Monday, July 30, 2007

New member of the family!

Born one week ago today, the newest Geyer descendent -

Oliver Martin -
Born: July 23, 2007 at 12:17pm in Regensburg, Germany
Weight: 3820 grams (8 lbs, 6.8 oz)
Length: 52 cm (20.5 inches)


I uploaded my first video to YouTube, made of Oliver this morning:

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Surnames - the 28th Carnival of Genealogy

The 28th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is up for all to visit over at Creative Gene. Jasia writes:

The topic for this edition is Surnames. How much do you know about your family name? All the contributors to this edition of the COG have taken a good look at their surnames and will now share them with you. This was a very popular topic and there were lots of articles submitted. So pour yourself a tall glass of iced tea, put on some smooth jazz, and enjoy the ride!

I contributed three posts to the Carnival: Surname Research on, Places named Geyer, and Surname Breakthrough: Bear / Behr / Baehr.

The topic for the 29th Edition of the COG will be: Smile or The Camera! We all have them, boxes of family photographs. So, show us your favorite photo(s)! Tell us everything about them. Who or what is the photo of, when was it taken, where was it taken, where did you get it, who was the photographer, why is it one of your favorites? Does it commemorate a special occasion, is it a treasure, a mystery, or is it just plain weird, strange or unusual? Share with us the stories of your favorite pics from your family photo albums. The next edition of the COG will be hosted by footnoteMaven on the footnoteMaven blog. The deadline for submissions will be August 1st, so crack open those photo albums and start blogging!

Submit your blog article to the next edition of the Carnival of Genealogy using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Surname Breakthrough: Bear / Behr / Baehr

My paternal grandmother's surname, Bear, was always a bit of a mystery.

We knew from my grandmother that her grandfather spoke German, so we could assume that the origin of the surname was German, but Bear is not a German surname. The spelling must have been changed somewhere along the way. Where did it change? What was the original spelling?

German surnames that could be interpreted as Bear are numerous. There's Bar, Behr, Bähr/Baehr, Bär/Baer, and Beer to start with. Then you also need to include possibilities like Bayer, Baier, Beyer and Beier.

My Bear ancestors can be traced back to 1825, but then we hit a brick wall:

Ila Iola Bear (1913-1992)
Samuel Lewis Bear (1881-1939)
Samuel Rupley Bear (1856-1937)
Samuel Lewis Bear (1825-1864)

Samuel Lewis Bear was born on October 24, 1825 in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. On January 6, 1849, he married Mary Rupley in Hampden Township, Cumberland County, PA. They shortly thereafter moved to Peoria, Illinois and later settled in Plano, Appanoose, Iowa. He died on April 6, 1864 in Benicia, Solano County, California, during the Gold Rush. We have no idea who the parents of Samuel Lewis (or Mary Rupley) are.

Then, a clue: my aunt recently spent a week with her uncle (my grandmother's brother) John Bear in Missouri and he remembered being told that Bear was at one time spelled with an "H". That would bring the original spelling possibilities down to Behr and Bähr/Baehr. So far, this hasn't led to any breakthroughs, but it's given us a new lead.

So how common is Behr and Bähr in Germany? I decided to enter them at the Surname Research Center of (site is in German).

The Behr surname distribution map

There are approximately 11,696 people with the surname Behr living in Germany now. This is higher than average for a surname in Germany. It is the 628th most common name in Germany and is concentrated in the Hamburg-Harburg-Luneburg area of north Germany, which can be seen as the darker green cluster towards the top of the above map (view the Behr surname distribution results - in German).

There are approximately 7,664 people with the surname Bähr living in Germany now. This is also higher than average. It is the 1,002nd most common name in Germany and is concentrated in the Rhein-Neckar and Ortenau areas of southwest Germany (view the Bähr surname distribution map and results - in German).

The origin of Behr is Bähr. The origin of Bähr could be from the nickname "Bär" (bear) for a strong and/or courageous person or house, it could have been shortened from a longer surname beginning with "Ber-" (e.g. Berwein), or it could originate from the nickname "Eber" (boar).

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Writing to German parishes

Back in January, I sent a letter to the rectories associated with what I felt were the three most likely parishes that my great great grandfather, Frank Geyer, could have come from. I picked these three because, after looking in the German white pages, I found that there were a fair number of people with the last name Geyer or Geier, and Freund (his mother's maiden name) living in the parish. These three rectories were: Johannesberg just north of Aschaffenburg (PLZ 63867), Johannisberg in Geisenheim (PLZ 65366) and Fulda-Johannesberg (PLZ 36041). Clicking on the links will take you to the answer received from the rectories. PLZ stands for Postleitzahl, which is the zip code.

Well, it's finally occurred to me that I should post the letter that I sent out! I've translated the text after each paragraph. For help with translation, try LEO English-German dictionary or Babel Fish Translation. I also included a 15 Euro donation with each letter. My husband, a native German speaker, helped with the composition of the letter.


