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.

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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.

A Family Book for Echternach

Rob DELTGEN, president of luxracines a.s.b.l. has announced the publication of the family book of ECHTERNACH by Thomas WEBERS (in German). Period 1796-1923, 5,862 families, 31,120 births, 751 pages.

Finally, researchers will have a family book for the commune of Echternach. For the longest time Echternach was the second largest town in Luxembourg. Even in the 1960s it had more hotel beds than Luxembourg City. No town in Luxembourg has a richer history.

1964-09-036-echternach
1964 – The Denzelt in Echternach during the visit of Charlotte, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg and King Olav V of Norway. Photo credit: Fred R. Dempsey (1936-1974).

Thomas WEBERS, an experienced author of numerous Luxembourgish and German family books, has embarked on this very extensive work and has mastered it with diligence and endurance.

Without the participation and support of the municipality of Echternach, this publication would not have been possible.

Please find below, the announcement made in German by Rob DELTGEN.

Ankündigung:

Familienbuch der Gemeinde Echternach

Echternach
Neuerscheinung Anfang März lieferbar

Familienbuch der Gemeinde ECHTERNACH
(1796–1923)

Autor: Thomas WEBERS

Herausgeber:
Gemeinde Echternach und luxracines asbl
5.862 Familien, 31.120 Geburten, 15.265 Todesfälle
751 Seiten
Vorverkauf 59 Euro (bis 28. Februar)
Ladenpreis ab 1. März: 69 Euro
Versand: Porto 15 € Inland, 25 € Ausland
Bitte angeben ob Versand oder SelbstabholerÜberweisung auf unser Bankkonto
luxracines.lu asbl
IBAN: LU97 1111 2992 8237 0000
BIC CCPLLULL

Abholbar bei der Buchpräsentation in Echternach (Termin wird mitgeteilt)
oder in unserem Lokal in Walferdingen während der Öffnungszeiten

Liebe Familienforscher,

Endlich liegt uns das Ortsfamilienbuch der Gemeinde ECHTERNACH vor. Diese Ortschaft war lange die zweitgrößte Ortschaft des Landes und noch in den sechziger Jahren besaß Echternach mehr Hotelbetten als die Hauptstadt Luxemburg. Es gibt keine Ortschaft in Luxemburg, die reicher an Geschichte ist. Funde aus der Stein- und Römerzeit belegen dies.

Thomas WEBERS, routinierter Autor zahlreicher Luxemburger und Deutscher Familienbücher, hat sich an diese doch sehr umfangreiche Arbeit herangewagt und sie mit Fleiß und Ausdauer bewältigt. Nicht immer war es für Thomas einfach, die Namen der Orte korrekt wiederzugeben. Wie schwer ist es für einen deutschen Forscher zu wissen, dass z.B. die in der Urkunde bezeichnete Ortschaft Siebenbrunnen identisch ist mit Septfontaines. Wir haben versucht die Orte-Datei soweit wie möglich zu berichtigen. Mein Dank geht hier auch an unsere fleißige Sekretärin Christiane OTH-DIEDERICH, welche mit großer Kompetenz vieles korrigiert hat.

Ohne die Beteiligung und Unterstützung der Gemeinde Echternach wäre diese Publikation nicht möglich gewesen. Dieses Buch ermöglicht nicht nur der Gemeinde die Originaldokumente zu schonen, denn jede Fotokopie schädigt die Tinte, sondern darüber hinaus ermöglicht dies den Unerfahrenen im Lesen der Akten, welche ja größtenteils in der alten deutschen Schreibweise, Spitzschrift genannt, verfasst sind, an exakte Daten zu kommen.

Wir danken der Gemeindeführung für die Zusammenarbeit.

Rob DELTGEN
Präsident von luxracines a.s.b.l.

bestwishescathy1© 2017, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

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Adding 3 Generations to the Family Tree

logo_klengI was on duty a week ago Saturday at my genealogy society’s library in Walferdange, Luxembourg. This new library is open to the public on Saturday afternoons from 2 to 5. Three members of the board of Luxracines were present and six visitors dropped in to research and to become familiar with our collections.

