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.

Luxembourg, Church Records, 1601-1948 ~ New at FamilySearch

Happy New Year from FamilySearch!! I love how they come out with new databases for Luxembourg at the beginning of a year.

While working on my Luxembourg families I noticed that a new collection was recently added or updated. Church Records from Luxembourg for the years 1601-1948.


I’m quite sure that this is a NEW database that was added yesterday!

I checked a few of the towns and villages I’ll be working with in the next few weeks and found that so far they have records for mid- to late 1700s and very early 1800s. This is a nice era to begin with church records as it is a time period where the civil records are a bit lacking. I’ll have to keep an eye on this and make a list of direct ancestors who may be found in these records.

I couldn’t resist checking to see what the records look like and how easy or hard they may be to search.

Click: Luxembourg, Church Records, 1601-1948

Click: Browse through 272,699 images

Click: Diekirch

recordsMarriages are indexed! Information from the marriage record has been extracted to an index card and filed alphabetically by groom AND by bride. I found this index card for my husband’s 4th great-grandparents in the Tables des mariages 1700-1798 (index by groom):

“Luxembourg, registres paroissiaux, 1601-1948,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-32461-11523-97?cc=2037955&wc=STHZ-DPV:1500890501,1501181502 : accessed 10 January 2015), Diekirch > Tables des mariages 1700-1798 (index organisée par l’époux) > image 263 of 1195; paroisses, Luxembourg [parishes, Luxembourg].
Then I browsed the Marriages 1743-1794 and found:

“Luxembourg, registres paroissiaux, 1601-1948,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1961-32400-6049-74?cc=2037955&wc=STHC-B87:1500890501,1500891002 : accessed 10 January 2015), Diekirch > Mariages 1743-1794 > image 31 of 122; paroisses, Luxembourg [parishes, Luxembourg].
I had the date of marriage in my database but I did not have an image of the marriage record.

I am going to have to make a resolution:

  • Keep focused on the planned families for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge and check this database only for the those families.

© 2015 Cathy Meder-Dempsey


52 Ancestors Goes to Luxembourg in 2015

logo_klengLéif Frënn vum Luxracines,

E grousse Merci un all déi Leit dei meng Blogposts gelies hunn.

Der best besuchte Tag des Jahres 2014 war am 1. Juni mit 230 Anssichten. Von den drei unten aufgeführten Beiträgen war der erst genannte der meist besuchte Post an diesem Tag:
A Visit to the Red Star Line Museum in Antwerp

A Visit to the Bibliothèque nationale de Luxembourg

A Visit to the Vereinigung für die Heimatkunde im Landkreis Saarlouis e.V.

52 Ancestors Goes to Luxembourg in 2015

Es lief so gut, während der Herausforderung 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge (52 Vorfahren in 52 Wochen) letztes Jahr als ich über meine Vorfahren väterlicherseits, von meinem Vater bis zu meinen vierten Urgroßeltern bloggte, dass ich beschlossen habe, im Jahr 2015 fortzufahren.

52ancestors-2015Amy Johnson Crow schrieb diesen Beitrag; Announcing 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2015 Edition, am 17. Dezember. Obwohl ich die von Ihr vorgeschlagenen Themen für Januar gut gefunden habe, werde ich es ein wenig anders machen in diesem Jahr.

Ich habe vor über eine Familiengruppe pro Woche zu schreiben, z.B. ein Paar und ihre Kinder, für die Vorfahren väterlicherseits meiner Kinder und meine Vorfahren mütterlicherseits.

Dies sind die Familien über die ich schreiben möchte – die Großeltern, dann die Urgroßeltern, den ganzen Weg bis zu den dritten Urgroßeltern. Wie Sie von den Ahnentafeln unten sehen können, gibt es keine Vorfahren in diesen Generationen die ich noch nicht gefunden habe.

Dies sind die väterlichen Stammbäume für meine Kinder:



Sowie meinen mütterlichen Stammbaum:

chart3Ich würde mich sehr freuen von Ihnen zu hören, wenn Sie einen Familiennamen erkennen oder wenn einer Ihrer Vorfahren sich in einem dieser Stammbäume befinden würde.

