Flag of Mecklenburg

A Visit to Mecklenburg
by Carol Gohsman Bowen

Flag of Mecklenburg H

In Europa

In September 1997, as part of our vacation in Germany, my husband, John, and I rented a car and drove to Mecklenburg-Vorpommern for a couple of days. We wanted to visit the villages that I knew my Goosmann family had come from---Badegow, Bülow, and Müggenburg. Since these villages are about 30 kilometers east of Schwerin, the capital city of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, we decided to stay in Schwerin, where we could find a nice hotel and see the city as well.


Preparing for the Trip

Most of my research into the Gohsman (Goosmann) family was done using the microfilmed documents of the Family History Centers of the Mormon Church. After three years, I felt I had completed just about all the research I could do and knew all I was going to find out about the Goosmanns. I wanted to go to the villages where they had lived and see Mecklenburg for myself.

In October of 1996, I wrote sixteen letters to Goosmanns in Mecklenburg from addresses in the German telephone book which I found on the Internet. I picked out the Goosmanns that were closest to the village of Bülow. I mailed the letters (written in German) along with IRCs for return postage. I did not hear from any of the people I wrote to, and I had decided I probably never would. In August 1997, three weeks before we were to leave on our trip to Germany, I received a letter from Günter Goosmann in the town of Crivitz. He included documents that showed he was related to me. I quickly got out my German phrase book as well as a magazine I have that helps write "stock" letters regarding genealogy in German. I thanked Günter for the information and told him that I would be in Schwerin on vacation for two nights and the name of the hotel I was staying in. I enclosed a picture of my husband and myself. I told him I did not speak German.

Using the Internet, I asked my friends and acquaintances who were familiar with Germany for advice on getting around in rural Mecklenburg. As a hobby I manage the World GenWeb pages for Mecklenburg-Vorpommern on the world wide web. I also participate in the German genealogy web pages and belong to the German newsgroup. I have been fortunate to meet many people over the Internet.

I could never have had such a successful trip without help from many of these friends. Three Internet friends were particularly helpful. Dick Kahler sent me his photographs of Schwerin and told me about his personal experiences visiting the town. Fred Johnson provided me with detailed maps of the small villages I was interested in and made phone calls for me. He also visited me in Koblenz, Germany when my trip started. Dieter Garling, to whom I will be forever grateful, took a day off work and drove several hours to come to Schwerin and drive my husband and me to the villages. He was raised nearby and spoke both German and English, so he could translate for us. All of this from people whom I had never met in person. Can there be any doubt that the Internet is frequented by knowledgeable and friendly people who are truly interested in helping others? What a wonderful way to meet such people and how fortunate we are to have the ability to use this great tool!


First Impressions of Mecklenburg

We drove east (ost) on the Autobahn 24 out of Hamburg. There was a small sign on the Autobahn along with the State Crest for Mecklenburg-Vorpommern when we crossed the border into the State. I knew that this would have been the border with East Germany before the reunification, but I could see no signs of watchtowers, fences, barriers, etc. of any kind. Any reminder of the time this land was divided has been erased. What I did see was a great deal of construction just as soon as we crossed into what had been East Germany. The Autobahn was all resurfaced. There were new restaurants and rest stops being constructed along the autobahn, as well as new factories and plants which had obviously been recently built just across the border. We were to find this same kind of new construction going on throughout all of the part of Germany that had been controlled by the GDR. We had no problems driving on the Autobahn and found it in good shape everywhere.

I was rather nervous and excited about being in Mecklenburg and persuaded my husband to leave the Autobahn and take a side trip south towards the town of Boizenburg. I wanted to visit the village of Gresse, where the Gohsmans who live in Michigan (so far no connection to my family) had come from. I wanted to take a few pictures of the town and get some idea what the countryside and villages looked like before we got to the area my family was from. I wanted to know what to expect when I got to Bülow.

