Seriously, not in my wildest dreams when I thought about coming to Germany to visit the hometown of my ancestors, could I have imagined how this day could have been better! Ok, well one thing... the weather. When I woke up this morning and looked out my window I saw a wall of fog and it had been raining. Yes, they have Tulle Fog in Aufhausen! In May! Luckily the fog cleared but it was cloudy and pretty cold all day. But not cold enough to ruin any of our plans.
This morning Willi and Mrs. Löffler came to my hotel. It was wonderful to finally meet them after all this time. We had a light breakfast and Willi presented me with a folder that had my complete German family history back to 1570. The book also contained a picture of the family home in about 1935 Aufhausen. This is the house where my immigrant ancestor, Leonhard Braun was born. Last but not least, there were photocopies of the record of his father Jacob Braun, purchasing the property in 1823.
|The house in about 1935 with Christof Reichart and family|
Our first stop was the church that Leonhard's family attended. This church is over 600 years old. Mrs. Löffler was able to get the keys to the church so we could go inside even though the church was closed. What an amazing feeling to be standing inside this building knowing that my ancestors stood in that very same spot. We took a picture next to what looked like a small stone table set on a pillar. After we took the picture, she told me that the top lifts off and this is not really a table, it is a stone "bowl" where the babies were baptized shortly after birth. She said, "your ancestor, Leonhard was baptized in there". Unbelievable!
|The "table" that turned out to the the bowl where the babies were baptized|
After we left the church we went to her home for a short time before driving to Geislingen. (Geislingen the city, and Aufhausen is a small village within the city.) There we went the archives of the genealogy association and Willi showed me some more records that he had found of our ancestors. One of them was the marriage record of Leonhard's parents, Jacob Braun and Margaretha Buekle.
|At the Archive|
These documents really told a story. Jacob was from Weidenstetten and Margaretha was from Ettlenschiess. Their first child, a daughter named Margaretha Braun, was born in 1820 in Ettlenschiess. Jacob and Margaretha were not yet married. It seems that young men in Germany at this time were required to obtain permission from the King to marry, and in order to obtain permission, they had to demonstrate that they had property and would be able to provide a home for their wife and family. Three years later, in September 1823, Jacob purchased the land where the Leonhard's birth home now stands. A few days later, Thomas and Margaretha requested permission from the King to marry and permission was obtained. They posted,the required three public notices of their intent to marry, and finally on October 7, 1823, they were married in the very same church where we visited earlier this morning.
After lunch we walked around the Old Town and saw more of the beautiful old buildings, some more than 600 years old.
Then we drove out to a beautiful vista that overlooked the Swabian Alb mountains with two tiny villages nestled in valleys below. The view was incredible. When we left the Vista, we visited a small German bakery and were allowed to go to the back and see where the bread was made.
Then it was finally time to go visit the Reichart Family, my newly found cousins that still live in the house where my great-great grandfather, Leonhart was born in 1836. On the property that Jacob Braun purchased in 1823 so he could marry Margaretha. Ernst and Heidi are delightful people that welcomed me into their home like they had known me forever. Heidi baked two amazing German desserts and we sat around the kitchen table for hours talking about our ancestors, about America, and so many other things. Ernst showed me some pictures of the house as it looked when his Grandfather was a young man and the owner of the home, and several other pictures that had been taken throughout the years as renovations had been made. Finally, their son and daughter-in-law, Oliver and my friend Marianne and their daughter Victoria, joined us and we visited for several more hours. Heidi fixed us a nice traditional swabian dinner of meats, cheeses and homemade bread. What a warm, friendly family!
|Ernst & Heidi Reichart and me|
|Mrs. Loffler, Oliver, Heidi, me, Ernst, Marianne kneeling in front, and Oliver & Marianne's daughter Victoria|
We finally left about 8:00 pm and returned to my hotel where I sit and wonder how anything we do tomorrow could ever top this day!