By Warren Bittner
When I first went to Germany to do research in the archives of Bavaria, I didn’t think I would find much information about my family. I focused on finding information about one couple that married in 1821 and had 7 children. I knew that the family was very poor and that the husband worked as a farm laborer for other farmers because he was too poor to have his own farm. However, what I found in various archives about this one couple astounded me!
At a branch of the state archive I found:
- Two sets of marriage hearings for the couple, as they tried for ten years to get permission to marry. The records gave a lot of details about the family, including:
– The birth dates and places of the bride and groom.
– The names of the parents for the bride and groom, and when and where the parents died.
– Names and birth dates for the children born to the couple before they were allowed to marry.
– Life history of the husband, including the names of the six villages where he had lived growing up.
– The names of the farmers for whom he had worked as a farm hand.
– A detailed physical description of the man, including the fact that he wore earrings.
– The school records for both the bride and the groom giving the grades they got in every subject.
- Probate records for both the husband and the wife. The records provided details of what happened to the children after their parents died.
At the state archive I found:
- A record showing when the husband bought the little piece of land.
- Notes of a village meeting when the town council met to grant permission for the man to build a house. The record included a drawing of the house.
- Mortgage records for the house where the wife grew up. From the records I was able to learn a lot about the wife’s family for 100 years.
At the main church archive I found:
- Reports that the minister of the community wrote every year to his superiors. His reports included fascinating information about the social conditions of the people.
At a nearby city archive I found:
- A set of compiled family group sheets for many people in the area, including the couple I was researching.
- A marriage hearing for a daughter of the couple, describing the year-long process the couple had to go through before they got permission to get married.
All together, I visited five archives and found information about the couple and their family in each of the archives. The volume of records available in Bavarian archives for people who lived in the 1800s is unbelievable. It is well worth the trip to Bavaria to look for information about people who lived in the 1800s.
A trip to the homeland of an ancestor, whether they lived in America, Europe, or elsewhere, can produce a wealth of information. Visiting a hometown can be fun, but a wealth of information may also be hiding in archives near where an ancestor lived.