this carried over into the 1800s in rural areas. So women who deliberately went without a hat may have been making a statement about their disregard for convention.  While an uncovered head was allowed for the young woman, uncovered hair gave an older woman almost a witch-like aura.

To defend themselves against being considered shameless, some married women, especially in the middle and upper classes, came up with ways that some hair could be shown. The hair was braided or bound together at the back, held in place with a wide pointed decorative hair pin and a net covering.  A wide band of material, which covered most of the top of the head, was then tied under the chin in imitation of the usual cap of the married woman.

Until the end of the 19th century, a form of the extra-wide hair pin with its ornamentation was also used by unmarried women to hold their artfully twisted braids in the shape of a bun. One that was seen in many parts of the Rhineland was the Tugendpfeil, a "virtue arrow." The virtue arrow was worn by young, unmarried women or sometimes by a spinster.  This custom declined gradually during the1800s and had ended by the end of the 19th century. When a maiden married, the virtue arrow was no longer worn but rather replaced by the full bonnet.

The picture here is a detail from a painting by August Gustav Lasinsky in 1847.  (The full painting shows a group of pilgrims on their way to view the Holy Robe in Trier, which is still reverenced as the robe Christ wore at his crucifixion). The woman in the foreground wears the "Virtue arrow."

In a Small Rural Village

A typical village woman from the Saarburg area probably would own the following head coverings:  A simple cap without adornment, a decorated bonnet, a woven hat of straw or other material, and a scarf.

The scarf was folded so that it had three corners.  The tip would fall over the woman's back and the other two corners would be tied at the neck.  In the Saargau, women wore a black knitted or crocheted scarf with a tip that had the look of a tail handing down the back.  It was appropriately called the Schwanztuch (tail cloth).  In the Eifel the scarf was worn over a simple white cap.  A Stecknadel or sticking pin kept the scarf from slipping from the cap.  A young unmarried woman who wore just a hair net or hair pin to hold her braids in a roll, tied the scarf directly to her head (note painting above).  And many young women preferred wearing a figured red cloth bandana or handkerchief.  Headscarves were made of wool, cotton or linen.   A white scarf was used for fieldwork.  It was tied in such a way that it shadowed and protected the face from the sun.

In the Hunsruck, the cotton woman's cap was very popular.  The simple cap, usually of cotton or calico, was colorful, usually blue.  It was fastened under the chin.  A bell-shaped bonnet, often trimmed with shirring or with lace was worn on Sundays and holidays.  There might be modest decoration, but the use of artificial flowers, beads and silk ribbons was rarely seen.  Unlike the everyday cap, bonnets were not so tightly fitted around the head.

In the City

The women of the larger towns, the Bürgerin, had rather simple hairstyles, but clever maids who had a flair for fashioning hair into a fresh variations were in demand in the early part of the century.  One of the hairstyles worn by the middle class during this period was complex twisting of the hair which was wound low on the neck and held in place with a decorative comb or two.  There might also be puffs of hair styled over the ears, and the hair might be mixed with flowers, pearls or even feathers for ladies of the upper classes.  Some women also wore curls on the forehead in the English fashion.

The comb to hold the hair in place was worn by all classes of women but it hardly ever showed in the hair of the women from the small villages because they covered the comb with their bonnets.  The middle and especially the upper class women who did not always wear their hair covering, might wind their hair around at the back of the neck and hold it in place with a comb at the top.  Young women of this class would curl their hair and push it back behind their ears.  Older women had to be a bit more circumspect, wearing combs to keep any curls under strict control.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the older women at the usually wore what was called a "German cap," a bonnet which had one or more rows of pleating at the very edge of the bonnet.  If the woman was from the upper or middle class, these pleats might be made of fine lace.  The bonnet sat well forward on the head, almost shading the forehead and was tied at the chin.   These were considered very old-fashioned by younger women.  French women looked down on the German cap, as this kind of head covering had completely gone out of fashion in France, which even then, set the styles.  Already, some women in the larger Rhineland cities were wearing the "Capote," a hat with a wide brim that shaded the face and could be trimmed with flowers and jeweled trims.

Katharina Maria Dausch geb. Klotz 1786-1842
oil painting by Ludwig Neureuter 1829
In the Simeonstift Museum, Trier

While the bonnets and caps of the German woman of the 1800s have long since gone to museums, there are days when these head coverings would have their advantages.  A Rhineland village woman would not know the frustration of a "bad hair day."

Source; Martha Heit, "Kleidung im Trierer Land des frühen 19. Jahrhunderts," 1997

Sunday, July 18, 2010

From Bishop's Crosier to Napoleonic Flag to Prussian Eagle

The Palace of the Archbishop/Elector of Trier

As we know, there was no Germany as such until the 20th Century. Instead there was a so-called German Empire made up of large to very small territories ruled by kings and dukes and both civil and religious princes, called "Electors." The governance of the villages of Irsch, Serrig, Zerf, and Oberzerf, for instance, was in the hands of an elector who was one of the princes of the church. In effect, the peasants who lived in the small villages and worked the land had an Archbishop as their ruler. The residence of the Archbishop went back and forth over the years between Koblenz and Trier, but in his book about Irsch, Ewald Meyer points out that the Trier was always the spiritual center for these villages. The monasteries or churches of the Trier Diocese were the intermediaries of the Archbishop and governed in much the same way as the civil authorities who served the civil electors of other Germanic kingdoms or territories.