Beste Wünsche,

Hinterlassen sie hier (Leave a Reply) einen Kommentar oder besuchen Sie meine Facebook-Seite Opening Doors in Brick Walls, wo Sie auch einen Kommentar hinterlassen können. Sie dürfen selbstverständlich auch eine private Nachricht senden.

© 2015 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

A Visit to the Vereinigung für die Heimatkunde im Landkreis Saarlouis e.V.

logo_klengYesterday I participated in another interesting visit organized by my genealogy society Luxracines. This time we went to Saarlouis in Germany and visited the Vereinigung für die Heimatkunde im Landkreis Saarlouis e.V.

Kreisarchiv im Landratsamt built in 1894-95

Vereinigung für die Heimatkunde im Landkreis Saarlouis e.V., an association formed in 1958, deals with genealogy and history in the district of Saarlouis and surrounding areas. They have several rooms at their disposal in the building of the Kreisarchiv im Landratsamt built in 1894-95.

With a little over 800 members, the association has been publishing a quarterly newsletter “Unsere Heimat” (Our Homeland) since 1976. Members work in groups on general history, archaeology, family history, and new medias with the largest group being that of the genealogists. They correspond and exchange publications with over 60 clubs, archives and libraries at home and abroad (including in France, Luxembourg and USA). Their rich family and local history library, a center for family research in Saarland and beyond, is open to the public during the work week (except Wednesdays) from 2 to 5 in the afternoons.

Photo used courtesy of Rob Deltgen
Photo used courtesy of Rob Deltgen








Hans Peter KLAUCK and Helmut GREIM welcomed our group of genealogists, gave us an overview of the history of their association, and explanations of the club’s collections and publications.

More than 2500 family books of towns in Saarland and Rheinland-Pfalz, a huge selection of Ortfamilienbücher (family books) of the Banat, and numerous books on local history of the area and beyond are available in the library –  a collection of 15,000 publications. Everything that a genealogist needs for researching and writing about family history.

We were able to spent about an hour browsing through the library, pulling family books of interesting, taking notes or photographing entries of interest in this or that family book.

Our hour of research was quickly over and we were then taken on a guided tour of the city of Saarlouis by Hans Peter KLAUCK. Saarlouis was built as a fortress in 1680 by the French King Louis XIV.

Hans Peter KLAUCK was a fantastic guide with great knowledge and passion for the history of the fortress city constructed by Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, France’s famous military engineer.

At noon we took a break from our guided tour for lunch in the restaurantKartoffelhaus” (Potato House“) where specialities of the region were found on the menu card.

After lunch we continued our tour of the city by first visiting the Städtischen Museum (local history museum) where Mr. KLAUCK explained the military importance and functions of the buildings in Vauban’s fortress using the 1726 model of Saarlouis (scaled at 1:625 and built in 1980).

Model of the Saarlouis Fortress ca. 1726 (Scaled at 1:625) in the Städtischen Museum.

Following our museum visit we continued our tour of the city across the Great Market, passing the Saint Louis Church.

The Ludwigskirche (Saint Louis Church) on the Great Market

It was a coincidence that Roland HENZ, Oberbürgermeister der Kreisstadt Saarlouis, was on the market place as Saarlouis’ volunteer fire department, one of the oldest in Germany, were having their yearly exercise in fire fighting. Mayor HENZ took a moment to greet our group and welcome us to Saarlouis.

Roland HENZ, Oberbürgermeister der Kreisstadt Saarlouis (left) and our guide Hans Peter HAUCK (right)

We continued our walk through the Old Town, along the Casemates,

Kasematten (The Casemates)
Kasematten (The Casemates)

through the German Gate,

Deutsches Tor (German Gate)

along the Saar River,

Saar Schleusenbrücke (water gates)

passing the “Ravelin V” park that is currently under construction

“Ravelin V” park (under construction) with the Protestant Church in the background.

before we were back to our point of departure.

The general concensus of the Luxracines participants regarding our visit with the Vereinigung für die Heimatkunde im Landkreis Saarlouis e.V. and tour of the City of Saarlouis was  ~~ Et war e flotten dag!” It was a great day!

Frenn vum Luxracines, et gif mech freen wan dir mir a klengen Kommentar geift hannerlossen. Merci.

© 2014 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

A Visit to the Bibliothèque nationale de Luxembourg

logo_klengLast Saturday I participated in an interesting visit of the Bibliothèque nationale de Luxembourg (National Library of Luxembourg) with my genealogy society Luxracines.

