Trip to Germany
April 20-27, 1996
Vincent A. Busam
I had the opportunity to take a business trip to Germany with a few extra days for personal travel. This note details two days of the trip where I searched for information on my ancestors.
Nußbach (April 22)
I drove alone for two hours from Herrenberg, just south of Stuttgart, to Nußbach over route B28 across the northern part of the Black Forest. The hills are steep on the west side and more gentle on the East side.
I arrived in Nußbach around 11:30, going straight to Anton Busams house in Oberkirch-Zusenhofen. I didnt have directions to his house, but Zusenhofen is a very small town so I thought that I could easily find it on my own. However, I saw a pedestrian on one of the side streets and tried to communicate that I was looking for a house and showed him the address. He either didnt know the street or didnt understand me. Anyway after leaving him, I spotted a police car. I was able to communicate my wish to the officers in the car. They had me follow them to Antons house. So I arrived at Antons house with a police escort! His house is quite modern.
There were three doorbells, one for Anton Busam, one for Herrman Busam, and one for another name (which I dont remember) but must be for his daughter since she lives in the house.
Anton answered the door with his wife and some lady from Zusenhofen who would act as an interpreter. I was late, however, and she could only stay for another 25 minutes. After an apology for being late, I quickly covered the major questions that I had while she was still there.
Anton had gone to Karlsruhe the previous Friday to check on the dates when the Busams came to America. I had suggested in my letter announcing my visit that we go together (at least this is what I had tried to write) but he had already gone. (Someday I may go to the Landesarchiv in Karlsruhe anyway and check the records myself.)
He said that the records showed the following dates for emigration from Germany:
Bernhard 1867 (earlier than I had thought!)
Earlier I had thought that the three brothers had gone together. These dates match dates that I had seen on microfilm of an index made from the emigration records.
Anton also found that Lorenz Busam, who he thinks is a brother to Bernhards father, had left for America in 1845. The records indicate the Lorenz that emmigrated was born in 1776, yet supposedly was 76 years old when he went to America (1845-1776=69)! Also, if Lorenz is a brother of Bernhards father, then his father, Martin (born 1769), would have been 7 years old when Lorenz was born. I wish that I had thought of this when I was there! (But if this was true, this might solve the mystery of the relatives in Ohio that my Grandfather Anthony had Grandmother Alvina visit. Also, I first find records of Bernhard in Chicago in 1873, shortly after the Great Chicago Fire of Oct. 1871. Either earlier records burned up or he may have been with Lorenzs family and went to Chicago to help rebuild.)
In a previous meeting with some German friends of mine, Anton had said that Bernhard married Caroline Benz before leaving Germany and Caroline came from Nußbach. I asked Anton where he got this information. He said that he didnt know, but thought his grandfather had told him this. (Previously, Anton had referenced his grandfather as his source of information about the old days. But my notes of our previous meeting four years ago show that he didnt know much about Caroline. Was the translation then faulty, has he recalled this information since that meeting, or did the information I gave him then influence his current recollections?) I pointed out that I have been unable to find Carolines baptism or wedding records in Nußbach or several neighboring towns. He said he also has not found them in the Nußbach church records and thinks, that since he believes she came from Nußbach, that looking in other towns records is not worthwhile.
After the interpreter left (on her bike), Anton invited me to have lunch with him and his wife. She served a soup, followed by sausage, sauerkraut, and potatoes with a white wine. The food was very good; I really enjoyed it. But during this time any fantasy that I had about being able to make myself understood in, or my ability to understand, German was totally shattered. It turned out to be a very quiet lunch (unfortunately).
After lunch I gave Anton copies of some of the Nußbach church records that I had made from microfilm. It turns out that the records I believed were from our family were indeed from our family. I also had copies of records from other Busams. He said these were from another Busam family. If they are related, it is far enough back that he doesnt know of the connection.
He then asked me if I wanted to visit Weierhof (the Busam family farm where Bernhard was born) again. I said yes. (Yes, we were able to complete this much communication!) I drove him over via a back road which he pointed out.
There had been some changes at the farm since our last visit. The entry road is now paved and the courtyard is now cobblestone. They were gravel before. And just behind the house, three new dirt narrow roads have been cut. I couldnt understand why the roads are now through an orchard area, but I suspect that development is coming.