As it was not yet too busy, I was able to get some research done while on duty.

  • I opened up my genealogy software (AQ14), went to my maternal grandfather’s pedigree and checked for the closest unknown sets of ancestors. One by one I pulled the family books of the towns they were from and looked up the families.
  • I used Evernote’s Scannable app on my iPhone to scan the images of the pages of the German family books concerning the families I was interested in.
  • I attached the names of 5 sets of NEW ancestors to my family tree, as placeholders. I did not input any further information.
  • To the Research Manager of AQ14, I added a To Do/Research Item for each placeholder person:
    Check the images from the [name of town] family book taken at Luxracines library on 29 Oct 2016
  • I included a red tag for good measure.
  • At home, I sent the images to Evernote. Each image became a note which I titled with the town name, page number, family number(s), surname. The notes were filed in a temporary notebook.

The next step was to begin inputting the information, citing sources, and adding the cropped images to my database. I began with the Familienbuch der Pfarrei Messerich, Dekanat Bitburg, 1720-1900 compiled by Werner Naumann. It covers the towns of Messerich, Birtlingen, Niederstedem, and Oberstedem.

messerich2015Last year I wrote 52 Ancestors: #45 The WAGNER-KERSCHT Family. My third great-grandmother Anna Maria KERSCHT, wife of Johann WAGNER, was the daughter of Mathias KERSCHT (1759-1841), a sheep herder, Schäfer, and Anna EVEN (1766-1828) who were married 26 November 1785 in Messerich in the Eifel. Anna Maria’s parents, my 4th great-grandparents, would be the next logical couple to write about. The Mettendorf FB entry M1158 for them indicated that they had not always lived in Mettendorf. Their first six children had only estimated years of birth indicating the information was not to be found in Mettendorf. Their seventh child, born in 1809, was documented as being born in Mettendorf.

My fourth great-grandmother’s name was seen as Anna EVEN in the Mettendorf FB (Family Book). Since Anna and Mathias married in Messerich this was the logical place to look further for this family line.

To put this in perspective, Nicolas WILDINGER was my maternal grandfather. His line back to Anna is through his mother Catherine PÖPPELREITER, her mother Magdalena WAGNER, her mother Anna Maria KERSCHT, her mother Anna EWEN.

nicolaswildingerpedigreeThe first thing I noticed when I looked up EVEN, the name found in the Mettendorf FB, was that the name was spelled EWEN in the Messerich FB. I had suspected this may be the case as I had found Anna’s parents listed as Gerardus EWEN and Barbara THILIEN on Thomas A. Pick’s Homepage for Eifel Birth and Marriage Data. The data was transcribed from an unknown source and the town of Messerich is seen as Mefserich (clearly a transcription error). This made me question the correctness of Pick’s use of the names EWEN and THILIEN.

In the Messerich FB, Mr. Naumann included the book number, page number, and record number of the church records he viewed. He also mentions other spellings of names or name changes. Although records will have to be obtained as proof, I will, for now, go with the spelling found by Mr. Naumann.

The parents of Anna EWEN (1766-1828) were Gerhard EWEN and Barbara THIL, also seen as THIELEN. Anna had nine siblings born between  1761 and 1780. Not only did I find her parents but also her paternal grandparents, maternal grandfather, and both sets of paternal great-grandparents. The new names in the family tree are seen below in generations 8 and 9 in white.

annamariakerschtpedigreeWhen I finish all of the towns scanned, I will go into AQ14 and re-set the standard ancestral colors so that these new ancestors on my mother’s paternal line will also be pink.

An interesting name change was seen for Anna EWEN’s parents. Her father Remigius was born EUPERS. At the time of his marriage to Margaretha EWEN in 1733 he lost his surname as they lived in the EWEN home and their children were all baptized EWEN. He was known as Remigius EUPERS vulgo EWEN. Vulgo means “alias” or “also known as” and shows his association to the EWEN family and property.