A Brief History

The origins of the Bibliothèque nationale de Luxembourg (BnL) date back to 1798, a time when French troops occupied the former duchy. In 1802 part of it’s most ancient collections, the manuscripts from the Benedictine Abbey of Echternach, were moved to the National Library of France. The library went from being a central library of the Département des Forêts (during French occupation) to ownership by the city of Luxembourg after 1815. The Luxembourg state, after gaining independence through the Treaty of London in 1839, reclaimed ownership in 1848 when the name was changed to Bibliothèque de Luxembourg. In 1899 following a rise in national sentiment among the Luxembourgish population, the name was changed to the present form, Bibliothèque nationale de Luxembourg. It’s role as an encyclopaedic library to the education system prevailed during the early years. Today BnL is also a heritage library.

012 fixedThe BnL has been housed in the former Athénée grand-ducal (Athenaeum), located next to the Cathédrale de Luxembourg, since 1973. To give you an idea of the age of the building, the Athenaeum was originally founded in 1603 by the Jesuit Order. Steel beams have been added in the old building to support the weight of the collections housed there.

Luxembourg’s national library is a small institution compared to other national libraries. It is the largest repository in Luxembourg with 1.5 million physical documents and a growing number of digital publications. The library is bursting at it’s seams and at the moment documents are located at several different sites.

Introduction by Mr. Pascal Nicolay

Before taking us on a tour of the premises, Mr. Pascal Nicolay, librarian and documentalist, explained the mission and collections of the library.

An important role of the library is the collection of cultural heritage of Luxembourg. Materials printed on different media (books, periodicals, video, CD, DVD) and produced nationally are preserved for the future generations. Because several languages are spoken in Luxembourg publications are usually simultaneously produced in Luxembourgish, French, German and English. This means that the number of copies kept is greater than in a country with only one language.

Through legal deposit BnL collects and makes all Luxembourgish publications accessable in their comprehensive collection. This is a legal requirement to submit a certain number of copies of a publication to a repository, usually the national library of a country.

Léa Linster signing books Nov 8, 2011 in Bitburg. Photo credit: Egon Meder, used with permission.

They also collect works published in other countries which deal with Luxembourg in some way. If a book published in another country includes a biography of a well known personality from Luxembourg, the library takes steps to acquire the required number of copies of the publication. For example, a German publication on restaurants in Europe may include a section on the Luxembourgish chef Léa Linster, gold medal winner of the 1989 Bocuse d’Or, the first and to date only woman to accomplish this.

More importantly, for the genealogist, the library collects publications that may mention the not so well known people. Top of the list are newspapers followed by town bulletins; political parties paraphernalia; local fire department anniversary brochures which often discuss early members of the corps, history of the “house names” and town; yearbooks. Imagine the stories that can be told about an ancestor mentioned in any of these.

The Tour

We began the tour by visiting some of the rooms accessible to the public. The periodical room where, for example, patrons can read the daily newspapers or recent publications that may be harder to find on the local newspaper stand. The tiny microfilm room where newspapers can be viewed and prints made. Very old newspapers, from 1850 and earlier, can be found and searched on BnL’s eluxemburgensia site. The general reference (dictionaries, encyclopias, etc.) and more specific reference (agriculture, science, etc.) material also has a place in the library.

The best part was when Mr. Nicolay took us “behind the scenes” into the areas not normally accessible to the public. We saw books stored in electrically powered shelving systems and hand crank shelving systems.






Shelves filled with old, old books!





We climbed up a spiral staircase to the attic where old wooden beams held together by wooden dowels could be seen along the full length of the building.


Banana boxes filled with books are stacked in the spaces between shelving.

Fire extinguishers are everywhere. The fire department can be on site in five minutes. However there is no modern sprinkling system in the building.

Back in the public area we saw the multi-media room where material can be viewed or loaned out for a week.

Finally, in the projection room, Mr. Nicolay explained how their collections can be searched from the library’s homepage using the new joint search interface of Luxembourg’s libraries’ network a-z.lu.

With a free library card patrons can order material online that they are interested in borrowing or viewing at the library. Orders can be picked up at the library a half hour later.

