Wednesday, December 11, 2013

January Speaker & Meeting

Our January meeting will take place on January 12, 2014 at 2pm at the Immigrant Genealogical Society Library at 1310-B W. Magnolia Blvd, Burbank, CA.  Parking is available in the back of the building.

Our speaker for January will be Butch Hibben.   Butch Hibben serves as assistant director of the Corona Family History Center. He has a life long interest in genealogy that began when he helped his grandmother typing the family Group Sheets and Pedigree Charts for the family's Book of Remembrance. He was introduced to the Living Legacy Project in 2011 and now assists others in preserving their family heritage. His topic is "Living Legacy Project - Creating Your Life's Story."

Everyone is welcome!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What is your Pomeranian Identity (Part 2)


In August 0f 2013 Anne Mareike Schönle the Historian at the Pommersches Landesmuseum in Greifswald asked our members the question -What is your Pomeranian Identity? Seven people from our face book page answered and their answers were sent back to Mareike. She has sent us a second request which I have posted below:

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen

I have already contacted you to get information about your Pomeranian
ancestors and to learn where descendants of Pomeranian settlers live today.
As I am preparing a media-project on the Pomeranians' culture (for our
new permanent exhibition) I am interested in photographs of your
ancestors and yourselves. I know that this is a great request to make of
you and a great responsibility. If you send me some photos, we will keep
and safe them in our archive, in case they are printed.
It would be a pleasure to hear from you.
Yours siuncerely
Mareike Schönle

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren,

Ich kontaktierte sie bereits, um Informationen über Sie und Ihre
pommerschen Vorfahren zu erhalten. Da ich ein Medienprojekt über die
Kultur der Pommern vorbereite (für unsere neue Dauerausstellung),
interessiere ich mich für Fotografien von Ihren Vorfahren und Ihnen
selbst. Ich weiß, das ist eine große Bitte und Verantwortung. Wenn Sie
mir Fotos zusenden, werden wir sie in unserem Archiv aufbewahren, wenn
sie gedruckt werden.

Ich würde mich freuen, von ihnen zu hören!
Mit freundlichem Gruß
Mareike Schönle

Anne Mareike Schönle
Pommersches Landesmuseum
17489 Greifswald
Rakower Straße 9

Tel.: +49 3834 8312 23

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

October Pommern Special Interest Group Meeting - October 13, 2013.

The Pommern Special Interest Group will be having the October meeting on October 13, 2013 at 2 p.m. at the Immigrant Library (1310 Magnolia Blvd, Burbank, CA).  Parking is available behind the library.

Our speaker will be Alice Colby Volkert.  The topic will be "Through Their Eyes".  After using all the tried-and-true research strategies known, there are still some individuals that just can not be found! As far as researching individuals, we keep narrowing our field of vision until we have little hope of “seeing” anything new. But, if we stop and think about it and no longer try to use our own eyes, but turn around and use the eyes of the person we areinvestigating; we may “see” the solution. What did your mystery person see?

About Alice Colby Volkert: 
 Alice Colby Volkert is a professional genealogist who is involved in many aspects of genealogy.  She can research in any part of the United States. Alice enjoys being a coach, helping people make their own discoveries and organizing their data. She guides and assists people who want to 'do-it-themselves' or can do as much for anyone as they require. Alice was one of the researchers for the PBS television show "Genealogy Roadshow" airing September 23, 2013 on PBS.  She speaks at UGA, Expo and Jamboree Genealogy Conferences as well as local Family History Fairs and genealogy societies' meetings. Alice is on the board of the Southern California Chapter of the Association for Professional Genealogists. Alice is President of the Colby Family Association, the descendants of Anthony & Susannah Colby who arrived with the Winthrop Fleet. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Clickable Links or Summer Issue

The Summer issue of the periodical Die Pommerschen Leute was mailed yesterday (August 14, 2013) to those that subscribe to it. Margret Ott, contributed the following article “Pomerania – Villages and Maps that appears on pages 8-9. It has  a list of internet pages. For your convenience, this list appears with clickable links on our Facebook page and here on our blog.

