A Visit to the Landeshauptarchiv in Koblenz

logo_klengLast Thursday I participated in another interesting visit organized by my genealogy society Luxracines. This time we went to Koblenz, Germany, and visited the Rhineland Archives (Landeshauptarchivs).

signOur group of 23 genealogists was divided into two groups for a guided tour of the premises. Currently the Landeshauptarchivs preserves 56 kilometers of documents. The tour began in an area normally not accessible to non-authorized persons.


The new addition to the archives, at right, allows very little daylight to enter the area where the archives are kept.
Entrance to the CO2 storeroom.

Our group was first shown the storeroom with the most precious books and documents. It is climate controlled and equipped with a CO2 extinguishing system. Old documents and books have several enemies. As light accelerates the aging of parchment, vellum, and paper, the building in which the archives reside has only very small windows. The storeroom is kept at a constant temperature as changing temperatures and humidity can also cause damage. The precious treasures in the storeroom are preserved in archival safe boxes or bindings. Anyone who has ever experienced flooding or fire knows water and books do not mix.  If a fire should break out, the storeroom is flooded with CO2 which, by displacing oxygen, smothers the fire.

To protect document surfaces from marks made by oily or sweaty hands our guide used thin cotton gloves while showing us several objects.

She removed a vellum document from the 12th century from its protective sleeve, unfolded it and allowed us to examine the seal hanging from it on a ribbon and make a guess about the purpose of the document and who may have had it drawn up. Usually seals are made of wax – this one was made of lead. It was a lead papal bull on a document drawn up by a pope.

She also showed us the Codex Balduini Trevirensis, a book made in 1341 telling of Henry VII’s expedition to Italy from 1310 to 1313 to obtain a papal imperial coronation. The Codex is best known for the illustrations once found in the front of the book and removed due to their historical importance. Blank pages were added in place of the illustrations which were on exhibition in the Landesarchiv in 2000.

Document Restoration and Bookbinding Department

Dry sponges and soft brush

I found this part of the tour the most interesting. It began with the first steps in cleaning up paper material. Dry sponges are used like erasers to remove dirt and grime, a soft brush is used to remove dislodged materials before the object is placed in a dusting unit where air is circulated and dust is removed by a suction system.

Damaged (upper) and restored (lower) documents

Once a document has been cleaned the damage caused over the years needs to be brought to a halt. In the background of the above photo is a document with ragged edges. In the foreground is document that has been filled in where areas where missing. On the damaged document at the top, what looks like dark smears (see arrow on right), are scraps of very lightweight Japanese papers.  They are made from long, strong, flexible fibers that produce a lasting repair. Japanese paper does not discolor or become brittle and is translucent making it suitable to repair text areas in documents.

Miniature screen

The technique used to repair missing areas on paper documents is similar to paper making. The damaged paper is placed on a screen (miniature at left used for explanation) and lowered into a water bath of the leaf casting machine. Paper or fiber scraps of similar color to the item being repaired are mixed in a blender with water and pumped over the screen. The suction is turned on and the water level recedes and the holes are filled with pulp. The sheet is then slid off of the screen onto a draining area. Covered with a blotter sheet the paper is flipped and covered with another blotter sheet and dried under pressure in a paper press. Blotter sheets are replaced on a daily basis until the document is completely dry. To stiffen and protect the paper it is then treated with a glutenous paste which is applied with a wide short-bristled brush similar to those use when wallpapering.

Draining area with sheets in process of restoration covered with blotter

Seals attached to documents with ribbons are also restored in this department. After cleaning, they fill the cracked areas with same colored wax, molding it to blend in but without reproducing the missing design. It sounds very simple but from the looks of the work space it is a slow process. Colors need to be matched and seals are hung to dry during each step before continuing the miniscule work.

Manual bookbinding equipment
Sample of a bound book with wooden cover

A short demonstration on how books are bound was given. I had recently watched a video on the subject but seeing it in person is even more fascinating, especially for a book lover.

Reading Room

Our next stop was the reading room where patrons are allowed to view the material they are interested in. Everything you bring into the building has to be locked up in a locker near the reception area. Laptops are allowed in the reading room as well as pencil and paper for taking notes. Images of documents can be saved to a flash drive purchased in the reading room.

