One of aspects of our belated honeymoon that made it so special to me and Nathan was being in places from which our families originated, understanding our roots better by seeing them firsthand. The amazing connections we found make us feel even more that we were meant to be together. Read on…
The Baumanns: Holly’s Paternal Grandfather’s Family
I’ve travelled quite a bit internationally, but German speaking countries are the only ones in which people mistake me for a local. I blend in because I look German, and because I know enough German to initiate a conversation (which sometimes backfires, because then they start rattling off in German and I am immediately lost). I’ve always identified strongly with my German roots, and the Baumann name is somewhat ubiqutous in Germany.
The Dippolds: Nathan’s Paternal Grandmother’s Family
I didn’t know until shortly before our trip is that Nathan’s paternal grandmother’s family was also German; her mother’s maiden name was Dippold. A few days before we left for Germany, we discovered that the Dippolds were actually from the Kulmbach area! My first thought, after “it’s a small world,” was “What if Nathan and I arerelated? Yikes!”
So, one afternoon, we hopped into my cousin Arne’s car (a Volkswagon, of course) with my uncle George, and second cousins Monika and Werner. We were off to investigate the Dippold’s! First stop was a home in a nearby community called Eggenreuth, where a Dippold once lived. We didn’t have to go far. I mean, seriously, it was like we turned 3 corners, and we were there. I couldn’t believe it.
A universal truth about rural small towns is that 1) people are usually home, because they work on their property, and 2) they answer the door, because they are nice and not fearful like people are in cities. So, when we arrived at Eggenreuth 3, we just knocked on the door!
First, we met the woman (Frau Seuss, above, top left). Next, we met the Werfritz family (above, bottom left and right). The Wefritz’s bought the farm (literally) from the Dippolds when Nathan’s ancestors immigrated to the US, and they still live there!
Next we went to a farm estate named Dornhof, which is occupied by Herr Adam Kolb (above, top right). He visited the US with many Dippold descendants in the mid-90’s. While we were chatting with him, a woman pulled up on a moped, all out of breath, with piles of paperwork. It was another Werfritz, and she had gotten a phone call from her daughter-in-law, who we met at the Werfritz farm, to hustle over to Dornhof because there were some people looking for Dippolds. She produced a newspaper from Farina, IL, which is where Grandma Barb and Grandpa Herschel Ambuehl live today! On the front page is an image of the group from Germany that travelled to the US, including herself and Herr Kolb! One of Nathan’s relatives mailed it back to Germany as a keepsake after their visit.
My uncle and cousins were so helpful with this whole investigation, and everyone got really into it! It was so fun to watch everyone peruse the documents…
Frau Werfritz also, amazingly, still has the original contract from the sale of the Dippold’s farm to the Werfritzs. If you look closely, you’ll see the date: 1863.
The contract is intact, but is written in old German. My uncle George offered to translate it into English for Nathan’s family. So gracious of him and it will mean so much to Nathan’s family.
The Ambuehls: Nathan’s Paternal Grandfather’s Family
Early in our dating, my husband, whose name is Nathan Ambuehl, explained his family was from Davos, Switzerland, which is in the Alps, is sister city to Klosters, and is host to the World Economic Forum every year. Ambuehl means “on the hill” – literally. So, Nathan’s people were mountain people. I LOVE this part of his heritage! We both are so in love with the mountains. (The first time I knew I’d marry him was the first time we went camping together.) Even though the Ambuehls left the Swiss Alps 150 years ago, the mountain blood still runs deep.
We had next to no information about the Ambuehls in Davos. So, we just asked around…we asked our server at lunch one day, and he mentioned that there was a storefront a couple blocks away with the Ambuehl name. At the market at the train station, the clerks chatted with Nathan for ten minutes about what they knew of the Ambuehls, and referred us to a local history museum.
At the local history museum in Davos, the ladies working there were so excited when we explained why we came. “Oh, you belong to the Ambuehls! The Ambuehls are very big right now!” (Meaning, a popular topic among local history buffs.) “Let me show you downstairs…”
The Davos museum has family trees dating back centuries showing the origins of large local families. The museum staff explained that most of the Ambuehls had left Switzerland in the mid-1800’s, and very few remain, so they don’t have much info on the family.
The Family Businesses
- Ambuehls in Davos: At the Davos museum, we were told that the Ambuehls were originally clock makers, one of which was on display at the museum. The curators explained that normally, the museum has two Ambuehl clocks, but they provided one of them for an exhibit that was opening near Zurich in September, the DAY WE LEFT to come back to the states. (Big bummer!) Nathan’s US family didn’t know about the clock-making history of their ancerstors, so this was a meaningful discovery to share with them when we returned. And ironically, Nathan has always been mildly obsessed with watches…my wedding gift to him was nothing other than a Swiss watch (Mont Blanc). 🙂
- Ambuehls in Murren: Since we had some trouble finding concrete evidence of the Ambuehls in Switzerland at first, we laughed so hard when, in Murren, towards the end of the trip, we discovered evidence of another “present day” family business: garbage collection!
- Baumanns in Germany: While in Kulmbach, my Uncle George mentioned something that I didn’t know about the Baumanns. George has traced the family tree in Germany back to the 1500s and is a veritable expert on our family’s history. He told me that the family at one point had made pots, specifically, metal pots, and specifically, the type with an enamel coating to protect the bottom and sides from rust. This is so fun, since I love cooking so much! George has one of them. Apparently, they are impossible to find anymore.
I have other friends with German heritage, and signage with their familiar names wasn’t hard to find!
Have you been to the places your family came from? I recommend it. So amazing!