The Mathias KERSCHT and Anna EWEN family group were included in the Messerich FB. However, there are still discrepancies. My Anna Maria KERSCHT is in the Mettendorf FB with birth being circa 1793. She had five siblings born between 1786 and 1794 in Messerich but she was not in the Messerich FB.

When I wrote 52 Ancestors: #45 The WAGNER-KERSCHT Family I discussed my doubts about Anna Maria being born abt. 1793 which would mean she was nearly 50 when her last child, my 2nd great-grandmother Magdalena WAGNER, was born. I didn’t have the WAGNER-KERSCHT family’s entry from the Mettendorf FB when I wrote the post a year ago. At the time the theme of the post was “nur nicht verzweifeln” or don’t despair due to all the missing information. I still don’t have the entry and have added it to the Research Manager as a To Do/Research Item for my next visit to the library.

Messerich, Germany

The first documented mention of the town Messerich, Miezriche, was in the year 1066. In 1852 remains of Roman settlements were found thus proving that the place existed nearly one thousand years before it was first mentioned. In 1473 Messerich had 15 Feuerstellen, or houses which were lived in; in 1525 there were 12; in 1541 there were 14; and in 1624 there were only 5. The Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), one of the deadliest conflicts in European history, and the Black Death, which repeatedly struck the Nimstal area in 1620-1633, were the cause for the decline in population. Today there are over 400 residents and 100 houses in Messerich.

messerichinrelationtoluxembourg
Map courtesy of maps.google.lu

On the map above Messerich is a bit south of Bitburg. The closest towns to Messerich are Masholder, Birtlingen, Oberstedem, and Bitburg. Echternach, Luxembourg, the town where I live, lies 17.5 km or 10 miles to the south.

luxembourgpartitionsmap_english
By Spanish_Inquisition (LuxembourgPartitionsMap_english.jpg) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Until the end of the 18th century, Messerich belonged to the Bitburg Provost District of the Duchy of Luxembourg. The borders of Luxembourg, before 1659, are seen above as black lines including areas of present-day France, Belgium, and Germany. The area where Messerich lies belonged to the Duchy of Luxembourg until the dark green area went to Prussia in 1815.

Although Messerich today lies in Germany, during the time my ancestors lived there it was part of the Duchy of Luxembourg. Now I am curious to find out which of my other “German” ancestors were actually Luxembourgers.

The entries from the Messerich FB have all been inputted and cited in my family tree. Schankweiler, Mettendorf, Neuerburg/Eifel, Mürlenbach, and Fliessem family books remain to be done. Hopefully I will have finished them by November 26th when it is once again my turn to be on library duty.

bestwishescathy1

© 2016, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

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7 Top Suggestions from my Readers

logo_klengThe JNGH 2016, an international meeting of friends of genealogy and local history took place in Leudelange, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, on Sunday, the 16th of October 2016. I represented the only genealogy blog in Luxembourg with Opening Doors in Brick Walls.

odibwlogo2016I wrote in Preparations and Afterthoughts on JNGH 2016 that neither my presence nor the interest in blogs and blogging drew the attention I had hoped. I asked my readers what I could do better next time. They were very forthcoming with their compliments and recommendations, mainly due to their own experience.

7 Top Suggestions from my Readers

1. If you don’t have extras, borrow two more laptops and screens. Run the presentation in German on one and in French on the other.

2. Explain the value of reading and of creating a blog.

3. Show how blogging has helped you in your research, i.e. having your information organized in one place, making connections with others of the same interest, etc.

4. Print out a sample post, maybe an introduction, in all your languages.

5. Include the languages you speak on the calling cards the next time you have them printed.

6. Draw the visitors’ attention to your table, i.e. balloons, flowers, candy.

7. Don’t be shy.

I’m taking these to heart and will implement them the next time I participate in this kind of exhibition. My inexperience and not having attended other genealogy events of this kind did not help. I believe shyness on my part may have also been a factor as noted in #7.

