About finding Weisenborn roots.

Posted on Facebook on 25 October 2015.

This sunday the weather was very pleasant. It reminded me of sunday 13 July last year. On that day I drove 70 km from my campsite in Mihla to Marbach, a village west of Erfurt. I knew that Johann Georg Weisenborn and his large family had emigrated from there to New York, arriving on 15 May 1852, and had then traveled on to Wisconsin. I was lucky: there was Kirmis in the village, and a lot of people had gathered in the large party tent, two streets away from the restaurant "Marbacher Schlößchen" where I had lunch and used the opportunity to ask the waitress about the Weisenborns living in the village. Bad omen: the name sounded familiar to her, but she didn't know anyone in particular. Note: Weisenborn sounds familiar everywhere and to everyone in Thüringen. In the party tent at the Kirmis I met a few old ladies, and asked again. They too had heard the name, but no, again no specifics. Mrs. Meyer said that the oldest lady in the village, who happened to live across the street, would be my best bet, but her daughter with whom she now lived didn't let anyone in these days, so I might as well give up. I left the tent and walked up to the church on the hill. The church dated from 1211, so old enough, but no Weisenborn-graves in the church yard: I was about 20 years too late, as then the old graves had been removed to make room for new ones. No graves in the church either. I decided to try my last option: to call on Mrs. Schubert born Dünnebeil, the 90-year old lady. The daughter looked me up and down, and frowned, but still found my question interesting enough to leave the decision whether to receive me to her mother. She, the old lady, asked me in, and was apparently amused that anyone would take the trouble to ask her something about the distant past. She had in her youth heard her grandparents mention a mrs. Weisenborn, who was married to a Walter Erfurt. That information refered to the time before 1940. There had been no Weisenborns in Marbach since then, according to Mrs. Schubert. That was that.

The reason for relating the above is this: although we have roots in the places where our ancestors have lived, those roots may be cold. There may be buildings where they have lived, graves containing their remnants, books in which they are mentioned - all quite possible, but not a given - but there may well be no descendants, so distant relatives, living in that village or town today. When I encountered this situation in 1992 in Veckerhagen, the village where my ancestors and their descendants had lived from 1690 until 1800, I experienced the cold for the first time. Here I was, taking the trouble of traveling the distance in space, after having longed for the journey since 1974, and they weren't there to greet me, no one. I know this sounds absurd to the brain, but my emotions couldn't immediately take in this situation. I have cycled several times around the village, down to the river Weser, though the center and past the church - which was built in 1745, too recent to have been seen by my ancestor Zacharias, who died in 1735 - and then finally back to our holiday house.

If you want to have warm roots, you may have to make them warm by carrying with you in your heart what is left, fill it with your own love for what was once there, and then pass it on, warm, for those who come after us.