How I re-discovered my own history via a podcast

It was back in November last year when I was living in London when an advertising for an exhibition in the British Museum caught my eye: Germany – memories of a nation

I don’t know why I was so struck by it. Maybe because there was no reference at all to the World War II on the poster. Normally, when there are exhibitions or documentaries about my country it is all about the Third Reich. As if we don’t have a 1000 year old history to offer! And I was totally interested how “outsiders” would define our memories and how they would put them on display.

It took me a couple of weeks till I finally made it to the British Museum. What I found super annoying was that I had to pre-register for a timeslot online. You can’t just walk in there. Something to get accostumed to.

And what shall I say? The exhibition was great! Neil MacGregor, the director of the British Museum totally outdid himself. It was professionally done (of course it was!!) with the right amount of “Fingerspitzengefühl” – the sense for sensitivity and really showed the  memories of a nation – very touching. And it was great to see “my” history in a different perspective.

But unfortunately, the exhibition only ran til January 25, 2015. Here you can find some background information on it including interviews with Mr. MacGregor, trailers and the most important: THE POCAST!

The British Museum: Germany – memories of a nation

This exhibition was accompanied by a podcast from BBC 4. And I totally love it. Not only because of the voice of Neil MacGregor or because he really can pronounce German names and words :) No, but because he tells so many stories which you would normally not hear or see when people talk about German history.

It all starts with Episode 1 – The view from the Gate: in which he starts his journey through 600 years of German history at the Brandenburg Gate – 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The series covers topics like Käthe Kollwitz, The Bauhaus, Gutenberg, the 1848 revolution bringing us our black-red-gold flag, Holbein and the Hanse, The Walhalla or Luther – just to name a few.

The podcast series contains 30 single episodes which run about 15 minutes each:

I cannot really decide which one is my most favourite episode, I love them all. I learnt so many new things about my own history, was moved to tears at some points, proud or ashamed at others.

If you are interested in German history at all, listen to the podcast series. You will be amazed what new things you learn about it.

#52ancestors No. 13 – different spelling all over the place!


Challenge for week 13 (I am way behind again ;)) was “DIFFERENT”.

I think we all have this name in our family tree which gets a different spelling on every document. In my family tree I have more than just one of those.

On of the names is OHRT. That is the first spelling I saw and it is also how I see the name being spelled today.

But I also have ORT, ORTH, OORT, OHRTH in my records.

One of the OHRTs in my family is my paternal great grandmother Emma Catharina OHRT. She was born in Schlutup a little fisherman’s village in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany on June 6, 1877. Today, Schlutup belongs to Lübeck, the city my family still lives in. Emma Ohrt blog

This picture shows her at an unknown age. When I made contact to a cousin of my Dad’s I saw it hanging on the wall in the living room and immediately asked if I could take a photo of it. What really hit me from the first moment was the resemblance I see there to her daughter, my grandmother Margarethe Katharina Emma SCHMIDT. It was like looking into her face. I mean, I just knew my grandmother at “this” age.

The 1880 census of Lübeck shows her living with her parents, two older sisters and a younger brother in Schlutup. Emma’s entry is the second last.

Emma OHrt VZ 1880 blog

I still have quite a few uncertainties about her. I don’t have the exact date when she married my great grandfather Carl August Joachim SCHMIDT and I am also missing birthdates for her two oldest children. What I know is that she and Carl had 6 children, of which my grandma was the youngest.

Great Grandma Emma Catharina Schmidt née Ohrt and children

Great Grandma Emma Catharina Schmidt née Ohrt and children

  • Gertrud * unknown
  • Luise * unknown
  • Else * 1901
  • Wilhelm Hermann Heinrich Karl (called Kalli) * 1904
  • Albert Paul Wilhelm (called Willi) * 1911
  • Margarethe Katharina Emma (called Grete) * 1912

There is a family rumour that there have been two more children who died at a very young age, but I couldn’t verify that rumour either yet.