The road we took was through woodlands and farmland. They farmed right to the edge of the road and there were no shoulders on the road, although the road had recently been resurfaced. When we went through woodland, there were signs to watch out for deer. I thought the countryside was quite pretty. We passed through several picturesque small villages on the way to Gresse. There was construction going on in some of them--some new housing and also what appeared to be installations of water and sewage systems, phone systems, electricity, etc. along the way. There were also many old houses and buildings that had not been maintained and were in bad shape or abandoned. Many of the old buildings had thatched roofs, but most of the thatch was missing. The newer buildings had tile roofs and the buildings that had been repaired also had tile roofs. Thatch roof

When we reached the town of Gresse, we drove from one end of the town to the other. We observed many of what had once been factories that were deserted. Gresse was a bigger town than I had anticipated, with a great deal of construction going on. There was new apartment style housing, some new brick homes, and also some of what I would call very low quality "block-style" apartment housing that had been built during the time of the GDR. We saw much of this same kind of housing throughout Mecklenburg Vorpommern. It was bleak looking and out of place with the architecture of the rest of the town. We saw very few old buildings that had been maintained. Only a few were under repair. Most were obviously slated for destruction. At one end of the town we observed a camp with men living in what can best be described as rows of sheds and some trailers. This appeared to be a camp for migrant laborers. We speculated that perhaps workers were brought in from Poland or Romania to work on the construction going on in the area.Guthaus

We parked our car and walked up and down the street. We saw what had once been a manor or large estate house ("gutshaus") that had never been taken care of or repaired in the last sixty years. The old building that had been the rathaus (city hall) was now an apartment building for those needing social services help. It, too, was badly in need of fixing and repair. An old brick building that had a sign on it indicating it had been a farmer's exchange of some sort was in the process of being repaired--there were several men putting in new windows and frames.

Gresse Thatch House

We climbed a hill to the church and found it still standing and in good repair. We could see the original date of construction (in the 1700's), but could also see that it had new bricks in several places and had been restored and rebuilt along the way. The cemetery surrounding the church was beautiful--all full of colorful planted flowers at each grave and very well taken care of. We found this to be true of every church cemetery we visited in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. We were told that the old people take care of the graves. They take great pride in planting the flowers and keeping the graves beautiful. I had learned from the German newsgroup that grave sites are recycled in Germany and that I could not expect to find any old grave sites or stones. This was, indeed, the case. The oldest stone we saw was from a death in 1968. There was a pile of discarded and older broken stones at the back of the cemetery.

On our drive back to the Autobahn, we stopped in Lüttenmark at a small cafe along the road. The proprietor lived in the front and the eating area was in the back. There were also tables set up outside on the grass. We left our German phrase book in the car and found that the proprietor spoke no English. I ordered beer and John ordered coffee. He also wanted a piece of apple pie, but we couldn't quite get that across. John made hand signals indicating a pie, slicing a piece out and serving it, and then eating it. The lady nodded--she understood and we went outside and sat down. Shortly we got my beer and his coffee. A bit later we were served two round wooden platters with bread, sausage and tomatoes on them. We got a good laugh and went ahead and ate them, deciding not to forget our phrase book again. We were quite a curiosity in that cafe--people tried to talk to us and in my limited German I told them the last name of Goosmann and that we were looking for my great great grandfather---they knew some Goosmanns that lived in Gresse, but we could not communicate about much else. The children all came outside and watched us while we ate.

As we got closer to Schwerin, we decided to leave the Autobahn and take a state road which appeared to be shorter. That way we could see the countryside as well. We did enjoy our drive. We saw some modern shopping areas had been built along the road and even a motel which looked new and nice. When we got to the outskirts of Schwerin, there was once again much construction and the signs were not clear. We missed our turn and promptly got lost, ending up going out of our way. We should have stayed on the Autobahn, even though it was a few miles further in distance.


Schwerin, the Capital City

When we finally got into Schwerin, we had no idea where to go. We headed for the "center", but we got on old cobblestone streets, very rough, much construction, lots of traffic, one way streets, etc. Finally, to preserve our sanity, we hired a taxi to take us to our hotel--I rode with the taxi driver and John followed in the car.

Our hotel was new and modern with a shopping center behind it which had banks, drugstores, grocery store, etc. Some of the staff spoke English. They told us that a Günter Goosmann had called and, although he didn't speak English, he wanted to come to the hotel that night to see us. We said yes and the hotel staff arranged it for us. The Plaza hotel was very upscale and new. They had about 400 rooms and only six guests besides ourselves. The other guests were from the Netherlands. We were surprised since in other areas of Germany every hotel was packed to the limit. The manager told us that several new hotels had gone into Schwerin at the same time and were all in competition, so it was very hard right now. We got instructions on how to use the streetcars to downtown to see the old part (Altstadt) of the city and the palace. We found the streetcars easy to use and very clean and comfortable.

Across the street from the hotel there were blocks and blocks of the square GDR constructed apartment houses--a very few had been repainted and modernized, but most had not . We found them very depressing and unappealing. It reminded us of the housing projects in some of the cities in the USA. When we got to the downtown area, we found streets of modern shops and merchandise---everything you could imagine and lots of people walking around. There were many sidewalk cafes and restaurants and of course McDonalds.

Opera House

We walked to the Alter Garten area which contained the opera house (left) and the state museum--both were in the process of being cleaned and restored. We stopped to take pictures of the palace (below) and then went across the street for a tour.
SchlossThe palace (Schloss) is beautiful old building which had been partially cleaned and restored. I am sure it will take them many years to complete the project. About twelve rooms are open to the public on the tour now. Unfortunately they did not have brochures in English except for one sheet (which had to be returned) that only explained the rooms on the third floor. The Schweriner See (lake) and the gardens of the palace were also beautiful.

In the old part of town itself, there is once again much construction going on. Many buildings leaned like the tower of Pisa. They are trying to restore some of the old buildings and save them. With others, I noticed that they had taken the facade of an old building, held it together braced in an upright position, and then torn down the rest of the building for a new one. The old facade will be put on the new building, and thus the appearance of the old building will be saved. In a few more years, this city could be one of the nicest to visit in all of Germany.



I Meet My Family

That evening Günter Goosmann and his wife, Astrid, came to our hotel room. They brought their German to English dictionary and John and I had our German phrase book and my very few words of limited German that I had picked up. We managed to talk with sign language, using the books, and drawing or writing on paper. We invited them to have dinner in the hotel restaurant with us, and all went well. One of the waiters spoke some English and helped us out when we had a problem. We learned all about their family and told them about ours. We found that Günter was an Opel mechanic. Prior to the reunification there had been 150 people employed in the shop where he works. Now there are only 40 and they do the same work. Unemployment is very high-- over 20% in Mecklenburg. Nearly everyone over sixty had no job. They told us they found the hotel food we were eating very good, but very expensive. Also the hotel. For us the prices were about what we would pay at the hotels and restaurants in the United States-- nothing out of the ordinary. Our hotel bill in Schwerin was $99 (US dollars) for the first night and $77 for the second, which was a weekend night and that included an elegant buffet breakfast.

At the end of the evening, Günter told us he wanted to come with us to the villages the next day. We explained that we had a friend driving us who spoke both German and English. We decided to pick up Günter at his house on our way to the villages. He showed us on the map where he lived, 3 kms outside of Crivitz, and described the house as having two metal roosters from Bavaria on the roof. We had no problem finding it the next morning, and Dieter, Günter, John and I set off for the villages of Badegow, Bülow, and Müggenburg.



My Adventures in Bülow

We drove through Crivitz, taking detours because much of it was under construction, to Wessin, where we stopped to look at what had once been the house for a large estate. It was now the home for several families and was badly in need of repair.

When we got to Badegow, we could not find any old buildings still standing. The town was small and the buildings there were all from the 1900's. There was not much to see from our point of view. From Badegow we turned north to Bülow. This was the town where my ancestors had attended church starting in the late 1700's, and I was apprehensive about what we would find. The road narrowed and got rougher, although it was still paved. Günter explained that this was one of the roads that had not yet been reconstructed as it was not a road that got much traffic.

When we reached the outskirts of Bülow, I got out to take a picture of the sign showing we were entering the village. The Warnow River ran next to the road. To me it looked like a creek, but Günter said it flowed all the way to Rostock, and when it got there, it was a big river. Günter, John and I decided to walk into the town. Dieter took the car.

