Dear Prof. Poetker,

Thank you so much for your input on the Schledenhausen church records.
Especially thank you for the address of St. Laurentius. I will definitely
write to the Priest there. Maybe a monetary contribution will help to put
my request a little closer to the top of his long list?

Another researcher has said that in the earlier days of the Lutheran church,
the Lutherans were required to go to the Catholic church to have their
birth, marriage, and death information recorded, even if these events took
place in the Lutheran church. Later, the Lutheran church began keeping
their own records. This may explain why the Christening of my great
grandmother, who was born in 1849, was found in the Lutheran church
records - and why I will need to look to the Catholic church for information
on my earlier ancestors.

Again, thank you for your help. It is much appreciated!

Carol Payne

Hannover List --

I have had good luck finding connections back in Germany because of some good notes a relative made while visiting there in 1931. My great-grandfather, George William Schaefer, came from Ottenstein in 1856. That is the Ottenstein that is upstream from Hameln on the Weser River, on the Ottenstein plateau on the west side of the Weser. We have visited there twice and have close contact with relatives in Ottenstein and Hannover.

I would be interested in learning about others in America who have ties with Ottenstein.

Also, my great-grandmother, Caroline Wilkening, came from Hemeringen. It is closer to Hameln, a little west and north. I have not been able to locate any relatives there. One was located in another part of Germany, but he never answered my letters.

Later I will tell about all the good assistance I received from Jürgen Ritter at the Genealogical Society in Hannover. It is a long story. He was such a great help!

Don Schaefer

Dear Don, dear list,

although my family is not living in America, I want to tell you, that also my wife has ancestors
from Ottenstein:

1. Dorothea Louise Caroline D�E She was the daughter of 2. Georg D�E and 3. Dorothee MEIER. She
married (1) Heinrich Conrad Anton MEIER, Kleink�ter and Leinenweber (small farmer and linen weaver),
23 Nov 1834 in Ottenstein. He was the son of Heinrich MEIER and Louise KELLERMEIER.
2. Georg D�E, Schuhmachermeister (shoemaker master). He married 3. Dorothee MEIER.
3. Dorothee MEIER

This line isn't well researched, yet, but I hope to find more ancestors some day.

I have heard, that there exist two books about Ottenstein, although I do not know their names.

If anybody has got more information about Ottenstein, the mentioned books or the above named
families I would appreciate your answer.

With kindly regards from Langenhagen, Germany,


Hallo Björn and list --

Good to hear from someone who knows about Ottenstein.

My great-grandfather was one of three brothers from the Schäfer family in Ottenstein to come to America. The oldest brother, Friedrich, stayed in Ottenstein and was later disinherited by his parents. His mother-in-law was Caroline Wilhelmine Justine Meier. That is the only Meier I have in my records. There are church books in the pastor's office in Ottenstein.

The two books on Ottenstein are "Chronik von Ottenstein und Glesse" by Kantor Heinrich Rose (1927), and "Ottensteiner Chronik" by Werner Freist (1986). I have a copy of the newer one. It is well done and masterfully illustrated by Freist. My problem is that I do not read German, except for a few words.

Don Schaefer

Dear Don,

thank you for your answer. Also thank you for the book-titles. I found the books in two libraries near to me, so I will be able to take a look at them in the next weeks. Let's see, whether we have identical ancestors.

So far, kindly regards,


No connections here Don, but I would be interested to read of the hand you received from Herr Ritter and the Gen Society. As you have time of course ...

Wishing you and Bj�rn a successful link!


Don Schaefer wrote:

Here is my story from the beginning about how I made rapid progress with my German ancestors. Late in 1987, I became interested in my family history. Like most of us, it was after most everyone had died who knew anything to help. I dug out some notes that I copied in 1956 from my aunt in Kansas. They told the names of my great-grandfather and his two brothers, along with their siblings' and parents' names. It also said they came from Ottenstein, über Hameln. In addition, it said my great-grandmother, Caroline Wilkening, came from Hemeringen. I looked up the locations on old U.S. Army maps in the University library here, and then referred to a German Atlas. In the book, "In Search of Your German Roots" by Angus Baxter in the local library, I saw that one place to write in Germany was the Genealogical Society in the state where your ancestors lived. I knew it was Lower Saxony, so I wrote there.

Within a few weeks I received a letter from Jürgen Ritter. With the information I sent him, he called a Schäfer in the phone book of Ottenstein, and luckily it was Hermann Schäfer, who lived in the old Schäfer house from which my great-grandfather left in 1856. He said, yes, he knew of three brothers who went to America in the middle of the last century. Herr Ritter also said he phoned the pastor of the church in Hemeringen, where he learned the names of Caroline's parents. He already had other information that linked to the Wilkening family there, because his own ancestors are linked to mine there. His grandparents had lived in Hemeringen.

(Let me insert here that Jürgen Ritter has specialized in taking the various church books in many locations and linking the names into families. He has published these and I have been in his home office in Hannover and seen some of them. He had done the church in Hemeringen because of his personal interest there, but he was concentrating on garrison churches. He told me that he had visited the Mormon Library in Salt Lake City, and they had his books there.)

