#52ancestors – So Far Away – travelling up my family tree


This week’s theme for the 52 ancestors challenge (check out www.nostorytoosmall.com to find out more about the challenge) is given with “So Far Away”. I decided to go with “far away” from a time perspective and went back in time.

I had a look at who is the ancestor putting the most years between me and him or her.

And I found my 6th great grandparents Claus Joachim SEEMANN and Anna Sophia KLINGBIEL from Bahlen, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Germany.

Claus and Anna married on October 25, 1748 in Klütz,  Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Germany. That is the oldest record I have in my family tree.

They had two children I know of:

  • Johann Christoph SEEMANN (my 5th great grandfather) – baptized on May 4, 1760 in Bahlen, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Germany
  • Christina Sophia SEEMANN – birthdate unknown

I received the data for Claus and Anna from Katrin Rohde, a co-genealogist who took part in last years’ 52 ancestors challenge. You can find her blog here (in German): https://athingisgoingon.wordpress.com/

It turned out that Katrin and I are distant cousins, we share Claus and Anna as 6th great grandparents. You can find our story here

That is all I know so far from my “so far away” ancestors. Can’t wait to dig deeper!


#52ancestors No 5 – plowing through… NOT :)

Okay, I have to admit, the challenge for week 5 of this years 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge gave me a hard time. Why? Because I have no idea what the term “plowing through” means. Of course I know that it is translated to, but I just couldn’t get it. Which shows again, no matter how good and how deep a knowledge of a foreign language is, there are some understanding issues which shows I am not a native speaker.

So, I just decided to not follow the theme.. sorry Amy ;)

If you don’t know what the 52 ancestors challenge is, go and visit www.nostorytoosmall.com and have a look at all the great bloggers taking part in telling stories of their ancestors. One ancestor a week.



What have I done for this week? I randomly picked a name from my list. I literally played “darts” in scrolling down and pointing out a name.

May I introduce you to Karolina Maria Wilhelmine SCHMIDT. She is the mother-in-law of two of my 2nd cousins 4x removed. Keep on reading to unfold that story.

Karolina was born in Jeese, in the grandduchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin in Germany on January 22, 1842.


The map on the left shows you the area of today’s German state Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Thinking back 100 years, you could find the grandduchy in the Northeast.

Karolina was the only known (at least to me) daughter of Ernst Joachim Heinrich SCHMIDT and his wife Henriette Karolina Katharina SCHULZ. Ernst was a “Kossate” (also known as Käter, Käthner, Kötter, Köter or Köthner) – which meant nothing else then that he owned a little cottage. Most of these little cottages were at the outlines of the villages, seperated from the bigger farms. They size of land belonging to the cottages was too small to live off it only. Therefore most of the Kossate worked as day labourers on the neighbour farms or as craftsmen.

I don’t have the exact date when Karolina married Hans Joachim Heinrich WARNKE, but it must have been before August 18, 1868.

Hans was also a Kossate and a mason from Upahl – a village in my “main” parish Diedrichshagen in the same grandduchy.

Why before that date? That was the day her daughter Wilhelmine Maria Dorothea was born in Upahl- which became later the wife of Joachim Karl Johann HAGEDORN, one of my 2nd cousins 4x removed I mentioned above.

Hans and Karolina had another child I know of: Heinrich Andreas Joachim, born on December 19, 1872 in Upahl. Heinrich married Joachim’s sister (and also my 2nd cousin 4x removed) Dorothea Maria Henriette HAGEDORN.

death certificate Karolina Schmidt

death certificate Karolina Schmidt


Karolina died on November 29, 1925 in Boienhagen, were she lived with her son Heinrich and his family following the death of her husband. Heinrich was also the person registering her death with the authorities.

#52ancestors No. 4 – A family or not?