 Villages in Polish Pomerania:
 Villages in German Pomerania
 Village encyclopedias
 Mapster (downloadable Maps) 1890-1952
 Topographic maps from some German locations
 Topographic maps from all Polish locations
 Maps of Poland today with even better aerial Pho-tos than Google
 Map that combines both Google maps and historic maps (click into the square at top left corner), ex-cellent for preparing a trip, because you can see both German and Polish village names
 Lovely and detailed maps from 1692-1709 from Swedish Pomerania at

Margret Ott lives in Germany and maintains the following websites (in German): and Her e-mail address is

Thank you for your contribution Margaret!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

What is your Pomeranian Identity?

The Pommern Special Interest Group was recently contacted by a researcher from the Pomeranian State Museum and is conducting research about individuals with ancestors from Pomerania that moved to other countries during the 19th century.  So the researcher has sent us some questions and if you have ancestors that immigrated to the United States (or other countries) during the 19th century, would you take a few minutes to answer the questions in the comments section?

1.) Prior to getting interested in genealogy and family history, were you aware of your Pomeranian identity?

2.) Do you still practice/preserve Pomeranian traditions and if so, how?

3.) Do you speak Low German?  Did you learn it in school or through family?


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Pomeranian Wedding Customs

"Das Aufgebot" refers to the posting of the banns prior to a marriage. Banns were posted on three consecutive Sundays before the marriage by both the bride's and the groom's pastors. The purpose for these banns was to bring attention to the congregation in order to elicit possible reasons as to why the marriage should not take place. It also was to encourage prayers from the congregation on behalf of the couple to be married.

A few weeks before every Pomeranian peasant wedding the Hochzeitbitter, (bridal boy) was on his way to invite the many guests to the wedding.  He was usually the younger, unmarried brother of the bride. He was dressed in Pommerscher Trachten (a Pommern folk costume) or a dark suit. His hat was decorated with a bouquet of flowers and colorful ribbons. He wore a little bunch of flowers in his buttonhole. In addition, green and white ribbons fluttered from the staff that he carried. He was welcomed in every house. He would stand in the living room and recite the invitation in verse form, either in High or Low German. Usually he ended with "You have accepted the invitation and will certainly attend the wedding." As payment for the invitation he would receive drink of Schnapps. A sign that the invitation was accepted a colorful handkerchief would be pinned on the back of his jacket. He wore these handkerchiefs on the day of the wedding, where he was the one to receive the guests or he helped to serve them.
On the evening before the wedding the young people made much noise as possible in order to frighten the evil spirits.

Neighbors and children could be depended upon to show up unannounced. Sometimes they brought chickens as gifts. These were then prepared for the wedding dinner.  Children would recite Polterabend verses and present the bride and the groom with small presents.

Tricks were often played on the bridal couple. A common one was to put a baby buggy on the top of the roof. It was not always easy for the groom to get it down again. Many times the guests would break pottery as a simple of a peaceful marriage for the bridal couple. The couple was expected to clean up all the broken pottery shards before sunrise and to bury them behind the house. This would be a sign of a peaceful marriage.

The  Pomeranian weddings usually took place on Friday. The first guest would arrive about 10 A.M. At the gate to the barnyard there would be a band to welcome them. Most guests came by coach. This custom was called the " Zur Hochzeit Einspielen". Each arriving party was expected to give a tip to the musicians.

The groom was not allowed to see the bride before the church door was reached. Her mother and her sisters helped the bride to dress. The bride wore black as seen in all the wedding pictures of the immigrants in the Claussen family. This custom was also followed in Schleswig Holstein.

The bride arrived at the church in a wagon decked with flowers. After the ceremony the bride and the groom would walk around a breiten stein (a huge field stone). In some places these were old graves. These were places to ask for a blessing from their ancestors. The bride would climb to the top of the stone and call out: " Here I stand all alone on a field stone whoever loves me, brings me down." Then the bridegroom would have to climb up and the two would begin a bridal dance.

After wards, the entire party returned home to a generous holiday type meal. There are a large number of chickens which had been killed so that "Das Glueck Gackern" ("happiness would cackle").