At the house, Mathilda greeted me and invited me inside. She was the wife of Antons brother Wilhelm (deceased) who was the brother who stayed on the farm. Once inside, she offered me some wine which we mixed with mineral water. She then brought out two photographs that I had sent her after my visit in 1992. She was obviously pleased to see me again. We visited (very quietly) for a while. I then went out to the orchard and saw the plum trees in bloom. They do something with the plums (I couldnt understand) and make the rest into schnapps. They took me into a building that had ovens and a distilling machine. This is where the schnapps are distilled. (I understand that many schnapps are about 100 proof!) As I was leaving, she gave me a bottle of Kirsch Wasser (Cherry Water, which is really cherry schnapps) made at the farm by Martin Busam (son of Wilhelm).
When taking Anton home, we drove through Nußbach. We tried to go into the church but the door was locked (just like it had been last time).
After dropping him off, I decided to go see St. Wendelin Chapel again since it was so beautiful last time. It is still beautiful -- and only a couple of kilometers outside of Nußbach.
If Bernhard came to America in 1867, he came before the death of his father on 13-Feb-1870. Earlier I had thought that he came after his fathers death and they sold off part of the farm as his inheritance to pay for his journey. My father remembers hearing that Bernhard left Germany to avoid the draft. From the emigration records, it appears he left Germany with permission. Also, in 1867 Germany was in the final stages of being reunited through Bismarks efforts. At this time the four southern German states were making a military alliance with the North German Confederation which was led by Prussia. The Franco-Prussian War was 1870 to early 1871 during which time the four southern states joined to form the German Empire. An index of naturalization records shows Bernhard became a US citizen on 26-Mar-1879. This index shows a D.I. date of 2-Dec-1871 which I had been taking to be his date of arrival in the US and his Declaration of Intention to become a citizen. His son, Edward, was born in Chicago on 2-March-1873.
(Since my return, I am sure that I found Bernhards arrival in the US on the ship Cella, on 31 January 1968, in New York - out of Le Havre and London.)
Königheim (April 23)
I drove to Königheim, about a two hour drive from Herrenberg, by myself. This time I had more concern about my ability to make myself understood in German. But fortunately, my German friend, Günther Kreilkamp, had prepared a letter for me explaining that I was looking for information on my great-grandfather Ferdinand Reinharts family.
Königheim is a small town (about 1,800 population in 1984) just a little south-west of Würzburg. It is on route B27 just a few kilometers south-west of Tauberbischofsheim. The trip was pleasant and uneventful except that I didnt realize that I was to take the road to Mosbach so I ended up on the narrow streets in downtown Tauberbischofsheim.
Upon arriving in Königheim around 11AM, I saw it was a narrow town built along both sides of a river in a narrow valley. I decided to park the car and walk. After leaving my car, I saw a store and was about to go there to ask where the Rathaus (town hall) was located when I saw it right across the street from where I had parked the car. I went up to an office on the second floor where two women were working. I had my letter in hand and asked if anyone spoke English. One woman spoke a little. They called a man into the room and after reading the letter they told me the records before 1870 were at the church and they had the records after 1870. Since I had seen the church records on microfilm, I was most interested in seeing if any descendants of Ferdinands brother Joseph Anton were left. (Joseph Anton is the only sibling of Ferdinand that did not die in youth or go to America.)
The man left and returned with the towns family book which lists all families, dates of marriage, and children. Everyone is cross-referenced so when a child marries a new entry is made for the marriage with space left for entering their children. The entry as a child has a reference to the marriage page and vice-versa. This really makes it easy to track family history. (I have used a microfilm copy of the churchs family book to quickly find the names of over 32 of Ferdinands ancestors, one of which was born in 1636!)
In the book we found that Joseph Anton (born 1832) had many children (12 if I remember correctly), the last of which of was Wilhelm (born 1879). Wilhelm had 10 children, the last of which is Gertrude (born 1921). Gertrude is still alive and living in Königheim! Gertrude is the second cousin of my father, Aunt Caroline, and Uncle Bob. She had one son, Egon Sans. Egons wife is Monika and she speaks English. (How lucky could I be!) Egon and Monika have two children, a daughter Kerstin 18 and a son Andreas 16.