52ancestorsYesterday’s #genchat was “Capturing all the details: one document at a time”. And btw. YESTERDAY because I am ahead of time across the pond ;)

Due to these inconvenient timezones (worst invention ever ;)) I couldn’t take part but I took it as an invitation to screen through my notes and stumbled over the following death entry (transcribed from the churchbook Mustin and translated into English):

Day of the Death: December 25, 1857

Day of the Funeral: December 28, 1857

Helene Louise Christine Möller, daughter of the carpenter in Dechow Matthias Gottlieb Möller and his deceased wife Magdalena Dorothea née Bett (or Beck or Beth – I admit, I couldn’t decipher it for sure), not married

cause of death: typhus

age: 38 years, 5 months

You might ask yourself now why I thought this plain entry to be odd enough that I would stumble over it?

Well, it was the “not married” which caught my eye. Because I have six children for Helene and my 3rd great grand uncle Franz Joachim Hinrich SCHAPER from Mustin in my database.

It wasn’t uncommon in the area that time to have one illegitimate child before the wedding, but six?

Everyone who wanted to marry had to apply for a wedding license and something like a right of domicile. Those were granted by the authorities of the duchy. Problem was: without the right of domicile you wouldn’t get a wedding license.

Every magistrate could grant (or not grant) this right at their own discretion. And more than one applicant wouldn’t get it without a bit of money changing its owner.

Just to give you some numbers:

In the duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin every sixth child born between 1849 and 1863 was illegitimate.

1851 there were 260 villages where more than 1/3 of the born children were born to a single mother and 79 villages where ALL children were born illegitimate.

But instead of helping their people to settle down, on May 3, 1856 the grandduchy Mecklenburg-Schwerin passed a law regarding the “punishment of bawdiness”.

Giving birth to a child without being married was one case for punishment. If someone would press charges against a single mother she was a risk to pay a fine between 3 and 20 Thaler. Just a comparison – the price for an average sized bread was 0.04 Thaler. The single mother was the “Stuprata” – the disgraced and she was the one responsible for being dishonored. Therefore she had to face court and pay the fine. The father could go on living his life without any responsibilities of course.

That was a quick excursion into “marriage history” of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. But those rules held true for many other duchies and kingdoms, too.

Coming back to “my” Helene. Could it be that she gave birth to six children between 1844 and 1856, living with their father like a family (which they were of course) and die of typhus and neither the father of her children not the children themselves would be mentioned in her death entry?

So, I checked every single birth entry for the children and yes, it was true. All of them were titled “illegitimate”  – and another btw. I think no child in this world should be called illegitimate!

I think it is heartbreaking that not even in her death entry the authorities acknowledged that she had children and that they had a father.

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1919 census GrandDuchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin

It is time to come to the last Mecklenburg-Schwerin census I work with.

The one from 1919

census Mecklenburg-Schwerin 1919

census Mecklenburg-Schwerin 1919

The census was taken on October 8, 1919 and is again household based. The form is seperated in 3 sections

  • Section Ia (Abschnitt Ia) states all permanent residents of the household in the night from October 7 to October 8, 1919
  • Section Ib (Abschnitt Ib) states all non-permanent residents (visitors) of the household in the night from October 7 to October 8, 1919
  • Section II (Abschnitt II) states all permanent residents of the household which are not present in the night from October 7 to October 8, 1919

And the columns from left to right:

  • consecutive number
  • first name (respectively calling name)
  • family name
  • position in the household
  • the next two columns provide the gender (male/female)
  • family status (single, married, divorced or widowed)
  • the next three columns provide the birth date (dd/month/yyyy) – please be aware of the different formatting
  • the next two columns show the place of birth (village resp. town and the county)
  • nationality (which German country or which foreign state)
  • the next column is a special one for the 1919 census. It provides the village resp. town which is responsible for the food supply for the civil population. Imagine that we are just one year after the end of the Great War
  • followed by the place of residence of the a) visitors and b) preliminary absent
  • the last 2 columns are for military personell: one provides the military rank and the last column the status of a prisoner of war

In this example you see the census of the family of Heinrich and Elise Schwarz from Diedrichshagen. They have one son called Otto. They have not only four servants / farmhands living with them (rows 4 til 7) but also two prisoners of war from Russia.

In section I b you see two relatives as visitors. Both of them live in Lübeck, Germany.

Every head of the household had to sign the form to confirm the correctness. Wrong information or the refusal to answer the questions would be fined with 1.500 Mark.

