A couple of years ago my Dad and I began sifting through a treasure trove of family history that we had received, piecing together the story of our earliest ancestors in the U.S. Among these materials were many original documents in German, dating from the decades 1840 to 1870. These documents proved extremely difficult to translate, as documented elsewhere on this site. Nevertheless using various tools I was able to put together transcriptions and translations of many of the official Bavarian documents. I find these immensely interesting, and I hope they are useful not just to curious members of our sprawling family tree (Alois had ten children with two wives, the majority of whom survived into adulthood) but perhaps also to anyone interested in 19th century German writing and emigration stories.
Two groups of documents completely foiled any attempt by me to decipher their contents, however. The first is my great-great-grandfather’s wanderbuch, a fascinating document that chronicles his time as a wandering journeyman carpenter in the late 1840s and early 1850s. That document remains untranslated so far. The second was a series of letters written (apparently) to Alois or a brother from siblings who remained behind in Enkering. I was particularly eager to know the content of these documents in the hope that they might solve one or two outstanding mysteries. I’m happy to say that I finally have good translations of three of these letters, thanks to the painstaking work of Carola Meyers. See the links below if you’re interested in reading these words written over 150 years ago.
While no mysteries were solved some clues were gained, and more work will be done in the future (maybe on that wanderbuch!). But what is perhaps most meaningful to me is the evidence these letters provide of the difficulty of maintaining family ties for that first generation of new Americans, separated as they were by over 3000 miles of land and ocean from the society they had left behind. You can already see these bonds fragmenting in the pleas of a man who has not heard from his emigrant brother in too long, even though the latter had sailed from Bremen bound for Baltimore just a few years previously.
The updated documents: