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.

1 comment :

  1. Impressive effort. I am trying to trace any records for my relatives from the town of Peterswalde (Pieszyce) on the opposite side of Riechenbach. They end up in South Australia.