At the end of the meal, the cooks would recite a verse and collect their
" Kuekschengeld" (tip). Their verse would end with the words: " I want to thank you for the gift, but you should remember that the blessing comes from above". Then there would be dancing until midnight. The bride was expected to dance with every male attending. The groom would dance with every female guest. Every couple would tip the musicians again, so that they would continue to play until morning.

At the end, the wreath dance takes place. Every bachelor would try to get the bride's wreath away from her and her groom would do his best to prevent this from happening. In some parts of  Pommern the young unmarried girls would try to catch the bride's wreath and veil. Whoever succeeded was expected to be the next bride.

The last dance of the morning was the broom dance. The young men and women would stand facing each other. A young man would ride the broom between the couples, let it fall and find himself a partner. Whoever was left over would dance with the broom.

On the Sunday after the wedding, there was a party. The young couple would have to serve their guests in order to demonstrate that they could be generous hosts. This was an opportunity to see the gifts and the bride's trousseau.

On Tuesday after the wedding these gifts would be loaded onto a farm wagon and driven to the groom's farm. Sometimes a rooster was stolen from the bride's farm and would be let loose in the groom's barnyard. Everyone would watch the gift rooster fight with the rooster on the groom's farm.

It was a belief that depending upon which rooster won signified which of the bridal couple would rule the marriage in the future.


Martha and Les Riggle, WitchitaKansas
Elaine Kraft, Cedarburg Wisconsin
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper December 11, 2002

The Christmas Keeping Germans by Neita Oviatt Friend, Eagles Nest Publications Hartland Wisconsin 53029

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Funeral Customs in Pommern

In Vor Pommern, death was not something to fear, but it was seen as something inevitable. So to assist the dying to bridge the path to the other world, the Pastor was called to administer the last sacrament. When the final hour was near, the members of the immediate family would gather around the deathbed. All the windows were opened so there would be no obstacle to prevent the soul from going directly to heaven. A prayer was said and an appropriate song was sung. When death came, all the clocks in the house were stopped and the mirrors were covered. A mirror was an object of earthly vanity and was no longer needed. Covering the mirrors with a black cloth was believed to ban satanic powers.

At noon the following day, the church bell would ring at three different intervals. The gravediggers, usually the neighbors, had already left for the cemetery to prepare the grave. As soon as the sod was cleared the bells would ring for the first time. When half the digging was done, the bells would ring a second time. As soon as the work was done, the bells would ring the third and last time. Work stopped at each of the ringing of the bells.

The deceased was always laid out in the living room of the house in the morning. The coffin had to be placed so that the foot end was towards the door. It also had to be carried out that way, feet first, so that the deceased could not drag any of the mourners with him. The deceased shoes many times were laid outside near the entrance of the house. Often a hymnal was laid in the coffin so that the dead could immediately sing the praises of the Lord at judgment day.

A fishing net was placed in the coffin of a fisherman. A toy was placed in the coffin of a child. A candle was placed in the hands of an older person so that their souls would find their way to heaven. When an estate owner or farmer died, it was the custom that all the livestock is taken to the barnyard as soon as the body was taken out of the house. This was the way that the animals would know that their owner had passed away. The coffin was transported to the cemetery on a horse drawn wagon.
Everybody watched the horses. If the horses turned their heads in the direction of the farmstead, they believed this was a sign that someone in that house would be the next to die. If the horses stopped for a short time to rest in front of a house, death would come soon to someone living there.

After the burial, everyone went to church, where the Pastor would hold a service. The type of service held depended upon how much money the
Pastor received. The cost of a simple sermon was about a Taler. A sermon with what was called a Ruhmeszettel cost five Taler. In the Ruhmeszettel the pastor would mention all the good things the deceased had done.
There was a funeral repast at the house of the mourning after the church service. A meal was served usually chicken soup, roast beef, and some kind of sweet dessert. Later, coffee and cakes would be served in great quantities. At first the mourners wore solemn expressions on their faces, but after several servings of brandy, they soon loosened their expressions. Little by little, a cheerfulness replaced the sadness. In Vor Pommern funerals were always reasons for families to get together.

