Posts Tagged ‘Wuerttemburg’

Locate Ancestral Town Using World War I Draft Registration Cards


Have had a rather exciting find for 2011. My father’s family of HILLENBRANDs in Syracuse started with grandfather Jacob HILLENBRAND coming from Markelsheim, Wuerttemburg in 1885. I have mentioned this before on this blog, and his photo can be seen on my main website at

Well last month I received an email from my new best friend, a genealogist that actually lives in Markelsheim and she offered to help! Wow, you should all be so lucky.

This very kind lady went through the church record books and was able to take some of my Markelsheim lines back almost to the 1500′s. I had done the best I could with my self-taught Genealogical German when I used these same records on microfilm at LDS in Salt Lake city some 25 or 30 years ago.

The earliest HILLENBRAND ancestor that I had recorded previously was a Caspar HILLENBRAND, a baker of Markelsheim with an estimated date of birth of about 1760 with no known location in Germany. His wife’s name was Barbara (PFAU), with no further information that I had been able to discover.

So now with a native German researcher going through the same Catholic Church records she was able to locate his parents names and place of birth as another Caspar HILLENBRAND, also a baker of Röttingen, Wuerttemburg, Germany, which is only about 8 miles up the Taube River from where Markelsheim is located.

So now I will be ordering the microfilms of Röttingen to see what I might find. This caused a light to go on in my noggin as Röttingen is right on the border with Bavaria. The reason that is so exciting to me is that there was another family of HILLENBRANDs in Syracuse that came in 1866, and for many years I have always told every one that we are not likely related as they were from Bavaria and my direct line was from Wuerttemburg .

So fortunately I have been working on the “other” HILLENBRAND family off and on, with quite a bit more research in the past month as I bought the book, “Unbroken” by the best selling author, Laura HILLENBRAND, (she also wrote “Seabiscuit”), and it turns out she is a descendant of this same “other” HILLENBRAND family in Syracuse.

Now we get to the title of this Blog post and what it has to do with the World War I Draft Registration Cards. This excellent collection of some 24 million names of men that registered for the draft has been available on for quite a number of years now and it has been very helpful in finding dates of birth and many other details like nearest relative, occupation and more.

If you have used these draft cards online before you will have noted that they are often quite hard to read as the image quality is very poor. Usually you are able to read it well enough to get some of the data and it is helpful.

So I found a card on Ancestry of an Anthony HILLENBRAND and lo and behold it listed his father’s place of birth as [unreadable] Bavaria, Germany. So I downloaded the image and ran it through photoshop, and enhanced it the best I could by sharpening the edges and altering the brightness and contrast and still the best I could guess at were names something like; Nissisedicl, Rissiuqid, Kissiseaicl, and about a half-dozen other total meaningless spellings.

Then I decided to dig deeper on these draft cards, and discovered that the National Archives southeast Region Branch near Atlanta has high quality scans available to purchase online. It is really quite easy. All you have to do is set up an account and this same account may be used for future purchases.

I ordered a digital download copy of Anthony’s card for five dollars and was told that it would be 4 to 5 days. I ordered yesterday, Sunday, and the order was ready today, Monday!

Well Bingo! The card is very clear to read and the name of the town is “Kissengen”, Bavaria, Germany. It is too soon to be sure but at first check of Google maps and an old World Gazetteer it is most likely Bad Kissengen which is just a little northeast of Würzburg, and as Markelsheim is just a little southeast of Würzburg, so we just might have a connection after all.

I will be trying to locate church or civil records of Bad Kissengen and for some reason it does not seem to be a place name that is in the LDS film catalog by doing a place search. I will find it for sure, this has all just happened today! Turns out the two towns are only about 68 miles apart.

In reading the description of the National Archives WW I Draft Cards they note that there were three different series of these cards issued in 1917 and 1918, and only one short group asked for the name of the father’s birth place, so we were indeed fortunate that Anthony registered when he did.

Here are comparisons of the two different scans.


Ancestry View


National Archives High Def Scan

Note the ancestry version is so compressed digitally that much of the card is hard to read, but a good high def scan of the original record is excellent. Five dollars well spent and you all might want to do the same on some of those hard to read draft cards.

Suppose those HILLENBRAND Families left any DNA in Markelsheim?


My grandfather was a German immigrant to America in 1885.
He was the only son of an only son.

OK, I can see some of you rolling your eyes and muttering,

“Oh brother, this ranks right up there with ‘Hey, let me show you a few pictures of my grandchildren’…”

Well I’m going to spare you all of the juicy details, and here is why I want to use this as an example.

I have been avoiding the issue of the use of DNA testing for normal genealogical research.

I was chatting with some well known professional genealogists one day recently and the subject came up. When asked for my thoughts on the use of DNA in genealogy, my comment was something like, ”Well I do not want to take all of this hard earned and documented research that I have been doing for forty years and mess it all up with the FACTS!”

Realizing the absurdity of that statement and also noticing that there is now a very large elephant in the living room, and it isn’t going to go away, I decided to look into it a little further.