Here are the comments made by my readers (here and on Facebook) who kindly let me know I did a good job and coached me on how to make a better presentation at an international genealogy event.

Seems as though you did an excellent job of putting together your “booth”.  Suggestion: (not necessary, but just an idea) next time, borrow two more laptop and screens. Put one in German and one in French. (Of course, you would still have the one in English) Love your tree. ~ Luella, 3C1R, genealogist (Facebook)

Are you trying to encourage people to do more ancestry research or blogging, or both. Maybe you can put something together showing how blogging has helped you in your research, i.e. having your information organized in one place, making connections with others of the same interest, etc. I love all of your articles. ~ Ute (Facebook)

Cathy, I enjoyed your post, and it was quite interesting to learn that there are no bloggers in Luxembourg [there are no other genealogy bloggers], hard to believe. But, you are the first! Maybe next year, you could print out a sample post, maybe an introduction, in all your languages. Oh, I adore your calling card, I hope people picked them up, also next time you get them printed, put the languages on. Sorry about my suggestions. I hope you noticed an increase of hits on your blog. ~ Barbara Poole of Life From The Roots

1. I hope your presentation went well. As for suggestions, are there any Luxembourg FB groups? I know you are active on FB, so you’ve no doubt explored this avenue. Do you get any views from people in Luxembourg? Do you think it’s a language issue or just that people aren’t aware of blogging in general?
2. Well, until I started my own blog, I had NO idea what a blog really was or that there were so many genealogy blogs out there. So hang in there! Once people read your blog, they will see the value in reading and creating a blog. ~ Amy Cohen of Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

Maybe something like flowers or balloons on your table, something eye-catching next time would help draw attention to your table. Oh, and candy! I think you did great for the first time. Good luck with your next presentation! ~ Laura Mattingly of The Old Trunk in the Attic

Don’t be shy, Cathy! Your preparations were VERY professional although you don’t intend to make money out of your hobby! I very much love the design of your blogname, calling card and the tree. Until next year you will have worked on all the suggestions from your commentators and you’ll see, the visitors will come. To point out your language skills is a great idea! ~ Karen Feldbusch of Vorfahrensucher

I enjoyed reading this post, and seeing some of the links too, to see the venue photographs. Every place has its first genealogy blogger. You set the bar high for people to follow in your footsteps! ~Janice Webster Brown of Cow Hampshire

It looks and reads like you had a polished set up (nicely done on the logo, by the way). Perhaps your biggest asset is that you’re willing to ask and meditate on how you can better attract others to genealogy blogging. Good luck! ~ Michael Dyer of Family Sleuther

If you are interested in seeing what the other exhibitors presented, please visit Luxracines’ album titled Leudelange Journée Nationale de Généalogie 2016 with photos taken by Patrick Koster.

A special thank you to everyone who helped me out.

bestwishescathy1

2016, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

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Preparations and Afterthoughts on JNGH 2016

logo_klengThe JNGH 2016, an international meeting of friends of genealogy and local history in Leudelange, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, was on my calendar last Sunday.

The day began quite early for me since it’s a 45 minutes drive to Leudelange. I had to be there at 8:30 a.m. to set up my table representing my blog. My husband took the time to drop me off and pick me up in the evening. I was a bit nervous and driving myself would have had me out of my comfort zone.

After hooking up my laptop and second monitor and hanging up my sign and family tree, I had time for Luxracines business. As treasurer of the association, I made the rounds with Christiane, our secretary, to welcome the participants and hand out free breakfast coupons. The coupons for a cup of coffee with a croissant went over well last year and the tradition was continued by Luxracines this year.

Preparations for JNGH 2016

I attended the JNGH 2014 as a visitor and to the JNGH 2015 as a member of Luxracines helping out at their booth. I wrote about this last year in my posodibwlogo2016t Working a Genealogy Stand at JNGH 2015, A First for Me! This year was completely new to me as I had a table all to myself, representing the only genealogy blog written in Luxembourg. If there are others “Made in Luxembourg” I would like to know about them.

visitingcardDuring the summer I designed a logo for my blog and used it on visiting cards I printed up on linen paper. I placed a QR code with a link to my blog on the back of the cards. Genealogy is my hobby, not a business. I didn’t see the necessity of paying for having a logo designed and cards printed up.

I prepared my first slide presentation using LibreOffice Impress, part of the free office suite program. I rarely use MS Word or Excel and haven’t seen the necessity of updating MS Office 2003. A simple presentation on how to start a genealogy blog was all I needed. I included French and German text annotations to the screenshots for creating a blog on WordPress.com. One slide showed how the dashboard looks in English, French, and German using side by side images. Simple explanations of posts, pages, comments, tools, appearance, media, and the menu were given in English. As I said, this was my first slide presentation and there are definitely things which can be improved on it.

distressedNot having any kind of printed material or posters, I transferred my logo to canvas (at right) using a distressed technique I learned about on Delia Creates. I’ve made a few of these since reading her posts in 2010 and have given them away as gifts. Delia posted an updated tutorial for distressed canvas in May 2011.

I had library duty last Wednesday and our president offered to print up a poster-sized family tree for my booth on the library’s plotter. My genealogy program does fan charts – full, half and quarter circles but not those nice family trees everyone envies. A few years ago I made one using Inkscape and Family Tree Art Tutorial by Jessica of Cutesy Crafts. Luckily I hadn’t deleted the file when cleaning up my laptop.

familytreeI like the way it turned out since, at the time, I put a lot of hours into placing all the names on the tree. But if I’d have known it was going to be of used I would have gone in and added a few of the recently found ancestors and framed it with a nice border.

How was my day?

Most visitors were from Luxembourg and the surrounding area. Beginners were seeking help on how to get started with their genealogy research. People who were more advanced in their research visited the stands with family and history books which could be looked through or even bought on the spot.

Christine K. from the National Library of Luxembourg’s stand came over to talk to me. She reads my blog and especially likes my Old Photographs Saved From Trash Can posts. Thank you very much! She found my blog by googling an ancestor’s name.

Julie Ann Jochum comes every year from Iowa to Luxembourg to represent Building Bridges with René Daubenfeld. She speaks only English and while things were a bit quiet she stopped by to talk to me. She had a question about Luxembourg research which probably would have even a more advanced genealogist stumped. Where can I find the birth record of an ancestor born in Spanish Luxembourg with the surname Spaniol? Without the name of a town this would mean searching through church records of all towns in Luxembourg. But where were the borders of Luxembourg when the Spanish had possession of the county? If anyone knows the answer please get in touch. Julie would love to be able to say she has an ancestor from Luxembourg.

leudelange1Several friends also dropped by but there were no visitors interested in blogging. On the way home my husband and I talked about what could be done about this.

People who do not know me may think I speak only English since my blog is in English. We agreed that it might be a good idea to make three slide presentations in English, French, and German. Translating each post on the blog into French and/or German is not doable. To work around this I added translation buttons on the right widget of my blog last year. My husband suggested putting up a sign next year and adding a notice to my blog that I speak Luxembourgish, German, and French.

I’ve been thinking about putting together a few “books” with the content of my blog in pdf form. Perhaps they could be printed and placed on exhibit for people to leaf through. What else could be done to draw more attention to genealogy blogs in Luxembourg?

bestwishescathy1

2016, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

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JNGH 2016 – An International Genealogy Meet

logo_klengThe JNGH 2016, an international meeting for genealogy and local history in Leudelange, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, was on my calendar yesterday. JNGH is the abbreviation for the French version of the event name:

  • Journée Nationale de Généalogie et histoire locale
  • Nationaler Tag der Genealogie und Lokalgeschichte
  • National Day of Genealogy and Local History

JNGH 2016 was organized by my genealogy association, Luxracines, under the patronage of the Ministry of Culture and the commune of Leudelange with the participation of the National Archives of Luxembourg and the National Library of Luxembourg.