A short distance up the road we came upon the castle. I was very excited to see it and learn it was still standing. This castle was once occupied by the nobleman, Magnus Friedrich von Barner (and successive Magnus Friedrich von Barners) during the time of my ancestors. He was the nobleman that my ancestors worked for. I have a photocopied picture of the castle from a book on the castles of Northern Germany. It was sent to me by a man from Norway that I met on the Internet, along with a brief write-up on the castle. He had found the book in one of the Eastern European countries and had been willing to share copies of the write up with me. I knew that the castle once had a beautiful hand carved wooden entry hall and a ballroom on the third floor that contained famous frescoes depicting country life. The castle had been turned into apartments and offices during the GDR administration, but was not repaired or restored and it was in disrepair. I learned that after the reunification it was returned to the people of the area, but there is no money to restore it. I also learned that I could buy this castle for very little money, if I only had the money to restore it using the local labor and could provide jobs to some of the town's people. Nearly everyone in town was elderly and out of work.

In Bülow

The front door of the castle was open and we entered the main entry hall. There was a woman there who was cleaning. While Dieter talked to her, I looked around and tried to take some pictures. Here were the wainscotted wooden walls and ceiling that I had read about. There were wood carvings and words above each door. Some of the wood was missing from the walls, but the carvings and words themselves were still there. Each door had a gargoyle over it and a saying carved into the wood. The floor was an old Roman mosaic tile floor--gray and white. I had seen similar floors in museums, some with pictures inlaid in the mosaic. This one was very plain, only the word "Salve" inlaid in the floor. Dieter told us this means "Salute or Hail!" in Latin. There were three doors leading off the main entry hall. Through one I could see the staircase going up. Through the others I got glimpses of rooms. The floors in the rooms appeared to be linoleum and there were plain kitchen tables and chairs in one of the rooms. It appeared that whatever glamour the castle once had, it was long gone from those rooms. The woman told us we should speak to the Burgermeister if we wanted to see the rest of the castle--he would be there in the afternoon. We decided to go on to the rest of the places we wanted to see and then come back later.

We walked through the village towards the church. Some of the streets and sidewalks had recently been redone and most of the buildings appeared to be from the 1900's. We saw a large brick building on one side of the road. On the end was the inscription, "M. F. v. B., 1889. It looked like this building was at one time a warehouse or plant of some kind for the castle. Now it was divided into sections and there were people living in it. A woman pointed us to a house behind the warehouse and Günter began a conversation with a man and woman there. He talked for some time. He introduced me as his relative, but I could not understand anything else they said. From what I observed as we walked, I would guess about 50 families currently resided in the village. I saw mostly old people and very few children. Finally we arrived at the church.

ChurchThe church was closed and locked and had not been in use since 1939 except on rare occasions. The tower was boarded up and in need of repair, as was the rest of the church on the outside. The cemetery around the church was full of beautiful planted flowers and well tended, however. Once again the old people were taking care of it.

The man Günter had recently been talking to suddenly appeared with a very large iron key and unlocked the door to the church for us. This man was missing one eye and most of one side of his face. We later learned that he had fought in World War II, a hand grenade had been thrown and shrapnel had flown up and hit him. Because he had fought in the war, we estimated that he must be in his seventies. However, he was very muscular and had big arms and shoulders. He must have done hard work to be that age and in that kind of shape.

We entered what had been a small but very beautiful church built in the 1750's. This was the church where my great great grandfather was married and the church where my great grandfather was christened. My great great great grandfather and grandmother also attended the church and their deaths were recorded in the church records. Many other records of my family were entered in the church books as well. The alter was white and blue gilded with gold. Magnus Friedrich von Barner's name was in gold across the top along with the year 1757. At the back of the church was a crest in gold and white showing the name of Magnus Friedrich von Barner and his two wives. This had the year 1752 written on it. The floor contained a stone showing that a Magnus Friedrich von Barner was buried beneath it. This was definitely the church that the nobleman built and paid for, as was the custom at the time, and his name was all over it, even on the bells in the tower. (There were several Magnus Friedrich von Barners over the years.) I went up into the pulpit and stood and looked out over the church.