The Pomeranian culture and traditions lasted several generations but were lost during World War II when animosity toward Germans kept the culture in the closet for fear of persecution. Today some families are bringing these traditions back to their children. Harry Claussen (See:58 ii. 43) the grandfather of Annette Perrone (See: i. 59) always sang "O Tannenbaum" to his children and grandchildren at Christmas. These were special times and fondly remembered by all of us. It is hoped the older generations in the Claussen family will teach some of these traditions to their children and their grandchildren.

Martha and Les Riggle, WitchitaKansas
Elaine Kraft, Cedarburg Wisconsin
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper December 11, 2002
The Christmas Keeping Germans by Neita Oviatt Friend, Eagles Nest Publications Hartland Wisconsin 53029

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Christmas in Vor Pommern

Late in November the mother of the household gathered greens for the Advent Wreath. She placed four tall candles on a red and white tablecloth and greens around the window frames that gave a fragrance of pine throughout the house. The advent wreath was hung from the ceiling or placed on the table. One candle was lit on the first Sunday of December and one every Sunday until all were ready to glow together on Christmas Eve.

Der Weihnachtsmann, the "Christmas Man" would come knocking on the doors the first Sunday of Advent. He was usually a tall thin man with brown hair and a short beard, wearing a long tan coat with big bulging pockets. One of the pockets was filled with sweets, the other with note pads and pencils for the children to write on. He also wore a huntsman's hat with a sprig of green around the crown. He asked if the children wanted anything special for Christmas. They would hand him little notes with their requests. In some of the households the children would invite the Christmas man in and sing their wishes to him. They believed that he would deliver the gifts himself, to save the Christ Child work and they included all of the family in the last verse.

The families sang Christmas songs such as "Away in the Manger " or "Joy to the World" every evening. At dusk on Christmas Eve the family would sit down for a candlelight meal. They would have hot spiced cider, appetizers such as Kock Käse mit Schwartzbrot (cooked cheese spread with dark bread), Heringe Nach Hausfrauenart (pickled creamed herring) and Rugenwald tea sausage. After they ate the mother of the family would herd all the children into one area of the house and told them to close their eyes. The parents would sing "O Come Little Children." When the children turned around they were told to open their eyes to see the firtree on the table with candles glowing on it. The tips of each branch had a small cross ornament, gilded nuts and colored glass ornaments. Everyone sang "O Tannenbaum" and the father would sing "From Heaven High" (Martin Luther's Children's Hymn).  The mother many times would play the harpsichord.

On Christmas morning there were crocheted and knitted gifts under the tree. They consisted of mittens or socks and fruit. Choirboys from the church were caroling in the streets. Bells rang from the church. The family then attended church services and after arriving home ate a Christmas dinner. The meal consisted of Kirschsuppe (warm cherry soup with dumplings), Pommerscher Gansebraten with stuffing (roast goose), Rotkohl mit Apfeln (red cabbage with apples) and Sulz were Christmas Specialties. Sulz was made from diced veal, carrots, celery, root and onion seasoned to taste and molded in its own liquid, sometimes thick enough to slice and always-served cold. There was dark rye bread filled with caraway seed, an assortment of smoked fish and meat sliced thin and various kinds of sausages. Dinner ended with sweets such as Kuchen, Schokolade pudding (steamed chocolate pudding with hard sauce), Klötternüsse cookies and candy.

Martha and Les Riggle, WitchitaKansas
Elaine Kraft, Cedarburg Wisconsin
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper December 11, 2002
The Christmas Keeping Germans by Neita Oviatt Friend, Eagles Nest Publications Hartland Wisconsin 53029

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Hank Jones will be Guest Speaker at July 14, 2013 Meeting

The Pommern Special Interest Group is pleased to announce that Hank Jones will be the guest speaker for the July 14, 2013 meeting at 2 p.m. at the Immigrant Genealogy Library located at 1310 Magnolia Avenue, Burbank, CA.  The topic is How 'Psychic Roots' Became An 'Unsolved Mystery.  All are welcome.

