Sunday, November 15, 2015

Crossing The Pond: A Stadt in Württemberg Yields Grandma's Maternal Ancestors

Saturday night’s were special to me as a very little girl, because I could sleep with my grandma and listen to her family stories. I loved those times when I would crawl into her bed and snuggle under the pink and cream-woven cotton blanket and she would talk about her parents and grandparents who in the early 1840s settled in Fremont Township, Lake County, Illinois. She would talk about the turkeys roosting in the trees and the snapping turtles coming out of the pond down the hill from her house. And of course in the winter the snow piled so high she could climb out her upstairs bedroom window and slide down the snow hill. 

These were my dad’s maternal German families. In February, I wrote a blog about the claim grandma's mother being born at sea: “1832: The Smith Family Comes to America; Great Grandmother Born At Sea

Grandma also talked about her grandparents coming from Germany to America. I don't remember particulars, but do I remember laughing at the cities named Frankfurt and Hamburg. Aren't those places where hot dogs and hamburgers came from? I didn’t think about any connection of a place my ancestors could have come from. Now it’s starting to make a little more sense, but how does it fit into my family story? Where exactly did they come from? I think it is time I found out, but where to start?

Both sides of grandma's family – the SNYDERs and SMITHs came to Lake County, Illinois, between 1840 and 1850. Grandma said SMITH wasn't really the correct spelling and she pronounced it Smidth or something like that. She also mentioned the name Johann was actually "John" in German, but I thought she was talking about my brother John so I started calling him Johann.

I revisited all the notes and documents I accumulated over the years and reviewed all I knew about my fraternal grandparents. It didn't take long because I really didn't have much at all – a scant few pieces. 

I found the "Smith"s on the 1850 Federal Census for Fremont, Lake County, Illinois. The "place of birth" column just shows “Germany” which doesn’t pinpoint a region or a town for that matter. So a lot of good the census is to produce a place name or area. I want to know in what parish the records are kept. My great grandfather's name is just Jacob on this census. What happened to Johann?

1850 Federal Census for the Township of Fremont, Lake County, Illinois.
Shown on a February blog posting
1832: The Smith Family Comes to America; Great Grandmother Born At Sea
On this ship list (below) he is also Jacob, but his surname is now spelled SMIDTH. We know spelling doesn't count. As I go along in my research it will change again.

Portion of the ship Hope's 1832 Passenger List. 
Shown on a February blog posting
1832: The Smith Family Comes to America; Great Grandmother Born At Sea
From the 1832 ship passenger list (above), I’ve narrowed their origin place name down to the Duchy of Württemberg found in the "where from column" to the far right of grandma’s maternal grandfather Jacob Smidth. I knew this was my family because it matches with persons listed on the 1850 census – Jacob, Barbara, and (Johan) George Werner. Jacob is 28 in 1832 and 18 years later he is 47. George is 66 in 1832 and 85 in 1850.

I know next to nothing how to research in Germany. I really need a break or some luck. Maybe serendipity will help, too. The few years I’ve dabbled in German research, finding no new clues and not getting any breaks. This summer I finally got one hint which was the closest I got to the Stadt (town) of my grandmother’s maternal ancestors! It came from some notes which accumulated in an old folder on my computer. 

Many years ago I had inquired about my great-great grandparents and the reply was they were married in 1830 in Beutelsbach, Germany. At that time I was so involved in my English side, I really didn’t take the time to root out any of my germanic ancestors, let alone in Germany! I wrote a note about it in my tree program under my grandma's name and forgot about it.

Last August a friend and I went to a LDS family history center in Schaumburg, Ill.; I resurrected my scant information just for the occasion including that bit of information about Beutelsbach. At the FHC I was able to search on for much more than I could at home. I didn’t think I would get anywhere; I was just keeping my friend company while she looked for her German ancestors. So I casually typed in "Barbara Werner” – my great-great grandma; her marriage to Johann Jacob Schmid came up. The town or stadt was Beutelsbach, Jagstkreis, Württemberg, Germany. Ah ha! That is what was in my old notes. Could this be confirmation?

With that find, I decided to wait and to do more research in September when I was at the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City, Utah. I would take a couple days at the end of my class on England to brave it on the International floor of the FHL. All those years of researching on B2 the British Isles floor I never wanted to venture out of my comfort zone and research on B1 the International floor. 

This year’s trip was a little different as I explained some of it in the Oct. 3 blog post. I was out there about 9 days for genealogy – five of those were in class on British Isles research, two Sundays no research, one and a half travel days, and the remaining two days plus a few hours before the shuttle to the airport I planned to spend on my new adventure in Germany on B1. 

My priority was to find the births and marriage for my great-great grandparents. I wasn’t looking for much more than that to take home. Since I wasn't familiar with research in Germany, I asked for help even though I was somewhat prepared with my scant bit of information and the new find. I knew who I was looking for, but didn’t know how to get into the German stuff held in the FHL. It is a little different – yet the same – the mechanics are the same but some of the records are different. Oh the information my helper came up with was amazing. Her tutoring paid off, so after awhile, she was confident enough to release me onto my own.

