Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Obsolete German villages in Bohemia

I recently learned of something terrible that happened in Bohemia, the homeland of my great-grandmother Rosie (Sitzman/Zitzmann) Wagner. After World War II had ended, the Sudeten Germans, the German-speaking inhabitants of the Bohemian part of Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic), were brutally attacked, killed, and driven from their homes. According to one source, 3.2 million people were forcibly relocated to Germany, with no say in the matter, and only with those possessions they could carry with them. I've spoken recently to a survivor of this tragedy, who provided me with the above map. Each red dot represents one settlement where German-speaking residents, some of whose family had lived in the area for centuries, were beaten, killed, or forcibly driven from their homes and country. Most of these settlements were left uninhabited, and are now gone.

This really struck home, as my great-grandmother and her family lived on the western border of Bohemia, in the Tachau region, which is on the far western edge of the region. Her family had lived in the villages of Rosshaupt, Neuhasl, Ströbl, Zirk, and others since at least the late 1700s. To think that her relatives were treated in such a brutal way is unthinkable, yet it happened. Maybe that was one reason she forbade her daughters to speak of where they were from.

To learn more about these events, and to read English translations of first-hand accounts, please visit

Sunday, March 16, 2014

52 Ancestors, Week 3 - Margaret Waechter

This is a photo of my fourth-great-grandmother Margaret Waechter. She was my great-grandmother Edna Craddock's great-grandmother on her mom's side. I don't have a lot of details about her life, but I do have enough to have a rough sketch of who she was. She was born in Europe, probably in March 1830 or 1832 (despite what's written on the photo). Her birth place is given in the census records as Germany, Prussia, and France, which kind of suggests Alsace-Lorraine (especially since her husband's birthplace is given as Alsace the same year hers was given as France). She emigrated to the US in 1851, and married George Waechter soon after, probably around 1853. They had 11 children together  - my 3rd-great-grandmother Amelia was the oldest, followed by Elizabeth, Caroline, William, George Jr, Edward, Frederic, Ida, Maggie, Clara, and Harry. The first four kids were born in Ohio, the rest in Pennsylvania. She was alive in 1910, living with her daughter Clara McClelland and her family. If she did pass away in 1917, she would have been about 87 years old.

She's an important ancestor for me, because she is my oldest known mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) ancestor. My mtDNA haplogroup is H3v, or part of "Helena's" descendants (from "Seven Daughters of Eve"). I would love to find a match (ideally one I could find our ancestral connection with) and see where our DNA comes from beyond Margaret.

I have one important lead to follow up on in my research about Margaret. While getting ready for this blog post, I went looking for more info on Margaret herself, and the daughter she was living with in 1910. It turns out, this daughter, Annie Clara (Waechter) McClelland, was born in 1875, and lived to be 92 years old. She lived long enough to apply for, and receive, a Social Security Number. If I can get a copy of her SS-5, it might just tell me Margaret's maiden name! I plan on ordering that this week. The hard part will be waiting the weeks or months it takes the Social Security Administration to get around to filling requests. But I'm cautiously optimistic about this. I'll do a follow up post when I get the form.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Ancestral Signatures

When I found the treasure chest of records on Fold3 last year, one of the real gold nuggets was coming across the signatures of some of my ancestors. Below are the signatures of my 4th-great-grandfather, Paul Groff, and his mother, my 5th-great-grandmother, Hannah Groff (maiden name unknown). It amazes me to think that their own hands wrote those signatures almost 170 years ago.