Cousin Maria Gärtz and Linda Gartz visiting Gerstheim (May, 2011)

Cousin Maria Gärtz and Linda Gartz visiting Gerstheim (May, 2011) a German town and our ancestral home in Alsace. The original church no longer exists, but its records have been microfilmed.

So who was the first bold soul who started the bloodline of “Görz/Gerz/Gärtz in Neppendorf (my grandfather, Josef’s home town) after  trekking the 1,000 miles from Gerstheim in Alsace to Siebenbürgen/Transylvania, where hundreds of thousands of other ethnic Germans had made their home since the 12th century?

He was an eight-month-old baby!

It took a village to make this discovery, and I’ve been lucky enough to have “villagers” come forth to help when I least expected it.

In the last post I described how my brothers and I received a genealogy of the “Gärtz/Gerz” family when we visited my grandfather’s church in Romania (see Churches and Spilling Secrets).

Evangelical Lutheran Church Neppendorf, interior

Evangelical Lutheran Church Neppendorf, interior

The Neppendorf Church’s genealogy stated that “Michael Gerz,” born in 1771, emigrated from Gerstheim in Alsace and was the guy from whom all others with the name “Gerz/Gärtz — even Görz/Goerz” in Neppendorf came from. I wanted to learn more about the family’s roots in Alsace.

Enter Monica Ferrier, a specialist in emigrants from Siebenbürgen to North America, (Monica helped me find the ship that brought Josef Gärtz to New York. See Mystery of the Missing Manifest).

In an email exchange with Monica about the Gerz/Gärtz/Görz/Goerz family origins in Gerstheim, she sent me this detail from a reliable genealogical reference source known as W & K (for Wilhelm und Kallbrunner, the authors).

Translated into English, it reads:

WK 326.56 Johann Gortz 5 Persons.  Farmer left Gerstheim in or around 1770 for Grosspold.

Whoa! Something is amiss!

1.  The timing is too close to be coincidental, so some date must be off –either the date of birth of the “first Neppendorfer,” Michael Gerz (listed as 1771), OR the date of leaving Gerstheim (recorded as 1770)

2.  What about the name? The Görtz vs Gerz is a no-brainer — varied spellings on phonetically-identical names.  But the emigrant in the above record is listed as Johann — and he went to Grosspold — my grandmother’s home town, not Neppendorf, where the Gärtz clan settled.

3. What about “Michael” who was supposed to be the “first” Neppendorfer? The Neppendorf church genealogy noted his father’s name was “Johann,” and this record shows: “Johann Gortz – 5 people” went to Grosspold. Could that be Johann, his wife and three children? Was Michael one of the children who then later moved to Neppendorf?

Time to look at the original church records from Gerstheim.

Enter cousin Maria Gärtz who grew up in Neppendorf, in the same house in which my grandfather had lived.  Several years back, Maria had hired a researcher to retrieve some family-relevant church documents from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Gerstheim, Alsace. She sent me copies of the four separate print-outs from microfilm files dating back go 1753.

Time to get my Rosetta Stone, Meta involved. Thanks to my “village” of helpers, I was able to make sense of this mixed up genealogy, learned details of my ancestors’ lives, and discovered how an 8 month old baby became the first of the Goerz/Gärtz clan in Neppendorf, and my g-g-g grandpa.

It takes a village to find an ancestor!