Hank Jones Biography:
Henry Z ("Hank") Jones, Jr. has been actively climbing family trees since the age of, and, since his graduation from Stanford, has specialized in tracing 18th century German emigrants. His books on the subject include The Palatine Families of Ireland, the two-volume The Palatine Families of New York - 1710 (winner of the Donald Lines Jacobus Award as "Best Genealogical Work of the Year"), More Palatine Families, Westerwald To America, and his brand new three volume set Even More Palatine Families. Hank has written many articles over the years that have appeared in The American Genealogist, The National Genealogical Society Quarterly, The New England Historical & Genealogical Register, The New York Genealogical & Biographical Record and other major publications. He recently received the NGS Award of Merit for "Distinguished Work in Genealogy" and has been elected a Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists, of whom there are only fifty in the world. Hank has served on the national board of the Genealogical Speaker's Guild, as a Trustee of the Association of Professional Genealogists, and as a consultant on the popular NBC-TV program Who Do You Think You Are?

As to his "other life" apart from genealogical research (and being a 3-day JEOPARDY! champion), Hank Jones was a film actor for twenty-five years. He appeared in many movies, among them eight films for Walt Disney studios (such as "Blackbeard's Ghost," costarring with Peter Ustinov, Dean Jones, & Suzanne Pleshette) and the Academy Award winning “Tora-Tora-Tora.” He was a familiar face on nearly 500 national tv commercials and has been featured on over 300 network tv shows such as "My Three Sons," "Family Affair," "Petticoat Junction, " "Mod Squad," "The Patty Duke Show," "Mork & Mindy," "The Jeffersons," and "Love Boat" which still come back to haunt him on cable tv today. His new book Memories – The Show-Biz Part Of My Life tells of some of his off-the-wall experiences working with major stars such as Henry Fonda, Fred MacMurray, Ron Howard, Robin Williams, Patsy Cline, Bob Hope, Minnie Pearl, Ringo Starr, and Elvis Presley. Hank also was active as a singer and songwriter, co-starring on ABC-TV's Tennessee Ernie Ford Show, writing Mel Tormé’s hit song “Midnight Swinger,” and recording albums and singles on RCA and Capitol Records. In Fred Astaire’s biography Puttin’ On The Ritz, Hank was named as one of Mr. Astaire’s very favorite recording artists. Hank’s newest CDs are currently released on Epitomé Records.

Hank's bestseller, Psychic Roots: Serendipity & Intuition in Genealogy and its sequel More Psychic Roots, studies of how intuitive nudges and serendipitous events sometimes influence our genealogical searches, are now in their 9th printings. They were dramatized on NBC's "Unsolved Mysteries" program to good response from inside and outside the genealogical community.

TIME Magazine recently had a cover story devoted to genealogy and chose to close the article and tie things together with a quote from - Hank Jones.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Easter in Vor Pommern

Easter celebrations were started with "Gruendonnerstag" on Holy Thursday when the people would eat something green. The old farmers put fresh eggs in the attic for good luck and good health for all those that lived in the house. Good Friday was called "Stillfreitag" when everything was to be quiet and calm, even in church, the organ was not played.

On Palm Sunday the families would gather willow branches and put them in a warm place in the house to make them green calling them "Osterstiepen." The church bells would ring and after that the young boys would collect wood for the "Osterfeuer" - Easter fire. The wood was placed on a hill and set ablaze. Everyone wanted the biggest "Osterfeuer." The charcoal was taken home where many believed it had some salutary force.

On Easter Sunday, the farmhand did not work. The estate owners did not want conflict with the church. On Easter morning the children would wake their parents with a light stroke they called "Stueben." They said a rhyme asking that their parents would give them "Eier Kuchen, or Groschen" (eggs, cake, or a dime). The children would then proceed to visit godparents and other family members with the same procedure.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Baptism Traditions and Customs in Vor - Pommern

It was important that the child be baptized as quickly as possible after his birth, especially when a baby was born at the same time and in the same village where there had been a death and the body was not yet buried. The baptism had to take place before the burial because it was feared that the spirit of the dead who had not been buried could cause the child to grow up to be an evil person, or even to die. The people connected this belief to certain Bible passages in which the spirits are mentioned.

There was another totally different custom in some homes where twins were born. The pastor would only see one child when he arrived at the family's home. The other child had disappeared. Someone had hidden it under the baptismal table. When the mother was asked for the reason for this, she said that in her family it was the custom to baptize one child at a time. She could not give any other explanation. Obviously she confused baptismal customs with certain superstitions.

