Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Did I say Reichenbach? I meant Güttmannsdorf in Kreis Reichenbach!

I have been searching for the birth record of my great grandfather Paul ZIMMER for years. The obvious first step was to try and find his birthplace. All my Zimmer family notes and information say that Paul was a Catholic from Reichenbach, and as I over-explained in my post "The Springfield Dilemma" that's not very helpful. There are many many Reichenbach's, but I thought I had finally narrowed it down to the one near Breslau in Silesia.

Well, I've spent the last couple of years looking for any and all Zimmer family records in the Reichenbach (now called Dzierżoniów just to further confuse everyone) films and I've found really not much. Nothing helpful, so nothing.  Wrong Reichenbach?  Not Reichenbach (Eulengebirge)?Where was he born? How can this be so difficult?! I mean, he was born. I wouldn't be here if he hadn't been born, and I'm definitely here.

So, a few days ago I went way way sideways. I've had an old photo of Paul Zimmer's parent's graves, and I finally made an executive decision that his mother's maiden name that you can barely read is PETAU.  The old gothic script and small image size doesn't help either. Thanks for that...
Graves of Pauline Zimmer geb Petau and Eduard Zimmer in Germany

One of the reasons I decided that her surname was PETAU was that there were people with the Petau surname in the general area. Some of my other guesses came up empty.
Research Tip: Search on the surname to see if there is even such a surname. Limiting your search to a region will give you more confidence if you find a likely suspect. 
So, I searched sideways for possible siblings for my 2nd great-grandmother Pauline Zimmer geb Petau born within ten years of her birth year of 1836. And, I actually came up with a couple of options for possible brothers: August Franz Carl Petau, born 1834 and Karl Wilhelm Johann Petau, born 1840. And what was fantastic was they both died in Berlin -- meaning their death records are online and clearly read that they were both born (geborene zu) in Güttmannsdorf in Kreis Reichenbach, Silesia, Prussia.  Hey Kreis Reichenbach, and that's actually the SAME Reichenbach I thought it was. It's just not the city of Reichenbach, rather a small village nearby in the county (Kreis) of Reichenbach. Oh, that's an interesting clue. I could be close and not close enough yet.
Snippet from the Berlin death of August Franz Carl Petau in 1884 with birthplace, wife, and parents listed 

For those of you who can't read this oh so obvious handwriting, it says at the bottom that he was the son of (sohn bes) Franz PETAU and his wife (ehefrau) Anna Maria, born (gebornen) WELZ of Güttmannsdorf.  Possible 3rd great grandparents of mine! That's brand new information that could be a huge break-through!
Research Tip: Go sideways, and try to find possible siblings for your dead-ends. You might find their records, which will open some doors for you. 
Now, I did NOT know for sure that these Petau's are related to me, but I started a tree for them and built out a nice family tree with their parents, wives, and children. Perhaps a huge waste of time, but it would actually be a timesaver if they are related after-all. I might just have found Pauline's parents and brothers, who knows!

You methodical genealogists might know the exact next step. My route was to do a bunch of Googling for Güttmannsdorf to see what that was all about.  Güttmannsdorf is also sometimes spelled Güttmannsdorf, Gueüttmannsdorf, and Guttmannsdorf to make matters interesting. After playing around for a few hours, I finally got around to searching for Güttmannsdorf records at and low and behold there are a few.  They have been digitized, and are available for free at any Family History Library.
Research Tip: If you run into a new family home town, the first thing you should check is to see if the Family History Library has any records for that area. 
Today I went to a nearby FHL and took a look at the records for Güttmannsdorf and what do you think I found?  Yes, I found the death record for Anna Maria Petau geb Welz, and guess who filled it out and signed it?  Yes, her daughter, Pauline Zimmer geb Petau of Girlachsdorf, Reichenbach.
1879 death of Anna Maria Petau geb Welz in Güttmannsdorf

So many cool things on this document!

  1. Proof that Paul Zimmer's maternal grandparents are indeed Franz PETAU and Anna Maria WELZ -- my 3rd great grandparents!  
  2. A new city to research: the birthplace of Anna Maria Welz is listed as Stoschendorf, which is now Stoszów in Poland. 
  3. Perhaps a 4th great grandparent as it seems to list Anna Maria's mother as Marie? Something to look into...
  4. And a beautiful signature of my 2nd great grandmother Pauline Zimmer geb Petau (the line over the 'm' means to double it, so it really is Zimmer, trust me).

So yes, new 3rd great grandparents and 3rd great uncles and wait a second... there's more... a clue to the possible elusive birthplace of my great grandfather.