Goosmann PlaqueAs I looked around the church, I noticed a large plaque on the wall. It appeared to be made of slate with a wooden frame. Gold writing was engraved into the slate. This was a plaque honoring five men who belonged to this church and had fought to free their country from Napoleon in the war of 1813 to 1815. One of those five names was Jacob Goosmann, who was the brother of my great great grandfather. Another of the names was Joachim Niemann, whose son married my great grandfather's sister.

We next climbed up some stairs in the back to the organ and choir loft. Some of the stairs were rotted, but we were able to get up there. The pipes for the organ were still there, the bellows were rotted, and the pump handle for the bellows was broken. The organ and bench were there, but the keyboard was newer than the original. It appeared to be set into place, but we could not tell when it had been placed there or how old it was. Above the organ was a wooden plaque which had writing painted on it. It gave thanks for the organ and the Patron of Bülow. I took a picture in hopes that I could translate the rest of what it said from that.

John, Dieter, and the one-eyed man climbed another ladder which went up toward the tower and belfry. It was too steep and high for me--I am not good with heights--and I decided to stay downstairs, as did Günter. John later told me that there were two more levels above the choir and organ loft, all with steep ladders. Up in the tower was a very old mechanical clock which had been used to run the bells at one time. It had not worked since the 1930's.. Then further up in the belfry were the bells themselves. There were two bells, 24 inches and 18 inches. John could see where there had been a third bell, a larger one, but it was missing. The one-eyed man said it was melted down for ammunition during the war. The bells were dated 1752 and had the name von Barner on them. There was still another ladder going high into the tower. The tower had been crudely repaired in 1950. While they were up there, the men rang the remaining bells with a rope that was tied to the top.

After the men came down, we went outside and locked the church. The one-eyed man then led us to a small hill a few feet away and pulled back some vines. There was a door there which he unlocked with another large iron key and slowly pulled it open. Stairs led down into the ground and the entrance was covered with cobwebs which he brushed aside. He went down the stairs, Dieter followed. I was hesitant--I could see some dead rats or mice and bats as well as other litter on the stairs and I was afraid of spiders. Finally I followed. John remained on the stairs taking video--he would not come all the way down. When I reached the bottom there were about seven coffins. Someone had been in the crypt and vandalized it at one point--all the metal fittings and plaques were missing. One coffin was open and I could see a skeleton wrapped in cloth and what appeared to be wood shavings or something similar. This all seemed to be matter of fact to the local man and to Dieter who was interested in the history. We speculated that this had been a crypt of some of the noble family or close relatives of the noble family, but there was no way to tell.


A Surprise in Müggenburg

It was time to leave Bülow and drive to Müggenburg, the town where my ancestors had actually lived. In the 1819 census for Mecklenburg Schwerin, Müggenburg had 31 residents, and nine of them were my ancestors. It had been listed as the dairy farm for the castle in Bülow in the 1751 census. Müggenburg is 2 miles north of Bülow and the road is dirt. I had been told that from maps it looked like we might have to walk to the village, since a car might not make it. Günter had not been there in over 22 years. He did not know much about the town except that his mother had told him his relatives had once lived there. Dieter asked and we were told the road was passable. I would describe the road as a logging road, narrow and rough. We started out through woods where a bit of logging was being done, then eventually crossed a river and the road got rougher. Finally we made it to the turnoff for Müggenburg and I got out to take a picture of the sign. There were only two farmhouses left in the village.

We stopped at the first house on the road, an unpainted brick and stone house covered with decaying stucco. Dieter and Günter began talking to the farmer. Eventually he told us that there used to be four or five more houses in the area, but they were gone now. The last one had been taken down sometime in the past thirty years and the material used to repair other houses. Apparently the house was empty and there was a desperate need for building materials in the area, especially lumber and bricks. The farmer led us down the road and showed us the remains of the foundation. We asked about the name Goosmann. He said he had heard that a Goosmann used to live in Muggenburg and was the farm manager. He suggested we ask at the other house up the road because he thought that might be the place. While we were visiting, we noticed that the farmer and his wife lived in the house as well as two grown children. He raised pigeons and rabbits. We asked about them and he said, "yes, he raised them. What else was there to do?" He had no other work and no crop lands of his own.