It was believed that when a child was born between eleven and twelve o'clock in the morning, that child would be able to predict the future.

In still another house the father of the newborn would go into the garden and plant a tree. He believed the child would grow up to be strong and good. For a boy he would choose an apple tree. A pear tree was chosen for a girl. For twins he would plant a cherry tree.

Water plays an important role in baptism. It was supposed to have healing powers. One woman told of how she had saved the baptismal water and used it to make milksop, using it as a medicine to make her sick children well. Another funny story about baptismal water was that if two children of different sexes are baptized with the same water, the boy would never grow a beard, but the girl would.

The godparents played an important baptismal role. It was believed that their behavior could influence the life of the child. Often the father and mother did not go to the church with the godparents to baptize their child. Usually aunts and uncles were chosen. In the case of a boy there would be two males and one female.  In the case of a girl there would be two females and one male. The father of a boy could select two relatives from his family to act as godparents while his wife could only choose one of her relatives. If the child was a girl the mother could select two relatives from her family to act as godparents while her husband could only choose one of his relatives. Among the godparents there had to be a young woman chosen, so that this honor could be bestowed upon her for the first time. She was then known as the "Jungfer Paten." She was the one selected to carry the child to the church and to the baptismal font, if she walked quickly it was believed that the child would walk early.

The normal christening was usually held on a Sunday right after church services. The entire congregation would stay to witness it.  Immediately after the baptism the godparents would slip their "Patengeschenk" under the pillow of the child. This was usually two Taler. The taler was placed in a small envelope with a pious saying written on the outside.

The hand used in the giving of the baptismal present was also important. If the present were given with the left hand, the child would be would be left-handed. For that reason it was important that the present be given with the right hand. The godparents also would never touch the child with gloves on because this might make the child weak with tiny hands.

It was the custom for the parents to give a letter to the godparents at the same time the baptismal present was given. The godparent dared not leave the room before it was opened. He or she could do something impure, and that would make the child impure.

The godparents recited an old verse when the child was returned to
his mother. "Einen Heiden hab ich rausgetragen, einen Christen bring ich wieder. Dies nun wuensch ich meinem Paten, dass er moege wohlgeraten. Lasst ihn in die Schule gehn, lehrt den Katechismus fein. Wo ihr eltern nicht koennt sein, da will ich zur Hilfe stehn." (Rough English translation: I bring a Christian back to you. I now wish that he would like his godparents. Now I leave it to the school that will teach the catechism to him. When the parents are not available I want to be of assistance in his care.) There are many examples of the close relationship between godparents and their godchildren.

Martha and Les Riggle, WitchitaKansas
Elaine Kraft, Cedarburg Wisconsin
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper December 11, 2002
The Christmas Keeping Germans by Neita Oviatt Friend, Eagles Nest Publications Hartland Wisconsin 53029

Photo: Used via Creative Commons License from Flickr user Stuart Williams

Friday, January 11, 2013


Welcome to the Pommern Special Interest Group Blog!

For those of you who don't know, the Pommern Special Interest Group is a group sponsored by the Immigrant Genealogy Society in Burbank, California.  The group specializes in Pomeranian genealogy, culture, and history.

Never heard of Pomerania?  Pomerania is a historical region bordered on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea in what is now north eastern Germany (Mecklenberg Vor Pommern) and most of Western Poland  Below is a map that shows The German Empire from 1871 - 1918, a time period where many Pomeranians were immigrating to America.

The Pommern Special Interest Group publishes Die Pommerschen Leute (The Pommern People), a quarterly newsletter.  The newsletter features articles with tips for researching Pomeranian ancestors, as well as genealogical information submitted by subscribers.  You can subscribe to the Die Pommerschen Leute here.

This blog will feature research success stories, research hints and tips for Pommern research, and group announcements.

You can visit the Pommern Special Interest Group at the Immigrant Genealogy Society Library:
1310-B W. Magnolia Blvd.
Burbank, California 91506

Office hours for the library are: 
Wednesday 12 - 5 p.m.
1st and 3rd Saturday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
2nd and 4th Sunday 12 - 5 p.m.

Meeting This Sunday, January 13, 2013 at 2 p.m.  All are welcome to attend!