Théodore MEDER (1807-1898) and the Papal Zouave

Today would have been my father-in-law Marcel MEDER‘s 95th birthday. When I began researching our family history in 1995 my father-in-law was the one who helped me read the old handwriting in the documents I obtained from the records offices I visited in different towns in Luxembourg. He died too soon in 1996, less than two months before his 70th birthday.

In March 2015, I wrote about his great-grandparents Théodore MEDER (1807-1898) and Susanna REIFFER (1808-1877), a couple with a dozen children.

In previous posts for the family groups in Luxembourg, I concentrated on the birth and marriage records of the children. For the MEDER-REIFFER family, I tried something different. I used pink and blue boxes for the children, adding footnote links for their birth, marriage, and death records to the very long source list at the end of the post. Instead of discussing the birth and/or marriage records, I chose to focus on the census records of the family.

The Luxembourg Census

The census in Luxembourg was taken every three or so years. At FamilySearch there are 1,115,931 census images available for these years: 1843, 1846, 1847, 1849, 1851, 1852, 1855, 1858, 1861, 1864, 1867, 1871, 1875, 1880, 1885, 1887, 1890, 1895 and 1900.

Théodore MEDER should have been found in every single year the census was taken except for 1900 as he lived from 1807 to 1898.

I went through the entire 1871 census collection for Diekirch and did not find Théodore, Susanna, and their youngest daughter Catherine. Their married sons were found. Their married daughters, however, still need to be looked into.

The missing 1871 census listing is not the focus of this post.

After the death of his wife in 18771 and the first census following her death in 18802, Théodore went missing in 1885, 1887. 1890, and 1895.

Théodore was a widower for 22 years and may have spent some time in the local hospital before his death. This was known as when he died at three o’clock in the morning on 29 July 1898 his death was reported by Dominik ZENNER, the 64 years old overseer in the hospital (Aufseher im Spital) in Diekirch. The overseer stated that the death occurred in the hospital.3

Notes to myself and how my sister uses them

I share my GEDCOM file on GeneaLux.Net, a sub-site reserved for members of my genealogy society Luxracines. Earlier this month my sister, who also does genealogy and is a member of Luxracines, ran across Théodore’s 1885 census listing by accident.

Recognizing the surname, she checked my tree as she knows I keep notes to myself about the records I’m searching for. With the information on where he was found in 1885, she went on to successfully find him in the same place in 1887, 1890, and 1895.

Where did she find Théodore? In Diekirch, in the hospital where he was known to have died, in all four census years.

The Hospital of Diekirch

Rob Deltgen, the compiler of the family book for Diekirch, wrote about the hospital of Diekirch: “Offiziel wurde 1882 mit dem Bau des Hospitals begonnen, vorher existierte jedoch auch ein Bürgerhospital.” The construction of the hospital officially began in 1882, but before that, there was also a community hospital.4

In the center of town, the area around the church and judicial building is called ob der Klouster by the older generations of Diekirch. Behind the church, in the rue de l’Hôpital, is the rest home run by the nuns of the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Elisabeth.

Théodore MEDER in the census

In 1885 Théodore was in pflege or in care at the hospital run by Catholic nuns. He had no occupation and was living on support or von unterstützung lebend. He was listed a few lines below Dominique ZENNER, Krankenwärter (nurse) in the hospital.5

On 1 February 1887, in the Klosterstrasse, the Abbess Généviève BOVÉ, as in 1885, headed the list of nuns who cared for the patients. The patients’ names were listed on the census page and then crossed out. Dominique ZENNER was listed as a nurse, two lines above Théodore whose name was marked out.6

On 1 December 1890, the street name was hinter dem Kloster or behind the convent. Abbess BOVÉ was still head of the convent. Dominique ZENNER is listed on line 18 and Théodore on line 20. Dominique’s occupation was Krankenwärter (nurse) and Théodore was living from support.7

By 2 December 1895, the hospital had grown. Personnel and patients were enumerated on five pages. The information included the number of years each had been at the establishment. The persons living the longest at the hospital were Pauline SCHROELL (line 33), Théodore MEDER (line 62), and Dominique ZENNER (line 67). All three had been there for 12 years, likely since the hospital had been built. Dominique was still working as a nurse, likely overseeing the men’s ward.8

Dominik, a Papal Zouave

Dominique ZENNER, as noted earlier, was the informant on the civil death record of Théodore MEDER. His name was used to learn more about the hospital. Searches, however, brought up more interesting information about the life of Dominique or Dominik as he was known by those he worked with him in the hospital.

Expo Strasbourg Zouaves
Thomon, CC BY-SA 4.0 <;, via Wikimedia Commons

The Zuavi Pontifici or Papal Zouaves were an infantry battalion and later a regiment dedicated to defending the Papal States. Young unmarried Roman Catholic men volunteered to assist Pope Pius IX in his struggle against the Italian unificationist.

Dominik ZENNER (1834-1924) worked as a nurse during the cholera epidemic of 1866 in Luxembourg. At the age of 34, he crossed the Alps to fight for the freedom of the Papal States in the ranks of the Papal Zouaves. Soon after his arrival, he contracted cholera but after several months was cured and able to leave the hospital. In 1869 he visited his homeland but returned to his military duties. In 1870 he was taken prisoner at Porta Pia by the Garbaldians. He received the papal blessing from Pope Pius IX from the loggia of the Saint Peter’s Church along with 1200 of his fellow prisoners. In October 1870 he was released to his homeland where he devoted himself to nursing the sick in the Diekirch hospital until his death.9

On 4 May 1920, Zenner celebrated his military jubilee with his brothers-in-arms Wilhelm LEYDER from Eppeldorf and Peter KIEFFER from Wiltz in the monastery of Diekirch. Her Royal Highness, CHARLOTTE, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg presented the jubilarians with the Silver Medal of the Grand Ducal Order of the Crown of Oak. At the same time, they received from the Archbishop of Luxembourg, Mgr. Pierre NOMMESCH the Pontifical Order Pro Ecclesia and Pontifice awarded by Pope Benedikt XV. It was pinned on their chests beside the Pontifical Medal Bene Merenti they had already received from  Pope Leo XIII.10, 11, 12

Thank you to my sister

I’d like to thank my sister for keeping an eye out for records I’ve been unable to find and for letting me know when she finds them. Also, for unknowingly helping me to learn more about the history of the people of Luxembourg. I knew little of the Zuavi Pontifici and found interesting articles in the Luxembourg newspapers about the men who served.

As for Théodore and his nurse Dominik, did a friendship develop between the two as one was cared for by the other? Did Théodore know of Dominik’s military service? Did Dominik share stories of his adventures fighting for the freedom of the Papal States? What was it like for Théodore, who had spent most of his life working as a day laborer and shepherd, to live in an establishment for the last 15 years of his life run by women?

© 2021, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

  1. Luxembourg, Registres d’état civil, 1662-1941 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Diekirch > Décès 1825-1890 > image 1066 of 1358. 1877 Death Record No. 58. ( : accessed 01 Apr 2013). 
  2. Luxembourg, Volkszählungen 1843-1900 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Diekirch > 1880 > image 321 of 1562. Meder-Faber household No. 85 (,345872201 : accessed 7 January 2015). See images 320 and 322 for the front and back of the census sheet. 
  3. Luxembourg Civil Records, Diekirch > Mariages 1895-1923 Décès 1895-1902 > image 550 of 661. 1898 Death Record No. 53. ( : accessed 17 Feb 2013). 
  4. Rob Deltgen, Familienbuch Der Gemeinde Diekirch, published as part of the 750th anniversary of the city of Diekirch in 2010, page 6. 
  5. Luxembourg Census 1843-1900, Diekirch > 1885 > image 1523 of 1613. line 20. 1885 Zählungsliste No. 165a. ( : accessed 26 September 2021). 
  6. Ibid., Diekirch > 1887 > image 82 of 1594, line 4. 1887 Zählungsliste No. 37. ( : accessed 26 September 2021). Note: The nuns, servants, and patients being cared for were listed on Zählungsliste 36 and 37. All entries for patients were marked out. 
  7. Ibid., Diekirch > 1890 > image 357 of 1663, line 20. 1890 Zählungslist No. 36a. ( : accessed 26 September 2021). 
  8. Ibid., Diekirch > 1895 (n 1432) > image 34 of 590, line 62. 1895 Zählungsliste No. 87d. ( : accessed 26 September 2021). 
  9. Luxemburger Wort, 1924. Jg., nº 17 (17.01.1924), p. 3. Digitized by the National Library of Luxembourg, ( : accessed 25 September 2021) 
  10. Escher Tageblatt, 1920. Jg., nº 106 (07.05.1920), p. 3. Digitized by the National Library of Luxembourg, ( : accessed 25 September 2021) 
  11. Avis Mort. 6 Page 3. In: Luxemburger Wort, 1924. Jg., nº 17 (17.01.1924), p. 3. Digitized by the National Library of Luxembourg, ( : accessed 25 September 2021) 
  12. Obermosel-Zeitung, 44. Jg., nº 282 (05.12.1924), p. 3. Digitized by the National Library of Luxembourg, ( : accessed 25 September 2021) 

The Ancestors: Nicolas Traudt and Maria Barbara Bill of Vianden

On Sunday, 22 January 1747, a young couple was married in Vianden, Luxembourg.