A sort while after I heard from Herr Ritter, I received a letter, with photo, from Hermann Schäfer in Ottenstein. It was one of my thrilling moments in family history.

Through Herr Ritter, I employed Horst Giesemann to go to Ottenstein and copy information from the church books. The cost was quite minimal and he also discovered a tie-in he had with my g-g-grandmother, whose maiden name was Giesemann.

We took our very first tour in Europe in July of 1988. We had a nephew there in the Army and arrived two days before our tour and he drove us to Ottenstein. It was another thrilling time. But Herr Ritter's help was just starting. He and his wife were there at the Schäfer house and interpreted for us. They had driven there from Hannover.

We continued to correspond with both Herr Ritter and the Schäfers. A few years later the Ritters visited us in our home in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Jürgen's wife, Bona, died in 1993. In 1996 we visited Germany again and arrived in Hannover by train from Berlin. We were met by Herr Ritter and several of my relatives who live in Hannover. He drove us to Hildesheim and Goslar and many sights in the area. He then drove us to Ottenstein where we spent four nights in the Schäfer house and I met other third cousins living there. We also went to the church office in Ottenstein and Herr Ritter found out more information from those books than most people are able to read and understand. We saw many places in that beautiful area that are missed by most American tourists. He also drove us by Hemeringen on the way there. As we left Hannover to go to Frankfurt and back home, Herr Ritter would not let me pay him anything for all his help and assistance. He also had prepared new family information that he had typed up from notes he took in the church office.

Jürgen Ritter died 12 Aug 1998, just a month before he and his friend, Ruth Meyer, were going to come visit us.

This past school year our oldest daughter and her family hosted a German exchange student who just happens to be related. The boy is the grandson of Heinrich Schäfer, an older brother of Hermann's. The boy's name is Thies Filler and his mother is Dr. Andrea Schäfer Filler of Hannover. Andrea and her brother, Uwe Schäfer of Ottenstein, came to visit us here last June and then they accompanied Thies home. Now we have more generations that are strongly linked.

This would probably not been possible without the generous help of Jürgen Ritter, We really feel indebted to him and others like him who are willing to help link families together.

Now, that's my long story. And I left out a lot.

Don Schaefer

Really enjoyed reading your remembrances of J�rgen Ritter. We had the
opportunity to visit with him on his last trip to America. He came to our
part of Missouri and visited with friends here in Cole Camp and Stover. He
presented my family with our entire Kipp family tree (from
Welsede/Hamelschenburg), going back 7 generations in Germany. What a great
Neil Heimsoth

Marvelous story Don, from beginning to end. It's hard not to be touched by your account. That is a bonafide winning connection if I ever read one. Yet I am fully aware that a good number of similar accounts exist, in varying shades and colors. Here I go again, but that we should all be so lucky (like you and now Neil). Maybe someday. :slight_smile:

Those early notes you were sharp enough to copy down back in the fifties proved to be instrumental in the end. More important than many new to this pastime might suspect, the OLD TIMERS must be interviewed before they leave the scene. How often this overlooked, even when they are still amongst us! Not that anyone guilty of this oversight need feel that bad should it be too late now, as it is an all too common occurrence - today as in years gone by.�

In the book, "In Search of Your German Roots" by Angus Baxter in the local library, I saw that one place to write in Germany was the Genealogical Society in the state where your ancestors lived. I knew it was Lower Saxony, so I wrote there.

I must say, you were lucky in one regard: you got a jump on the "Internet era" in compiling a good portion of your family history, and then reaching out across the sea. We all know that the proliferation of so many new resources and raw data courtesy of the Internet has been a boon to those pursuing family histories, and this trend continues to show no signs of abating anytime soon. The downside of this is that stories like yours may become somewhat "endangered" as time rolls on, due to the massive influx of letters and requests being generated to the local parishes and genealogical guilds these days in Germany and elsewhere, which the Net greatly enables and even simplifies. The German archives alone are struggling to keep up with the volume, so it is any wonder that the smaller church offices and community centers are feeling inundated. Alas, for every bright cloud we see, there can be both gray and silver linings.

I started my own exploration in the early '70s, but didn't make all that much headway short of getting down the basics, writing some letters, acquiring a handful of vital stat records, and badgering the elders 'till they shooed me off. My interest rekindled in the early eighties with a few key breakthroughs and has basically remained to this day. Years back, and long before the better structured, database style index compilations we now take for granted started appearing, there remained the little championed, little visited works of the genealogical and historical societies (speaking now of here in the States). I contacted quite a number of them through the years, both in writing and in person. Most were (are) made up of elderly folks who are kind enough to pool their talents and energies towards the preservation of often neglected genealogical/historical treasures for the benefit of their local communities or cities.�

Many such organizations have since passed from the scene though, the victims of a lack of support and interest. Their collective efforts produced some of the earliest indexes, extracts and transcriptions that proved so valuable to genealogists and family historians years ago (beyond the larger indexing works of the WPA of the depression years, and the ever expanding collection of the LDS). It almost brings a tears to the eye to think how many of these marvelous works, compiled with loving attention, now sit rarely visited and capped with dust on the special collection shelves of many a city library, replaced by and large with the ubiquity and functional ease of the Internet.

