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.

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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.

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Photo used courtesy of Rob Deltgen
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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).

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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.

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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.

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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,

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Kasematten (The Casemates)
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Kasematten (The Casemates)

through the German Gate,

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Deutsches Tor (German Gate)

along the Saar River,

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Saar Schleusenbrücke (water gates)

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

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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