Ancestral Home in Germany

Through my wife’s research on the Internet, we found wonderful Heimbach cousins in Pennsylvania who documented the family genealogy back eight generations. They identified the community of Heimbach in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany as our ancestral home. With the ease of flying into Frankfurt, we took off to visit Heimbach and the surrounding countryside.

Ancestral Home in Germany

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by jrheimbach on December 31, 2002

At the time of our visit, the exchange rate between the US dollar and the Euro was $1 to .9985 Euro. The almost a one-to-one rate made easy mental mathematics for our purchases and expenditures.

Everything was so clean. We saw people out sweeping the sidewalks and wiping off the building exterior walls. Even the public restrooms showed a high degree of cleanliness which was much appreciated!

Conservation of resources was apparent everywhere. The countryside was dotted with large windmills, as the wind helps to generate more electricity. The church where we attended services on Sunday was not heated inside; people kept their coats on to stay warm. Inside lights were either very dim or off. Napkins were made of cloth, not paper, and we drank coffee from china cups at restaurants. I even noticed that the paper towels in the public restrooms were smaller in size than those in the United States. Less waste. I think Americans could learn from these successful conservation efforts. ${QuickSuggestions} Ask fellow guides for assistance! My thanks to two IGOUGO guides (Irene and Becks) that responded to my email inquiries when trying to make arrangements for this trip. I appreciated their valuable help.

The month of December is a time of holiday and vacation in Germany, so plan ahead. We made several calls before finding an open hotel with available rooms. We also discovered that many places (including restaurants and gasoline stations) are closed on Sunday.

There had been some discussion on a message board about cup holders in cars and how that did not appear to be an item of necessity in Germany. After our visit, I would wholeheartedly agree. We did not see paper cups or drinks-to-go anywhere. When we stopped for refreshments, we actually stopped. No hurrying through a drive-through restaurant! We relaxed and enjoyed the opportunity to have a bite to eat. I believe we actually saw more of Germany in this manner as we visited with local people at the restaurants, learning from them. ${BestWay} With our plans taking us off the beaten path, we had a rental car which was easily obtained at the Frankfurt airport. The car return was not as easy, as we were in a time crunch and did not see a gasoline station near the Frankfurt airport exits. We paid the extra high rate for gasoline by having Alamo fill the car for us.

We took a few minutes when getting the rental car to identify a few cities that were on our route and find them on the map. That greatly helped our initial navigation when leaving the airport as we immediately found our route. We only took an incorrect turn once when my wife, who was supposed to be watching the signs, was too busy watching the scenery. This minor detour rerouted us through a beautiful part of Germany that we would not have seen otherwise.

Some sections of the Autobahn (near major cities) have speed limits, with cameras taking pictures of speeding offenders. I was surprised as I envisioned people driving at unbelievable speeds without restrictions. We did witness drivers using their left turn signal indicating their desire for people to get out of their way.


Member Rating 3 out of 5 by jrheimbach on January 1, 2003

We chose Baumholder as our overnight location, as the town of Heimbach was just a few kilometers to the west. We learned from my distant relations that they stayed in Baumholder when tracking down the genealogy information of our family history as overnight accommodations were not available in the small community of Heimbach.

As we rounded the corner driving into Baumholder, we immediately noticed the rows of military barracks. None of us knew about the presence of this military base and were truly surprised. We thought Baumholder was a German community, unaffected by American influence. No wonder people at the hotels we called spoke such perfect English. Most of the people must stay on the base, as we did not see US military out and about--not in the town, in the restaurants, or in church.

Berghof hotel is located more towards the city center, away from the military base. A small underground garage is available for parking, requiring us to use a narrow and dark set of stairs to reach the lobby. Even though our rooms were on the first floor, we still had to climb another flight of stairs. I did not see an elevator in the building. All hall lights were on timers, allowing just the right amount of time to open the room door and enter.

The hotel room was sufficiently large containing a dresser and two twin beds pushed together as a double bed. The bathroom was angled over in the corner. I pulled the shades which completely darkened the room so that we could take a quick nap before heading out for the evening.

