My journey into genealogy started about 12 years ago in 2007. My grandmother was born in 1928 in Hesse, Kassel Germany and I have always been fascinated with anything German and WWII. I did ask my grandmother questions and tried to find out what it was like living in German, especially during WWII. She never really talked much about it. As I started in Genealogy, I really wanted to search for my grandmother’s family but was really intimated by the old German script and how to research. I did have my great grandparents and their parents. So, I had a starting point. But where to go from here? In 2012 I had the opportunity to attend the BYU Genealogy conference in Provo and went prepared to take every German Genealogy class they offered, including one on how to read the Old German Script. After the conference I headed to Salt Lake City to the Family History library and asked to see any films or books from Kassel, Germany. The response was “we do have not records from Kassel and you will have to travel to Germany to find any records”. Sigh I was so disappointed and did not know where to go from here. So now what? Maybe my grandmother was correct, and all the records had been destroyed during WWII.
My great grandparents August Heinrich Burghardt and Erna Lena Gossmann with their daughters, Anna Marie Elisabeth(Anneliese) Burghardt and my grandmother in the back, Anne Burghardt.
Over the next several years I would search for my German ancestors on either Family Search, Ancestry or My Heritage never really finding much. In July of 2013 my grandmother passed away. I had really wanted to show her that all the records were not destroyed and find some of our ancestors but up until this point had not had any luck. Three days after my grandmother passed away, I received a message from Ancestry from my 4th cousin asking how I was related to Erna Lena Gossmann, my German Great Grandmother. He was curious because I lived in America. I read the message to my mom and we headed to find my grandfather to see if he might know about the cousin messaging me. Sure, enough my Grandfather was aware of who he was and informed us that my grandmother(Anne Burghardt) was his grandmothers’ niece(Anne Gossmann) In fact, my grandmother had been named after his grandmother. As we sent email’s back and forth, I really felt like maybe I would be able to find more about my Germany family. In some information that He sent me he spelled Kassel as Cassel. That was new to me and a huge turning point. He told us lots of stories about what he knew, and it was wonderful to connect with a cousin so far away, did I mention, he lives in Australia? It really jumped started me into searching for my ancestors once again. Still I did not find anything.
Fast forward a couple of years to 2015 and my husband’s job took us to Denver, Colorado. I decided to only focus on my Germany Genealogy and not the rest of my lines. I started by ordering films from the Family History library in Salt Lake City and viewing them at my local family history center. I order lots of films and saved any document with my surname on it. I usually spent several days a week at the family history center looking at these films. I had the same results as before. I would find documents of ancestors I already knew about but nothing new. This time I did not give up. One day I was at the center and asked if they had anyone that could read the old German Script and she told me about a German genealogy group in Denver that may be able to help. Enter Colorado Chapter of the Palatines to America. They hold a German conference at the Denver Public Library twice a year. I started attending the conferences and have loved them. My one frustration with Germany Genealogy is that most classes teach about how to find where your ancestor came from in Germany. While I understand why that is so important, I really needed classes on how to research in Germany. Some of the speakers CO-Palatines to America did speak about records in Germany. It was at one of these conferences that I first learned of the Germany Lutheran Church record sight www.archion.de. I will write more about this site later but what a treasure trove of records they are making available to all. It is a paid site but well worth the money.
In 2017 I had the most wonderful opportunity to travel to Germany, specifically to Kassel, Germany. My dream had always been to go see where my grandmother spent her childhood and here, I was in her home town. Before I headed to the airport, I tried to prepare for my trip. I started by emailing the archives to make appointments. I received several responses of online places to search and that the two days I would be in Kassel, the archives would be closed. Another road block! As a last-minute effort, I emailed the Kassel Family History library, since my local one had been so helpful, surly they would know how to research in Kassel. As my trip neared, I was so excited I could hardly sleep. I prepared all my document and information to take with my and planned the local attraction for me to see. I arrived in Kassel on a Sunday and toured around and climbed to the top of the Hercules Monument thinking of all my ancestors who must have done the same thing. We found a street fair and ate some amazing food. Then Monday came, and I gathered all the information I knew about my grandmother and off to the family history center. Two very sweet ladies, one spoke English and one spoke very little English, where there to help me and as they looked over my information. They asked me if I had tried Family Search. Sigh! As we visited, they informed me that neither of them had family in Kassel and they had never done research there. I know they were trying to help but I felt like here I was in Kassel Germany and I still cannot find my family……
My trip ended with me not learning any more about my family, but I still loved the time I spent in Germany and really hope to go back some day. About two weeks after returning home, I had a leaf on my third great grandfather ( Jost Heinrich Gossmann) in ancestry, it was his death record and listed his parents…… I had finally did it!!!!!!! I FOUND NEW INFORMATION!!!!!! I can tell you how excited I was.
Translation of death record of Jost Heinrich Gossmann, my 3rd great grandfather, “The death was declared by his wife Katharine Gossmann. The couple lived in Wehlheiden house number 164. The deceased was 49 years, 4 months and 2 days old. He was born 1 November 1835 When he died both of his parents had also died in Wehlheiden. His parents’ names are Jost Heinrich Gossmann and Elisabeth Thielemann.
Since returning home from my trip to Germany in October 2017, I have found so much on my Germany Family and at times have been a bit overwhelmed at how fast it came. This is just the start and I cannot wait to share the rest of my journey into German Genealogy with you.