If more folks today knew what we owe the fine souls of these volunteer societies, along with the local archivists who struggle to preserve materials that would otherwise be lost or discarded, and the unsung reference librarians who know - as few others do - the value of these and other rarely explored holdings they preside over, they would be the discoverers of a world of information every bit as eye opening as that which we see splashed across the Internet (not that I don't hug my Internet connection daily). To this day, most of this material has NOT yet made its way onto the Net (with occasional exceptions), and one has to wonder how much of it ever will.

This would probably not been possible without the generous help of J�rgen Ritter. We really feel indebted to him and others like him who are willing to help link families together.

Let me add my salutations to Herr Ritter. What a marvel and gentleman. Like the volunteer organizations I spoke of on this side, he fortunately lives on per his work at the Genealogisch Gesellschaft, and in the memories and family collections of his many beneficiaries.

Thanks for the share Don. I'll file it under unsung heroes. :wink:


PS. Angus Baxter ... I have to smile. If you own a first-edition Baxter in your collection, you may date back to those lovely pick and shovel days! Another tell tale sign: how early an edition of Handy Book for Genealogists you own. lol :slight_smile:

In addition to the great help of J�rgen Ritter, I must also mention Marie
Renken of Ostersode, who gave me the Renken family history, my paternal
grandmother's branch. These two individuals gave me so much information,
that I will be eternally thankful that I had the good fortune to know both
of them.
Neil H.

Da ich mich in der Genealogie Ottensteiner Familien gut
auskenne, biete ich hiermit meine Hilfe an. Rund 900
gespeciherte Personendatens�tze Ottenstein.

Womit kann ich helfen?

Namen, Daten?

Hallo Reinhard,

ich glaube, Du hast meine Daten schon mal abgeglichen. Bisher habe ich in Ottenstein folgendes:

1. Dorothea Louise Caroline D�E x 23 Nov 1834 in Ottenstein Heinrich Conrad Anton MEIER, Kleink�ter und Leinenweber.
2. Georg D�E, Schuhmachermeister x 3. Dorothee MEIER.

Wenn Du zum Namen D�E oder MEIER aus Ottenstein etwas hast, w�re ich Dir f�r Deine Daten dankbar. Ich bin bem�ht, in den n�chsten Wochen diesen Familien n�her auf den Grund zu gehen.

Viele Gr��e aus Langenhagen,


PS: n�chste Woche im Urlaub!

Hannover List --

Here is the rest of the story:

When Jürgen Ritter visited us here in Fayetteville, I showed him the Baxter book from which I got the information to write to his genealogical society in Hannover. He looked at it and said, "They have the wrong address." I said, "You got my letter, didn't you?"

I did not tell about how we happened to have those notes that gave all the Schäfer information from Ottenstein. My aunt in Salina, Kansas, had copied them from a first cousin of her father (and my grandfather). This cousin was the youngest daughter of the younger Schaefer brother who came to America. This cousin and her husband, a medical doctor, had been missionaries to China and Korea, starting in 1917. They returned from the mission field in 1931 and came back through Germany and visited in Ottenstein with her father's relatives there. This is when she collected the information about her father's parents and siblings.

I did not know all the details above, till later. Because I knew that this cousin, Ruth Schaefer Ewers, must have collected other valuable information, I sought to find her children. I knew that they had lived in Somerset, Kentucky, so I had a letter put in the newspaper there, asking for the whereabouts of the Ewers children. I had their names. Right away, I heard from a lady in Somerset who said that Ruth Ewers was still living and was in Nashville, Tenn., where her son was a doctor. I phoned him, and was lucky to get a return call from a doctor! When I asked about his mother, he said, "Why don't you talk to her?" He gave me her number and I called her. I had a great conversation with a 95-year-old very sharp lady. She was very pleased to hear from a Schaefer relative and had lost contact with them. She said, "You have made me so happy today." Every year thereafter we stopped to see her --- for seven more years. She was 102 the last time we saw her and she had me read a remarkable story that she had just written and submitted to Guidepost magazine. Guidepost never published her article, an unusual story about a near escape from death in China. She died a few months later. She always had interesting stories to tell us every time my wife and I visited her. While in Ottenstein in 1931, she took a picture of the old Schäfer haus with a box camera. She said she only had one shot left in her camera and prayed that it would turn out. It was a great picture! I told her we should all pray like that when we wanted a good picture.

Knowing Ruth Schaefer Ewers furnished many thrilling moments in my family history search.

Don Schaefer

Enjoyed part two also Don. Ruth was the base of it all, and you and Juergen the catalyst and dynamic. Top notch story. :wink:

Best regards, Jb