Our first stop was in Karlsbronn near Sarrbrücken. The highways were excellent, but the tolls were outragious, 143FF (about US$21) for about 200 miles. We had reservations for 4 nights in the Weibel family hotel (basically a B&B). It was very nice and the price was nice also - about US$60 a night. The rain continued every day. We looked for a washsalon (laundromat) and could not find any, so we had to start washing clothes by hand and hanging them in the bathroom to dry.
I had forgotten how people drive over there. I believe they all think they are race car drivers. They drive too fast for the winding narrow roads and they continuously draft (tailgate).
While we were eating dinner the first night, I received a call from cousin Werner Kaag to see if we were OK and to settle on a day we could visit Albrecht Müller, the town genealogist in Aurich. We agreed on Monday afternoon.
We went to the genealogy museum in Ludweiler to talk to Herr Desgranges about how to proceed to try to find anything about June's Hirthler family. He got us in contact with Monsieur Alan Willigseckes, a member of the Cercle Genealogique in a nearby French village. He could find nothing on the Hirthlers, but he suggested we go to Strasbourg to the Alsace archive. We went the next day. It was only about 120KM (about 75 miles) to Strasbourg and it was all on interstate type toll road. The tolls were very high. We paid 41FF (about US$6) each way. The librarian was very helpful, but we found nothing. On the way back to Karlsbronn we encountered a terrible rain and hail storm.
On 7/8 we went on to the Stuttgart area. I had previously contacted a couple cousins I met on the internet, and made an appointment to meet cousin Jürgen Emmler at his home near Karlsruhe the afternoon of 7/8. We found it with little difficulty. We sat and drank coffee (European coffee is very strong) and just talked. Jürgen and his wife then invited us to dine. They took us to a very nice Greek restaurant not far away. It was a delicious meal.
Werner Kaag had suggested another family hotel in Eberdingen near the villages the Helds came from. It was owned by the Eitel family, a cousin to Werner. It was also very nice and the price was even nicer (about US$50 a night). Werner came over to Eberdingen that evening and gave me several beautiful old maps of the region and some information on other Held families in the area. I asked him if it would be OK if Jürgen Emmler could meet with us Monday. He agreed, so I called Jürgen to invite him.
June and I went to church Sunday morning in Mönsheim, where 150 years ago Johann David Held and Christina Held were married and they had their first 6 children baptized. The service, of course, was all in German, but we made an effort to sing the hymns. The pastor could speak some English (as do many Germans, even in the small villages). I took some pictures of the church, as best I could in the rain.
On monday we went to Aurich to meet Werner and Jürgen. I had intended to try to get some over-the-village type of pictures to show at the Held reunion. It was difficult because the village was in a deep narrow valley and the stream that flows through the village winds. In addition, it was still raining. After trying to get some pictures we went back to the village center, where we were going to meet Werner and Jürgen. As we were driving past the parking area this strange woman was waving at us. We stopped and she came over and asked if we were the Helds.
For the past several months I had communicated several times with a lady named Doris, who I had met on the Baden-Wuerttenberg mail list. She was born near Aurich, but now lives near Toledo, OH. She was visiting her German families during the month of July. Somehow she contacted Werner and was also invited to the afternoon session.
While we waited for Jürgen and Werner to arrive, Doris indicated that she had a cousin that lived somewhere on the ridge overlooking the village. The four cars caravaned up the hill to where Albrecht Müller lives. Albrecht has a home on the top of the steep cliff, overlooking Aurich. What a photo opportunity.
Doris' cousin was a next door neighbor to Albrecht whose name was Collmer. What a coincidence. All 4 of us have Collmers from Aurich in our ancestry. It turns out we are all cousins through the Collmers, in addition to other connections.
