Sunday, November 18, 2012

Family history places: the Teufelsmoor

God bless the Germans and their meticulous record keeping! Unfortunately, you usually need a PLACE name and not a FAMILY name to find the right book, but if you know the place, German OFBs, or ortsfamilienbücher, or sippenbuch, or family book, can be an absolute GODSEND in breaking down brick walls. I recently came across one with possibly reliable info on my Tiedemann/Buckmann family lines - my 3rd great grandmother, Meta Tiedemann, who was married to John Ricklefs (whose whole family is still a massive brick wall!!!) was born in Mittelstenahe, Hanover, Germany to John Henry/ Johann Heinrich Tiedemann and Meta Buckmann. Meta or Mette Buckman was born in Lamstedt, Hanover, but her father, Johann Friedrich, was born near Osterholz, which is close to the city of Bremen. Anyway, a helpful distant cousin had provided me with some of Meta's heritage when he came across me online, but this OFB I came across traces her family back all the way to the 1600s, which is very exciting. But I have yet to verify it - my gut is telling me its reliable, but I only just discovered it this past week so I need to do more work on it.

But this post is not about the Buckmanns. This post is about where the Buckmanns lived and came from. So often we forget that our family members not only lived, they lived in a place and in a time, both things of which affected their lives - what they did, how they lived, how long they lived, why they moved there or from there, etc. etc. So I found info in this OFB for the Buckmanns - Johann Friedrich was born near Osterholz around 1790, as was his father 30 years before, and HIS parents as well. But this OFB I found was for the Teufelsmoor, a name I had never come across before but was obviously the area of Germany where the Buckmanns of the Osterholz region lived. So, according to Wikipedia, the Teufelsmoor is a region of bog and moorland north of Bremen, Germany, forming a large part of the district of Osterholz. It is 190 square miles in size - literally, "Teufelsmoor" means "devil's bog" or "devil's moor," but really the name means unfertile or dead bog or moor.

"The outer edges of the Teufelsmoor were first settled in the 17th and 18th centuries. Around 1750 the colonisation of the entire moor began ... The settlers were simple farmhands and maids from the surrounding area, who were attracted by the prospect of having their own property and being freed from taxes and military service. Until well into the 20th century the living conditions in these moor colonies were anything other than quaint or attractive. An impression of the very poor circumstances is given by the Low German saying "Den Eersten sien Dood, den Tweeten sien Noot, den Drüdden sien Broot" (translates as something like "The first gets death, the second gets misery, the third gets bread."). Life expectancy in the dark, damp bog dwellings was short and the moor's soils were unsuited to farming."

"An extensive network of drainage channels was created, the main drainage ditches being built to act simultaneously as canals for boats. At that time massive inroads were made into the environment and millions of cubic metres of peat were cut. The peat was sold for heating fuel and shipped to Bremen using peat barges. The embankments running alongside these canals were used by burlaks to haul the barges and also opened up the 'long-street villages' (Straßendorf) following the practice in the fen (Fehn) regions. From the embankments the narrow and very long strips of land (Hufen) that ran out into the moor were farmed. ... By harvesting the layers of peat and draining the land the climatic conditions of the entire area were changed considerably. By the end of the 19th century the keeping of dairy cattle had spread to the area."

So this was a time period when my Buckmanns (and related families) lived in that area, and if you look at how old they were when they died, they were in their 30s-50s. I am not well versed as to the political and military situation in that area of Germany at that time, so I don't know why they moved to that region, and I don't know what they did for a living, but I can guess...if they in fact cut and sold peat, it sounds like a hard life that was unfortunately also a short life, and definitely gives some insight into why Johann Friedrich Buckmann eventually left the Teufelsmoor to move north to Lamstedt.

Anyway, I found it interesting to read about this place. As much as I'm learning about my German heritage, there's so much I still don't know about not just my family but about German history itself. A research project for a rainy day, perhaps! :) 

File:Teufelsmoor.jpg
The Teufelsmoor.

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