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July 18th ~ One Day in 1949 ~

A little girl in Wittenberg, Germany:

It is Monday morning, July 18, 1949: When I opened my eyes this morning – I woke with a start of excitement! My name is Christa, and today is my 11th birthday! What surprises will the day hold for me I wonder?! It has been a little over four years now since my father’s tragic death at the end of World War II, and my family and I are slowly and painfully beginning to rebuild our lives. As I dressed and made my way to the kitchen, my two older brothers greet me enthusiastically with “Hertzliche Gluckwunche zum Geburtztag Kleine!” (Best wishes on your birthday little one). My mother – though we don’t have much – has a kleinichkeit (“just a little something”) waiting for me at the breakfast table. A banana – I have never had one! But there’s no time to linger long over breakfast – my mother and oldest brother are preparing to leave for work; my second brother has work in the garden and the rabbit hutch must be cleaned today; as for myself – there is always the housework. I wonder if perhaps I’ll have a spare moment to read a chapter out of my favorite book. I do so dearly love to read. Late this afternoon when we gather together again, I will look forward to having a slice of Erdbertorte (“Strawberry Torte”) which my mother has prepared from strawberries out of our garden. I wonder if it’s too much to hope that there might be some whipping cream to go with that torte?

Brother and Sister

A young boy in Ogden, Utah:

It is Monday morning, July 18, 1949: When I opened my eyes this morning – it was still completely dark and quiet outside, and I am very tired. My name is Richard, and I am 14 years old. I can hear my mother in the kitchen as she prepares my father a thermos of coffee and urges my older brother and younger sister out of bed, It is 4:00 a.m. and we have to hurry – today we are driving to Willard to pick fruit – and we have to get on the road. The dew is all over everything and the air is heavy. I fleetingly contemplate sleeping another hour in the backseat of the car. We have barely made it to the edge of town – now wait a minute – are those truck headlights coming toward us? It invaded us violently and without warning – hot twisted metal, shattered glass and shattered lives – and then complete and utter silence. My head hurts so bad , and I can’t move my jaw – it just hangs limply as I try to call to my family. My mother – I can see her on the highway, but she‘s not moving. Max – Juanita – Where are you?  Are you okay?!  And then blessed darkness.

Max, Juanita and Richard

 

My father did lose his mother and his sister on that day long ago.  That one moment in time changed his life forever.  The family sedan was struck head-on by a produce truck driven by a 19-year old who had been driving all night and had fallen asleep at the wheel.  My grandmother died instantly.  Juanita died some hours later from a head injury.  My father suffered a head injury, a broken jaw and various internal injuries. His brother Max went through intensive rehabilitation for a broken leg and internal injuries; however, he did survive.  My father left home and joined the Army at the age of 17 and ended up stationed in Frankfurt.  My mother went on to graduate from German high school and “tailoring” school. When she was 17 years old, she traveled to the “west” (Frankfurt) to visit an aunt and uncle.  While in Frankfort, she met my father at a pub, and they were married shortly thereafter. Like I say ~ it’s destiny.

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Posted by on April 16, 2011 in Geier, Montoya, Times and Places

 

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Johann Heinrich Geier – Finally a few answers…..

Johann Heinrich Geier

The church books located at St. Michaelis in Hof, Bavaria, Germany have confirmed that Johann Heinrich Geier (my great-grandfather) was indeed born out-of-wedlock:

St. Michaelis Church – Hof, Bavaria, Germany

Hof Baptisms 1867 – No. 240:  Kroetenhof (now simply known as Hof) – House No. 1 – midwife Soellner – Johann Heinrich, illegitimate son of the unmarried Margaretha Geier in Kroetenhof (Margaretha is a daughter of Rosina Geier in Moschendorf, Evangelical – Lutheran), was born on Saturday March 30 in the morning at 7 o’clock, baptized on Monday April 22.  The Godfather was Johann Heinrich, oldest son of Rosina Geier in Moschendorf. The Godmother was Anna Barbara, oldest daughter of Johann Wolf, master weaver in Joditz.”  Notations subsequent:  According to the Royal District Court of Hof with date of 1867, June 12, file no. 438 the unmarried servant Johann Gottfried Wolf from Joditz acknowledged as father of the child.”  The surname is written “Geyer” in a letter from Mylau [town in Saxonia] in 1889.”

 The history of the church St. Michaelis at Hof goes back to around the year 1230.  With the city fire of 1823, the church burned down, including the surrounding walls and towers.  It was subsequently rebuilt.  The altar of the church dates to 1884.  The organ of St. Michaelis Church was built by the brothers Heidenreich in the years 1828-1834.