Breakfast was included in the price of the room and I was graciously allowed to carry a tray of coffee back up to my room to drink while my wife and I got ready that morning. I chuckled at the offerings of American-like cereal (little boxes of Honey Peanut Circles and Chocolate Puffs), and passed right over them. I selected the thinly sliced meats and cheeses from the trays, along with a soft-boiled egg.

Our only disappointment came at check-out time. The sign in the hotel clearly showed the acceptance of credit cards and we had asked about using credit cards when making reservations. The clerk showed her disappointment when I pulled out my card to pay for the room. She made feeble attempts to run the card through the machine, flicking her wrist so that the credit card strip did not make proper contact. "It doesn’t work," she declared. I paid her cash which she accepted excitedly. My brother-in-law experienced the same problem when he checked out. We think that she did not want the credit card overhead. I don’t know what we would have done if we did not have sufficient money on hand. I prefer to use my credit card for payments while traveling and was not pleased to relinquish so much of my money at the first hotel.

Gaathaus Hintern Fels

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by jrheimbach on December 31, 2002

We took as many pictures as possible before the sun set that evening. We had arrived in the small community of Heimbach/Nahe, the documented home of my European ancestors. We drove up the side of the hills, taking pictures of the town below. We walked around the center of town, capturing the brook. ("Heimbach" translates to "Home Brook.") After sunset, the only place open was the bar. We moseyed over that way for a beer and to meet some people.

All eyes turned to this set of strangers who walked into the bar. My brother-in-law asked the waitress if she spoke English. "A little," she replied hesitantly. "Would you like a Christmas beer?" We tried to explain why we stopped to visit, but our message was not translating well. Finally, I pulled out my driver’s license and showed them my name. The waitress’s eyes lit up. "Heimbach, surname!" she announced and showed my driver’s license to a group of people gathered around the bar. One person approached us, speaking excellent English. "There are five towns of Heimbach in Germany. How do you know you have the right town?" With that question, I pulled out a lapel pin of the family crest, the same crest painted on the signs of Heimbach/Nahe. The unbelievers believed, and I became an instant celebrity!

In talking with people, we learned that the population of Heimbach/Nahe is only about 1,200, and no one in the town had our surname. People asked about living in the States and how we came to know about Heimbach. They were fascinated with our stories of Heimbach family reunions and the size of the Heimbach clan that extended from the two Heimbach brothers who left this town and migrated to Pennsylvania.

The Christmas beer was from Kirner, a darker beer with a bit of a sweet taste. The bartender inquired as to who was our driver and firmly stated, "Two beers. No more." I wasn’t driving, and chuckled when the waitress called out, "Mister Heimbach, Mister Heimbach, would you like another Christmas beer?" I was called "Mister Heimbach" or "Herr Heimbach" the entire evening, with everyone pronouncing my name in correct German. They laughed when we shared the American pronunciation of my name.

I’m certain that people’s friendliness was due to my heritage and the novelty of the visitors from the States. After all, I was the descendent of the prodigal ancestor returning home.

Backerei Kondtorei Cafehaus

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by jrheimbach on January 1, 2003

We stopped in Kirchheimbolanden to exchange dollars for euros and to have lunch. Having driven about an hour southwest of Frankfurt, we were getting hungry and anxious to try German food. Exiting from the Autobahn, we immediately drove into the city’s commerce district and found parking.

We walked a short block to a building with an ATM sign and used my bank card to open the external door. Fortunately, the ATM offered instructions in English, so we successfully withdrew the needed euros for our traveling. A line of people had formed by this time (I guess we must have been a bit slow completing our transactions), so we decided to ask for lunch recommendations. No one there spoke English. We loved it! One of our traveling goals is to see as much of that country’s culture as possible, minimizing the tourist effects. My brother-in-law used the word "café" and mimicked the motion of eating with a fork. Graciously, one person stood with us outside and used arm and hand motions to send us off in the direction of a restaurant.