Emma died on March 24, 1949 in Lübeck, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany

#52ancestors No. 12 – same year, different places

52ancestors-2015The challenge of week no. 12 is “Same”. I thought a bit how to approach this motto. At the end I decided to introduce you to two women who were born in the same year: 1786

My fourth great grandmother Catharina Dorothea DAEHN, born 1786. I cannot yet prove exactly when. I only have her age from her death entry.

On November 3, 1811 she married the day laborer Franz Joachim Hinrich Christian SCHAPER in Mustin, grandduchy of Sachsen-Lauenburg (today on the territory of Schleswig-Holstein), Germany. The couple had seven children I know of:

  1. Hans Joachim Hinrich 1812-1812
  2. Johann Joachim Heinrich 1814
  3. Anna Catharina Elisabeth 1816
  4. Franz Joachim Hinrich 1818
  5. Anna Catharina Dorothea 1820-1846
  6. Johann Jacob Hinrich 1823-1882
  7. Johann Heinrich Friedrich 1826-1854

Following a stroke, Catharina died on April 15, 1847 in Mustin and got laid to rest on the church cemetary on April 19, 1847

And then there is my 3rd great grandaunt Kathrin Magdalena ORTH, of whom I don’t know that much. She was born on January 11, 1786 in Mönkhagen, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany as fifth of eight children into the marriage of the day laborer Hans Hinrich Christopher OHRT (yes, the spelling is different from entry to entry) and Ann Malen JÄGERS.

She received her christening on January 15, 1786 in Zarpen, the main village of the parish.

And that is the last trace I have of her.

#52 ancestors No. 11 – moving around, back and forth

52ancestors-2015It’s my eleventh week in the 52 Ancestors Challenge of Amy Crow over at “No Story too small”.

And this week, I won’t concentrate on one of my ancestors. I sat down yesterday and tried to reconcile how my family and ended up in Lübeck, where most of it still lives.

The result is the following mindmap. The red line is my paternal one, showing my Dad’s family and the blue line is my Mom’s.

Actually, I always thought that my father’s family stayed mostly where it was, in my main parish of Diedrichshagen, Mecklenburg, Germany. But as you can see, my father’s family moved around a lot. It’s just that the areas they moved to and from are so much easier to research than my mother’s line.And of course it helped, that still today, my family lives close.

Coming from East Prussia (today’s Poland and Russia), it is rather complicated to obtain documents for my mom’s family.

The years given in the mindmap are the years the family moved from one place to the next. And the pictures are the family members moving.


Did you ever do a map like this?

#52ancestors No. 10 – lots and lots of snow

I have a lot of catching up to do with the 52 ancestors challenge. But finally my cast is gone and I can type again. I tried with this heavy thing on, but it wasn’t a pleasure – let me tell you that much ;)

Which means, I have a couple of weeks to deliver.. will do my very best in the next couple of days.


themes-2015-03The challenge for week 10 was “Stormy Weathers”. And when I think about Stormy Weathers I think about the heaviest snow storm in my home area back in winter 1978/1979. I remember that one, because we couldn’t use the boardwalk on our way to school.. well, I had still to take the left turn to the Kindergarten .. but we had to walk on the street. The snow was piled higher than I was tall ;) And that was one of the better aspects of the snow storm.. but hey, I was five years old, I didn’t care about lost electricity or else.

Have a look at some pictures here

And when I have a look at the year 1979 in my family tree, we meet Emmi Martha Frieda Leppin.

Emmi was born on March 7, 1901 in Groß Pravtshagen, Grandduchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Germany as the second of five children.

birth certificate Emmi Leppin

birth certificate Emmi Leppin


And as you can see on her birth certificate above, the registrar noted there that she married 1936 in Grevesmühlen, Mecklenburg, Germany  and died 1979, the year of the huge snow storm, also in Grevesmühlen, Mecklenburg, East Germany. He or she even noted the numbers of the respective certificates as a source. Oh, how I wish more people would do that.