*my name*
*my address*
*my telephone number*
*my email address*

An das katholische Pfarramt
Johannesberger Strasse
36041 Fulda-Johannesberg

/ to the Catholic rectory
/ *address of rectory*


Sehr geehrter Herr Pfarrer,

/ Dear Mr. Priest

mein Name ist Christina Geyer. Ich bin US-Bürgerin und lebe seit einigen Jahren in Deutschland. Meine Vorfahren waren auch Deutsche, die in die USA ausgewandert sind. Ich weis, dass sie aus einem Ort namens Johannesberg (o. Johannisberg) stammen, aber ich weis nicht welches Johannesberg. Können Sie mir eventuell weiterhelfen? Über meinen Ururgroßvater weiss ich bis jetzt folgendes:

/ my name is Christina Geyer. I am a US citizen and have lived for several years in Germany. My ancestors were also Germans who emigrated to the USA. I know that they came from a place named Johannesberg (or Johannisberg), but I don't know which Johannesberg. Could you possibly help me? About my great-great-grandfather, I know the following:

Er hieß Franciscus Geyer und wurde am 16. April 1862 in Johannesberg, Deutschland geboren. Er wanderte am 23. 09. 1876 zusammen mit der Familie seines Onkels (Bruder der Mutter) Josef Freund aus. Wir wissen, daß die Mutter Maria Anna Geyer geborene Freund 1866 gestorben ist und sein Vater Vitus Geyer (o. Geier) wieder heiratete und in Deutschland blieb. Franciscus hatte eine Schwester (Elisabeth Geyer) und 5 Halbbrüder, die auch in Deutschland blieben. Die Familie ist katholisch.

/ He was named Franciscus Geyer and was born on April 16, 1862 in Johannesberg, Germany. He emigrated on September 23, 1876 together with the family of his uncle (brother of his mother) Josef Freund. We know that the mother, Maria Anna Geyer nee Freund, died in 1866 and his father, Vitus Geyer (or Geier) remarried and stayed in Germany. Franciscus had a sister (Elisabeth Geyer) and 5 half-brothers, who also stayed in Germany. The family is Catholic.

Könnten Sie mir mitteilen, ob Sie es für möglich halten, dass diese Personen in Ihrem Johannesberg gelebt haben? Wenn Sie Verwandte meiner Familie kennen, wäre ich Ihnen dankbar, wenn Sie ihnen meine Adresse geben könnten, damit sie mit mir Kontakt aufnehmen können, falls sie möchten. Ich wäre Ihnen auch dankbar, mir eine Kopie von möglichen Dokumenten mit Informationen zu meiner Familie zuzuschicken. Falls solche Unterlagen nicht in Ihrer Pfarrei sind, könnten Sie mir bitte die Anschrift des zuständigen Archivs mitteilen.

/ Could you tell me whether you think it is possible that these people lived in your Johannesberg? If you know relatives of my family, I would be grateful if you could give them my address so that they can contact me if they would like. I would also be grateful if you could send me any copies of documents with information on my family. In case these documents are not in your rectory, could you please send me the address of the archives where they are located.

Für Ihre Mühen möchte ich mich mit der beiliegenden Spende für Ihre Pfarei bedanken.

/ For your efforts, I would like to thank your rectory with the enclosed donation.

Mit freundlichen Grüssen,

/ Sincerely yours,

*my signature*
*my name*

Friday, July 13, 2007

Feedburner Integration for Blogger Blogs

As of July 11, integrating your Feedburner feed into Blogger became a snap. All you need to do is go to your Blogger Dashboard, hit Settings, hit Site Feed, then enter your Feedburner feed address, and hit Save Settings. And voila! You should soon be able to see how many subscribers you really have.

I'd also suggest that while you are on your Settings page, you make sure that you are publishing a "Full" feed. It is a big turnoff (for me anyway) to have to leave Google Reader and load the blog to read a whole post. More likely than not, I don't bother unless the title and first few sentences are very catchy, which means that I (and others - I've read this as a common complaint on the "be a better blogger" type blogs) are missing out on your great content!

Now if only Blogger would get around to allowing subcategories in labels.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The search for Johannesberg, part 2

We know my ancestors come from Johannesberg, but since every place with a St. Johannes (St. John's) Church could have at some point gone by this name, we've been unable to figure out exactly which town in Germany my ancestors came from.

I've heard back from another of the Catholic rectories I wrote to back in January and it's just another Johannesberg eliminated - this time near Aschaffenburg. See my first response (and elimination) here.

Liebe Frau Geyer,

in unserer Pfarrei sind nur Unterlagen ab 1868 vorhanden. Ich konnte auch keine Unterlagen von später geborenen Halbgeschwistern names Geyer finden. Die Daten von Diözesan-Archiv und Matrikelabteilung in Würzburg lege ich bei.


In our parish are only documents dating from 1868. I could also find no documents for half-brothers and -sisters named Geyer born later. I attach the address and opening times of the Diocese Archive and Register Department in Wuerzburg.

Monday, July 09, 2007

What does America/Independence Day mean to you?

That was the topic answered by the authors featured in the 27th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, posted July 3 at Kinexxions. Sorry to be so late in getting the announcement up!

There's still a little time to get submissions in to the next Carnival. The due date for the next edition is July 15th:

The topic for the next Carnival of Genealogy will be: Surnames! Pick a surname on your tree and tell us about it. What are it's ethnic origins? Has it morphed over time as your family has used it? (or at Ellis Island ;-) What does it mean? Is it common or rare? What are the common misspellings? Any famous people or places with your surname?

I've submitted two articles to this one, my visits to two places named Geyer in April and May, and my write up on German surname information at Both are a couple months old, but I thought they fit the topic perfectly.

BallinStadt opens in Hamburg

On July 5, BallinStadt, Albert Ballin's "Emigrant City" on Veddel Island in the Elbe River in Hamburg, reopened. Albert Ballin was the General Director of BallinStadt, which was constructed between 1898 and 1901, and enlarged in 1906/1907. The newly rebuilt facilities give you a chance to relive the experience of the over 5 million people, who left Germany through the port of Hamburg between 1850 and 1934 to start a new life in the United States.

The nicely put together website, available in German and English, gives details on BallinStadt, describes the materials located at the research center there, links to other online emigration records in Europe, and gives links for further research on German ancestors.

If you're planning a trip to Hamburg and have German ancestry, sounds like this is a worthwhile stop. It is currently open Monday through Sunday from 10am - 6pm, with last entrance at 5pm.

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