Tracing ancestors’ steps back to Europe
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.