That was the last one of the series of my Mecklenburg-Schwerin censuses.

The next ones I work with are the censuses of Lübeck.


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1900 census Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin

The next census on the list of sources I work with is the 1900 census of the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.

This census was taken on December 1, 1900 and is different from the others described before, it provides one form per resident of a village including non-residents who are “only” present for a visit or else. Blog census 1900

This example is the census form of my 3rd great grand uncle Johann Joachim Heinrich Freytag. You might see, that his last name is written with an i instead of an y, which brings me back to Golden Roule of Genealogy #1 “spelling dusnt count” ;)

The header provides information on the place where the census was taken: Diedrichshagen

“Zählkarte Nr. 4 zur Haushaltungsliste Nr. 9 des Zählbezirks Nr. 1”

When I started with this census I never really looked at this line. Big mistake, let me tell you!

This line tells me that Johann Freytag was the fourth member accounted for in the ninth household in the first district that was counted. Which tells me that at least 3 more people lived with him on December 1, 1900.  And that at least 8 more households have to be mentioned in the 1900 census. Very important, if several branches of the family tree live in the same village (like in my tree).

Going number by number:

1. first and last name  – actually calling name and last name. I have several families where all sons have the first name Johann and they are distinguished by one of their several middle names. I use this census to mark the calling name in my family tree in capital letters.

2. gender – the applicable is underscored

3. marital status – again the applicable (single, married, widowed, divorced) is underscored. My 3rd great grand uncle was widowed on December 1, 1900. If I didn’t find the exact death date for his wife yet, I can at least narrow it down to “before December 1, 1900”

4. Age – given is the exact birth date with October 7 in the year 1822

5. place of birth and the district – in this case Diedrichshagen in the district of Grevesmühlen (sometimes written as Grevismühlen). For people born outside of the grandduchy also the state and for people born in Prussia also the district had to be mentioned. If you search for your German ancestors you might have heard more often than you would like this sentence “There was no GERMANY before at least 1871”. And here you would find the states, kingdoms, duchies, grandduchies, earldoms etc. for someone coming from out of Mecklenburg-Schwerin

6. occupation, status, profession. Whereas 6a provides the occupation and 6b the rank. In this case, Johann was already an “Altenteiler” (a retired farmer who handed over his farm to one of his sons with the lifelong right to live on the farm. A different example would be 6a: bricklayer and 6b) apprentice for someone learning to be a bricklayer

7a. here the village is mentioned in which the person (for married people, the family) is living. In this case it is simple, Johann is accounted for at the place he is also living. For people from outside of the grandduchy the state as to be named and for people from Prussia also the district (compare to No. 5)

7b. asks for the same information but not for the place to live but for the place the person works (or if the person is already retired where the last occupation was)

8. religious denomination – in this case lutheranian, as in 99.9% of my family from there. I don’t want to say 100% since I am not done yet and maybe there will be a Catholic or Jew show up somewhere in my tree. But this information helps you to figure out which churchbooks you have to find to research this ancestor.

9. the first language spoken

10. Nationality (if they belong to the German Reich or not) – but please see that as Nationality still “Mecklenburg-Schwerin” is given, not “German”

11. this section is for active military personell: the military rank and the troop unit has to be stated

12. and the last one asks for the following physical deficits: blind on both eyes or deaf-mute and if the handicap occured during the first 2 years or later. I am not really sure why that should have been important, to be honest.

The summary for my example:

On December 1, 1900 Johann Freitag (a.k.a. Johann Joachim Heinrich Freytag) is already widowed. He is born on October 7, 1822 in Diedrichshagen in the district of Grevesmühlen. He is a retired farmer, his place of living and his last place of occupation was Diedrichshagen in the district of Grevesmühlen. He is of lutheranian religion, his first language spoken is German and he is of Mecklenburg-Schwerin nationality. He is not an active military member and is not physically handicapped as in blind or deaf-mute.

One more hint:  

When you research this census online, either on ancestry.com or on familysearch.org make sure to always click several pages to the left and right to check for other members of the household, comparing the header I highlighted in blue above. Watch out for the number of the “Haushaltungsliste” (list of households)