There were several new pieces of information that Albrecht was able to give me. One was that in addition to the 3 Held travelers from Biesingen in southern Baden around 1700 (old Hans, son Michael, and very young son Johannes), there was also another Michael Held and daughter Anna from Biesingen in the area. He showed me the Aurich marriage record in 1696 for Anna that clearly states she was the daughter of Michael Held from Biesingen. Our Helds were in Sersheim, about 5 miles away, about this time and our Michael was only 18 years old, much too young to have a daughter of marrying age. So now there were 5 Helds from Biesingen in the Sersheim-Aurich area. Another piece of information was that old Hans father's name was Wendel and he was the town baker in Biesingen. (That shoots down the previous assumptions I had made based on the children's order.) He also gave me information that my Michael's son, Michael, came to North America with his second wife and family, to a Dutch colony called Batavia, thought to be in the Carolinas. It was a fruitful afternoon.
I have since looked in my Biesingen Held family data for this second Michael Held and daughter Anna. There is only one that seems to fit. Michael Held b: about 1648 in Biesingen, m: Christina Reichmann on 27 Oct 1668 in Öfingen. Three children: 1) Michael Held, b: 26 Aug 1670, m: Veronica Burho in Biesingen on 25 Feb 1696. 2) Anna Held, b: 15 Oct 1675 in Biesingen. 3) Barbara Held, b: 08 Apr 1683 in Biesingen.
Over the next couple days June and I drove to several villages in the area trying to fill in some loose ends of my research. I found some records, but very few. One record I did get was a copy of the marriage between Johannes Guth and Maria Magdalena Schell on 22 Apr 1733 in Bissingen/Enz. These pages were unreadable in the microfilm I have of the Bissingen/Enz church books.
One day we drove to Stuttgart to do some gift shopping. I had a terrible time finding the central area where the department stores would be. We finally saw a tourist office, so we decided to stop and ask. I had to drive around the block three times before I found where to turn off, then I was immediately directed to an underground parking garage. Upon coming up to ground level, we were in the midst of the large department stores, exactly where we wanted to be.
After Eberdingen we had no reservations. We headed for Donaueschingen, which is very near Biesingen in southern Baden where the Helds originally came from. On the way we stopped in Tumlingen to see if we could shed some light on the birth of Matthaus Guth who was supposed to be born in Tumlingen, but no birth record could be found. We made contact with the retired church genealogist, Herr Dr. Wein who will research the problem for me.
On to Donaueschingen. We made several circles around the downtown area looking for a gasthaus. There were so many I finally I told June to just pick one. She picked Hotel Ochsen (Oxen) which turned out to be very nice. The quoted price was very reasonable at 112DM a night (about US$56), but we ended up paying only 430DM for 4 nights, with some unknown discount. We were directly across the street from one of the major attractions in town, the Donauhalle, which means we could always find our way home. They had a rooftop parking area for guests which was a great relief (parking is a problem all over Europe).
We visited the strange fountain in the city square. The fountain is not stone artwork as are many, but bronze figures of musicians in an orchestra, with movable arms that the visitors can adjust. We also visited the spring and castle gardens where the Donau River (Danube to us) officially starts.
While riding around, June opened the bag of candy we purchased at Aldis in Sersheim. She started chewing on a piece of caramel and broke off a piece of tooth. This is the 4th time that one of us has broken a tooth on vacation. There was a sharp edge that was cutting her tongue. So we went to a pharmacy (apotheke) to get some dental wax to put on the sharp edge. They indicated it was only available from a dentist or a dental lab. They directed us to a dentist. The receptionist could not understand English, but did indicate the next open appointment was not until August. We tried another nearby pharmacy and they directed us to another closeby dentist that they knew spoke English. He took her right in and ground off the sharp edge for 20DM (US$10).
On the second day I asked one of the sons of the hotel owners to call Karl Ludwig Hönle for me, to see if he would accept guests. Karl had entered the bulk of the Held family information from the Biesingen, Oberbaldingen, and Öfingen church books into the LDS IGI files. He had an unlisted number. I had his address, so the next day I got up enough courage to go ring his doorbell. He answered the door and he was very gracious. He later took us in his car to Schwenningen to his LDS (Mormon) chapel to go over our notes. We met several Mormon missionaries from the US who were having a get together at the chapel. They invited us to a concert to be held the next night. He insisted we go out for dinner in the Black Forest (in a pouring rain). We drove up into the hills, had a nice light snack, then he took us to the Titisee area. Titisee (Lake Titi to us) is a major resort area in the Black Forest.