The line between secular and spiritual was almost non-existant for most of our Rhineland ancestors until 1792 when Napoleon conquered the territory and enlarged the country of France to include Trier and Saarburg along with all the villages along the Saar and the Mosel Rivers and all the land in between. France had the Rhine River as its new border and a multitude of new subjects who spoke only German. While the idea of "Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood," the slogan of the French revolution was something that many of the new French/German subjects admired, they missed their old spiritual home as Napoleon began to secularize life in this new part of France.

It was a shock to his German-speaking subjects to learn that Napoleon had developed his own calendar. Sunday was abolished and its replacement, Dekadentag, was introduced; now every tenth day was a day of rest. In place of the Christian holidays there were secular celebrations. Processions, such as the those of Corpus Christi and Good Friday were prohibited. This situation continued until the Pope and Napoleon reached an agreement or Concordat in 1801.  Faith and religion were again recognized.

However, there were still significant changes.  Irsch, for instance, became a "secular parish:" that is, it no longer was under the power of a prince/archbishop. The parish pastor was appointed with the approval of the Civil Prefect and the Bishop had to take an oath to the Constitution.  Among the new civil authorities there was hostility to the Church and its former powers.  Thus there were newly established Civil Registry offices. Civil marriage was introduced and required.  The clergy had to take the oath to the French Republic, and the pastors were instructed that the recording of births, marriages, and deaths, that had formerly been only the responsibility of the church, was now secondary to the creation of civil records.

In 1802 the monasteries and abbeys were dissolved, that is, their lands now belonged to France, not to the Catholic Church. Clerical dress was forbidden. For a time the "secular pastors" were expected to live on the offerings of the faithful, including small tithes or by means of citizen offerings of lambs, piglets, hay, flax or other core necessities. But by 1804, the Irsch pastor received 500 francs in state salary per year.

Irsch and Zerf now each had a Maire and a deputy who were assigned civic duties at the local level.  Johann Baptist Britten of Irsch was appointed the first mayor of that village.  In Zerf, a Herr Schneider was the first mayor.  Though liberty, equality and fraternity were the ideals of the time, the governance under this ideal was far from free of charge. Rather, the taxes increased, and the burden became unbearable for the rural poor. The position of Maire was not a popular one, since his office was in charge of tax collection, sometimes enforced with penalties or even violence.  Under these circumstances, anger grew as some of the wealthy used their power to buy monastic estate. They, rather than the Church, became the new "landlords.". While the big landowners could afford to have large windows in their buildings, cottages with their tiny windows provided sparse light for the impoverished villagers.

With the arrival of the allied armies in the Rhineland in 1814 and the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, Napoleon's downfall was sealed.  The Maire now called himself the Bürgermeister, and the Municipal Council was now the Community Council. The first Paris Peace Treaty signed on May 30, 1814 returned France's border to its January 1, 1792 state.

For two years, part of the territory which France lost was divided between two powers. To the left of the Mosel River the Prussian Empire handled administration while the section of territory to the right of the Mosel fell under the control of the Österreichisch-Bayrischen (Austrian-Bavarian) coalition. This included the villages of Irsch, Serrig, and Zerf. It was not long, however, before the Prussian Empire claimed everything Napoleon had lost. According to Ewald Meyer's history of the village of Irsch, the Prussian Eagle was stamped on everything. There Prussian who originated in the north of Germany considered themselves "true Prussians.  They looked down on these newly-conquered Prussian citizens who were sometimes referred to by their northern Prussia countrymen as "painted French."

The northern Prussians' contempt for its new "painted French" citizens was returned in kind by the residents of Kreis Saarburg. They called the Prussian Adler (eagle), symbol of the Prussian Empire, "the cuckoo."

Even today the Prussian Adler is considered a symbol of seizure or sequestration.

When I began my family history efforts many years ago, my Aunt Helen told me her grandfather, my great grandfather, who was born in Irsch, had been proud that he was Preußisch.   Things change!

I, of course, didn't speak German then or know anything about German history.  It took me awhile to realize that Prussian and Preußisch were one and the same.

Ewald Meyer, Irsch/Saar: Geschichte eines Dorfes.
Edward Christofel, Der Hochwaldort am Fuße des Hunsrücks.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Two Churches Watched by the Eye of God


Main Altar in Oberzerf Church

Today Zerf and Oberzerf are considered one municipality, even though they are more than a mile apart.  But in the 1800s, Zerf and Oberzerf were distinct villages in Kreis Saarburg, each with its own Roman Catholic church, even though only one priest served both.