Participants: (flyer)

International
Internet Genealogy (recherches en Belgique et France)

Germany
Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Saarländische Familienkunde
GENPLUS_win (BERWE Gisbert)
Verein für Landeskunde im Saarland e. V.
Vereinigung für die Heimatkunde im Landkreis Saarlouis e.V.
Westdeutsche Gesellschaft für Familienkunde e.V. – Trier
Gruppen Familien-und Wappenkunde

Belgium
GENIWAL Généalogie Informatique en Wallonie
Cercle Genealogique SCGD GELUX
SCGD-Namur (GENAM)
WALLONIA asbl Arlon Marche Florenville

France
Ass. généalogique de Hambach-Sarreguemines
Cercle Généalogique du Pays de la Nied
Cercle Généalogique Yutz 3 Frontières
Cercle Généalogique de Longwy

Luxembourg
Archives Nationales de Luxembourg
Bibliothèque Nationale de Luxembourg
Building Bridges (René Daubenfeld and Julie Ann Jochum)
Cercle Culturel et Historique de Leudelange
Comité Alstad
Commune de Leudelange
Claude Bettendroffer
Rob Deltgen (deltgen.com)
Hesper Geschichtsfrënn
Tun Jacoby (carnifex.lu)
Kayser – Vanolst
Luxracines.lu
Cathy Meder-Dempsey (Opening Doors in Brick Walls)
Christiane Oth-Diederich
Jean Thoma

Books (Luxemburgensia and Postcards)
Edouard Jegen
Jeanne Schoellen

Restaurant/Catering
Members of the Jugendhaus Leudelingen cartered to the exhibitors and guests during the day.

Presentations
Gisbert BERWE: Das Genealogie-Programm Gen-Plus (The Genealogy Program Gen-Plus)
John FELLER: Unsere Vor-, Haus- und Familiennamen – Ihre Herkunft und Bedeutung (Origins and Meanings of First, House, and Family Names)
Paul ZIMMER: Latein in den Kirchenbüchern korrekt lesen (Reading Latin Correctly in Church Records)
René DAUBENFELD: Auswanderung nach Amerika (Emigration to America)

The event, free and open to the public, began at 10 a.m. and lasted until 5 p.m. when the Éierewäin was offered to the participants by the commune of Leudelange. Éierewäin, Ehrenwein in German, is honorary wine in English.

ehrenwein1Our president Rob Deltgen giving his speech at the Éierewäin

ehrenwein2Yours truly listening to Rob’s speech.

cateringThe caterers, members of the Jugendhaus Leudelingen

christianeandcathyChristiane and Cathy at their tables

Next year the event may need a new name as “international” better describes the participation.

Tomorrow I’ll share how I prepared for the day.

bestwishescathy1

2016, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

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Luxracines on Tour – A Visit to Bastogne, Belgium

logo_klengTwenty members of Luxracines, my genealogy association in Luxembourg, had a very enjoyable although cold and windy day visiting the town of Bastogne, Belgium, this past Saturday.

1964-09-021 BastogneBastogne, Baaschtnech in Luxembourgish, lies a stone’s throw from the Luxembourg border. In 1964 my first visit to Bastogne, at the age of 6, was to see the Mardasson Memorial, a monument honoring the memory of American soldiers wounded or killed during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge.

People visit Bastogne for the military as well as the cultural history of the area. While there are several military sites and museums, there are other sites worth visiting which have been around since earlier times such as the Church of Saint-Pierre (as early as 12th century) and the Gate of Trier (14th century).

As Luxracines members are genealogists and interested in all historical aspects, our visit to Bastogne took us to the Piconrue Museum housed in an old abbey. The museum invites visitors “on a journey to the heart of the Ardennes to explore the region’s culture through its rich tangible and intangible heritage.