Castle of Vianden from a collection of 10 framed prints of castles in Luxembourg owned by our family.

The 1747 marriage record

The marriage index card

The marriage of Nicolas TRAUDT and Barbara BILL was recorded in the Vianden church register volume 2 page 105. It was the first entry for the year 1747.1

Nicolas TRAUDT was 25 years old. Barbara BILL, his bride was 23. The entry in the church register of Vianden included the names of their fathers, Henri TRAUDT and Theodor BILL.2 The three lines give no additional information not already abstracted on the marriage index card.

1747 Marriage Record of Nicolas TRAUDT and Maria Barbara BILL

The mother of the groom was Margaretha HEICKEL.3 The mother of the bride was only known as Maria.4 These names were not mentioned in the marriage record.

The children of Nicolas TRAUDT and Maria Barbara BILL

Nicolas and Barbe made their home in Vianden where all of their children were born. Nicolas made his living as a clothes tailor or tailleur d’habits. 

1766 Luxembourg census reflecting the family group before the birth of their last child.

Henri TRAUDT was born on 24 February 1748.5 He was listed as Nicolas Henri TRAUDT on the 1766 census.6 No marriage or death record has been found.

Nicolas TRAUDT was born on 13 January 1750.7 He was living at the time of the 1766 census. No marriage or death record has been found.

Théodore TRAUDT was born on 11 March 1752.8 He died on 11 October 1785 at the age of 33.9 He married Susanna WAGENER on 27 April 1777 in Vianden.10 Like his father, he was a clothes tailor.

Maria Magdalena TRAUDT was born on 17 June 1754.11 She married Michel WIRTZ on 13 May 1776.12 They were both living in January 1793 when their 8th child was born.13

Barbe TRAUDT was born on 19 March 1757.14 She died in der Unterstadt on 14 January 1794 at the age of 36.15 She married Johann MANDT on 7 April 1777 in Roth.16 They were the parents of nine children, all born in der Unterstadt.

Michael TRAUDT was born on 25 Jan 1759.17 He may have died before 1766 as he is not included in the household of Nicolas and Barbe in 1766.

Maria TRAUDT was born on 20 September 1761.18 A daughter named Anna Maria was with Nicolas and Barbe at the time of the 1766 census. No marriage or death record has been found.

Elisabeth TRAUDT (speculation!) was enumerated with Nicolas and Barbe on the 1766 census. She was listed in the under 14 years column. A baptismal record for this child needs to be found to prove she was a child of this couple with this name. It may have been an error on the census and meant to be Maria Clara, the next child born to the couple.

Maria Clara TRAUDT was born on 2 April 1764.19 She was not listed on the 1766 census with her parents although she is known to have lived. She married Jean METZ in Vianden on 6 May 1787.20 They had children who have not been researched. Clara died on 18 February 1828 at the age of 63.21

Margaretha TRAUDT was born on 8 August 1766.22 She died at the age of 43 on 30 November 1809.23 She married Jean-Népomucène SCHLOESSER (1764-1833) on 26 April 1790 in Vianden.24 Margaretha and Jean-Népomucène were my 4th great-grandparents.

Nicolas is widowed and remarries

After 22 years of marriage and giving birth to nine children, Barbe died on 18 May 1769 at the age of 45.25 Nicolas remarried on 1 October 1769 to Barbara KÖNIG.26 They did not have children. Nicolas died on 19 April 1799 in Vianden.27

Research Manager

I used the Familienbuch von Roth / Vianden 1718-1797 as a guide for this family. The family book includes the register number, page number, and entry number of church records (baptism, marriage, burial) of Vianden and Roth used by the compilers to determine the family groups. Vianden records are online at FamilySearch. The records for Roth are indexed on FamilySearch but access in Europe is limited to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Kirchenbuch, 1718-1900 (Katholische Kirche Roth (Kr. Bitburg).

Jean-Paul Hoffmann’s Familienchronik der Stadt Vianden needs to be consulted for any further information available for this family group. A copy is available in the Luxracines archives in Walferdange.

A bit of history: Grafschaft Vianden

I wasn’t able to find records for individuals in this family group who were born, married, or died in der Unterstadt of Vianden. I had to study the history of the Grafschaft Vianden or County of Vianden to understand where the records were recorded.

Vianden lies on the Our River that divides the city into the upper town (on the left) and lower town (on the right).

During the Middle Ages, the fortified city of Vianden was the capital of the County of Vianden and included villages as far as Prum and Bitburg in present-day Germany. The county was as large as the present-day Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

The way into Roth from the Luxembourg side.

In the first half of the 13th century, the Count of Vianden donated the parish church of Roth, the adjacent building, and land to the Order of the Templars.

St. Peter’s Church in Roth with the churchyard.
Entrance gate to Schloss Roth (Castle Roth), originally an outpost of Castle Vianden and adjacent to St. John’s Church of Roth.
Schloss Roth
The garden at Schloss Roth

In the middle of the 13th century, a dispute between the Templar knights and the Count of Vianden had to be settled by arbitration of the Archbishop of Trier. The Trinitarian monks ran the hospital for the count and had started building a church with a monastery and churchyard across from the hospital. This did not bode well with the Templars as Vianden was affiliated to the Templar parish of Roth as the city did not have its own church.

The city of Vianden was a divided city with a lower town (in der Unterstadt) and an upper town. Although residents of both sections of the town had the same rights, the lower town was more of a secondary town. This became more clear with the settlement of the dispute.

The dispute was resolved by attaching the lower town to the parish of Roth and creating a new parish assigned to the Trinitarian monks in the upper town.

The Templars built a small chapel on the parish boundary near the bridge in 1256 to accommodate the disgruntled lower town dwellers. The residents in der Unterstadt had to make do with a chapel with an open roof for their Sunday services.

Entrance of St. John’s Church in Roth

They were, however, required to celebrate holidays (Christmas, Easter, Pentecost) as well as the sacraments of baptism, the first communion, and marriage at the church in Roth. They have to trek down and up to the church to attend these high masses as well as transporting the corpses of their deceased to the Roth churchyard for burial.

Inside the St. John’s Church in Roth, Germany.

Thank you to my husband

We have two routes on our riding itinerary that take us through Roth, one on the German side and the other coming into Roth from the Luxembourg side.  My husband and I rode our bikes through Roth on Tuesday in search of the church and castle. I had located them on the map, off our usual paths.

I didn’t realize that the buildings were located on the top of a wooded hill. The road up to the church is not well paved and the last piece was a 17% climb. My husband rode to the top while I had to walk my bike for the last part. It was worth the effort. The photos of the church and castle are my husband’s contribution to this post. Villmols merci.

Genealogy Sketch

Name: Nicolas TRAUDT
Occupation: Tailleur d’habits or clothes tailor
Parents: Henri TRAUDT and Margaretha HEICKEL
Spouse: Maria Barbara BILL
Parents of spouse: Theodorus BILL and Maria _____
Whereabouts: Vianden, Luxembourg
Relationship to Cathy Meder-Dempsey: 5th great-grandparents

1. Nicolas TRAUDT and Maria Barbara BILL
2. Margaretha TRAUDT and Jean-Népomucène SCHLOESSER
3. Jean Joseph SCHLOESSER and Anna Maria “Maria” CONSBRÜCK
4. Odile Lucie SCHLOESSER and André FOURNELLE
5. Jean Joseph FOURNELLE and Catharina FRANTZ
6. Marie Marcelle FOURNELLE and Nicolas WILDINGER
7. Living WILDINGER and Fred Roosevelt DEMPSEY
8. Catherine Ann “Cathy” DEMPSEY and Living MEDER
9. Our children

