Archive for Family History Tours

Welcome Back Third Time

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

July 16

We make coffee stops special. We stopped in the half-timbered town of Alsfeld, Hessen for coffee after leaving the airport this morning.

We make coffee stops special. We stopped in the half-timbered town of Alsfeld, Hessen for coffee after leaving the airport this morning.

Tim S. and his family along with new wife Mary just arrived from Arizona to begin their 12-day adventure in Germany. Mary has never been to Germany, and she has roots here, so this is an extra special trip. Tim and his family last traveled with European Focus in 2005 and 2006. We are very happy to have this wonderful family back on this side of the Atlantic, and look forward to our adventures in Berlin, Dresden, Prague, Berchtesgaden, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Regensburg and the Rhein Valley around Bacharach.

This Couple Lives on Top of Roman History

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

May 2

Roland Geiger holds a tile nearly 2,000 years old found in the parking lot of his home in St. Wendel, Germany.

Roland Geiger holds a tile nearly 2,000 years old found in the parking lot of his home in St. Wendel, Germany.

I was invited to have dinner with Roland and Anne Geiger recently. As we sat in their cozy dining room heated by a wood-burning stove with our nostrils being savagely attacked by the wonderful smells coming out of the kitchen behind the wall, Roland entertained me with stories of what he has found on the property. More than once my mouth fell open, and it was not just from hunger. It was excitement at the thought that we were sitting on top of more than 2,000 years of history.

Roland casually pointed out a broken but still useful pot in the corner. ‘Used for cooking meat,’ he explained. They found animal bones and rocks inside. It now serves as a planter. He brought out a tile with wiggles scratched into its surface. ‘This was used to hold plaster,’ he explained. The Romans made these square tiles and attached them to the walls of houses with a concrete mix. Then they plastered over the wiggles, and the wiggles held the plaster in place. This ingenious system is copied today all over Europe with wallpaper that acts as an adhesive for paint.

Holding a Roman invention for applying plaster to a wall so that it would stick.

Holding a Roman invention for applying plaster to a wall so that it would stick.

But the most valuable thing in Roland’s collection, his ‘precious,’ is a broken tile in two parts with a faint etching on it. It could be a name. Yes, it probably is a name. ‘S, and then a very old e, the kind of letter used in the capital until about the year 1 and then in the provinces until around the year 100 AD,’ Roland pointed out as the wind was sucked out of my lungs by the thought that I was holding a piece of history in my not quite steady hands. ‘Then we have here a v, an i and an r and another i.’ The name ‘Seviri’ etched into the tile by the tile maker who needed to keep track of who had ordered which stack of tiles. Like attaching a sticky note, except one made with materials on hand. For this tile maker, it was a tile.

The name 'Seviri' is easily seen once the tile has been moistened

The name ‘Seviri’ is easily seen once the tile has been moistened

Roland sent images of the tile into the ether and soon had an answer from a professor in Madrid, who confirmed the purpose of the tile and the age.

Later Roland took me up into his barn where there are boxes and boxes of finds, many of them absolute treasures to the history nut. More fragments of the wiggly wall tiles. Pottery fragments from Roman and medieval times. All found in his garden, his parking lot, below his 17th century house which itself is a treasure worthy of another story.

Just a bunch of Roman stuff. Really? The heart starts to beat when one sees boxes of fragments of history in the attic of the Geiger home.

Just a bunch of Roman stuff. Really? The heart starts to beat when one sees boxes of fragments of history in the attic of the Geiger home.

Fittingly, Roland Geiger is an accomplished genealogist and excellent researcher who has helped many of our clients dig deeper into their family histories in the Saarland as well as in Rheinland Pfalz and surrounding areas of Germany.
Roland can be reached at [email protected] or through his web site at www.hfrg.com

Walk Where Your Ancestors Walked

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Genealogy is the fastest growing hobby in the world. Millions of people want to see the places where their ancestors lived before emigrating. We have been leaders in this field since 1989, starting the world’s first professional photography service exclusively for family historians. That photography business mushroomed to include photography and tours combined. Now we spend up to eight months each year touring in Europe with our clients, who may or may not have a strong interest in family history. They just want to GO. We make it all possible. Start planning your Trip of a Lifetime today.

Ken and Gloria took a break from ancestral discoveries to enjoy sausages in a kitchen dating back to the late 15th century in Nurnberg, Germany in September of 2013.

Ken and Gloria took a break from ancestral discoveries to enjoy sausages in a kitchen dating back to the late 15th century in Nurnberg, Germany in September of 2013.

November 8

Thinking of booking a family history or research trip with us to Europe? Please think fall of 2014 or later.

Ken and Gloria started planning their ancestry trip to Germany in 2007. They finally took their trip in September, 2013, during which they met cousins and made new discoveries. To have this kind of experience, start planning now for travel in September of 2014 or after.

