Thursday, September 17, 2009

Searching for the Family

September 17, 2009
When my mom asked me to look for family genealogical information in Germany, I was less than enthused. How much fun could it be looking through old books and microfiche for names of people I had never meet? The first problem we had was when we pulled into Hesel , the town my father’s family had come from, and asked about our relatives; only to find out we were in the wrong town! It turns out there are two towns named Hesel not 30 minutes apart. I had heard all kinds of jokes about people from this region of Germany, Ostfiesland – and I was beginning to understand why no one wants to be from there. But when we arrived at our Hesel (notice how quickly I have claimed it), I was excited to see that the little town was beautiful. The solid brick buildings and houses were cared for and the yards were immaculate. On down the road in Reepsholt, where the ancestors were all married, baptized and buried; the story continued. We drove to Colnrade, a couple of hours south, to find the hometown of the relatives from the 1600s. It was also a beautiful, tiny city placed right in the middle of the corn fields; with friendly people, brick streets and sidewalks. I have to admit that I had expected houses in poor condition, if not ruins. Somehow I was feeling proud that my family had come from such prosperous places.
Now we were off to see my mother’s hometown of Lienen, two hours further south. Would I be ashamed of that side of the family? Oh, no. The old center of town was full of half-timbered buildings all renovated and converted into restaurants, shops and hotels. The Tourism Office suggested we contact Dr. Wilkens, a retired pastor and the town historian. He shared with us great stories of the village in early 1800s when our family had lived there. After a quick look at his own archives, he was able to pinpoint the exact house where our family had lived. We were happy to see that it is now enjoying a second life as an Italian restaurant.
The whole search into the past would have been great, if it hadn’t been for the little upstairs apartment we had rented in Lienen. Unfortunately, the eaves of the old house didn’t allow for high ceilings throughout. To leave the bedroom, we had to step down two steps to the bathroom and living room areas. Well, the ceiling had a large wooden beam right at the top of the first step and two out of three times Paul stepped out of the bedroom, he would crack his head on the corner of the beam. After four days, the top of his bald head looked like a tic-tac-toe board – and the Xs were winning! So much for medieval living.

1 comment:

Long Family Blog said...

I love reading all of your adventures! You need to write a book about all of this...kinda like the lady did in Eat, Pray, Love. Only yours would be MUCH better!