© 2021, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

  1. Luxembourg, registres paroissiaux, 1601-1948 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Vianden > Tables des mariages 1691-1803 Bettendorff-Z (index organisée par l’époux) > image 351 of 596. 1747 Marriage Index Card. ( : accessed 14 December 2017). 
  2. Ibid., Vianden > Baptêmes 1705, 1739-1771, confirmations 1756-1769, communicants 1769-1770, mariages 1741-1770, sépultures 1742-1771 > image 107 of 166. 1747 Marriage Record (1st entry for 1747). ( : accessed 14 December 2017). 
  3. Heinrich Wagner and Willibald Reichertz, Familienbuch von Roth / Vianden 1718-1797 (1991). Family Book of the Parish of Roth / Vianden (today Roth an der Our, Germany) including Bauler, Gaymühle, Obersgegen, Rodershausen, Roth, Scheuerhof, and the lower town of Vianden. A PDF of the book is available for download to members of Luxracines for a small fee. 
  4. Luxembourg Church Records, Vianden > Baptêmes 1679-1696, 1698-1739, mariages 1691-1707, 1721-1739, sépultures 1679-1706, 1721-1727, 1739-1741 > image 124 of 212. 1724 Baptismal Record (left page, first entry). ( : accessed 24 August 2019). 
  5. Ibid., Vianden > Baptêmes 1705, 1739-1771, confirmations 1756-1769, communicants 1769-1770, mariages 1741-1770, sépultures 1742-1771 > image 28 of 166. 1748 Baptismal Record (left, 1st entry). ( : accessed 13 December 2017). 
  6. Luxembourg, 1766 Dénombrement (census), (images), FamilySearch (Digitial copy of the microfilm of originals in the Archives Générales du Royaume, Bruxelles, includes localities now in Luxembourg and Liège, Belgium), Film 1781981 , DGS 008182018, Decanat de Mersch: Vianden, image 420 of 556. “.” Niolas Traudt household 120. ( : accessed 24 August 2019). 
  7. Luxembourg Church Records, Vianden > Baptêmes 1705, 1739-1771, confirmations 1756-1769, communicants 1769-1770, mariages 1741-1770, sépultures 1742-1771 > image 32 of 166. 1750 Baptismal Record (left, 2nd entry). ( : accessed 14 December 2017). 
  8. Ibid., Vianden > Baptêmes 1705, 1739-1771, confirmations 1756-1769, communicants 1769-1770, mariages 1741-1770, sépultures 1742-1771 > image 36 of 166. 1752 Baptismal Record (right, 2nd entry). ( : accessed 13 December 2017). 
  9. Wagner & Reichertz, Familienbuch von Roth / Vianden 1718-1797. 
  10. Luxembourg Church Records, Vianden > Baptêmes 1771-1774, 1779-1795, confirmations 1789-1794, mariages 1771-1778, 1787-1795, sépultures 1771-1797 > image 175 of 265. 1777 Marriage Record (right page, 5th entry).( : accessed 19 June 2021). 
  11. Ibid., Vianden > Baptêmes 1705, 1739-1771, confirmations 1756-1769, communicants 1769-1770, mariages 1741-1770, sépultures 1742-1771 > image 41 of 166. 1754 Baptismal Record (right, 5th entry). ( : accessed 14 Decmeber 2017). 
  12. Ibid., Vianden > Baptêmes 1771-1774, 1779-1795, confirmations 1789-1794, mariages 1771-1778, 1787-1795, sépultures 1771-1797 > image 175 of 265. 1776 Marriage Record. ( : accessed 14 December 2017). 
  13. Ibid., Vianden > Baptêmes 1771-1774, 1779-1795, confirmations 1789-1794, mariages 1771-1778, 1787-1795, sépultures 1771-1797 > image 122 of 265. 1793 Baptismal Record (right page, bottom entry).( : accessed 8 September 2021). 
  14. Ibid., Vianden > Baptêmes 1705, 1739-1771, confirmations 1756-1769, communicants 1769-1770, mariages 1741-1770, sépultures 1742-1771 > image 49 of 166. 1757 Baptismal Record (right, 4th entry). ( : accessed 13 December 2017). 
  15. Robert Deltgen, Genealogie Rob Deltgen, online I have been unable to confirm this date since the records in der Unterstadt of Vianden were recorded in Roth, a parish with restricted online images. 
  16. “Deutschland, Rheinland, Bistum Trier, katholische Kirchenbücher, 1704-1957”, database, FamilySearch ( : 3 November 2020), Barbarae Bill in entry for Joannes Mandt, 7 Apr 1777; citing Marriage, certificate , Roth, Daun, Rheinprovinz, Preußen, Deutschland, Bistumarchiv (Diocese Archive), Trier, Germany. 
  17. Luxembourg Church Records, Vianden > Baptêmes 1705, 1739-1771, confirmations 1756-1769, communicants 1769-1770, mariages 1741-1770, sépultures 1742-1771 > image 57 of 166. 1759 Baptismal Record (right, 3rd entry). ( : 14 December 2017). 
  18. Ibid., Vianden > Baptêmes 1705, 1739-1771, confirmations 1756-1769, communicants 1769-1770, mariages 1741-1770, sépultures 1742-1771 > image 69 of 166. 1761 Baptismal Record (left, 1st entry). ( : accessed 14 December 2017). 
  19. Ibid., Vianden > Baptêmes 1705, 1739-1771, confirmations 1756-1769, communicants 1769-1770, mariages 1741-1770, sépultures 1742-1771 > image 83 of 166. 1764 Baptismal Record (right, 2nd entry). ( : accessed 13 December 2017). 
  20. Ibid., Vianden > Tables des mariages 1691-1803 (index organisée par l’épouse) > image 557 of 639. 1787 Marriage Index Card. ( : accessed 14 December 2017). 
  21. Luxembourg, Registres d’état civil, 1662-1941 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Vianden > Mariages 1834-1890 Décès 1797-1866 > image 869 of 1406. 1828 Death Record No. 5. ( : accessed 14 December 2017). 
  22. Luxembourg Church Records, Vianden > Baptêmes 1705, 1739-1771, confirmations 1756-1769, communicants 1769-1770, mariages 1741-1770, sépultures 1742-1771 > image 94 of 166. 1766 Baptismal Record, 2nd entry on left page. ( : accessed 18 November 2015). 
  23. Luxembourg Civil Records, Vianden > Mariages 1834-1890 Décès 1797-1866 > image 645 of 1406. 1809 Death Record, right page bottom entry. ( : accessed 29 August 2021). 
  24. Ibid., Vianden > Naissances, mariages, décès 1779-1793 > image 184 of 241. 1790 Marriage Record, top of left page. ( : accessed 18 November 2015). 
  25. Luxembourg Church Records, Vianden > Baptêmes 1705, 1739-1771, confirmations 1756-1769, communicants 1769-1770, mariages 1741-1770, sépultures 1742-1771 > image 139 of 166. 1769 Death Record (right, 3rd entry from bottom). Note: age at death 49 years.( : accessed 14 December 2017). 
  26. Ibid., Vianden > Baptêmes 1705, 1739-1771, confirmations 1756-1769, communicants 1769-1770, mariages 1741-1770, sépultures 1742-1771 > image 122 of 166. 1769 Marriage Record (right page, first entry). ( : accessed 24 August 2019). 
  27. Diözesanarchiv Luxemburg / Archives diocésaines Luxembourg (images), Matricula Online,, Creative Commons License CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 (citing original records in the Luxembourg Diocesan Archives, Luxembourg City), GV.MF 316; GV.MF 351, Vianden, KB-01, Heiraten – Sterbefälle – Taufen – 1794 – 1807, image 71 of 164, last entry on page 77. 1799 Death Record. ( : accessed 19 June 2021). 

Lëtz Research: The Hidden Villages of Luxembourg

Luxembourg genealogy research may seem daunting to new and even experienced researchers. With a country the size of Rhode Island, the smallest US state, one might assume Luxembourg research would/should be easier.

I learned a lot through trial and error when I first began searching for vital records for my Luxembourg ancestors. I browsed the records to figure out which communes the villages belonged to. When I got far enough back in time, I went through the same time-consuming trial and error system with the parish records.

Today, I use two online lists created by Jean THOMA to check for the commune and the parish a village belonged to at different points in time:

The Communes in Luxembourg during four centuries
(includes the year when a village changed commune)

The Parishes in Luxemburg about 1803

Still, even with these lists, there are records for some villages that are not easily found.

I received a query from Shirley who was searching for an 1813 marriage record for ancestors who married in Buschdorf.

  • She had the date that had been abstracted by a volunteer at Luxracines from the Tables Décennales (later referred to as TD in this post) or ten-year tables for births, marriages, and deaths.
  • She knew that Buschdorf was part of the commune of Boevange-sur-Attert.
  • The marriage record was not found in the collection of marriages for the years 1796-1890 where she thought it would be.

She wanted to know if records for Buschdorf might be found in a different commune.

Thoma’s list of communes indicates that Buschdorf was its own commune until 1823. This means that they kept their own TD, birth, marriage, and death records before 1823.

I went to the FamilySearch catalog and looked up Buschdorf. The catalog showed civil records for Buschdorf are in the Boevange-sur-Attert collection.

FamilySearch screenshot.

For more information, I clicked on the link (see arrow above) to open up the catalog entry for the collection.

FamilySearch screenshot.

This is the top of the page for the collection of records for the commune of Boevange-sur-Attert. There is a link that will take you directly to the civil records for all locations in Luxembourg. Stop. Don’t use this yet. Scroll down further on the page to view all films included in the collection for this commune.

FamilySearch screenshot.

If you aren’t familiar with entries in the catalog, there are a few things you need to know.

  1. The camera icon with a key indicates some kind of restriction. Before becoming discouraged, check to see if you are signed in to FamilySearch. Very often, as in this case, the key will disappear indicating the collection is not restricted.
  2. In the column with the film number, Item numbers may also be included. These will help you navigate an entire film with more than one item included. Images identifying the beginning of new items are easily found when scrolling through the collection.