It was a successful communication, as we arrived at the Backerei Kondtorei Cafehaus, a quaint little bakery and café in the city center. Lace curtains hung on the window and vines grew on the outside walls of the building. We walked into the bakery portion of the building, greeted by the wonderful aroma of freshly baked goods. I immediately picked out a Stollen Struzel, and my wife selected a smaller pastry. Although the menu was in German only, we did decipher that soup and sandwiches could be ordered. Too late. We had already seen the beautiful pastries in the bakery window. My mind was made up.

After some effort, we communicated that I wanted a glass of milk (a dictionary would have been handy here), and my wife ordered Tasse Kaffee. Although a small, informal dining room sat behind the bakery, we were escorted to the adjoining, and more formal, dining room. We sat at a corner table, where we enjoyed the view of the town. Our pastries and drinks were served, and we watched as people in town hung their Christmas decorations. As I anticipated, the pastry was delicious and I savored each bite. I wanted to purchase some more to eat later in the day, but we decided that we’d rather try different food from a café at our next stop.

Backerei Kondtorei Cafe
Edenbornerstrasse 5

Stadtkrug BBQ

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by jrheimbach on January 1, 2003

"I did not come to Germany to eat Chinese food," my wife announced. We had already driven through the entire town of Baumholder several times looking for an open restaurant, and finally found an open sign at a Chinese restaurant. I looked down the street and saw another lighted sign for barbecue. "Let’s try this restaurant instead," I suggested, and we walked over to Stadtkrug.

The warmth of the room greeted us as we walked through the door. I immediately noticed a large hearth with an open fire. A large grill sat in the flames, and food was cooking over this open fire.

The hostess seated us immediately, directing us to the one empty table. There were only a dozen or so tables and booths in this section of the restaurant. Another room of tables was located on the other side of the entrance, near the restrooms, so the restaurant could handle larger groups of people if needed. One wall was decorated with license plates from the United States. I concluded that these came from the cars off the military base located in Baumholder.

The menus included both German and English narratives, so we were able to make our dinner selections. I ordered pork tips and noodles and my brother-in-law requested the beef tips and noodles. My wife wanted the plain schnitzel, but the waitress put her hands on her hips and said, "No. You must have schnitzel with gravy." Knowing that most restaurant servers know the good things to eat, my wife agreed to take the waitress’s suggestion. When asked if my wife wanted baked potato, french fries, or house potatoes, my wife asked for the waitress’s suggestion. "Get the house potatoes," the waitress promptly replied. We also order Bitburger beer, which was quickly brought to our table, and we sipped while waiting for our meal.

My wife’s dinner was the best. The schnitzel was not greasy, and was perfectly seasoned. The amount of gravy was generous and did enhance her dinner. The potatoes tasted great. Every time my wife and her brother engaged in conversation, I reached over to her plate and grabbed a forkful of either schnitzel or potatoes. My brother-in-law likewise did the same. Her plate was polished clean and I don’t think she had the opportunity to eat much of her dinner. I generously shared my noodles with her!

Stadtkrug Barbecue Restaurant & Hotel
Poststraße 12
Baumholder, Liebenburg, 55774
49 (0) 6783 1010

Christmas Fairs

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by jrheimbach on January 1, 2003

We stopped at two Christmas markets while traveling through Germany during the first weekend of December. Each town had its own customs and flair for its market, and all of them had plenty of food and drink.

The community of Heimbach hosted its Christmas market up by the school. Food booths and the beer garden were outside, and all the crafts booths were inside what appeared to be the school cafeteria or all-purpose room. My wife had minimal selections from the dozen or so booths, but she was determined to bring back something from the town of Heimbach. After walking around the room twice, she settled on a set of hand-crocheted doilies, buying one for herself and one for each of our two daughters. "Handmade in Heimbach," she stated, justifying her purchase.

The fun part of the fair was outside. The booths and trees were decorated with lights--strings of 40-watt light bulbs. We bought a cup of a warm German drink which tasted better after adding a dash of amaretto. The smell of grilled bratwurst was too tempting, and I purchased one. The long sausage was placed between a small round roll, so I cut the bratwurst in half and filled the roll. Excellent!