Goosmann House

We walked up the road to the second house, a red brick house with a tile roof. I began taking pictures of the house while Dieter and Günter went to the door. A woman answered and we found she was the Widow Schulz. She had lived in the house alone for twenty eight years since her husband died. When we asked about the name Goosmann, she became excited and happy to see us. She told us that her husband's family had bought the house from the Goosmanns in 1939. When the house was sold at that time, it had been in the Goosmann family for 150 years. I was flabbergasted. This was the house that my great great great grandfather had lived in and his son, and his son, etc. I had no idea that it existed and I certainly was not expecting to see it. I had thought that whatever was in Müggenburg so many years ago would be gone and I would simply be taking pictures of the area that my family had lived in.

Frau Schulz invited us into her house. We went through an entryway into the living room. The floor in the entry was the original stone tile floor, and the living room had the original wood plank floor. The heater in the living room was an oven or fireplace with tiles on the outside. It now burned brown coal, but had probably burned wood at one time. This, too, was the original heating system. (Later I saw exactly the same floors and heaters at a rural museum in the city of Schwerin where they had displays of houses built in the 1700's).

We visited with Frau Schulz for some time. She told us she did not get electricity until 1958. She has no car, but rides a bicycle to Demen which is just over 1 km away to get her supplies. She showed us her wedding pictures and told us stories about her husband. Then she told us the story about when the Schulz family bought the house from the Goosmanns. It seems that Herman Goosmann had died in 1934. He had a wife and three children (two daughters and a son, also named Herman). The widow and one of the daughters managed the farm, while the son was off being a soldier. In 1939 the two women wanted to sell the house, but Herman, the son, felt he should be entitled to the house since he was the only son. He wanted the house for his own son, also named Herman. He contested the sale, but the local judge felt his claim to the house had been abandoned since he had not been managing the farm, but had left it for his mother and sister to manage. Therefore the sale to Herman Schulz was allowed. Herman Schulz was the father of Frau Schulz's husband, who eventually inherited the house. His name was also Herman. We all got a big laugh about all the Hermans in the story and had a little trouble keeping them straight at first.

During the time of the sale, the paperwork that was done stated that the house had been in the Goosmann family for over 150 years. Frau Schulz went to a nearby cabinet and got out a folder. In it she had that paperwork from 1939 which she showed to me. Once again I was amazed. Here was the proof that the house had belonged to my family and that it had belonged to them starting in about 1790. I left Frau Schulz enough money to copy the papers and mail them to me.

SchulzFrau Schulz then took us into the kitchen so that we could better see the construction of the house. The kitchen was probably unchanged from the time my family lived there. It had an ancient wood stove and oven. She showed me her washing machine which was from the 1800's. It was a large cast iron drum with a lid. You filled the drum with water and soap, then built a coal fire in an oven underneath the washer and stirred the washing with a wooden paddle. Next we went into the tool room or storage room at one end of the house so we could again get a better look at the construction. Some of the stucco or plaster was missing there and we could see how the walls were built. The walls were brick, several bricks thick, then wood hand hewn beams and supports, then straw or sticks covered with plaster. The foundation of the house was made from rocks and mortar. Next to the house stood an "outhouse." There was no indoor plumbing. We walked all around the house and, although we could see a few places where it had been repaired, this was the original house just as it had been when my family lived there.

I found out that the house had 58 hectares of land. The Warnow river ran through the property a short distance behind the house. The GDR had taken the land while they were in control, but after the reunification Frau Schulz got her land back and now leases it out to a farmer for a little bit of income. There was a large barn out in front of the house when the Schulz family bought the property, but that barn had burned down shortly thereafter. They had put up a wood barn, but that, too, was now gone.