5. Girlachsdorf! Girlachsdorf in Reichenbach! Pauline was living in nearby Girlachsdorf in 1879 when her mother died.  That's a huge clue.  Girlachsdorf could be where Paul Zimmer was born, right?  

Well, based on that great clue of Girlachsdorf, I found the Catholic records for his birth year of 1863 in that town and went through them. And guess what.  I did not find him!  What on earth is happening here?!

Well, time to go sideways yet again. I know that Paul had a few siblings, and I actually have not found birth records for any of them.  I haven't found any German documentation on any of them except for one single sister.  His sister Anna was married in Breslau, and for some inexplicable reason, that record was indexed and available.  I pulled up the original file, and looked at it again with fresh eyes.
Snippet from the 1883 marriage of Anna Zimmer and Robert Kirchner in Breslau

Right there in Anna Zimmer's 1883 marriage record, in the normal impossible to read German script, it says that she was born 30 May 1858 in Güttmannsdorf bei Reichenbach. Güttmannsdorf! You have got to be kidding me! She was the Catholic daughter of (tochter des) of the Gutshofbesitzer (Farm/Estate/Manor Owner) Eduard Zimmer residing in Girlachsdorf and his deceased wife Pauline Petau.  So, that all matches up perfectly. 

And Güttmannsdorf yet again.  Paul was born in 1863, just 5 years later. Likely in the same place, right?

The Final Clue (and I had it the whole time)

And finally to top it all off, I found this photo in my collection that I've had in my possession for at least ten years, maybe more.  It purportedly was of the old family farm back in the old country.
Note on back of photo of German farm land and village

Here's what the back of that photo says:
(House with the flat roof) Last home which was in the family for well over 100 years. Klein Getmansdorf, Township Reichenberg, Dist. Breslaugh, Province Silesia. 
And, jackpot! Boom!
Research Tip: There is a genealogical law that states the elusive clue to the thing you've been trying to figure out for years has been on an old piece of paper in your own attic the entire time. 
And what is so wonderful about it is that it's ALL spelled wrong. All of it. But it also exactly matches the real name I'd just found of Klein Güttmannsdorf, Landkries Reichenbach, Breslau, Schlesien.   We have a winner (and the name of the village has been changed to Dobrocin just to continue the complications).
Research Tip: Don't expect anything to be spelled correctly. It is most often spelled like it sounds, so the sounds that you say out loud are correct, but the spelling is not.  This is true for most surnames and towns.  It's annoying but true, so don't forget to say things out loud and try spelling variations. 
Maps are your Friend

Here's a map I just created with the three new cities in relation to each other and Reichenbach: Stoschendorf (Stoszów), Güttmannsdorf (Dobrocin), Girlachsdorf (Gilów), and of course Reichenbach (Dzierżoniów) in Eulengebirge (in the Owl Mountains)
Research Tip: Put all the towns you know about on a map and see if they are in the same place. See how close together they are. The closer the better. 

Map of the actual ZIMMER family hometowns in the Reichenbach area
The map shows a lot of farmland and little villages scattered throughout. Weird that they ended up in Iowa which is totally different. I mean completely the same. Well expect for the nearby mountains. How cool.

Hello Klein Güttmannsdorf, Landkreis Reichenbach!

And so finally, for your viewing enjoyment, here's a video tour of Güttmannsdorf aka Dobrocin while I go back to the Family History Library and continue my search. This time finally in the right place! With Girlachsdorf as a backup search location due to the fact that they somehow ended up there.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Are You Related To George Bodenheimer?

George Bodenheimer of ESPN
For the first 30 some odd years of my life I was one of few Bodenheimers I'd ever heard of.  Then for no reason whatsoever, someone named George Bodenheimer started to climb the corporate ladder, gaining news stories and fame in a spectacular fashion.  Good for him, and woe to me with all the questions, "are you related to the famous George Bodenheimer?" they'd ask., "you know, the lifetime Emmy Award-winning owner, chairman, president, CEO, and/or benevolent god king of ESPN, Disney, and ABC?"

Well, I didn't know!  I had no idea. With all that hyperbole it certainly would be nice to know. 

It turns out there are Bodenheimer families all over the place. Who knew. There are groupings in Waibstadt, Mannheim, Malsch, Worms, Israel, North Carolina, Louisiana, and more.

There are even other famous Bodenheimers: like Max Bodenheimer (of the Berwangen Bodenheimers) who appears on stamps in Israel.,  Jane Bodenheimer (of the Harthausen line) who married the actor Edward G. Robinson, and a bunch of Bodenheimer authors, professors, and banking geniuses -- some of who are even from my Waibstadt branch.