We went to the concert the next night, after driving to Biesingen, Oberbaldingen, and Öfingen. We stopped in Öfingen at the Pfarreramt to make an appointment with the pastor, but he was not home. We drove over to the area of the nearby Panoramic Restaurant to see how far we could see in the rain. Forget taking any pictures. The concert was 3 musicians from Leipzig (a pianist, a fagott (downwind) player and a mezoalto) who did a very nice performance to an audience of about 30 people. Karl Ludwig invited us to prayer the next day but we declined. We wanted to go to church in Biesingen.
We stopped in Biesingen on the way back from the concert to try to find out what time services were. Nothing was posted, so we went to Oberbaldingen, where again nothing was posted. (These two churches are served by the same pastor.) So, Sunday morning we made a guess that services would be a 10AM and we guessed right. As we were arriving into Biesingen the bells were ringing. There was one song in the Evangelische Hymnal that had English words, and that was one that was sung that morning. The pastor did not speak any English, but she found someone in the congregation who spoke it very well. We chatted for some time in the light rain.
On Monday we were on the road again. We needed to be in Paris before noon on Tuesday the 18th to turn in the car. We looked at the map and I picked Reims as a logical place that would get us to the Paris airport in time. As we were driving through town (5 exits on the superhighway), I went off the highway near the town center where we had seen several hotels that we recognized: Best Western, Holiday Express, and etc. We picked the Holiday Express. The price was not bad, about US$60 a night, including breakfast. There was a major problem - no place to park. The hotel had a locked parking area for around US$6 a night which I agreed to use.
Reims turns out to be one of the major attraction cities of France. The cathedral is where many of the kings of France were crowned. There was also an old Roman ruins that was being excavated across the street from the cathedral.
We arrived at the Paris airport area about 10AM. We drove around looking for the hotel to drop off our luggage and where to drop off the car. In my anxiety to find the hotel, we drove right past a gas station. I spent the next hour trying to find that gas station again, and never did find it. So, I dropped off the car with 5/8ths of a tank of gas and will pay heavily for the fillup. (BTW, the total cost of the car for 2 weeks, including the final fillup and all taxes and fees was $310. That does not include the gas I paid for for 2600KM or 1625 miles.)
The airport Novatel (a 4 star hotel) was a little expensive, about US$105, not including breakfast. However, it had a major advantage over others in the same area, it had an enclosed walkway to the CDG airport train station. That afternoon we went to Paris on the express train (the RER). We purchased round trip tickets at 98FF each (about US$15). We got off the train at Challet-Les Halles. We walked to the Arc de Triumph, where we had a nice inexpensive steak dinner at Edward V on the Champs-Elysees and then walked back, probably a total round trip distance of about 6 or 7 miles. June's ankles were badly hurting on the way back. (Now that I think of it, I'll bet the RER train pass would have given us rides on the Metro also, and we would not have needed to walk back.)
The next day June decided to brave it again. We noticed an advertisement for something called a Paris Day Pass and inquired about it. It allowed free public transportation access to anything in zones 1 through 5 for one day. That included RER service to Versailles, La Defense, and the CDG airport, as well as all the Metros and busses in Paris proper, including the incline at Montmartre (Sacre Coeur), in addition it allowed reduced prices at some attractions. The cost was only 110FF (about US$18). So we headed for Versailles, then to La Defense and the new Arch. From there we went to Sacre Coeur, had a pizza dinner on our way to the Eiffel Tower. We waited for the light show to come on and we then took the Metro to an RER connection and went home to CDG. What a deal!!
Another advantage to the airport hotel was free shuttle service to
airport. Actually it was free shuttle service to the airport for train
passengers, but we had quick access to the train terminal.
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Copyright 2000 by Fred H. Held