My brother Alan is the family genealogist and has done extensive research on our family tree, mostly the lineage of our grandfathers. I’ve always been curious about the Neuroth line, not only because that is our surname, but because information about the family was so vague. Grandpa Neuroth told us many stories, but I don’t remember him ever talking about his childhood. We grew up knowing some of his siblings, but I don’t remember them talking about their parents. I suspect this is because their parents divorced when they were young. Anyway, Alan has been able to fill in the Neuroth family tree back to the 17th century. He’s been able to determine where the family lived in Germany and when they emigrated to the America. Our great, great grandfather, Heinrich Neuroth, made the long journey via Amsterdam to New York in 1882. He followed his brother Johann who arrived earlier and several aunts and uncles who emigrated in the 1850s. Alan and Natasha arrived here Friday and the primary purpose of their vacation to Europe is to follow some family roots. First the Neuroth family in Germany and then the Eisinger family (Natasha’s maiden name) in Austria.
Saturday, we took them with us do some shopping at the green market and try some kibbeling. When we got back to Oirsbeek, the windmill was turning so we stopped in to see the grist in action and buy some flour.
After that, we went to Maastricht to see the limestone mine tunnels and walk around the city (with stops to sample frites and waffles). We ended the day with a pannekoeken dinner in Valkenburg. I think we provided them with a good day of Dutch culture!
On Sunday, we travelled with Alan and Natasha to Gross-Zimmern, Hessen, Germany. This is where great, great grandfather Heinrich and his brother Johann lived with their mother and father before they went to America. Alan made a serendipitous connection with a woman named Christel who has just published a two volume book on the families of Gross-Zimmern. She is a fount of information and generously offered to give us a guided tour of our ancestral land.
We had a brief get acquainted meeting with Christel on Sunday night, and then met up with her Monday morning to begin our tour. We walked to the Evangelical Kirchengemeinde (church) in the center of the old part of town. The last residence of our ancestors was a house located right next to this church. After my 3x great grandfather died in 1892, the house was inhabited by two brothers for a few years and then Christel’s grandfather bought the house. What a coindidence that she also has a connection to this place! So cool. The house was purchased by the church in 1985 and torn down to make room for an office/classroom building.
The pastor was kind enough to show us around the church and tell us about the history. The original part of the church was built in 1407! Heinrich was christened in this church and the baptismal font from that period is still used today. I started to get a little emotional realizing that I was standing in the very place where my great, great grandfather was baptized and where he attended church until he was a young adult. I didn’t really expect that it would mean so much to me.
There are two other houses in Gross-Zimmern where the Neuroth family lived for periods of time. They both still exist today on the same street and we were able to take pictures of them.
Following the family back another two generations, we went with Christel a short distance by car to Spachbrucken. We stopped at a cemetery where there were several Neuroth gravestones. There was a concentration of Neuroth families in this town and likely distant cousins of ours still live there. We didn’t make contact with any of them, though. Going back another century to the 1600s, our family lived in Gundernhausen. This village was also close by and we drove there to look at the church, which unfortunately was closed. This is as far as the family has been traced so far. It’s possible that they migrated from another area of Germany before that.
It was so exciting to make these connections and very special to share this experience with Alan. It’s so much fun to have family visit and share a part of our adventure with them!