In any case, I have not been able to make all the connections, even after all these years of research. I have not been able to unite the clans!  :-)

With all likelihood, George is probably related to the Bodenheimers of North Carolina, and I'm not related to them. I've done a lot of work on their tree trying to find the connection, and I've traced them all the way back to Johann Christian Badenheimer of Maxsain, Miesbach, Germany.  Their name moved around a bit from Badenheimer to Bodenheimer, and then to Bodenhamer.  All the same family, but nope, not my family.

So flash forward to 20 May 2019 at 6:11pm when I get an email that simply asks yet again, "Are you related to George Bodenheimer?"

This time, I've had it.  I am now much better at this Cousin Detective thing after years of experiences, and I have a few hours left in the evening. I'm going to figure this out once and for all.  I'm done with this! :-)

There are two basic ways to figure this out.  Go to all the loose ends on my Bodenheimer tree and try to send lines down in hopes of hitting George.  Or, the other option is to do George Bodenheimer's tree for him, working up the Bodenheimer line in hopes that it hits me.  This is sort of like Mark Twain's old saying, "Why waste your money looking up your family tree? Just go into politics and your opponents will do it for you."   Well, George isn't in politics, yet... he's just famous enough that he doesn't have to waste his money!

So, I start pulling records and using all the tricks of the trade and I trace his Bodenheimer family to his 2nd great grandfather, David Bodenheimer, and it is a new branch to me.  They are all in New York, and they've been there ever since David came to New York in 1846. The New York Bodenheimers.  Great, another branch!

David and his wife, Hannah arrived with infant daughter Caroline on 19 Aug 1846 aboard the Louis Philippe. Yes, that's early in American history. The Civil War didn't start until 1861!

American Packet Ship " Louis Philippe" Havre, 1837, by Frèdèric Roux (French, 1805–1870)

The manifest is not super helpful as it lists everyone on the ship as "from: Germany" and "occupation: Farmer."

19 Aug 1846 ship manifest of the Louis Philippe arriving in New York

David and Hannah had six more children born in New York, including George's great grandfather, Julius Bodenheimer, born in 1854.

But the real question is WHERE did he come from?  That information tried to hide from me. It was a brickwall for a good hour or two.  The first clue came from David's 1854 naturalization papers:  he was from the Grand Duchy of Baden. Well, that's good.  My Bodenheimer ancestors were from Baden too, and wow, what a beautiful signature. Marvelous! Not perfect, as Baden is a big place. It was a bit bigger than Connecticut, and it's now merged into the German state of Baden-Württemberg.  But a Bodenheimer of Baden means I might actually be related to George!

27 Oct 1854 oath of citizenship for David Bodenheimer of New York
The 1860 census confirms that he is a master shoemaker from Baden, but that's the dead end. He died in 1866 and wasn't on any other census lists.

Stumped. I actually didn't even know his wife Hannah's maiden name (spoiler, it's Hirsch). And she was from Baden too.

Then I had a clever idea, a classic trick.  When you hit a brick wall, go sideways.  Remembering his first daughter was born in Baden, perhaps I can find a marriage or death for her that will list more details on her origin. Thus, that would be likely the city that David and Hannah were married in, and I could keep tracing.   Well, I still to this day, don't know when their first daughter died. She did marry, but it wasn't any help (to me). Another cold lead.

So, it's a dead end. I'll never know. I'm going to bed. It's late.  I'll check one more place... I'll check this little known German emigration site that is all in German.  And guess what I found there!  An emigration listing for David Bodenheimer in 1846 leaving Baden for Nordamerika (North America), and next to it was his wife, Hannah.

1846 Emigration records for David and Hannah Bodenheimer of Baiertal, Baden

I'm sure you probably missed it, but the town they are leaving is listed as Baiertal.  Well, I actually KNOW about Baiertal as it is a suburb of Weisloch, and the literally the town right next door to Waibstadt. My Waibstadt!   It is 19 km away down the road.  We are getting actual close, and in genealogy close is good. People didn't have airplanes and cars back in 1846, so you usually married someone FROM THE NEXT TOWN OVER.   Hello! 

Baiertal to Waibstadt in 22 minutes
I pause, and then think. I actually have Bodenheimers from Baiertal on my family tree already.  I wonder if there is a little lost David hanging out somewhere all alone.

So, I pull up my tree and search for David Bodenheimer, and guess what.  Yep there he is.  David Bodenheimer born in Baiertal, son of Simon Abraham Bodenheimer and his wife Rosina Regie Manasses/Moses.
David Bodenheimer, son of Simon Bodenheimer in my family tree (before connecting)
What's even more insane, is I already had found his birth certificate years and years ago.  It's just been sitting there, waiting...