In the above screenshot, the title of the collection/film Naissances 1841-1880 — BUSCHDORF: Naissances 1798-1822 — Mariages 1796-1890 indicates that part of this collection includes births for the years 1798-1822 for Buschdorf. As Buschdorf was keeping their own records up to 1823 there should also be marriage and death records for the town, not just births.

Going into the collection by clicking on the camera icon will take you to the film.

FamilySearch screenshot.

Although all information is included in this screenshot, I find it more useful to go to the Luxembourg Civil Registration, 1796-1941 collection…

FamilySearch screenshot.

…scroll down in the Information box at the bottom to the citation and copy/paste the link into your browser to go to the image below.

FamilySearch screenshot.

Here the name of the collection is Naissances 1841-1880, 1798-1822 Mariages 1796-1890 and doesn’t indicate the records for 1798-1822 are only for Buschdorf. The title Naissances 1841-1880 — BUSCHDORF: Naissances 1798-1822 — Mariages 1796-1890 in the catalog suggests that there are three items in this collection. When you look at the collection using thumbnails you can see where each item begins and ends. (see end of item 2 and beginning of item 3 in image above)

FamilySearch screenshot.

Births for 1841-1880 were filmed in two batches and are under Item 1 and Item 2. Item 3 is named Naissances (or births) 1798-1822.

FamilySearch screenshot.

Item 4 is Marriages for 1796-1890. This is where Shirley searched without results for the 1813 marriage.

Going back to Item 3, a closer look at the records shows that this part of the collection not only has births but also the TDs, marriage, and death records for Buschdorf for the period it was a commune. This is the entire collection of records for the now extinct commune of Buschdorf.

Other “Hidden Villages”

About a half-dozen years ago, I had the same problem with Osweiler, a village that is part of the commune of Rosport. Sometime after 2011 and before 2015 FamilySearch “reworked” the Luxembourg, Civil Registration, 1662-1941 collection. They have a link with the known issues in the collection that included this statement in 2015:

At the recent rework of this collection, the town/hamlet names were combined into the Commune/municipality level. The records are still there, but the search is different.

After much searching, I accidentally found that the Osweiler records to 1822 were included in Rosport in the collection titled “Naissances, mariages, décès 1800-1815.”  The title deceived me and I didn’t take the time to view the records more closely. If I had, I would have found the births and marriages for Osweiler for the years 1816-1822 in this misnamed collection. The FamilySearch catalog gives the correct year range for the Osweiler records:

Other examples are:

Alzingen, a commune until 1823, then part of Hesperange

Brandenburg, a commune until 1823, then part of Bastendorf

Berbourg, a commune until 1823, then part of Manternach

…and the list goes on.

The commune or municipal system was adopted in Luxembourg in 1795 during the French occupation to mirror the systems employed in the rest of the French Republic. Many villages kept their own records until they became part of a larger commune in 1823 when the system was overhauled. These smaller villages that were municipalities or communes until 1823 are easily found on Thoma’s list of communes by searching for the year 1823.

The moral of the story is…

Shirley was happy to learn where she could find the record. She wrote, “I have so many “missing” records.  Not always sure if they’re truly missing from FamilySearch, or if I’m just not looking in the right place.” Hopefully, this post will help her and others find their “missing” records.

If you are having problems finding your ancestors’ records, check Jean THOMA’s list of Luxembourg communes as well as the FamilySearch catalog for the location you are researching.

© 2021, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Lëtz Research: Luxembourg Civil Marriage Records and Their Amazing Detail

In my post Lëtz Research: How to Find Luxembourg Civil Birth Records I shared a lengthy reply I sent to J. who posed a question via the contact form on Luxracines website asking for assistance on finding a Luxembourg civil birth record.

As I mentioned at the end of the post, J. had a follow-up question.

Another question, how do you proceed if you don’t have the date of birth or place?  For instance, the father Johann Peter Garnich.  How would I look for his father?

I hadn’t put her off with my lengthy answer and she appeared interested in learning. So once again I sent off a detailed reply.

Finding the date of marriage in the ten-year index

I was expecting your next question. That’s the reason I mentioned the tables décennales (TD) in my previous email.

BTW, the ten-year indexes (tables décennales) are very helpful when you know the name and place but not the date of birth, marriage, or death (BMD). For each 10-year period, you will find 3 lists (BMD) that include the name of the person and the date of the event. With the date of the event, you can follow the previous directions to find the record.

If a couple was having children in a commune, it was often also the place they married. By searching the tables décennales of Bettembourg where the child was born, you should be able to find a date of marriage for the parents in turn aiding you in finding the marriage record.

Details in marriage records

Marriage records are amazing due to the details they contain. They include the following information for the groom and the bride: name, occupation, age, place of residence, date and place of birth, names of the parents. This is followed by information for the parents: names, occupation, age, and place of residence. If any of the parents are deceased, the date and place of death are given. Four witnesses (name, age, occupation, residence) are also given and their relationship to the bride or groom is usually mentioned.

In my early days of research, I quickly learned marriage records had enough information to take me back a generation at a time.

As an aside, Luxracines has a very large database of civil marriages in Luxembourg (complete). It includes marriages of Luxembourgers in the bordering areas of Belgium (a work in progress) and Germany as well as several large cities (Paris, for example) known to have had workers from Luxembourg. Luxracinces is now accepting subscriptions for the year 2021 giving members access to the website and databases until January 2022. See the section on Becoming a Member on the Luxracines website. [I included this as she had initiated contact on the website.]

The entry in the tables décennales

Your couple of interest is in the above-mentioned marriage database with a date of marriage in Bettembourg in 1883. Without this information, you could have looked at the tables décennales to find their names and date of marriage. This is the page they are on in the TD on FamilySearch:

Screenshot of FamilySearch website (1).
Close-up of the entry for Jean Pierre GARNICH and Elisabeth SCHELTGEN (seen here as Elise SCHALTGEN). Screenshot of FamilySearch website (2).

Click on the tiles button to view the small images. You can see the difference between the lists for births and deaths and the list for marriages. The marriage list always has two names and therefore looks different from the birth and death lists making it easy to navigate the images and each batch of 10 years.

Screenshot of FamilySearch website (3).

Now that you have the date of marriage, I’ll let you search for the record. When you find the marriage record, let me know and I’ll try to help you decipher the handwriting and point out the information from the record.

Locating the marriage record

Less than two hours later, J. sent me three links. The first was for a marriage record from 1884 instead of 1883. I had failed to be more precise about the index’s location in the marriage register. The second link she sent was the index to the 1883 marriages and included the names of the couple. The third link she sent was the link to the actual 1883 marriage record. Good work!

A detail I failed to pass on to J. is that the index is normally at the end of the year. She needed to go back through the images to find the record instead of forward from the index (i.e. the reason she found the 1884 marriage record first).

Before I went into the details concerning the marriage record, I gave J. some advice on citing the source of the marriage record.

Cite your Source

If you click on the Information tab at the bottom of the screen and scroll down in the small window, you will find the citation. Click on Copy Citation to save it. This will be extremely helpful when you want to point someone else to the marriage record. If the link is ever changed the waypoints > will help you or them to find the record again.

Screenshot of FamilySearch website (4)

This is the Source Citation:

“Luxembourg, Registres d’état civil, 1796-1941,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 17 July 2014), Bettembourg > Mariages 1796-1890 Décès 1796-1885 > image 571 of 1479; Archives nationales de Luxembourg (National Archives), Luxembourg.

I always replace the date following the link with “accessed [the date accessed]” for later reference.

Annotations and translation of the marriage record

The marriage record of Johann Peter GARNICH and Elisabeth SCHELTGEN is in German, the official language used at this time in Luxembourg.

1883 Marriage Record No. 5 for Johann Peter GARNICH and Elisabeth SCHELTGEN in Bettembourg. Image courtesy of FamilySearch (see citation above)

This is the first part of the marriage record which deals with the groom.

Screenshot of FamilySearch website (5)

In the year 1883, the 22nd of May at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, (followed by the name of the civil servant of the commune of Bettembourg in Luxembourg) came before us Johann Peter Garnich (occupation), 28 years old, born in Bettembourg the 8 November 1854, a resident of Bettembourg, of age son of the here present and consenting parents Peter Garnich and Katharina Wind, a married couple, farmers living in Bettembourg. The civil birth record of the groom was found in the register of this commune.

Part two with the information on the bride:

Screenshot of FamilySearch website (6)

And Elisabeth Scheltgen, without an occupation, 25 years old, born in Bergem in the commune of Monnerich (Mondercange) the 11 January 1858, a resident of Bergem, of age daughter of the here present and consenting parents Michel Scheltgen, an innkeeper, and Helena Nicola, without an occupation, residents of Bergem. An abstract of the birth record of the bride was furnished.

Part three concerning the banns, records read at the marriage, etc.