The documents in the archives are open to persons with a legitimate interest in, for example, academic research of the past or for genealogical and private research. However you cannot drop in and request to see records. If you plan to do research in Koblenz please check out the Rheinland Archives’ very informative website which is unfortunately only in German.  Any document collection you want to view needs to be requested per email at least two weeks in advance. 

Lunch and Afternoon Activities


Following our visit to the archives we took a short walk to the Josef-Görres Square (Josef-Görres Platz) which is noted for its 13 meter high history column, Historiensäule, that tells the history of Koblenz.

DSCN2402We had lunch at a restaurant on the square before once again dividing up into two groups. The largest group went on a sightseeing tour of the city fortifications. I joined the group of five who went back to the archives to do research.

We were taken to the back room of the reading room where the microfilm readers are located. All records requested were brought in on a cart and were soon spread out on the table. I had requested birth, marriage, and death records for the towns of Ernzen and Ferschweiler. For the period I was interested in there are no civil records and the church records are housed in Trier in the Catholic archives.

As I couldn’t do research I helped one of the others in my group. He had ordered marriage records from 1900 to 1910 for Welschbillig. It was fun to see his reaction when he found a record he was searching for. As he was not familiar with the handwriting I read the important facts from the documents: names, dates and places of birth, parents’ names and residences, date of marriage, while he inputted them into his computer. The more experienced researcher (in me) cringed at his entering the data without citing the source of each fact. He did note the number of the marriage document and I hope he takes time to add a full citation.

While I was busy helping my new friend, an archive employee reviewed the list of requested material and made a note of microfilm with ten-years lists of births, marriages, and deaths for Ernzen and Ferschweiler and other material that could be ordered in advance if and when I plan on going back.

Our time ran out too soon and we had to meet our bus for the return trip home. As always the trip was well organized and everyone enjoyed a wonderful day of sightseeing and/or research.

© 2015 Cathy Meder-Dempsey


52 Ancestors: #22 A New Beginning for my German Genealogy Research

Week 22 (May 28 – June 3) – Commencement: Countless schools will be having their commencement ceremonies around this time. Think not only about school, but also about commencement meaning “a beginning.”

A New Beginning

Nearly two and a half years ago a visit of an exposition by Luxracines at our local mall was a new beginning for my genealogy research. Soon afterwards I joined Luxracines, a genealogy society in Luxembourg, and was making plans for my first field trip, Luxracines on Tour 2013 Part I. The Luxracines on Tour 2013 (Part II) field trip in May 2013 was a great success.

Roman ship on the Mosel River

Following a cruise of the Mosel River on a Roman ship and lunch at a typical German “Gasthaus” we visited Peter Daus’ private library above the Restaurant Daus in the Haus Daus in Wittlich.

Restaurant Daus in Haus Daus in Wittlich, Germany

The library had about 2000 Familienbücher (family books) for towns in Rheinland-Pfalz, Pfalz and Saarland. Ortsfamilienbücher or Familienbücher are compilations of information extracted from civil and parish registers for all families of a town or village and arranged in alphabetical order. Information on occupations, military service and emigration can also be found in these books.

I pulled the books on the villages my ancestors came from and began taking pictures of the covers/title pages and all entries for surnames that matched mine with my Nikon Coolpix (macro and without flash). Although time was short and work space a bit cramped, I took nearly 120 photos – some (below) came out a bit blurry but still useful for citing sources.

Familienbuch Ferschweiler[1]
The WILDINGER-WEIMANN family was the very first family I looked up. I knew Bernard WILDINGER was born in Ferschweiler and found him in Richard Schaffner’s 1999 compilation Familienbuch Ferschweiler.[1]

Page 249, entries for families no. 1624 and 1625[1]
My second great-grandfather Bernard WILDINGER is listed under family number 1624 with his wife Maria WEIMANN. Next to Bernard’s name the number <1625.3> links him to family number 1625 (his parents and siblings) in the same book (next entry) and as the 3rd child of the couple.