Ken and Gloria started planning their ancestry trip to Germany in 2007. They finally took their trip in September, 2013, during which they met cousins and made new discoveries. To have this kind of experience, start planning now for travel now.

Germans Represent A Huge Slice of the American Population

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

October 9

Gloria Temple with a German dairy cow during her ancestral trip along with her husband Ken, September, 2013 in the Black Forest of Germany.

Gloria Temple with a German dairy cow during her ancestral trip along with her husband Ken, September, 2013 in the Black Forest of Germany.

It’s time to break out the bratwurst as the United States celebrates German-American Day on Oct. 6.

Commemorating the founding of Germantown, Pa. in 1683, the holiday celebrates America’s largest ancestry group, with 49 million people claiming part or full German heritage.

As President Barack Obama proclaimed a few years ago on this occasion, “Our citizens of German descent excel in every discipline and open our minds to the expanses of human possibility. When we drive across a suspension bridge, listen to music played on a Steinway piano, or send a child to kindergarten, their unique traditions and customs surround us.”

Sisters Christina and Jennifer from Calgary enjoyed their tour in Germany in July, 2013. The two have German ancestry.

Sisters Christina and Jennifer from Calgary enjoyed their tour in Germany in July, 2013. The two have German ancestry.

So why are there so many German-Americans in the United States anyway?

For some history, we turn to an English translation of “The German-Americans: An Ethnic Experience” by Willi Paul Adams from the Max Kade German Center.

A slow but steady stream of Germans immigrated to the U.S. starting in the 1680s, coming to represent 9% of the total population around the close of the 18th century. It all started with that fateful day in October:

On October 6, 1683, thirteen Quaker families from Krefeld arrived in Philadelphia. From the outset, their settlement on the northern outskirts of Philadelphia was called Germantown. From then on, the tolerant Quaker colony of Pennsylvania served as a beachhead for the immigration of pietistic and other Protestant minorities, notably dissidents of the Reformed and Lutheran persuasion. When the first American census was taken in 1790, Pennsylvania’s German population was put at 225,000 which amounts to a third of the state’s entire population. If we further count those Germans who in the course of the 18th century settled in the English colonies of New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and South Carolina, especially those from the Palatinate, Baden and Wurttemberg, and include their children, then Americans of German origin were about 9% of the total population of the youthful United States around the close of the 18th century.

Bacharach on the Rhein River in Germany. Many emigrants used the Rhein as a waterway to leave their homes in Germany behind.

Bacharach on the Rhein River in Germany. Many emigrants used the Rhein as a waterway to leave their homes in Germany behind.

Immigration from Germany and other European states really picked up, however, in the early 19th century:

European mass immigration to the United States began in earnest only after the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815, at a time when unimpeded transatlantic commercial shipping resumed. Soon a first major wave of 20,000 emigrants from southwestern Germany took place, occasioned by major crop failures in the years 1816-17. The figures fell during the 1820s, but increased significantly in the 1830s. Since 1832, the areas of German emigrant origin shifted gradually to the West, later to the Northwest, and in the latter third of the century to the Northeast. Small farmers from the Southwest were followed by craftsmen and those engaged in the cottage industries, by day laborers and eventually by farm hands from Germany’s Northeast. As time went by, immigrants from all regions of the German Empire arrived in the United States where, allegedly, German dialect barriers between Bavarians and East Prussians were occasionally overcome with the help of English.

The first peak of German immigration to North America came in the year 1854, when more than 220,000 arriving Germans were registered in American ports.

Clients of European Focus Private Tours Ken and Gloria Temple go over family ancestry with cousins in Eissen, Germany during their private tour in September, 2013

Clients of European Focus Private Tours Ken and Gloria Temple go over family ancestry with cousins in Eissen, Germany during their private tour in September, 2013

Immigration declined because of World War I and the Great Depression, rising only after the fall of Nazi Germany:

After World War I, the age of unlimited European immigration to the United States came to an end. Newly-enacted immigration quota laws for the years 1924 and 1929 limited immigrants from the “Weimar Republic” to only 25,957 per year. Because of the world-wide economic crisis of the 1930s, this quota was never lifted, not even to rescue Jewish refugees from Nazi terror. For the entire decade of the 1930s, therefore, the statistics show only 119,107 legal immigrants from the German Reich — among them thousands of intellectuals, writers, artists, actors and musicians, making this a real “brain drain” for Germany. After World War II, generous exceptions were made for “Displaced Persons,” German war brides and others who could no longer envision a future in Europe. This amounted to a considerable number of postwar emigrants and brought about another “brain drain” of highly qualified persons during the 1950s and 60s. During these two decades, 786,000 Germans crossed the Atlantic to find a better standard of living and to experience the professional advancement they could not achieve in the hidebound structure of West German science and industry, prior to the sweeping cultural liberalization of the late 1960s.

And that’s where all of the Germans come from (read more from this book at the Max Kade German Center).

