HISTORY AND BACKGROUND OF THURINGIA
(Now known as Bad Frankenhausen)
Frankenhausen is a small town in central Germany on the south slope of a small wooded mountain range, the Kyffhauser. It is located about 25 miles north of Erfurt and approximately 60 miles west of Leipzig at 51° 22' North, 11° 07' East.
The area was settled by the Franks in the 6th Century. The town was in existence by the 9th Century. Frankenhausen was property of Otto I "The Great" in 952. The oldest structures remaining in Frankenhausen are the Hausmannsturm (lookout tower) which is first mentioned in records in the year 998, and remnants of the old city wall. It then passed through ownership by the Count of Rothenburg in the 12th Century, and other counts through the 14-16th Centuries. It was mostly destroyed by fires in 1689, 1759, and on February 15, 1833. The population was decimated by bubonic plague in 1348, 1591, 1626, and 1639. Some buildings constructed in the 17th century are still in use in 1994.
The first church in Frankenhausen was built about the year 1000, and is known today as Altstadter Kirche (Old City Church)
A Roman Catholic Cistercian nunnery (Klosterkirche) was built in Frankenhausen in 1215 by Count Friedrich III. It was in the area of Germany where the Protestant Reformation began under Martin Luther in the 16th century. The cloister was abandoned in 1551 and was taken over as a Lutheran school in 1552. The church was reconstructed in 1596-1598. It burned to the ground in 1689 and the current building was constructed in baroque style in 1690-1703. It is now known as the Unterkirche. An organ was built for the church in 1703 by Johann Nordt. The first German Music Festival was held in the Unterkirche in 1804. Other national music festivals were held there in 1810 and 1811. In 1843 a larger organ was built by Julius Strobel. In 1884, his sons Reinhold and Adolf expanded the organ. It became recognized as the best organ in Thüringen and among the best in Germany. The organ had 49 registers (about 3400 pipes), three manuals and pedals. The organ was restored in 1956 and in 1994. Organ concerts continue in the Unterkirche.
The Oberkirche was built in 1382. The salt under the building slowly washed away causing the steeple to lean 3,20 meters from the perpendicular. The roof had to be removed in the 1970's for safety. Efforts began in 1993 to raise funds for restoring the church. The church has no records of it having an organ.
During the Reformation the town was the site of the Battle of Frankenhausen in May, 1525, where the Peasant's Revolt was ended with the defeat by the princes of the peasants led by Thomas Munzer. The revolt was inspired by misinterpretation of Martin Luther's preaching and was denounced by him.
In 1854 when Edward William Blau emigrated, Frankenhausen was in the independent state of Thuringia within Prussia. In 1871 it became incorporated into the German Empire. In the early part of the 20th Century the name was changed to Bad Frankenhausen, indicating a spa area. After World War II, it fell into the eastern sector of Germany under the Communist German Democratic Republic (DDR) in the district of Halle. In 1970, Bad Frankenhausen had a population of less than 10,000. After the reunification of Germany in 1990, Bad Frankenhausen was placed in the province (lander) of Sachsen-Anhalt. It is in a salt and potash mining region and also has such industries as sugar refining, leather, buttons and tobacco products. The area still has the remains of the castles of Rothenburg (7th Century ) and of Kyffhausen (12th Century).
The 1883 tax records for Frankenhausen show that the town was originally named Bärenklau (Bear-claw). In 1883, Frankenhausen had 698 residential buildings, 1157 households and 4985 inhabitants. There were three churches, a seminary for school teachers, a boys' school, a girls' school and a secondary school. It had a telegraph station and a first class post office. There were several kindergartens and a children's hospital. Among the industries listed were brewery, tannery, organ building, and a button factory. The nearby agriculture produced tobacco, flax (from which linen is made), and vineyards from which vinegar was made, and salt mines.. The town had four markets, including a flax and yarn market.
The word "blau" in German means "blue", and is a slang word meaning "drunk". In standard German the word is pronounced so as to rhymn with "cow". The Blau family of Columbus-Girard has always pronounced the name so as to rhymn with "law". In Germany, as in the United States, there are regional dialects. It would be expected that the regional dialects would be more pronounced in the middle of the 19th Century before radio and television lessened the differences in pronunciation. When Edward William Blau left Frankenhausen in 1854 there was no united Germany and no uniform German language. It was only after 1871 that Germany became a unified nation and the regional dialects began to fade. Among the regional dialects was the Thuringian dialect. Being in the hill country, the Thuringian dialect was probably different from the more populated areas such as Erfurt. When Edward William Blau's son Lorenz visited the family in Germany in the 1890's he found the portion of the Blau family which had moved to London changed the spelling to "Blaw" so it would be pronounced correctly.
