On the trails of our ancestors

My wife, born in Rekasch as a Hengelmann, always had been very interested to discover the origin and the meaning of her surname. Finally, in March 1988 she was able to find a few rare pieces of information in a story by Professor Josef Dinjer, which was published in the "Neuen Banater Zeitung" / "New Banat Newspaper"; it was titled "Surnames of The Banat - their origins, meaning, and distribution". According to the author the surname Hengelmann was to be a term of endearment of Heng or Henk which is like Heinrich (Henry). Apparently, the author was of the opinion that "Hengelmann" was a derivation/pet name/term of endearment of the first name "Heinrich", Heng or Henk. The name was to be common in the towns of "Deutschsanktpeter, Glogowatz and Rekasch". After we had immigrated to Germany we started to have more interest in this subject.

After studying address and telephone listings we discovered that all Hengelmann's living in Germany originally came from Rekasch in the Banat region of Rumania. Not a single native of Germany had this surname. Years ago we even consulted a computer for his "opinion" about the surname Hengelmann. The computer's answer was: Hengelmann is a German name but it
did not originate in the greater German speaking area. This answer as well as the request of our daughters caused us to research this name.

Most of the information was extracted form the "Rekascher Kirchenmatrikelbuecher" / Church Records of Rekasch; these are available in microfilm form in the Library for Foreign Affairs in Stuttgart (Germany). There we were able to find out that the first recordings of the family were not made under the name Hengelmann but as Henckelmann or Henkelmann. This means that the ancestors of the Hengelmann's from Rekasch originally had the surname "Henkelmann". This name, according to the reference books, is a German name, which originated in the German speaking region. Names like "Heinkel(e)" and "Henkel" were common in the south western part of Germany, "Hen(c)ke" and "Hinke" were more common in northern Germany. All of them are the prettifying (?) form of "Heinrich". Approx. 1409 a.d. the names Henckelmann and Hinckelmann are officially documented in the Wuerzburg area (Germany).

The origin of the Rekasch Hengelmann's also was not easily researched; at this point there are 718 Henkelmann's registered in German telephone directories, but only one Henckelmann. The Hengelmann's can be found all over Germany. From the Church books from Rekasch it was not possible to exactly determine the origins of the Hengelmann's. The death records of the immigrant Henkelmann's only indicate two originations: Mikilau and Michtau. One town according to the recordings was to be in "Franconia", the other one in "Francia". Since the familiarity with the Latin language of the local priests at that time may have not been very great, it can be reasonably assumed that both references actually meant to be "Franken". Unfortunately there are no towns named Mikilau or Michtau in the current region of Franken; however, they may have been there at one time in history. Finally, we assumed that both towns actually meant to be the town of Michelau. However, there had been several towns of Michelau, some of them had been integrated into other towns (and therefore lost their identity). But there are also Michelau's, which were located in the Main-Franconia emigration region, but these areas do not belong to today's Franken region. Since the area of search was considerably smaller now, we referred to the telephone directories again. Of all the Michelau's we only found the surname Henkelmann twice in Michelau of the Steigerwald region.

In the course of our research we found a Hans Michael Henckhelmann who had immigrated with his family in 1741 from Windheim (near Hammelburg) to Hungary. However, he turned out not to be a future Rekasch Hengelmann. We concentrated our research now to two Michelau's, the one from Steigerwald, and the one, which is now integrated in Graefendorf. Again, we felt that the most reliable source would be the Church records, and therefore we went looking for these records. We found out that these books from the 16th century would be located at the Archives of the Episcopal Professorship at Wuerzburg. Unfortunately these records were not accessible for some time since they were in the process of being transferred onto microfiche. On December 16, 1998, we were able to get an appointment to look at the records. We found the entry of the
marriage of Valentinus Henckelmann with Eva Kesslerin of July 20, 1742, in the church records of the parish Dingolshausen, town of Michelau im Steigerwald. Valentin's first wife Barbara died approx. 7 month's earlier. Valentin was presumed to be the head of family during their journey to the Banat, and also was recorded as such. These books also recorded the birth of their six children, which they had taken with them to Rekasch. On May 26, 1766, Valentin Henkelmann also was registered as the head of his immigrant family on their journey to Banat when they came through Vienna (Austria).