Abbreviations used in family books:
   geboren / born
~    getauft / christened
+     gestorben / born
bgr or ¨    begraben / buried
oo    Ehe / marriage
o-o     außerehelich / extramarital
S    standesamtlich / civil
   kirchlich / religious
?    fraglich / questionable
   vermutlich / presumably
   errechnet / estimated
NN    Name(n) unbekannt / unknown name
P.    Paten / godparents
Q.    Quelle / source
u.    und / and
zw.    zwischen / between
lu    lutherisch / Lutheran
rk    römisch-katholisch / Roman Catholic

Familienbuch Ernzen[2]
Not only were Bernard and Maria listed in Ferschweiler[1] but also in Ernzen[2] where they were married and had their children. These entries helped me to write the following story of this family.

The WILDINGER-WEIMANN Family of Ernzen, Germany

Bernard WILDINGER was born on 7 November 1838 in Ferschweiler to Nikolaus WILDINGER und Catharina SCHRAMEN.[1] He was baptized Bernardus on 9 November 1838 in Sankt Lucia Catholic Church in Ferschweiler.[3]

Bernard married Maria WEIMANN on 25 January 1866 in a civil ceremony [Source: St.A. (Standesamtliche=civil) Heirats-Act Nr. 5] in Bollendorf/Ernzen.[2] They were married on 3 February 1866 (Source: Kirchenbuch 4/152/2)[2] in a religious ceremony in the Sankt Markus Catholic Church in Ernzen.[4]

Maria WEIMANN was born on 18 June 1839 in Ernzen to Hubert WEIMANN and Elisabeth WELTER.[2] She was baptized on 19 June 1839 in the Sankt Markus Catholic Church in Ernzen.[5] Her godparents were Maria WELTER and Anton PROMMENSCHENKEL, both of Ernzen.[2]

Bernard and Maria had eight known children:

  1. Hubert was born on 23 December 1866 in Ernzen. After Christmas, on St. Stephen’s Day, 26 December 1866 he was baptized in the catholic church. His godparents were Hubert WEIMANN from Ernzen and Kath. SCHRAMEN from Ferschweiler. He died at nine months on 20 September 1867 and was buried two days later in Ernzen.[2]
  2. Peter was born 19 October 1868 in Ernzen.[2] He was baptized on 21 October 1868 in the Sankt Markus Catholic Church in Ernzen.[6] His godfather was Peter WILDINGER. Peter did not marry and died at the age of 31 years on 11 May 1899 in Ernzen.[2]
  3. Elise was born unknown and died 14 May 1870 in Ernzen.[2]
  4. Peter was born 7 August 1871 in Ernzen. He was baptized 8 August 1871 in the Sankt Markus Catholic Church in Ernzen[7] in the presence of his godparents Peter STEIL and Marg. DEUTSCH. He was deaf and dumb (taubstumm), never married and died in 1952 in Ernzen.[2]
  5. Johann was born on 25 February 1874 in Ernzen. He was baptized in the catholic church in the presence of his godparents Johann WEIMANN and Elis. WILDINGER. He was a mason (Maurer), married Katharina PÖPPELREITER on 16 September 1874 in Mettendorf where the family moved in 1904.[2] Johann and Katharina were my great-grandparents.

    My great-grandfather, Johann “Jean” WILDINGER 1874-1924
  6. Nikolaus was born 3 May 1876 in Ernzen. He was baptized in the catholic church in the presence of his godparents Nik. ROOS and Elis. SCHRAMEN. He died in 1948 in Ernzen.[2]
  7. Anna Maria was born 25 November 1878 in Ernzen and was baptized in the catholic church. She married Michael RAIER, an ironworker (Hüttenarbeiter) from Bollendorf on 3 September 1907.[2]
  8. Bernhard was born on 19 June 1881 in Ernzen. He was baptized in the catholic church in the presence of his godparents Bernard SCHRAMEN and Kath. HANSEN. He married Marg. HANSEN on 30 January 1908. His wife was born 20 May 1888 and died in 1915. Bernhard and his family lived in Ernzen and had six children between 1908-1921.[2]

Bernard WILDINGER was a stonemason (Steinhauer). He died at the age of 55 years in Ernzen on 14 October 1893 in Ernzen.[2] His wife Maria was a widow for 22 years before dying on 2 September 1915 in Ernzen.[2]

The Next Step

Although Mr. Schaffner has facilitated my research of this family this is only the beginning for German families. I still need to obtain the records he used for his compilations. The next step is to visit the Rhineland Archives (Landeshauptarchivs) in Koblenz where I hopefully will be able to access the original or digital copies of the church and civil records.

