Anyone who knows me well knows I'm obsessed with ancestry research. I'm a genealogy and ancestry nerd, so part of what has me so excited about spending three months in Europe is the opportunity to head to some random places to track down family history I otherwise may not have had the time or opportunity to get to.
This week Richard had an on site for work planned for the very southern end of The Netherlands. Being situated in a place made difficult to get to by both plane or train, he opted to drive and I gladly rode along.
Perfect enough, the halfway point of the drive was Lower Saxony, the region of northwest Germany where my maternal grandfather's family descends from. While in Lower Saxony we first visited three small towns: Bakum, Lohne and Vechta. We spent the most time in Bakum as my research took us to the beautiful Freidhof St. Joannes Baptiste church and cemetery where I knew my third and fourth times great grandparents were laid to rest. As it turns out, both the church and the cemetery had been redone (early 20th century) since my family would have lived there (mid 19th century). Additionally, most of the buildings felt all too new to paint an accurate picture of what life may have been like when my ancestors lived there. All the while, I was able to find a family plot for the surname I was seeking (it must have been moved), and seeing the landscape gave me a starting point for imagining what life may have been like for my ancestors.
Probably the most telling of the times was a sculpture that depicted life in the region in earlier years. Featuring farmers, mills, a distillery and livestock, I knew it was spot on as my grandpa had shared with me that his grandpa, our closest relative from the region, was a share cropper. In his case, he left in the late 19th century to dodge the draft (hero!). Most of my ancestors from Germany left around the same time, likely due to the Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian wars as well as the lure of promised opportunity in the new world.
We closed out our ancestry trek in Osnabrück, the larger city center in the landkreis this portion of my family tree stems from. Osnabrück features a gorgeous town square with medieval buildings and cobblestone walkways, and it was the perfect place to break for dinner to prost the completion of a successful trip.
Last but not least, though technically not Lower Saxony, we were able to swing through Cologne to see the gorgeous gothic Cologne Cathedral, dating back to the 13th century.
We've since had a wonderful time in Urmond, The Netherlands, and next on deck are Belgium and Ireland. Stay tuned, tschüss!