The main church was in the larger village of Zerf - as was the cemetery for both churches.  I can only guess about the celebration of the daily and Sunday Masses for these two churches.  My theory is that a daily Mass and Masses for special celebratory occasions such as Easter, Pentecost, Christmas Midnight Mass and the conferring of the Sacrament of Confirmation (requiring a Bishop) were all held in the larger Zerf church.  The Chapel Church in Oberzerf may have had a Sunday mass each week, as well as wedding and funeral Masses for the residents of the village.

A Visit to the Chapel Church of Oberzerf 

It was unusual that tiny Oberzerf had a place of worship all its own.  My Oberzerf ancestors lived in one of the smallest of the Saarburg Kreis villages. They were fortunate to have a spiritual home so close to them - the place where even the poor, landless day worker or pig herder of Oberzerf could experience beauty, both sacred and temporal.

Magdalena Rauls, my 2nd great-grandmother, her parents, brothers, sisters and all of her relatives, neighbors and friends, lived in Oberzerf. The pastor of both the two churches lived in the parish house in Zerf.  It was there that the villagers walked when they wanted permission to marry and have the banns of matrimony read, and it was from there that the pastor had to be summoned when one of the family required what the Catholic Church today calls "The Sacrament of the Dying."  

The altar of the Oberzerf church which is pictured at the beginning of this post is thoroughly described in the Zerf history by Edgar Christoffel.  It was a wooden high altar which had been designed and built about 1730 or a few years later.   It was baroque in style with a large curved niche that held the tabernacle.  Each side column had it's own capital supporting a pinnacle altar piece which stands above them.  This apex has two columns, similar to the ones below, supporting a curved, carved top.  A sunburst with a symbol of the eye of God fills its center.  The wood was painted to resemble the marble this little parish could never have afforded. 

On the window side of the church there was a stand holding a 60 cm high figure of Saint Hubertus. It was a hand carved oak baroque figure also dating from around 1730, about the time the old church was built.   Hubertus is in the garb of a Bishop and holds a staff. His stole and garments are very finely worked. A hunting horn is in his left hand and a small animal figure with antlers in the form of a cross stands at his right. These things signified that he was the patron saint of hunters and foresters. Legend has it that Hubertus, a wealthy young noble, went off to hunt while most people in his town were at Good Friday services. He chased a stag which suddenly turned to face him. The animal had a cross between his antlers. Hubertus heard the voice of God telling him to quit his worldly ways or he would surely find himself in hell. Hubertus heeded the warning, becoming a saintly cleric and bishop, devoted to helping the poor.

The oldest statue in the Oberzerf church is thought to be that of St. Anthony of Padua, much venerated because he was the patron Saint of the poor.  Its style is that of southern French statues in about the 1600's.  The statue of St Anne with her daughter Mary, the mother of Christ, was also displayed and venerated.

An eight sided wood pulpit in the little church dated from 18th century.  The chapel church was renovated in 1831, and a work, written in 1939 which described cultural landmarks of the region, called the Oberzerf Chapel Church a pleasing place to visit.  Unfortunately, the church was extremely damaged in World War II and the church of today is from about 1960.

The Parish Church of Zerf

The main altar of the Catholic Church in Zerf from 1858?                                    

The dominant Catholic church of the Zerf parish, located in what was then sometimes called Niederzerf (lower Zerf), was dedicated to St. Laurentius.  References to a Catholic church located in Zerf were noted even before the 30 Year's War.  The Niederzerf  church was rebuilt or refurbished many times over the last several centuries.   It is believed that those previous churches stood in the same location as the current church; a rocky hill that overlooks the valley where the Grossbach stream separates from the Ruwertal river.

By the 19th century, the Zerf church and bell tower from the previous century were once again badly in need of renovation.  So in 1819-1820, construction of a new building was begun with a bell tower around 30 meters high.  On May 26, 1830 the new church with its impressive tower was dedicated again to St. Laurentius but this time St. Sebastian was also included as a protector of the parish.  The bishop who officiated at the consecration was Joseph von Hommer.

Almost 40 years later, in 1859, that tall bell tower experienced a fire and the top portion of the tower had to be rebuilt.

The altar in the picture above is somewhat similar to the one in the chapel church in Oberzerf.  It is baroque in style though much bigger in size.  As you can see in the photo, the top section of the altar also contained a symbolic representation of the eye of God.  The University of Marsburg identifies the altar as one constructed in 1723.  The description of the new altar from 1858 in Herr Christoffel's book as well as photos from the early years of the 20th century match the Marburg picture in almost every detail.  Whether from the 18th or the 19th century, the handworked statues of St. Laurentius and St. Sebastian stood to each side of the central part of the altar piece.

It seems (if I have not misinterpreted a very complicated sentence construction from Herr Christofell's history of Zerf) that in the 1850's, the altar dating from the early 18th century which was from the St. Laurentius Church in Saarburg was sold to St. Laurentius parish in Zerf for a cost of 50 Taler, and that high altar was installed in Zerf.  The 1858 altar was destroyed during WWII.

