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This particular Austgen family came from the small village of Besseringen.  Besseringen is in the German state of Saarland, which is bordered by Luxembourg to the northwest, Alsace-Lorraine (Moselle, France) to the west and south, and the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate to the north and east.

According to information received from Thomas Welsch, a distant cousin, Besseringen is "a village of 3000 inhabitants today. At Augustin zu Nierdorf's time, there were hardly more than 100 people living there. Nowadays, Besseringen is part of the (small) city of Merzig...The question to what country Besseringen historically belonged to is ...complicated. Please note that Germany as a nation is very young, much younger than the USA. Actually for most of the time, as oddly as that may sound, Besseringen belonged both to a Germany entity with the archbishop of Trier on top and to the Duchy of Lorraine, which for centuries was not a integral part of France. Therefore, some people in the same street of Besseringen had to pay taxes to the archbishop, others to the Duke of Lorraine. After the Thiry Year's War (1618-1648), contrary to Trier, Lorraine did not sign the peace treaty. Because of that, your neighbour in any given street of Besseringen could still have been formally at war. Lorraine became a part of France and shortly after that, Besseringen was incorporated into Prussia. The Prussians were always considered to be occupants, by the way. Besseringen has never been a part of the territories of the counts of Nassaue-Saarbrucken. After WWII, not only the French hoped the Saar territory would become a separate state, but also a considerable percentage (some 40%) of the populace.

French influence in Besseringen was always quite strong. Which is not surprising as France is only a walking distance away. Although people never spoke French, their local dialect has a lot of French expressions. Also, first names to this day are mostly converted into their French counterpart. Thus, for example, if someone's name is Ludwig officially, he would be called Louis in private talks. Same for Jean vs. Johann, Nicolas vs. Nikolaus, Marie vs. Maria, etc. "

Saarland was heavily bombed in WWII, and was made part of the French Zone of Occupation in 1945. The French hoped that the territory would become a separate state. However, in 1956 a majority (60%) of the populace requested to become part of West Germany. Saarland became a state of West Germany on January 1, 1957.

Click here for a picture of St. Gangolf's Church in Besseringen, Germany. This church was the source of many baptisms and weddings in the Autsgen family.

Special thanks for the contributions and kind encouragement of genealogists Paul A. Davis, and Debbie Alley. Their careful work on Lake County, Indiana German immigrants has been an inspiration. In addition, I was happy to make the acquaintance of Father Robert "Bob" Austgen, who has gathered much information on the Austgen family.

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This page was last updated on August 25, 2012

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