A Walk Through a Graveyard

It’s a popular theme that genealogists like visiting cemeteries and graveyards. If you see a bumper sticker that says “This car stops at all cemeteries”, you know you’re following a genealogist. That said, looking at gravestones is not really much use from a research point of view. Normally, if you visit a cemetery, you already know what you’re looking for. But occasionally, a visit to a cemetery can turn up some useful information.

I started genealogy back in 1992. Although I could immediately find ancestors in the LDS microfilms for the Dutch side of my pedigree, I seemed to hit nothing but brick walls on the German side.

In this post, I consider the mother of my paternal grandmother. Here’s the information I started out with, given to me by my father and grandmother: My great grandmother was Anna Schmidt from Satow, born May 17, 1877. She had a half sister named Marie Diederich who lived in Hohen-Luckow. Her maiden name was something like “Elerd”.

Church at Hohen-Luckow, 1992.

In the Spring of 1992, I visited these places in Germany. Hohen-Luckow is a small village south-west of Rostock, with a modest church. A few meters from the entrance to the church yard, I found this gravestone. Back home, I verified with my dad that Marie Elhers was indeed my great grandmother’s half-sister.

Gravestone for Werner Diederich.

So then it was back to the local LDS Family History Center. I searched the IGI and found a marriage record for Ernst Carl Josua Ehlers and Elisabeth Sophia Maria H Schmidt, dated May 13, 1880, in Satow. Assuming Ernst Ehlers was the father of Marie Ehlers, could Elisabeth Schmidt be my great great grandmother?

Since Anna Schmidt was supposedly born in Satow, I ordered the microfilm for the Satow church records. Unfortunately, the baptism record of Anna Schmidt wasn’t there. I did find the marriage record of Ernst Carl Josua Ehlers and Elisabeth Sophia Maria Hennerike Schmidt on June 4,  1880. But, if Anna Schmidt was the daughter of Elisabeth Schmidt, wouldn’t she have the name of her father instead of her mother?

I was getting rather discouraged by this line of research and was about to give up for the evening when I decided to have a look at the confirmation records on the film. There, I found a confirmation record dated March 22, 1891 for Anna Dorothea Frederike Schmidt born May 17, 1877, in Reinstorf, a village south of Satow. Certainly, this was my great-grandmother! Her mother was listed as Elisabeth Sophia Maria Hennerike Ehlers, nee Schmidt, of Satow. It is interesting that in all other confirmation records, the father of the child is listed. But in this case, the name of the mother is listed. Clearly, I was dealing with an illegitimate birth here.

I then ordered the microfilm for Reinstorf and found Anna Schmidt’s baptism record. As expected, it was an illegitimate birth – the name of the father is left blank in the record. Interestingly, in all other records where the name of the father is unknown, the entry states “Unbekannt“. Perhaps they knew full well who the father was? Perhaps this child would have been an embarrassment for him?

So now I had a definite handle on this branch of my ancestry, and was able to go back further through the microfilmed records. You can find more information on Anna Schmidt and her ancestors here.

Cheers! Hans

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