Follow that name …

As I crawl out of my latest rabbit hole, I wonder if my discoveries down there are of any interest at all to anyone outside of my immediate family. Yes, this particular rabbit hole weaves in and out around the roots of the German side of the family tree, and although I have now added a dozen or so new names I know very little about the individuals. 

Records for “ordinary” people are scant in fourteenth and fifteenth century German provinces so we can’t be absolutely sure whether the person we have tracked down really is our  15th great-grandfather, but sometimes the line does seem to hold up. At any rate, some of these people have very evocative names that roll around on the tongue, so we’d really like them to be our ancestors simply for that reason. Who wouldn’t want to claim Anna Magdalena Ham Charau or Vuarin Marin Augustin as great-grandparents? Or Königunda Zollmann-Zinck?

I have now come across forefathers who lived in the beautiful alliterative village of Traben-Trarbach at the end of the fourteenth century. The earliest identified, born about 1385, are Peter Holderbaum von Corvey and his wife Anna Glessgin. These are the eighteenth great-grandparents of my daughter. Corvey was a Benedictine abbey in North-Rhine Westphalia so this “von” is not an indication of nobility but simply an indication of where Peter Holderbaum had come from. See

Peter’s son Michael Holderbaum von Corvey married the delightful sounding Elssgin von Leurtzbeuren (my daughter’s seventeenth great-grandmother) about 1440. I haven’t identified Leurtzbeuren, but Elssgin is a diminutive form of Elsa. 

I know absolutely nothing about this family, apart from their names and a few key dates. Sometimes, frustratingly, will provide me with lots of information for instance about the father-in-law of a seventh grand-aunt, but nothing whatsoever about the person I am actually researching. Still, eventually we all get back to Charlemagne!

This particular line records the antecedents of my daughter’s fourth great-grandmother, Maria Katharina or Catherine Buchheit, who became Catherine Sommer – my namesake – on her marriage to Johann Georg Sommer in 1801. The Buchheits were very prolific over the centuries, so if you find one or more in your tree, it may well be a shared ancestor with us. Many of them emigrated to the United States. I’m also intrigued by the variations in spelling, reflecting different pronunciations of this name, and am wondering if that dear fictitious lady Hyacinth Bucket may also have sprung from this root?

Incidentally, I found four consecutive generations of my daughter’s direct ancestors bearing my name! Catherine Buchheit-Sommer’s mother-in-law was Catherine Hafner, born in 1754 in Alsace, and married Joseph Sommer in 1774 (fifth great-grandparents). Her son Georg Michael Sommer married Katharina Regina Becker (third great-grandparents). By that time, the fashion for Frenchifying names was over, so this third namesake retained her German spelling, and passed it on to her daughter Anna Maria Katharina. 

These are, of course, not my ancestors but my in-laws – however, I can’t help wondering what these women were like, and if we have any traits in common apart from our name.

6 thoughts on “Follow that name …

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