There were some words painted over the front door of the house. I asked if they had been put there by the Goosmann family and was told that they had. You could see the words "Bete und Arbeite" (pray and work) had first been painted over the door. Later someone had painted over those words and covered them with another saying which, in German, said a greeting and then "come in and bring luck with you." The later paint had faded away so that both sayings were visible, one on top of the other. This gave me a clue to my family and their thinking at various times. Finally, it was time to leave. I gave Frau Schulz a hug and thanked her for all she had showed me and told me. I promised to send her a letter when I got home.


A Visit to Günter's House

Günter suggested we go back to his house for coffee or tea, and we all agreed. We did not go back to the castle to see if we could see the remainder of the inside. I no longer thought it was that important to me. I had found and seen so much more than I had ever expected to see that day and I was full of thoughts and feelings I couldn't even describe. I needed time to absorb all of it.

Günter's house was a fairly large, two storey building, unfinished concrete on the outside as are many homes and buildings in that area of Germany. Günter's mother, sister, and sister's son lived on the first floor of the house. We met the mother and nephew, but did not go into their quarters. The house had big gardens on both sides of the house. The mother and sister appeared to have one garden and Günter and his family the one on the other side. Günter led us around the back and showed us some of the restoration work he was doing. He had just put on a new roof over the entire house. He was putting in a new heating system for his mother. Dieter explained that in this section of Germany, everyone had to learn to do everything themselves. They had to be "jacks of all trades." It was just too expensive to hire other people to do the work and there were not trained people available to do the work for many years. There was an old construction wagon in the back yard and we learned that it had been made into a place to raise bees. Günter raises bees and makes honey for a hobby.

We entered the house in the back and went up a set of stairs to the second floor. This was Günter and Astrid's part of the house. They have two older sons, only one of whom is still living at home. We saw the rooms that were his, then the other living areas of the house. At the far end of the house, Günter had taken storage areas and converted them into a set of rooms for Astrid's mother who lived with them also. She had her own living room, bedroom and bath. He had put in modern bathrooms throughout the house and was slowly working his way through the rest of the house. Astrid showed us pictures taken as the reconstruction was going along. They have been working on the restoration of the house for some time and don't know when it will be finished. Hopefully before too much longer. The rooms that have been completed are very nice and there is really very little left to be done that I could see.


We sat down for coffee and tea and some wonderful pastries--three different kinds. We also got an opportunity to visit. Astrid joined us and learned about our day. Günter learned as much about the family as I did on that day and saw things he had never seen before and didn't know existed as well. Dieter was surprised that everyone was as friendly as they were. John and I thought this happened because we had Günter with us who was local and who could sort of "vouch" for us as his relatives. We also realized that we could never have done so much and seen so much without the help of Dieter. Without Dieter's translation ability from German to English and back again and his knowledge and interest in genealogy as well, all of this never would have happened. We will never be able to thank him enough.

As we were visiting, Günter wanted to know how I wrote the letters to him in German. Through Dieter's translation, I explained about the Internet and the free translation service for genealogy letters. Günter told us that his uncle got a letter from me, too, and told Günter not to answer it because it was just someone looking for information. Then when they got it, they would send back and try to sell him a book. (So the scheme of selling family tree books by Halbert's World Books has reached that area of Germany as well. ) Günter thought about it for a while, but in my first letter I had mentioned Müggenburg, and Günter did not think I would have known about that little town if it was not a legitimate letter, so he decided to answer it.

After some more visiting, it was time to leave. We were sorry we did not get to spend more time with this new found family, but we were glad we got the chance to meet them and get acquainted. After hugs and good byes, we promised to write to each other. Dieter, John, and I headed back to Schwerin.


The End of a Perfect Day

When we returned to Schwerin, we stopped at the outdoor rural museum. This museum was very well done and had displays of houses, barns, and other buildings from the 1600's through the 1800's. The houses were furnished just as they had been for the time, the tools were all displayed, and it was possible to see just what farm life had been like during those times. It was here that I was able to see houses that were constructed like the one my family owned. We stayed until the museum closed and then finally went back to our hotel, where we said good bye to Dieter. The next day we drove to Frankfurt.

Design & Production: Carol Goshman Bowen, Dieter G. H. Garling info@eMecklenburg.de