A Mr. Lindtner came and joined us, so I now had 4 people at the Rathaus helping me. Lindtner speaks excellent English and was very helpful. It turns out that a history book about Königheim was published in the mid-1980s. Ferdinand is listed on page 448 as having left for America with his brother Wilhelm in 1863. They were selling copies of the book at the Rathaus so I bought a copy for DM25 (about $16). It is all in German, but has some nice pictures and Ferdinands name.
The women made several phone calls to try to find Gertrude or her daughter-in-law Monika. They werent home. I said that I could stay in town for a few hours and offered to come back to the Rathaus after lunch. (It turns out the Rathaus is only open to the public until noon, so I was lucky getting there before lunch.) At this point Mr. Lindtner said that I should show up at his house at 1PM and they would continue to try to make contact for me. If they could contact Gertrude, he would translate for me.
It was almost noon now, and I wanted to see the church which was just behind the Rathaus. The church is very beautiful inside with wonderful pictures painted on the walls and ceiling. I think the church was built in 1755-56. Some of the pictures date from 1756. This was the church Ferdinand attended as a youth.
I wandered down the street and found a winery. I went inside to see what was there. (I couldnt resist because of my strong interest in wine.) A woman was tending a small store and tasting room -- and she spoke a little English. I tasted several white wines, bypassing the rose wines. I chose one wine and bought a couple of bottles to take home. She seemed quite pleased that her wine was going to California.
There wasnt enough time left for lunch. And the local grocery store was closed during the noon hour (as was the post office). So I went back to the church to spend the few remaining minutes before 1PM. This time I lit a candle in remembrance of Ferdinand.
At 1PM sharp I was in front of Lindtners house. I saw a woman waiting across the street and guessed it was my contact. She turned out to be Monika. We told Mr. Lindtner that we had made contact and Monika invited me to her home. Gertrude lives with her sons family in a house bought by Gertrudes father Wilhelm. Monikas mother was also visiting.
The three women welcomed me warmly. Then we tried to verify the relationship. Gertrude did not remember the names of her grandparents so it made making the connection difficult. I had copies from the Rathaus of her fathers family but the name of Wilhelms father was difficult to read and we couldnt be positive that it was Joseph Anton. But Gertrude became convinced that she was not a relative. After all, she said, there are 23 Reinhart families in Königheim so it could easily be another family to whom I am related.
After I said that I would go back to the Rathaus to check their records again, Gertrude and Monika offered to come with me. The walk to the Rathaus was short (three minutes?). Upon arrival at exactly 2PM, we found the door was locked. But they could read the German sign and knew to ring the bell. We went inside and Mr. Lindtner was kind enough to get out the family book again and double check. With Gertrude, Monika, and I looking over his shoulder, we all became convinced that we were indeed relatives. They immediately invited me back to their house for coffee.
Back at their house I met Andreas who had just returned from school and was eating his lunch. He also spoke a little English so I was able to speak directly with him. I had some tea (I dont drink coffee) and a couple of rolls. I gave them some information on Ferdinand and his family in America and some information on the ancestors in Königheim.
Gertrude didnt have any information on the Reinhart family before her father. I specifically asked if they had any idea where Ferdinand might have lived, but they didnt know. It is possible that the house no longer exists because a number of old houses were torn down after a flood in 1984.
Monika and I agreed to correspond. She seemed quite pleased that I stopped by and was looking forward to telling her husband (my third cousin) of the visit. I am sorry that I had to leave before he returned from work (road building).
The trip to Königheim was wonderfully successful. I was prepared to find out no information but only to see the town. But I succeeded in finding distant relatives.
The information in the Königheim book does raise a question about when Ferdinand came to America. The book says 1863. Ferdinands citizenship records says he was naturalized on 30-Oct-1984 and that he had been in the US for 24 years, which would put him in the US in 1860. The naturalization record also indicates that he was under 21 years of age when he entered the US, meaning he entered before 23-Aug-1863 (although his death certificate lists his birthdate as 23-July-1842). Family history says that he baked bread for the US Army during the Civil War. Since the Civil War ended on 9-Apr-1864 (Appomattox), he could have entered the US and immediately become a cook for at most two years. Since the Germans keep such good records, I tend to believe that Ferdinand came to America in 1863, likely the first half.