Several statues were described by Herr Christoffel, but I was unable to tell if they dated from the time my ancestors lived in Oberzerf.  One important object that was a part of the church in their time was a baptismal font from 1838.  It was made of sandstone and the pedestal portion shows an apple tree with a serpent wound around the trunk.  The bowl of the font had perpendicular deep grooves and in each groove was carved a bell-shaped flower.


Perhaps it will seem that I have spent an inordinate amount of time describing the churches of my ancestors, but I think of it as plugging holes.  I began this blog to organize my factual materials in order to find illusive facts when I was ready to write a detailed novel.  I decided to share my material with anyone who chose to look for a topic which was also of interest to them.  

I started my writing with the most general material.  As I begin my sixth year of this blog, I'm capturing smaller and smaller details of the villages; and the books about the churches in the three Kreis Saarburg villages of my ancestors are filled with meaningful descriptions - for me.  I do hope that these last three posts will give you an idea of the church structures that your own ancestors knew.  With that in mind, let me refer you to an excellent source of pictures from the University of Marburg photo archive, with its 1.7 million pictures.   It was the source of the picture of the main altar in Zerf and is the first source listed below.   Perhaps you will find a picture of the church of your ancestors.

Sources:  Pictures
Nico Haas Thomassin, Trier
Theo Hasse, Zerf.

Sources: Text
Christoffel, Edgar.  Der Hochwaldort Zerf am Fuße des Hunrücks, Verlag W. Rassier, Saarburg, 1981

Saturday, May 08, 2010

The Catholic Church in Irsch from Manuscripts and Pictures

The Most Important Events Happen in God's House!

The small village church which my Meier, Hauser, Weber, Steffes, Schawel and Britten ancestors attended is still an active Catholic church today. The outside retains much of the appearance of the structure as it existed in the 1800s.

From the written sources available to me as well as the pictures below, I can ignore the modernized interior of the current Catholic Church in Irsch and visualize the heart of the older church as it was from 1806 until the Sunday that my great-great grandparents and their neighbors attended Sunday Mass there for the last time.

This was the structure that played such a large role in villagers' lives, a place that, even today, is filled with the spirit of all the religious ceremonies which have taken place inside the walls - baptisms, marriages, confirmations, feast days, and funerals.  From pictures of and writings about the history of the 19th century church structure, and all the items it held, I am able to accompany my great-great grandmother Magdalena as she walks toward the altar with Johann Meier, her husband-to-be, on their wedding day.  Or I can stand with my great-great grandfather as he views the coffin of his father and listens to the priest saying the prayers of the Requiem mass which beg God for the safe admittance of the soul of Michael Meier into eternal rest.

Some early photos and what books and manuscripts tell us about them.

According to a church history written by Father Markus Laser, Irsch pastor from 1969 to 1990, a major rebuilding of the original church took place in 1806, when the Emperor Napoleon ruled the people of the Saarburg District as their Emperor.  Irsch and its neighboring villages were was longer a part of a conquered territory but rather they were situated within the new borders of France, and the French laws were also the laws of Irsch

So it is that in the archives of the church, an unusual document from that time was discovered. It acknowledged that the church was built while Irsch and the rest of Kreis Saarburg were ruled by the Emperor Napoleon.  It then proclaimed that the people of Irsch would be honored and elated if Napoleon would deign to come to dedicate the new church. (Napoleon did not acede to the request).  The document also invited the French Prefect of Trier to the parish Kermis celebration.

A second document, found in the old bell tower, listed the names of the 1806 pastor, Henry Schneider; the Mayor, J. B. Britten; the eleven village council leaders; and the builder, Matthias Funck of Saarburg, all most loyal subjects of the Empire of France.

A picture of the expanded 1806 church shows the bell tower built in 1052.  The lean-to-style roof dates from the time of the first church expansion about 1450.  From the cemetery at the side of the church, it was possible to see, through the trees, the house where the teacher/sexton Herr Romey lived and gave lessons.  The church was rebuilt in a time of poverty and was only 75 feet long and 29 feet wide. It stood on a small hill, the 20 sandstone steps of a staircase leading up to it.  The shape of the church remained basically the same until 1913 when it was renovated and made larger.

The interior of the 1806 church was in the style of a long hall with an inner ceiling which was flat except for rounding at the edges. The chancel area had two windows, one on each side of the sanctuary, and three Romanesque style windows which provided light for each side of the nave where the congregation gathered.

The main altar, small in size, was adorned with tall silver candlesticks and a carved wooden crucifix dating from the mid-1800s.  The main altar displayed the statues of Sts. Gervasius and Protasius, the two saints to whom the church was dedicated.  

While the Church takes its name from Sts. Gervasius and Protasius, the inclusion of two additional patrons for the Irsch church, Saints Sebastian and Lucia, took place about the 1700s according to Fr. Laser's history.  It was a time of poverty, fire danger, and fear of the plague.