Who have asked us to proceed to the consummation of their marriage as agreed between them, and their proclamations, [place and date of the first reading of the banns, place and date of the second reading of the banns] were read the Sundays 6th and 13th of this month of May in this commune in the commune of Monnerich (Mondercange).

Since no objection to the intended marriage has been announced to us, we give justice to their request; and after we have read out all the above-mentioned acts (birth records) and the sixth chapter of the civil code, entitled Marriage, we have asked the bridegroom and the bride whether they will take each other as husband and wife; since both replied, each specially and in the affirmative, we declare in the name of the law that Johann Peter Garnich and Elisabeth Scheltgen are united by marriage.

This is the last part of the marriage record.

Of all this, we have established this act in the presence of:
Nikolaus Mootz, without occupation, 88 years resident of Bettembourg, not related to bride and groom
Jakob Hoscheit, (occupation) 29 years old, resident of Bettembourg, not related
Bernard Klinsch, day laborer, 37 years old, resident of Bettembourg, not related
Johann Kunsch, day laborer, 21 years old, resident of Bettembourg, not related
Who, after reading all to them, signed with us.
The mother of the bride declared not being able to write.

[Followed by signatures of the bride, groom, parents, 4 witnesses, and the civil servant]

The bride Elisabeth must have gone by Lisa as she signed Scheltgen Lisa. I thought this was an interesting detail and makes it more personal.

Occupation of the groom and the 2nd witness

Now it’s your turn to help J.  I was not able to decipher the occupation of the groom on this marriage record. The second witness appears to have had the same occupation. If anyone can help out, I’ll pass the information on to J.

© 2020, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Lëtz Research: How to Find Luxembourg Civil Birth Records

As a member of the board of my Luxembourgish genealogy society Luxracines, I receive copies of the emails from visitors to our website. Often they are in French or German and answered by other members of the board. When they are in English, I help out with replies.

Recently the following message was received from J.:

Re: birth records
Looking for parents names for Peter (Pierre) John Garnich Born: Bettembourg, Canton d’Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg, 29 Oct 1889. Any assistance would be appreciated.

I could have sent a quick one-liner with the names of the parents to the person making the inquiry. It would have been quick and easy but I don’t think it would have benefitted the person asking the question.

Any assistance would be appreciated…

J. wanted assistance in finding the parents of a person born in Luxembourg in 1889. I wanted my answer to also help her with FUTURE queries she may have on her ancestors in Luxembourg. The screenshots were not included in the email as I wanted J. to follow the instructions and have the wowser moment of finding the record on her own.

When a one-line question gets you a tutorial

Hello J.,

You can easily find the civil birth record of your ancestor by accessing FamilySearch’s database Luxembourg, Civil Registration, 1796-1941.

You have his date of birth and his place of birth which will aid in your search. As Bettembourg is not one of the communes that have been indexed by FamilySearch, you will have to browse the collection instead of using their search engine. This is the case for most communes as indexing is ongoing and as far as I know, they have only finished Esch and Luxembourg City. Browsing the collection is not as hard as it sounds.

Screenshot of FamilySearch website (1)

Click on Browse through 767,518 images to see the list of communes.

Screenshot of FamilySearch website (2)

Click on Bettembourg to see the records available for the town your person of interest was born in.

Screenshot of FamilySearch website (3)

Choose the record collection that includes births (naissances) for 1889. The collection you want to look into is Tables décennales 1803-1892 Naissances 1796-1890.

Screenshot of FamilySearch website (4)

There are 1468 images in this collection. Don’t let this stop you. The collection has two parts. Tables décennales (ten-year index) and Naissances (births) – in most cases the names of the database reflect the order of the records in the microfilm. The births go to 1890, a year after the birth you are looking for. Therefore the register for 1889 will be nearly at the end. Choose image number 1468 and click on the tiles icon at the upper left of the images.

Screenshot of FamilySearch website (5)

This will give you a view of the images at the end of the collection. The last two images on the microfilm look like lists. Click on the left one. At the top, it shows this is the index for the year 1890.

Screenshot of FamilySearch website (6)

Click on the tile icon again to view the images. Going backward, look for the image with an index for the previous year. (see screenshot 5, green box in the first row of images)

Screenshot of FamilySearch website (7)

The index is in alphabetical order. Your GARNICH person of interest is on the first page, Johann Peter Joseph born on 29 October with record #54. Since this is close to the end of the year, you can use the back button on the image numbers to go back two images to record #54.

If it had been #10, you would click the tile icon again, look for the beginning of the records for 1889, then go to the 4th image for record #10 (as #1 is always on the first page followed by 4 records per image).

Screenshot of FamilySearch website (8)

Now comes the hardest part: reading the record. The records are filled in as opposed to completely written in longhand which makes it easy to pick out the names.

Screenshot of FamilySearch website (9): Father, mother, and child’s names

The informant of the birth (line 5) was his father Johann Peter GARNICH. In the middle of the record (line 12) you will see the child was named Johann Peter Joseph. In the two handwritten lines above his name is the information on the mother. Her name was Elisabeth SCHELTGEN and she was 34 years old, without an occupation, and residing with the informant.

BTW, the ten-year indexes (tables décennales) are very helpful when you know the name and place but not the date of birth, marriage, or death (BMD). For each 10-year period, you will find 3 lists (BMD) that include the name of the person and the date of the event. With the date of the event, you can follow the above directions to find the record.

Although your question was simple and could have been answered with the names: Johann Peter GARNICH and his wife Elisabeth SCHELTGEN, I felt it more helpful to you to know how I found the answer. This will aid you in your future research of your Luxembourg ancestors.

Permission to use the question in this blog post was obtained from J. She had a follow-up question which will be shared in my next post.

© 2020, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Luxracines’ Marriage Database Helps Solve the Confusion of John Monner’s Marriage(s)

A year and a half ago Richelle Murray, a member of the Luxembourg Genealogy group on Facebook, asked for help with one of her families in Luxembourg. She was interested in John MONNER who married Anna HAUPERT on 10 February 1836. The conversation kind of fizzled out as the marriage I found for the date and place queried was for an Anna HAUPERT and Peter HAUPERT, a bride and groom with the same surname.1

Fast forward six months later Richelle asked about a record of a child born to Johann MONNER and Catharina HAUPERT. She found birth record No. 36 for her 3rd great-grandmother Marianna. A clerk had filled the left margin of both pages of the book with a court record. She needed help figuring out it is had anything to do with the record she was interested in. It pertained to birth record No. 35 correcting information in a record by court order and was of no importance to Marianna’s record.

While looking into this I checked the Luxracines site to see if the indexing project for marriages, a work-in-progress at the time, would include the wedding date of the MONNER-HAUPERT couple as she had previously asked about the marriage which she thought took place on 10 February 1836.

The search turned up two marriages for the same names in the same place but different dates. What could this mean? Had there been two marriages for two, three, or four different people? The actual marriage records needed to be consulted.

NEW! Marriage Database for Luxembourg 1796-1923

As of this May 2019, indexing is finally complete for the marriages in Luxembourg per the Tables Décennales (10-year lists for births, marriages, and deaths) for the years 1796-1923. This very important database for researchers with Luxembourg ancestry is available online to members of Luxracines.

• 170 communities (communes, Gemeinde) are included!
• 171,688 marriages for the period 1796-1923
• 108,642 marriages for the period 1610-1797
• A total of 280,330 marriages in Luxembourg

Luxracines is grateful to all members who worked on this project.

The Indexing Project for Luxembourg Marriages

Before going any further I need to say a few words about this project. A group of dedicated members of my genealogy society Luxracines worked on this project to index all of the marriages in the Luxembourg civil records using the Tables Décennales.

The indexing is complete and this new database is turning out to be a real time-saver. Researchers no longer need to search through town after town of the 10-year lists to find the marriage of a person who married in a place other than his place of birth or last known residence. Although many families remained in one town for generations there were times when children left home to find work or when entire families moved around seeking work and marriages took place in towns one would not think to look.

Marriages of Luxembourgers abroad are also being added and presently include Paris, Chiry-Ourscamp (a commune in the Oise department in northern France), and the city of Brussels (Bruxelles). Arlon (Belgium) is in the works and plans are to work on Attert (Belgium) next.

Getting back to the MONNER and HAUPERT marriages

Before looking up the marriage records I checked to see if any of our Luxracines members had worked on this particular family. Claude Bettendroffer, who has inputted baptisms, births, marriages, deaths, and burials for the parish and commune of Sandweiler from the church and civil records into his database, had Johann MONNER listed with two wives: Catharina HAUPERT and Catharina HAUPERT, both with the same parents but with different dates of birth. It’s work like Claude’s which makes it easier to find connections in Luxembourg families.