All of this scientific mumbo jumbo makes my hair hurt, and so I’m going to try to make this easy on you readers. As I understand it there are only two methods commonly used to build a huge database of genetic relationships. The (Y-DNA) is usually the first one explored, and genealogists should be quite familiar with this form of lineage discovery. Y-DNA is used to show exact or very similar markers in paternal ancestry. That is, a male can prove his father, fathers father, grandfathers father, and on and on. This is for just the male direct line ancestry. In order for a female to check her Y-DNA ancestors, she would have to submit samples for testing from a brother, father or uncle, etc.

Now everyone, male or female, can test for the Mitochondrial (mtDNA) female ancestral line. This would be for their mother, her mother, her grandmother, her great grandmother, etc. That is of the maternal direct line only. Some genealogists refer to this as the “Umbilical Line.” So what about everyone in between? Either of these two types of DNA testing will NOT prove relationships to all of the aunts and uncles, cousins, etc, in between. Look at a normal pedigree chart that you are all familiar with. The father’s paternal line is on the top and the mother’s maternal line is on the bottom, well that is ALL that can be proven at this time through these standard genealogical DNA tests.

The tests would show that those relatives in between the two direct line ancestors might have similar markers showing people that MIGHT have some common ancestry somewhere in past history.

For what it is worth, science has now shown that all modern Europeans, descend from one of seven original females, sort of prehistoric clan mothers, and also that we ALL came from Africa originally. That seemed so hard for me to grasp until I look at the three doggies we have; a Shih Tzu, a Pomeranian mix, and an English Springer Spaniel, and science also tells us that every single dog and all breeds descend directly from WOLVES!

So what does this have to do with Gramp mentioned in the start of this rant? Seems he would be an excellent candidate to explore doesn’t it? Gramp was born in 1862 in the small village of Markelsheim in Southern Germany. His father died when he was but three years old and he was raised by his step-dad. Grampa Jacob was an only son, and his father Leonhard, born in 1825 was also an only son. It appears from the church records that I was able to locate at LDS in Salt Lake City on this family, that Leonhard’s father, Johann Georg Franz Anton HILLENBRAND (1798-1826,) did have two brothers.

So here is what I have always been satisfied with. I had NO other HILLENBRAND named direct relatives in America other than my Dad’s brothers and their male descendants. Well now maybe, and maybe not. With DNA we might be able to find out right?

These people stayed in one tiny little area of Wuerttemburg for a couple of hundred years. I have no idea at all if any of the descendants of my 2nd great grand uncles ever came to America or not, nor even if they had any male issue. I just have never worked on it.

There are plenty of other families that spell the name exactly the same as we do, and scads of variety spellings, such as HILDENBRAND, HILDENBRANDT, HILLABRAND, and on and on. For what it is worth every single church record that I was able to translate spelled the name EXACTLY as we do now, back to as far as Caspar HILLENBRAND, a baker of Markelsheim, born about 1760. There is another family of HILLENBRANDs in the Syracuse area that spell their name the same way, but they are from Baden, and I have never found any connection. There is a famous family spelled the same way in Indiana, that is well known in the business world, and you see their name on tractor trailer loads of Bates Caskets. I call these the ‘rich’ ones.

Gramp came to America alone at about age 21, on the ship, Rhaetia, through the Castle Garden immigration center in Battery Park, Manhattan, about the time that the Statue of Liberty would have been having her crown installed.

I have heard one of the authors, of “Trace Your Roots with DNA,” Megan Smolenyak, speak a couple of times, and she has a way to make it all sound a little easier to understand. Megan is now the Chief Genealogist at Ancestry and a constant lecturer on this subject. If you are interested you can purchase her book by clicking on the banner at the bottom of this Blog, or if you want to look into this DNA testing program yourself you can check it out by also clicking the banner below. Megan explains that this type of testing is painless and is not the type that you might have seen on “CSI” or “Cold Case Files.” You will not have to give blood, or pull out your hair, or have a tooth extracted to get at the juicy pulp. Megan also says that these tests will not be used for criminal investigation, and they do not code for genetic traits.

The testing kit will arrive and all you do is swab the inside of your cheek with a sort of Q-tip gadget, seal it in the container provided and mail it in to Ancestry. You will be notified in a couple or few weeks of the results, and then the fun begins to compare it to others in the database. The more testing that gets done, the better the database results will be, for ever more.

Ancestry will guard your privacy and allow persons that match to correspond anonymously until such time that both parties are comfortable and elect to share names, addresses, emails, etc.

So we will probably pursue this further and get tested, at least through the Y-DNA method for now, and see if we can come up with any matches. There are plenty of other companies that do this same type of testing but we have settled on Ancestry.

Why not look into it and see if it is something that you would be interested in? I suspect that this is going to revolutionize the world of genealogical research, and if not be proof positive, will certainly pull you off routes of investigation that are totally wrong.

Sounds like fun.

Dick Hillenbrand – Upstate New York Genealogy –

Download and try Legacy Family Tree Software.

Please leave comments on each of our Blogs by clicking on the word “comment” right underneath this Blog message.
You may subscribe to all future posts of this Blog by scrolling all the way down to the bottom of this website and click on the “subscribe tab.” If you wish to be added to our email list for announcements and special offerings, just send us your email address to opt in. Your feedback and comments spur us on!

Subscribe via RSS
Follow Me On Twitter
Donations Greatly Appreciated:
Pay on WePay
MyHeritage Top 100 Websites
Top genealogy site awards