Saint Sebastian was condemned to death and shot with a multitude of arrows.  However a Christian widow, attempting to take away his body for burial, discovered he was still alive.  He quickly recovered and went on making converts to Christianity.  The emperor Diocletian ordered him killed a second time, and so he was clubbed to death.  He is the patron saint believed to protect people from the plague. A copper vessel within the Irsch church held the relics of Saint Sebastian according to a church document from 1808.  In addition, a fraternal flag of St. Sebastian was displayed inside the church; and the Brotherhood of St. Sebastian met four times a year, with its members coming from neighboring parishes to celebrate and to pray together in Irsch.

St. Lucia, an early Christian, was condemned to death for taking money without permission from her pagan fiance and giving it to the poor.  This was discovered, and Lucia was sentenced to be burned to death, but the young woman was untouched by the flames.  When it was clear that fire could not harm her, her throat was cut.  Thus she became the patron saint of firefighters and of the poor.  

Here is an undated picture of church interior, probably taken after the 1913 renovation.  The cross described below, which had hung above the main altar in the oldest of the Irsch churches was moved to the right wall next to the pulpit.

A major addition to the 1913 church was the tall bell tower at the front of the church.  A typical Saar house/barn stands next door to the church in the second picture.  The area to the left side of the church today is a parking lot.  But in this photo, it seems to be a garden area, probably belonging to the pastor of the church.  The pastor's residence stands unseen, just out of view at the left of the picture.  The church cemetery too is is out of view at the right rear of the church.  But it is clearly visible in the picture of the 1806 building above.

Two Treasures of the Irsch Parish Church.

About 1750, the church acquired a beautiful baroque gold-plated monstrance.  Foot, shaft, and a decorative knot support the oblong- shaped monstrance with its canopied top decoration of God the Father and the Holy Spirit Dove.  The windowed compartment which holds and displays the Eucharistic bread is surrounded with well polished quarz stones in the colors of emerald, carnelian and aquamarine and then by a flat oak-leaf wreath of silver.  This was especially fitting since so many of the Irsch villagers made their living by stripping the outer bark from oak trees and selling it to tanneries along the Saar.  Thus the heavenly Bread of Life is surrounded by the leaves of the tree which brings earthly food to the table.

The altar cross, which had hung over the small baroque high altar in 1739, was moved to the side of the pulpit after the 1806 construction.  The body of the crucified Christ was made of beech wood, 98 cm high.  Christ's head does not have the usual crown of thorns; instead a lock of hair falls forward, almost touching his shoulder.  His legs do not rest on the usual support but are nailed directly to the cross.  The body's anatomy is finely carved.  The face of Christ, with a short beard, has half-closed eyes and beautifully represents His submission to the will of the father.

In the 1800s, Pastor Peter Kremer baptized my great-great grandfather, Pastor B. Pfeiffer married him to my great-great grandmother, and Pastor Peter Schmitt baptized their children and said the last Mass the 1861 emigrants attended in their familiar church before leaving for Le Havre and the long trip to America.  I often imagine the special blessing he gave them, inside this church which held so much of their history.

Meyer, Ewald, Irsch/Saar: Geschichte eines Dorfes, Gemeinde Irsch, 2002
Die Pfarrkirche in Irsch/Saar, a manuscript by Pastor P. Markus Laser, from 1979.  Website version:
Photographs from

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Village Church of Serrig at Kirten

The 12th century tower of the Catholic Church in Kirten

The book, "Serrig: Landschaft, Geschichte und Geschichten", says that while the population of Serrig grew in the 18th and 19th centuries, residents still traveled to the Kirten church, even though it was some distance away, and Kirten itself had only three mills and four nearby houses.

The visitation protocol of about 1810 (this was probably akin to a diocesan report on a Catholic Church in its jurisdiction) reports that Kirten's place of worship was too small by half for the number of people who attended services, most of whom, approximately 80 families and 560 communicants, came from Serrig to services.

The Kirten church had no organ and the mass was sung in Latin but regularly mixed with German songs. Every Sunday there was catechism instruction.

The cemetery was large enough for the needs of the parish. The church had two bells. The first bell was installed in 1753 (when the vestry and nave of the church were added to the first floor choir (which dated from the mid 1500s). Josef Mabillon from Saarburg was given the assignment of making the other bell tower larger in 1839 (to accomodate the new bell).

The rectory was in good condition with five rooms of which two had heat. There was a stable and stall and also a garden behind the house.

By 1853 the Kirten church was still in bad repair, although the protocol from 1853 noted that the altar was now very tasteful and modern. As if the author of the protocol was afraid to give too much praise, it was noted that t
he high altar of the church was overflowing with "bad" statues. Whether this refers to the condition of the statues or the quality of the craftsmanship is not clear.

Next: The Village Church of Irsch


Thursday, March 04, 2010

Reading at the Breakfast Table

Breakfast table in Saarburg

Usually when I write a post, I pick a topic and try to collect all the material I've accumulated on that subject. Not this time! Why? Because recently I found some unused information from notes I took several years ago when I was exploring and gathering data from my Rhineland ancestors' original homeland.