Lëtz look at the marriage records

Luxembourg (Lëtzebuerg) marriage records can be divided into four parts. Following the date, place, and names of authorities present for the marriage ceremony, the record contains:

• Groom’s information
• Bride’s information
• Dates of the publication of banns and the declaration that the bride and groom are joined in marriage by law
• Witnesses, usually four, to the marriage and signatures of all person’s present

The marriage record dated 5 April 18372 included this section on the groom:

1837 Marriage Record of Johann Monner and Catharina Haupert (groom’s info)

Johann Monner, carpenter, 27 years of, born in Pulfermuhl, in the commune of Sandweiler on 8 March 1810, a resident of Pulfermuhl, in the commune of Sandweiler, of age son of Peter Monner, carpenter, and Margaretha Cornely, no occupation, a married couple residing in Pulfermuhl, present and consenting to the marriage. Militia service was rendered per certificate of the Hamm police dated 28 March 1837.

And this section on the bride:

1837 Marriage Record of Johann Monner and Catharina Haupert (bride’s info)

The young lady Catharina Haupert age 25 years born in Sandweiler in the Canton of Sandweiler, without occupation, born on 22 November 1811 and a resident of Sandweiler, the of age daughter of Nicolas Haupert and Catharina Stümper, a legally married couple of Sandweiler who are agreeable to the marriage.

The marriage record dated 10 November 18413 included this section on the groom:

1841 Marriage Record of Johann Monner and Catharina Haupert (groom’s info)

Johann Monner, carpenter, 31 years of, born in Pulfermuhl, in the commune of Sandweiler on 8 March 1810, a resident of Pulfermuhl, in the commune of Sandweiler, of age son of Peter Monner, carpenter, and Margaretha Cornely, no occupation, a married couple residing in Pulfermuhl, present and consenting to the marriage.Widower of the deceased Catharina Haupert who died in Sandweiler on 7 May 1841.

And this section on the bride:

1841 Marriage Record of Johann Monner and Catharina Haupert (bride’s info)

The young lady Catharina Haupert, without occupation, 18 years old, born in Sandweiler in the Canton of Luxembourg the 17 August 1823, a resident of said Sandweiler, and the underage daughter of Johann Nicolas Haupert and Catharina Stümper, a married couple, farmers, residents of Sandweiler, present and consenting to the marriage. [I have not been able to transcribe and translate the last three lines which appear to be a kind of special permission given for the marriage on 12 October 1841.]

The groom in both marriage records was the same person. The brides in the marriage records were sisters, both daughters of Nicolas HAUPERT and Catharina STÜMPER. The second marriage record clearly shows Johann was widowed from his first wife.

Why the interest in Johann MONNER?

When Richelle posted to the Luxembourg Genealogy group, I didn’t know we had a connection. Richelle and I share common ancestors. Johann MONNER was the grandson of my 5th great-grandparents Hubert CORNELY and MARGARETHA EVEN through their daughter Margaretha CORNELY and her husband Peter MONNER.

Margaretha and Peter married on 15 June 18054 in Sandweiler and started a family of eight children. Johann was born on 8 March 18105 in Pulvermühle on the outskirts of Luxembourg City.

At the time Pulvermühle was part of the commune of Sandweiler. It would become part of the commune of Hamm in 1874, and then later of Luxembourg City. These changes in the location of the records would make researching the descendants more difficult as the communes were more populated. Also the spelling of the surname would change for some of the children from MONNER to MONNEUR.

Johann was the second son and third child of Margaretha CORNELY and Peter MONNER. Following his birth, Margaretha had five more children: a daughter and four sons. The youngest two were twin boys.

As seen above Johann married twice. His first wife bore him two sons. His second wife gave him three sons and three daughters from 1842 to 1850. One of the daughters died at the age of five months.

In 1852 Johann, his second wife Catharina, their children, and Johann’s two older sons departed from Le Havre, France, for New York where they arrived on 31 May 1852. Catharina was carrying a child on the journey and gave birth to a son Hillary “Henry” on 23 October 1852 in Dubuque County, Iowa. He would be the first and only MONNER child of Johann and Catharina to be born in America. Catharina died two years later on 10 May 1854.

John, as he was now called, raised his children in Dubuque County and then Jackson County, Iowa, before dying in 1880.

John was not the only child of Peter MONNER and Margaretha CORNELY to leave Luxembourg. Their second youngest son Peter moved to Paris between 1854 and 1860. Pierre MONNEUR was found on the marriage index database of Paris as he remarried there in 1861 following the death of his wife in 1860. One of his sons married his second wife’s daughter in 1868. Two more marriages found with the help of the Luxracines Marriage Database.

Full circle

Richelle’s tree back to our common ancestors.

The marriage record dated 10 February 1836 for Anna HAUPERT and Peter HAUPERT turned out to be important to Richelle’s research. Peter, like the two Catharina’s above, was a child of Nicolas HAUPERT and Catharina STÜMPER. Peter and Anna also went to Dubuque County, Iowa, a year earlier than the MONNER family. They had a son Michael who married Marianne MONNER, daughter of John, in 1865. Michael and Marianna were first cousins and Richelle’s 3rd great-grandparents.

Richelle and I are 6C1R but she does not share DNA with my brother whose test I manage. He has several matches to descendants of John MONNER and his first wife as well as his second wife. The trees these matches have attached to their DNA mistakenly list only one wife for John MONNER and by writing this post I hope the error can be rectified.

Thank you to Richelle and Claude for giving me permission to use their names in this post.

© 2019, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

  1. Luxembourg, Registres d’état civil, 1662-1941 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Sandweiler > Naissances 1865-1890 Mariages 1797-1890 Décès 1797-1822 > image 929 of 1493. 1836 Marriage Record No. 7. ( : accessed 19 May 2019). 
  2. Ibid., Sandweiler > Naissances 1865-1890 Mariages 1797-1890 Décès 1797-1822 > image 936 of 1493. 1837 Marriage Record No. 3. ( : accessed 3 April 2019). 
  3. Ibid., Sandweiler > Naissances 1865-1890 Mariages 1797-1890 Décès 1797-1822 > image 963 of 1493. 1841 Marriage Record No. 7. ( : accessed 3 April 2019). 
  4. Ibid., Sandweiler > Naissances 1797-1864 > image 75 of 932. 1805 Marriage Record (26 prairial an XIII) page 1 and 2. ( : accessed 17 April 2019) and ( : accessed 17 April 2019). 
  5. Ibid., Sandweiler > Naissances 1797-1864 > image 123 of 932. 1810 Birth Record No. 8. ( : accessed 17 April 2019). 

A Visit to Verdun – Nearly 100 Years After the End of World War I

Saturday my husband and I joined other members of my genealogy society luxracines on a trip to Verdun, France.

This year marks the centennial of the end of World War I. The deadliest conflict in the history of man. The human loss was great. Casualties for military personnel numbered at about eight million disabled and about ten million deaths, an average of 6,000 deaths per day. France had the greatest loss. The number of wounded, missing, and killed made up 30% of the active male population (18-65 years), for the most part, men between the ages of 17 and 45 who would never have children.

Battle of Verdun

The longest battle of the Great War, as World War I was known before World War II, was fought on the hills north of Verdun-sur-Meuse in north-eastern France from  21 February to 18 December 1916 and is known as the Battle of Verdun. Today the scars of the millions of shells fired and lethal fragments of shrapnel that marked the area during the Battle of 300 Days and Nights are hidden by the forested land. Nature has been allowed to cover the destruction of man in an area of 20,000 hectares (nearly 50,000 acres). After signing the armistice on 11 November 1918, France decided no one would be allowed to live in the devastated area and declared it a “Zone Rouge”.

The forest has become a sanctuary. Buried in the earth are the remains of 80,000 soldiers, a world heritage dating from the days of the Great War.

Ivan PARIS, professor of history and geography, was our guide for the day, explaining historical importance of each of the sites we visited.

Tranchée des Baïonettes

A la mémoire des soldats Français
qui dorment debout, le fusil à la main, dans cette tranchée.
Leurs frères d’Amériques.

Entrance of the Bayonet Trench Monument

In memory of French soldiers
who sleep standing, rifle in hand, in this trench.
Their American brothers.

The walkway to the gigantic cross on the wall.
A massive concrete slab supported by concrete pillars…
…protects the trench with its white wooden crosses.

Fort de Douaumont

We continued our visit to the Fort de Douaumont in the red zone.

Our guide on the machine gun turret of Fort Douaumont surrounded by Luxracines members
The German, European Union, and French flags flying over the Fort de Douaumont
Outside walls of the Fort Douaumont
The side entrance of Fort Douaumont
A passageway in the Fort Douaumont
Archway to the stairs to the lower level
Stairs to the lower level of the fort
Sketch of the machine gun turret on top of the fort and mechanisms in the lower level.
Corroded mechanism to lift the turret inside the fort

Ossuaire de DOUAUMONT

The Douaumont Ossuary contains the skeletal remains of at least 130,000 unidentified German and French soldiers on the lower level. They can be viewed through low windows on the outside of the building.

Inside, the stained glass windows cast a reddish glow in the 137 meters (449 feet) long cloister. The walls are covered with the names of French soldiers who died during the Battle of Verdun. Photography is not allowed in this sanctuary.

