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Friday, November 25, 2011

Weigenheim, Germany

Friday morning we left Bamberg for Weigenheim, the village where my Great-grandfather was born. It was a beautiful drive through the countryside and throug many little villages. Along the way, we saw a huge field of sheep and stopped for a photo opp:

After a couple of hours, we arrived in Weigenheim at around 10:30 am.

We went first to Fritz Saemann's house. We had arranged to meet him that morning. Fritz and his wife Hilde were amazing hosts. First, we drove to Schloss Frankenberger, the castle on a hill high above Weigenheim.

Frankenberger Castle
Mom and Dad at the castle
After the castle, Fritz took us to visit Claudia Saemann. Claudia is also descended from my Great-Great-Great Grandfather, Nicholas Saemann. Later that day, we would visit her mother, who still lives on the same lot where my Great-Great-Great-Grandfather used to live.

Afterwards, we returned to Fritz and Hilde's for a delicious lunch.

Hilde, Mom, Fritz, and Dad
After lunch, Fritz took us on a walking tour of Weigenheim with Gertraud Noeth, who lives down the street from him. We went first to the Weigneheim Church. It had been the church my Great-Grandfather and Great-Great Grandfather were baptized in and lived by. It has since been rebuilt after being destroyed in World War II.

The Church at Weigenheim

The Sämann name, still on the door of the house on the spot where my Great-Great-Great Grandfather lived

The Church and to the far right, the house (also rebuilt) where my Great-Great-Great Grandfather Nicholas lived when my Great-Great Grandfather Johann Peter Saemann was a boy.

During our walk, we visited the house where mGreat-Great-Great Grandfather Nicholas lived (since rebuilt) when my Great-Great Grandfather Johann Peter Saemann was a boy. This house at  is still in the family--Claudia Saemann's mother lives there. Then we walked down to the house where my Great-Great GrandfatherJohann Peter Saemann and his son, my Great -Grandfather Jakob Saemann  lived before moving to the United States. The Weidt family bought it from them, and still lives there. (They also rebuilt the house in the 1990s.)

We then visited the local guesthouse (Gasthaus). The woman who owned it with her husband was also a Saemann before she was married. She gave mom two bottles of their Weigenheim wine. (My ancestors had been wine makers-- though we learned that at the time, they would have made only white wine, not red, in that region.)

In front of the Gasthaus owned by a Saemann cousin

After our walk through the village, we hiked up to the top of a hill called "Chapel Hill"--Kapellberg. During the summer solstice, Weigenheim has a gigantic bonfire there. We enjoyed a great panoramic view of Weigenheim and the surroundings. Here's the view:

Returning to the car, we drove to Reusch, just a couple of kilometers from Weigenheim, where we visited the Church where my Great-Great Grandfather's third wife was baptized. There is a gorgeous altar there from the 1400s. The altar (with folds open and closed):

After a wonderful day, we returned to Fritz and Hilde's for coffee and wonderful desserts. 

After our return to the States, we had a wonderful surprise. The tale of our visit to Weigenheim had been posted in the local newspaper:

The translated text (thanks to Paul Bumbalough):

Alice Wrenn from North Carolina, along with her husband and son, trace back to Weigenheim:

Visiting in the Homeland of her Ancestors

After immigrating to America – Family researcher Fritz Saemann toured guests from the USA
Weigenheim – Tracing back the roots of her grandfather and great-grandparents, Alice Wrenn, from Henderson, North Carolina in the United States, as well as her husband and son (both Frank),visited the birthplace of her grandfather, Johann Jakob Saemann.  He was born in 1874, the second child of the married couple Johann Peter Saemann and his second wife, Margaretha, born a Kistner in Wallmersbach, [Jakob] being born in old house number 36 on Mönchstrasse.

Margaretha died in childbirth following the birth of her sixth child in 1882.  That prompted the widower, along with his six children between the ages of 9 and a few months, as well as his future wife, Katharina Barbara Schwemmer from Reusch, to immigrate to America.

His brother Valentine would follow him, with his wife and five children in September, 1883, to Ridgeway, North Carolina, together with the widow Margarethe Barbara Kilian, born Hammerbacher, and her seven children.

Also a number of other immigrants from the Uffenheim district followed the Weigenheim immigrants, as Barbara Bumbalough, born Sinn, with ancestors from Gnodstadt and Michelfeld, recorded in her book chronicling the first three generations of these immigrants.
Alice Wrenn and her husband live today in the town of Henderson, a few miles south of her birthplace of Manson, a smaller neighboring town of Ridgeway, where she once attended school.  The married couple already had been to Germany, as Alice Wrenn reported that their first time was in 1967/68 while Frank, Sr. was stationed with the army (U.S. Armed Forces) in Heidelberg.

Now she was following through on her desire to learn about the birthplace of her ancestors, and her son also took vacation himself in order to accompany his parents.

The homeland expert and local area family researcher Fritz Saemann – who, himself in 2007, followed and visited several of the immigrants’ descendants [in North Carolina] – toured them and was able to make many connections and show them local points of interest in Weigenheim and Geckenheim:  Frankenberg Castle, the church in Weigenheim, the altar in Reusch, the birth houses of the [Saemann] immigrants, and a panoramic view from the Kapellberg.

Competent translators, English teachers Gertraud and Friedrich Nöth from the Christian-von-Bomhard School in Uffenheim, made themselves available to assist [Fritz] Saemann.  Last year [the Nöth s] had visited Ridgeway and its local environs in connection with a student seminar and they enjoyed the gracious hospitality of the immigrants’ descendants.


Roxanne said...

I love this post!

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing your story! I LOVE Weigenheim! My grandparents are from there. I was practically raised there until our return to the US in 1983. I return approx. every 3-4 years. Did you get to view the inside of the church in Weigenheim? It is very beautiful! I hope you can return again someday!

Unknown said...

I lOVE Weigenheim! It holds so many good memories of my childhood. Thank you for sharing your story! I was practically raised there until our return to the US in 1983. My grandparents were from there. My grandmother was a seamstress and my grandfather a barber. I return aprox. every 3-4 yrs. Leaving in two weeks for my visit! I hope you get to visit again!

Michael Hecht ( said...

Hi. I'm also a descendant of John Peter Seaman. Thanks for sharing the photos and story of your visit.

Bill said...

My wife and I visited Fritz and Hilde in 2004 and then hosted Fritz and his son Friedrich here in Raleigh. Johann Peter and Johann Valentin are both my ancestors. Weigenheim is a wonderful place to visit.

Bill said...

My wife and I visited Fritz and Hilde in 2004 and I preached in the village church. They are truly gracious hosts. We then hosted Fritz and his son Friedrich on their visit to Raleigh. Both Johann Peter and Johann Valentin are my ancestors. Weigenheim is a wonderful place to visit.

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