Herr Ewald Meyer whom I often mention in my blog posts had loaned me some books from his own library; titles he thought would be helpful in my quest for local knowledge. The only drawback was that they were in German and reading them was very time consuming. So each morning, after I finished my breakfast, I would sit at the table in the pretty kitchen of my rental apartment, sip my remaining coffee, read/look up unknown words/take notes on things that interested me.

Of course, I no longer have these books. Herr Meyer wanted them back when I went home to Wisconsin and there was no way I could finish reading them. But they did have information that examined rural life in the Eifel, an area very similar to my ancestors' Kreis Saarburg villages. And even though the notes were pretty miscellaneous, I figured I could add them to the rest of my data at some later time.

Those notes turned up recently - at the bottom of a box that now holds a defunct Quick Pad Pro. Even such sparse facts deserve to be preserved in this blog. But either 1) they belong in a blog post I've already written, and current readers are unlikely to find them there or 2) they belong in a blog post that I have yet to write and probably never will. To my mind, two or three sentences on a subject do not a blog post make!

Rather than lose track of these hard-earned notes again, I'm posting them just as I took them. The blank box at the very top of the Blogger page allows both you and me to "word search" all the "mischmasch" I'm going to post as well as any other topic.

Notes from "Thin Leg with Crooked Horn; The History of the Eifel Cow, or the Long Road to the Butterhill"

Eifel cows were a reddish color. They had a small head, thin neck and fine short legs along with a high swinging tail. They were healthy, liebhaft, light on feet, fairly resistant to disease and didn't require much maintenance.

The stall for the cattle was usually a place with hardly any light, small windows, damp walls, and a strong odor of manure. Sometimes the same barn or stable area held the pig stall, and chickens. The floor was made out of limestone or sandstone plaster. Some straw was placed under each cow but that didn't prevent them from lying in their own waste at times because there was no place for urine to go. Barns were cold in in the Eifel. The manure was kept in the stall in winter to produce a little heat. As the manure was covered again and again with straw, a cow got closer and closer to ceiling. The outer door was not opened very much to keep heat in when it was cold. Another door to the barn led right into the hall in the Wohnhaus (house and barn were together) and the farmer could go into the barn from that hall without losing too much heat.

The feed for the cows (and also for people) was rye and oats as both grew very well in the Eifel. Then they began to plant potatoes as well. Potatoes had been planted at the edge of the Eifel since the 18th Century. But it was only known as animal food. Then, at the end of the 18th century, terrible poverty forced people to eat more of what the cows ate. The people found potatoes were good nourishment and could be made into many tasty dishes. And one could plant potatoes year after year without exhausting the earth.

Cows were an important part of farmer’s livestock but they were expensive to buy and to feed if they were to be productive. The land wasn’t always good for cow pasture so sheep were also important farm livestock. Sheep could eat just about anything and eat well.

The year 1816 was terrible. In the Eifel snow stayed until June and then fell again in November. The potates froze in the ground and lay under the snow. People again had to eat like the cattle - minus the potatoes. They gathered a type of walnut from trees that grew in the region and grind it for flour to bake bread. In spring, there were no potatoes to be used for the following year's planting so the next year was difficult too.

In Kreis Witlich and Prum, the oldest son got the majority of the land and the other sons were paid off with a very small sum. They had to stay unmarried and do things around the farm just to have bread and butter.

But in most of the Eifel and the Rhineland, everything was divided up among all the heirs of the family. The measure at this time was the “morgen ha” method, and it seems that using the "morgen ha," land could be divided into extremely small portions. Five Prussian morgen were equal to 1.27 ha or 12.700m2. A common soccer field is equal to 7.140m2. The average farmer didn’t have any more land than 1 ¾ of a football (soccer?) field for his whole family.

In the 19th century, there were good years when a farmer could produce enough to sell as well as to maintain his family. Unfortunately, usually that meant that all the other farmers were trying to do the same and so almost no money could be made. But they traded butter, eggs and cheese with tradesmen in the village for their wares.

Common cheese was cottage cheese. Butter milk or thinner milk was placed in crock or kettle and kept in a warm place. The fermentation process would start, and little clumps would form in it. To speed up this process you could warm it on the stove. It would take on a yellow color and be thick enough to cut with a knife. They would cut cheese into four parts and then they would put it into a sieve and cover it with a linen cloth. The thin milk came to the top and would be given to the calves to drink. About half an hour, salt, milk and carroway seeds were added and they let it finish. When it was ready one could have for several meals from it and eat it as bread covering. It also would be tasty with pickled beets and two pieces of bread. In the Eifel they made soft cheeses.


Notes from "Village Life in the Eifel."