After a short visit to the chapel, we descended to the lower level to view a 20 minutes film about the ossuary.

View of the cemetery of identified soldiers from the front side of the Douaumont Ossuary

Unidentified bones are still being found in the area and added to the remains in the ossuary. Of the 300,000 who died during the Battle of Verdun, it is believed that about 80,000 are still buried in the fields and forest where the battle took place. Our guide explained the medical examiner of Verdun has to test all remains found to determine they are from the time period of the battle. He also shared the following anecdote.

In May 2015 three nearly perfectly preserved skeletons were found during the construction work on the new museum but with only one set of dog tags. Which of the three soldiers did the tags belong too? This is where GENEALOGY came into play as a direct descendant of the soldier named on the tags and a woman believed to be related to him were found. DNA samples yielded matches between the soldier, his grandson, and the woman. Read the entire story here: French WWI soldier identified by DNA and laid to rest. 

Following a nice lunch in the Restaurant La Brasserie du Parc in Verdun, we continued our afternoon sightseeing at the museum, Mémorial de Verdun.

Mémorial de Verdun

Part of the “Sacred Way” exhibit

Visitors are invited to enter the exhibit and walk in the footprints of the soldiers and cross the wooden boards which feel as if they are sinking in the mud.

Communicating At All Costs

Fernand Marche (1888-1916) was a runner in the 130th infantry regiment. On 1 August 1916, he volunteered to carry a message to his colonel near Fort Thiaumont but he was killed on the way. The next runner found his body, with his arm in the air and his fingers grasping the message. The messenger took the note and reached the colonel. A memorial to Private Marche was erected in 1925 in Bully-les-Mines, in front of the mining company in which he had worked before the war. ~ Text from the plaque

View of the Douaumont Ossuary from the upper platform of the Memorial de Verdun.

The City of Verdun

Following our visit to the museum, we were back in Verdun for a short walk through the streets and to have a drink on one of the many terraces on the banks of the Meuse River.

Mémoire Vive (left), a sculpture by the students of CAP Métallerie du Lycée Freyssinet in collaboration with the Lorraine artist Jean-No, and Porte Chaussee (right)
Monument to the Victory at Verdun
View from the top of the Monument to the Victory at Verdun
Mess des Officiers – Officer’s Mess in Verdun

Verdun is also well known for its sugared almonds known as dragées de Verdun. The almond, a symbol of fertility, was originally coated with honey. When medieval crusaders brought sugar to Europe in the 13th century it replaced the honey coating. White sugar coated dragées are gifted to guests at weddings (favors) as are blue or pink dragées at baptisms and to thank friends for baby gifts.

And finally, before boarding our bus to return to Luxembourg, we had our traditional group picture taken by our driver.

The day was well organized by our president Rob DELTGEN. Everyone had a wonderful time. I for one learned more about World War I and the Battle of Verdun from our very capable guide, Monsieur Ivan PARIS. We, my husband and I, plan to go back for a longer visit as there is so much more to learn and see in the beautiful city of Verdun and the surrounding area.

logo_klengMany thanks to Erich Singer who did a great job filming, cutting and editing.
Click here to watch the video.

© 2018, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

A Visit to Verdun - Nearly 100 Years After the End of World War I

A Visit to the Westwall Museum in Irrel, Germany

Last Friday my genealogy society luxracines took a trip to Germany to visit the District Archive of Bitburg-Prüm or Kreisarchiv Bitburg-Prüm in the city of Bitburg.

Following our visit to the district archive, lunch at the Restaurant Zagreb in the Bitburg Fußgängerzone (pedestrian zone), and a bit of sightseeing we met up at our bus. On the way back to Luxembourg we stopped in Irrel to see the Katzenkopf bunker (Panzerwerk Katzenkopf) which houses the Westwallmuseum.

The Westwallmuseum sign includes a plan of the bunker complex. Below the sign, a view of the town of Irrel in the valley.

The Katzenkopf bunker is the second largest of its kind and the northernmost along the former Siegfried Line which can still be visited.

The Westwall statistics: length, depth, cost, materials used, transportation of material, and manpower.

Germany began planning the construction of the Westwall, better known as the Siegfried Line by the Allies, along its western border in 1936. The line stretched from Kleve on the border to the Netherlands to Weil am Rhein on the border to Switzerland. More than 22,000 forts, bunkers, and pillboxes were planned along the 630 km (390 miles) line. From 1937 to 1939 two bunkers were built in Irrel: the Katzenkopf and the Nimsberg. Constructed on hills opposite each other with Irrel lying in the valley below, they guarded the main road from Cologne to the city of Luxembourg.

Following World War II, during the French occupation, the above-ground section of the bunker was blown up and the remains were bulldozed into a heap. In 1976 the volunteer fire department of Irrel began excavation of the site and restoration and preservation of the bunker. To date, the members of the fire department have worked 75,000 hours voluntarily on the site. Work is still being done inside the bunker during the winter months when the museum is closed to visitors.

Opened to visitors in 1979 the fortification is a B-Werke, the only accessible in Germany, with exterior walls of 2-meter thick reinforced concrete (B neu). Originally it had been planned with a B construction thickness of 1.5 meters. Three levels are accessible to visitors on Sundays and public holidays from April until the beginning of October.

Our guided tour began on the outside where our guide Mr. Geisen explained the strategic location of the Katzenkopf and the Nimsberg bunkersOn the upright concrete slab which remains of the former roof is a memorial for the 4,000 dead and missing soldiers of the 39th Fusilier-Regiment of Dusseldorf.

Our guide stressed that the bunker and museum are not meant to glorify the Nazi cause. The motto of the site is:

Once an instrument of war, today a reminder for peace.
Panzerwerk Katzenkopf. Einst Werkzeug des Krieges, heute Mahnung zum Frieden.

The artillery and infantry watch-turrets which can be seen on top of the bunker were used for the all-round observation. The bunker itself and its immediate area could be defended by several firing positions.

After showing us the watch-turrets on the outside our guide took us inside the bunker. Our tour had been arranged by appointment, the ticket office at the entrance was not manned, and our guide was the only responsible person at the location. Therefore as a precaution, he locked us in. This was more of a safety measure for persons using the hiking paths which pass by the bunker. An unlocked door might invite unwanted guests who would inadvertently be locked in at the end of our tour. Following this explanation, Mr. Geisen began telling us about the workings of the complex which housed a crew of 84 men on 4 floors.

Troop quarters with folding table and chairs as well as bunk beds which could be folded up against the wall for space.

The two upper floors were originally divided into 45 rooms of various sizes. They included troop quarters, lavatories, ammunition and gunnery rooms, canteen, kitchen, cold storage chamber, telephone control and radio station, guard rooms, and a first-aid station which was outfitted to perform any type of operation needed.

Kitchen sink with the original Villeroy & Boch tiles.

Electricity was produced by two diesel-engine generators for heating and lighting. Electric motors were also used for the ventilation system.

On the fourth floor, the lowest level, are two large galleries totaling 138 meters in length. Photographs and weapons of the period line the walls of these tunnels. One leads a room with a water pump installed over a 180-meter deep well and the other to the remote gun-turret.

A wartime scene is displayed where the tunnel work was discontinued.

At the end of the tunnel which leads to the room with the water pump, one can see where work had been interrupted. Due to the early outbreak of World War II, the construction of a tunnel between the two bunkers in Irrel as well as an elevator shaft between the tunnel and a railroad tunnel below was not finished. The elevator shaft would have been used to transport provisions into the bunkers and soldiers in and out of them without being seen.

The atmosphere in the bunker was a cool 10° C (50° F) and very damp.  Coming back up the four flights of stairs from the lowest level to the entrance, we were relieved to be back on the outside. We’d been in the bunker less than two hours. We’d felt the dampness and were able to imagine the cramped quarters as our group of 18 gathered in a room outfitted for 18 men. With the bed frames down there was standing room only. We saw photos of the streets of Irrel where nearly every house had been seriously damaged or destroyed. We can only hope to never have to live under similar conditions. The members of the Freiwillige Feuerwehr Irrel have succeeded in turning an instrument of war into a reminder for peace.

© 2018, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

A Visit to the Kreisarchiv Bitburg-Prüm in Bitburg, Germany

On Friday I took another one of those wonderful excursions with my genealogy society luxracines. I’d been looking forward to this trip for a long time.

In the morning we visited the District Archive of Bitburg-Prüm or Kreisarchiv Bitburg-Prüm in the city of Bitburg where we were greeted by Tabea SKUBSKI, the district archivist.

Tabea SKUBSKI, Kreisarchivarin

She presented the archive to us with great enthusiasm. Inaugurated on 19 April 2007 it is run full-time by Tabea SKUBSKI and her colleague Gaby THOMASER.

It is a joint archive for the Eifelkreis Bitburg-Prüm, the five Verbandsgemeinden (Arzfeld, Bitburger Land, Prüm, Speicher, and Südeifel), as well as the city of Bitburg. Eifelkreis Bitburg-Prüm is the district in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. A Verbandsgemeinde is a low-level administrative unit typically composed of a small group of villages or towns.

