German Genealogy

My Great-Grandfather: The Apprentice Shoemaker

August Heinrich Burghardt (my great-grandfather) was born 6 June 1899 in Kirchditmold, Kassel, Germany to Heinrich Jakob Burghardt (1867-1928) and Marie Klapp (1871-1926). August was the fifth of seven children born to his parents.

  1. Johann Heinrich Burghardt (1893-1896)
  2. Jacob Burghardt (1894-1955)
  3. Anna Burghardt (Born 1897)
  4. Emma Marie Burghardt (Born 1897)
  5. August Heinrcih Burghardt
  6. Julius Burghadt
  7. George Burghardt
August Burghardt as a apprentice shoemaker as a young boy, with the red x on his apron. This is one of my favorite pictures that I have found.
August Heinrich Burghardt Group School Photo.

As I have researched my German ancestors and during a German genealogy seminar I learned that families in German would pay for their children to learn a trade. The child would first become an apprentice as a young child, second a journeyman, and finally a master. This would help them provide for their family later in life. I also learned that it could be hard to become a master in any trade. The towns or villages would limit how many of any trade could open businesses. So to become a master, one in the town would need to sell their business or the master would die and not have a son to pass the business onto to open another spot.

I know that August did not become a master shoe maker, I am not sure he even became a journeyman. I do know that later in life he worked for a local train company, Henchel and Sons, in Kassel Germany, during and after World War Two. My Great-Aunt Annelise told me once that her father, August, made shoes for her when she was a child.

August married Erna Lina Gossman (1905-1975) on 24 December 1925 in Wehlheiden, Kassel. Germany, she was the daughter of Wilhelm Gossman (1862-1917) and Anna Elizabeth Brand (1865-1940) You can read more about them in a previous blog I wrote,

Erna Lina Gossman

August and Erna had four daughters, Anna Marie Elizabeth (Anneliese), Anne (my grandmother), and twin daughters Traudel and Gretel. I had the opportunity to meet Traudel one time, when she visited my grandmother.

August, Anneliese, Erna and in the back my grandmother Anna.
Erna and August with twins, Traudel and Gretel.

August and Erna were married for 42 years, when he passed away on 27 June 1967 in Kassel, Germany.

August Burghardt with my grandmother Anne Burghardt.
August Burghardt’s visit to the Effiel Tower.

After the death of August, Erna married Felix Weiss. Erna passed away on 31 October 1975 in Kassel, Germany. On a recent trip to Germany I was able to visit the last house that Erna lived in before she passed.

The last home my great-grandmother Erna Burghardt lived at in Kassel, Germany
Erna Lina Burghaddt Weiss obituary. This was in my grandmother’s possession so I am not sure where it was published. I do know that Erna passed away in Kassel, Germany. Translation of Obituary: Suddenly and unexpectedly my dear wife slept. Our good mother, mother in law, grandmother, great grandmother, sister, brother in law and aunt. In silent morning on behalf of all relatives Felix Weiss. The last part is about her funeral service date and time. (Side note, in German the symbol that looks like an upper case B represents a double S)

Erna passed away about a year after I was born on 31 October 1975 in Kassel, Germany. I have learned so much about each of my family members as I research them and where they lived. As a high school student, knowing that my grandmother was German, I was always curious about life in Germany during WWII. Sadly I never asked my grandmother questions about her life during that period. In 2013 my Grandmother, Anne, passed away and I started to email my Great-Aunt Anneliese. After several years of emailing her, I got some courage to ask her about living in Germany during WWII. Annelise told me that before Hitler came to power things were very bad in Germany. She only had hand me down clothes and very little food. Then her father, August, went to work for the Henchel Train Company in Kassel and things got better for them. She also told me about a time Kassel was bombed during WWII where Kassel was badly damaged. After the bombing she stayed in town to work while her father went to Berlin to work, and Erna along with my grandmother Anne and the twins went to live in a nearby town until Kassel could be rebuilt. I remember reading the account of the bombing and sitting at my computer crying as I thought about my family living through that and how scary it must have been. You can read about it on the wiki page:

I have often wondered about my German ancestors and their life in Germany. During my research I have felt a strong connection to them and to Germany. I have read so many books about WWII trying to learn more. One conclusion that I have come to was that life was not easy for them but they overcame many obstacles and lived happy lives.

10 thoughts on “My Great-Grandfather: The Apprentice Shoemaker”

  1. Very interesting post. I had no idea that families back in August’s time paid to have their sons taken on as apprentices. It makes sense though…a little like paying tuition at a trade school. Well done!


  2. Wow, your great grandfather was so young when he became an apprentice! I love the contrast between the early photos of him and the later ones. Excellently researched as always!


  3. You’re so lucky to have that photo of August as an apprentice. I had a 3x great grandfather who was a shoemaker and I often wondered if he was an apprentice to someone. That’s usually how they learned a trade. Another ancestor was a master goldsmith (I wrote about him for my letter G) who had many apprentices…. such an interesting topic. Lovely family photos.


  4. Hi Jennifer,
    Apart from myself only women seem to comment your bogs. Where are all my boy-fellows?

    The oldest photos I found in my family are from around 1908, when my grandfather was a small boy: a locksmith family in front of house and their smithy



  5. Jennifer, why are (apart from myself) all girls/women? Are the boys/men too shy?

    In my family, we had 4 generations of locksmiths. Oldest photo I got shows my great grandfather and his family in front of their house (smithy in the basement) in 1908. Gorgeous old photos, aren’t they?



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s