Why are there more Germans than Irish (numbering at 36 million)? For one thing, Germany is a vastly more populous country. For another, early German immigrants typically had more money and were able to move out to the less-crowded Midwest where they could thrive, according to the Independence Hall Association of Pennsylvania.

Today there is a German belt extending from eastern Pennsylvania to Oregon. Bloomberg describes data from the American Community Survey:

A majority of counties in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas are predominantly German, and they make up a plurality of Ohio and Indiana counties.

Census figures show German-Americans are slightly older and better-educated than the general population, with one-third having a bachelor’s degree or higher. More than 85 percent live in the same place as they did in 2009, and 40 percent are employed in management, business, science or the arts.

Looking Over Ancestral Village of Wartenfels

Saturday, September 14th, 2013

September 14 from a visit on September 13

Ken Temple of New York looks over his ancestral village of Wartenfels, Bavaria, Germany. His Tempel ancestors left here in 1866.

Ken Temple walks out of the sawmill 'Boxmühle' on the edge of Wartenfels. There is a possible ancestral connection to this old mill.

Ken Temple walks out of the sawmill ‘Boxmühle’ on the edge of Wartenfels. There is a possible ancestral connection to this old mill.

A local historian, Reinhard Bauerfeind, met with us spent nearly four hours explaining the history of the village and the reasons behind the emigrants’ decision to leave. Poverty, mainly, and large families with not enough land and property to go around. This is a poor region and the farmland is not optimal. America was always seen as the land of limitless opportunity. Herr Bauerfeind also explained what the name ‘Wartenfels’ means, which is warte – castle and fels – rock. Castle on a rock. There was a castle here but it was destroyed by soldiers acting on orders from the city of Nurnberg after the inhabitants, low aristocrats who had taken to thievery, stole one too many shipments of goods destined for merchants in the area.

Reinhard Bauerfeind, left, and Ken Temple. Ken had just been presented with a complimentary copy of the town history, co-authored by Bauerfeind.

Reinhard Bauerfeind, left, and Ken Temple. Ken had just been presented with a complimentary copy of the town history, co-authored by Bauerfeind.

WartenfelsKenLooksOver copy

The Bremerhaven German Emigration Museum

Saturday, September 14th, 2013

September 14 – from a visit here on September 9

Many of Ken Temples ancestors left from the port of Bremerhaven, Germany.

Many of Ken Temples ancestors left from the port of Bremerhaven, Germany.

We visited the Bremerhaven German Emigration Museum recently as part of Ken and Gloria Temple’s 17-day exploration of ancestral villages and towns and sightseeing around Germany. The museum was opened in 2002 and since then, has improved its presentation dramatically with a fascinating look into the difficult and uncomfortable conditions endured by those who made the long crossing over the Atlantic Ocean to start their new lives in America.

The museum is located along the so-called ‘new harbor,’ which opened in 1847. It is commonly thought by genealogists that people left from Bremen. No so. Bremerhaven was always the port for the long haul ships. Bremen ships went to England or other nearby ports.

Ellis Island in New York Harbor circa 1935, a photograph in the lobby of the German Emigration Museum

Ellis Island in New York Harbor circa 1935, a photograph in the lobby of the German Emigration Museum

Prosit from Eissen, Germany

Monday, September 9th, 2013

September 8

We visited Rottkamp cousins in Eissen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany today. After waiting six years to take this trip, Gloria Temple met three cousins and their wives at a family reunion on September 8th including homemade cake and rolls, a visit to two ancestral churches and at the end, a farmer’s fest including organic beer.
Prosit!

Ingrid Rottkamp greets Gloria Temple, left, to her home in a converted train station on the edge of Eissen.

Ingrid Rottkamp greets Gloria Temple, left, to her home in a converted train station on the edge of Eissen.

Marion and Manfred Rottkamp, Norbert Rottkamp, Ingrid Rottkamp, Ken and Gloria Temple, James Derheim and Heike Rottkamp

Marion and Manfred Rottkamp, Norbert Rottkamp, Ingrid Rottkamp, Ken and Gloria Temple, James Derheim and Heike Rottkamp

Looking over genealogical records in the home of Marion and Manfred Rottkamp. Looking over Gloria's shoulder is her cousin, Norbert Rottkamp of Eissen

Looking over genealogical records in the home of Marion and Manfred Rottkamp. Looking over Gloria’s shoulder is her cousin, Norbert Rottkamp of Eissen


Gloria Temple stands at a baptismal font where her ancestors were baptized in Grosseneder, Germany

Gloria Temple stands at a baptismal font where her ancestors were baptized in Grosseneder, Germany

From left clockwise, Ken Temple, Manfred Rottkamp, Norbert Rottkamp, Heike Rottkamp, Gloria Temple and Uwe Rottkamp.

From left clockwise, Ken Temple, Manfred Rottkamp, Norbert Rottkamp, Heike Rottkamp, Gloria Temple and Uwe Rottkamp.

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