I started researching my ancestry back in the early 1990’s. Back then, the best way to do the research was by poring through microfilmed civil and church records at the local LDS Family History Centre. But often, other resources must be used.
Half of my ancestry was easy to uncover, since the LDS had microfilms for the Netherlands up to 1902. After finding birth records for both of my Dutch grandparents, going back further was clear sailing. However, the German side of my pedigree was not so easy. In this essay, I’ll discuss how I got a handle on my Boldt ancestors.
From documents in the possession of my grandmother, I knew that my great grandfather, Heinrich Christoph Hans Boldt, was born in 1873 in the village of Hindenberg in the former Grand-Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, a predominately rural region on the Baltic Sea coast.
Unfortunately, the LDS microfilms for that particular parish stopped at 1871. Fortunately, I did find a baptism record for a Wilhelmine Johanna Elisabeth Boldt born 1870 in Hindenberg. Her parents were Johann Joachim Hans Boldt and Marie Catharina Dorothea Wulff. I proceeded under the assumption that Wilhelmine was my great grandaunt.
From this information, I was able to go further back through several generations of Boldt’s. However, the evidence was circumstantial. I still didn’t have that smoking gun proving a connection between Heinrich Boldt and these other Boldt’s. Five years later, however, I got the evidence I needed.
In the Spring of 1997, Sylvana and I took a trip to Europe, with visits to some of the places where my ancestors lived, including Hindenberg, a nondescript rural village of no more than a couple dozen houses and agricultural buildings surrounded by yellow fields of rape-seed flowers.
We left Hindenberg heading north on an unmarked back road, and within minutes came upon the parish church at Kirch-Grambow. It’s a typical church for that part of Germany, red bricks, red tile roof, and a steeple clad in gray slate, surrounded by pine trees with a grave yard on both sides. We quickly found several gravestones with the name Boldt, so we knew we were in the right place.
Since there was no one around, we decided to return on the following Sunday. We arrived shortly after the service started. Since there were no more than a dozen people in the church, our arrival drew the attention of the young minister who stopped what he was doing and came back to greet us and show us to our pew. He asked if either of us could play organ. He pointed out a new organ in the loft at the back of the church, but unfortunately, they had no one who could play it.
It was a pleasant service. Without anyone to play the organ, the minister led the hymns a capella. His sermon was a gentle admonition on taking life one day at a time, an appropriate topic I thought for people still getting used to a new political and economic reality in a recently reunited Germany. Although he had a small attendance at his service, this young, fresh out of seminary minister clearly enjoyed his rural posting.
After the service, the minister showed us around. I told him I was interested in researching my ancestors, some of whom were baptized in that church. We asked to see the church records, and he readily agreed.
At the parish office, he pulled out a stack of books, some going back to the late 1600’s. I didn’t need to touch the really old books, but I couldn’t resist a peak inside the oldest one.
Quickly, I found what I was looking for, the baptism record of Heinrich Boldt. And yes, as suspected, his parents were indeed Johann Boldt and Marie Wulff. I finally had the vital evidence linking my great grandfather to another four generations of Boldt’s going back to 1735.
We spent a couple hours more searching through the records, and found the baptism records for my grandfather, Hans Wilhelm Joachim Boldt (born 1900), as well as a number of other Boldt’s.
One more thing about the church at Kirch-Grambow: The parking lot at the church was circled by a dozen rough-hewn stones, one for each village in the parish, each with the names of soldiers killed during the First World War. The stone for the village of Hindenberg listed two names, Ludwig Boldt and Martin Boldt. These two brothers were half second cousins of my grandfather. Both were killed and buried in France.
Genealogy is a lengthy process, often requiring patience and diligence. But for most of us, the records are out there, waiting to be uncovered.