Saturday, October 12, 2013

Researching the Prinz / Prince Family Line by Cousin Carol

I met Cousin Carol online while researching my mother's side of the family through Carol and I share our most maternal lines. Hmm, Carol, does that mean we have the same mitochondrial DNA?

Thank you so much for sharing your research story on my blog AND specifically, for sharing your research with me.

Researching the Prinz / Prince Family Line by Cousin Carol

After years of family research, the desire to visit the villages of our ancestors has gone from dream to reality.  Summer 2013 seemed the perfect time for our family - my husband and I were celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary, the kids were able to clear their schedules and we found ourselves on a plane heading to Prague. (Anyone who has undertaken such a trip with four adults understands the many conversations, e-mails, texts, & phone calls it takes to pull this all together, over the course of many months.)

While the trip was still in the “someday” stage, I began gathering information on Czech and German villages, possible routes, hotels, train schedules, plane schedules and guides.  As luck would have it, the guides I located were the best possible for our plans.  If anyone needs guide services in Central Europe, Tom and Marie Zahn are the best! Tom is an American and Marie is Czech.  Marie is incomparable when it comes to communicating, setting schedules, making suggestions and confirming everything, so all goes smoothly before and during the trip.  Tom does the actual driving with many interesting stories along the way.  They provide genealogical research and ancestral tours, and arrange for local day guides as well.  They thoroughly prepare in advance, arranging meetings with village historians, mayors and church historians.

The days in the Czech Republic were like a trip back in time.  It was delightful to see the beautiful countryside that my ancestors lived, driving the same roads they would have traveled, leaving their villages to eventually arrive in New York.  A particularly memorable day found us unexpectedly climbing the bell tower of my grandmother’s church in Mlady Smolivec, Bohemia, Czech Republic where I had the privilege of ringing the church bell which had been cast in 1491.

Another day found us sampling a Czech pastry, called buchty, which I had not tasted since childhood.  I’ve since found the recipe and made these, similar to cheese Danish, but in a round roll shape.  They will become a new/old family tradition for us.

Leaving the countryside of the Czech Republic, we were driven to Bremen to meet our tour guide for Germany, Dr. Wolfgang Grams who is the German counterpart to the Zahns. 

Dr. Grams was one of the co-founders of the German Emigration Museum

Since many of our Czech and German ancestors traveled to Bremerhaven to board a ship to go to America, this was a must-see Museum.  It is the largest theme museum for emigration and immigration in Europe.  It truly allows you a glimpse into the hardships faced traveling to the new world. We had been to Ellis Island and Bremerhaven was the completion of the circle for us.

Dr. Grams was also a font of information on German villages, connecting us with church elders, finding farm lands where ancestors lived and arranging unique experiences.  Our travels ended in the town of my husband’s ancestors.  As it turns out, the former mayor is a distant cousin several times removed, as well as being the village historian and a vintner.  The village of Framersheim is surrounded by vineyards, and we spent a lovely afternoon sampling some delightful German wines. 

When it was time to leave Europe, we felt like we were stepping out of a fairy tale.  Not only did we walk in the steps of our ancestors, but we sampled the food, drank in the culture (literally) and were delighted with our side trips to castles and historic sites.


  1. This is the kind of trip I'd love to take someday! Loving reading your cousins' stories here, Cousin April - this was a great idea for a Family HIstory Month project!

    1. Thanks, Cousin Mary. Your post is coming soon. My only regret is that more cousins didn't want to participate. But man, wouldn't you just love to visit an ancestral homeland? I think that will be my daydream today. I'm itchin' for Newfoundland where my Earles came from.