The name is said to have come from a description of typical clothing worn by the person when surnames came into use. The name is also said to have been applied to a person of light skin or blond hair. In this family of linenweavers, the name may have some connection to the cloth produced by an early Blau. Though it has been reported found as early as 1282, Blau is not a common name in Germany. The name is reported to have variations in spelling, such as Blaue, Blaus, Blawe, Blohose, Blohut, and Blaauw. The name in Frankenhausen is found as Blaue in the 18th Century records, changing to Blau in the early 19th Century. It was also common to add "in" to the last name of females, so that in the records Blau females are usually spelled "Blauin".
Being in the central area of the Protestant Reformation, Frankenhausen's religious community was protestant . The Evangelische Kirche of Frankenhausen kept records of the births, christenings, marriages and deaths beginning in 1586. In 1972, Leonora Blau Spiess visited Frankenhausen in hopes of learning about the family history. She found the church closed and boarded up. The local government officials had no interest in assisting her. At that time the Communist leaders of the DDR were hostile to genealogical research. About 1980 a governmental benefit was found and the government opened a central officer for genealogical research in Leipzig, and encouraged district and city archives to cooperate with persons seeking information on their ancestors. The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons or LDS) was allowed to extensively microfilm genealogically significant records in the state archives. The Lutheran Church has not been as open to the LDS, but many old church parish registers are preserved in state archives. The parish records of the Evangelische Kirche of Frankenhausen from 1586 to 1879 were in the Staatsarchiv of Rudolstadt, under the DDR, and the LDS microfilmed them on twenty reels.
These parish records are written in the old German script, which has a number of different lettering styles from the script now used. The problem in reading and translating the old German script is that it has not been in use since the early 1930s. Hitler found the use of the old German script to be an economic hindrance to Germany. He outlawed the script and put in its place the Roman script used by western Europe and the United States. As a consequence, few Germans can read the old script today. The parish registers are, of course, written by various people through the years, each with his own individual variations in handwriting style. Some are relatively easy to read, others are very difficult to transliterate. In general, dates and times are easily readable without a knowledge of German. The names of the child and father in birth records are usually written in Roman script and thus are easy to read. The same is true for the bride and bridegroom in marriage records. The names of mothers, godparents, and listing of occupations are in the old German script. The death records sometimes give the cause of death.
In 1990 when Germany began reunification, the city government and the church became more responsive to requests for information, sending tax records, picture postcards, including a photograph of the Stobel organ, and other information, seemingly going out of their way to find material on the Blau family.
OF THE BLAU FAMILY
The parish records show the primary occupation of the Blau family of Frankenhausen as linenweavers. It was common practice in Germany that the oldest son followed in the father's occupation and inherited his business. Other sons could stay with the family work or could go into other occupations. Generally a child would learn the father's business, trade or craft very early and could be granted favorable treatment by the local guild. A person would begin as an apprentice to a Meister (master of the trade or craft). When he had learned the trade he was then sent out to travel to other towns and villages to practice as a journeyman. After completing this phase he could be eligible to apply to the guild for the title of Meister. To obtain the title Meister, he had to show that he was a legitimate child and that his ancestors for several generations were legitimate. He had to be a citizen of the town, active in the church and otherwise of good moral character as well as highly skilled in his trade. The guilds were powerful organizations in the social and political lives of the town. The guild would approve or disapprove of a member's choice of a wife. If the member married after the guild's disapproval, his trade could be boycotted by other guild members and suppliers. When a man reached the level of Meister his name appears in the records with the title, for example: Meister Johann Lorenz Blau. All of Edward William Blau's direct paternal ancestors were linenweavers with standing as Meister . His father and uncle progressed beyond being craftsmen to being merchants, probably of textiles and patterns. His uncles and cousins had such occupations as tailor, locksmith, barrelmaker, organist and choirmaster. A brother-in-law was an assistant in the tax office and was a son of the mayor of Frankenhausen. Among Edward's cousins one, Victor Blau was a teacher and was director of the choral society for two years; one, Rudolph Blau, owned a stationary and book store, and was director of the choral society for twenty years; and one was a book binder. Another brother-in-law, Reinhold Strobel, was an organ builder. Edward's father, after retiring as a merchant may have joined that son-in-law in building pianos and organs. The church organ rebuilt and enlarged by Reinhold Strobel in 1884 is still in use in the Unterkirche of Bad Frankenhausen. There may have been a Strobel organ in the Oberkirche, which has a leaning steeple which was in danger of collapsing causing the officials to remove the roof of the church for safety reasons. In 1993 the church began a project to repair and restore the Oberkirche. The church has no records concerning the organ in the Oberkirche.
Census Records | Vital Records | Family Trees & Communities | Immigration Records | Military Records Directories & Member Lists | Family & Local Histories | Newspapers & Periodicals | Court, Land & Probate | Finding Aids