Later that day, we stopped at the Christmas fair in Trier. We did not see any open restaurants while driving through the town, and quickly decided to stop at this market and sample its food. A small band of high-school-age kids stood in front of the large tent, playing Christmas music. A booth of baked goods and candies sat to the left of the tent entrance, and a large food booth was on the opposite side of the tent opening. This small market offered only 15 to 20 booths; most of the merchandise reflected the crafts of the area. My wife found a beautiful dried floral arrangement, but we did not have the means to safely get it home. I’m not certain if the flora would pass Customs, either. The food booth offered two selections. We were trying to decipher the signs and no one at the booth spoke English. I did not have any problem, just pointing to the grilled bratwurst. I could easily eat another one. My wife wanted the sauerkraut dish, but wasn’t certain how to order it. She looked for people who might have that selection so she could point, but settled for a bratwurst as well. Just after she started her lunch, someone ordered the sauerkraut, which came with a stack of potato pancakes and two sausages. My brother-in-law and wife both sighed with disappointment. They would have grabbed up the potato pancakes if they had only known. Oh well, next time!

Kirner beer had its own booth, so we grabbed a draw of this lighter German beer to accompany our lunch. We also purchased a few baked goods from the booth to have as dessert as we walked around the Christmas market that afternoon.

Trier, Historic Roman City
Western Germany Near Luxembourg
Munich, Germany
49 651 978080


Member Rating 0 out of 5 by jrheimbach on December 31, 2002

My wife’s interest in genealogy has elevated our interest in different parts of the world and encouraged us to expand our travel plans to include locations important to my family history, primarily returning to this ancestral homeland in Germany.

As we traveled through this section of Germany, I noted the strong resemblance of this geographic area to the same section of Pennsylvania where the Heimbach family settled back in the 1700s. I could envision my ancestors’ assessment of the land in Pennsylvania, with a positive reaction to an area of such familiarity and possible comfort. I have a better appreciation for the strength and fortitude of my ancestors to move from this community to unknown challenges in a land across the ocean.

For those of you who have genealogy information showing the roots of your ancestors, I would encourage you to seek out and visit these towns. Walk the streets of your many-times great-grandparents and see if you feel the connection!

Most of the following information on my family tree was made available from the hard work and efforts of several of my distant cousins. I am truly grateful to them for sharing all these genealogy facts with me. Johannes Heimbach (b. ca. 1680) married Anna Maria Angelica (b. ca. 1685) ca 1703. Records of Johannes and Anna Maria Angelica are located in the Catholische Bischofstum Archiv in Trier, Germany. Trier (in the westernmost part of Germany, close to Luxembourg) is the oldest city in Germany, and is the German center of the Catholic faith. The records in Trier cover Catholic parishes in the Palatine. Their sixth child, Joes Petrus (Johannes Peter), christened on 04 Sep 1714, married Mary Louisa (b. ca. 1718 and d. ca. 1746/47) ca. 1735 and married Mary Elizabeth ca. 1747. Peter and his first wife, Maria Louisa, had five children, who were born in Germany where they lived in Heimbach an der Nahe, a small village a few kilometers to the west of Baumholder, where they attended church. Records of this family are found in the Baumholder Lutheran Kirchenbuch, located today in the Evangelische Archiv in Boppard, Germany. Peter Heimbach II (1738) married Mary Barbara ? ca. 1764. Henrich (Henry) Heimbach (b. 1769, d. 1823) married Anna Catherine Haines(b. 1774, d. 1860) in 1795. Henry Heimbach, Jr. (b. 1804, d. 1884) married Elizabeth Hook (b. 1809, d. 1860) ca. 1828. William Nathan Heimbach (b. 1840, d. 1907) married Ellen Amanda Thomas (b. 1839, d. 1914) in 1868. Forest Clay Heimbach (d. 1959) married Mary Caroline Roush (b. 1879, d. 1951) in 1897 John Isaac Heimbach (living) married Mildred Florene Quillen (b. 1921, d. 1986) in 1942. Jeffrey Randolph Heimbach (living) married Lynda Hermes (living) in 1980.

A thought occurred to me after we left the town of Heimbach: what if my ancestors had been scoundrels? I didn’t think about the possible treatment if the town had passed down dreadful stories about Heimbach men from generations past! I had just assumed we would have a positive welcome, and fortunately we did!

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