Unlike other national libraries, the Bibliothèque nationale de Luxembourg is a loaning library and allows patrons to “check out” books, periodicals, multimedia, etc. with a valid library card.

As mentioned in the begining the library has outgrown its location. Last month a ground breaking ceremony took place for Luxembourg’s new National Library. The construction is is estimated to take four years to complete.

This was the first time I’d set foot in a library since I was in college in 1977. One of my favorite pastimes while going to school was the hour once a week when we went to the library. Beelining to the biography section or fiction for the newest Nancy Drew, learning how to use the card catalogue and how to research. I didn’t know at the time that those skills would help me later with my genealogy research.

Next time I go to Luxembourg City I’m going to apply for a library card. I want to learn how to use the National Library before they move into their new premises, hopefully, in 2018!

© 2014 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

A Visit to the Red Star Line Museum in Antwerp

logo_klengAre you curious about what your immigrant ancestors had to endure to come to America? Last May 24th I got a glimpse of what it was like. I participated in a day trip with my genealogy society Luxracines to Antwerp (Belgium) with a visit of the Red Star Line Museum. As always the trip was well planned with enjoyable transportation. Everyone had a good time visiting the sights in the city of Antwerp before going on the guided tour scheduled at the museum.

The Luxracines group. © Romain Krier, used with permission.

We were divided up into three groups, two guides spoke French and the third English. Of course I chose to go with the English group. Our storyteller Lien Vloeberghs gave us a wonderfully informative tour of the museum. I mentioned to her that I wanted to write a blog post about the visit and she offered to send me the museum’s press kit and answer any questions I would have.

The Red Star Line Museum tells the story of millions of people and the quest for happiness. It is a story we can all relate to.
Red Star Line Museum press kit

The Red Star Line Museum on the Rijnkaai in Antwerp, Belgium, opened it’s doors to the public in September 2013. The museum is in the restored departure warehouses for third-class passengers. It is full of remarkable exhibits documenting the history of the shipping line and the more than two million passengers who left through this port between 1873 and 1934. Did one of your ancestors arrive in America on a ship whose name ended with land? Then the ship was most likely one of the Red Star Line fleet.

Between 1815 and 1940, about 60 million migrants left Europe in hope of a better life.

Visitors follow in the footsteps of emigrants and experience their enthusiasm and anxiety, their tension and uncertainty; they experience the farewells and obstacles as well as the adventure, the discoveries and the hope for a new life on the other side of the ocean.
~ Red Star Line Museum press kit

Red Star Line Museum exhibit, photographed during visit 24 May 2014.

In the late 19th and early 20th century the Red Star Line provided direct passage across the Atlantic to New York, Philadelphia, and Boston to migrants. Their journey began in their country of origin, usually Germany and Eastern Europe. The emigrants frequently left their countries because of poverty.

Several of my relatives from Luxembourg immigrated to the United States on a Red Star Line ship. A cousin of my great-great-grandfather André FOURNELLE (1838-1908) took this big step with his family.

Nicolas FOURNELLE (1830-1913) made the trip across the Atlantic on the Friesland in 1890 at the age of 59 with his wife Margaret HUBERTY 49, their children J. Baptist 17, Anna Maria 10, and Pierre 5, as well as, their son-in-law Frederick BROEDER 32, his wife Marie FOURNELLE 28, and their children Joh. Herm. 4 and Josephine 2. The group of nine went to join up with Nicolas’ son Jean Pierre and daughter Marie Catherine who had made the same trip on the Belgenland in 1887.

Let us join the Fournelle family on their journey

The Departure

The FOURNELLE and BROEDER families of Rodange most likely bought their tickets from the Red Star Line travel agency Derulle-Wigreux und Sohn in Luxembourg City. The travel agency advertised in local newspapers for all classes of passengers.

Luxemburger Wort Nr. 245, 2 Sep 1885, page 4; digitized by Bibliothèque nationale de Luxembourg [online http://www.eluxemburgensia.lu : accessed 26 May 2014]
The Train Journey

Gare Centrale in Antwerp. Red Star Line Museum collection. Photo taken during visit.

The ocean crossing itself was only part of the voyage. Migrants first had to leave their country and take a long train trip to Antwerp arriving at the Gare Centrale which can be compared to Grand Central Station in New York.