Thanks to my Luxracines membership I’ll be making the trip to Koblenz, Germany, to visit the archives of Rhineland on June 25th. When I registered to participate on this trip I had to give advance notice of the records I’m interested in seeing – birth, marriage, and death records for Ernzen and Ferschweiler for the years (range) the WILDINGER-WEIMANN and the WILDINGER-SCHRAMEN families lived in those towns.

The original documents ordered by researchers are made available for viewing four times a day. The information from the documents may be copied (transcribed) or the page(s) can be scanned on their in-house scanner and saved to a USB flash drive. The use of digital cameras is not permitted.

I am looking forward to this trip to the Landeshauptarchivs in Koblenz and will definitely be blogging about it!

[1] Richard Schaffner, compiler, Familienbuch 1 der Pfarrei Sancta Lucia Ferschweiler 1680-1899, mit: Diesburgerhof (ab 1803) und L(a)eisenhof (ab1830) (compiled in 1999), p. 349, family #1624. [Pages of book photographed in Archiv Peter Daus (Wittlich) on 4 May 2013].
[2] Richard Schaffner, compiler, Familienbuch 2 der Pfarrei St. Marcus Ernzen bei Irrel, Daten bis 1798 aus den Kirchenbüchern der Pfarrei Echternach (damals fur Ernzen zuständig); mit: Ernzen-Hof, Fölkenbach und teilweise auch Prümzurlay (Häuser der rechten Flußseite) 1680-1899 (compiled in 2000), p. 245-246, family #867. [Pages of book photographed in Archiv Peter Daus (Wittlich) on 4 May 2013].
[3] “Germany Births and Baptisms, 1558-1898”, (index), FamilySearch, FHL microfilm 463,565. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/NDZ1-H61 : accessed 23 February 2015), Bernardus Wildinger; citing Sankt Lucia Katholisch, Ferschweiler, Rheinland, Prussia.
[4] “Deutschland, Heiraten, 1558-1929,”, (index), FamilySearch, FHL microfilm 462,714. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/JH8P-DXT : accessed 23 February 2015), Bernardus Weldinger and Maria Weimann, 03 Feb 1866; citing Sankt Markus Katholisch, Ernzen, Rheinland, Prussia.
[5] “Germany Births and Baptisms, 1558-1898”, (index), FamilySearch, FHL microfilm 462,714. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/NFD4-54C : accessed 23 February 2015), Maria Weiman, 19 Jun 1839; citing Sankt Lucia Katholisch, Ferschweiler, Rheinland, Prussia.
[6] Ibid, (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/N2CB-2JL : accessed 23 February 2015), Peter Wildinger, 21 Oct 1868; citing Sankt Markus Katholisch, Ernzen, Rheinland, Prussia.
[7] Ibid, (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/NFD4-V9B : accessed 23 February 2015), Petrus Wildinger, 08 Aug 1871; citing Sankt Markus Katholisch, Ernzen, Rheinland, Prussia.

Genealogy Sketch

Name: Bernard WILDINGER
Parents: Nicolas WILDINGER and Catherina SCHRAMEN
Spouse: Maria WEIMANN
Parents of spouse: Hubert WEIMANN and Elisabeth WELTER
Whereabouts: Ferschweiler and Ernzen, Germany
Relationship to Cathy Meder-Dempsey: 2nd great-grandparents

1. Bernard WILDINGER and Maria WEIMANN
2. Johann “Jean” WILDINGER
3. Nicolas WILDINGER
5. Cathy Meder-Dempsey

© 2015 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

52ancestors-2015This is my weekly entry for Amy Johnson Crow’s challenge:
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – 2015 Edition. It was so successful in 2014 that genealogists wanted to continue or join in on the fun in 2015. Be sure to check out the other great posts by visiting Amy’s blog No Story Too Small where she’ll be posting the weekly recap on Thurdays and allowing all participants to leave a link to their post(s) in the comments.