Genealogy and the Rheinpfalz|
Three "eras" of Pfalz history:
Hacker’s Auswunderlingen den Rheinpfalz in 18th Jahrhundert (book to be found in large public library or perhaps on film at FHC.
RootsWeb is an online genealogy community consisting of searchable databases, indexed Web pages, and an extensive set of discussion lists available on the Web or subscribable via email. You'll find mailing lists for particular surnames as well as mailing lists focused on geographical regions.
I'd been on RootsWeb’s Baden-Wuerttemberg mailing list for many months since another set of ancestors came from this region. "Baden" is such a broad area in southwestern Germany, that I had little hope of ever finding Leonhard Schmidt’s birthplace. And by the way, this German trip did not get me any closer to him; his origin is still a mystery I hope to solve. But the trip did get me much closer to his bride and her family. I am still hoping to find him through her, since I have collected evidence that recent émigrés often married people from families they knew in the "old country."
"Bayern," I learned on the Baden-Wuerttemberg mailing list, meant "Bavaria," and for some time I believed that this meant that the Betzes were from way south, near Munich. Then I learned (on the same mailing list) that in the late 1700s, in an effort to protect the small, vulnerable territories west of the Rhein from French invasion, these were assigned to larger, even if geographically distant, powers. The area we now consider Rheinpfalz was part of what was then called Rhennish Bavaria (or Rhein Baiern); also then (1789) called Rheinprovinz. (While older church records may refer to "Rheinprovinz," the region is no longer referred to this way.)
This arrangement (of Rheinpfalz being under the jurisdication of far away Bavaria) remained in place between 1816-1935 (see 1818 map of region above). Needless to say, this is where my Elisabetha Betz hailed from. But what town? Darcy would need to know a town in order to obtain the right microfilm. I learned about and subscribed to the Pfalz-L mailing list to become more familiar with this region.
In addition to my Internet fly-fishing approach, I also enjoy stewing in the data that Darcy collects. I graph it out, plot it in spreadsheets, map out timelines. And by looking closely at the baptism records of Elisabetha Betz’s children, I also knew that she was somehow connected to another set of BETZes, of her same generation, and who show up as godparents to each others’ children. (See below a screenshot of my spreadsheet in which I map all this out.) These Betzes were all born between 1818 and 1831, and they all married in Buffalo between 1848 and 1851. Darcy had come across their marriage records while researching Elisabetha and Leonhard. Of these five BETZes (Philippina, Elisabetha, Heinrich, Philipp, and Margaretha), I was fairly certain that at least three of them were siblings, but I had neither confirmed this nor connected my Elisabetha to them.
Next, I did what most genealogists say not to do: I started researching family lines that I wasn’t sure were mine. I started the "Buffalo Betz" project. I compiled all the information we had about these five Betzes, including who they were married to, who witnessed the marriages, where they were buried, who they were buried with, whose godparents they were, etc. I created and promoted a Web page that summarized my research challenge. I put the URL at the bottom of all my genealogy-related email messages. I obtained a current Buffalo phone book, and sent a postal letter to all 26 Betzes currently living in Buffalo. (I heard back from only one.) I visited the Buffalo cemeteries Concordia and Forest Lawn with my video camera, and examined the resulting tombstone pictures closely. I found another instance of "Rheinprovinz" – on Heinrich Betz’s tombstone, along with the town name "Kreuznach." Kreuznach (currently called Bad Kreuznach) also matched up with the apparent birthplace of one of the other five Buffalo Betzes— Philippina.
Protestant Church Records:
Confusion about Bad Kreuznach
When I posted an email to the Pfalz-L and Baden-Wurttemberg mailing lists, letting people know that I was going to Germany and what I was looking for and where, I received many kind and helpful replies, including offers of free tour guiding. Most of these I did not have the opportunity to take up, and I am sorry that I was unable to meet some of the great German residents who participate so generously and patiently in the RootsWeb mailing lists.
But I received conflicting information about the status of Bad Kreuznach. On one hand, I was encouraged to check the civil records there. On the other hand, I was told that Bad Kreuznach was not in the Pfalz region. Someone else argued passionately that it was. When I looked at the 1818 map, it was RIGHT on the border of three "duchies" – Rheinpfalz, Rheinhessen and Niederrhein.
But two of my five Betzes had recorded in Buffalo that they were from Kreuznach, Rheinprovinz. So I decided to make an appointment with the civil archivist there.
Another thing I’d learned on the Pfalz-L mailing list was that most of the records from Protestant churches in the Pfalz have been collected in a central archive in Speyer. I also made, with the assistance of my German friends, an appointment at the Zentralarchiv der Evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz in Speyer. However, the archivist there made it clear that her records did not include anything from Bad Kreuznach. If BK was once part of the Pfalz, it no longer is.
Meanwhile, we also had found a record that indicated that Catharina Dern, the wife of one of the Buffalo Betz men, was from Altenbamberg, a town just 4 miles south of Bad Kreuznach. At this point, I turned back to the Internet.
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