Hof is a city located on the banks of the Saale in the northeastern corner of the German state of Bavaria, in the Franconia region, at the Czech border and the forested Fichtelgebirge and Frankenwald upland regions.  The settlement was first mentioned 1214 and became a town in 1319.  After a rather uneventful history, the town became Prussian in 1792, French in 1806 and finally Bavarian in 1810.  In 1823, the town was virtually destroyed by a fire.  In 1945, it suffered minor destruction due to aerial attacks. From 1945 to 1990 Hof lay very close to the border between East Germany and West Germany.  

Hoff, Bavaria, Germany

This baptismal record confirms some of the information I had and it also raises several questions.  We now know that he was named after his uncle Johann Heinrich Geier.  We also know that Johann Wolf had an adult daughter named Anna Barbara.  Does this indicate that Johann Wolf was married to another woman?  We also know that Johann Wolf was a master weaver living in the town of Joditz, which is also in Bavaria.  (A weaver, in pre-industrial Germany, was a highly respected craftsman.)  It was also indicated that the surname was spelled “Geyer,” in a particular letter.  This could indicate that this particular family line originated in Austria. 

So much more to learn about my German family!  Thank you to German researcher Karl Greim for doing this look-up for me.

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2011 in Geier

 

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Opa Geier’s AhnenPaβ

Kurt Willy Geier

The Ahnenpaβ was a standardized booklet that was issued during the reign of the Third Reich of Nazi Germany.  In this booklet the citizens were required to record their ancestry in order to prove their pure Aryan blood.  For the average citizen, usually no more than four generations were required to avoid being categorized as non-Aryan – in other words “non-Jewish.”  The word Ahnenpaβ  translates to “ancestor passport.”   

Front Cover of Kurt Willie Geier’s AhnenPaβ

Despite the atrocious and brutal purpose of this document, an Ahnenpaβ, as I have found out, can be an excellent source for genealogical data, because it forced the citizens to vigorously search for and document their ancestors.

I am so unbelievably lucky in that I have a color copy of my grandfather Kurt Willy Geier’s Ahnenpaβ.  It was given to me and transcribed by my uncle – Wolfgang Geier.  My grandfather’s Ahnenpaβ sources and documents ancestors back to 1773. 

The Ahnenpaβ confirms his full name:  Kurt Willy Geier
Born 12 Nov 1908 in Lengenfeld, Germany
He was the son of Johann Heinrich Geier, “Laborer/Worker”
and Anna Lina Geier (born Kutscher)
Kurt Willy Geier married:  Anna Martha Lipsdorf  (b. 17 Aug 1906 in Hohndorf near Wittenberg) on 3 Sept 1930 in Elster
(She was baptized 15 Sept 1906 in Hohndorf today Muhlanger)
Her father was Hermann Franz Lipsdorf (railroad worker)
and her mother as Wilhelmine Aguste Anna (born Rostel)
All Protestant

I am just now delving into the German family research.  I feel like I’ve become an old pro at finding ancestors here in Texas – but the German research is proving to be a bit more of a challenge for a variety of reasons. 

  • Locating records – Prior to 1871, Germany consisted mostly of “kingdoms” such as Bavaria, Saxony, Prussia, etc. – each with its own record keeping system.  After World War II Germany was divided up once again.  The end result is that records on my German ancestors may or may not even be found in Germany.  They could be found in Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Poland or the USSR.  Then to make matters even more complicated – most German records (such as birth, marriage and death) are not centralized – they are kept on the local level – so it becomes nearly impossible to trace your ancestors in Germany unless you know their home town.  I’ve been told that the records are spotty at best.  Some date back to the Napoleonic era – but some others only date back to around 1870. 
  • Census records – Censuses were conducted, but again, the records are not centrally located.  Additionally, German law does not permit the release of the census information until 30 years after the ancestor’s death (or 110 years after the ancestors birth if you don’t have a death date). 
  • Church and burial records – Some church records date as far back as the 15th Century.  My next stop will be the nearest LDS Library to see what they have for me there.  Cemetery indexes from Germany are almost impossible to find and are not useful.  My mother has been telling me for years that the grave sites are “reused” in Germany.  I never really understood what that meant until I read in an article that most burial lots are leased to families for a number of years – and then if and when the lease isn’t renewed, someone else can be buried there. 

I would love to hear from any of you that are researching your German ancestors.  Any tips, success stories, encouragement and/or advice would be welcomed and appreciated !

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2011 in Geier, Lipsdorf

 

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