Who am I? Where do I come from? What made me the person I am today? Who were my ancestors and how did they live?

We were born to live
With the wonders of each time,
Never to forget each other
Until all eternity.

Translated from: Geboren um zu leben – Unheilig (2010)

This quote describes for me very well the feeling that drives me in genealogy. When a person is no longer alive, his friends and family still remember him. When these people are also no longer around, they are completely forgotten. Every life is unique with ups and downs, moments of happiness and strokes of fate, which should not simply disappear, because all these circumstances are the reason why I am here now. With the ancestor and family research I try to bring the stories of my ancestors again in memory and to hold alive, so that I never forget where I come from.

I started already as a little girl. I always liked to make family trees and to ask my grandparents. This continued until my internship abroad in Michigan in 2014. Americans are much more interested in their origins than Europeans, which is understandable since over 70% of them have European roots. My first steps were already done, namely the survey of the still living relatives. So the next step was to request the civil status records from the respective registry offices in order to have tangible sources for the orally transmitted data. So it went quickly generation after generation back into the past. I collected birth, marriage and death records until I arrived at the year 1874. That’s where the civil records end in Germany and you have to go on through the baptism, marriage and burial entries in the church records of the parishes. Here, of course, it is important to know whether the ancestors were Catholic or Protestant, because they thus also went to different churches and were entered in different books.

Old writing in a church book from Ottensoos
Ottensoos marriage register, 1652

Not to forget, of course, the font, which looks different than we know it today. The best known are probably the Fraktur, Kurrent and Sütterlin script. Above you can see a church book entry of a marriage ceremony from 1652 in Kurrent script. Not really pleasant to read, but in the meantime I can handle the old scripts quite well. I have never attended a course, but always tried to decipher the letters and words myself with the help of the Internet.

Summarized I have…

  1. Asked relatives (name, profession, religion, places of residence)
  2. Contacted registry offices (uncertified copies of birth, marriage, and death records)
  3. Searched church records (baptism, marriage, and burial records).
  4. If I got stuck somewhere because the books were burned or lost, or an illegitimate child was born with no indication of the father, I expanded my search to state, city, town, and parish archives.

Even after so many years, the excitement has not gone away. There are always new sources and ways to get information, which is why inveterate researchers speak of the “ancestor virus” – once infected, you can never get rid of it. I am continuously working to expand the Hertzke family and complete it with undiscovered ancestors and descendants.