For the families coming from Luxembourg the train trip was short compared to those travelling from Eastern Europe. These people may have had to make stops along the way to work and replenishing their money pouches. For some the trip lasted up to several years as they moved from one location to the next. The gaps between leaving the homeland and arriving in America should be taken into consideration when researching your families.

Staying in Antwerp

The migrants arrived in the dynamic city of Antwerp. Imagine these impoverished people walking to their lodgings and seeing the bustling shopping streets and luxurious buildings of the city. They often stayed in filthy hotels with swindlers waiting to cheat them out of their money or ticket. For most the stay in Antwerp was short but for others, who did not pass the controls or needed to earn more money for passage, their time in the city was longer than planned.

Entering the Museum (today)

Crossing the threshold of the “Shed” we entered the world of the European migrants who left their native countries in search of a better life. We were able to touch the walls that our immigrants touched while they endured the required procedures to allow them to travel to America.

The Red Star Museum in Antwerp.

Showers and Disinfection

Passengers handed over their luggage to Red Star Line employees. Men and women where separated and took off their clothes to shower. Their clothes were put in a bag and with the luggage were placed in the large chambers which were hermetically sealed to be disinfected under high pressure steam.

Red Star Line Museum exhibit, photographed during visit 24 May 2014.

While their clothes and belongings were chemically treated the passengers were cleaned of lice by taking an hour long shower with hot vinegar and benzene.

Passengers recall that their clothes were damp when returned to them. It is unknown what chemicals may have been used to disinfect the clothes and baggage as no records have been found about the procedure. The chambers used to disinfect the belonging are long gone however a photo of the room with the disinfection kettles survives.

The Doctor’s Visit

Following the shower the migrants climbed the stairs that led to the doctors’ area
and the final judgment.

The Red Star Line enforced the rules of the American authorities as anyone who was refused entry in the United States would be sent back at the expense of the shipping line. The hygienic procedures were insisted upon by the American authorities to avoid bringing infectious diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever and trachoma into the county. Migrants were put in quarantine if they came from an area known to have had an epidemic.

Doctors checked the passengers for lice running their hands through hair, lifting or pulling down eyelids to inspect for eye disease (trachoma), using instruments to press down the tongue to check for disease in the mouth. All examinations were done without the precautions that we are used to today.

Travelling Steerage

Red Star Line Museum exhibit, photographed during visit 24 May 2014.

After the extensive checks in the building the migrants could finally embark and begin the ocean journey.

For the Fournelle family this meant that they would live together with other migrants in large dormitories for the circa ten day (to three week) trip.

Later, in the 20th century, crossing on ocean steamers was much more comfortable for passengers as companies began paying more attention to the comfort of third-class traveller.

In the museum’s exhibits the stark difference between the luxury of first class and the scarcity of third class can be seen.

Stories collected from former passengers tell of upper class passengers throwing food down to third class or of the migrants sneaking up to second class for scraps of food as there was no access to first class.

Passenger Ships and Images [Ancestry.com : accessed 26 May 2014]
What happened to the migrants during their journey? Who did they meet, what did they see and feel, why did they leave? The collection of stories allow visitors of the meusum to learn more about the people who crossed the Atlantic.

New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [Ancestry.com : accessed 26 May 2014]

New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [Ancestry.com : accessed 26 May 2014]

New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [Ancestry.com : accessed 26 May 2014]

Arriving in America

The Fournelle party arrived in New York on 12 March 1890. Tension was high as the crucial, last examination awaited third-class passengers. Crowd control barricades
lead them through the examination station.

Nicolas and his family finally passed through all controls and were able to continue their journey to Pawnee County, Nebraska, where they were reunited with 24 year old son John Peter FOURNELL (as he was now called) and 20 year old daughter Catherine. Not only were they reunited with these children but also with Nicolas’ sister Margaret (1833-1910) who immigrated about 1881 with her second husband Nicolas le jeune BOUCHÉ (aka Nicholas BOUCHE).

The Guided Tour Comes to an End

Our visit to the museum came to an end after climbing the observation tower which offers a 360° view of Antwerp. This showpiece, shaped like the bow of a steamer, was built on the new building between the corner building and the main building to replace a high chimney that was dismantled in 1936.

Panorama view from the observation tower of the Red Star Line Museum.