In the Eifel the usual dress of the farmer was a blue linen smock, home sewn, used for the daily, often dirty jobs of his workday. It had a partially open front that tied at the neck. The "zipfel" or stocking cap, knit by the wife or Oma, was headwear.
The older farmhouses (1700s) were entered by the kitchen with all the rooms leading off of it. But by the 1800s, there was a hall or staircase that served as the first entrance. The sleeping rooms were above and simply furnished with an oak bed, straw mattress, home woven bed linen, a heavy featherbed, a cradle and a chest. The kitchen had a stone sink.
When a farmhouse was built, the custom was that the farmer drove in the first nail and for each blow needed, he had to provide one bottle of brandy. Before the carpenters began the work, the farmer must pound in the first nail. Once the roof beam was erected, the carpenters placed a decorated spruce tree on the top. The master carpenter then recited an old maxim or words of wisdom. Decorating the tree was from an old widespread belief that this was a magic defense. It should keep away lightening and hardship from the house and its inhabitants.
Quite a few sheep were kept as livestock by small farmers. Before the sheering, a farmer would dunk each sheep in a water pond. This was a way to clean the fleece so that when sheered the wool was clean. After its bath, each sheep would run around in the field to dry before the sheering.

Blacksmith work was mostly shoeing horses, oxen and cows – because each of those animals could pull a wagon or plow. The blacksmith also repaired the metal parts of wagons and wheelbarrows. He had many tools and often served as the veterinarian too, doing surgery with a little knife which he kept in his pocket.

Workday shoes in earlier days were handmade with pins and little nails. The Sunday shoes were made with better leather tops. This raw material came from the tannery; in villages without a shoemaker, sometimes traveling shoemakers stayed with customers in their house. Then on Sunday evenings all people in the village came together and the traveling Schuster would tell them the gossip from other villages along his path. Weeks before a holiday, the traders would come into the village and bring pots, pans, kettles, buckets and household articles because of the cleaning and cooking that would go on.

If you needed a table or a cabinet or a bench of wood, you might go to village carpenter who made these things. That was true especially of the big furniture pieces made of oak as well as doors on the cupboards and table tops.

My notes end here and so does this blog post.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Memorials of our Ancestors - a Correction and a Family History

The Tressel Cross Monument

A few weeks before Christmas, I received an e-mail from Ewald Meyer of Irsch, the author of Irsch/Saar; Geschichte eines Dorfes. He had read my November blog post in which I had written about a monument in Irsch which he had described in his history. Now he kindly made me aware of some new information about the motivation for the construction of the Tressel Cross or Tresselkreuz that had come to him. And I will share that information with you, hoping that some searcher will find a genealogical treasure by reading this post, not just a correction of a misinterpretation of a Latin inscription at the base of the monument.

The Correction to my post, "The Memorials of our Ancestors."

Prior histories had guessed that the Tressel Cross monument had been erected by the school teacher of Irsch, Christopher Tressel and his wife because they were, to their sorrow, childless. For that reason, it was believed that they dedicated the cross to the Virgin Mary of the Seven Sorrows and the patient suffering of her Son, Jesus.

So in my last post, I wrote:

A Married Couple's Disappointment

"...This monument was erected by the school teacher, Christoph Tressel and his wife, Maria Elizabeth. Legend has it that the couple was childless and that this was a great sorrow to them. Herr Tressel was the teacher, sexton, and founder of the church choir in Irsch. He was also the teacher in Beurig and Ockfen. Thus the monument came to be called the Schulkreuz or "School Cross." It also served as a place where people, in times of trouble, often came to pray to the sorrowful Christ and to the virgin mother of the seven sorrows."

Herr Ewald Meyer had used many historical sources to write his history of Irsch. One was a narrative written by the pastor of the Catholic Church in Irsch in 1979, "Beitrag zur Heimatkunde." It described the Tressel Cross and sought to explain why it was built. Pastor Markus Laser pondered the inscription on the base of the Cross (noting that sometimes it became almost illegible) "Crux erecta Jesui Patienti a Christophero Tressel et Maria Elisabetha (conjugibus) solis in Irsch = Stat oblatas septem doloribus onera (munera) de Mariae (Virginis) voto. 1781. The word "solis" led the priest to conclude that the childless Tressels built the monument as a testament to living patiently with suffering or disappointment.

As so many of us who try to reconstruct a history - whether of a village or a family - know, the most likely explanation does not always turn out to be the right one. After the Irsch history was published, new information about the Tressel family tree emerged. Herr Meyer says it was very accurately researched. There were many descendants of Christoph Tressel, school teacher of Irsch and his wife Anna Maria. The supposed "childless couple" was not childless.

Christoph Tressel, who would become the schoolmaster in Irsch, was the sixth and youngest child of Melchior Tressel (Melchior Tressel was christened 1696 in St. Gervase in Trier and died in Trier in 05.06.1766.) and Anna Katharina Reiter. The family lived on the Neugasse or "new alley" in Trier.

Christoph was born on October 13, 1731 and was baptized on the same day in St. Gervaise Church in Trier. He studied at the former University of Trier in 1750 and passed his examination as a "bachelor of liberal arts". On May 5, 1757 he married a childless widow, Anna Maria Blasius, born Berling, in Pellingen. Her father was John Berling, a teacher and farmer in Pellingen.

The marriage of Christoph and Anna Maria Tressel was very fruitful according to the parish records of Irsch and Beurich. They had five children and Herr Tressel became the school teacher in Irsch where he and his family lived for approximately 50 years.

The Descendants of Christoph Tressel and his wife, Anna Maria (note the male in each generation printed in bold type)

The children of Christoph Tressel and his wife, Anna Maria
*08/05/1756 in Pellingen, +11/10/1810 in Irsch, oo before 1790 to Margarethe Wagner, 1758 in Irsch, +March 21, 1818 in Irsch
2. Tressel, Matthias, farmer, Synod member, surveyor, * 22/08/1759 in Pellingen, + 05/02/1826 in Beurig, oo about 1791 in Beurig to Anna Elisabeth Reinert, * 1760 in Beurig, + 05/02/1836 in Pellingen
3. Tressel, Nikolaus, * 23/06/1761 in Pellingen, + 22.12.1838 in Irsch, oo I. 1782 to Magdalena Dawen,oo II. Margaretha Peters
4. Tressel, Bernhard, * 08.02.1763 in Pellingen, + as a little child
5. Tressel, Anton,* 1765 in Pellingen, + 21.09.1835, (he built the house that served as a school in Irsch, p. 145 of the Irsch History by Ewald Meyer), oo ca. 1817 Maria Britten.
The Children of Matthias Tressel und Anna Elisaberth Reinert:
1. Tressel, Michael, Farmer, Wine maker, Tailor, Teacher in Baldringen, *1793 in Beurig, + 09.04.1851 in Beurig
oo 17.02.1819 Anna Oberkirch from Beurig
2. Tressel, Johanna, * 1795/96, + in Beurig, oo 1817 Franz Schu
3. Tressel, Johann, *17.06.1797 in Beurig, immigrated with three of his sons to Illinois, USA, + 30.09.1871 in Galena, Illinois St. Mary Church, oo 08.06.1822 Anna Maria Morgen
4. Tressel, Anton, * in Beurig, + in Zewen, married at Brotdorf
The children of Michael Tressel und Anna Oberkirch (Nr.1):
1. Tressel, Susanna, * 1819 in Beurig, + 1889 in Irsch
2. Tressel, Michael, * 1823 in Beurig, farmer and linen weaver, + 1893 in Beurig
3. Tressel, Nikolaus, * 25.08.1825 in Beurig, farmer and winemaker, + 17,03.1891 in Beurig
4. Tressel, Johann, * 18.10.1827 in Beurig, spindle weaver, farmer, winemaker, + 24.07.1881 in Beurig,
oo 24.02.1862 in Beurig Margaretha Wallrich
5. Tressel, Peter, * 1830 in Beurig, + in the Ruhr in1857
6. Tressel, Anni, * 1833 in Beurig, + in the Ruhr in 1857
7. Tressel, Johann Peter, * 1836 in Beurig, Ackerer, wine maker, linen weaver,+ 1909 in Beurig, oo 1873 Katharina Baumann from Beurig (*1846, +1921)
Die Kinder von Johann Peter Tressel und Katharina Baumann ( Nr. 7):
1. Maria Margaretha, * 1873, + 1965, 1908 to 1916 housekeeper in the parish house in Haag for her brother, Matthias, oo 1918 Peter Palm of Irsch, Adopted child Katharina
2. Johann Josef, *1875, + 1877
3. Matthias Josef, *1878 + 1945, Since 1909 the priest and poet used the name, Ernst Thrasolt.
4. Maria Gertrud (1880 – 1966) stayed in her parents' home
5. Nikolaus Josef (1882 – 1915) was the farmer in his parents' home, killed in Russia in WWI.
6. Maria Susanna (1884 from1975) was a teacher, married 1919 to Josef Feiten (1888 – 1957), who later became the governmental school inspector.
7. Johannes (1889 – 1915), Doctorate in philosophy earned on June 5,1915. On September 27, 1915 he was killed in France during WWI.
Legends often have a grain of truth in them. Perhaps the word "solis" did not refer to sorrow of a second marriage of the the childless widow Anna Maria who married Christoph Tressel but rather to her first marriage. Ewald Meyer ventured a guess that the Tresselkruez was merely an indication of the prestige of the village school teacher, who was able to associate with the highest classes of the village and of the Kreis. The reason the Tressel Cross was erected can only be guessed at, but there is indisputable evidence that the monument had nothing to do with sorrow over childlessness.

There is no doubt, however, that the schoolmaster and founder of the church choir of Irsch was the great great grandfather of the priest/poet Ernst Thrasolt, whose writings in the old Irsch dialect had been translated by Ewald Meyer, who, at the time, did not know of Thrasolt's connection to the beloved Irsch schoolmaster and choir founder of the 18th century.