Since the origin of the Rekasch Hengelmann's had now been established and documented, and a whole lot of information about the Hengelmann's for the purpose of establishing a family tree had been collected, my wife had requested to visit the town of her ancestors. So we went there in May this year (1999). We took the train to Bamberg, at the eastern part of the
Steigerwald. During our two-day stay in the former Capital of the Roman Empire of German Nations we mainly visited the many historical attractions of Bamberg. We also enjoyed a ship ride on the Regnitz River through "little Venice" and on the Main-Danube-Channel. Afterwards we took the train along the northern border of the former Steigerwald (today there are only remnants left, the "Nature Park Steigerwald") up to Schweinfurt. The section of the railroad, which used to run from Schweinfurt to the former district Gerolzhofen, had been abandoned during the previous efforts to "modernize" the railroad system. Therefore, we had to take a bus to the administration center. The historic town of Gerolzhofen is situated on the western downhill side of the Steigerwald. Since Michelau is only accessible via a private bus system which does not run very often during the day and not on Sundays or holidays, we decided to stay at the guest quarters "Edelmann" which we only
can recommend. This was a wonderful occasion to visit the 1200 year old city with its gothic Steigerwald Cathedral, the Old City Hall, and the City Wall (defense wall made of rocks and bricks). Our host was very knowledgeable of the Steigerwald and its history, but she also knew the customs and traditions of the Franconian wine region. She also reported of the many
emigrations from this area to Hungary during the 16th century due to widespread poverty at the time.

Finally, on Whit-Sunday, we started our journey to the origin of the Hengelmann's. A paved pedestrian and bicycle path lead from Gerolzhofen to Dingolshausen. We arrived there just at the end of the holy mass, but the visit of the church made us somehow contemplative. As we recognized the old tower of the church of Dingolshausen in the distance, we expected to see the church building as well. However, we soon had to realize that from the church of our ancestors only the church tower was remaining; the new construction next to it, for which our ancestors may not have had much understanding, was an area for prayers. The pale and cool "modernism" did not stop in front of the Steigerwald.

No pedestrian path was leading along side the country road to Michelau im Steigerwald anymore; therefore, we had to take detours through the vineyards to reach the final destination of our trip. We were walking through a very hilly area not far from the greens of the Steigerwald. Soon we were able to spot the church tower of the "Kuratie" (catholic field office) Michelau im Steigerwald. We had gotten close to the end of our 4 miles long walking tour. Since we felt the need to satisfy our hunger (after all it was already 2:00 pm), we were looking for a Franconian style eatery. That was not a difficult choice to make: of the two restaurants only one was Franconian style. So we entered the "Steigerwald" restaurant owned and run by the Baeuerlein Family, and we only found the owner and one guest present at this time. Of course we had been viewed as strange fellows; strange guests without a car and at this late in the afternoon are probably not seen very often here. We ordered a meal from the "good old Franconian kitchen", which turned out to be of the size to fill a hungry lumberjack. As for satisfying our thirst, we asked if they had a "Michelauer Vollburg Mueller-Thurgau Kabinett" which we had discovered earlier in Gerolzhofen in the "Wilder Mann" restaurant. What a stupid question! Why shouldn't we find a "Michelauer Vollburg" at Michelau at the base of the Vollburg?

Of course, during our meal we also had to answer the un-asked questions as to where we are coming from and where we are going. But as soon as we revealed the true nature of our trip, a very interesting never ending conversation developed with our new acquaintances. Soon, more guests joined, and a very joyful afternoon developed which we had not anticipated earlier in the morning. The culmination of the day was reached when the owner introduced us to a special guest. We were to introduce ourselves, however, my wife with her maiden name. My wife introduced herself as Heng(e)lmann, the guest introduced himself as Henglmann. This person was no one other than a descendent of the members of the Henkelmann family who stayed back in Michelau im Steigerwald! It was interesting to know that he was spelling his name as Henkelmann but was pronouncing it as Henglmann. This has its basis in the practice of people living in the southern German speaking area of
pronouncing p as b, t as d, and k as g (all are spoken softly). This is the explanation why a Henkelmann turned into a Hengelmann in Rekasch.

Unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to our friendly and especially nice host and his guests, although he tried to talk us into staying with them over night. We would have liked to but we were very limited on time. Afterwards we visited the beautiful church of Michelau. It had been built in 1762 bei Balthasar Neumann, 4 years before the emigration of the Henkelmann' s. After we visited the cemetery with the graves of the Henkelmann's, we walked all streets of the town. At the end we stopped at the vintner Erich Barth. He produces the Michelauer Vollburg, which we had grown to enjoy while tracing the trails of our ancestors. We ordered 3 cases of our favorite wine and had them sent to Munich. Of course, we recorded the homeland of the Hengelmann's on videotape.

The impressions we gained on this trip are truly indescribable. Franconia with all is friendliness is unmatched, and the Franconians are especially sociable people; one can only feel comfortable when being with them.

June 1999                                                                                                                         Anton Zollner