A heartfelt thank you to Lien Vloeberghs and the rest of the staff at the Red Star Line Museum for making this a memorial journey.


From the Red Star Line Museum press kit, two famous passengers:

Albert Einstein made two historic journeys with the Red Star Line: the first time the Belgenland brought him from the United States to Antwerp, where he announced that he would not return to Nazi Germany.
His second journey, on the Westernland, brought Einstein and his wife to America for good.

★ Israel Isidore Baline, later known as Irving Berlin, the composer of ‘White Christmas’, travelled on the SS Rhynland as a 5-year-old boy.

The Red Star Line Trailer – English Subtitles  


© 2014 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

Luxracines on Tour 2013 – Part II

logo_klengMy field trip to Germany last Saturday was a huge success. It was an enjoyable day and the best part was the RESEARCH! With just one hour to check out the genealogy library, it was a good thing I was prepared.

I’d generated ancestral reports in pdf format for all lines with individuals born in what is now Germany and emailed the file to my Kindle Paperwhite so that I wouldn’t be shuffling through all kinds of paper.

In the library, I consulted my reports and worked fast pulling the books on the villages that my ancestors came from. With my Nikon Coolpix (set on macro and without flash) I took pictures of the covers/title pages and all entries for surnames that matched mine. Although time was short and there was not much elbow room, I took nearly 120 photos.

Halfway through evaluating these, I have 50 family groups that fit into my tree. On several lines, I was able to go back 3 generations further than I had. One ancestral couple, Hubert WELTER (d. 1744) and Anna Margaretha BERNARD (d. 1760), turned out to be my 6th and 7th great-grandparents!

I’m going to be busy inputting all of the data, citing the sources, and planning a trip to the Beda Bücherei (library) in Bitburg to look up the families I missed.


A quick explanation of entries in family books: In this photo of family group 822 in Ernzen we see Hubert WEIMANN <858.2> which means that he is the 2nd child of family group 858. Symbols seen are * (birth), oo (marriage), and + (death). Following P.: are names of godparents. Further information for child #3 is found under family group 867.

For the surname PLEIN there were 28 pages in one town – it will take me a while to go through these as the family groups were not numbered or cross-referenced (as in the photo).

© 2013, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Luxracines on Tour 2013 – Part I

logo_klengSaturday I’m going on a genealogy field trip! The genealogy association I belong to in Luxembourg, Luxracines, has organized a trip to Neumagen and Wittlich (Germany).

Starting with a cruise of the Mosel River on a Roman ship, followed by lunch at a typical German “Gasthaus”, and a tour of Peter Daus’ private library, in Haus Daus. The library is made up of about 2000 family books for localities in Rheinland-Pfalz, Pfalz, and Saarland.

In comparison, the Beda Bücherei (library) in Bitburg has a collection of about 150 family books for the Eifel area and the Bistumsarchiv (diocese archives) of Trier has about 1200 family books.

A family book (Familienbuch) is compiled from the parish and civil records (church books and town registers) – kind of like an index to where you can find the original records.

Unfortunately, Mr. Daus’ holdings are being disposed of so this will be my last chance to see this amazing collection.

Time is precious so I’ve made up a list of ancestors on my maternal grandfather’s branch and a few little twigs in my husband’s family tree that reach into Germany.

Don’t know how much research I can do but I’ll be prepared.

© 2013, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

A Visit at the Luxracines stand at the local mall

logo_klengI visited a genealogy exposition in a mall in Luxembourg City yesterday. There was a specific area in my research in Luxembourg that I didn’t know how to go about. I asked one of the persons working the stand for help. I’d brought along my pedigree, including links to my gedcom file, on a USB stick. After giving me a few tips he offered to help me out with a specific family and gave me his email address. I recognized it immediately. I had the pleasure to meet face to face with Rob Deltgen. I told him that I’ve referred to his database many times for my Luxembourg families. While looking over my pedigree he clicked on one individual which took him to “Opening Doors in Brick Walls” at RootsWeb’s WorldConnect Project. He said, “You’re Cathy Meder! We’ve emailed each other. And you’re active on many forums!” Wish it were so easy to meet up with my genealogy contacts in the USA.

P.S. A month later I joined the genealogy society Luxracines.

© 2013, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.