Trac­ing an­ces­tors’ steps back to Europe

Reminisce - - Contents - BY HU­BERT L. DELLINGER JR. • MEM­PHIS, TN

Both sides of my fam­ily in­clude an­ces­tors who were Ger­man Luther­ans and set­tled in western North Carolina in the 1750s. Al­though I have writ­ten records of their lives in Amer­ica, in­clud­ing their par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Revo­lu­tion­ary and Civil wars, I had noth­ing about their ear­lier lives in Ger­many.

On Oct. 31, 2017, Luther­ans cel­e­brated the 500th an­niver­sary of Martin Luther’s

95 Th­e­ses, which be­gan the Lutheran Re­for­ma­tion and which tra­di­tional his­tory has said were nailed to the door of Cas­tle Church in Wit­ten­berg, Ger­many. My cousin Bruce, his wife, Holly, and I joined a group trav­el­ing to the city to par­tic­i­pate in the cel­e­bra­tion. We wor­shipped at an English ser­vice at Cas­tle Church and in Ger­man at City Church.

While we were there, we vis­ited some sites with the group be­fore driv­ing south to where our Dellinger an­ces­tors had lived.

We started at Dillin­gen, a town with a name sim­i­lar to ours. The town’s church records had been trans­ferred to Stuttgart, so we were un­able to search them. But the peo­ple we met and the food we had were ex­cep­tional.

The next day we went to Ober­acker, where the Dellingers had moved be­fore com­ing to Amer­ica. It was Satur­day and the vil­lage church was closed. As we were about to leave, a woman leaned out her win­dow and asked if she could help.

She spoke no English but in­vited us into her home and served re­fresh­ments. Then she sum­moned an English-speak­ing neigh­bor, who re­trieved records of our an­ces­tors dat­ing to the

1600s. We pho­tographed the doc­u­ments and at­tended wor­ship the next day.

I don’t know which stirred greater emo­tion on that trip, the cel­e­bra­tion of the Re­for­ma­tion or wor­ship­ping where my fore­fa­thers had,

400 years ago.

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