Previously found in Koblenz, the original records of the municipalities of this district were returned to the district archive and are in very good condition. For an annual fee of 15 euros, permission is granted to take photographs of the records without flash. It is advised to use gloves and/or sanitize hands before and after handling records. Gloves and a hand sanitizer are found in the reading room where beverages and food are not allowed. The only writing utensils allowed are pencils. First-time users are required to fill out an application form for the use of the archive and another permission form for photography.

Mrs. SKUBSKI explained the archival content, the geographical boundaries, opening hours, and use and handling of the records before taking us behind the scenes into the actual archival storage area where specific climatic conditions are regulated to best suit the preservation of the records.

Enough time remained after the presentation to browse through the registers, reference material provided, and even to do some serious record searches.

Many Luxembourgers have family roots in the Eifel as it was once part of Luxembourg. In 1815 as a compensation for damages suffered by the French this area became part of Germany (darker green area in the map below).

By Spanish_Inquisition (LuxembourgPartitionsMap_english.jpg) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
My main interest is the civil registers of the towns in this region. They are of great importance to my family history research as my maternal grandfather came from Ernzen, Germany. The registers available to the public are available from about 1798 for births, marriages, and deaths. Due to privacy laws, the BMD records are accessible only up to a certain year: for births older than 110 years, marriages older than 80 years and deaths older than 30 years.

After filling out the required forms I asked for the last Bollendorf birth register which would include the year 1906 when my maternal grandfather Nicolas WILDINGER was born in Ernzen. The village of Ernzen had their own records only until 1854 and then it was included in the registers of Bollendorf. Unfortunately, this register had already been requested by someone else in our group. However, on a closer perusal of the list of BMD registers for the Standesämter (civil registration offices) showed that Bollendorf births are only available at the archive up to 1900. Several years before the 110 years cutoff for births have not yet been deposited with the archive as they are included in a register which ends after the cutoff.

I’d come well prepared and had a list of more records I wanted to access. I decided to go to the bottom of the list and check on the earliest birth record. I requested the Ernzen birth register (1799-1825) and photographed the entries for two 3rd-great-grandmothers: Elisabeth WELTER 1807 and Catarine SCHRAMEN 1812. I was a bit stumped when I couldn’t find Hubert WEIMANN’s 1805 birth in Ernzen. Either I was too excited and missed it or I have the year and/or place of birth wrong.

Then I asked the archivist to pull the next Ernzen birth register (1826-1854) which is huge. Seeing my surprise she said it is one of the largest books in the archive. In it, I found my great-great-grandparents Bernard WILDINGER 1838 and Maria WEIMANN 1839.

My last request was for the Mettendorf birth register which would include the years 1842-1843 and was given the 1834-1850 book (below). In it, I found the 1843 birth record of Mathias PÖPPELREUTER (as spelled in the record, later spelled PÖPPELREITER) and the 1842 birth record of his wife Magdalena WAGNER.

Geburtsregister Burgermeisterei Mettendorf 1834-1850

Time flew and it was time to take a short walk to the restaurant we had reserved. After a leisurely lunch in the heart of Bitburg, we gathered for an official group photograph.

luxracines members who participated in this field trip.

Following a short walk through the beautiful pedestrian zone, we continued our trip to Irrel to visit a World War II bunker.

Photos by Rob Deltgen used with permission.

To be continued…

© 2018, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Luxracines on Tour in Belgium and France

Luxracines, my genealogy society in Luxembourg, organized a field trip to the State Archives in Arlon, Belgium, and the archives of the Cercle Généalogique du Pays de Longwy in Mont-Saint-Martin, France, yesterday.

We departed from Luxembourg by bus for the Archives de l’État in Arlon in the Province of Luxembourg, Belgium. Greeted by the director of the archives, Mr. Michel TRIGALET, we were served coffee and cookies while he gave us an overview.

Luxracines members having coffee while Mr. Michel TRIGALET explains the workings of the archives of Arlon

He explained how the archives were busy preparing to move the 18 kilometers of documents found in the present building as well as more kept in storage in different locations for a move into the new annex they are building. They have a small team of five persons and part-time personnel will be coming in to help. After completion of the new building, all collections will be moved there. They will have about 32 kilometers of archives in one place. The present home of the archives will be renovated to allow for better storage and preservation of the archives.

Conference by Mr. TRIGALET was held in the reading room.

Following our short coffee break, Mr. TRIGALET took us to the reading room where he held a conference on the separation of the two Luxembourg(s). Instead of a slide presentation, Mr. TRIGALET had pulled records from the archives, laid them out on the two large tables, using them to supplement his presentation while explaining the intricacies of the historical period and showing us documents and maps relating to the subject.

By Spanish_Inquisition (LuxembourgPartitionsMap_english.jpg), via Wikimedia Commons

Over time the borders of the Luxembourg went through various changes as seen in the above map. Although familiar with the events of the times, I did not know the effect it had on the countries involved or the people and the records they produced. Have you wondered why records are found in a specific archive and not where you would assume them to be?

The archives have records which pertain to Luxembourg but are kept in Arlon as they are included in collections which could not be separated. The history of Luxembourg explains the reason for this.

The Duchy of Luxembourg was annexed to France as a part of the département of Forêts (Forest Department) in 1795 during the French Revolution.

Luxembourg was liberated from French rule under the Treaty of Paris in 1814, following the defeat of Napoleon. The dark green area on the map (above), a part of the Duchy of Luxembourg, went to Prussia. At the Congress of Vienna in 1815 the Duchy became a Grand Duchy. The House of Orange received all of the Low Countries: Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg was made up of the dark pink and the blue area on the map and came under the rule of Guillaume I (William I) of the Kingdom of Netherlands.

Following the Belgian Revolution of September 1830, most of the area was administered by the Belgian authorities while the capital, Luxembourg City, remained under Dutch control. A large part of the area around today’s western border of Luxembourg was administered by the two governments during the period 1831-1839. In 1833 a convention was concluded which simplified the lives of the people under the double rule.

Following the Treaty of London in 1839 which recognized the independence of the Kingdom of Belgium and Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the partition between the two countries was established using mainly two criteria: linguistics and military reasons. All French-speaking territories went to Belgium. The Arlon region although German-speaking was given to neutral Belgium to remove the Athus-Arlon road which joined the road leading to Brussels from Arlon from the influence of the German Confederation.

Ledger with the entries for the border markers

The boundaries were vague and more precise limitations were set in 1843. Landmarks were set and the inventory of these can be found in the archives in Arlon.

Entry for marker No. 168 which mentions the road to Arlon

These historical events led to inventories being made of the archives of Luxembourg and Belgium in preparation for moving them to the country of origin. The archivists worked on the inventories from 1840 to 1847 with the Luxembourg side taking more time as 1. the main archives of the times had been kept in Luxembourg and in Maastricht and 2. the number of archivists had decreased with the partition of the two countries.

The repatriation of archives was made more difficult by the fact that the collections of some institutions could not be separated as entries had been made in chronological order instead of by place (for ex. military and mortgage). This is one of the reasons Luxembourg researchers should consult the State Archives in Arlon when searching for information on their ancestors who were in the military or owned land during the time period before this final partition of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

Register of men who served in the military
Register with entries of land owned by Jean Limpach, a farmer from Bascharage, and Jean-Pierre Michel, a mason from Pétange

Repatriation continues even today as archivists are finding documents in their vast collections and return them to their country of origin. One example is this book of atlases for the Canton of Arlon from 1808. It was in such a bad condition that it had to be completely taken apart and restored. The double-sided cadastre plans now fill a box instead of being in book form (see box on the back table in the group photo below).

Members of Luxracines examining the material used during the conference

Following the conference, Mr. Trigalet took us into the area not normally open to the public.

The area of the archives which is normally off limits to the public. Packing boxes and containers are being filled in preparation for the move to the new premises.

He proudly showed us the oldest document in the archives, a charter of the Orval Abbey from 1163.

Opening up the charter of the Orval Abbey from 1163.
Charter of the Orval Abbey from 1163.

After a wonderful lunch at De Bouches à Oreilles Restaurant, we were back on the bus for a very short ride to the archives of the Cercle Généalogique du Pays de Longwy in Mont-Saint-Martin, France. We were received by their president Bernard BARTHELEMY and vice-president Aimé TARNUS, as well as, a few members eager to serve us. They have published an amazing amount of family books for the towns in the Longwy district which Luxracines has acquired for its library in Walferdange.

Members of Luxracines who participated in the field trip with several members of the Cercle Généalogique du Pays de Longwy including their president Bernard BARTHELEMY and vice-president Aimé TARNUS.

Our little trip which took us through three European countries was very enjoyable. It was a fascinating day with other genealogists, persons interested in the two Luxembourg(s) as it concerns their family and/or town histories.

I would like to thank Rob Deltgen, president of Luxracines, for sharing his photos and allowing me to use them.

© 2017, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.