Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Miltenberg and the Land of My Ancestors

I knew next to nothing about my mother’s side of the family when I began asking questions about her grandparents during my sophomore year in high school. Her parents divorced when she was a little girl, and she was never close to her father. I didn’t meet my Grandfather Kettler until I was a junior in high school. 

Grandpa Kettler’s mother, Clara Bauer Kettler (pictured above), played a large role in my mother’s upbringing. It was due to her that Mom was raised Catholic (and that I, in turn, was raised Catholic). Clara’s father was Lorenz Bauer and her mother was Anna Kehrer (pictured below). Back in 2012, Mark and I visited the village in the Black Forest where Lorenz was born and stayed in the neighboring village where his mother was born. That was a cool experience, as was cycling in the Black Forest.

Yesterday, we had an excursion into Miltenberg, a beautiful town full of half-timbered house. It is only 30 kilometers from the town where Anna Kehrer's father was from. She was born in the US, but both of her parents had recently emigrated from villages along the Main River. He - Adam Kehrer- was from Grossostheim; she was from a village now incorporated into the city of Aschaffenburg. When they emigrated, they were both single, bound for St. Louis. They met on board ship, fell in love, and married in the cathedral in Belleville, Illinois soon after their arrival.

It took me many years to find out the story of the Kehrer family. It wasn't until the late 90's that a distant cousin sent me some information that would be the mother-lode for any genealogist. Not only did she provide me with names and dates, she also told me a story. In the year 1690, a book - what we today would call a journal (of blank paper) - was given to Johann Nikolaus Kehrer, my direct ancestor.

Over the course of the next 120 years or so, the book was passed down from father to son in my direct line. Not only were all family events recorded in the book, but notations were also made about wine harvests, weather, war and positions that my ancestors held in the town of Grossostheim. Several of them were appointed master builders of the main church of Sts. Peter and Paul.

Church of Sts. Peter and Paul. This and the following two pictures were taken
from the Internet.



The last entry in the Kehrer Book was made in 1832. Ninety years later, a 16-year-old boy discovered the book, covered with dust, in the attic of his grandmother, Barbara Kehrer. He took it and kept it in his possession until he gave it to a museum in Grossostheim that is now housed a half-timbered house belonging to a family into which the Kehrer family married.

Etching of museum in Grossostheim

It would have been cool to see the church and the museum. I thought about trying to arrange to take a taxi to the villages of my ancestors - Grossostheim and Niedernberg - but ultimately decided against it. Too much expense and hassle.  Perhaps another time. Perhaps not.

Back to Miltenberg, Mark wasn’t feeling great, so he stayed on the ship while I went on the excursion. The lead photo to this post and the ones below were taken there.

We were back on the ship and underway around 1:00. Late that afternoon, during cocktail hour, we approached the vicinity of the villages where my G-G-G-Grandfather Kehrer was from. The sun was setting. The countryside was beautiful and tranquil.

Mark took this picture as I was looking out at what is pictured below.

Then, Niedernberg came into view. A branch of my ancestors further back lived here. Grossostheim, however, was not visible from the river as it is a few miles back. Nevertheless, it was a lovely moment. I decided I didn't need to see the church or the book or the museum ... I have a husband who loves me, children who fill my heart with joy, friends who warm my heart and provide support, and a life that is worth living. I am one lucky man.

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