In the year 1814 at the 26th April in the morning between 9 and 10 o'clock here in Beuertal born: David, legitimate son of Simon Abraham Bodenheimer, protected-Jew (Schutzjude) here and his wife Regle born Mannasses, witnesses and also godparents were the in Wiesloch residing protection-citizen (Schutzbürger) Joseph Maier and his wife Giedel born Marx.

Proof that Simon is George Bodenheimer's 3rd great grandfather, and from my tree I can see that Abraham is his 4th great grandfather.    And Abraham Bodenheimer of Baiertal is my 6th great grandfather.  So, we are DNA cousins. We are blood relatives!  Abraham Bodenheimer connects us both!

At 1:21am in the wee hours after midnight, I finally have the answer:

George Bodenheimer is my fifth cousin twice removed.

That means he is a 5th cousin of my grandfather, Edgar Bodenheimer. George's children are my father's 6th cousins, and his grandchildren are my 7th cousins.

One slight problem.  

Our last names are not connected yet.  My Bodenheimer name comes from the Bodenheimers of Waibstadt.  George's last name comes from the Bodenheimers of Baiertal.  I'm descended from Abraham's granddaughter who married a Wolfsbrück, whose daughter in turn married a Bodenheimer from the next town over: Waibstadt.    I still haven't connected Abraham of Baiertal to my Josef Jehuda Bodenheimer of Waibstadt -- they were born a few years apart, and I don't know their parents. They could be brothers. I just don't know... yet...

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Saying your family is from Posen is like saying you are from New York

Do you mean Posen, or do you mean Posen?

Well, do you mean New York, or do you mean New York?

In that way, Posen is just like New York.  When you say you are from New York, do you mean New York State or New York City.  Most people actually default to New York City based on our common assumptions, but the State is much bigger and probably has more people overall.   Here in America, we assume that if you say you are from New York, then you are from the city.   Most people when they talk about the rest of New York either say "Upstate New York" or "near Buffalo" or their exact town to ensure they are understood.

When my relatives came to America, they just listed Posen on their immigration forms.  I'm sure your family did the same thing.  The problem with that is that we just assume they meant the city of Posen, Prussia.  However there are a lot of other cities in the greater province of Posen. 

1848 map of Posen Province
In fact the Grand Duchy of Posen was about 11,000 sq miles large. About a fourth the size of New York state. It had a lot of cities in it besides the capital city of Posen in Posen.  Cities like Kempen, Lissa, Rawitsch, Schroda, Bromberg, Gnesen, and Kolmar. 

To make things even more complicated and confusing, the Prussian Province of Posen was divided into two government regions: Posen in the south, and Bromberg in the North.  So, the address of the City of Posen was actually something like Posen, Posen, Posen, Prussia.   One hint if you are indeed looking for the city of Posen: the German word to look for is Stadt Posen.  It means Posen City,  just like saying, New York City.

How to do genealogy research for family from Posen

First off, you are in luck. There are a number of great online resources for Posen research, and if you write to the registration offices they are very helpful.

The strangest part is that all the resources are in Polish, and you'll have to do some Google Translating to get around. After WWII Posen was given back to Poland.  However all the records are still in German, so you are looking for are German language records on Polish sites. So, between English, Polish, and German you should be fine.

BaSIA:  Your first stop is to visit the BaSIA Project, the Database of Archival Indexing System for all of Wielkopolska (Greater Poland region in west-central Poland).   They have indexed over 4 million records, many of them with links to the original scanned images!  There are birth, marriage, and death records. And not just for the city of Posen. All Posen!

Poznan Project: While working with BaSIA you may also try the Poznan Project, which is a sister project dedicated to indexing and transcribing all the 19th century marriage records for Posen.  It can be helpful to find the exact record, and then go back to BaSIA to narrow your search down to find the image links.

Luft's Naturalized Jews of Posen: If you have any Jewish relatives, the book Naturalized Jews of the Grand Duchy of Posen in 1834 and 1835 by Edward David Luft is a really great resource.

Posen City Card for Isaak Wolff and Family
Posen City Cards: There is a treasure trove online. It is the City of Posen Population Census, and spans the years 1870 to 1931.  These cards list out all the family members in a household along with their birth dates and places. Sometimes their death dates and address changes.  These are amazing, and there is a searchable index!  Now, these are only for the city of Posen, but like New York many many people ended up in the big city at some point.  My own family was from Lissa originally, and they have a Posen City card for their time there.

Keep searching. You might just discover an entire tree of family members you never knew about!