I used my camera and took pictures of the index pages on the computer screen as I cruised through’s database. That worked on their computers, but later when I got on my laptop, I could "clip" the images of the indexes using Evernote. I was feeling very confident I was going to find that marriage record and maybe a little more to boot. And I did! 

I was like a kid in the candy store with $10 to spend – I’ll take one of these, and one of those, oh, oh, and I’ll take that one, too! The names and records I found in that short morning made my head spin! One of the names I followed back to 1681in less than an afternoon! My gosh, I had enough information to generously fill my family tree bag than I thought I’d get. 

From the indexes on the computer to the microfilm in the stacks, I found myself deep in the depths of Beutelsbach church records. It was good working from the indexes which is unlike how I hunt and gather on the British Isles films. My priority was fulfilled in short order. I found my great-great grandparents’ birth and christening records, and their marriage record (Heiraten)! I had a lot of time left to gather more, and oh did I! I came to B1 floor with three names and left a little over two days later with almost a hundred! 

I was the luckiest person in the FHL as I cruised through 250 years in only two microfilms, in only one town in Württemberg!

The marriage record is a little hard to see because it stretches across two big book pages. I did my best in Photoshop to pull them together. My little stick’em arrow points to the entry. Johan Jacob SCHMID / Barbare WERNER. [In German Barbare would be pronounced Bar-bar-ah.] 
(Citation: "Deutschland Heiraten, 1558-1929," database, FamilySearch <> : accessed 7 November 2015, Johann Jakob Schmid and Barbare Werner, 03 Nov 1830; citing Evangelisch, Beutelsbach, Jagstkreis, Württemberg; FHL microfilm 1,184,737)

This is the birth (Geburt) and christening (Taufen) for Barbara showing her father Johan Georg WERNER and her mother Magdalena BECKER. Barbara was born 4 Oct 1799 and christened on the 5th. 
(Citation: "Deutschland Geburten und Taufen," 1558-1898, database, <FamilySearch(> : accessed 7 November 2015), Barbara Werner, 05 Oct 1799; citing ; FHL microfilm 1,184,736)
This is the birth (Geburt) and christening (Taufen) for Johann Jacob Schmid showing his father Johan Friedrich SCHMID and his mother Johanna Christiana ROTH. Johann Jacob was born 8 Sep 1804 and christened on the 9th. 
(Citation: "Deutschland Heiraten, 1558-1929," database, FamilySearch < : accessed 13 November 2015>, Johann Jakob Schmid and Barbare Werner, 03 Nov 1830; citing Evangelisch, Beutelsbach, Jagstkreis, Württemberg; FHL microfilm 1,184,737.)
Now that I've found their birth and christening records in Beutelsbach along with their marriage records, I'm on the hunt for their death records and where they are buried here in Lake County, Illinois. That is for another chapter or posting 'cause I think it will take a little more time and a lot of luck.

My great-great grandfather Johann Jacob was a vintner as was his father-in-law Johann Georg. They came to the U.S. possibly to continue their occupation on their own land. There is no family history on this chapter, so we will never really know for sure. They were in Pennsylvania for about 13 years before coming to Lake County, Illinois (mid 1840s) where they bought a piece of land near Fremont Center, and farmed it. It was on this farm my grandmother Carrie was born in 1869. I think the reason my great grandparents John SNYDER and Wilhelmina took over the farm was because Johann Jacob had died. I don't know exactly that, but one of my notes says prior to 1870. I think my cousin Ruth gave me that information as vague as it was. 

On my first trip to Germany in 1994, Bob and I were about an hour north of this town and drove near Stuttgart, too, but I wasn’t doing genealogy back then and I didn't know the significance of this area. I am hoping we will be able to go back and visit this area of the Rems River Valley with it vineyards. When you see all the vineyards on the hills, that seems to be the only business in the area. Remsthal Winery is one of the largest in Germany.

Beutelsbach has a long history. According to Wikipedia, "Beutelsbach is a town district or Stadtteil within the town of Weinstadt in the Rems-Murr district, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.” As of March 2010 population in Beutelsbach was 8,464. “Beutelsbach was first mentioned in 1080 and was one of the oldest properties of the House of Württemberg.” Looking at the pictures, I would think maybe the area near Pittsburgh made them feel at home with the rolling hills and valleys. But they moved on to Illinois; land had just opened up to settlers not more than 10 years prior. Land wasn't that expensive either. I think that was the draw.

When you look at the pictures of the Rems Valley, you just wonder why they left this beautiful area.

Side note: According to some reports, President Obama’s sixth-great grandfather grew up in Beutelsbach, but is it true? Can we believe

Blick auf Weinstadt, Stadtteil Beutelsbach und die Stiftskirche.
(View of Wine City, District Beutelsbach and the Collegiate Church.)

The pointer shows where Beutelsbach is located. Stuttgart is about 14 miles west. [Google Maps]

Rems River and (below) Remittal [Rems Valley]. The Rems River is a tributary of the Neckar River.

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