Friday, June 11, 2010

Hunting Herbrucks in Grossteinhausen

My grandmother's dad was German. His family came from two small villages in southern Germany, not too far from Mannheim. The man in this photo is Peter Herbruck, who came to the U.S. from Grossteinhausen Germany in 1831. His family followed him to Canton, Ohio, where his sister Susanna married George Michael Deuble. They were Grandma's dad's parents.

Andrea drove us along the small winding road to the village. We passed Kleinsteinhausen (small stone house) on our way to Grossteinhausen (large stone house).

We parked at the far edge of town.

We walked past a children's play area.

It was a holiday. The town seemed to still be asleep.

Here's a sample of the houses and buildings we saw. It was a beautiful sunny day.

Note the solar panels. We saw lots of solar panel in the smaller villages and lots of wind turbines in open spaces.

Here's a taste of the character of the town.

Obviously there were children somewhere, perhaps playing solar-powered video games.

The fountain in the plaza was unusual.

Two streams of water poured out onto the bricks, then joined together and ran down to the far side where it went into a catch basin, right near this marker.

Yes that says 1257. I have no idea how long the Herbruck family lived there before the rest of Peter's family emigrated to Ohio.

Andrea found a sign that led us to the cemetery.

My friend Loretta always teases me about going to beautiful places and bringing back pictures of cemeteries. But if you're looking for ancestors, that's where you find them! Unless you are in Grossteinhausen, where there were no markers for anyone who died before the mid 1900s. We later learned that the cemeteries in some small villages are cleared every 25 to 40 years.We didn't ask what exactly that meant. But it did explain why there were no graves for Herbrucks here.

People put candles on the grave sites and they plant flowers on the graves. As you can see, this is a well-manicured town and cemetery.

There was a WWII section right at the gate. All the young men buried there died right at the end of the war. Apparently they were being honored for holding out against the Allied forces at the end of the war.

A little disappointed on our search for Herbrucks we walked up the street back into town where we passed an older (older than me) man sitting outside his house. Wolfgang stopped to tell him that we were Americans (I hoped that would be perceived as a good thing) who were looking for ancestors. His wife came out of the house and joined the conversation, then took us up the street and around the corner to the home of the oldest woman in town, Rese Pfeiffer. Rese is 90, but too young to remember my ancestors. She sure did remind me of my grandmother.

There was much discussion in German and the mention of a telephone book, which brought a lot of laughter since the Herbrucks had left before phones. But of course there might have been some Herbrucks still around in those early days. There is no sign of them there now, but Rese was happy to welcome us and make me feel like kin.

As I walked back to our car I looked at the buildings and flowers we passed and wondered what the town had looked like in 1831.

Back to France
Since we were so close to the border of France and we missed Paris, Andrea suggested we spend the rest of the day in France. She thought we wouild like to visit the town of Wissembourg, which is in Alsace. So we took an hour drive through the forest to Wissembourg.

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