“Which ancestor do you want to take a road trip to go research?”

The question posed by this week’s theme took little time to answer. My husband’s family is 100% German and a good portion of mine is either German or English.  I’ve always wanted to travel to Germany and England and see where my family came from.  “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”  I have taken the first step.

Map of Germany with tags for families

Map of Germany with tags for families

A very large map of modern Germany (4 1/2 ft x 3 1/2 ft) hangs on the wall in my office. I decided to begin marking where all our family’s ancestors were from.  There is something about seeing on a map the villages your family came from. You relate to it better.  You consider what is near that town: rivers, boundaries, other villages, mountains, plains, forests.  You begin to understand the culture of the place better when you see it on the map.   The picture above shows the home of four of my husband’s ancestral families.  They lived fairly close.  When I began to put into context where they lived, I realized how close they were to Arnhem and Nijmegan – both important World War II battle areas.  Our branch of the family had immigrated to the United States 100 years before World War II, but another branch remained in Germany.

The family lines posted above are the Terstriep family from Ahaus, Germany; Bernard Venvertloh from Eschlohn, Germany; Anna Maria Boeving, his wife, from Südlohn, Germany, and Henry Düisdecker from Munster, Germany.  All are ancestors of my husband and all had family members move to Quincy, Illinois in the mid 1800s.

Ancestral villages in Germany

Ancestral villages in Germany

This photo reflects more of my mother’s family.  The Bootz family is my 2nd great grandmother’s family who lived near Darmstadt and Bingen, Germany.  My father and mother-in-law’s families were from near Hanover, Germany.

I have tried to add to the map as I complete more research.  I can better see patterns of migration and how families interconnected.  I hope to add a map of England also.  My father’s family is from St. Martin, Cornwall, England.  Interestingly enough a recent PBS Masterpiece show, Poldark, is set in Cornwall and I have loved seeing the scenery of this part of England.  Our family actually came to the Colonies in the late 1680’s – preceding the Poldark story by a cool century!

So my wish is to travel to Germany and England and walk the land my ancestors walked.  I want to visit the Catholic church in Ahaus where my husband’s family were married, baptized and buried for over 300 years.  I want to see parts of Yorkshire where my Harrison side of the family came from.  Obviously I have no problem with English.  It’s my native language.  German is quite another thing.  I know only enough German to tell someone I don’t speak German!  To rectify this situation, I take the first step in my road trip by taking a beginning German class this fall.  Who knows. Maybe someday I’ll be able to take that road trip, study my family and speak German well enough to learn something new. It’s a first step on a hopeful road trip.


  1. I like the map idea here. I’m doing the same but have only gotten as far as the small communities here in Illinois so far. It really is fascinating to look at the census sheets and see who lived near each other in a time when “reach out and touch someone” meant talking across the fence!


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