By Leslie Hall
Fall 2011 Germanna Newsletter
For any genealogist there can be nothing more exciting than actually seeing where one’s ancestors lived, to walk in their footsteps, and to imagine what their life must have been like. For me, the trip to Germany with my fellow Germanna travelers was all about that but so much more.’
I am a descendant of at least fifteen Second Colony families and was able to visit many villages of interest to me.
In Lambsheim in the Palatinate, home to my sixth great grandparents, Leonard and Anna Maria Bender Christler, I was able to walk the streets of the quaint double-walled village complete with a moat.
I got to see the Lambsheim landmark, a quaint conical white tower with a charcoal slate roof that had originally been part of the town’s medieval defenses.
I saw Schmied Lane where my seventh great-grandfather, Johannes Bender, may have operated his blacksmith business before he left in 1719 to come to Pennsylvania.
I saw the Rathaus (or City Hall) on Hauptstrasse where Johannes Bender and his sons-in-law, Christian Merkel and Leonard Christler, sold their property in 1719 in preparation for their trip across the ocean. These three families landed in the port of Philadelphia and settled in Pennsylvania.
Leonard Christler’s son, Theobald, would become a member of the Second Colony when he moved to Virginia in the 1730’s. Once settled in the Robinson River Valley, he and his wife, Rosina Garr would raise a family of twelve children.
Rosina Garr, the eldest daughter of Andreas and Eva Seidelman Garr, was also a Second Colony late-comer to Virginia. The Garrs (or Gaars) had also settled originally in Pennsylvania and then moved to Orange County, Virginia in the 1730’s.
On a beautiful Sunday morning in Waldbach our Germanna group attended services at the church where my Wayland/Wieland ancestors had worshipped before they immigrated to Virginia.
There we were greeted by Pastor Petra Schautt at St. Kilian’s Church. I was thrilled to meet another Wieland, possibly a long-lost cousin.
Later that afternoon, we visited the Evangelical church at Willsbach, another church associated with the Wayland family.
Pastor Helmut Krause, his wife and daughter greeted us and graciously served us refreshments. After showing us the church, Pastor Krause proudly pulled out some of the early church records.
To my amazement he showed us the record of the marriage of Thomas Wieland and Maria Barbara Seppach who were married in Willsbach in 1711.
Thank goodness, Pastor Krause was fluent in English but could also read the old German script. He provided a copy of the marriage record as well as baptismal records for two of the Wieland children, Hans Jacob and Anna Catharina Clara Wieland. What a treasure!
In Ötisheim, home of the Broyles family, we toured the church and were treated to a magnificent organ recital.
In Oberoewisheim we viewed the church where some of my Blankenbaker, Schone, Fleishman and Thomas ancestors worshipped when they lived in Neuenberg.
When we arrived in Neuenberg we were greeted in the town square by members of the Heimatverein (local heritage society). To our surprise and delight, they provided us with a taxi (actually a tractor drawing a Kemper trailer piled high with hay bale seating).
Aboard our taxi, we took a scenic ride through the grape-vine covered hillsides for a fantastic view of their lovely village. Once aboard, they served us wine in wine glasses, and then slowed the wagon long enough for us to harvest fresh cherries dangling from the trees over the lane.
In Illenschwang we peeked into the church where the Garrs worshipped before they left for Pennsylvania. At nearby Sülzfeld, home of the Zimmermans, we visited the Ravensburg Castle, and were treated to a fantastic scenic view of the surrounding vineyard strewn countryside.
When I look back on this trip I cannot help but be amazed at the wonderful opportunity provided by the Germanna Foundation’s customized trip. It was wonderful to visit the ancestral villages of so many of my 18th century German ancestors.
I would encourage anyone researching their Germanna origins to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity. You will travel the roads your ancestors traveled, you will get an idea of what their lives were like in their small rural villages, and you will meet the friendly German people, maybe even some cousins.
It is so meaningful to do that and to learn how your ancestors experienced their environment. I don’t think you’ll regret your decision. It is unlike any other trip you will ever take.