The primary objective of the Piconrue Museum is the protection and conservation of objects and documents threatened by theft and neglect as well as oral legacy of memories, prayers, gestures, songs and legends of the region.

expoTheme of the exhibition, The Ages of Life – Birth, Life and Death in the Ardennes Region, takes the visitor back in time to the 1850 to 1950 period. The rites of passage of society from “the cradle to the grave” in the rural area of the Ardennes and Luxembourg were deeply marked by the Catholic faith as seen throughout the collection of items showcased.

cradlegravetinyThe museum director Sebastien PIERRE walked us through the exhibit giving interesting insight into the times and the stages in the lives of the inhabitants: Baptism, school days, Communion, military service, marriage, home life, work, social activities, to the inevitable – Death. Throughout the exhibit the visitor is reminded of the past and the many changes which have come during the postwar period. The people and culture of the Ardennes region have entered a modern time but their memories of days gone by live on.

muralThe exhibit begins with an introduction to the theme. A mural with photographs from today and yesterday of young to old resembles a family tree.schooltinyThe years at school and…

playtiny…at play were and are an important part of the development of our children.

communiontinyThe Catholic Church played an significant role in the children’s lives. From Baptism to Communion to Confirmation.

tradetinyAdolescence was a time of growing, learning trades, and discovering the opposite sex….

marriagetiny….in preparation for marriage or, in the case of some children, priesthood or convent life.

socialtinyFor those who married life continued with raising a family, work inside and outside the home, and social activities. deathtinyAnd in the end came old age and death.

The exhibit allows the visitor to pause and reflect on the good and the bad of the times as compared to today. For example, girls and boys were often separated in school and guided in their future rolls by the toys they were given or activities they were allowed to participate in. The roll of women and men was greatly influenced by society and the church and this has changed a great deal in the last decades.

We were not rushed through the tour of the museum and the impression it left on me has me planning to return as there was a deeper layer to it – the memories of the people and the heirlooms they shared make this collection all the more meaningful.

luxracinesgroupbastogne2016
Courtesy of Rob Deltgen

Our planned visit of the Church of Saint-Pierre had to be cancelled. Early in the morning a children’s musical group was practicing in the church and, after our visit to the museum, a funeral mass was being held. We therefore continued on to the Restaurant Wagon Léo where we had a wonderful lunch before returning home to Luxembourg.

leoIn 1946 following World War II a Bastogne farmer Léopold BERTHOLET and his wife bought a tram wagon and transformed it into a diner with a dozen places. Léo served pommes frites made from Bintje potatoes, the only good potato for french fries. The family enterprise has become a true institution in Bastogne. In 1950 he added a wooden annex to increase the number of seats to 42. For the last 70 years and three generations the Restaurant LEO has continued to expand for the comfort of its clients and now seats 250 and includes a bistro and hotel.

More impressions of our visit were shared here by our President Rob Deltgen

bestwishescathy1

© 2016, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Taking On New Responsibility at Luxracines

You may have noticed it’s been a bit quiet here the past few weeks. May is always a busy month with holidays (1st of May, Assumption Day, Pentecost) and birthdays but events in April are another reason I’ve had to slow down a bit.

logo_klengLuxracines, my genealogy association in Luxembourg, held its General Assembly on 14 April 2016 at the Centre Becheler in Walferdange. President Rob DELTGEN welcomed Madame Eliane IRTHUM, a communal representative for Walferdange, the Luxracines members and Jean-Marie NEIERS, who represented the Cercle Généalogique de Yutz 3 Frontières, a French genealogy association.

The announcement that the commune of Walferdange will provide the association with a location to house the recently acquired Daus library with its almost 1300 family books from the border region was received with applause.

The president also announced the planned publication of the family book of Echternach for the years 1797-1923 compiled by Thomas WEAVER, a member of the association.

Jean-Pierre WEIDERT who manages the homepage of the association presented Luxracines‘ new GEDCOM project which is online and available to members.

Secretary Christiane OTH-DIEDERICH gave a review of the activities in 2015. These included several which I blogged about:

Following the financial report by the treasurer Tun JACOBY and the report of the auditors, the treasurer was granted discharge by applause.

