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Archive for September, 2011

A New Blog is Born!

I’m happy to announce the birth (and baptism) of a new blog.  You may have read on some other genealogy blogs that this was my idea.  Well, I humbly admit that it started out with me, but like any good idea I needed to share it with others to make it a great idea.  And my fellow genealogy bloggers are always happy to share their thoughts and, in this case, their talents.  The Catholic Gene is a new blog that will focus on all aspects of the Catholic faith and genealogy.  What makes it so exciting is that it will truly be a group effort!  Besides myself, our authors include Jasia, Stephen DankoSheri FenleyLisa (Smallest Leaf)Lisa A. AlzoDenise LevenickCraig Manson, and Cecile Marie Agata Wendt Jensen (aka Ceil Jensen). We’ve also managed to recruit the footnoteMaven who isn’t even Catholic.  I feel honored that my friends have agreed to take on this project, and I know that the combined talents will make this a very exciting venture!  If you don’t know all of the august members of this group, please visit our Authors page for a humorous look at both our Catholic and genealogical experience.

So whether you are Catholic, or your ancestors were, or you are just curious as to what we’ll come up with that combines religion and genealogy – join us, we’d love to have you stop by (and you don’t even have to genuflect when you arrive).  To quote from our About Us page, “Whether it’s details about ecclesiastical archives, profiles of religious, our ancestors’ churches, vintage photographs, personal reflections, or lives of the saints in genealogical records, The Catholic Gene will offer something for everyone interested in researching their Catholic family or learning more about all things related to the Church.”  Tomorrow we will be hosting the 109th Carnival of Genealogy that will feature stories from bloggers of all faiths about where their ancestors worshipped – you won’t want to miss that!

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Two views of St. John the Baptist Church in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm - from 1875 on the left and 1998 on the right.

My family’s history in the town of Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Oberbayern, Bavaria, Germany, goes back several hundred years.  While that’s a long way back with regard to genealogical research, the town itself is much older than my family’s history recorded in its church registers.  Pfaffenhofen was officially recorded as a town in 1438, but earlier chronicles mention the town as far back as 1140.  The town’s population expanded significantly over the years, but it also decreased due to events such as plagues and wars.  If I could go back in time to visit the town, at least one thing would look the same – the town’s Roman Catholic parish church, St. John the Baptist (Stadtpfarrkirche St. Johannes Baptist), has always resided at one end of the town square.

St. John the Baptist Church was originally built in a Romanesque style, but the church – and much of the town – was destroyed in a fire in 1388.  In 1393, the church was rebuilt in a Gothic style.  In 1670-72, the interior of the church was renovated into the Baroque style we see today throughout most of Bavaria.  The steeple was struck by lightning in 1768 and rebuilt the same year.

I’ve documented my Pfaffenhofen ancestors back to the 1670s due to the church records of St. John the Baptist.  The Echerer (Eggerer), Höck, Nigg, and Paur families worshiped at this church for generations.  My great-grandparents, Joseph Bergmeister and Maria Echerer, were married here in 1897 and baptized their first child, Maria Bergmeister, there in 1898.  One hundred years later, I became the first descendent to re-visit the church.

Interior of St. John the Baptist church, Altar

The interior of St. John the Baptist is very ornate with many paintings and statues, which is typical of the Baroque style and also typical of Bavarian Catholic churches.  Some might call Baroque churches ostentatious, but the style is meant to be dramatic in order to have an emotional effect.  What was emotional for me, however, was knowing that my ancestors worshiped in that very place so many years ago.

Since my Pfaffenhofen ancestors were craftsmen – primarily shoemakers, masons, and carpenters – I liked seeing evidence of the trade guild’s in the church’s interior. Each guild had some church obligations as a part of the guild’s rules. Once a year each guild celebrated their own special Mass, with special times for each guild. For example, the brewers’ Mass was celebrated on Monday after New Year’s while the tailors’ was on the Monday after Easter week.  Because of the guilds close association with the church, when the church was remodeled in 1671, the artist Johann Bellandt of Wessobrunn carved a number of statues of the apostles in honor of the guilds: Mathew for the butchers, Phillip for the bakers, John for the brewers, Bartholomew for the leather artisans, Jacob for the weavers, and Simon for the tailors.  I did not seem to find an apostle representing my ancestors’ trades though!

[Written for the 109th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: Places of Worship]

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