My candidature for the executive committee was accepted and I was elected. Per the statutes the positions in the committee were distributed at the first meeting of the committee on 28 April 2016:

President: Rob DELTGEN
Vice-President: Claude BETTENDROFFER
Secretary: Christiane OTH-DIEDERICH
Treasurer: Cathy MEDER-DEMPSEY
Webmaster: Jemp WEIDERT
Jean-Paul HOFFMANN
Tun JACOBY
Nicole MATHIEU-POLFER

I’m looking forward to the new responsibilities and the upcoming activities. The agenda for 2016 may be viewed here.

bestwishescathy1

© 2016, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

A Résumé of Family History Month

October has been a busy month at Opening Doors in Brick Walls. A record breaking  total of 3,345 views and 1,651 visitors to the site during Family History Month. Total views since I began blogging in January 2014 went over the 40,000 mark this morning. It was a lot of work to put out 23 posts but it was worth it.

stats52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks (4 posts)

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – 2015 Edition went into the last quarter at the beginning of the month. Now three-quarters of the stories have been written and, at the same time, I’ve cleaned up my database and added sources and images for each person I wrote about.

I added a new page with a list of my children’s ancestors. I’ve written about their ancestors for the 52 Ancestors Challenge in 2014 and 2015 from generation 3, their grandparents, to generation 7 which will be COMPLETE at the end of the year. What a wonderful feeling it is to have done all of these posts in only two years.

Blogger_lu Featured My Blog During October

During the entire month Blogger_lu featured my posts on their Facebook page as part of their “Society & History” month. On Saturday the 10th my blog was introduced on the Blogger_lu Facebook page:

Opening Doors in Brick Walls is Cathy Meder-Dempsey’s digital stepping stone to share and preserve her family history research. Cathy has been blogging since January 2014, sharing weekly posts on American and European ancestors, telling the stories using documentation and photos, with the focus this year being on her families in Luxembourg. As a member of Luxracines, she has written several blogposts about the genealogy excursions taken with the club. She is especially proud of her three part blogpost on an ancestor’s slaves as it prompted the creation of the Slave Name Roll Project which has been well received by descendants of slaves and allows descendants of slave owners to share without shame or judgment the documents they find with names of slaves. With her new weekly series, Old Photographs Saved From Trash Can, she is learning about early photography and looking forward to connecting with descendants of the persons featured.

Slave Name Roll Project (7 posts)

For Family History Month I chose to do more than my once a month post of the slave names for the Slave Name Roll Project. In 7 posts I shared the names of 54 slaves, a will, 7 bills of sale, and a conclusion which I hadn’t dared come to until I had read the entire 127 images of the Chancery case in which the documents were found.

Luxracines Activity (2 posts)

Early in the month I helped my genealogy society move a library from Germany to Luxembourg and worked at the Luxracines stand during the JNGH 2015.

Old Photographs Saved From Trash Can (6 posts)

In the past month I finally got into a rhythm of posting the Old Photographs at a weekly rate. My cousin Joe Rooney sent me the entire collection and I wrote a post when I unpacked the package that came in the mail.

How To Posts (2 posts)

I love seeing “How To” posts on other people’s blogs. I’ve been using RootsWeb WorldConnect for 15 years and tried my pen at writing a How to Upload and How to Manage your family tree on the site.

More Presence in Social Media

I joined Twitter and was interviewed by Wendy Mathias for GeneaBloggers’ “May I Introduce to You.”

Just for Fun

Going full speed during October, I still had time for a just for fun post on Halloween.

What’s to Come?

I’ll be going back to regular speed until the end of the year. 52 Ancestors and Old Photographs will be coming weekly as well as a new series. Jeanne Bryan Insalaco of Everyone Has a Story suggested writing daily or weekly posts on family heirlooms and I’ve taken up her challenge to write once a week. First post will be on Tuesday.

I received Amy Johnson Crow’s 31 Days to Better Genealogy emails during the month and saved them to work through in January. I want to be able to give each day my full attention. To sign up for the daily emails please check out Amy’s post – they’re FREE!

31daystobettergenealogyWas October and Family History Month as busy for you as it was for me? I’d love to hear about it!

© 2015 Cathy Meder-Dempsey